Living By Faith
Having seen the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the cloud and pillar of fire (Exodus 13:21-22), we now want to move on to the first obstacle, but before we do, let us review. Israel’s deliverance in bondage to Egypt is a picture of our salvation experience. When we received Christ as Savior, we were freed from the bondage of sin. As He died for us, we through faith in Him died to sin that henceforth we should not serve it (Romans 6:6). Instead, we are to live in Christ in newness of life (Romans 6:4). God, the Holy Spirit, began the process of freeing us the moment we received Christ.
Scripture: II Corinthians 1:10
Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us;
Sanctification—that fifty-cent word which refers to the process of being set apart to God—for the believer is past, present, and future. Positionally, we were delivered from bondage to sin and the world at the very moment of salvation. Practically, we are being delivered on a daily basis from the mindset that makes us think the chains are still there. Perfectly and prophetically, we will be once and for all delivered from our sinful nature at the rapture of the church. Then, we will no longer struggle to do right.
What this means in practice is this: when we received Christ and began to speak of Him to our friends, they began to disassociate themselves from us. They no longer wanted to be in our company. We found ourselves developing new friends among those who share our faith. Furthermore, the Holy Spirit who indwelt us at the very moment of salvation began to convict of sin. We began putting off old habits and putting on new. We started to be different.
Unfortunately though, there is a fork in the road at the very edge of Egypt (Exodus 13:17-18). Everyone confronted by the gospel faces this choice point in life. The left path, or easy way, seems like a shortcut to happiness, but is the way to disaster (Proverbs 16:25). Many people choke at this point on the cross. They do not want to take up their cross and follow Christ. They want an easier way. But God leads the right way! Every, truly, born again believer sets out on that path.
The paved road ends abruptly. The path becomes strewn with boulders and obstacles. But this is the way of God! The cloud and pillar of fire are there to comfort and help us along the way.
That brings us to the first obstacle. How will we deal with this situation? To enhance our study, we will divide it into four phases.
I.) The Circumstances:
In the first phase, we want to observe the circumstances that lead up to the obstacle. If we do not carefully note these, we will miss much that is important to our understanding. So, let us walk circumspectly through our text, noting three crucial facts.
A.) Deliberately led:
Scripture: Exodus 14:1-2
1 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, 2 Speak unto the children of Israel, that they turn and encamp before Pihahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, over against Baalzephon: before it shall ye encamp by the sea.
Israel was deliberately led by God. Notice that God was in control of this march. He spoke to Moses and told him what to do. Israel was to go down to Pihahiroth. In other words, they did not just "happen" to be there. This was not a navigational error on the part of Moses. The truth is that God directed them to this place! In fact, to get there, they actually had to turn and change directions!
Observe the words of verse 2, “Speak unto the children of Israel, that they turn…” God, using the cloud and his instruction to Moses, said, “Change directions and go down to Pihahiroth.” We are intentionally belaboring this point, because it is so vital. God leads His people today, and it is not always where we think. The direct route was not the right route. God would have them to go by way of the Red Sea. He would have us do the same.
Scripture: I Corinthians 10:2
And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea;
Observe that the baptism in the cloud pictures Holy Spirit baptism, and the baptism in the sea pictures water baptism. We may think we know a better way to victorious living, but God’s way passes through the water. The first step of faith for the child of God after salvation ought to be believer’s baptism, an act of obedience to Christ’s command (Matthew 28:19-20). If we are not going to obey this simple command, how will we obey the more difficult ones that come later? This is a tiny little baby step of faith, but we must walk before we can run.
B.) God’s purpose:
Scripture: Exodus 14:3-4
3 For Pharaoh will say of the children of Israel, They are entangled in the land, the wilderness hath shut them in. 4 And I will harden Pharaoh's heart, that he shall follow after them; and I will be honoured upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host; that the Egyptians may know that I am the LORD. And they did so.
God had a purpose for taking Israel to this place. They were to veer from a straight direction across the wilderness to a campsite somewhat out of the way alongside the Red Sea. From a human standpoint, this was a tactical blunder of colossal proportions. It was like being in a boxed canyon with no way out. But God had a reason.
First, God wanted them to be in a position where they would be totally dependent upon Him for victory. Early on, God wants to teach us that we are helpless without Him (John 15:5). What could Israel do?
Second, God wanted Pharaoh to think that they were trapped, because He was setting a trap. This is a military maneuver popularized by Julius Caesar in his writing concerning the conquest of the Gaul's more than 1500 years later. The idea is to place the weakest troops in the center and the strongest on either side. When the enemy attacks, the weaker give way and the stronger troops turn in, leaving the enemy in a crossfire.
In a sense, the weak become the bait that lures the foe. Becoming proud and puffed up, the overconfident and gullible adversary destroys himself. In football this tactic is called the draw play.
Israel was God’s bait. God was going to judge the only Egyptian god left standing. He would judge Pharaoh himself.
C.) Pharaoh’s hardness:
Scripture: Exodus 14:5-9
5 And it was told the king of Egypt that the people fled: and the heart of Pharaoh and of 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 And he made ready his chariot, and took his people with him: 7 And he took six hundred chosen chariots, and all the chariots of Egypt, and captains over every one of them. 8 And the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he pursued after the children of Israel: and the children of Israel went out with an high hand. 9 But the Egyptians pursued after them, all the horses and chariots of Pharaoh, and his horsemen, and his army, and overtook them encamping by the sea, beside Pihahiroth, before Baalzephon.
Lastly, observe Pharaoh’s hardness. Pharaoh was in mourning. He lost everything he had, including his first born son. He fell from being the most powerful monarch on earth to the bottom in just a brief time. Most likely, he was in a state of shock.
Then, a lowly minion dared to interrupt his grief with the announcement that Israel had left Egypt. Suddenly, he realized what he had done. He was so determined not to let Israel go, but in a moment of weakness he let them slip through his grasp.
In a rage and fury, he called for the chariots. Verse 7 says that he took 600 of the most elite to be his personal command and then gathered all the rest for the chase.
Chariots were the most feared weapon of the ancient world. They were a relatively new invention and were treated much like tanks would be today. One advantage was speed. Israel was slowed by livestock and children, but even that was not slow enough. So God had them set up camp. He wanted them to wait for the Egyptians to catch up.
In conclusion, the Christian life is like this. At first we are all excited and rejoicing in our new-found salvation. Then, God sets us in a place where Satan can catch up. Like a raging roaring lion he bears down. What will we do? God says, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” The true believer will persevere. He may quake and fear and tremble, but God will bring him through (I Thessalonians 5:24).