The enemy was coming. They could see his chariots glinting in the sun. The thunder of horses’ hooves made the ground shake beneath their feet. Terror rose in their throats. We’re gonna‘ die; it would have been better to stay in Egypt, slaving, but alive.
This is actually what the people said. Poor Moses. Poor God! This must have pierced his heart. With his mighty arm He’d whisked them from under the enemy’s nose and was in the process of leading them to their new home…like a gallant Prince.
Only there was this detour. It wasn’t a comfortable one, but then it wasn’t for their sakes that He’d turned them around and maneuvered them into this sticky position, between a rock and the sea. Somehow the Egyptians had caught wind of it and Pharaoh decided to go get his slave force back! It should have been easy; they were cornered in the desert. No way out, but for God.
After all that Pharaoh had already seen of plagues and death wreaked by this God, you’d think he would have known better than to mess with God’s people. But this was as God had planned it. He’d led his people into this awkward position to tantalize the enemy to oppose Him one more time so that one more time He could show himself strong and ‘get glory over Pharaoh and all his host’ so the Egyptians would know beyond a doubt that ‘I am the Lord.’ (Ex.14:4)
It’s a story worth considering if you find yourself in a tight spot through no fault of your own. God may have you cornered for purposes that go far beyond you to the praise of His glory.
So what are you to do?
First, what NOT to do…
By way of negative example, from Exodus 14, written no doubt for our benefit:
1) ‘they feared greatly’ As long as we’re focused on the terror this will be our lot. Had they paused to consider that God had led them to this place… and that God had gone to great lengths to free them from their enemy prior to this…they might have had a different response.
2) ‘they cried out to the Lord’ This would have been a good idea, if they had gotten past the initial panicked AAAAaaaaa!!!! to a prayer powered by faith. Instead, they turned on Moses…
3) they blamed their hero for all their troubles, completely disregarding the fact that he was in this mess for their sakes. And they ranted a jumble of terror-stricken nonsense about wishing to be slaves in Egypt.
That’s what they did when they were cornered. And to be honest, I have done the very same thing in times of crisis. The memories stand etched in my mind as witness. But God didn’t abandon them for their want of confidence in Him. He would use this crisis, (as He has used mine) to build their faith in Him and in their leader, Moses.
So what ARE we to do in times of crisis
when we feel cornered and helpless?
For this we turn to Moses’ instructions and example:
#1 Fear not. (smile) It’s easier said than done, but nevertheless, our calling. And it will be more easily accomplished when we turn our gaze away from the crisis long enough to hear what God is saying. Singing praise songs is a time-honored strategy for gaining perspective. (See: II Chron.20)
[At risk of distracting us from the story in view, may I commend to you a parallel account of God rescuing His people. It’s in II Chronicles 20 and I’ll slip in some quotes from there as we go..]
“O our God, will you not execute judgment on them? For we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” (II Chron. 20:12)
#2 Stand firm. Was this the story Paul was considering when he gave the Ephesian church a strategy for the fight of faith? “…and having done all, to stand firm.” No running around willy-nilly, no jumping up and down in an agitated panic, no tearing off to hide. Just stand firm, feet planted, right where God has put you until He gives the next instruction.
“You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the LORD on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.’ Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, and the LORD will be with you.” (II Chron.20:17)
#3 Watch God do the fighting! “See the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you today.” (Ex.14:13) We often think things are up to us that in reality are up to God to perform. He sometimes asks only that we stand on the sidelines in confident expectancy while He does the fighting and gets all the glory.
And he said, “Listen, all Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem and King Jehoshaphat: Thus says the LORD to you, ‘Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s.’ “ (II Chron.20:15)
#4 Oh and last but not least they were to ‘Shut up!’ That’s not exactly how Moses said it, mind you. To his credit he appears to have responded calmly and confidently to all the drama: “The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” (Ex.14:14) Whew, what a welcome silence that would have been! The last thing that’s needed in a crisis is to multiply desperate faithless words. Better to be quiet.
At that point Moses could hear God’s direction–Stop crying out to me; use that staff I gave you to part the sea! Why of course, why hadn’t he thought of that?! Maybe this is a reminder when we pray, to also listen to what God is saying in answer to our dilemma. It could be that we have in our hand the very thing God will use to answer our request.
We know the rest of the story–
…how God brought premature darkness and a cloud to delay the foe until the path through the sea had been blown dry…
…and how his people crossed safely but when the Egyptians followed, their chariot wheels ran amuck and God put them in a panic until they were the ones attempting to flee!… “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7)
…and how He brought the waters crashing back down to bury the enemy in a watery grave.
And what was the end result?
God was glorified–made to look great, just as He’d planned! His own people now feared Him and believed in the LORD and in their appointed leader (Ex.14:31). And the surrounding nations were terrified and let the Israelites pass on by! “Terror and dread fall upon them; because of the greatness of your arm, they are still as a stone.” (15:16)
So if/when you find yourself huddled in terror, heart pounding in your ears as you imagine the worst–stand firm in faith and see what God will do. He has you cornered there for His own glory. He is mighty to save! Our Redeemer is strong; the Lord of Heaven’s armies is His name! He will surely defend us. (Jer.50:34)
“You have led in your steadfast love the people whom you have redeemed; you have guided them by your strength to your holy abode.” Ex.15:13