Summary: At the Red Sea Israel disovered that God was at work, using the created order to achieve his purposes - to rescue his people from an impossible situation and bring about a great victory that would be remembered by the Israelites, and others, for all time.
Israel were afraid. A paralysing fear, so great that all they could do was cry out in terror to God. Do you know what that’s like? When things seem so dark and there’s no way out, nothing you can do? When the doctor tells you that you need heart surgery as soon as possible. When the phone rings and you’re told your daughter has been knocked out by a football and has been taken to hospital unconscious; and all you can do is pray that God will keep her safe. Or when you hear that a major restructuring is about to take place; you’re being down-sized and your department is being abolished. Fear that leads to panic - paralysing fear. Or when your spouse says ’I don’t think I love you any more. I think we should separate.’ That sinking feeling right in the pit of your stomach.
"The Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians." Everything had been going so well. In Exodus ch 12 we were told that they plundered the Egyptians, taking their silver & gold & clothing. In ch. 13 we’re told they marched up out of Egypt armed for battle. And even here in v8 we’re told they were marching out boldly. God had defeated the Egyptians and here they were marching out boldly en route to the promised land. But then they come to the Red Sea. Water in every direction. How would they get across? Has Moses made a mistake? And no sooner have they set up camp than they look up and there on the horizon is the dust storm kicked up by the Egyptian army. Here they are, caught between the Egyptian army on one side and the sea on the other, with no way out. No options. Like the person with the heart condition. It’s bypass surgery or die.
Israel’s immediate response is fear. And see what fear does. "Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die?" Egypt of course was the home of the great tombs, the pyramids. "What have you done 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 that to die in the desert." Not for the last time, fear causes them to distort the truth, to be ruled by doubt rather than faith.
I wonder are we sometimes like that? Do we sometimes doubt God - are we afraid that he may not have our best interests at heart? Are we afraid perhaps that he hasn’t noticed our predicament - that he won’t look after us - that he has more important things to worry about than our situation? Do we, like the Israelites, sometimes regret having stepped out in faith when we see what’s involved?
Before this wave of panic Moses stands out like a rock. "Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you wil see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today." Moses has learnt a lot in a short time hasn’t he! And the most important lesson is this - that the Lord can be trusted - he is in control - it’s he who’s delivering his people. Even when there seems to be no way out, Moses has confidence in God. v14: "The Lord will fight for you; you have only to keep still." This wouldn’t always be the case. There would come times when they’d have to fight to win the battle, but not today. Today they need only to keep still. I think for me, that’s the hardest place to be. To find that I’m totally helpless. That my strength, my mind, my analytical skills, my theological training, are of no use in a particular situation. To have to sit back and be still and rely entirely on God. To sit and wait patiently for God to act.
So Israel wait. How do they last through the night? They’ve seen the Egyptians on the horizon - they can only be a few hours away. They could get here any minute. I imagine they wouldn’t have slept much that night. Do you know what that’s like? to lie awake all night worrying about something - scenario upon scenario running through your mind? You go over and over what you said or might have said; all the things that might or might not happen. And the darkness deepens as the night goes on. Your fear only seems to grow as you dwell on your situation.
Moses says take our eyes off the Egyptians. Stop concentrating on what you’re afraid of and look to the Lord, who hasn’t abandoned you; who still cares for you - and see the deliverance he’s about to accomplish for you. Israel needs to learn, just as we need to learn, that God is the God of presence, the God of guidance, the God of protection, who is always with us, caring for us and looking out for us.