Exodus 13:17-14:12 ~
20110227 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~
Exodus 13:17-14:12 The Mysterious Purposes of God and his Presence
narrative of the mighty acts of God against the Egyptians and for
the deliverance of his people, God declares well in advance what he
will do, and then at the proper time he does it. God said to Moses
Exodus 3:10 Come,
I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the
children of Israel, out of Egypt.”
Even after all
Moses' excuse-making, God sent Moses. God said:
Exodus 12:12 ...on
all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the LORD.
And he did just
that. God said:
Exodus 4:22 ...
Israel is my firstborn son, 23 and I say to you, “Let my son
go that he may serve me.” If you refuse to let him go, behold,
I will kill your firstborn son.”’
that is exactly what God did. God has his good and wise purposes for
every single thing he does. God declares in Isaiah:
Isaiah 55:8 For my
thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,
declares the LORD. 9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your
We might say,
from our perspective, 'there is a method to his madness'. We can
stand back with Paul in amazement and say:
Romans 11:33 Oh,
the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How
unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
But we often
don't see it that way at the outset. God is in control. We believe
that. But often we look at our circumstances and feel in our hearts
(although we would never articulate in our out-loud voice) God,
that's not inscrutable; that's just stupid. That so doesn't make any
sense. I know your promise that you work all things together for
good to those who love you (Rom.8:28), but how can this possibly
work out for anyone's good? I really think you messed up this time.
The Lord answers
out of the whirlwind:
Job 38:2 “Who
is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?
Job 40:2 “Shall
a faultfinder contend with the Almighty? He who argues with God, let
him answer it.”
Job 40:8 Will you
even put me in the wrong? Will you condemn me that you may be in the
1 Corinthians 1:19
For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and
the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”
Psalm 2:4 He who
sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. 5 Then
he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury,...
Isaiah 46:9 ... for
I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like
me, 10 declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times
things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I
will accomplish all my purpose,’
In spite of what
it looks like from our perspective, God is wise, his ways are
perfect, he is always in complete control and he does all that he
pleases (Ps.115:3) If we get a grasp on this, it will give us a rock
solid unshakeable confidence to follow him everywhere he leads, even
if that is right into the lion's den and right into the fiery
furnace. Or in Israel's case right in between a rock and a hard
place or out of the frying pan and into the fire.
13:17 When Pharaoh
let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the
Philistines, although that was near. For God said, “Lest the
people change their minds when they see war and return to Egypt.”
18 But God led the people around by the way of the wilderness
toward the Red Sea. And the people of Israel went up out of the land
of Egypt equipped for battle. 19 Moses took the bones of Joseph
with him, for Joseph had made the sons of Israel solemnly swear,
saying, “God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my
bones with you from here.” 20 And they moved on from Succoth
and encamped at Etham, on the edge of the wilderness. 21 And the
LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along
the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that
they might travel by day and by night. 22 The pillar of cloud by
day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the
14:1 Then the LORD
said to Moses, 2 “Tell the people of Israel to turn back and
encamp in front of Pi–hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, in
front of Baal–zephon; you shall encamp facing it, by the sea.
3 For Pharaoh will say of the people of Israel, ‘They are
wandering in the land; the wilderness has shut them in.’ 4
And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them,
and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, and the
Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD.” And they did so. 5
When the king of Egypt was told that the people had fled, the mind
of Pharaoh and his servants was changed toward the people, and they
said, “What is this we have done, that we have let Israel go
from serving us?” 6 So he made ready his chariot and took his
army with him, 7 and took six hundred chosen chariots and all the
other chariots of Egypt with officers over all of them. 8 And the
LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he pursued the
people of Israel while the people of Israel were going out
defiantly. 9 The Egyptians pursued them, all Pharaoh’s horses
and chariots and his horsemen and his army, and overtook them
encamped at the sea, by Pi–hahiroth, in front of Baal–zephon.
interesting that one of the things the Israelites took with them
when the left Egypt was the remains of Joseph. It says:
13:19 Moses took
the bones of Joseph with him, for Joseph had made the sons of Israel
solemnly swear, saying, “God will surely visit you, and you
shall carry up my bones with you from here.”
The book of
Genesis closes with this oath, Joseph being embalmed and placed in a
coffin in Egypt. Now, four centuries later, the descendants of
Joseph's siblings were keeping their word. What a witness to the
faithfulness of God! God will surely visit you. God will keep his
promises. Joseph surely knew of the promise God made to his great
Genesis 15:12 As
the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell on Abram. And behold,
dreadful and great darkness fell upon him. 13 Then the LORD said to
Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be
sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there,
and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. 14 But I will
bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they
shall come out with great possessions. 15 As for yourself, you
shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old
age. 16 And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for
the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”
God had promised
the land to Abraham and his descendants. Jacob was counting on this
and he made his sons swear to bury him with Abraham and Sarah, Isaac
and Rebekah and his wife Leah. Jacob and Joseph were proclaiming
their faith in the promises of God
Hebrews 11:22 By
faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of
the Israelites and gave directions concerning his bones.
The people made
good on their word to Joseph in Joshua 24. Imagine the testimony to
this generation of God's faithfulness. God will surely visit you.
God has visited us. Now we carry the 400 year old mummified remains
of our ancestor who hoped in God and believed that God would give
him his inheritance. They carried a testimony to the faithfulness of
a God who visits his people.
God is leading
his people. We see that in verse 17 and 18.
13:17 ... God did
not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although
that was near. For God said, “Lest the people change their
minds when they see war and return to Egypt.” 18 But God led
the people around by the way of the wilderness toward the Red Sea.
God was leading
his people. He even reveals why he led them in the way that he led
them. There was a direct route from Egypt to the promised land
following the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. It was called by the
Egyptians 'the Horus Way'. There were 23 Egyptian military outposts
along this road (biblearchaeology.org 8/19/08 Gary Byers). Had the
Israelites traveled this way, they would have met armed resistance
that they were entirely unprepared for. What is interesting is that
the way the Lord did lead them was not a way that would avoid war
altogether. As we will see, God led them right into full-on
confrontation with the special forces of Egypt. The reason God gives
for the route he chose was 'lest the people change their minds...
and return to Egypt. The difference between the direct and indirect
routes was not an effort to avoid confrontation, but with the
purpose of removing the avenue of escape from God's deliverance back
into slavery. God knew the weakness of his people and their
inclination when things get tense to run back to their old
slave-master. So God leads them in a way that cuts off their back
door of escape from his will. God literally corners his people in a
place where there is no way out but to surrender to him and trust
him as he carries out their supernatural deliverance. God is
demonstrating his intimate knowledge of the weakness of his people,
and he is demonstrating his tender care for them even in his choice
of their route out of Egypt.
Not only is God
leading his people to exactly where they need to be for their own
good, he is even working in the hearts of their enemies so that they
play their part in the plan perfectly. The erratic path in which God
was leading his people was designed to cause the Egyptians to think
'they are wandering in the land; the wilderness has shut them in'.
In chapter 14 verse 4, God says 'I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and
he will pursue them'; and in verse 5 it says that 'the mind of
Pharaoh and his servants was changed toward the people'; and verse 8
says 'the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he
pursued the people of Israel. Again in verse 17 we will see God say
'I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they shall go in
after them'. God is working even in the hearts of the enemies of his
people, not to do harm to his people, but ultimately to do them
good. This is awesome! God is wielding the weapons of Hell according
to his own purposes to bring good to his people and glory to his
name. He says in Isaiah:
Behold, I have created the smith who blows the fire of coals and
produces a weapon for its purpose. I have also created the ravager
to destroy; 17 no weapon that is fashioned against you shall
succeed, and you shall confute every tongue that rises against you
in judgment. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD and
their vindication from me, declares the LORD.”
Paul tells us in
2 Corinthians that a messenger of Satan was given him to harass him
to keep him humble. (2Cor.12:7; cf. 1Sam.16:14; 1Ki.22:23, et.al.).
If God is sovereignly wielding even the weapons of Hell for our own
good, then what could possibly harm us? As Paul says:
Romans 8:35 Who
shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or
distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or
sword? ...37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors
through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor
life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come,
nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all
creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ
Jesus our Lord.
confidence we have! If God is for us, who can be against us?
God in his
providence was leading his people in the perfect way for their good.
He was even at work in their enemies to incite them to fight against
them, but this too was for the ultimate good of his people. Let's
look at how he led them in chapter 13, verses 21-22.
13:21 And the LORD
went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the
way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they
might travel by day and by night. 22 The pillar of cloud by day and
the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people.
YHWH went before
them! Physically, visibly, God's presence with his people, going
ahead of his people, leading his people.
Psalm 23:1 The LORD
is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He makes me lie down in green
pastures. He leads me beside still waters. 3 He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 4
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I
will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff,
they comfort me. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence
of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
presence, shepherding his people, guiding his people, sheltering his
people, protecting his people, lighting their path. God is spirit,
invisible, but he manifests himself or makes himself known with
visible symbols. 'Our God is a consuming fire' (Deut.4:24; Is.33:14;
Heb.12:29). God is holy and pure and will consume sin and purify us.
Listen to these descriptions from the Psalms:
Psalm 18:8 Smoke
went up from his nostrils, and devouring fire from his mouth;
glowing coals flamed forth from him. 9 He bowed the heavens and
came down; thick darkness was under his feet. 10 He rode on a
cherub and flew; he came swiftly on the wings of the wind. 11 He
made darkness his covering, his canopy around him, thick clouds
dark with water. 12 Out of the brightness before him hailstones
and coals of fire broke through his clouds.
Psalm 97:2 Clouds
and thick darkness are all around him; righteousness and justice
are the foundation of his throne. 3 Fire goes before him and burns
up his adversaries all around. 4 His lightnings light up the world;
the earth sees and trembles.
God this way in 1 Timothy:
1 Timothy 6:15
...––he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King
of kings and Lord of lords,16 who alone has immortality, who dwells
in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To
him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.
his presence with his people in a column of fire and cloud. That
must have been amazing! Do you ever wish God would manifest himself
in some visible form for you to follow? Wouldn't that make the
Christian life so much easier? Friends, we have something better!
After listing the faithful men and women from the Old Testament, the
author of Hebrews concludes:
Hebrews 11:39 And
all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive
what was promised, 40 since God had provided something better
for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.
Better than a
visible manifestation of God to follow? Yes! Jesus spoke of:
John 14:17 the
Spirit of truth, ... You know him, for he dwells with you and will
be in you.
John 14:23 Jesus
answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and
my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home
We enjoy the new
covenant promises of God's Spirit not only with us but in us! In
fact, Jesus said that he and the Father would come and make their
home with us! God the Father, Son and Spirit have taken up residence
Romans 8:9 You,
however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the
Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the
Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is
in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is
life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who
raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised
Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies
through his Spirit who dwells in you.
Better than an
outward symbol, we have the inward reality! The living God, the
triune One has come to live in us!
2 Corinthians 13:5
... Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus
Christ is in you?––...
2 Corinthians 6:16
... For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I
will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be
their God, and they
shall be my people.