The Israelites had just witnessed mighty manifestations of the power of God. The last plague, the death of every firstborn son in the land save those of the Israelites, had accomplished what had seemed impossible. Pharaoh ordered the Israelites to leave... immediately!
They had experienced a miraculous deliverance from God. They were bound for the land God had promised them. It would seem like everything would be smooth sailing now, right? Well... not quite. You see, God wasn't finished yet.
It is estimated that as many as two million Israelites made their way across the desert. Two million people! That sort of mass exodus is difficult to imagine. There was no way that many people could be sustained in a journey across the desert for an extended length of time unless God did the sustaining. These people were going to have to learn how to walk by faith and not by sight.
The Bible tells us the Lord went before them in a pillar of cloud by day and pillar of fire by night. Yes, He was guiding them but there was also something else. They were out in the desert. The cloud provided protection against the hot desert sun during the and the fire provided warmth and protection during the cold desert nights.
It didn't take Pharaoh long to regret releasing them. He gathered his army and headed off. You need to understand that while historians may differ on the exact dates, they all agree that Egypt was a powerful empire at this time. Very powerful. While the Israelites were large in numbers, they were not trained soldiers and there were many women and children as well.
There they were. Stuck between The Red Sea and Pharaoh's army. There was no way out. Or was there?
The people did what we usually do. They panicked.
As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the LORD.
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?
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!" Exodus 14:10-12 (NLT)
Moses tells them:
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.
The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still. Exodus 14:13-14
It is a familiar story. In the night, the cloud was upon the Egyptians while the Israelites had light. God sent an east wind. The sea parted, the exposed land was dried and a way of escape was exposed.
The Bible tells us there were walls of water on either side. What would you have felt like? Would you have really wanted to walk in between those walls of water or would you have been a bit... apprehensive? While we might boldly say, in the safety of our own home that we would be shouting and rejoicing from the very beginning, I am not so sure. I think it might have been a bit scary to take those first steps. Even as we step out in faith, those steps can be a bit shaky. That's okay. You're human. The thing is, will you keep on walking?
Do you think they would have crossed is the Egyptian army wasn't behind them? Perhaps they still would have but there is also the possibility that some would not have done so. Adversity often drives us into walking by faith, thus increasing it.
They stepped out in faith, trusting that God would see them safely to the other side. Then, the unthinkable happened. The cloud was lifted from their enemy and Pharaoh's army came after them in hot pursuit, traveling the same path.
The wheels of the chariots got stuck... they got stuck in land that had been dry when the Israelites had passed over it. Then, when all the Israelites were safe, the watery walls fell down, destroying Pharoah's army.
When it seems like there is no escape, God provides one. The one He provides might not look like the one we envisioned and it might require faith to take it but if we trust in God, He will bring us safely through.
Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/2007828/2232102273/