The Israelites were free. After years of bondage and crying out to God for deliverance, God had finally made the way for them to leave Egypt. They began their journey into the desert and had a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night to guide them (Exodus 13:21). Then, God hardened Pharaoh’s heart (14:8), and he sent his horses, horsemen, chariots, and troops after the Egyptians.
Just when the Israelites tasted freedom. Disaster.
How could this be happening? Hadn’t God promised to bring them out of Egypt (Exodus 3:7-10)? I can just imagine how they felt. And we know what they said. They grumbled. They complained. They questioned. They even wished for Egypt (14:11-12).
What struck me about this story is that it is so familiar. How many times do we pray, and pray, and pray about situations. We wait for God to intervene in our circumstances. We believe we have God’s assurance that he is going to act on our behalf. Finally, God begins to answer.
And then the horses, horsemen, chariots, and troops loom on the horizon.
We grumble. We complain. We question.
But what if the impending disaster is actually the deliverance from the situation we have been seeking?
The only way to know is to trust God, and it is difficult to do so when a situation appears to worsen. However, in Exodus 14:13-14, Moses told the Israelites, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”
The rest of the story is that the Israelites crossed the Red Sea on dry ground, and when the Egyptians followed, the Lord wreaked havoc on their chariots before the waters of the sea swallowed them. And not one of them survived (14:23-28).
Now the Israelites were truly free from the Egyptians, and God did it in a way that brought glory to himself. Just like he said he would (14:4).
This story should remind us to take heart. When we have God’s assurance that he will intervene in our circumstances, the method he chooses to use may, at first, seem like a disaster. But it may be that he is planning to use the situation for our ultimate deliverance and to bring glory to himself.