I believe that God did things or affected things in the past not just to teach the people of that time. He also knew it would teach us also.
Much of the story of Moses and the Israelites leaving Egypt is filled with examples of God leading them in the right direction but for this study, I want to cover Chapters 13 and 14 in Exodus. This starts where the Pharaoh lets the Israelites leave Egypt.
I think we need to lay down a little of the back story, as they say in the movies, to see why they are able to leave Egypt and the mindset of Moses, the Israelites and the Pharaoh.
We start in Exodus 7 where God tells Moses and Aaron to tell the Pharaoh to let the Israelites leave Egypt. I say Moses and Aaron because when God told Moses to talk to the Pharaoh he said to God that he had faltering lips and did not speak well so God told Moses that Aaron would speak for him.
This is the first important lesson we are to learn. When God wants you to do something and you have the will but not the way, he will find a way to help you to accomplish the task. I am sure many of your have a future you believe God is moving you toward. But you feel you don’t have the education, the skills or the confidence to do it. God will give you a way.
If you are at a point where you feel led by God but fell you do not have the ability, let me give you a few words to help with this. MOVE and just do it. Start moving towards that future. As we go further in the lesson the word MOVE will become much more clearer.
Back to Moses and Aaron. They spoke to Pharaoh and told him to let the Israelites leave Egypt. The Pharaoh refused so God did a bit of convincing to get the Pharaoh to release the Israelites.
It took 10 plagues upon Egypt to final make the Pharaoh let them go. Most of us know them. They are listed from Exodus Chapters 7 to 10:
- Water turned to blood. The Pharaoh’s magician also replicated this. Which brings up another subject and sermon of how the Devil can sometimes manipulate things to make him look like he can work the same miracles as God
- The plaque of the Frogs – Pharaoh’s magicians also replicated this, but it was the last one they could replicate. Which show the Devil is not God and he can only imitate him to a point.
- The plague of the gnats and lice.
- The plague of flies
- The plague against livestock
- The plague of boils
- The plague of hail
- The plague of locusts
- The plague of darkness
- The death of the firstborn
Throughout many of the plagues the Pharaoh agreed to let the Israelites go but then changed his mind. It was not until the firstborn in every Egyptian family died, including Pharaoh’s son, that he was left so broken he let the Israelites go. This takes up to Exodus 13:17-18. “When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country though that was shorter. For God said, “If they face war they might change their minds and return to Egypt. So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea. The Israelites went up out of Egypt armed for battle.”
Here comes our second main lesson. Lets look at all that happen from this verse.
Pharaoh knew the way out of Egypt. He knew the shortest route out of Egypt was through the Philistines and most likely that is where the Israelites would go. I believe God has shown me, in this verse, that this was part of the Pharaoh’s plan to have the Israelites slaughtered by the Philistines or in fear run from the Philistines and back to Egypt where the Pharaoh would either slaughter them or enslave them again.
Before we go one with this story I think it is important to look at who the Philistines were to see just how bad of a decision it would have been for the Israelites to go the shorter route. The Philistines were an aggressive, warmongering people who occupied a part of southwest Palestine between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. They were known for their innovative use of iron, which was superior to the bronze used by the Israelites for weapons and implements The “road through the Philistine country” refers to a route later known as one of three major trade routes in ancient Israel. And later on in David’s time we will see him as a teenager take on the giant Goliath who was a Philistine. So it is correct to say they were a warring nation that would not appreciate or take lightly to the Israelites coming through their land. The Israelites would have been defenseless against the mighty power and weapons of the Philistines.
Let’s go back to verse 17 – 18 we tells us that perhaps the Israelites knew they would run into problems on that route. After all the last line in this verse says “The Israelites went up out of Egypt armed for battle.” So they must of expected to encounter some trouble. But they did not know the Philistines, the Israelites had been in captivity in Egypt for 400 years so they were not aware of what they thought was going to be some trouble would actually be a slaughter. Their slaughter.
But you see God knew them better than they knew themselves just like he knows us better than ourselves. He did not take them through the Philistine country. He took them a safer way because…. NOW LISTEN TO THIS IT IS IMPORTANT… at this time in their lives, God knew they would not fight or could not defend themselves, with the meager weapons they had, but out of fear they would change their minds and return back to Egypt.
Are you hearing this? God knew they needed to be more prepared for battles then they were at this point in their journey. Wow I just am overwhelmed at how much God really does know what he doing.
We read this in Chapter 14 verse 1, “Then the Lord said to Moses, tell the Israelites to turn back and encamp near Pi Hadiroth, between Migdo and the sea. They are to encamp by the sea, directly opposite Baal Zephon.
Let’s think about that. God, knowing that the path they were on, and for that matter, the path we are on, which looks like the perfect shorter path for our walk in Christ or where we think God is leading us. And of course we are positive that we are equipped with the proper armor for that path. But God may know that the path we were going to take was not only the wrong path but taking that path, at this moment in our salavation, could cause us to go back to where we were before being saved. Held in our own captivity in a life without Jesus in it, a slave again to our sinful life.
I can surely remember the times I have thought “God what are you doing? Everything was going perfect, I’m armed with the Armor of God, and I’m ready. Why did you close that door? Do you feel you are armed, ready to go, can’t understand why God is delaying it, or slamming a big door in front of you? Or you seemed to have stepped back several steps instead of going forward in your journey. Is this making sense?
Let’s read on in verse 6, Pharaoh found out the Israelites were fleeing another direction and his heart was hardened so he took his army and went after them. Now this wasn’t just Pharaoh and his elite soldiers. It says in Exodus, he took his Army, 600 of the best chariots along with all of the chariots in Egypt with officers over all of them.” Now I suspect that was one large army.
Let’s read from Exodus 14: 10-18 – 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!”
We may think, after all those plagues, after all God did to get them here, how could these people have so little faith? Yes they have seen God move but now they were standing there watching this huge army of Egyptians in chariots coming down after them and the Red Sea behind them. The huge dust cloud created by over 600 plus chariots must have struck such fear into the Israelites.
Try to put yourself in their shoes. You have seen God move mighty in your life but some very serious situation happens like a major illness, loss of job and your faith seems to waiver and you are there saying God why did this happen? God where are you? Or what was the point of taking me this far, if I am going to just die here between my own type of Red Sea and may own type of Egyptian army.
Now as we read on, I want you all to close your eyes and try to picture the sights and sounds that are going on at that very moment. Israelites are panicking. They are screaming, running everywhere, yelling at Moses and most likely at God too. The Egyptians are rolling toward them, you can hear the thunder of the chariots, and the heavy breathing of the horses; the ground is trembling beneath your feet. And you look behind and there are waves crashing on the shore, the power and size of the Red Sea looks terrifying. Can you see it in your mind, can you hear it. Phew. Stress or what?
Then Moses shouts out over the noise, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”
I can see this. At that moment, Moses has given them some hope. They begin to calm down and they all look to him for the next move. So what happens next, does Moses yell follow me and start heading toward the Red Sea. Nope. I believe he must have just stood there for that moment because the next verse shows the Lord saying to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to MOVE on.”
I just absolutely love that line. It is so God being God and so, us humans being humans. Here Moses just got finished telling the Israelites not to be afraid, to stand firm and you will see the Lord deliver you today and the Egyptians will be destroyed. Then why is God basically saying to him “Hey why are you looking to me. You know what to do. Tell them to MOVE.
It is because God know our thoughts, and I believe that while Moses was saying that to the Israelites, he was thinking in his head, “Okay I am saying this but God I don’t know where to go, or what to do. In his head he was crying out to God, Please, HELP?” I know I would have.
But God is so gracious. God fills in the blank spaces.
This is our third major lesson. God filled in the blank spaces. He will do that for those we seek him even in the mist of what looks like certain disaster. He did it for Moses and he WILL do it for you.
God tells Moses. “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. I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them. And I will gain glory through Pharaoh and all his army, through his chariots and his horsemen. The Egyptians will know that I am the Lord when I gain glory through Pharaoh, his chariots and his horsemen.”
Now I don’t want to pick on just how little faith the Israelites had at this time but I am trying to relate this story to our lives and how many times even though God is leading us, we doubt him and we still are fearful. But lets look at what has transpired.
Let me explain. In Exodus 13: 21- 22 it says – “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. Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people. Did you get that? Day and night God was leading them on the right path. He was visible to them, each and every day and night, either as a pillar of cloud or a pillar of fire.
Come on now, one would think that after the 10 plagues and the Israelites being lead by the Lord both day and night with a very visible sign, that their faith would be rock solid how could they not know God is leading them and if God is leading them why are they not trusting him.
How many of us, if we had those same visible signs leading us in the right path would trust God that we were on the right path even when situations became so dire that we are fearing for our very lives? Would you? Would I? I would like to think so but maybe not.
So what can we take with us from this story? I would like to believe that reading these accounts in the Bible, would remind us in all situations to be able to be still and trust God. To be able to say, Lord I am not sure what is happening, but I trust that you are leading me the right way and to have confidence in our faith in God.
What is confidence? The origin of the word confidence is the Latin and means (to trust, to have faith in). Hence the original meaning of confidence is literally “to have trust or have faith in an object or person”. The word “trust” itself is based on faith in an object or a thing to be true. So the common element at the heart of confidence is “faith in something being true”.
In our case, faith that God does know what he is doing. And that he has a plan for us, again a plan, not to harm us, a plan to prosper us and give us hope for the future.
We need to let that truth get into our spirit, our soul and our minds. I want for every Christian to learn this powerful truth. I do not want us to fail to learn this lesson like the Israelites failed to learn this lesson. Yes the Israelites, after God delivered them out of Egypt, after they witness the 10 plaques, after He led them by day with a Pillar of Cloud and by night with a Pillar of Fire, fter He opened up the Red Sea so they could all walk across it and then it swallowed up the Pharaoh and his soldiers. They still did not fully learn the lesson.
Why can I say they did not learn this lesson?
Because for 40 years after all of these mighty moves of God, they wandered around the desert, demanding things their way, ignoring what Moses has to say, listening to everyone but God. Basically telling God, thanks for getting us this far, but we’ve got it from here.
Let me explain it a different way. The Israelites ended up doing it the hard way instead of God’s way. The distance from Egypt to the Promised Land of Canaan was about 240 miles. At a 20-minute mile, which is a good walk and walking 8 hours each day that would be 24 miles in a day, so in theory there could have walked to the Land of Canaan in 10 days. And since it says the Lord went ahead as a pillar of cloud in the day and a pillar of fire at night, this tells me they walked both day and night, and most likely walk more than even 8 hours. So it would be safe to say, taking days of rest that they would have walked those 240 miles easily in one month.
Yet it took them 40 years to walk what could have taken less than a month. Is that saying anything to you? I know to me it is saying I do not want to spend 40 years trying to get to where God wants me to be, JUST because I think I know better than God in how to get there. So you see.
God really does know what he is doing so let’s let him lead the way.