God is leading. God is leading his people very specifically. He has delivered them from the the heavy hand of an unjust master and he has taken them into the wilderness. With a cloud by day and a fire by night, God has been ever so faithful to get them where they need to be. He further cares for them by speaking very clearly the way in which they must go to his prophet, Moses. Now, they have come to a place where the wilderness is behind them, rocky treachery is beside them, and the Red Sea is in front of them. Apart from God’s direct orders on where to go, the cloud, the fire, there would have been little reason to believe this could possibly be the right way. It was long, it was foreign, and it did not make logical sense.
So, here Moses is instructed to encamp in front of the Red Sea. God does not just tell Moses where to go. He tells him why to go there.
For Pharaoh will say of the people of Israel, ‘They are wandering in the land; the wilderness has shut them in.’ 4 And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, and the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord.” And they did so. ~Exodus 14:3-4
God is about to take his people through the Red Sea. He is about to show his power and sovereignty through both mercy and wrath. As his people walk through the sea, their enemies will be destroyed, both at the very same time by the mighty hand of God.
So God says, “Hey, Moses! Guess what? Once I get you guys to a place where you have no where else to go, your enemies are coming for you. I’m gonna make them as hardened and foolish in their pursuit as they have ever been. Even more so! Then, I’m gonna show them who I am. But don’t worry! I’m gonna get glory and they’re gonna know I am God once and for all . Now, go this crazy, unexpected, entrapping way and stay there until they come for you. Trust me. This is for you and me and my glory.”
Talk about being used! These people were about to be the very means by which their numerous, strong, relentless enemies were proven wrong once and for all. They were the means by which God chose to get his glory. That is so awesome!!! Still, when you’re up against a wall…well, a sea, with the most powerful army of the known world in pursuit, it is hard not to freak out in fear.
It really shouldn’t have been that hard to trust God. I mean, these punks had just watched a deliverer come for them. They’d just seen ten disastrous plagues strike Egypt. They just exited their homes freely and had just been handed all the gold and silver of Egypt. They had been given their own personal cloud. They’d been given their own personal fire. They had a prophet telling them exactly where to go and what to do. They were told beforehand that they would be pursued because God was hardening the hearts of their enemies. So, seeing that army approach should not have been the least bit surprising. Nor should it have been disheartening or terrifying in any way. But, these are sheep and sheep are not that smart.
Still, God did exactly as he said he would do. How gracious of him to tell Moses first so he might understand the purpose of this very peculiar path they were being led on. They go and they camp out by the water…and…wait.
In the meantime, just like God said he would, Pharaoh got a hankering to follow. His reason? After all those painful plagues and even after losing his very own son, his reason is this:
When the king of Egypt was told that the people had fled, the mind of Pharaoh and his servants was changed toward the people, and they said, “What is this we have done, that we have let Israel go from serving us?” ~Exodus 14:5
The enemy loses his best slaves when God’s people become free. All Pharaoh cares about is himself. Serve me! Be a slave to me! Fear me! Obey me! Sound familiar? All Satan cares about is our slavery to him. The enemy loses his best slaves when God’s people become free. Matthew Henry says this: “Pharaoh’s pursuit of Israel, in which, while he gratifies his own malice and revenge, he is furthering the accomplishment of God’s counsels concerning him…thus what may be easily justified is easily condemned, by putting false colors upon it…it vexed him that Israel had their liberty, that he had lost the profit of their labors, and the pleasure of chastising them. It is meat and drink to proud persecutors to trample upon the saints of the Most High, and say to their souls, bow down that we may go over; and therefore it vexes them to have their hands tied. Note, the liberty of God’s people is a heavy grievance to their enemies.”
Free or not, God’s people feel a lot like sitting ducks. When Pharaoh’s army approaches they see them coming and the text says, “they feared greatly.” They cried out to God. They mock their own deliverance. They question their personal, prepared his entire life for this very thing prophet, Moses. They even wish to go back and be slaves. This is all quite absurd, really. These dudes had it all! God could have done nothing more miraculous, nothing more tender, nothing more amazing than that which he was already doing for them. Yet, they cower in blinding fear and disbelief. Again, Henry notes, “As the Egyptians were angry with themselves for the best deed they ever did, so the Israelites were angry with God for the greatest kindness that was ever done them; so gross are the absurdities of unbelief.”
What must Moses have been thinking? Like how dense are you people, right? Can you not see God working here? Do you not see that cloud? The fire? Hello. Anybody in there? But Moses knows just what to say. Here is peace in the storm of irrational fear, blasphemous anxiety, and ungodly unbelief:
And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, 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. 14 The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” ~Exodus 14:13-14
Be silent. Be silent!!! Irrational fear, be silent! Blasphemous anxiety, be silent! Ungodly unbelief, be silent! Those things do not come from God. They come from Satan. We must command them silent if we expect God’s deliverance.
When God is leading our lives, we will doubtless go to places we never could have imagined and take detours we never would have expected. All the while, God faithfully gives us all the information we truly need. Usually it is simply this: This is for my glory. You are the very means I am using to make myself known. Be it in mercy or in wrath, I will be known as the One, True God. So, Go. Wait. Trust. I am fighting for you. Silence your fear, stand firm, and watch as I walk you through the impossible.