The Israelites had escaped Egypt en masse with thousands of people, a lot of animals, and the parting gifts that their neighbors had given them. It wasn’t long before they faced a dilemma with frightening prospects. Ahead was the Red Sea whose crossing posed a host of problems. Behind was the onrushing horde of the Egyptian army with innumerable chariots and troops.
Can you imagine their fear at this double whammy?
There likely were many among the refugees who feared the massive wall of water before them, as I would. I don't know about you, but I think the worst way to die would be drowning. Oceans frighten me. The Great Lakes are too big. Winona Lake is as big a body of water as I want to swim in—or even be on in a boat. I can see across the lake, and that's a comfort. But could the Israelites see the other side?
The Red Sea where God was to rescue his people is just below Lake Tanis so, wherever the crossing is to take place, there is a huge amount of water above that site. The wall of water that was piled up to make the roadway across the sea would have been extremely high, no doubt. Even at the narrowest finger between Egypt and the land on the other side, crossing was the most fearful venture imaginable.
As if that weren’t enough, the Israelites also feared the rapidly approaching army. The Scriptures tell us they acted like we probably would have, had we been there.
As Pharaoh approached, the people of Israel looked up and panicked when they saw the Egyptians overtaking them. They cried out to the Lord, and they said to Moses, “Why did you bring us out here to die in the wilderness? Weren’t there enough graves for us in Egypt? What have you done to us? Why did you make us leave Egypt? Didn’t we tell you this would happen while we were still in Egypt? We said, ‘Leave us alone! Let us be slaves to the Egyptians. It’s better to be a slave in Egypt than a corpse in the wilderness!’” (14:10-12)
How would you - or have you - responded when God asked you to do something way beyond your comfort zone? When the going got tough, did you think, "It's better to go back where I know what to expect, rather than stay here in a great unknown?”
In the midst of a struggle without an easy answer, most of us don’t understand God’s purpose, and we may fret and lose hope like the Israelites. We know that God’s plan was to move his chosen people to the “Promised Land.” Why, then, this impossible hurdle? The purpose was repeated several times during the plagues and is made very clear in today’s text.
I have planned this in order to display my glory … After this, the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord! … My great glory will be displayed through Pharaoh and his troops, his chariots, and his charioteers. When my glory is displayed through them, all Egypt will see my glory and know that I am the Lord! (vv. 5, 18)
How has knowing “the rest of the story” sustained you in difficult times?
It’s good to know God’s long-range plan, but that doesn’t necessarily solve my immediate problem. How can I get through today’s pain, loneliness, or grief? It might be helpful to remember what Joni Erickson Tada wrote, “God will permit some things that He hates, but He’ll allow those things so that something He loves can be accomplished.”
The direction for us today is exactly the same as what Moses told the people at the Red Sea, “Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today” (v. 13). Or to put it another way, “Stand still and let God work his plan.” He would say to you, “I’ve got this!”
jbd & gmd