Working through the proof of my book, Holy His: Hope for Life and a Nation Wholly His, I feel a bit like the Israelites – going the long way! I thought it a good day to share an excerpt:
One of my favorite books of the Bible is Exodus. It is rich with demonstrations of God’s power, His faithfulness, His sovereignty, His mercy, and His deliverance in the face of overwhelming odds. The Israelites’ journey from bondage to blessing is one extended spiritual battle, just as our own journey through life will be. Helpless and defenseless in the natural, just like us, the Israelites are totally dependent on God, and He repeatedly proves Himself exceedingly and abundantly able to protect and provide. His methods don’t always make sense, and they won’t to us either. His ways are higher than our ways, and His thoughts higher than our thoughts (Is. 55:9). But I guarantee His ways are best, His ways are for our good, and His ways serve a far greater purpose than our immediate need. His sovereignty exceeds our simplicity, and in trusting God as the sole Source for all our needs, most especially the battles we face, we can trust Him to fight for us.
Why did God allow the Israelites to suffer the uncertainty of ten plagues? Why didn’t He just miraculously deliver them right after the burning bush? He certainly could have. Why didn’t He just make a way for them to take the plunder they needed and walk right out of Egypt without going through any of the uncertainty and frustration? Why does God allow us to walk through battles and trials when He could say a word and just give us what we want?
As we face difficult times – battles in our lives – we must remember one thing: It’s all about Him, and because He is all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-present, we can trust Him even when we don’t understand what’s happening. In Exodus 7:3-5, God reveals the purpose to His plan: “I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and multiply My signs and My wonders in the land of Egypt. But Pharaoh will not heed you, so that I may lay My hand on Egypt and bring My armies and My people, the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great judgments. And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord when I stretch out My hand on Egypt and bring out the children of Israel from among them” (emphasis mine). God’s redemption extends beyond just His people. He wants to make sure those around them know He is the Lord, too. The same holds true for us today. When God has us in a time of struggle, and we are in the fight of our lives, He doesn’t just want to redeem us. He wants to redeem those around us by a show of His mighty power that leaves no doubt in any of our minds as to who is the Great I Am.
God wants and deserves glory in our lives, and sometimes His greatest ground for glory is our surrendered lives, no matter what He orchestrates or allows in order to demonstrate His might in us and our circumstances. In yielding our lives to Him no matter what He chooses to do, we are placing our complete trust in His sovereignty and goodness, knowing His plan for us is always good and His protection in battle is impenetrable when we follow His directives exactly. When Pharaoh finally releases the Israelites after the tenth plague leaves his nation wailing and mourning the loss of their first-born males of every kind, human and animal, “God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, ‘Lest perhaps the people change their minds when they see war, and return to Egypt.’ So God led the people around by way of the wilderness of the Red Sea” (Ex. 13:17-18). What appeared to the Israelites to be the worst, most inconvenient route was in fact for their own protection. To return to Egypt would be to return to bondage, and God was making sure they retained the freedom He’d given them. In the same way, for us to return to our sinful ways would be to return to bondage, so God may take us on a path that is long and inconvenient in order to make sure we retain the freedom He’s given.
After the Israelites plunder his people and leave, Pharaoh again changes his mind and pursues them. Because of God’s choice of escape route, the Israelites face what they think is certain death by the Egyptian army or drowning in the Red Sea. The assurance Moses gives them holds true for us today when we find ourselves with no options and no way out of our circumstances:
Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace (Ex. 14:13-14).
Our battles are not ours; they are God’s (2 Chron. 20:15). In the Hebrew, stand still means to “station oneself, present oneself.”When we station ourselves with God and present ourselves to Him for His use, obeying His word and His commands, we will see the salvation – the deliverance, prosperity, and victory – of the Lord! He will do for us what He has done for His people throughout time. I get so excited when I realize God can draw from His unlimited resources to defy all human limitations to show Himself mighty in and through our lives. He is ready and able to do for us what He did for Moses and the Israelites! He is ready to fight our battles for us. All we have to do is obey Him.
In Exodus 14:19-20, when the Israelites are trapped between the Pharaoh’s army and the Red Sea, “the Angel of God, who went before the camp of Israel, moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud went from before them and stood behind them. So it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel. Thus it was a cloud and darkness to the one, and it gave light by night to the other, so that the one did not come near the other all that night.” Wow! Do you see what the Lord stands ready to do for a faithful and obedient people? He literally blinds the enemy while giving light to His people so the enemy CAN NOT GET TO THEM! This is our same God. He does this same thing for us today when we believe Him and do what He says!!! He will blind our enemies so they cannot get to us.
Next, the Lord tells Moses to stretch out his hand over the Red Sea, and He causes the sea to divide, and the Israelites cross on dry ground. When the Egyptians follow, in verse 24-25 it says, “Now it came to pass, in the morning watch, that the Lord looked down upon the army of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and cloud, and He troubled the army of the Egyptians. And He took off their chariot wheels, so that they drove them with difficulty; and the Egyptians said, ‘Let us flee from the face of Israel, for the Lord fights for them against the Egyptians.’” Don’t you just love it? Can you picture the confusion and panic on their faces as they realize an unseen force is messing with them? The Lord is the God of heaven, Creator of the universe, Maker of all things, Ruler of all. What is it you think is impossible for Him to do???
When each and every Israelite reaches the other side of the Red Sea, the Lord instructs Moses to stretch his hand back over the sea, and the waters swallow the entire Egyptian army. Moses simply obeys, stretching his arm to the sea two times, and the Lord does the rest. That’s how the Lord works. He fights our battles. He wins our wars. We just have to obey Him. No matter how odd or impossible it seems, we just have to obey. “Thus Israel saw the great work which the Lord had done in Egypt; so the people feared the Lord, and believed the Lord and His servant Moses” (Ex. 14:31).
Lord, thank You that You go before us, fight for us, and do great things in our lives as we become wholly Yours today.
. Blue Letter Bible. “Dictionary and Word Search for yatsab (Strong’s 3320)“. Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2011. Accessed May 2, 2011, http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H3320&t=NKJV.
. Blue Letter Bible. “Dictionary and Word Search for yĕshuw`ah (Strong’s 3444)“. Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2011. Accessed May 2, 2011, http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H3444&t=NKJV.