By Ben W. Curtis
Pastor, First Baptist Church, Tracy City
Sometimes when we obey the Lord, things get worse before they get better. Israel has stepped out in obedient faith, following every one of the Lord’s commands. But after listening to Moses and God about a change of direction (Exodus 14:1-2), they now have the world’s greatest army in front of them and a very large body of water behind them. Israel is not exactly battle ready and they are carrying most of Egypt’s wealth. Realizing that there is simply no way to save themselves, they panic and quit trusting God. Moses hears words that will be repeated many times over the next forty years: “It would’ve been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness” (Exodus 14:12).
The same Moses who was so full of doubt at the beginning of this book is now full of faith in God’s unlimited power (vv. 13-14). He boldly redirects Israel’s focus back to the Lord: “Fear not, stand firm … the LORD will fight for you, and you only have to be silent.” God’s unlimited power is visible in numerous ways throughout this chapter. First, he hardens Pharaoh’s heart so that he and his army pursue the Israelites (Exoduw 14:4). Second, God repositions the pillar of cloud and fire between Israel and Pharaoh’s army, throwing the Egyptians into confusion (Exoeuw 14:19-20). Third, he drives back the waters of the Red Sea, enabling Israel to cross on dry ground with a wall of water to their right and to their left (vv. 21-22). Fourth, as Pharaoh and his army continue the pursuit, the LORD causes their chariot wheels to bog down in the mud (vv. 23-25). Finally, he releases the walls of water on either side to rush back on top of the Egyptians, entombing them in a watery grave (vv. 26-29).
Moses wants there to be no confusion as to where Israel’s salvation came from: “Thus the LORD saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians …” (Exodus 14:30). God brought them to see their complete inability to save themselves, and he must do a similar work in our lives. Many people try to earn God’s favor by attending church regularly or giving their money and possessions away. They work hard at religion, convincing themselves that after they clean up their lives, God will accept them. Yet, we can no more save ourselves than the Israelites could save themselves. Only when we recognize our complete helplessness does God step in with his saving power.
If God’s powerful victory over Egypt caused Israel to “fear the Lord” and to “believe in the Lord” (Exodus 14:31), how much more should this be our response! The God who exercises power over all things, who has the authority to judge the smallest (us) to the greatest (Pharaoh), chooses to exercise mercy and grace towards those who repent and believe upon Christ. How awesome and fearsome to think that the Lord forgives our sin and does not hold our iniquities against us. Like Israel, these things often come into greater focus after His saving work in our lives. Reverent fear and faith should grow in proportion to God’s victorious power in our lives. In a sense, we are saved both through faith and for faith. Each time the Lord delivers us through trials, temptations, and even physical danger, it’s a reminder that nothing is too hard for Him. He is truly a God to fear and to believe!