They Almost Made It

26 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea so that the waters may flow back over the Egyptians and their chariots and horsemen.” 27 Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at daybreak the sea went back to its place. The Egyptians were fleeing toward it, and the Lord swept them into the sea. 28 The water flowed back and covered the chariots and horsemen—the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed the Israelites into the sea. Not one of them survived.

29 But the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left. 30 That day the Lord saved Israel from the hands of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the shore. 31 And when the Israelites saw the mighty hand of the Lord displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant. Exodus 13:21-30 Exodus 13:26-31

The second miracle of this story, of course, was the massive water wall falling on the Egyptian soldiers at just the right time (wrong time for them). They had assumed that the waters would still be held back for them, but they rushed into their deaths on Pharaoh’s command. None of them lived to tell about it.

As they approached the waters, though, what must they have been thinking? The Israelites had the benefit of Moses directing their path upon guidance for God. The Egyptian soldiers knew that the wall of water was a freak act of nature, and they must have questioned the order (in their minds) to pursue the Israelite slaves, especially as most of them had already crossed on dry ground.

Yet, it wasn’t a freak act of nature. These soldiers would have experienced all 10 plagues, and many of them were not even able to mourn the death of their first born before beginning pursuit of the Israelites. So they sort of know what they’re up against. Similarly, they might have even had a huge vendetta against the slaves for somehow being involved in the death of their first born.

So their anger, their frustrations, their vendettas were all for naught as they entered the dry bed of the Red Sea. They were given false hope that they could make it to the other side because some must have been close before the waters caved in on all of them.

But really, they had no choice but to pursue the Israelites. They had clung to the false hope that they would make it to the other side alive.

Many in our society have a similar false hope. They even talk about making it to the other side and maybe even yukking it up when they get there. God presents us regularly with opportunities to share the only Hope we have in this world.

What a life-changing Hope He is.

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The Moment of Truth

21 Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the Lord drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, 22 and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left.

23 The Egyptians pursued them, and all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots and horsemen followed them into the sea. 24 During the last watch of the night the Lord looked down from the pillar of fire and cloud at the Egyptian army and threw it into confusion. 25 He jammed the wheels of their chariots so that they had difficulty driving. And the Egyptians said, “Let’s get away from the Israelites! The Lord is fighting for them against Egypt.”

26 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea so that the waters may flow back over the Egyptians and their chariots and horsemen.” 27 Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at daybreak the sea went back to its place. The Egyptians were fleeing toward it, and the Lord swept them into the sea. 28 The water flowed back and covered the chariots and horsemen—the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed the Israelites into the sea. Not one of them survived.

29 But the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left. 30 That day the Lord saved Israel from the hands of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the shore. 31 And when the Israelites saw the mighty hand of the Lord displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant. Exodus 13:21-30

Step back for a moment and watch what just occurred. Moses parted the sea and the Israelites were able to walk across on dry land.

Dry land.

That is simply amazing. Not only was the sea parted, but they were able to cross it without being bogged down by muck and mud.

Can you imagine what that scene must have looked like: two walls of water just waiting to crash down. If it were you, would you be tempted to linger and marvel or run quickly in case it collapses? Probably a little bit of both. But more than a million people (and up to 3 million) had to cross over the parted sea, which in itself is not a small ordeal.

Now, this is obviously a miracle of the Lord Almighty. They will have experienced an event no one else has ever experienced before or since.

Will they remember it when they get to the wilderness?

We all know the answer to that.

But still, it was a sure sign that the sovereign Lord was on their side and fighting their battles.

Fortunately, we don’t need that kind of sign that He’s on our side because we have the Word of God, the Holy Spirit living in us, and countless fellow believers who are on the same journey we are on.

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Checking Your Six

15 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on. 16 Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground. 17 I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them. And I will gain glory through Pharaoh and all his army, through his chariots and his horsemen. 18 The Egyptians will know that I am the Lord when I gain glory through Pharaoh, his chariots and his horsemen.”

19 Then the angel of God, who had been traveling in front of Israel’s army, withdrew and went behind them. The pillar of cloud also moved from in front and stood behind them, 20 coming between the armies of Egypt and Israel. Throughout the night the cloud brought darkness to the one side and light to the other side; so neither went near the other all night long. Exodus 13:15-20

How’s that for encouragement. You can do this, Moses, so do it!

Before he actually did it, though, the angel of God had to change positions. He would now be guarding them from the rear, and they wouldn’t be able to see what was going on ahead of them. I imagine that sent a wave of confusion among the rank and file Egyptians. The Israelites had perfect light but the Egyptians were in darkness. It also gave the Israelites a false sense of security, but fortunately Moses knew what was going on so he didn’t need to worry the masses.

In military terms, it’s called checking your six. It’s the six o’clock position on a clock, and it essentially means watching your back for your vulnerabilities you may not be able to see because of your circumstances.

God has our six. He watches our back. He knows the pitfalls. Most of the pitfalls are in the lists of sins and temptations in the Bible we are to avoid: greed, love of money, sexual impurity, pride, gossip, impure thoughts, covetousness, dishonesty, murder, stealing, and a whole lot more. Righteous, moral living helps prevent unexpected revelations. For example, if your standard is being honest in every situation no matter how much it may hurt, nobody will be able to confront you about being dishonest. That’s how the Word of God itself is able to watch your six.

Asking God to help with your blind spots when you’re involved in ministry is another fantastic way of watching your six. In ministry as in life, God is looking out for you, but even praying that helps keep you aware of the threats the enemy can blind side you with.

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Fearful Already?

10 As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the Lord. 11 They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? 12 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 than to die in the desert!”

13 Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. 14 The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Exodus 13:10-14

The Israelites haven’t started their 40-year trek through the wilderness yet and here they are whining and grumbling. But Moses, deaf and naive to their complaints thus far, tried to encourage them.

To be fair, though, these people were on foot, unarmed, and unmatched for the mighty Egyptian army. But God was on their side. That’s always a consideration in any battle in any part of life really.

Moses said, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today.”

That’s very similar to our battle cry, isn’t it?
Don’t be afraid.
Fear not.
Be still, my soul.

The fears are different but the message is still the same: God’s in control despite our lack of control of things around us. The sooner we burn that into our thick skulls, the fuller our life will be.

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In Hot Pursuit

Then the Lord said to Moses, 2 “Tell the Israelites to turn back and encamp near Pi Hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea. They are to encamp by the sea, directly opposite Baal Zephon. 3 Pharaoh will think, ‘The Israelites are wandering around the land in confusion, hemmed in by the desert.’ 4 And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them. But I will gain glory for myself through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord.” So the Israelites did this.

5 When the king of Egypt was told that the people had fled, Pharaoh and his officials changed their minds about them and said, “What have we done? We have let the Israelites go and have lost their services!” 6 So he had his chariot made ready and took his army with him. 7 He took six hundred of the best chariots, along with all the other chariots of Egypt, with officers over all of them. 8 The Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, so that he pursued the Israelites, who were marching out boldly. 9 The Egyptians—all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots, horsemen and troops—pursued the Israelites and overtook them as they camped by the sea near Pi Hahiroth, opposite Baal Zephon. Exodus 13:1-9

All along we knew that Pharaoh was keeping the Hebrews back because of the lost labor when they left. They brought out all the chariots and were in hot pursuit of this massive group of Israelites. They really had the upper hand in the matter, except that God was not on their side. He had been watching over this fearful bunch since they arrived in Egypt with Joseph.

Even today the nation of Israel receives a special blessing from God. We all know that if the Lord weren’t on their side they could be wiped out overnight. But God has blessed them with military might and intelligence, innovation, and a will to remain a free nation in that part of the world.

Unfortunately, not many nations stand beside Israel in their right to exist as a nation. All those who oppose her are like the Egyptians in pursuit of the Israelites who were on foot. The Egyptians should have been able to wipe them out completely because the Hebrews are unarmed and on foot, but as we’ll see, that’s not what happened.

May God continue to bless nations who bless Israel.

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