- Sermon Notes
Between a Rock and a Hard Place
Exodus 13:17 to 14:31
At this point in Exodus Pharaoh has finally relented and let the people of Israel go. The plagues have come to an end. God established the Passover so the Israelites would remember that God saved them from the condemnation of death and from the slavery and oppression in Egypt.
Being set free from Egypt, Israel began their journey through the wilderness.What’s interesting is that God did not lead them directly to the land of the Philistines, modern day Gaza, in what would have been a fairly straight journey to the Promised Land; a distance of perhaps 120 miles to the east.Instead, God led the people south, down the Sinai Peninsula, around by the way of the wilderness to the Sea.
This is certainly an amazing part of the story, because it seems that God led them straight into a trap. They would find themselves between a rock and a hard place; caught between the army of Egypt that came out to pursue them and the sea in front of them.
This is a major event in the history of Israel. It’s also a picture of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.There are also many spiritual lessons and personal applications as we understand what God was doing within Israel and what he desires to do within us.
I. Let God Lead the Way
- One of the first things to see from this story is that it was God who was leading Israel through the desert.
- It appeared to the Egyptians that they were wandering aimlessly.
- But God knew what He was doing, and He knows what He is doing in our lives as well.
A. He leads by day and by night
- The Lord was going before them in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night to give them light. This would continue for forty years, until they came into the Promised Land.
- There is significance and meaning in God leading them by a cloud and by fire, but first we must recognize that he was always leading them. The question is whether they would follow with their heart.
- One of the great causes of difficulties in people’s lives is that they only want God to lead them part of the time, but God wants to direct our lives all the time; both by day and by night.
- In other words, don’t take a break from the wisdom of God’s Word.
Illus – Some people appear to be perfectly led by God’s Word until something happens.Some people, it seems, turn into a different person when doing sports, or when troubles come into their life, or when a dispute arises; they throw the principles of God’s Word out the window. In other words, they only follow God part of the time.
Proverbs 4:18, But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, that shines brighter and brighter until the full day.
Isaiah 58:8, “Then your light will break out like the dawn, and your recovery will speedily spring forth; and your righteousness will go before you; The glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.”
- God’s leading is like a covering over you. You will discover that your life will be greatly blessed when you follow after God with all your heart.
- God’s presence was seen in the cloud and in the fire. Both were good and pleasant. The cloud would be a covering and protection from the desert sun and heat and the fire at night would provide heat and light.
- God’s presence would be seen in a cloud and in fire throughout the rest of the scriptures.
B. God leads by His Spirit and His Word
- The purpose of the cloud and the fire was two-fold.The first was to lead them as God would direct.The second purpose was to give them protection and covering.
Psalm 105:39, He spread a cloud for a covering, and fire to illumine by night.
- In the same way, God’s Word is given both to lead our lives with God’s wisdom, and to protect us from the destruction of going our own way.
Psalm 119:105, Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
- When Jesus was teaching his disciples, he referred to the Pharisees one time and said…
Matthew 15:14, “Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch.”
- The Holy Spirit was present with Israel, leading them in the desert and the Holy Spirit is leading in our lives as well.
Nehemiah 9:20, “You gave Your good Spirit to instruct them, You did not without your manna from feeding them and You gave them water for their thirst.”
II. There are No Dead Ends with God
- This next section is such an important part of the study of Exodus because of its relevance to our own lives.
- God was clearly leading them, but it seemed He was leading them into a dead end. In actuality He wasn’t leading them into a trap, He was leading their enemies into a trap and would demonstrate His power to strengthen their faith. The Israelites were shown one of the greatest miracles in the history of Israel when he brought them through the sea on dry land and destroyed the Egyptian army when they went in pursuit.
A. Not all dead ends are God’s doing
- Some people who read this story may wrongly conclude that if we end up on a dead-end and there seems to be no way out, that God was leading them into it.
- But that would be a false conclusion.There are many dead ends of our own making.If we make foolish choices, we could find ourselves in difficult situations, but it was our own doing.
- Others around us may make wrongful or hurtful decisions and lead us into difficult situations, but this was not God’s hand either.
App – but of this you can be certain, God may not have led you into a dead end, but He will certainly lead you out!!
Illus – Many people plant weeds in the lives and end up with nothing but trouble all around them. The question is what they will do now!! God may not have led you into that field of weeds, but he certainly knows the way out!
Illus – There was an old children’s song we used to sing in Sunday School, “The Lord knows the way through the wilderness, and all I have to do is follow.”
- God will also use this situation in your life both for His glory and the strengthening of your faith and character.
- In other words, God wants you to learn to trust Him in every difficult circumstance; that will strengthen your faith. And He wants you to learn to live in the truth of God’s Word; that will strengthen your character.
- What do you do when you find yourself surrounded by weeds and troubles all around? First, stop planting weeds, second, start planting the seeds of righteousness by following God. He knows the way through the wilderness, all you have to do is follow.
- Keep learning, keep growing, keep walking.
Illus – Babies are adorable!But no one wants their baby to stay a baby.You want to see your children grow into mature adults, being able to make wise decisions for themselves.
Hebrews 5:12, For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food.
Hebrews 5:14, But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.
B. Know how to respond to a dead end
- You can learn both what not to do and what you need to do in the Hebrew’s reaction.
- Pharaoh decided the Israelites were wandering aimlessly in the land. When he saw them moving into the valley by the sea and thought they were trapped, he chased after them with the horses and chariots of Egypt.
- But when Israel saw the Egyptian army bearing down on them, they became frightened and cried out to Moses, “Is it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why didn’t you leave us as slaves, so we could serve the Egyptians?”
- Here’s how you should respond if you should find yourself at a dead end…
- Keep your eyes on the Lord.Take your eyes off the situation and put them on to the Lord.
Hebrews 12:2, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith,
- You would think that after all the miracles they had seen in Egypt that the people of Israel would have seen enough for them to believe; but miracles are not enough.
Illus – There is a story of a rich man and a poor beggar named Lazarus who both died… miracles are not enough.
Luke 16:19- 31 The rich man and Lazarus
- Don’t look for someone to blame. When Israel saw the predicament they were in, they turned to Moses and started blaming him.One thing is for certain, finding someone to blame does nothing to make the situation better.
- Do not fear. Vs 13. Moses responded to the people’s blaming by telling them to “fear not.” This may seem easier to say than to do, but it is a constant admonition of the Lord.It is seen in scripture more than 60 times.If our hearts are filled with fear, then there is no room for faith.
- Stand still.In other words, stop complaining, stop whining, stop panicking, and “Be still and know that I am God.”
There’s always someone in a crisis who panics and cries out, “We’re going to die!” But know that God will fight for you. “Take your stand,” it literally means.
C. Trust God and move forward
- Vs 15, then the Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me?Tell the sons of Israel to go forward.”
- There is a time to stand still.There is a time to pray.There is a time to call out to God.
- But there is also a time to move forward, to do what God is asking you to do.
- There is a time to take action by trusting that God will work in your behalf. “No weapon formed against you will prosper.” Is 54:17
Illus – When you’re in a dead end and need 10 miracles in a row, keep moving and trust God at every turn. I found this true one day when I was late for the airport to speak in another city.
2 Chronicles 16:9, “For the eyes of the Lord search to and fro throughout the whole earth in order to show himself strong in behalf of those whose hearts are completely his.”
Jeremiah 32:27, “Ah Lord God! Behold, Thou hast made the heavens and the earth by Thy great power and by Thine outstretched arm! Nothing is too difficult for Thee,”
Psalm 34:19, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous; but the Lord delivers him out of them all.”
Exodus 13:17-14:31 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
God Leads the People
17 Now when Pharaoh had let the people go, God did not lead them by the way of the land of the Philistines, even though it was near; for God said, “The people might change their minds when they see war, and return to Egypt.” 18 Hence God led the people around by the way of the wilderness to the [a]Red Sea; and the sons of Israel went up in martial array from the land of Egypt. 19 Moses took the bones of Joseph with him, for he had made the sons of Israel solemnly swear, saying, “God will surely [b]take care of you, and you shall carry my bones from here with you.” 20 Then they set out from Succoth and camped in Etham on the edge of the wilderness. 21 The Lord was going before them in a pillar of cloud by day to lead them on the way, and in a pillar of fire by night to give them light, that they might [c]travel by day and by night. 22 [d]He did not take away the pillar of cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people.
Pharaoh in Pursuit
14 Now the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Tell the sons of Israel to turn back and camp before Pi-hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea; you shall camp in front of Baal-zephon, opposite it, by the sea. 3 For Pharaoh will say of the sons of Israel, ‘They are wandering aimlessly in the land; the wilderness has shut them in.’ 4 Thus I will [e]harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will chase after them; and I will be honored through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord.” And they did so.
5 When the king of Egypt was told that the people had fled, [f]Pharaoh and his servants had a change of heart toward the people, and they said, “What is this we have done, that we have let Israel go from serving us?” 6 So he made his chariot ready and took his people with him; 7 and he took six hundred select chariots, and all the other chariots of Egypt with officers over all of them. 8 The Lord [g]hardened the heart of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and he chased after the sons of Israel as the sons of Israel were going out [h]boldly. 9 Then the Egyptians chased after them with all the horses and chariots of Pharaoh, his horsemen and his army, and they overtook them camping by the sea, beside Pi-hahiroth, in front of Baal-zephon.
10 As Pharaoh drew near, the sons of Israel [i]looked, and behold, the Egyptians were marching after them, and they became very frightened; so the sons of Israel cried out to the Lord. 11 Then they said to Moses, “Is it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you dealt with us in this way, [j]bringing us out of Egypt? 12 Is this not the word that we spoke to you in Egypt, saying, ‘[k]Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.”
The Sea Is Divided
13 But Moses said to the people, “Do not fear! [l]Stand by and see the salvation of the Lord which He will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you have seen today, you will never see them again forever. 14 The Lord will fight for you while you keep silent.”
15 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to Me? Tell the sons of Israel to go forward. 16 As for you, lift up your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, and the sons of Israel shall [m]go through the midst of the sea on dry land. 17 As for Me, behold, I will [n]harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them; and I will be honored through Pharaoh and all his army, through his chariots and his horsemen. 18 Then the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord, when I am honored through Pharaoh, through his chariots and his horsemen.”
19 The angel of God, who had been going before the camp of Israel, moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud moved from before them and stood behind them. 20 So it came between the camp of Egypt and the camp of Israel; and there was the cloud [o]along with the darkness, yet it gave light at night. Thus the one did not come near the other all night.
21 Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord [p]swept the sea back by a strong east wind all night and turned the sea into dry land, so the waters were divided. 22 The sons of Israel [q]went through the midst of the sea on the dry land, and the waters were like a wall to them on their right hand and on their left. 23 Then the Egyptians took up the pursuit, and all Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots and his horsemen went in after them into the midst of the sea. 24 At the morning watch, the Lord looked down on the [r]army of the Egyptians [s]through the pillar of fire and cloud and brought the [t]army of the Egyptians into confusion. 25 He [u]caused their chariot wheels to swerve, and He made them drive with difficulty; so the Egyptians said, “Let [v]us flee from Israel, for the Lord is fighting for them against the Egyptians.”
26 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea so that the waters may come back over the Egyptians, over their chariots and their horsemen.” 27 So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to its normal state at daybreak, while the Egyptians were fleeing [w]right into it; then the Lord [x]overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea. 28 The waters returned and covered the chariots and the horsemen, [y]even Pharaoh’s entire army that had gone into the sea after them; not even one of them remained. 29 But the sons of Israel walked on dry land through the midst of the sea, and the waters were like a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.
30 Thus the Lord saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. 31 When Israel saw the great [z]power which the Lord had [aa]used against the Egyptians, the people [ab]feared the Lord, and they believed in the Lord and in His servant Moses.