Greetings in the name of the father, the son, and the Holy Spirit.
For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)
Pharaoh finally let the people go after God hit him ten times with ten plagues. The last tenth plague put all into terror. The plague touched Pharaoh’s skin, unlike all the other nine plagues, which fell only on the Egyptians while he stayed safely in his palace. Pharaoh himself lost his own firstborn son along with all the other Egyptians. However, none of the Israelites lost their firstborn son. Pharaoh truly experienced the power of God.
After 430 years since the Israelites came to Egypt, they left Egypt. They started out from Succoth and camped at Etham on the edge of the wilderness. God went ahead of them.
All Israelites joyfully followed Moses. They walked safely without falling, even during the night. God guided them with a pillar of cloud during the day and protected them from the sun over the wilderness. During the night, a pillar of fire was ahead of them and lighted the passage before them. God did not remove the pillar of cloud or fire from its place in front of the people.
All believed they would arrive in the Promised Land very soon. But 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.” So God led them in a roundabout way through the wilderness toward the Red Sea. (Soon, we will see why God did not directly take them to the Promised Land.)
As they were getting close to the red sea, God gave these instructions to Moses: “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.” Moses gave the same order of God to the Israelites. It was a truly sudden command from God through Moses. They had to move away as much as possible and as quickly as possible to be safe against Pharaoh. They thought that who knew Pharaoh might chase them down again? Thus, many hesitated to follow the command from God frist, but nobody vocalized their frustration. All obediently turned back and camped along the shore. Now, behind, there was the Red Sea, and they were facing in the direction of Pharaoh. If Pharaoh changed his mind, he would come in the direction. Many felt that they were vulnerable, and some even lost sleep at night due to fear of Pharaoh while thinking Pharaoh might come back and kill or forcefully take them back to Egypt as slaves.
When word reached the king of Egypt that the Israelites had left Egypt, Pharaoh and his officials changed their minds. “What have we done, letting all those Israelite slaves get away?” they asked. It was a truly stupid decision, although they did it in fear of God after losing their firstborn sons to God’s tenth plague. However, their entire nation’s economy relied on the labor provided by the Israelites enslaved to them. Without them, their economy and thus the whole nation would collapse. They now realized this unimaginably cold consequence of their foolish action and decided to capture the Israelites again.
God hardened the heart of Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, so he chased after the people of Israel, who had left with fists raised in defiance. The Egyptians chased after them with all the forces in Pharaoh’s army—all his horses and chariots, his charioteers, and his troops. Pharaoh took with him 600 of Egypt’s best chariots, along with the rest of the chariots of Egypt, each with its commander. The Egyptians soon caught up with the people of Israel as they were camped beside the shore near Pi-hahiroth, across from Baal-zephon.
Then Pharaoh exclaimed, ‘Ah! The Israelites are confused. They are trapped in the wilderness.’ Pharaoh joyfully shouted because it was so obvious he could easily reclaim all of the Israelites as slaves again because the Israelites had no place to go except to be captured by his army. The Red Sea was behind the Israelites, and he was chasing them from the land. It was just a matter of time. Finally, Pharaoh felt he made the right decision. He felt that Israelites were dumber than he thought. Pharaoh said to himself, “who would camp along the shore?” Pharaoh gave an order, “Drive faster chariots, spur horses, run faster,” and he continued, “we will soon capture the Israelites again. If anyone resists, mercilessly kill them.” Pharaoh’s army made thundering noise, which echoed over the wilderness along the shore of the Red Sea.
As Pharaoh approached, the people of Israel looked up and panicked when they saw the Egyptians overtaking them. 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? 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!’” Their complaint was not for Moses but for God.
Now we can understand why God did not directly take them to the Promised Land. At first glance of the Egyptian army, the Israelites complained and even said they would rather have stayed in Egypt as slaves. If you were God, how would you respond?
God was not like us. He was infinitely patient and kind to the Israelites, although they were rebellious to God at first glance of the Egyptian army. God decided to rescue them with God’s almighty hand. God protected the Israelites like the apple of His eye. Indeed, the Israelites saw and experienced what God did, but they immediately forgot what God did for them as soon as they heard the sound of the Egyptian army. Then they turned against God. Did the Israelites have faith in God or not?
But Moses was different. Moses walked with God for forty years, which built up immovable faith in Moses. Moses told the people, “Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch God rescue you today. The Egyptians you see today will never be seen again. God himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.” What a faith-packed statement! It was also logical too. God indeed subdued Pharaoh ten times and made Pharaoh release the Israelites.
Only a few days ago, the Israelites left Egypt and saw how God rescued them with the ten plagues. All Israelites immediately forgot what God did before the sound of the Egyptian army. Then they drew up their own conclusion, which was not factual. How illogical the Israelites were! Their faith was almost non-existent.
Moses quickly calmed down the Israelites. Then he prayed to God. God said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the people to get moving! 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. 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. When my glory is displayed through them, all Egypt will see my glory and know that I am the LORD!”
God answered Moses and asked to tell the Israelites to get up and move toward the Red Sea. Humm. There was the Red Sea in front of them. Nobody wanted to be drowned. They again hesitated, but Moses urged the Israelites to unpeg the tents and to start walking toward the Red Sea. Many complained to Moses, but Moses calmly repeated the same command of God. Soon one by one unplugged their tents and started walking toward the Red Sea. What they saw was the Red Sea blocking them, but they walked as Moses commanded.
The Egyptian Amy was chasing the Israelites making thundering noises with chariots and horses, and the entire Israelites started moving slowly but steadily to the Red Sea. The Egyptian army was rapidly approaching the Israelites. At the rear, the Israelites could see the Egyptian military armed with chariots, horses, swords, and spears. People at the back started screaming in fear, and the rest of the Israelites knew what’s happening at the back. Then they thought it was time to get killed or captured by the Egyptian army. Many felt that was it. No more running away from the Egyptian army. This desperation quickly sped out, and the entire crowd soon felt the same. Only Moses at the front kept walking in faith, and the Israelites followed not because they had the same faith as Moses but because there was no place to go but to follow Moses.
The Israelites were truly in a desperate situation. There was no hope at all. Then suddenly, 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. The cloud settled between the Egyptian and Israelite camps. As darkness fell, the cloud turned to fire, lighting up the night. Thus the Egyptians and Israelites did not approach each other all night. What a relief it was! The Israelites at the rear thought that the Egyptian army would kill them. And they gave up their hope, but the angel of God saved them.
Soon Moses reached the edge of the land before the Red Sea. He stood before the Red Sea. The Red Sea was enormous, and he was minuscule. His hand with his staff was even smaller. Moses felt that his hand to small to do anything to the Red Sea. What a discouragement it was as he was standing before the Red Sea! The immense Red Sea was far beyond him and overpowered him.
Then Moses looked back; two million people were watching him. Moses also could see the formidable Egyptian army beyond God’s cloud, the only barrier separating the Israelites from the Egyptian army. Moses saw with his eyes that the two million Israelites were helpless, and all relied on him. Indeed, the two million people were trapped between the Egyptian army and the Red Sea. They had literally no place to go.
Moses then looked up and prayed to God for His strength for a while. Then he turned back his eyes to the immense size of the Red Sea. He raised his hand over the sea in faith, not by his own strength. God saw Moses’ raised hand with his staff over the Red Sea. God was pleased with Moses’ faith.
Something impossible was happening before the eyes of the Israelites. Even Moses was surprised. But Moses calmly watched what God was doing. The Red Sea was slowly parted and started exposing the bottom of the sea. God opened up a path through the sea. Then the seabed became dry land as a strong wind blew all night.
As the sea bottom became dry land, the people of Israel started walking through the middle of the sea on dry ground, with walls of water on each side! None of the Israelites believed God would make a path through the middle of the sea and they would walk on dry ground. Nobody’s feet got wet because they walked on the dry ground. God prepared all things to such detail for the Israelites.
It was the Israelites’ faith. When things were good, they believed in God. When things turned bad and gave pain and fear, they immediately left God. Then they panicked and fixed their eyes on the fear, although they should have had to fix their eyes on God.
How about us? Do we still believe and trust God when everything is getting worse and brings pain and fear? Or are we like the Israelites who fixed their eyes on the fear? Let’s not forget what the Israelites did. We will be like the Israelites unless we hold on tight in faith and fix our eyes on God, our Ever-Loving Father.
Then here is what God did for the Israelites — not just proving the path on the dry ground through the Red Sea but protecting the Israelites against the Egyptians. All of Pharaoh’s horses, chariots, and charioteers chased the Israelites into the middle of the sea. The fearful Egyptian army still chased through the path God made for the Israelites, which was an even greater fear for the Israelites, but they could not get close and harm the Israelites because God did not allow it. God’s hand was always with them. Just before dawn, God looked down on the Egyptian army from the pillar of fire and cloud. The Egyptian army was really close to the Israelites. Then God threw their forces into total confusion. 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!”
What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? (Romans 8:31)
When all the Israelites had reached the other side, God 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.” 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 God swept them into the sea. 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.
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. That is how God rescued Israel from the hand of the Egyptians that day. And the Israelites saw the bodies of the Egyptians washed up on the seashore. When the people of Israel saw the mighty power that God had unleashed against the Egyptians, they were filled with awe before him. They put their faith in God and in his servant Moses. Yes, it was the shallow faith of the Israelites. Even so, God loved them and rescued them from the Egyptian arm.
How about us? Do we have the faith of Moses or the shallow faith of Israelites? Of course, we should strive to have the faith of Moses. Many of us, however, have the shallow faith that the Israelites had. Even so, we should not be dismayed. God loved the Israelites despite their shallow faith. Why? There is only one reason: the Israelites were God’s beloved children. And so are we. Thus, God will be with us, protects, and guides us forever. It is our faith in God and His assurance given to us.
Let’s fix our eyes on God, especially when everything is falling off and getting worse. God, who loves us unconditionally, will be with us always and guide us through all our life troubles and hardships not because we have a strong faith like Moses, but because we are God’s children. God unconditionally loves His children, as we love our children unconditionally. Are there any more reasons why we believe and trust him? No. His love endures forever because His love is greater than all things ever existed and will come into existence in the world of what we see and cannot see, including the deepest parts of our hearts. God will always be with us, and His love will fulfill His infinitely good plan set for us. Why does God care so much for us? Because we are His beloved children, the most precious to Him. Yes, God will love unconditionally and always protects us. Let’s praise Him. God is our Ever-Loving Father!
The LORD will work out his plans for my life— for your faithful love, O LORD, endures forever. Don’t abandon me, for you made me. (Psalm 138:8)