You take a risk, a step of faith out of your comfort zone and into something totally new and foreign. You’ve witnessed amazing moments that got you to this point. You’ve prayed and prayed for this. You may even see what God is doing around and ahead of you. But as soon as a threat comes, you question why you ever made that move. Was it right?
Moses has just led the Israelites out of Egypt and their journey begins. through the desert, to the Promised Land. By taking the major step of faith towards freedom, the challenges start to begin. It isn’t the smooth sailing they had envisioned. Was this really the right move? Would it have been easier to just stay in Egypt?
S – Scripture: Exodus 13-15
- 13:9 – “This annual festival will be a visible sign to you, like a mark branded on your hand or your forehead. Let it remind you always to recite this teaching of the LORD: ‘With a strong hand, the LORD rescued you from Egypt.'”
- 13:15-16 – “Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, so the LORD killed all the firstborn males throughout the land of Egypt, both people and animals. That is why I now sacrifice all the firstborn males to the LORD–except that the firstborn sons are always bought back.’ This ceremony will be like a mark branded on your hand or your forehead. It is a reminder that the power of the LORD’s mighty hand brought us out of Egypt.”
- 13:19 -” Moses took the bones of Joseph with him, for Joseph had made the sons of Israel swear to do this. He said, ‘God will certainly come to help you. When he does, you must take my bones with you from this place.'”
- 13:21-22 – “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. And the LORD did not remove the pillar of cloud or pillar of fire from its place in front of the people.”
- 14:12-14 – “‘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!’ 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. The LORD himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.'”
- 14:19-22 – “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. 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. 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. So the people of Israel walked through the middle of the sea on dry ground, with walls of water on each side!”
- 14:31 – “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.”
- 15:11 – “‘Who is like you among the gods, O LORD–glorious in holiness, awesome in splendor, performing great wonders?'”
- 15:22-26 – “Then Moses led the people of Israel away from the Red Sea, and they moved out into the desert of Shur. They traveled in this desert for three days without finding any water. When they came to the oasis of Marah, the water was too bitter to drink. So they called the place Marah (which means “bitter”). Then the people complained and turned against Moses. ‘What are we going to drink?’ they demanded. So Moses cried out to the LORD for help, and the LORD showed him a piece of wood. Moses threw it into the water, and this made the water good to drink. It was there at Marah that the LORD set before them the following decree as a standard to test their faithfulness to him. He said, ‘If you will listen carefully to the voice of the LORD your God and do what is right in his sight, obeying his commands and keeping all his decrees, then I will not make you suffer any of the diseases I sent on the Egyptians; for I am the LORD who heals you.'”
O – Observation:
- God is setting reminders for the Israelites so they never forget what the He has done for them. The Passover Festival will always be a celebration of God’s mighty power and provision. It will serve as a way of giving hope in the future, that God is true to his word and can do amazing miracles to get his purposes fulfilled.
- God had killed the firstborn sons of Egypt for the freedom of the Israelites. Freedom always has a cost. Now, the Israelite firstborn sons are offered to God and bought back.
- Our freedom from the wages of sin was bought with God’s son’s life, given on the cross. Freedom requires sacrifice.
- Joseph had the faith to know that God would rescue his people from Egypt.
- I love this! The Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud by day or a pillar of fire by night. He never left their sight. What an amazing visual reminder that God is always with us.
- When the Israelites see the Egyptians coming after them, they are fearful and question why Moses brought them out there in the first place. They say they would rather have stayed slaves.
- Moses says the famous line, “The LORD himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.”
- God responds with, why are you crying out to me, get moving! As in, things are going down, I’ve got you, you need to take a step!
- Night falls and God moves as a pillar of cloud, and then fire, behind them to protect them from the Egyptians throughout the night. He causes the winds to blow and part the waters of the Red Sea. By morning, it is ready for them to cross. When the Israelites saw this, it renewed their faith in God.
- The Israelites travel through the desert for three days without water. They finally reach a spring and the water is bitter. Once again, they question why they left Egypt. This was a a standard test on their faithfulness. Will they trust him fully to provide all that they need, when they need it? Would they listen and do all that he commands, trusting that it he is leading them to prosperity, health, and good? Could they live without some things now, so that later, they could have it all?
A – Application:
The Israelites rush out of Egypt, excited about their freedom. Soon after, Pharaoh realizes what he has just done in releasing all of their slaves, and chases after them. Fear grips the people as they see 600 chariots race towards them. They cry out to Moses, questioning why they ever left Egypt. It would have been better to be a slave than die in the desert. WHAT!?!
Oh, but God moved behind them and protected them from the Egyptians with his pillar of cloud and then of fire. What a great scene that must have been!
After they miraculously cross the Red Sea and Pharaoh is defeated. They travel for three days without water, following the Lord, and eventually come to a spring of water. How disappointing it must have been to realize that the water was too bitter to drink. Again, the people complain, Moses cries out to God, and he provides a way to make the water drinkable.
Do you think Moses had the thought, “What have I gotten myself into with these people!” This was not going to be an easy journey. But God was faithful. He was working to prove himself to the Israelites. He needed them to know that he was their Protector, Provider, and Guide. He was never going to leave them.
I have this false illusion (maybe similar to the Israelites) that when I take a step into a direction that I believe God is leading me, that it will be easy from there on out. I had put so much prayer and planning into this, God will surely fit all of the pieces together as I go along now. Don’t get me wrong, I believe that God does put everything together and opens up doors when we start with the first step. But to think that the journey is over and that I can just coast through is wrong. That initial step was to get me to crawl (or break free from something). God is probably going to ask me to walk then to run eventually. The faith steps are going to keep going and growing. And the times when I do stumble or question are all part of the process. They can either lead me back to my comfort zone where things are known and safe. Or they can lead me deeper into God’s plan for me.
Another thought is that those times of questioning may be completely valid. There may be areas of our lives that still need to be given over to God or he wants our focus to be a little different now that we’ve gotten started. He keeps refining our hearts and thoughts towards what his great purpose is for us. Sometimes that only can happen when we fail. The greatest part of this, is that it gets us on our knees in prayer. Our hearts long for him and his guidance. When we don’t know what to do or if we made the right choice, it brings us back to him.
In either scenario, and there may be others, I am led back to God if I choose to continue to trust in who he is and that his plans are good. A practical way to get through these times of questioning is to put all of the emotions aside. The worry, doubt, fear, anxiety, whatever it is, take that out of the picture. When you do that, the question is not longer, am I capable of doing this or is this really right? It becomes, am I being obedient?
Has God called me to do this for a greater purpose than I know today? If I look back at how I got here, can I see all of the things that God has brought together so far?
Try it now. Whatever is on your heart and causing any of those emotions mentioned above, put them aside and ask, “Is this something I need to be obedient in and trust that God is in this with me?” If I stay on this path, can I trust that God will be the pillar in front of me to guide me, the pillar behind me to protect me, and the force to blow the wind and create a path before me? Can I have faith that he will provide the resources I need to survive and thrive in what sometimes feels like a desert?
When I look at it this way I receive courage and hope. Fear and doubt still find their way in more often that I’d like. Faltering and failing still happen. But I have decided that my decisions and actions are out of obedience to God first and foremost. When I am in that confident place of obedience, I can snuff out any opposing thoughts as quickly as they come. I can view failure as a step forward and not a step back. God’s grace is so good.
P – Prayer:
God, I thank you for these passages of scripture that you have given to us for encouragement and instruction. Thank you, that when we need a Protector, Provider, and Guide, you step in and do just that and more. You fight for us and never leave us. You give hope and courage when we come to you with doubts and worries.
Father, I pray for those that need in encouragement on their journey. Failure has a way of knocking us down and out. Would you strengthen those that need it today? Would you give them a vision of where to go next and lift them up to see that there is a way to use this failure or falter for good? Let them feel that you are still there with them. Your grace and love are so abundant. Thank you, Lord. Amen.