Exodus, 6

BeFunky_exodus_moses_charlton_heston_red_sea.jpg

Exodus 14

The Israelites had been living temporarily in Egypt for some 400 years. During part of that sojourn, they had become slaves. The Egyptians had grown to fear these “foreigners” because they had grown from a handful to millions. From guests to involuntary laborers.

In the course of time, God sent them a deliverer: Moses. It was his job, along with his brother Aaron and a select few, to lead the dispirited Hebrews out of their bondage to a life of freedom.

They had been slaves. During the plagues, they had been observers. Now, though, it was time for them to act as a nation – a unified, united nation.

This would prove to be no small task, indeed.

God’s people fear destruction, Exodus 14:1-12

The Lord’s strategy, vs. 1-5

Tell the Israelites to turn back and encamp near Pi Hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea. They are to encamp by the sea, directly opposite Baal Zephon. (Exodus 14:2 NIV84)

Who knows where these places were located? Nobody, that’s who. It’s just not possible to know exactly where the Red Sea crossing took place. What we do know is that at some point before they even got out of Egyptian territory, they faced a large body of water with no bridge across it.

The Lord had Moses lead the people in a kind of zigzag direction. To the people, this probably made no sense. But the Lord was in control, and He knew what He was doing. J. C. Ryle wrote:

Nothing whatever, whether great or small, can happen to a believer, without God’s ordering and permission. There is no such thing as “chance,” “luck,” or “accident” in the Christian’s journey through this world. All is arranged and appointed by God. And all things are “working together” for the believer’s good.

Do you think Ryle is overstating it a bit? Perhaps he is. His point, however, is well taken. No matter what’s going in your life, God has allowed it for a reason and if you keep faith, you will emerge blessed.

Pharaoh will think, ‘The Israelites are wandering around the land in confusion, hemmed in by the desert.’ (Exodus 14:3 NIV84)

The Lord always has a plan; He’s always working an angle that will result in the best for His children. Rarely, if ever, do we see see that angle. Even when we do, it’s hard to understand. This is where faith comes into play. God has a plan, and it’s in our best interest to go along with it.

“And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them. But I will gain glory for myself through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord.” So the Israelites did this. (Exodus 14:4 NIV84)

Israel did just that. Now, you might think that the Egyptians had experienced enough disasters in recent days as their dear leader opposed Moses at every turn, but it wasn’t over yet. He knew he had been duped. Remember, as far as he was concerned, Moses and his people were just going out into the desert to worship their God and offer sacrifices. But the truth was dawning on Pharaoh.

When the king of Egypt was told that the people had fled, Pharaoh and his officials changed their minds about them and said, “What have we done? We have let the Israelites go and have lost their services!” (Exodus 14:5 NIV84)

Pride, anger, and greed moved Pharaoh roused Pharaoh to action.

Meanwhile, out in the desert, the Israelites had no idea what was about to happen to them.

The decision to chase, vs. 6-9

The Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, so that he pursued the Israelites, who were marching out boldly. (Exodus 14:8 NIV84)

The Lord’s people weren’t just sauntering about the desert, the were “marching boldly!” That’s a funny way to put it. They didn’t know where they going, but they were bold about getting there.

And why not? They had been miraculously delivered out of Egypt; they had seen the work of God, up close and personal.

The crack Egyptian army, including 600 chariots, was on the move, closing in on the Israelites. You can imagine what kind of damage could be inflicted on that defenseless mass of humanity.

Fear strikes the Israelites, vs. 10-12

When the unarmed, undisciplined, and helpless Israelites glanced back and glimpsed the mighty Egyptian approaching, they reacted predictably.

As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the Lord. They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!” (Exodus 14:10-12 NIV84)

It looked like a hopeless situation, and the people cried out in fear and desperation. For them, apparently, forced labor in Egypt was preferable to being trampled or run through in the desert. “Better red, than dead.”

A lot of Christians are like these Israelites. They’ve been freed from their bondage to sin as the Israelites had been freed from their bondage to slavery, and yet unbelief fills their hearts. How long had it been since the Hebrews’ deliverance? Yet in that short span of time, they were full of fear and doubt. For all intents and purposes, the recipients of God’s mighty blessings had forgotten all about them. They had supported their leaders and gone along with them, but now, when the going was getting tough, they wanted to get going, back to Egypt.

What we have here is a distinct lack of commitment.

God assures His people, Exodus 14:13-18

Stand still, vs. 13, 14

The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (Exodus 14:14 NIV84)

That’s some plan! Sometimes God’s plans don’t make a lot of sense to us. How common it is for our faith to weaken or maybe break at the very moment we need it the most: the moment God is about to do His greatest work.

We don’t know how much Moses was shaking beneath his robes as he spoke these words, but the instructions he gave his people were clear: the Lord will work for His people, all they had to do was accept and receive His salvation. They just had to stand still and let Him do the work.

There is a time for God’s people to work, and there is a time for them stand back and let God work. Sometimes God Himself works with man, other times He does all the work. The secret to successful – and less stressful – Christian living is learning when and how to co-operate with God.

Moses corrected, vs. 15

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on.” (Exodus 14:15 NIV84)

The bit just before verse 15 and just after verse 14 is missing. We may speculate that after Moses had spoken to the people, he turned to face God and cry out to Him. Well, as far as God was concerned, the time for praying was past. It was now time for Moses and his people to, as it were, shut their mouths and put their faith to work.  It was as though God were saying to Moses, Stop praying and get on with it, man!

Action commanded, vs. 16

Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground. (Exodus 14:16 NIV84)

This was Moses’ job. The people were to just stand back and watch. This was to be a march of faith. Parting the Red Sea and walking across on dry land is stuff of faith. Fearful praying was over; steps of faith were needed if the people were to move forward. George Whitfield wrote:

Press forward. Do not stop, do not linger in your journey, but strive for the mark set before you.

Indeed. Good advice.

The final trap for Pharaoh, vs. 17, 18

All the time the people of Israel spent worrying and fretting that God had let them down was such a waste of time. But then, any time we worry and fret about what God is doing or not doing is a waste of time. While the people were worrying and fretting, God was doing something productive: He was working out His plan and purpose for His people. And for the Egyptians.

Ask not for whom the bell tolls! It was tolling like crazy for Pharaoh and his army. His hard heart caused him to presume upon God. He assumed that he would be able to follow Israel through the Red Sea on dry land that had been provided by God for His people. He couldn’t have been more wrong. God’s plan was to destroy this Egyptian army, and in doing so, display His glory, not to the Pharaoh or the Egyptian army, but to the rest of Egypt. It was too late for the army, but the rest of Egypt deserved to know who the God of Israel was.

God miraculously delivers His people, Exodus 14:19-31

The cloud and the wind, vs. 19-22

The “angel of God” was probably a “theophany,” a pre-incarnate appearance of Christ. He had been leading the Israelites but now He was about move to the rear of the camp to protect them.

The presence of Christ is truly a double-edged sword. To the Israelites, His presence led them and gave the light. To the Egyptians, it confounded them and shrouded them in darkness.

God is still in the leading business today. He led the Israelites three ways. He led through Moses, a pillar of fire by night and a cloud by day. Today, we don’t see the fire and clouds, but God does send anointed leaders and He has filled all believers with the Holy Spirit. The light of His Word also lights our way. The Israelites couldn’t lose if they just followed The Lord. Neither can we.

The Egyptian army destroyed, vs. 23-25

He made the wheels of their chariots come off so that they had difficulty driving. And the Egyptians said, “Let’s get away from the Israelites! The Lord is fighting for them against Egypt.” (Exodus 14:25 NIV84)

These chariots were not some cheap Chinese import. The were part of the state-of-the-art Egyptian armory; the envy of the military world. At some point during the night, the Egyptians decided to resume their pursuit of the Israelites. They were pretty much in the dark, so it’s likely they had no idea they were marching onto the dry sea bed. They also had no idea they were marching to their doom.

Once more, the Egyptians were forced to acknowledge the power of God.

The waters close, vs. 26-30

No matter how you read these verses, they record a miracle. Moses was obedient and empowered to do the work, but God’s power made it all happen. For wheel or for woe, the Egyptians knew the power of God.
Not that it did them any good, mind you. The Israelites, on the other hand, also saw the glorious power of God and, at least for a while, came to fear Him.

And when the Israelites saw the great power the Lord displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant. (Exodus 14:31 NIV84)

Moses, however, was changed forever. As Israel’s deliverer, he got off to an admittedly shaky start, but he kept the faith and saw some remarkable things. Woodrow Kroll observed,

Finishing well brings more glory to God than beginning well.

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