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Exodus 13:1718; 14:918, 31comment (0)

March 25, 2010

By Jeffrey S. Quiett

Related Scripture: Exodus 13:1718; 14:918, 31

Explore the Bible
Associate professor of marriage and family counseling, University of Mobile

Exodus 13:17–18; 14:9–18, 31

Freedom and Hardship (13:17–18)

Once the Israelites were freed from Egypt, they took the long way to Canaan rather than the shortest route that would have taken them along the north edge of the Suez isthmus. The short route was through a populated region that would have meant hard and long-term fighting. God, aware of the physical and psychological vulnerability of the Israelites, instructed them to take the longer route. The joyous reality of freedom would give way to hardship once the Israelites took the initial step to follow God. We are reminded of Jesus’ caution that the decision to follow Him leads us to the “narrow road” (Matt. 7:14). This road implies difficulty but the result of following Christ is life. When God calls us to serve His purposes, He usually does not give us more than we are able to handle. Although the Israelites were at the verge of a mighty victory, God understood their physical and emotional state. God knows us better than we know ourselves and moves us toward what is best. We are called to let go of our desire to run our own lives and allow God to direct us. This “letting go” enables God to take us to places that will ultimately lead to the abundant life Jesus promises (John 10:10).

Faith and Doubt (14:9–12)
The Israelites found themselves trapped, facing the approaching army of Pharaoh. Pharaoh’s army was intimidating and the unarmed Israelites began to regret and complain about their decision to follow Moses. This is the first recorded complaint of the Israelites, but Moses and God would hear many more in the years to come. The complaints are a foreshadowing of the familiar pattern of Israel’s faithfulness and rebelliousness. Modern believers may be quick to judge the Israelites for their wavering faith. Yet this same pattern can be seen today as we praise God when times are good and try to take care of things ourselves when times are bad. The Israelites of the Exodus are good examples of the triumphs of a firm faith that can possibly degenerate into miserable doubt. Impossible circumstances are often an opportunity to reveal how much real faith we have in God. The most powerful army of the ancient world was bearing down on the Israelites and they could do nothing but complain. They forgot about their God who was infinitely more powerful than any army. Notice, however, that the Israelites still managed to “cry out to the Lord” even when their resolve was weak. Our lack of faith can give way to God’s power when we remain obedient to His direction.

Assurance in Doubt (14:13–18)
Moses responded to the Israelites’ doubt by assuring them that God would prevail. Moses did not rebuke the people for their complaining but commanded them to “stand firm” and “be still.” These phrases were difficult instructions to follow especially when the mighty army of Pharaoh was ready to attack. Sometimes our desire to “do something” beyond what God calls us to do only prevents His purposes. The hardest part of faith and obedience is waiting. Moses did not command the Israelites to “get ready to fight.” Moses simply ordered them to wait and see God’s deliverance. God’s deliverance would be greater than the Israelites could possibly imagine. Through Moses’ obedience to God’s instruction, His power was revealed to both the Israelites and the Egyptians. What looked like the end would only be the beginning. God’s mighty act provided protection for the Israelites and testimony to the Egyptians. The Egyptians worshiped Pharaoh as a god, but they would soon witness the power of the one true God. 

The Result of Persevering Faith (14:31)
Once God parted the sea and the Egyptians were defeated, the result was a renewed and deeper faith in Him. Standing on the opposite shore and witnessing the destruction of Pharaoh’s army brought the Israelites face to face with the provision and power of God. This would bring “fear,” which carries a sense of reverence and awe in the Old Testament. Though the Israelites saw and believed, the New Testament reminds us that greater is the faith of those who “have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29).

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