Exodus 13

Exodus 13/14:  No Shortcuts

“There are no shortcuts to any place worth going!” ( Beverly Sills, Opera Diva)

Hebrews 11:28-29 tell us: ‘By faith Moses kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, lest he who destroyed the firstborn should touch them. By faith they passed through the Red Sea as dry land, whereas the Egyptians, attempting to do so, were drowned.’

When trouble, trials and hardships occur there are three choices you can make when life gets tough: (1.) Escape- attempt to manipulate your way out; (2.) Deny there is a problem; (3.) Endure.  Guess what?  Growth and strengthening occur during endurance.

If one looks at the map, by leaving via Northern Egypt the journey to Southern Canaan was a journey of no more that 4-5 days.  You probably already know it would take them 40 years to get there.  As you shake your head at the stubbornness and disobedience of these Israelites, let’s not be too quick to condemn. Let us look at our own journey. For as surely as the Israelites numbering probably over 2,000,000 were taken out of Egypt in one night; it took 40 years to get Egypt out of the Israelites.  I was saved in a moment on September 16, 1977. I was taken out of my Egypt in one moment, but 35 years later, I find there is still a lot of the world ( Egypt) in me.

Remember  it is for freedom that Christ set us free. I remember when my parents took me to college at Murray State in the fall of 1963.  I experienced a false freedom, which was actually not freedom at all, but a beginning of being enslaved. This false freedom is a perceived freedom to do what we want to do, what we like to do.  True freedom is the freedom to do what we ought to do. Jesus said: “ if you continue in my word, you are my disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth and the truth will set you free. I discovered, painfully and slowly, (I might add )freedom is not a toy to play with but a tool to build our lives with. Freedom involves accepting responsibilities. The Israelites were in the process of being set free. What would they do with their freedom?

The question we must ask ourselves is what have we done with our freedom?  If freedom comes with responsibilities , are you doing what you were set free to do?

Paul tells us : ‘ There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.” ( Romans 8:1,2) Compare law of gravity with law of aerodynamics. We have a choice, we no longer have to serve sin or yield our members to sin but yield ourselves to God. We have been made free of sin.  If you sin ( and we all do) it is not because you had no choice, it is because you chose to sin.

We all have heard God’s ways are higher than our ways. God’s way is almost never the nearest way or the shortest way- but it is always the best way.

God had multiple reasons for leading the Israelites on this particular course. Let us look at God’s checklist as He planned the journey for very specific reasons:

  1. He was going to lure the Egyptian army into a trap that would destroy them.
  2. He needed to humble the Israelites in the wilderness, teaching them to depend upon Him.
  3. God had laws to be given; ordinances to be instituted and covenants to be sealed.
  4. God was going to ratify His contract with Abraham.
  5. God knew what lie ahead and knew the Israelites were not ready, prepared or trained for battle. Slavery had broken their spirit. These were raw recruits who yesterday wielded a trowel and could not turn easily to wielding a sword. Deut. 32- tells us God will bring them up like an eagle does her young; she stirs up the nest, but hovers over her young ready to catch them as they learn to fly by degrees.

Yes we were saved in a moment, just as Israel was delivered in a night- but trust is  a learned response and we learn it by degrees as the eaglet learns to fly.

Now we said freedom involves accepting responsibility.  There are three important responsibilities if we are to live the abundant life.

  1. Following the Lord.
  2. Trusting the Lord
  3. Praising the Lord.

We will see these three responsibilities addressed in the next three chapters ( Exodus 13,14 &15).

Whenever one starts a new job, or takes a new position one of the things  we ask about and want to make sure we understand are the benefits provided by the position. We are not only new creatures when we get saved, we have a new position. Our position is in Christ. Do you understand the benefits you enjoy in this new position? Are you utilizing those benefits? No wonder Paul was always praying for believers for God to give them a spirit of wisdom and revelation that they might know the : hope to which they are called; the inheritance we possess and the mighty power that works in us.

Do you realize God brought the children of Israel out of bondage that they might enjoy the benefits of His blessings. Do not be deceived by the enemy.  He wants you to fall back on the false freedom that you can now do what you want to do, what your old nature wants to do because you have been forgiven of your sins.  What a deadly deception!  DO NOT LIVE YOUR LIFE AS IF SIN DOES NOT MATTER!  TAKE SIN SERIOUSLY.  The enemy uses sin to rob us of our joy and take away our possibilities and thwart our potential and kill our witness and influence. He would have us wander in the desert aimlessly living a life of mediocrity instead of the abundant life God has for us.

“When the Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, thought that was shorter. For God said, “ If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt. So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea.” (Exodus 13:17-18)

Notice what else Moses was careful to do: “ Moses took the bones of Joseph with him because Joseph had made the sons of Israel swear an oath they would take his bones out of Egypt and bury him in the land of his fathers.” (vs.19)  Do you realize that even though we die physically, our prayers do not die? Seeing this coffin of Joseph’s reminded the people of the story of Joseph whom God delivered through hardships to become the second most powerful person in Egypt. The story of Joseph reminded them God is faithful and a promise keeper. It reminds us our prayers that we might not see answered while we are still living, might be answered after we have died, for prayers are answered in God’s perfect timing.

The Lord went with them guiding them with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. As the Israelites would look back on these events, they would realize God led them the way He did because God did not want them to be overwhelmed by the enemy.  God has promised us as we begin our journey, that He will never allow us to be tempted or tested above that which we are able to bear but will  make a way to escape. (I Cor. 10)

Chapter 14 continues the story of the Exodus from Egypt. God then gives Moses directions to turn back and encamp between Migdol and the Red Sea.  Have you ever been in a situation where you seem to be between a rock and a hard place?  Have you ever looked at your circumstances and said- I will never be able to get out of this mess?

Remember we have to believe God is who He says He is and can do what He says He can do.

If we are to follow God, we must believe this. His Word is our Pillar of Cloud and Fire to guide us.

Must know God has a plan. Jesus told us in John 5:17, His Father is always working. Proverbs 19:21 tells us- ‘ many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.’ Psalms 31:14 states: “ But I trust in you, O Lord . I say you are my God . My times are in your hands.” Jeremiah 29 tells us God knows the plans He has for us- plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and future.’

  • Now the question comes to mind- what if I have not followed God and find myself in what appears to be a hopeless situation. Then you must face your greatest fear. Get honest with yourself, your loved ones, with God. Ask, Seek and Knock. If you want to know something- ASK.  If you want some help- ask. God comforts us when we are in trouble and in turn we are able to comfort others with the same comfort He has comforted us.  The Bible tells us there is no temptation or test which has taken you but such is common to man.  In other words, you are not alone, there are other believers who have suffered and been in the same situation. The Prodigal Son came to realize if he was to get out of the mess he had gotten in- he had to go back to his father and ask for forgiveness and ask to be taken back not as a son but a servant.
  • You must believe God has a plan for you. You must face your problem
  • Then after asking, seeking,knocking through prayer, study of Scripture and advice from Godly men/women- you will discover God’s plan and steps you must take. Then you move forward in faith, for we are to walk by faith and not by sight- you have put yourself in a position of relying on God and His promises.

We must move forward in faith not in fear of the circumstances. We must remember God brought us out to take us in to give us our inheritance.

God liberates us and then leads us through the varied experiences of life. We live one day at a time and each day is an opportunity to know God better. Each day is a day to claim by faith all that He wants us to have. Something happens in this process, we come not only to know God better; we come to know ourselves better also.

Now by studying stories in the Bible like Exodus, we learn how God operates. God plans a route for us. Nothing in our lives takes Him by surprise.

Do you know what God’s immediate destination is for the Israelites? Mount Sinai. What was to happen at Mount Sinai?  God would give detailed instructions how the Israelites were to live having now been set free.  “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

When you decide to walk by faith and not by sight, expect the Lord on occasions to take you on paths that may seem unnecessarily long and circuitous. You must remind yourself the Lord knows what He is doing. He is not in a hurry, and as long as your following Him , you’re safe and in the place of blessing.

There are times when we are not sure which way God wants us to go, but if we wait on Him, He will eventually guide us.

Now meanwhile, back in Egypt the Pharaoh and those left realized they are letting the Israelites, their labor force leave at a time when they need their labor to rebuild what God has destroyed.(Exodus 14:5-9) The enemy never gives up easily. He will continue to come at you, even though he is a defeated foe.  A desperate enemy can be a dangerous enemy. We need to remember our old nature, our flesh is our enemy. “ The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, who can know it?” ( Jeremiah 17)

Do you remember what occurred in the life of Jesus following his baptism as he prepared to begin his earthly ministry?  Matthew 4 tells us of this event following Jesus’ baptism: “ Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.” The Greek verb translated tempted can also be rendered ‘tested.’ This was divinely intended by  God, the Spirit led Jesus to this place.  God has led the nation of Israel to this place- between the  Red Sea and the Egyptian army.

Of course in the temptation of Jesus we learn how he used the Word of God, the Sword of the Spirit to defeat the enemy and thus his temptations.  What is interesting is do you know where Jesus quoted from in each of the temptations?  Deuteronomy. Deuteronomy’s teaching is about the love relationship of the Lord and His people and the emphasis is a call to total commitment to the Lord in worship and obedience.  In this farewell book of Moses to the people, Moses looks back and tells them:  “ Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep His commands.” (Deut. 8)

So looking back now at the beginning of the Exodus we see God led his people to a place where they are pinned between the Egyptian army and the Red Sea.  Once again we see the old nature rise up and use fear and doubt to take one’s thoughts captive.

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you appear to be trapped between a ‘rock and hard place’ with no place to go? Have you ever looked at a situation and in your human wisdom believe there is no way out- I will never get out of these circumstances? Your hope begins to ebb as your faith erodes. But ask yourself this- what is your faith in? Just as Jesus asked the disciples in the boat- where is your faith?

Certainly we have experienced those periods of hopelessness and disappointment. And we must look at those situation and circumstances because it is in those we realize apart from Him – I can do nothing. But I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.  What connects us from realizing we can do nothing about our situation to realizing we can do all things through Christ?  FAITH.

“Now faith is being sure of what  we HOPE for and CERTAIN of what we do not see. This is what the ancients(elders) were commended for.”( Hebrews 11:1-2)     Faith is confidence that God will do what He has promised. Abraham’s faith was based on the promise of God that he and Sarah would have a son. By faith the Israelites kept the Passover and sprinkled blood on the doorposts; by faith the people passed through the Red Sea on dry land.

Living by faith in the promises of God  requires we are familiar with God’s promises to us. God was teaching the Israelites : He was who He said He was and could do what He said He could do. They were learning –they were who He said they were and could do what He said they could do.  This happens when the Word of God is active and alive in our lives.

When we begin the journey of the new life following our Passover and Exodus- God will lead us as surely as He led the Israelites with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. We have His Word to guide us as a lamp unto our feet and a light upon our path. The Spirit whispers to us in our ears through the word to turn to the right or left or to wait upon the Lord.  Our Heavenly Father delights to order our steps and He wants to teach us to trust Him with all our heart and not lean to our own understanding. Then He promises to direct our paths.

But after 35 years of following Him and 66 years of living- I have discovered there are no shortcuts to any place worth going.