When You’re Between a Rock and a Hard Place
5 Now it was told the king of Egypt that the people had fled, and the heart of Pharaoh and his servants was turned against the people; and they said, “Why have we done this, that we have let Israel go from serving us?”
6 So he made ready his chariot and took his people with him.
7 Also, he took six hundred choice chariots, and all the chariots of Egypt with captains over every one of them.
8 And the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he pursued the children of Israel; and the children of Israel went out with boldness.
9 So the Egyptians pursued them, all the horses and chariots of Pharaoh, his horsemen and his army, and overtook them camping by the sea beside Pi Hahiroth, before Baal Zemphon.
10 And when Pharaoh drew near, the children of Israel lifted their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians marched after them. So they were very afraid, and the children of Israel cried out to the LORD.
11 Then they said to Moses, “Because there were no graves in Egypt, have you taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you so dealt with us, to bring us up out of Egypt?
12 Is this not the word that we told you in Egypt, saying, ‘Let us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than that we should die in the wilderness.”
13 And Moses said to the people, “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.
14 The LORD will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.”
15 And the LORD said to Moses, “Why do you cry to Me? Tell the children of Israel to go forward.
16 But lift up your rod, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it. And the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea.
17 And I indeed will harden the hearts of the Egyptians, and they shall follow them. So I will gain honor over Pharaoh and over all his army, his chariots, and his horsemen.
18 Then the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I have gained honor for Myself over Pharaoh, his chariots, and his horsemen.”
19 And 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.
20 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.
21 Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the LORD caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea into dry land, and the waters were divided.
22 So the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea on the dry ground, and the waters were a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.
You are barricaded by your enemies, who bombard you here and there and are in great glee, rejoicing: ‘We got him, we got her!’ What do you do? Stand or go? Lie down and die? You were set free after many generations of bondage. You looked forward to your Jubilee which came after much trauma. Pharaoh- your slave master- would not let go. He kept changing his mind at the last minute despite the plagues God sent on the land until the last straw: death of the first born broke the carmel’s back.
You suddenly had a green light that seemed to end your financial entrapment but before your celebration for victory died down, you were faced with debt again. You were giving glory for one physical ailment that has bowed and then another one shows up; this one even more serious.
This was the plight of the Israelites. Moses, the man of God, had finally won the battle with Pharaoh. The angel of the Lord was leading. The presence of the Lord was unmistakeable with the pillar of cloud and the fire in attendance. There was no doubt that their worst fears were over. Besides God gave them favour with the Egyptian so much so that they plundered them, laden with silver and gold as they left for the Promised Land. Everything was working in their favour. Like the little eaglets in the nest enjoying being mummy’s pampering. It couldn’t be better. The honey moon was on.
The Israelites were freed at last and heavily loaded! Where were they going to? They were going to a land that flowed with milk and honey. What more could they wish for?
Suddenly they lifted up their eyes and were greeted with billows of dust from afar. What could that be? As the dust settled, they could not believe their eyes. Pharaoh’s disease: Hardening of Heart, was back. Six hundred chariots and horse and a host of army were in hot pursuit. What more, right in front was the Red Sea? So they were trapped in the middle.
What was going on? Was God asleep? Was He not leading them with the pillar of cloud and fire?
So what are the lessons for us?
- It was God who hardened Pharaoh’s heart- not the Devil. Just like mother eagle bats her little ones to the edge of the cliff so they can learn to fly.
- God also led them to the Red sea such that they were trapped between Pharaoh and the Red Sea.
- God has a purpose in anything He does or allows. In this case, it is to show forth His glory; to show that nothing was too difficult for Him.
- He demonstrated that He may lead to what looks like a dead end but it is a door of a new opportunity. Those who focus on the difficulties will miss the opportunity but those who know their God will do great exploits through it.
When the wrong train takes you to the right place, you know it was a train ordained of God.
It was God who directed Paul and Silas to Philippi but there they were beaten, battered and broken and imprisoned- chained, in straight jackets. At midnight instead of complaining, they prayed and praised. What happened? God used the occasion and used it to lead the jailor and his family to God. they were gloriously saved. God used the difficulty as an opportunity for salvation.
- Through what happened God revealed the Israelite to themselves: fickle, fearful and doubtful. They were able to see that despite the Lord’s faithfulness in fulfilling His word in freeing them and loading them with wealth on their way to the Promised Land, they were still an unbelieving bunch- preferring to serve the Egyptians than to be set free. They were still imprisoned in their minds. This is what we also clamour for when we lose hope amidst difficulties and prefer the ‘good old days.’ Over 400 years of slavery was not enough suffering. God was forcing them out of slavery, because left to themselves, they will gladly remain in their chains, serfdom and prison than get out. They’re used to it; it’s all they know; freedom was foreign to them. They feared the unknown.
- Your enemies- detractors, slave masters; things that have held you bound will not leave you easily without a fight. They will pursue you. Therefore you cannot take things for granted.
- You must be watchful and prayerful and hide continually under the shadow of God’s wings otherwise you will be trapped again. The giants were left in the Promised Land to keep the Israelite on their toes.
- When you are obeying God, doing the right thing and you are trapped yet again, don’t worry. Pray, trust, stand to see God’s salvation. This shows that you are not putting confidence in your efforts to stay free. Salvation belongs to the Lord. He will make a way where there seems to be no way.
- Where you know that you have been trapped again out of your compromise or sin, you will be wise to acknowledge your sin, ask for forgiveness and look for a way of escape, forsaking your sin.
Limitation of Headship
We also see that although Moses was leading, he was limited. He has to seek God’s face daily as we should in our daily affairs. He also led from the front, encouraging the Israelites in the face of the ‘storm.’ He encouraged them prophetically: Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord. The Lord will fight for you and you will hold your peace. The Egyptians you see today you will see them no more.’
Only one who had had fellowship with the Lord could speak like that in the midst of a raging fire. He focused on God’s power, goodness, faithfulness, grace, salvation and sovereignty.
Again we see that guidance is not permanent. That you heard from Him yesterday does not mean that you do not need to hear from Him today. We need to communicate with Him daily, especially when we’re facing a crisis. So we see Moses after encouraging the people retires to consult the Lord.
Ask and you will receive, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you.
God has a provision in place before the need arises. He had anointed the rod: symbol of authority of Moses, and Moses was reminded.
Pray but also use the authority and weapons you have been given as revealed in Ephesians 6:10-18, the name of Jesus and the blood of the Lamb. The word is in your mouth and in your heart; the word of faith. That word is powerful, dynamic, sharper than any two-edged sword. The name of the Lord is a strong tower. The righteous run to it and are saved.
Let Pharaoh pursue, huff and puff, he will meet his waterloo. Let’s see the challenges we face as opportunities to see another dimension of the power of God. God is using adversity to shape you, prepare you for your purpose. He wants you to have an opportunity to flex your faith muscles and rise to a new level to show forth His glory. He wants you to have a new testimony through your test.