In my personal Bible reading, I came across the story of the Israelites crossing the Red Sea and I was reminded that the cloud/fire had already led them along a certain path, but “Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘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,'” (Exodus 14:1-2, italics mine). Turn back! Turn back, people! They were out of Pharaoh’s reach and God tells the people to turn back. And where? Not only closer to Pharaoh, but near the sea. In essence, God is calling on the people of Israel to put themselves in a place of no escape.
The purpose was two-fold. The first: to finally rid the people of Pharaoh and his army. The second: to show the people of Israel how great He was. What seemed to the Israelites as them being led to the slaughter was actually being led to deliverance. They didn’t see that; they didn’t know that at the time, as is clearly shown in the account given by Moses: “They said to Moses, ‘Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us in bringing us out of Egypt,'” (Exodus 14:11)? If you read the rest, they let it be known that they would have rather died in Egypt than have Egypt fight against them.
What a perfect illustration for sin. While Egypt did literally go after Israel, the writers of Scripture would often use Egypt as an allusion to sin. Like Egypt (and Pharaoh), there is a great struggle over God’s people, yet when God calls, Egypt, Pharaoh, and the false gods are no match. But often, like the Israelites, living without the “comforts” of sin, there is a longing to go back. Sometimes, it isn’t the “comforts” but the punishment that sin gives to those who leave. Though not the perfect illustration, those on heroin generally go back for another hit because the body punishes them through withdrawal symptoms. Not being able to handle the havoc upon their bodies, souls, and minds, they simply return to the drug to stop the pain. That’s what sin does to us as well, especially if it was an addictive sin.
Here is God, taking His people and putting them into a situation, not to tempt them to go back, but telling them to trust Him. Sin, I mean Pharaoh’s army, is near. There is no way of escape that they can see. Will they respond in faith? Paul told the Corinthians, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it,” (1 Corinthians 10:13). When sin is near, so often we see no way of escape. Like the Israelites, we simply want to give up and go back to Egypt. Get the worst of it over with, and at least not be in such a situation. The sea is before us, the sin is behind us. There is no way to escape. Except, there is. Moses knew it. God knew it. But the people were blind to it. “And Moses said to the people, ‘Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent,” (Exodus 14:13-14).
I am not a prophet, nor the son of a prophet, and I do not pretend to tell you that you’ll never see the same sin ever again in your entire life. But I do have the same confidence that God is able to deliver us no matter how many times sin seeks to capture us and no matter how many times the Red Sea (no escape) is before us. That is the promise of 1 Corinthians 10:13. The way of escape, more often than not, is the way of faith. Walking and living–not by what is seen (all we can see is the temptation and the futility)–but walking and living moving forward, even if it means walking into the sea. What was once thought to be a hindrance to moving forward and escaping the wrath of Pharaoh, became the means of deliverance. “Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the LORD drove back by a strong east wind all night and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided. And the people of Israel went into the midst of the sea on dry ground,” (Exodus 14:21-22). . .
Even when the Egyptians pursued them through the sea, the people kept moving. They never stopped. Once they saw the way of escape, they had the courage to go all the way through, no matter what. What became the way of escape for them, became the grave of their pursuers. Sin so often gets our eyes off the escape route. We can’t imagine how God will use what is in front of us to get us away from that which is behind us. Let God worry about that. Let Him fight on our behalf. I love Exodus 14:25, where someone in Pharaoh’s army shouts, “Let us flee from before Israel, for the LORD fights for them against the Egyptians.” No longer were the Israelites fleeing from Egypt but Egypt was fleeing from the Israelites! Only by God’s strong arm and grace is that ever possible.
The next time you pray the Lord’s Prayer and get to the “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” part, maybe Exodus 14 will come to mind. While God does not tempt us, He does try our faith (“temptation” can be translated as putting on trial); but if He so chooses (the request is ours, but the choice is His), like Israel He has the strong arm and the grace to deliver us.
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All Scripture was taken from the ESV, published by Crossway.