Sunday, July 8, 2007

God led the Israelites to the Red Sea on purpose??

[From March 27, 2006]

You know how you come across those stories in the Bible, the ones you learned as children? And you think, "I don't need to read this again. I know it already." So you skip over it and move on to something more grown-up?

Listen to this: It was Christmas Eve, and I'm sitting on the front row in church waiting for the service to start. Michael's performing a drama, I'm singing with the praise band--and it's Christmas Eve! It was all so exciting, and I was a bit flustered. Nervous. (Not sure of the accurate word.)

I'd been trying to read straight through the Bible since about Thanksgiving, and I'd made it as far as the plagues in Egypt. What could encourage me more than reading about how God delivered His chosen people out of the hand of Pharoah? So I started reading at Exodus 13:17:

When Pharaoh finally let the people go, God did not lead them on the road that runs through Philistine territory, even though that was the shortest way from Egypt to the Promised Land. God said, "If the people are faced with a battle, they might change their minds and return to Egypt." (v. 18) So God led them along a route through the wilderness toward the Red Sea, and the Israelites left Egypt like a marching army.

And we know the story, right? The Egyptian army pursued them, Moses stretched out his hand, God parted the waters, the Israelites crossed, and the Egyptians got creamed in the sea.

But get the perspective--God was setting Egypt up so He could blow them away with His power. God was leading Israel into an impossible situation---just so He could deliver them. Listen to the drama:

All the forces in Pharaoh's army all his horses, chariots, and charioteers were used in the chase. The Egyptians caught up with the people of Israel as they were camped beside the shore near Pi-hahiroth, across from Baal-zephon (exactly where God told them to camp). As Pharaoh and his army approached, the people of Israel could see them in the distance, marching toward them. The people began to panic, and they cried out to the LORD for help. (Can't you just hear them??) Then they turned against Moses and complained, "Why did you bring us out here to die in the wilderness? Weren't there enough graves for us in Egypt? Why did you make us leave? Didn't we tell you to leave us alone while we were still in Egypt? Our Egyptian slavery was far better than dying out here in the wilderness!" (Waa waa waa waa. . .they don't sound like they're a marching army now, do they?)

But Moses told the people, "Don't be afraid. Just stand where you are (one translation says, "Stand firm") and watch the LORD rescue you. The Egyptians that you see today will never be seen again. The LORD himself will fight for you. You won't have to lift a finger in your defense!"

Then the LORD said to Moses, "Why are you crying out to me? Tell the people to get moving! (One translation says, "Tell the people to MOVE ON"!) Use your shepherd's staff, hold it out over the water, and a path will open up before you through the sea. Then all the people of Israel will walk through on dry ground. Yet I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians, and they will follow the Israelites into the sea. Then I will receive great glory at the expense of Pharaoh and his armies, chariots, and charioteers. When I am finished with Pharaoh and his army, all Egypt will know that I am the LORD!"(Exodus 14:9-18)

God was setting it up so that Israel could visibly see Him working in their midst. They were able to watch as He delivered them!

Egypt saw it, too. Verse 25 recounts Egypt's reaction: "Let's get out of here!" the Egyptians shouted. "The LORD is fighting for Israel against us!"

Verse 31 recounts Israel's final impression of God after the Red Sea fell in on every single Egyptian soldier: When the people of Israel saw the mighty power that the LORD had displayed against the Egyptians, they feared the LORD and put their faith in him and his servant Moses.

Israel was able to SEE God's power. When's the last time you saw God's power visibly working in your life? I saw it in my life this weekend at the women's retreat I went to. God met me at the edge of my Red Sea, where I've been camped in fear and hurt for over 10 years. He asked why I was still crying out to Him. He told me to move on, to get moving across the dry land He has provided for me.

So I've started moving. As an act of my will, I've forgiven my sister and her husband. I'm taking every angry and bitter thought captive to Christ Jesus, and I'm moving on to the Promised Land. (I really hope I don't have to wander forever on the other side! But I guess that if Jesus is always with me (pillar of fire by night, cloud by day), even the wilderness isn't so bad.)

Now that I've seen God's visible glory in my life, I'm hooked. I want more. I'm looking for it everywhere, in all the impossible-looking situations, in all the places where it feels like there's no hope that it will ever be different.

Pray for me as I go. . .

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