Text: Exodus 13:17 – 14:14
“Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today.” —Exodus 14:13
Dr. George Campbell Morgan tells of a man whose shop burned to the ground in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. The next morning he arrived at work carrying a table, which he set up amid the charred ruins. On it he placed a sign that read, “Everything lost except wife, children, and hope. Business as usual tomorrow morning.”
It’s been said that the acid test of character is determined by how much discouragement you can take without giving up. God may allow hardship into our lives to shape something in us, but never without the aim of showing off His power and might.
When God led the Israelites out of Egyptian slavery, He didn’t lead them by the shortest route, or most convenient, but the one that would shape their hearts the most. Unmovable from their side, the Lord went before them in a pillar of cloud by day and in a pillar of fire by night. He led Israel into what seemed to be a trap. There was no way of escape except the way they had come in, and the Egyptian army had that path blocked.
At one point, God even commanded the Israelites to turn backward as if to bait Pharaoh into pursuing them. Seems a bit strange if God was only in it for Israel’s good. But there is more to the story—and to our story as well—God isn’t just in it for our good, He is in it for His glory. God promised that through this seemingly counterintuitive move “the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord” (Exodus 14:1-4). God would prove Himself to them throughout every uncertain twist and turn of this journey.
God is not just working for our good and wellbeing (Romans 8), but chiefly for His glory to be demonstrated through the entire process of our lives. Each day that we live and breathe is an opportunity for God to flex His muscles in every circumstance, from our most disheartening setbacks to our most rousing victories. The Almighty is shaping our heart to love Him and trust Him.
We tend to spend much of our days striving in our own strengths, abilities, and sufficiency. God certainly gave us talents and abilities to use for His glory, but He wants us operating and functioning in a dependence on Him. He wants us to learn to trust what He can do through us, as our cloud by day and our pillar by night. We often yearn for the easy path, the most convenient. Yet we frequently find ourselves on an inconveniently rugged, agitating and adverse path toward our promised land. What’s the deal?
Nature itself teaches us that it’s impossible to succeed without going through adversity. If a seedling tree has to struggle its way up through rocks to get to sunlight and air, then wrestle with storms and frost to survive, you can be sure of one thing: its root system will be strong and its timber resilient. If you’re successful and haven’t experienced hardship, you can be sure someone else has experienced it for you. And if you’re experiencing adversity without succeeding, there’s a good chance somebody else will succeed because of the price you paid. As Brad Pitt says in the film Moneyball, “The first one through the wall always gets bloody.” In any case, there’s no achievement without adversity.
It made sense for Israel to be afraid. They could see Pharaoh’s armies on one side and the Red Sea on the other. Maybe you find yourself facing similar disheartening odds. Just know beloved, your God is up to something that transcends your human understanding. Though Israel’s situation looked bleak, God assures them that the coming events, regardless of how they are perceived, are governed by his power and purposes. The Lord does tell Moses that he will “get glory over Pharaoh,” but He does not tell him just how that deliverance will be accomplished. It requires faith with every step and trust in every moment.
Between the time of the plagues in Egypt and the journey to Sinai, the events at the Red Sea show Moses as a maturing leader who learns to trust in the word of the Lord (Exodus 14:13–14), as they also illustrate Israel’s need to do the same (Exodus 14:10–12). How about you, my friend, are you maturing in your faith and trust in God’s providence for your life? Think about that as you seek to abide in Him this week.
Lord, You are in this for my good and Your glory. Therefore, You will never abandon me. Your love will never fail. I rejoice in your salvation alone. No matter what stands in front of me, You have already gone ahead and You will faithfully take me through. I praise You for Your goodness. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Questions for Reflection, Small Group or Family Discussion:
- What was God’s reason for directing the Israelites toward the Red Sea? (Exodus 13:17-18)
- What did the Israelites cry to Moses when the Egyptians came after them? (Exodus 14:10-12)
- How do you imagine God felt when the Israelites wanted to return to Egypt?
- What do we have to do to be obedient to God even when we don’t feel like it?
- How can you give your fears to God this week?
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