Then the LORD said to Moses: “Tell the Israelites to turn back and camp in front of Pi-hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, in front of Baal-zephon; you shall camp opposite it, by the sea. Pharaoh will say of the Israelites, ‘They are wandering aimlessly in the land; the wilderness has closed in on them.’ I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them, so that I will gain glory for myself over Pharaoh and all his army; and the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD.” And they did so.
If the prayer for God’s guidance is the most repeated prayer in the Bible, then complaints about God’s guidance might run a close second. Strangely, we see in today’s text God guiding His people out of bondage only to lead “the Israelites to turn back”. Here we confront the mystery of God’s will and the way He sometimes leads us.
God deliberately guides His people into a dead end in order to display His glory. The Israelites will find themselves in a valley with no escape; a mountain range to the left of them, and another to the right, with the Red Sea straight ahead. Soon the dust of Egyptian chariots and troops will rise on the horizon sealing off any escape. “I will gain glory for myself over Pharaoh and all his army”, declares the Lord, “and the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD.’
There are times when the Lord seemingly turns us back on our Exodus journey, leading us into trouble in order to manifest His glory. Perhaps you find yourself in a difficult place for reasons known only to God. Admittedly the Lord sometimes leads us into trials and tribulations, but they present the opportunity for God to reveal His glory to us and to the world. We will know that He is Lord.
I have long been encouraged by the words of A. W. Tozer when I find myself facing a ‘Red Sea’ with seemingly no way of escape:
To the child of God, there is no such thing as an accident. He travels an appointed way. The path he treads was chosen for him when as yet he was not, when as yet he had existence only in the mind of God. Accidents may indeed appear to befall him and misfortune stalk his way; but these evils will be so in appearance only and will seem evil only because we cannot read the script of God’s hidden providence and so cannot discover the ends at which He aims… The man of true faith may live in the absolute assurance that his steps are ordered by the Lord. For him, misfortune is outside the bounds of possibility.” (We Travel an Appointed Way: Making Spiritual Progress)
Let God choose your path!
- We may wrestle with the Lord’s words, “I will harden Pharaoh’s heart”, along with the enduring mystery of God’s sovereignty and human free will. Consider this: Pharaoh had also hardened his own heart (7:14, 22; 8:15; 9:7, 34). Pharaoh had opportunity to willingly release the Israelites, but repeatedly ignored God’s warnings and hardened his own heart. The “hardening was a fruit of sin, a consequence of self-will, high-mindedness, and pride which flowed from sin, and a continuous and ever increasing abuse of that freedom of will which is innate in man, and which involves the possibility of obstinate resistance to the word and chastisement of God” (Keil and Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, Volume 1).
- If you, or someone you love, are facing a ‘Red Sea’ with seemingly no way out, you might want to pray over this: “How can a problem I face be an opportunity for God to reveal His glory?”