Show me Your glory, I pray.
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.’”
If the most repeated prayer in the Bible is for God to guide us, perhaps the second most repeated is complaining about where God’s guidance takes us. Seriously, no sooner does God lead the Israelites out of Egypt than He tells them to turn back. Turn back! Why? That’s right into the jaws of the Egyptian chariots and cavalry! To turn back means the “day’s march, which must have seemed as suicidal to the Israelites as it did to their pursuers, had ended in bringing them into a position where, as Luther puts it, they were like a mouse in a trap or a partridge in a snare.” (Alexander Maclaren, Exposition of Holy Scripture)
Fear, mixed with not a little anger, kindles the Israelites’ complaint against God’s leading:
“As Pharaoh drew near, the Israelites looked back, and there were the Egyptians advancing on them. In great fear the Israelites cried out to the LORD: They said to Moses, ‘Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us, bringing us out of Egypt?’” (Exodus 14:10-11)
Have there been times you questioned God’s guidance? Have there been times you felt God was making a big mistake? God explains why after leading the Israelites forward He tells them to turn back. It is “so that I will gain glory for myself over Pharaoh and all his army… and the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD” (Exodus 14:17b-18a).
Although the Lord God had demonstrated His power through the ten plagues and other miracles, the Egyptians still do not recognize the Lord as Lord of all. But through His miraculous deliverance of the Israelites at the Red Sea the Egyptians will finally know that He is Lord.
The old hymn is right saying that God moves in mysterious ways His wonders to perform. The apostle Paul reminds us: “O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways” (Romans 11:33). We will not always understand the way the Lord leads us, or His purposes for our lives. But when we find a Red Sea before us, and Pharaoh’s armies to the rear, God assures, “the LORD will go before you, and the God of Israel will be your rear guard” (Isaiah 52:12b).
We can be assured that the Lord will never lead us where His grace will not go with us. And yes, God will sometimes lead us into trouble to reveal more of his love and wisdom to us. Then we will discover that His presence with us in trouble is sweeter than exemption from trouble. The Exodus story proves again and again “There is no difficulty too great for our God; yea, the greater the difficulty, the more room there is for Him to act in His proper character, as the God of all power and grace.” (C. H. Mackintosh, Notes on the Pentateuch)
- Have you ever questioned how God has led you? If so, when?
- Are you questioning God’s leading of you right now?
- What do you think God might want to teach you through His leading?