Greetings in the name of the father, the son, and the Holy Spirit.
The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure. (1 Corinthians 10:13)
God commanded, and Moses went to Pharaoh. It was Moses’ tenth visit. Nine times, Pharaoh refused to listen to God’s messages, which Moses brought to Pharaoh. Moses was a truly faithful servant who was obedient enough to visit Pharaoh once more after Pharaoh’s nine refusals. Moses was not dismayed, although Pharaoh repetitive refused because Moses believed God would surely fulfill God’s covenant solemnly made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
However, for this time, God’s message was completely different, “I will strike Pharaoh and the land of Egypt with one more blow. After that, Pharaoh will let you leave this country. In fact, he will be so eager to get rid of you that he will force you all to leave. Tell all the Israelite men and women to ask their Egyptian neighbors for articles of silver and gold.” When hearing God’s message, Moses was truly delighted. How long did Moses wait for this very message? Forty years. Yes, forty years.
Along the passage of forty years, there were more downs than ups. But Moses persevered and silently followed God. Was it easy to follow God silently? No. Forty years ago, Moses was a completely different person. He was outspoken and competent while believing he could fulfill God’s promise by his own hand because he was capable and qualified. Moses was the top prince in Egypt. After Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, he was the 2nd most powerful and able individual in Egypt. Moses also believed he was chosen for the monumental job of freeing the Israelites enslaved in Egypt. Moses waited, and as he saw the opportunity, Moses pulled the trigger, but it backfired. Moses thought it was the right moment, but he didn’t ask God first. Indeed, Moses went ahead of God and failed. Then it took 40 years before Moses realized what he had done wrong and how to follow God while 100% trusting in God.
Now, in faith in God, Moses delivered God’s message to Pharaoh, “This is what God says: At midnight tonight I will pass through the heart of Egypt. All the firstborn sons will die in every family in Egypt, from the oldest son of Pharaoh, who sits on his throne, to the oldest son of his lowliest servant girl who grinds the flour. Even the firstborn of all the livestock will die. Then a loud wail will rise throughout the land of Egypt, a wail like no one has heard before or will ever hear again. But among the Israelites, it will be so peaceful that not even a dog will bark. Then you will know that God makes a distinction between the Egyptians and the Israelites. All the officials of Egypt will run to me and fall to the ground before me. ‘Please leave!’ they will beg. ‘Hurry! And take all your followers with you.”
Pharaoh heard the tenth warning message from God, but he still hardened his heart. Pharaoh did not send out the Israelites after freeing them from slavery. That night at midnight, the LORD struck down all the firstborn sons in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh, who sat on his throne, to the firstborn son of the prisoner in the dungeon. Even the firstborn of their livestock were killed. Pharaoh and all his officials and all the people of Egypt woke up during the night, and loud wailing was heard throughout the land of Egypt. There was not a single house where someone had not died.
Finally, Pharaoh decided to stop hardening his heart against God’s message. Pharaoh sent for Moses and Aaron during the night. “Get out!” he ordered. “Leave my people—and take the rest of the Israelites with you! Go and worship the LORD as you have requested. Take your flocks and herds, as you said, and be gone. Go, but bless me as you leave.”
All the Egyptians urged the people of Israel to get out of the land as quickly as possible, for they thought, “We will all die!” Pharaoh heard it. God then had caused the Egyptians to look favorably on the people of Israel. Moses was considered a very great man in the land of Egypt, respected by Pharaoh’s officials and the Egyptian people alike.
The Israelites took their bread dough before yeast was added. They wrapped their kneading boards in their cloaks and carried them on their shoulders because they left Egypt in such a hurry. They had no time to prepare the bread or other food. And the people of Israel did as Moses had instructed; they asked the Egyptians for clothing and articles of silver and gold. They gave the Israelites whatever they asked for. So they practically stripped the Egyptians of their wealth!
That night the people of Israel left Rameses and started for Succoth. There were about 600,000 men, plus all the women and children. A rabble of non-Israelites went with them, along with great flocks and herds of livestock, because they saw God’s plagues falling on Egypt ten times that they had never heard or imagined before.
So far, the Israelites had lived in Egypt for 430 years. In fact, it was on the last day of the 430th year. On this night God kept His promise to bring his people out of the land of Egypt to the Promised Land. God instructed to commemorate the day every year by all the Israelites, from generation to generation. So all the people of Israel followed all the God’s commands to Moses and Aaron. On that very day the God brought the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt like an army.
However, God did not lead them along the main road directly running 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. And the Israelites left Egypt following Moses like an army ready for battle. There were about 600,000 men, plus all the women and children. All together, they were about 2,000,000.
Then God gave an instruction 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.” Again, nobody questioned and camped along the shore. Most of them did not know they were literally trapped. They had no way out if they were attacked from inland. The Red Sea blocked their way to escape the attack from inland.
When word reached the king of Egypt that the Israelites had left, Pharaoh and his officials changed their minds. “What have we done, letting all those Israelite slaves get away?” they asked. Pharaoh also heard that the Israelites camped along the shore. Pharaoh joyfully shouted, “The Israelites are confused. They are trapped in the wilderness!’
So Pharaoh harnessed his chariot and called up his troops. He took with him 600 of Egypt’s best chariots, along with the rest of the chariots of Egypt, each with its commander. Pharaoh assembled the best of best armies and chase down the Israelites trapped in the wilderness by camping along the shore 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. The Egyptians soon caught up with the people of Israel, camping beside the shore near Pi-hahiroth, across from Baal-zephon.
As Pharaoh approached, the people of Israel looked up and panicked when they saw the Egyptians overtaking them. They cried out to God, 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? 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!’”
They saw God’s mighty hand not just once but ten times. And they believed God and trusted Him. Thus, so far, they joyfully followed God. Everything was good, and nobody complained. When God asked to camp along the shore of the Red Sea, nobody asked why. They expected the same good days would continue till they entered the Promised Land. And they also believed they had a strong faith in God.
However, the situation had suddenly changed, and they panicked because they saw Pharaoh and his formidable fearful army chasing them. They thought that they would never see Pharaoh again for the rest of their lives. The nightmare in Egypt was over and no more in the future. This rosy expectation was intermingled with their faith, which turned into their wrong perception about their faith. As soon as the reality diverged from their rosy expectation, their real faith was also from the faith that they thought they had.
They quickly fell from the lofty feeling of strong faith in God, and hit hard on the bottom. Such a faith could not hold them firm on the solid ground of faith from anything. Their faith was like a reed blown and shaken in the wind. After the fall, they had nothing to hold on to. Then they pour out their frustration and disappointment to God as a huge complaint. They did not stop there. They even started lying which made them feel good because it justified them.
“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!’”
Nobody said like this when they were in Egypt as slaves. They just wanted to get out of slavery. It was nothing but a dream. Then they got the freedom, and they rejoiced and praised God. Then now, with the same mouth, they blamed God and lied, which made felt their complaint was legitimate and that they were smarter than God. Step by step, they pulled God down to their level by complaining, and then they made God inferior to them by adding a lie.
It is the sinful nature of humans. Unfortunately, we cannot extract this sinful nature from ourselves by our own might. Naturally, our fundamental sinful desire has lived in us since Adam and Eve experienced it. They tried to equate themselves with God by eating the fruit from the tree of knowledge after listening to the serpent,
“God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.” (Genesis 3:5)
We love to be God and judge others by telling what is good and evil. If we feel good, it is good, and if we feel bad, it is evil. See how the Israelites responded. When they felt good, everything was good and Godly. They were with God in faith. When they felt threatened, they treated all things evil. Then they spoke against God.
Who did make them get in to the evil? Moses? One who led them out of Egypt to the wilderness? God? One who instructed Moses? When everything was as good as they expected, they were happy while enjoying their freedom. Then when they saw Pharaoh and his army, the Israelites made a 180-degree swing from good to evil in a moment. It was the scorecard of their faith, and unfortunately, our scorecard too. How many of us do really praise God under such a dire situation as the Israelites experienced – being trapped between the Red Sea behind and front, the Pharaoh’s army rapidly approaching them with swords and spears?
Let’s ask: did really God intend to kill all the Israelites by the edges of Pharaoh’s army’s swords? If so, we shouldn’t say, “God is good.” Of course, it was not God’s intent, but they irrationally reacted. Again, how much different were we from the Israelites under such a dire situation?
However, Moses was different. Moses calmly responded in his faith in God,
Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the LORD rescue you today. The Egyptians you see today will never be seen again. The LORD himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.” (Exodus 14:13b-14)
Moses trusted God not because he was able to see God’s hand but because he believed God’s promise and His infinite goodness. Moses equally saw the same that the Israelites saw. Pharaoh’s huge, formidable army rapidly approached them with chariots, horses, swords, and spears. They could easily wipe out all, which was a matter of time.
Then what did happen the next? God responded,
“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.” (Exodus 14:15b-16)
Even Moses could not comprehend what God was talking about, “Make the Israelites move toward the Red Sea.” What a stupid idea it was to make the Israelites walk into the Red Sea! Then all would be drowned. Did God really want all to die in the Red Sea? Absolutely not, but at the moment, no one could not fully comprehend what God would do for them. It is the true beauty of walking with God in faith. We trust in God rather than ourselves and faithfully follow what God says rather than adding and subtracting or even opposing what God says.
God continued, “Pick up your staff and raise your hand over the sea.” God did not ask Moses to build a huge ship to sail away from the Pharaoh’s army, but God asked to raise Moses’ hand. Indeed, God did not ask anything but faith.
Pharaoh’s army was quickly gaining to them. The entire Israelites were slowly moving toward the Red Sea. The Red Sea was still there, blocking their passage. Was it time to call a meeting by gathering the elders of the Israelites, discuss together, and devise a plan to save the Israelites as much as possible, although they might not be able to save all?
How many times do we have felt as the Israelites felt? Then how did we respond? Did we believe God but only half-heartedly? Did we selectively believe one aspect of God, while making our own plan to take care of the rest to maximize a chance to have a good outcome? If we have done this before, please don’t be ashamed about what we did. It is so natural to all humans. Thus we fully acknowledge the fact that we are sinful. As long as we are on earth, we will continue getting into this type of sin, compromising God by adding ourselves.
Here is an analogy. Here is a small boy, and his father is building a house. If the small boy changes his father’s house building plan and architectural drawing because the small boy feels what his father was doing was partially right, then what would be the result?
We are God’s beloved children. Is there any reason God gives the 2nd best one to us, the most precious possession of His and His beloved children? At least, the earthly parents do not. Then why shouldn’t God do as the earthly parents do? Of course, God gives the best to His beloved children. We must believe this fact and trust Him under all circumstances, like being chased by the fearful Pharaoh’s army armed with chariots, horses, swords, and spears as the Israelites experienced by being trapped between the Pharaoh’s army and the Red Sea.
Of course, Moses did not send for the elders of the Israelites to have a meeting. Instead, he trusted God and believed what God said to him – “Divide the water so the Israelites can walk through the middle of the sea on dry ground.” Moses did not need any additional plan to protect the Israelites from the rapidly approaching Pharaoh’s fearful army. He just obeyed God’s command. He, then, obediently decided to raise his hand with his staff over the sea.
Most of us have stood on the shore and looked at the sea endlessly stretching to the horizon. Soon we feel the immense size of the huge water body overwhelms us. Even a huge ship soon becomes a small dot against the huge water body as it sails away from the shore. Surely the sea in front of us is immense, and all realize how insignificant we are before the immense water body of the sea.
Then let’s ask one more. Can we imagine if we raise our hand over the immense body of water, it will do anything to the huge water body? No. It is too silly to even think about the possibility that our raised hand would do anything to the sea majestically existing before us. Surely Moses felt the same insignificance as he stood before the Red Sea.
Then let’s ask one more question. Could Moses, forty years ago, as the top prince in Egypt, raise his hand over the sea while expecting it would do anything on the Red Sea? No. Forty years ago, although Moses was the most powerful prince in Egypt after Pharaoh, Moses would have not attempted just like us. Moses was earth-bound at that time. His faith in God was almost nonexistent, as feeble as the reed blown and shaken in the wind. It was the reason why God walked with Moses forty years. After the walk, his faith became no longer earth-bounded but God-centered.
Now Moses truly believed in God and trusted Him. Moses foresaw in faith what God would do when he raised his hand over the sea. Of course, his raised hand was ridiculously small compared with the Red Sea, even to his own eyes. Moses knew his raised hand with his staff was too insignificant to do anything to the immense water body of the Red Sea, but in faith in God, he determined as God commanded to achieve what God planned to do.
As soon as God commanded, Moses commanded the entire Israelites to keep walking toward the Red Sea. Many people complained, but Moses did not change the course as God commanded. The people’s complaints intensified, but Moses fixed his eyes on God because Moses foresaw what God would do in faith. Moses believed they all would walk through the middle of the sea on dry ground because God promised to divide the water. Of course, Moses had never seen the sea split before while exposing the dry land at the bottom of the sea.
The Pharaoh’s army was getting closer and closer because they were dashing on horses, and the Israelites were on foot and moving at a snail’s pace. Many of the Israelites came up to Moses and directly opposed what Moses was doing. Moses silently took all oppositions and kept leading the Israelites as God directed. But the reality did not change at all, even in Moses’ eyesight. The Pharaoh’s army was now really close to the Israelites’ rear. If the Pharaoh’s army shot arrows, the arrows would land on the Israelites’ rear. Moses knew the Israelites were now truly in danger – no more space left, which used to protect the Israelites from the Pharaoh’s army. Now, the Pharaoh’s army’s slaughter was about to start at any moment.
But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one. (1 Thessalonians 3:3)
Moses looked up to heaven and prayed, and Moses trusted God. He remembered his past forty years of walk with God. Then Moses waited. 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. But the Egyptians and Israelites did not approach each other.
Moses trusted God and believed God was infinitely faithful. Moses also believed God would continue protecting His beloved children, the Israelites, from the Pharaoh’s army on that day. Moses believed and hoped in faith while looking forward to seeing what God would do. God answered.
It had never been easy for Moses to be in true faith in God. Many came to him, complained, argued, and directly opposed, but Moses firmly stood on faith in God, although the Pharaoh’s army was about to slaughter the Israelites at the rear. Then God was absolutely faithful to Moses and the Israelites. He protected His beloved children with His mighty hand, and they experienced God. Even today, the same God is with us. Our God is infinitely faithful to us under all circumstances because we are His beloved children, the most precious possession of His, like the Israelites.
The LORD keeps you from all harm
and watches over your life.
The LORD keeps watch over you as you come and go,
both now and forever. (Psalm 121:7-8)