Grumbling amidst the Extraordinary
It was a battle plan like no other. The Israelites, led by Moses, had fled the grip of Egyptian slavery, and were now encamped by the Red Sea. After the many plagues, it appreared that Pharoah had finally let them go. But once more, they looked up to find the Egyptians marching after them. As fear surmounted and grumbling began, Moses answered the people. His words are recorded in Exodus 14:14. “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still,” he told them.
Being “still” was probably the last thing on the Israelites’ mind. If you have ever disturbed an ant hill, you know the chaos that results. Hundreds of threatened ants run hurry-scurry. I picture the threatened Israelites reacting like an ant hill that has just been kicked. Just imagine them grabbing their belongings, maybe scrambling to put shoes back on their weary and blistered feet as they awaken a sleeping neighbor. Perhaps families began assembling and designating who would carry the tired children. Perhaps harsh words were exchanged as people ran and pushed their way through the crowd. Perhaps dust began choke the air and sting their sunburned eyes. “I’ve had it,” some might say. “We were better off as slaves to the Egyptians,” others might jeer. And then, perhaps like a wave that rolled to shore and receded back to sea, the words of Moses fell upon every ear. The hebrew word Moses used when he told them to be still, means to be silent, to be quiet, make no moves, and even become deaf. Essentially he told them to “freeze!”
Our minds can be a thousand places all at one time, and that can be so debilitating. When we want to hear God, we need to stop doing the talking and moving, and stop hearing all the extra voices around us. We can not lose sight that it is God who will deliver us, and it is God who is leading us in our battle. When we are in a posture of readiness and obedience, God does big things.
God instructed Moses to raise his staff and part the waters so the Israelites could cross on dry land. God’s power is so rich in the details. It is easy to rush through a familiar bible story. But if we journey through this passage with an unhurried heart, we will see an incredible display of God’s power and protection. We will catch a glimpse at just how big and strong our God really is. Life can seem so chaotic, and we sometimes just forget that God really is still at work in our life. God really does hears our prayers and goes to battle for us! (“They cried out to you and were saved; in you they trusted and were not disappointed” Psalm 22:5).
Moses had calmed the Israelites, and he had received instructions from the LORD. They were ready now. Exodus 14:19 begins with the word “then.”
Verse 19-20 states, “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, coming between the armies of Egypt and Israel. Throughout the night the cloud brought darkness to one side and light to the other side; so neither went near the other all night long.”
God’s presence traveled with the Israelites in this pillar of cloud. All along they had the angel of God and the presence of God guarding and leading them from the front. Yet the Israelites had lost sight of their leader and protector. How could they possibly fear if they knew God was leading them in battle? Yet their faith trembled at the sight of the Egyptians’ pursuit.
Over and over again God’s chosen people defaulted to their fears. Are we any different? We only see what is in front of us. We only see the piece of God’s plan that affects us directly. And that’s when it can seem like God’s ways make no sense. We are told in Exodus 14:3 that God hardened Pharoh’s heart so that they would pursue the Israelites. Why? In Isaiah 55:8, God declares that his ways are not our ways. His thoughts are not our thoughts. We don’t always undertand the why’s, but we can rest assured that we are not forgotten.
All night the LORD’s glory was on display in this pillar cloud. As he held back the Egyptians, God was not about to let his chosen people miss the display of his lavish love and his promise to them fulfilled. In addition, God also wanted the Egyptians to see his glory, that they might know once and for all that He is LORD (Exodus 14:18). As instructed, Moses then stretched out his hand over the red sea. Verses 19-31 record the final amazing details. All night long God drove back the sea, and the Israelites crossed the sea on dry land. There is every reason to believe God’s people arrived at the other side of the Red sea completely dry! Scripture describes physical walls of water and dry land. All night long the pillar of cloud stood between the the Israelites and the Egyptians in pursuit. God’s people were untouchable! Verse 25 tells us that God even made wheels fall off the Egyptian chariots. When night fell, the pillar of cloud turned to fire, so his people could see. Oh how I love the details, don’t you! There was no earthly explanation for such events. God’s power was on display for all to see!
The Egyptians were scared and ready to retreat. “Let’s get away from the Israelites! The LORD is fighting for them against Egypt,” verse 25 states. We must remember that the LORD is fighting for us too. We may not see how God will use all of the chaos, but he will turn our fear to faith. And he will completely destroy our enemy. God will lead us, and he is our protector.
The Israelites chapter of Egyptian slavery had ended. By God’s hand, the Israelites crossed the Red Sea, and their enemy was swept to sea and completely destroyed. The Israelites see God’s great power and place their trust in the LORD. With the crispness of an unread page, a new chapter begins for God’s people.
No matter what we battle today, we have to remember that a new chapter awaits us as well. God is leading, protecting, building, conquering, and delivering us each day. Our story is not over, pages will turn, and new chapters will begin.