Exodus 13:16-22; 14

The invisible God of the Hebrews led them in their Exodus and journey to the good land by the visible, moving, guiding, cloudy pillar.  After having lived in Goshen for some 400 years, and having been subjected to “hard bondage” for part of that time, the house of Israel would have known little knowledge of or even memory of life beyond the borders of Egypt.  They needed direction, spiritual, moral, and practical.

As God led his children then, so He leads us now, this time by His Holy Spirit through the pillar of the Word.  Psalm 119:105 says,

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.

Those truly led by the Lord:

1.  Have been delivered by the Lord, 13:16

And it will be like a sign on your hand and a symbol on your forehead that the LORD brought us out of Egypt with his mighty hand. (NIV)

Let’s compare this verse with what Moses would later write:

Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. (Deut. 6:7-8, NIV)

Of course, Moses is referring to the words of the Law and the importance of remembering them and making sure successive generations remember them.  This command was later interpreted literally by the teachers of the law to mean the use of phylacteries, as we see in Matthew 23:5.  Other sects of Judaism saw Moses’ command as symbolic and interpreted it figuratively to mean constant study, meditation, and teaching of God’s Word.  More than likely, the latter is the correct interpretation of what Moses is saying here.  The idea is, as Keil and Delitzsch observed, that the house of Israel was to not only retain the commands of God in their hearts, and to confess them with their mouths, but to fulfill them with their hands.  Knowledge of the word is always to followed by action.  This would show that they were the guardians and observers of the Law.  This thought is repeated by the Teacher in Proverbs 3:3-

Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. (NIV)

Rebels are not led by the Lord, only His children are.  The children of Israel couldn’t have been led anywhere while trapped in Egypt; they had to set free and they had to obey the word of the Lord given through Moses and Aaron.  Believers can’t be led by the Lord  as long as they are trapped in their sins; they must be set free and they have to obey the Word of the Lord.  As James Stephenson said, We must be freed by His blood before we can become a “kingdom of priests for God.”

2.  Should follow faithfully, 13:17

It so happened that after Pharaoh released the people, God didn’t lead them by the road through the land of the Philistines, which was the shortest route, for God thought, “If the people encounter war, they’ll change their minds and go back to Egypt.”   (The Message)

There were several routes of escape available to the Hebrews.  The northern route from Egypt to Palestine was the most direct and was about 200 miles, and could have been covered in two weeks.  However, when God led Israel out of Egypt, He took them on the longer route so as to avoid war with the Philistines.  The Lord knew his people’s hearts and He protected them from undue temptation.  Recall the teaching of Paul:

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. (1 Corinthians 10:13, NIV)

And so God led them around by the “desert road,”  or the “way of the wilderness” toward the Red Sea.  This was God’s “way out” so that His people might not yield to temptation.  Many times, God’s ways may seem strange and mysterious to us.  Imagine how the Israelites felt as the approached that impassable sea; surely that didn’t make any sense to them.  It is comparatively easy to follow the Lord when we are led on the shortest, and most obvious  route and the route that makes the most sense to us.  But our faith is tested when the Lord leads us in that unexpected and surprising way.  Sometimes that way may lead you into pain or suffering or persecution.  Sometimes the way of the Lord leads to the wilderness of adversity or affliction or even death.

3.  Follow in an orderly manner, 13:18

So God led the people on the wilderness road, looping around to the Red Sea. The Israelites left Egypt in military formation. (The Message)

Israel marched out of Egypt in military fashion, ready for anything, in an orderly manner.  In fact, they did even more than that, they remembered Joseph’s last request, and they took his bones with them as they left.  They did not flee Egypt like a bunch of fugitives, but they left with dignity and purpose.  So much so, they remembered the request of Joseph made four centuries earlier.  Calvin remarked:

In the midst of their adversity the people had never lost sight of their promised redemption.  For unless the celebrated request of Joseph had not been the subject of common conversation, Moses would have never thought about it.

How can a person be anything but calm when they are being led of the Lord?

For in him we live and move and have our being. (Acts 17:18, NIV)

Remember the words of the prophet Isaiah:

Only in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength.  (Isa. 30:15, NLT)

When the Word of the Lord is not followed in an orderly manner, we start to look like Corinthians:

I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions in the church. Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose. For some members of Chloe’s household have told me about your quarrels, my dear brothers and sisters. Some of you are saying, “I am a follower of Paul.” Others are saying, “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Peter,” or “I follow only Christ.”  Has Christ been divided into factions? (1 Cor. 1:10-13a, NIV)

4.  Will walk in the light, 13:21

By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. (NIV)

God had made it possible for them to march at all hours of the day and night.  That’s how God’s guidance works; the Holy Spirit is always leading and guiding His people, whether they realize it or not, whether they feel it or not.

There are two ways to interpret how God led the Israelites.  Exodus 14:19 says that the the pillar of the cloud and fire was just another name for the “angel of the Lord.”  God’s Name was “in” this angel who went before them to bring them into Canaan, 23:20-23.  He was the “angel of His presence” according to the prophet Isaiah (63:8-9) and Malachi calls this angel the “messenger of the covenant,” the owner of the Temple.  Walter Kaiser writes:

Obviously Christ of the NT is the Shekinah glory or the Yahweh of the OT.  And through this cloudy pillar the Lord would speak to Moses  and all the people.

So then, the people were being led, not merely by the signs, but by the very words of the Lord.  Jesus said,

“I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.”  (John 8:12, NIV)

The light of God’s Word lights the path through this world of sin.

5.  Will be pursued by an enemy, 14:9

The Egyptians went after the Israelites. All of Pharaoh’s horses and chariots and horsemen and troops went after them. They caught up with them as they camped by the sea. The Israelites were near Pi Hahiroth, across from Baal Zephon. (NIRV)

The Pharaoh was well aware of the Hebrews’ progress and by now he assumed they were hopelessly entangled on a dead-end trail in the desert.  He saw that there was no way out for these people.  But, God had a plan.  Notice the wording of verse 3:

[God said,]Pharaoh will think, ‘The people of Israel are wandering around the land. They don’t know which way to go. The desert is all around them.’  (NIRV)

God had commanded Moses to go this way to show the Egyptians once again that he was God and to show Israel His awesome power.  From Pharaoh’s perspective, Israel was hopelessly lost, and he would have been right, Israel would have been finished had it not been for God Almighty!  God sometimes leads His people into tight places so that He can deliver them and show everyone that He is the Lord.  Pharaoh thought these people were crazy and didn’t know where they were going.  In his mind, such people would make easy prey.

When we are led of the Lord, we may appear to be fools to unbelievers.  The instant Jesus was led into the wilderness, He was tempted by the Devil.  If anybody tries to live for God in any wilderness, they won’t fair any better than our Lord did.  Or the children of Israel.  It is only after we have escaped out of this kingdom of darkness that we are hounded by its rulers.  But we have these words of Lord:

My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. (John 17:15, NIV)

6.  Will see God’s salvation, 14:13-14

Moses answered the people. He said, “Don’t be afraid. Stand firm. You will see how the Lord will save you today. Do you see those Egyptians? You will never see them again. The Lord will fight for you. Just be still.” (NIV)

There is a definite theme throughout Scripture:

For the Egyptians shall help in vain, and to no purpose: therefore have I cried concerning this, Their strength is to sit still. (Isa. 30:7, KJV)

But that’s not easy to do.  When the people saw Pharaoh’s army approaching, their hearts melted.  It was a helpless cry; they saw no way out, but death.  These Israelites, like so many believers,even though freed from the bondage of sin, were still in bondage to fear and doubt.  How quickly they forgot the mighty acts of God on their behalf.  They had gone along with their leaders this far, but now, they found themselves on the verge of a national catastrophe, and their lack of full commitment became evident.

How often our faith weakens  just as God  is about to do His greatest work.  But God had His man of faith.  We don’t know how fearful Moses was; he must have been, but he spoke God’s Word to the people in faith.  He gave them three directives:

Do not be afraid
Stand firm
Be still

When faced with a crisis, we need to remember the words of Moses, the Words of the Lord.  Remember well the words of Paul, too-

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. (Ephesians 6:13)

7.  Will sing in triumph, 15:1

Moses and the Israelites sang this song in praise of the LORD:

I sing praises to the LORD
for his great victory!
He has thrown the horses
and their riders
into the sea.  (CEV)

As one commentator wrote, A Red Sea often rolls between our sorrows and our songs.  This song is one of three that Moses wrote during his lifetime.  If you take the time to read this song, you’ll notice the focus of it is entirely God Himself.  The deliverance of Israel from the power of its oppressors is of everlasting importance to the Church as we come in conflict with the ungodly powers of this world.  How significant is this song?  How significant is this event in the history of the world?  Consider this:

And I saw what looked like a sea of glass mixed with fire and, standing beside the sea, those who had been victorious over the beast and his image and over the number of his name. They held harps given them by God and sang the song of Moses the servant of God and the song of the Lamb:
“Great and marvelous are your deeds,
Lord God Almighty.
Just and true are your ways,
King of the ages.” (Revelation 15:2-3, NIV)

Moses’ song is the very song of our Lord.  It’s the Word of God.  From start to finish the deliverance of Israel from  Egypt involved the Word of God.  From the call and commissioning of Moses, to the words Moses and Aaron spoke to Pharaoh, to the route of escape.  God led them by His Word.  God leads us by His Word today.  Are you looking for some direction?  Looking for some cosmic billboard?  Look no further than God’s Word you hold in your hands.


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