The Lord Leads His People
17After the king had finally let the people go, the Lord did not lead them through Philistine territory, though that was the shortest way. God had said, “If they are attacked, they may decide to return to Egypt.” 18So he led them around through the desert and toward the Red Sea.
The Israelites left Egypt, prepared for battle.
19 Moses had them take the bones of Joseph, whose dying words had been, “God will come to your rescue, and when he does, be sure to take my bones with you.”
20The people of Israel left Succoth and camped at Etham at the border of Egypt near the desert. 21-22 During the day the Lord went ahead of his people in a thick cloud, and during the night he went ahead of them in a flaming fire. That way the Lord could lead them at all times, whether day or night.
1At Etham the Lord said to Moses:
2Tell the people of Israel to turn back and camp across from Pi-Hahiroth near Baal-Zephon, between Migdol and the Red Sea. 3The king will think you were afraid to cross the desert and that you are wandering around, trying to find another way to leave the country. 4I will make the king stubborn again, and he will try to catch you. Then I will destroy him and his army. People everywhere will praise me for my victory, and the Egyptians will know that I really am the Lord.
The Israelites obeyed the Lord and camped where he told them.
5When the king of Egypt heard that the Israelites had finally left, he and his officials changed their minds and said, “Look what we have done! We let them get away, and they will no longer be our slaves.”
6The king got his war chariot and army ready. 7He commanded his officers in charge of his 600 best chariots and all his other chariots to start after the Israelites. 8The Lord made the king so stubborn that he went after them, while the Israelites proudly went on their way. 9But the king's horses and chariots and soldiers caught up with them while they were camping by the Red Sea near Pi-Hahiroth and Baal-Zephon.
10When the Israelites saw the king coming with his army, they were frightened and begged the Lord for help. 11They also complained to Moses, “Wasn't there enough room in Egypt to bury us? Is that why you brought us out here to die in the desert? Why did you bring us out of Egypt anyway? 12While we were there, didn't we tell you to leave us alone? We'd rather be slaves in Egypt than die in this desert!”
13But Moses answered, “Don't be afraid! Be brave, and you will see the Lord save you today. These Egyptians will never bother you again. 14The Lord will fight for you, and you won't have to do a thing.”
15The Lord said to Moses, “Why do you keep calling out to me for help? Tell the Israelites to move forward. 16Then hold your walking stick over the sea. The water will open up and make a road where they can walk through on dry ground. 17I will make the Egyptians so stubborn that they will go after you. Then I will be praised because of what happens to the king and his chariots and cavalry. 18The Egyptians will know for sure that I am the Lord.”
Have you ever experienced a profound sense of regret? Have you ever had a dream go sour?
Israel was embarking on a dream. For four hundred and thirty years they were slaves longing for freedom. Now under God’s man, Moses, they were walking in freedom.
The Egyptians had built forts along the short direct route to Canaan presenting many opportunities for battles for which these Israeli slaves were not equipped to fight.
At God’s direction, Moses led the people with their animals back and forth along the western shores of the Sea of Reeds, at times called the Bitter Lakes (upper Red Sea). God’s presence, seen as a cloud by day and fire at night, went in front of them as they travelled. The Lord who delivered them from Egypt was still with them in powerful supernatural ways.
Pharaoh, regretting his decision, gathered his entire army and gave chase and in short order wedged the Israelite camp between his vast armies on the west and the sea to their east.
The Israelites intense fear soon led to frustration. They cried out to the Lord in the cloud and they complained to Moses. Why Moses? “Why did you get us into this mess; we should have stayed in Egypt.”
Notice the sharp contrast in the attitude of Moses. “Do not fear,” Moses said. “Stand your ground and see the salvation of the Lord. Watch and see if God can deliver his people from their enemies.”
The same waters God parted to let Israel walk to safety soon enveloped the Egyptian armies.
Lesson learned. God is not only able to deliver us from our fears and regrets but when we follow him he also defeats the very thing we are afraid of.
Father, we thank you for showing us your power in small and great ways. Help us to remember that you are the great deliverer and that we have no cause to be afraid. Through your power may our fears and regrets be turned into confidence and victory.