THE PATH TO FREEDOM
Israel is free and on its way back to the Promised Land.
But the Lord does not take them on a path directly to the land of Canaan. Instead they are led out of their way along the shoreline of the Red Sea…
Exodus 13:17-18 and 20-22
17 When Pharaoh finally let the people go, God did not lead them along the main road that runs through Philistine territory, even though that was the shortest route to the Promised Land. God said, “If the people are faced with a battle, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” 18 So God led them in a roundabout way through the wilderness toward the Red Sea. Thus the Israelites left Egypt like an army ready for battle.
20 The Israelites left Succoth and camped at Etham on the edge of the wilderness. 21 The Lord went ahead of them. He guided them during the day with a pillar of cloud, and he provided light at night with a pillar of fire. This allowed them to travel by day or by night. 22 And the Lord did not remove the pillar of cloud or pillar of fire from its place in front of the people.
Step By Step
So God leads them out of their way for their own protection. And you notice that God is teaching them to depend on Him.
Instead of just giving them directions as to where to go, He leads them along. The only way that they know where to go is by keeping their eyes on Him… figuratively speaking.
Isn’t the same true for us today? God doesn’t give us the whole picture of our lives; He only reveals a tiny bit at a time. And we must keep our eyes on Him so that we don’t lose our way.
And then God tests the Israelites’ faith by sending Pharaoh after them…
Exodus 14:1-4 and 10-14
Then the Lord gave these instructions to Moses: 2 “Order the Israelites to turn back and camp by Pi-hahiroth between Migdol and the sea. Camp there along the shore, across from Baal-zephon. 3 Then Pharaoh will think, ‘The Israelites are confused. They are trapped in the wilderness!’ 4 And once again I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will chase after you. I have planned this in order to display my glory through Pharaoh and his whole army. After this the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord!” So the Israelites camped there as they were told.
10 As Pharaoh approached, the people of Israel looked up and panicked when they saw the Egyptians overtaking them. They cried out to the Lord, 11 and they said to Moses, “Why did you bring us out here to die in the wilderness? Weren’t there enough graves for us in Egypt? What have you done to us? Why did you make us leave Egypt? 12 Didn’t we tell you this would happen while we were still in Egypt? We said, ‘Leave us alone! Let us be slaves to the Egyptians. It’s better to be a slave in Egypt than a corpse in the wilderness!’ ”
13 But Moses told the people, “Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today. The Egyptians you see today will never be seen again. 14 The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.”
How do you think you’d respond if you’d been one of the Israelites that day? Wouldn’t you be freaking out too?
Maybe not all of them were worried. Remember, for the last nine months God has brought plague after plague on the Egyptians proving He is the Ultimate Power and setting His people free.
Why would God bring them out of Egypt just so they could be killed by the Egyptians in the wilderness? That would make no sense.
Wouldn’t it be MORE logical to assume that God will save them? But this possibility doesn’t enter the Israelites mind, and we probably wouldn’t come to that conclusion on our own either.
15 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the people to get moving! 16 Pick up your staff and raise your hand over the sea. Divide the water so the Israelites can walk through the middle of the sea on dry ground. 17 And I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians, and they will charge in after the Israelites. My great glory will be displayed through Pharaoh and his troops, his chariots, and his charioteers. 18 When my glory is displayed through them, all Egypt will see my glory and know that I am the Lord!”
19 Then the angel of God, who had been leading the people of Israel, moved to the rear of the camp. The pillar of cloud also moved from the front and stood behind them. 20 The cloud settled between the Egyptian and Israelite camps. As darkness fell, the cloud turned to fire, lighting up the night. But the Egyptians and Israelites did not approach each other all night.
21 Then Moses raised his hand over the sea, and the Lord opened up a path through the water with a strong east wind. The wind blew all that night, turning the seabed into dry land. 22 So the people of Israel walked through the middle of the sea on dry ground, with walls of water on each side!
23 Then the Egyptians—all of Pharaoh’s horses, chariots, and charioteers—chased them into the middle of the sea. 24 But just before dawn the Lord looked down on the Egyptian army from the pillar of fire and cloud, and he threw their forces into total confusion. 25 He twisted their chariot wheels, making their chariots difficult to drive. “Let’s get out of here—away from these Israelites!” the Egyptians shouted. “The Lord is fighting for them against Egypt!”
26 When all the Israelites had reached the other side, the Lord said to Moses, “Raise your hand over the sea again. Then the waters will rush back and cover the Egyptians and their chariots and charioteers.” 27 So as the sun began to rise, Moses raised his hand over the sea, and the water rushed back into its usual place. The Egyptians tried to escape, but the Lord swept them into the sea. 28 Then the waters returned and covered all the chariots and charioteers—the entire army of Pharaoh. Of all the Egyptians who had chased the Israelites into the sea, not a single one survived.
29 But the people of Israel had walked through the middle of the sea on dry ground, as the water stood up like a wall on both sides. 30 That is how the Lord rescued Israel from the hand of the Egyptians that day. And the Israelites saw the bodies of the Egyptians washed up on the seashore. 31 When the people of Israel saw the mighty power that the Lord had unleashed against the Egyptians, they were filled with awe before him. They put their faith in the Lord and in his servant Moses.
To Think About…
Talk about a memorable experience. Talk about a defining moment in the life of a new nation. This is one story you’d definitely be telling your kids and grandkids!
Imagine you were there. How would being rescued by God in this supernatural way shape who you are?
Are there any stories of God showing up in your life that you reflect on from time to time?
Moses shows great faith in this story (14:13-14). While everyone else seems to forget all about God, Moses remembers and doesn’t flinch.
What a contrast with the Moses who encountered God at the burning bush! No longer consumed by his fears, he has learned to trust God and His Word.
Which Moses is more like you? The Moses at the Burning Bush or the Moses at the Red Sea?