God does one of His most famous miracles for the children of Israel today; HE parts the Red Sea. Israel walks through on dry ground and the Egyptians drown.
THIS miracle is what made the people believe in the Lord and in Moses. They followed where they were led but they hadn’t FULLY bought into God’s plan until now. Yes, they were grateful and full of praise for what God had already done but they were one step from returning to Egypt all the while. Our most telling indicator of their attitude comes out of their own mouths. “Is not this what we said to you in Egypt: ‘Leave us along that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness” (verse 12). They had NOT bought into God’s plan. They were out there in the wilderness because the Egyptians THREW them out! I believe they followed Moses’ directions regarding the Passover more out of fear that out of faith. But they DID recognize God’s hand in it all and gave Him glory for what He had done.
What He had DONE. Not what He would still DO. Let’s join our story and see the difference faith makes over fear.
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Moses is following the pillar of smoke and fire while leading the children of Israel for several days. They have stopped for occasional rest breaks and for meals. The people have been able to keep moving as the Lord directed with His leading. They had one longer meal break when the Lord shared His instructions with them at Succoth. Moses is thinking about everything that has happened so far. He is contemplating this multitude he is leading.
The children of Israel had come out of Egypt in MASSIVE numbers! Moses hadn’t stopped to number them but he assumed that this “mixed multitude” numbered in the millions of people. They came out strong and fit. There wasn’t a feeble person among them. Even the elderly were carrying their own weight and walking strong. They appeared strong enough in body for battle, but how about their spirits?
The people had seen the wonders the Lord had performed in the plagues. They had seen His hand of protection, especially that last night. They had also seen His favor when told to ask their neighbors for gold and silver. They were rich beyond their wildest dreams. And they were following Moses wherever he directed, and the pillar of fire and smoke. But Moses already experienced the fickleness of this people. How long would they keep trusting him and the Lord?
Israel was ready with praise and thanksgiving at Succoth when the Lord gave them their first instructions after leaving Egypt. The multitude willingly followed the pillar of fire and smoke as it moved on day and night to Etham. Where would the Lord take them next? The sea was before them and Egypt was behind.
As Moses is walking along he feels a “tap” on his “spiritual shoulder.” The voice of the Lord calls to him.
“Speak Lord, Your servant is listening.”
“It’s time for the people to make camp.”
“Here? Alright. This looks like a good place to me too.”
“No. Not here. I want you to turn the people back and take them to Pi Hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, in front of Baal-zephon. They are to camp facing Baal-Zephon.”
“Lord? Why there?”
“Pharaoh is going to hear of this and is going to think that the Hebrews are just wandering about and are now trapped by the mountains and the sea. He will regret ever letting you leave and will come after you to bring you back as slaves to Egypt.”
“WHAT!? Why would you allow this? You are the one who led us here.” Moses stops in his tracks of his tirade and realizes Who he is speaking with. “Please forgive me Lord. I know You must have a reason for what You are asking of Your children. I will obey and share Your direction with the people.”
“I do have a purpose behind this placement. I am going to do a work so great that ALL of Egypt will KNOW that I am the Lord!”
Moses smiles and nods. “I wonder how He is going to top this” Moses thinks as he looks at the pillar of smoke he has been following each day and the pillar of fire each night. He is looking forward to sitting still for longer than a meal though. It will be nice to actually “make camp” for once.
The pillar of fire stops and stands still. Then it begins to move back towards the people. Confusion registers on many of the faces. Moses finds a large rock nearby and stands on it. As his head rises from the crowd the people turn to him to listen for instructions.
“The Lord has said that He wants us to turn back and make camp at Pi Hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, in front of Baal-zephon. We are to camp facing Baal-zephon. This will be a nice rest for all of us.”
The people would make camp for the first time. There is much excitement as this message is shared throughout the multitude. Not all could hear Moses actual words as the group was so large, but all received his message and followed where he and the cloud led.
Evening falls as the people begin to make camp. This will be their first night’s full rest. Cloaks are spread on the ground as sleeping mats and blankets are suspended from trees to create a little shelter. The men gather wood for fires while the women look around for available foodstuff. No one had time to prepare provisions before leaving but there is plenty of fruit on the trees and fish in the sea. There is also milk from the goats to satisfy the children. It may not be a banquet but there is plenty to fill the bellies of the people. IF the people are not satisfied with this, there is always the availability to get meat from the herds accompanying them.
Morning dawns and the makeshift camp began to stir. It feels good to be in one place for a little while. The morning meal is about the same as the evenings but no one seems to be too bothered by that. Children move about the camp playing simple games with whatever they can find. The whole camp is enjoying this much needed rest.
Meanwhile, back in Egypt, Pharaoh is receiving a message from one of his spies. “The Hebrews turned around and started coming back this way. They are camping in front of Baal-zephon.”
“They have boxed themselves in. They have gone as far as they can go and are at the edge of the wilderness. I should have never let them go in the first place. Their location is perfect for us to recapture them with little resistance.”
Pharaoh dispatches orders for his commanders and troops to assemble. He even calls for his own chariot. Within the hour Pharaoh and a HUGE contingent of soldiers set out for Baal-zephon. They will NOT return empty handed is Pharaoh’s cry to his troops.
As Pharaoh and his contingent quickly make their way across the wilderness the children of Israel are enjoying a refreshing day. The women are washing clothes and repacking their belongings for easier travel. The men are tending to the needs of the animals. The older children are gathering fruits and fish for dinner while the younger children either tag along with one of the groups or play among themselves.
Moses has only told Aaron about the Lord’s plan with Pharaoh. The two of them are certain the Lord will protect the people but they have no idea what He has in mind. The Lord has only responded with “Wait and see” and “When the time comes use what I have already given you” whenever Moses asks for more detail.
This answer is enough for Moses so that is exactly what he does. He waits and watches. He knows Pharaoh is coming and in which direction he will be approaching. Moses and Aaron position themselves in the front of the camp but watch its back.
About midday Moses thinks he sees a dust cloud in the distance. This cloud could easily be Pharaoh’s approaching forces. He decides to keep quiet and continue watching. After an hour of obvious advancing of the cloud Moses knows for certain what is coming. NOW is the time to truly trust and pray.
Evening approaches and several people in the rear of the camp have noticed the dust cloud. They begin watching it too. But they don’t have Moses’ faith or his inside information. It only takes a little while before they too realize the source of this cloud. Panic grips their hearts and soon their cries of alarm make their way through the camp. Everyone is now aware of Pharaoh’s impending arrival and that he is NOT traveling alone!
Fear spreads through the camp like wildfire. Mothers scramble to find their children. Men look about for anything that can be used as a weapon. Shouts of fear and anger are hurled at Moses and Aaron. “This is all YOUR fault!” “We told you we were fine serving the Egyptians but YOU made us stink to them!” “What! Weren’t there enough graves in Egypt to bury us? You had to bring us out here to die instead!” “Why couldn’t you have left well enough alone?!”
Moses absorbs all these accusations without fear. “Watch and see what the Lord will do!”
After a few minutes of silence from the Lord Moses begins to call out to Him is his spirit. “Lord, You told me to bring these people here. You said You were going to do a great work. Now would probably be a good time to do it please!”
The Lord answers Moses even as he makes his plea. “Why are you calling out to Me? Tell the people of Israel to go forward. Lift up your staff, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, that the people of Israel may go through the sea on dry ground” (verses 15b-16).
Moses did exactly as the Lord said. FIRST he had to get the people moving. “GO FORWARD! Move to the sea!” It took a moment before they started moving but they decided that Moses’ option was better than standing still and waiting for Pharaoh to reach them. As the group began moving towards the sea the pillar of smoke that had gone before them this whole time moved behind them. It obscured their view of Pharaoh and became an impenetrable barrier between the two groups.
Moses raised his arm and stretched out his staff as he and those in the front of the group approached the sea. A strong east wind rises up and SEPARATES the in two! There is a wall of water standing higher than any man’s head on the right and left and there is a dry path right through the middle of them. Mouths gaping and eyes agog, Israel rushes down the path through the sea.
This path is wide enough to fit many people side by side. There are no stones for stumbling on along the way. This path could easily rival any road in Egypt, if it weren’t for the walls of water on either side. Several times neighbors had to encourage one another to keep walking as many wanted to take a closer look at the wonders surrounding them. Fish continued to swim, waves continued to crest, and plants continued to move within the walls. Yet the ground being trod was COMPLETELY dry. Who wouldn’t have wanted to take a moment and soak in this miracle?
But this multitude needed to move! It took ALL night to cross. All night with the Lord’s pillar of fire lighting the way through the darkness. Yet Pharaoh and his army didn’t receive the benefit of the light. They never breached the Lord’s cloud of protection. They couldn’t touch the children of Israel. But they could hear them and refused to give up.
As the children of Israel were advancing through the sea Pharaoh and his army were pursuing them into it. They too saw the wonders in the walls of water. But they were so focused on overtaking the Hebrews to care, at first.
By morning all the children of Israel had left the seabed. They were safely on the other shore while their Egyptian pursuers were in the middle of the sea. Moses directed the people’s attention to the seabed where Pharaoh and his HUGE contingent lay. “Watch and see the hand of the Lord!” Moses knew a bit about what was coming next but he wanted the people to witness it for themselves.
The ground below the chariots was no longer dry. The chariots’ wheels got bogged down. The soldiers eyes were opened to the reality of where they stood and they began to panic. “Let’s get out of here! Israel’s God is too strong! Their God is fighting against us and for THEM!”
The Egyptians are in the middle of the sea by this point and there is no quick way out, either forward or back. As the people that the Lord is fighting for lay ahead, their only “safe” option is to turn back. Before they can even get turned around in their steps the Lord gives Moses his next instructions.
“Stretch your hand out over the sea that the water can come back in place on the Egyptians, their chariots and their horsemen.”
Moses does immediately and the walls of water come crashing down. The sea resumes its normal course as though it had never stood in heaps. In the midst of this rushing, raging sea are all of the Egyptian forces that had pursued Moses and the children of Israel. Pharaoh, his six hundred choicest chariots, all the other chariots of Egypt, Pharaoh’s horses and horsemen, Pharaoh’s army and all his officers were covered in the sea.
As the people continued to watch they saw the bodies of the Egyptians, their horses, and their chariots washing up on the seashore. Not one man or beast swam to safety in Egypt’s entire contingent. While not one of the children of Israel even got their feet wet or muddy.
Moses heart sings as he sees the faces of the children of Israel begin to register the FULL impact of what the Lord has just done for them. He can SEE their belief in the Lord grow as surely as he can see a flower blooming in a garden. “This people will surely follow You anywhere now Lord. They TRULY believe.”
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Father God, I have so longed to see the majesty of that day as the people walked between the walls of water. The fact that the land was DRY is AMAZING to me! Covered in water one second and dry as a bone the next. I wonder if the fish noticed the people walking among them. It would not surprise me one bit if You had even let the fish continue on their way as the people walked beneath them. I can just see fish swimming through midair above the people’s heads. I’m pretty sure that didn’t happen but it would be no less of a miracle than what You already did that day.
I LOVE seeing Your hand in motion! I have never had this big of a display of Your power in my life, but then I never needed it either. What I have seen is that You meet ALL my needs. You care for me in ways I will never know. The ones I do know about blow me away! One of my favorites was when I asked You to provide $10 for me for an immediate need. I didn’t know how You would do it and didn’t even know if my prayers were “getting through” to You. All I had to hang onto was the knowledge that You loved me and were bigger than my problem.
I prayed that prayer as I was driving home that day from work. When I reached my home, less than five minutes after making my request, I checked the mail. In my mailbox was a check for $12. I don’t even remember where it was from but I KNOW I was not expecting it. It wasn’t a rebate I was waiting for or anything like that. It was an answer to my prayer. Plain and simple. It was my evidence of my Father looking out for me. And it was there BEFORE I prayed!
Would that check have been there if I hadn’t asked You for help on the way home? I don’t know. What I do know is that You KNOW me better than I know myself. I TRULY believe You sparked that prayer so I could see Your answer. I regret my next thought after wards and have since repented of it. That thought was “why didn’t I ask for a larger sum?” Because that wouldn’t have been for my need but for my want instead. Thank You for showing me that lesson too. Thank You that I am ALWAYS safe in Your hands.