For four hundred years the people of Israel had been enslaved. Year after year, generation after generation cried out for relief, but time passed and Yahweh seemed to have forgotten them.
Until a a man named Moses came along.
He was a Hebrew who had grown up in Pharaoh’s house then ran away after killing a man. When he returned to Egypt, he came as God’s mouthpiece to the Egyptian ruler. “Thus says the Lord, ‘Let my people go!'”
For days Moses came before the king, making the same plea, but Pharaoh refused, only tightening the grip on the people.
Then something miraculous happened. Plagues. Ten of them. The bloody Nile, the frogs, the bugs, the boils and the hail. Horrid things meant to show God’s power. But still Pharaoh would not relent. Not until that final plague–the one that took every firstborn son who was not in a house covered by the blood of the lamb. That was the last straw. Pharaoh sent them away. Israel was free. Years of prayers were answered the night the Lord led them out of Egypt, guiding them by pillar of cloud during the day and appearing as fire during the night.
But a few days later things had become complicated. Pharaoh had changed his mind and was sending an army to get them back. The thunder of hooves and chariots, though still a ways off, could be heard closing in. The people began muttering among themselves. Surely the Lord hadn’t brought them out of Egypt to die here! There was nowhere to run. They were stuck in the space between an angry Pharaoh and a body of water called the Red Sea.
“Fear not,” Moses said in an effort to comfort the people, “stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent” (Exodus 14:13-14).
Have you ever reached that point? You were certain God was leading you somewhere, but where you’ve ended up is a place stuck between a rock and a hard place. From your vantage point you can’t move forward and you most certainly can’t go back. You’re stuck, crying out to God and wondering why in the world He’s brought you here. Was it only so you could fail?
Be still and see the salvation of the Lord…
Here’s what I love about the Bible: I know how this story ends. The Israelites are standing there in a panic, but I know what’s coming next. I see the things God was doing in the background, things of which Israel wasn’t aware.
Right after Israel left Egypt the writer records, “When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by the way of the land of the Philistines, although it was near. For God said, ‘Lest the people change their minds when they see war and return to Egypt.’ But God led the people around by the way of the wilderness, toward the Red Sea” (Exodus 13:17-18).
The path to the Red Sea wasn’t an accident or a bit of poor planning on God’s part. Right from the start He knew what He was doing. Not only was He sparing them from battle and discouragement, He was preparing the way for an impossible miracle….
Meanwhile, back at the Red Sea:
The people are in chaos, wondering what these words meant and even Moses was starting to get a little antsy. He’s told the people God would come through, that He’ll deliver them, but how?
Then the Lord spoke to Moses. “Why do you cry out to me? Tell the people of Israel to move forward.”
I can only imagine what Moses was thinking. “Move forward? Um, not sure if you’ve noticed this or not, God, but there’s kind of a lot of water in front of us. We can’t pass!”
But God had a plan. “Lift up your staff, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, that the people of Israel may go through the sea on dry ground” (verse 16).
While Moses thought about this for a moment and turned to face the sea, “the angel of God who was going before the host of Israel moved and went behind them, and the pillar of cloud moved from before them and stood behind them, coming between the host of Egypt and the host of Israel” (verse 19-20).
How many noticed that the cloud that had been leading them this entire journey was suddenly behind them? Did it give them courage? Did they believe Moses’s words that the Lord would save them? Whatever thoughts were running through their heads, I’m sure jaws dropped as Moses lifted up his arms, the staff in hand, as the thundering of water sounded in the people’s ears. The sea parted, forming a path right through the center. Moses urged Israel onward and as that first Israelite stepped onto the path, he found it was dry.
That always amazes me…dry ground when only seconds earlier the space had been covered with water.
I love it! I love it so much! God’s provision, His attention to detail. His salvation. The people were so concerned because of what they saw. By all appearances, they were supposed to lose. But God came through. He parted the waters and guarded them. He fought for them. All Israel had to do was turn and walk through the path God made.
Lesson 2 of this Messy People series: The Lord fights for us.
It’s hard to be in that place where things can’t possibly work out for our good–the place where we’ve exhausted our resources and ideas and there’s nothing left that we can do. Nothing except step back and be still and watch for the salvation of the Lord. Because those moments when things look the most bleak are when God comes through in the most incredible ways.
What’s your Red Sea situation right now? A job? A relationship? A dream? It’s human nature to want to fix it ourselves or just give up; but don’t lose faith, dear heart. The Lord will come through–perhaps not in a way you expect, but He will fight for you. So step back. Be still. And see the deliverance of the Lord.
Live in His love.
Photo by Debbie Riley