Exodus 13:17-18 Then it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, “Lest perhaps the people change their minds when they see war, and return to Egypt.” 18 So God led the people around by way of the wilderness of the Red Sea. And the children of Israel went up in orderly ranks out of the land of Egypt.
God had made good His promise to free the Israelites from Egypt. They were leaving the land of bondage behind and well on their way to the Land of Promise. Looking at the map, it would take the Israelites less than two weeks to travel from Egypt to Canaan, but God did not lead them in the shortest route, He led them in the best route. The shortest route would take them through the land of the Philistines, fierce warriors whom the Israelites were not yet prepared to face. With the Egyptian army in pursuit, the shortest route would lead the Israelites into a trap between the Egyptians and Philistines. Instead, God led His people several miles to the east and to the Red Sea where He would decimate the Egyptian army while providing safe passage for the Israelites. Victory over the Philistines would have to wait for another day.
God sees what we do not see and knows what we do not know. For many years I have taken great solace in Psalm 37 “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord and He delights in his way” (v.23). If we can trust God to forgive and heal all sin and mistakes of our past, we can trust Him to direct us in our future. Ask the Lord to direct your steps, then trust His decisions.
Let’s sing: “Many things about tomorrow I don’t seem to understand; but I know who holds tomorrow and I know who holds my hand.
Psalm 62:1-2 Truly my soul silently waits for God; from Him comes my salvation. He only is my rock and my salvation; He is my defense; I shall not be greatly moved.
“Waiting silently for the Lord” elicits an image of a person sitting and listening to soft music, drinking a cup of coffee, unfazed by the storm that rages outside his home. I can’t help but think of the old song, “We have an anchor that keeps the soul steadfast and sure while the billows roll, fastened to the Rock which cannot move, grounded firm and deep I the Savior’s love.”
(verses 5-8 ) My soul, wait silently for God alone, for my expectation is from Him. He only is my rock and my salvation; He is my defense; I shall not be moved. In God is my salvation and my glory; the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God. Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us.
The psalmist repeated himself, talking of waiting and trusting in the Lord, but elaborates a bit more, describing the Lord as his rock, his salvation, his defense, his glory, his strength his refuge and his GOD. This brings to mind the old song, “The Lord’s our Rock, in Him we hide, a shelter in the time of storm…”
Finally, we hear the psalmist admonish us, “Trust in Him at all times, pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us.”
I think I’ll sing a song now. Feel free to join me:
“I raise a hallelujah, in the presence of my enemies;
I raise a hallelujah, louder than the unbelief.
I raise a hallelujah, my weapon is a melody;
I raise a hallelujah, heaven comes to fight for me.
I’m gonna sing in the middle of the storm,
Louder and louder you’re gonna hear my praises roar…”
The assignment God gave Moses at the burning bush (Exodus 3-4) can be summarized in the following:
Release what you have to the Lord and watch what He can do with it.
The story began with an interesting conversation in Exodus 4. “The Lord said to Moss, ‘What is that in your hand?” Moses said, ‘A rod.” And God said, ‘cast it on the ground,’ and it became a serpent” (vv.2-3). The snake wasn’t the point; God changing the rod was the point.
That rod became a source of great confidence for Moses. In Exodus 7, Moses instructed Aaron to throw down his rod and it also turned into a snake. There’s more; with his rod Aaron struck the Nile River and it turned to blood, he stretched out the rod over the land and God sent the plague of frogs, he held his rod out again and God sent the plague of lice. Later, Moses pointed the rod over the Red Sea and it parted.
The rod is a reminder that God can use something simple to accomplish something amazing. Need more evidence? God used a young teen aged boy to kill a military champion with a sling and a stone, God spoke through a donkey to get the attention of Balaam; God amplified the sound of 4 lepers walking to send the Syrian army into panic, and Jesus fed 5,000 men from one sack lunch.
Imagine what God can do with your simple word of encouragement or a small financial gift to a neighbor. Do you want to do something significant for the Lord? Start by giving him what you have.
Most of us are familiar with the story of Moses at the burning bush. If you would like to review the facts, read Exodus chapters 3 & 4. As we review each part of that experience you will see an overview and an assignment.
As the story unfolds, Moses was tending his sheep as he had every day for 40 years. There is nothing in the Biblical record to show that Moses had any reason to believe that day was going to be different than any other day. Then, suddenly God got his attention with a bush that was burning but not being consumed by the fire. When God got his attention He spoke clearly to him letting him know he was on holy ground. Assignment: describe a time when you felt an overwhelming urge to draw closer to the Lord.
In 3:7-9, God assured Moses He was concerned about the sufferings His people were enduring. Assignment: take a minute to write the name of a person you know who is going through a particularly tough season, especially someone living in the bondage to sin.
In 3:10, God told Moses to go and lead the Israelites out of Egypt. It is not enough for you to just wish your friend had a better life. Assignment: Let your friend know you are praying for them, and share a Biblical promise that will bring them encouragement. Think of a practical way you can help your friend through this tough time.
In 3:13-14, God told Moses the message he was to take to the people in bondage. First, he was to introduce himself as a representative of Almighty God (hint – One with more authority than Pharaoh holding the Israelites captive). Then, tell the people that God has been watching over them whether they realized it or not, and that He had something very exciting in store for them. Assignment: remind yourself that when you work to draw someone closer to the Lord, you are working as an emissary of Almighty God Himself. Then, present that name to the Lord in prayer and boldly claim their spiritual freedom.
In 3:14 through 4:17, God told Moses he was not going into this assignment alone; his brother Aaron would be with him (4:1-17) and more importantly God promised to be with Him (3:12). Assignment: remind yourself that you are not on this assignment alone. God has promised to be with you, and other people are in position to help.
The story of Joseph is recorded in Genesis 37-50. As a teenager his brothers mocked his faith and sold him into slavery. I suspect at some point Joseph may have wished they would have killed him rather than sell him as a slave, thinking in death he would have been put out of misery. But by being sold as a slave he would awaken each day with the reality he had been rejected by those closest to him – his family. For years, the last memory he had of his brothers was them ignoring his pleas for mercy.
In the next chapter of his life he worked as a slave in the home of a high ranking Egyptian official, and we can see God’s favor was on him (see Genesis 37:2-5). His hard work caught the grateful eye of his boss and unfortunately the lustful eye of the man’s wife who repeatedly tried to seduce him. Realizing she could not lure him to compromise his vales, she accused him of attempted sexual assault. Her husband, serving as judge and jury, took the words of his unfaithful wife over the words of his loyal servant, and with that Joseph spent over a decade in prison. If anyone had a “right” to take on the persona of an embittered victim it would be Joseph. Yet even in prison we see examples of a man whose faith in God remained intact.
At age 30 he was released from prison and immediately elevated to the position equivalent to Vice President of Egypt (see Genesis 41). In this chapter of his life we see that his faith in God survived the challenge of success and power. After several years, he passed on a prime opportunity for vengeance against his brothers. Referring to the time they mocked his faith & sold him into slavery, he told them “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good…” (Gen. 50:21). Suffering and success revealed the true character of the man.
Perspective has a great deal to do with faith. Faith can be emotional, but is not an emotion we “work up.” It is a quiet resolve, a conscious commitment to hold steady when your emotions scream “ENOUGH.” In the moments and seasons of uncertainty, it is the anchor that holds fast. It is what drives us to pray for the answer to that same need day after week after month after year. It is seen in the acrostic F.A.I.T.H. – Father Again I Take Hold of your promise.