Before you read: “When Pharaoh finally let the people go, 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.” Exodus 13:17-18
Read Exodus 14:5-25
5 When the king of Egypt was told that the people had fled, Pharaoh and his officials changed their minds about them and said, “What have we done? We have let the Israelites go and have lost their services!” 6 So he had his chariot made ready and took his army with him. 7 He took six hundred of the best chariots, along with all the other chariots of Egypt, with officers over all of them. 8 The Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, so that he pursued the Israelites, who were marching out boldly. 9 The Egyptians—all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots, horsemen and troops—pursued the Israelites and overtook them as they camped by the sea near Pi Hahiroth, opposite Baal Zephon.
10 As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the Lord. 11 They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? 12 Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!”
13 Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. 14 The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”
15 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on. 16 Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground. 17 I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them. And I will gain glory through Pharaoh and all his army, through his chariots and his horsemen. 18 The Egyptians will know that I am the Lord when I gain glory through Pharaoh, his chariots and his horsemen.”
19 Then the angel of God, who had been traveling in front of Israel’s army, withdrew and went behind them. The pillar of cloud also moved from in front and stood behind them, 20 coming between the armies of Egypt and Israel. Throughout the night the cloud brought darkness to the one side and light to the other side; so neither went near the other all night long.
21 Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the Lord drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, 22 and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left.
23 The Egyptians pursued them, and all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots and horsemen followed them into the sea. 24 During the last watch of the night the Lord looked down from the pillar of fire and cloud at the Egyptian army and threw it into confusion. 25 He jammed the wheels of their chariots so that they had difficulty driving. And the Egyptians said, “Let’s get away from the Israelites! The Lord is fighting for them against Egypt.”
He does it again.
Like so many times before in the Story, God lets things get to their absolute worst before He steps in. How quickly triumph seems to turn to defeat! Huddled by the Red Sea with Pharaoh’s army bearing down on them, the Israelites feel tricked, trapped and terrified.
I love how the pillar of cloud moves to the back of the Israelites and settles “between the two groups”, like an enormous bodyguard. Then it turns to fire to give light and warmth through the night.
God, the bodyguard.
God, the nanny.
But what I love best are verses 15-16. “Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? (What else should he do?) Tell the people to get moving! (Um, God? We’re trapped between Pharaoh’s army and the Sea – where can we go?) Pick up your staff and raise your hand over the sea. (say what??!) Divide the water so the Israelites can walk through the middle of the sea on dry ground.”
God says, Do I have to spell it out for you Moses? and Moses says, Yes.
It just hadn’t occurred to him to raise his staff and separate the water so the Israelites could “walk through the middle of the sea on dry ground”.
It wouldn’t occur to me, either.
“Then Moses raised his hand over the sea and the Lord opened up a path through the water…”
It’s easy, Moses. Just do miracles.
Or better yet, let God do them.
Then, in a final, fabulous gesture, at the perfect moment – the Israelites are safe across and the Egyptians are coming up behind – God brings the water crashing down.
“The Egyptians tried to escape, but the Lord swept them into the sea.” (14:29 NLT)
“That is how the Lord rescued Israel from the hand of the Egyptians that day…When the people of Israel saw the mighty power that the Lord had unleashed against the Egyptians, they were filled with awe before Him.” (14:31 NLT)
And that, I think, was the whole idea.
They had thought there were two options, both bad: be killed by the Egyptians, or be killed by the water.
But God made a third option – an impossible, crazy option: walk through the water.
He writes the Story.
He can do that.