Summary: Whatever God does He does for our good and for His glory.
“Xtreme Faith: Doing the Impossible”
This is one of those sections of the Bible where the unfolding drama is exciting; the action is hot and heavy. So let’s get right to it.
SCENE 1 – GOD SPEAKS. God tells Moses where to lead Israel. Nothing new; God did that all the time. GOD DETERMINES AND DIRECTS THE JOURNEY. But this time He heads them back towards Egypt. A strange route, it seems. In fact, the whole trip had been strange. If the shortest distance between to points is a straight line, then God had not been leading them via the shortest distance. It would be like me heading to Kalamazoo by way of Milwaukee, Atlanta, Orlando, and Denver; it wouldn’t make much sense. And to make matters worse, God was leading them into a cul-de-sac in which they could easily be trapped. But God directs the journey, EVEN IF to His people, it appears dangerous; even if it doesn’t make sense.
But note that God does it FOR OUR GOOD. There are times God takes us on an alternate route for our own good. He knows that if we travel on the straight line, follow the shortest route, we’ll be unprepared and never make it. Israel was not prepared to fight the battles that would have occurred on the short path. God knew they would quickly turn around and head back to Egypt. Have you ever felt that God led you to somewhere, or to do something, and you faithfully obeyed – only to run into trouble? Then you began to question why God would lead you there in the first place. But God knows what He’s doing. In Israel’s case, God was setting a trap for Pharaoh; it was all part of His master plan. God leads us for our own good.
And GOD TRAVELS WITH US along those paths. God used the cloud and fire not only to lead Israel, but to assure them of His presence. They were not traveling alone. He was with them all along the way – just as He is with us all along our way. When your way, your place, your decisions seem to be working against you, remember that God has you there for you own good; and He is with you.
Meanwhile SCENE 2 – PHARAOH STRATEGIZES. God knew Pharaoh’s heart, and knew he would change his mind. And sure enough, no sooner had this band of millions left Egypt than Pharaoh had regrets. So he called forth a mighty army and went in hot pursuit of Israel. God made sure of it – he hardened Pharaoh’s heart. God’s plan was working. But then, it always does.
GOD RULES – IS SOVEREIGN – OVER NATIONS, PEOPLE, AND CIRCUMSTANCES. Remember King Nebuchadnezzar? After experiencing God work, he said (Dl. 4:34-35) “His dominion is an eternal dominion; his kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: ‘What have you done?’” Nothing happens without God’s permission. God rules – He is sovereign. As the Heidelberg Catechism eloquently states (26), “Providence is the almighty and ever present power of God by which he upholds, as with his hand, heaven and earth and all creatures, and so rules them that leaf and blade, rain and drought, fruitful and lean years, food and drink, health and sickness, prosperity and poverty – all things, in fact, come to us not by chance but from his fatherly hand.” So Pharaoh thinks he’s in control, that he’s about to re-conquer his slaves. His army feels confident as they catch up with the Israelites and realize they are hemmed in. it will make it easier for the army.
SCENE 3 – THE ISRAELITES RESPOND. The Israelites saw and heard the advancing army. They knew they were trapped in this cul-de-sac – with mountains on the side and the Red Sea in front of them and now the enemy army behind them. The situation seemed impossible. Their response? They were terrified and they yelled at and criticized Moses. IMPOSSIBLE SITUATIONS OFTEN LEAD TO FEAR. That’s what happens when, like Israel, people focus on human potential rather than on God’s power. When we’re looking down and around, we’re not looking up – and we begin to fear.
The problem is that FEAR BLINDS US. It blinds us from remembering the past – Israel had just been miraculously delivered from slavery; they were being led by cloud and fire. But their fear blinded them. Fear also blinds us from doing what needs to be done – we become immobile and impotent. It reminds me of the story of the 747 jetliner taxiing down the runway, with the passengers all buckled up for takeoff. A voice came over the speakers in the plane’s cabin, “Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. Welcome aboard Flight 22 for London’s Heathrow Airport. We will climb to a cruising altitude of 30,000 feet and will travel at an air speed of 660 miles per hour. Our flight plan will take us across Canada, Greenland, Iceland, and over the tip of Ireland. Our flying time will be about nine hours. As soon as we are airborne the flight attendants will be serving you breakfast. We’ll take off … just as soon as I can get up the nerve!” The Israelites were paralyzed and unfocused because of their fears. Can you see the scene? 2-3 million people harping at good old Moses, blaming him for their predicament?