Last we left the Israelites; they had been set free from 430 years of slavery. To accomplish this, God had performed ten incredible miracles:
The Nile River turned to blood.
Boils on all the Egyptians.
Locusts eating all the Egyptian crops.
Hail destroying whatever the locusts didn’t.
Darkness – all day long – for three straight days.
Then, the Passover.
God sent the angel of death to take the life of the firstborn son of every Egyptian family.
Including Pharaoh’s family.
Finally, Pharaoh let the Israelites go.
Over one million slaves set out from Egypt. As they left, they followed God. He appeared to them in a gigantic, visible pillar of cloud by day and a floating, visible pillar of fire by night.
It’s like some kind of divine, GPS. Only unlike my GPS….
…God always knows where he’s going.
I. The Trap
Where does God go? “The Lord said to Moses, ‘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.’ ” (Exodus 14:1-2)
This was not the fastest route. That would have taken to the northwest while hugging the shore of the Great Sea. It also would have taken them through the land of the Philistines.
God didn’t want to lead the Israelites directly into the warring country of the Philistines, God had the Israelites head to the south. Most experts believe Migdol to have been on a southern inlet of the Red Sea.
Initially this must not have seemed so bad.
They were by a giant lake.
They had plenty of water.
It was a great campsite.
They could take a dip in the water.
Build a sandcastle.
Take turns burying each other in the sand.
But then, something happened.
When Pharaoh was told that the people had fled, he changed his mind about them and said, “ ‘What have we done? We have let the Israelites go and have lost their services!’ So he had a chariot made ready and took his army with him – six hundred of the best chariots, along with all the other chariots of Egypt, with officers all over them.” (v.5-7)
Chariots were the tanks of the ancient world. They were excellent defense because of the metal spoke wheeled buckets. They were fast because they were drawn by stallions. The standing area would be large enough for archest to draw their bow. This made them long distance threats. And the raised bed made it easy to swing down your sword on opponents, which made it a great close-range weapon.
The chariot was one of the reasons that the Egyptian army was the deadliest and strongest army in the ancient world. They had been successfully winning territory and defended their country for centuries.
The leader of their army?
It wasn’t a pillar of cloud.
Nor a pillar of fire.
It was Pharaoh himself.
We’ve talked a lot against Pharaoh in this series, but here is something positive. The Pharaoh was a brilliant war tactician. He usually took to the front lines of the army and directly his soldiers against his enemies.
And that’s what this Pharaoh did.
He had taken the reigns of this attack.
He had strapped on his battle gear.
He put on his war makeup.
He picked up his sharpest blade and his deadliest spear.
He was hell-bent on destroying Moses, Aaron, the Israelites…
They pursued the Israelites and overtook them as they camped by the sea. (v.9)
Suddenly, the resort area had become a death trap.
They had cattle, livestock, and luggage.
They had kids, elders, and those unable to swim.
They could either drown in the water.
Or in blood.
Was it because there were no graves is in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die?
What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt?
Didn’t we say to you…, “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! (v.11-12)
Because Moses, we are TRAPPED!
Moses heard their complaints.
He listened to their concerns.
He considered their nervousness.
And responded, “Do not be afraid…The LORD will fight for you; you need only be still.” (v.14)
When things look SCARY, God calls us to be STILL.
Take note, because I feel like we sometimes read this wrong.
God doesn’t call us to run.
Not to fight.
Not to complain loudly.
To be still.
This seems so counter-intuitive!
It’s like a hornet’s nest that just fell off a tree. When it hits the ground, the hornets are hopping mad. They fly around looking for someone to inject their poison into. If you don’t immediately turn and run, people think you’re crazy! You must have a high level of confidence in the bug spray you have on.
God calls you to have confidence in him.
Because maybe you feel trapped.
On the one side, job loss.
On the other, eviction.
On the one side, a fatal diagnosis.
On the other, side effects from treatment.
On the one side, COVID variants.
On the other side, severe depression from continued isolation.
If you’re trapped, the temptation is to panic!
To blame God!
To wish that you were back as a slave in Egypt, because it was so much better before you following him!
Don’t you trust me?
I lived for you.
I died for you.
I rose for you.
I love you.
I care for you.
I will fight for you.
II. The Way
The Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on. Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that they will go in after them. I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them. And I will gain glory through Pharaoh, his chariots and his horsemen.” (v.15-18)
The pillar of cloud moved.
It no longer was in front of the Israelite caravan.
But behind it.
God was between the people and the army.
At night, the cloud segued again into the roaring pillar of divine fire.
It was impenetrable.
Even the arrows from a well-trained Egyptian charioteer wouldn’t make it through.
Moses positioned himself on the banks of the sea.
He picked up the staff.
He closed his eyes.
And stretched out his hand.
At first, he felt it on his chin.
His whiskers began to flap in the wind.
He opened his eyes and saw a tree branch break off.
The wind was strong.
It had to be.
The wind was driving itself across the lake.
Like some kind of invisible speedboat, there was a noticeable dip in the water.
Waves shooting up on both sides.
It grew deeper.
Lots of ground.
Enough ground for millions of people to pass safely through.
When there isn’t a WAY, God CREATES one.
He literally moved thousands of hundreds of thousands of gallons of water out of the way. He made it stand on its side. A wall on both flanks.
Do you know how impossible this is? Go ahead and try it. Next time you are at the neighborhood pool…
Grab a stick.
Walk to the five-foot end.
Lift your stick up.
And see if you can split the water.
With the exception of a massive cannonball (which would only last for a second), it’s impossible!
And that cannonball only removes the water in one area for one tenth of a second.
God moved the water over the entire red sea long enough for his people to cross!
Amazing. When there isn’t a way, God creates one!
He did the same for our route to heaven! There wasn’t a way.
Not trying hard.
Not doing your best.
Not getting as close to perfect as you can.
None of that worked.
None of that worked to make a path through the big, old vast, dark, deadly sea of guilt.
Our path to heaven was unpassable.
Death had us cornered.
It was going to slaughter us.
So…God pushed back our sins.
He removed our guilt.
He eliminated our shame.
He provided a way when there wasn’t one.
More than providing the way…
He WAS the way.
He is the Way to eternal life.
If he did that for the impossible sea of your sin,
He’ll provide a way through whatever you’re going through.
When there isn’t a WAY, God creates ONE.
But that’s not all…
III. The Battle
The Israelites began to pass through.
Horses, donkey, camels, sheep and whatever else they had.
While they passed, they were treated to a private aquarium tour of the Red Sea.
Check out that school of lionfish.
There’s a giant moray eel at under the rock.
And is that the bluefin? I had one of those at a seafood restaurant once.
As the Israelites were well on their way.
God removed the fire barrier.
The Egyptians took in a moment of shock.
They were in chariots.
The chariots could move faster.
They began to close in on the Israelites.
Pharaoh at the helm.
A grin of evil.
He was about to get his revenge.
His chariot hit something.
The wheels began to wobble.
Had his axle bent?
His chariot crashed into another officers.
He looked around to see the other chariots suffering the same fate.
One of the soldiers shouted, “Let’s get away from the Israelites! The Lord is fighting for them!” (V.25)
But before they could leave, Moses took up his position on the opposite side of the sea.
All the Israelites were behind.
All of the God’s people were safe.
Moses raised his staff.
Terror hit the face of Pharaoh.
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. (v.28)
God BATTLES for his people.
This is still true.
God battled for his people.
God battles for his people.
God is battling for you.
But he rose.
And He hasn’t left you alone.
He is there.
Fighting for you
Even if it’s in unexpected ways…
We mentioned earlier that Pharaoh thought he had trapped the Israelites.
He noticed that they went down in the Red Sea basin and set themselves up for destruction.
The brilliant tactician that he was Pharoah’s army descended for an easy victory.
Pharaoh thought this was such a good trap.
And it was!
Just not his trap.
Back track with me.
The Lord said to Moses, “Pharaoh will think, ‘The Israelites are wandering around the land in confusion…And he will pursue them. But I will gain glory for myself through Pharaoh and all his army.” (v.3-4)
God had set the trap.
This was always his plan.
Despite what Pharaoh thought, he could not trap God.
Because no one can trap God.
No one can trap God.
And no one can trap God’s people.
Because God is fighting for his people.
And you are his people.
And God is fighting for you.
And you aren’t trapped.
You’ve are never trapped
Because you’ve always got God.