God Will Give the Victory—
But You Must Fight the Battle
The life and legacy of Moses
Dr. Jim Denison
A commitment to the cause of freedom was made by those we will remember in this study. They risked their lives, their families, their entire nation and its survival. And our Judeo-Christian faith heritage is the result.
Where has God rewarded your faith commitment in the past? Think of the last time you trusted his word with your time, finances, ambitions, or relationships. Did he prove himself faithful to you? Where is he asking you to trust him with significant faith today? Even when Pharaoh is behind you and the Red Sea before you, the Lord of the universe is beside you. He may be all we have, but he is all we need.
When you can’t see his hand, trust his heart (Exodus 14:1-20)
There are times when we don’t understand why we’re where we are. We’ve been faithful to God as we knew his will, but hard times have come anyway. A pastor friend of mine looked forward to years of travel and study after his retirement, but died just a few months after beginning this much-anticipated chapter of his life. His widow still wonders why God led them as he did.
Another pastor friend has struggled greatly in a church he knows the Father called him to lead. His previous ministry was filled with joy and success, and he wonders why God has directed him to this place of struggle.
We sometimes find ourselves between an army and a sea, and wonder why. One of my favorite Christian songs includes the words, “When you can’t see his hand, and you don’t understand, trust his heart.” The children of Israel learned its truth, the hard way.
An unlikely route
When God led his people out of Egypt, he did not take them down any of the established roads of the day. He could have selected the “way of the land of the Philistines,” the short route along the Mediterranean coast to Canaan. However, this route was usually used by armies invading Egypt, and thus was heavily guarded.
The Lord could have led his people down the route further south, “the way of Shur” (Genesis 16:7). But this was a caravan route which ran to central Canaan, and would have been heavily guarded as well. Had the Israelites made their exodus down either of these roads, they would have encountered not only the military strength of Egyptian frontier outposts but also fierce opposition from Canaanite armies in the southern part of that land.
And so the Lord led his people in a way none before or after would choose: a road which ended at the western shore of the Red Sea. The exact spot is unknown to us, but the events which occurred at this location would change the course of Western history.
A feared enemy
Not long after the Hebrews left the land of their slavery, the mightiest army known to man came after them (Exodus 14:5-9). Pharaoh understandably interpreted their unusual direction to mean that they had lost their way and failed to find the roads eastward to Canaan (v. 5). Seeing a quick opportunity to regain his slave labor force, he dispatched his soldiers for what he assumed would be an easy military campaign against an unarmed foe.
The chariots he sent after Israel were drawn by two horses; one soldier drove the chariot and held the shield, while the other fought with arms. Their horses were bred for just this purpose. These armed chariots enabled the army to run down any infantry or people on foot. There was no place to hide, and no way to defend themselves. Imagine tanks against unarmed civilians, a Tienamen Square with predictable results.
The Hebrews were understandably terrified (vs. 10-12). They mocked Moses: “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die?” (v. 11). “No graves” is the double negative in the Hebrew, literally translated “no graves at all.” The charge was ironic, given the Egyptian propensity for pyramids and tombs.
Then they claimed that they had earlier asked to be left in Egypt (v. 12). There is no biblical record that they said this to Moses when their freedom was close and welcome. Critics always emerge when times are hard.
A trusted friend
In contrast to the fearful terror of the Hebrews, their leader evidenced remarkable faith in their Father and provider. He urged his people to make three decisions, each of them valuable in any crisis. First, “do not be afraid” (v. 13a). Choose not to be paralyzed with fear. Second, “stand firm” (v. 13b). Choose not to retreat from the crisis at hand. Third, “be still” (v. 14) and wait for the power and protection of God.
He promises his “deliverance” (v. 13), a word sometimes translated “salvation”—here it is meant in the literal sense of saving their lives. Later God’s people would come to understand that this deliverance is also spiritual and eternal.
And so the Lord protected the nation until he was ready to provide his final and total victory (vs. 15-19). The pillar of cloud may have used a desert whirlwind, but obviously acted in supernatural ways. Likewise with the pillar of fire, sometimes explained as volcanic activity but also inexplicable apart from supernatural agency.
God’s will never leads where his grace cannot sustain. In a crisis, be sure that you are where God wants you to be. And trust that he will stand at your side.
Stake your life on his word (Exodus 14:21-31)
Now, with the future of the nation in the balance, Moses made a fateful decision. He would not flee from the Egyptian army in retreat, disgrace, and defeat. Nor would he engage in military assault and certain annihilation. Instead, he would choose faith in the God who had brought them this far.
And the Lord proved himself worthy of such trust. The “strong east wind” which came over the Red Sea was no accident, as it appeared the precise moment when Moses “stretched out his hand over the sea” (v. 21). God had already proven his control of this wind with the plague of locusts (Ex. 10:13). Now he would show this power on an even greater scale.