The Egyptians Have A Change Of Heart
“But the Egyptians pursued after them, all the horses and chariots of Pharaoh, and his horsemen, and his army, and overtook them encamping by the sea, beside Pihahiroth, before Baalzephon.” (Exodus 14:9)
As the Hebrews begin their Exodus out of Egypt, we see that it was with great reluctance that Pharaoh acquiesced to their departure. Even the Egyptian people themselves, who had been so eager back in Exodus 12:33 to be rid of their Jewish servants, whose God was the undeniable source of their torment, were now having second thoughts (Exodus 14:5). “Why have we done this?”, they ask, “that we have let Israel go from serving us?”
And so it is for the hard of heart, even after enduring such utter and complete judgment at the hand of God, that they should so quickly forget the great and terrible consequence of their rebellion and defiance of the Living God. “Why have we done this?”, what a ridiculous question to ask in light of all that has transpired! One had only to look about at the fields, now barren and brown, the life-sustaining crops depleted and destroyed; or to consider the myriad of newly dead, the firstborn sons of Egypt, taken in the strength of their youth. Would the overworked morticians of the land, still laboring frantically to embalm and preserve the endless flow of fresh corpses before they began to rot away, have asked such a completely foolish question? “Why have we let Israel go?”, indeed.
Nevertheless, this is prideful man’s reaction when the sting of judgment and the heat of God’s wrath begins to cool the slightest bit. Even after such unimaginable devastation, Pharaoh and his people again shake their fists in the face of God, supposing now that the plagues that had laid waste to their nation were no more than a fluke, an unrepeatable anomaly, and that the God Who sent these plagues was scarcely able to cause them any further harm.
The God Of Both Egypt And The Wilderness
“And they said unto Moses, Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness? wherefore hast thou dealt thus with us, to carry us forth out of Egypt? (Exodus 14:11)
The error that both the Egyptians and the Hebrews made was that they limited the sovereignty of God. Both had witnessed the mighty power of God’s hand as He poured out judgment after judgment back in Egypt, yet now, in the remote wilderness, they all supposed that the extent of the Lord’s influence would not reach so far. Pharaoh somehow believed that the same God Who could breach the armed guards and locked gates of his palace would be powerless to oppose him in the open desert.
And what of the Israelites? Did they not also suppose that the God Who had intervened so miraculously on their behalf back in the land of their bondage was now unable to deliver them from this current predicament? Yet before we are too quick to shake our own heads at the faithlessness of these people of God, we do well to consider that the same can be said, to one extent or another, of all people of God. Are we not all guilty from time to time of forgetting that the same God Who delivered us at first is also able to keep delivering us? Do we not all lose the confidence on occasion that He Who has begun a good work in us will perform it until the Day of Jesus Christ (Phil. 1:6)?
The Children of Israel did “cry out unto the Lord” (v. 10), but it is what they said to Moses that betrayed the true thoughts of their hearts. This “cry” unto the Lord was not a heartfelt prayer of faith, but a panic-stricken cry of desperation, an emotional outburst born of fear. Even the godless atheist may cry out in times of anguish and terror, “Oh my God!”, yet the words are hollow and meaningless. We must never mistake the form and appearance of “prayer” for an actual, effectual petition made to the Lord in faith: whether it comes from our own mouth or the mouths of others.
“And they said unto Moses, Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness? wherefore hast thou dealt thus with us, to carry us forth out of Egypt?” (Exodus 14:11)
It is somewhat ironic that the Hebrews would comment on the abundance of “graves in Egypt”, for it is the “graves” of Egypt that serve even to this day as the lasting legacy of a now defunct empire. What could be known of that ancient kingdom at all were it not for what filled the towering pyramids strewn throughout the land, those imposing edifices that serve as perpetual monuments to the brevity of life and man’s desperate hope for immortality? There are graves enough in Egypt still, for whatever other wonders the Egyptians may have constructed, it is the “graves” that survive.
Backed Against The Sea
“And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will shew to you to day: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to day, ye shall see them again no more for ever.” (Exodus 14:13)
And so it was there, caught between the mighty armies of Pharaoh and the Red Sea, that the Children of Israel were in the exact spot where God wanted them. It was here in the earliest days of the journey toward the Land of Promise that the Hebrews would learn that their deliverance was not contingent on their own ability to outrun, overpower, or resist the enemy, no, it would come from the power of God alone. “Fear not, STAND STILL, and see the salvation of the Lord…” When fear grips our hearts and we set about, running here and there, busying ourselves in order to attempt to fight the battle, the Lord reminds us that it is He Who fights for us, we are simply to “hold our peace” (v. 14).
“And the LORD said unto Moses, Wherefore criest thou unto me? speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward:” (Exodus 14:15)
How is it that God can say at once both “stand still” and “go forward?” How can Christ tell us simultaneously to “rest in Him”, yet “go ye into all the world?” It is because we rest upon the Rock of our Salvation that we are able to proceed, to go forward, not with the anxiety and aimlessness of self-purpose, seeking to secure the Salvation and deliverance of God through our own efforts, but under orders of the One Who commands us, marching forward under His banner, knowing that it is our Lord Who fights for us. Just as God directed the Hebrews to go forward toward the Sea, our commission is to go about the business of our own calling, to continue moving forward toward the goal that He has set before us. No matter what enemy pursues, our battles are not won by turning away from our destination and backtracking toward the adversary. “Go forward”, we are told, keep heading in the direction God is sending us. The Lord will stand between us and the pursuing enemy (v. 20).
The Red Sea Is Parted
“But the children of Israel walked upon dry land in the midst of the sea; and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left.” (Exodus 14:29)
When all hope seemed lost, the Lord did something that nobody, Egyptian or Hebrew, expected: He caused the waters entrapping the Israelites to part, leaving a path of dry land for them to walk across. When only a miracle could save the Children of Israel, God sent a miracle.
Like the Egyptians and the Hebrews that night, we underestimate the power of God when we begin to limit what He is able to do. When we stand in a place where there appears no way out, when we become “entangled in the land” (v. 3), we must remember that God can deliver us out of every danger, whether we can see how it may be done or not. God is a miracle-working God and He is able to save us through means that we can scarcely imagine.
It is baffling to consider that, even after all of the wonders God had worked back in the land of Egypt, perhaps nobody present by the shores of the Red Sea, except Moses himself, expected Him to act on behalf of Israel. How is it that man can be so numb to the love of God that we doubt Him even when He has shown Himself to be faithful time and time again? How can our hearts be so stubborn that we have trouble believing that God is all-powerful even when He has repeatedly proven His omnipotence?
When commenting on the details of this account from Exodus 14, even many modern Bible scholars are hard pressed to accept the miraculous and would rather consign the parting of the Red Sea to some natural, otherwise explicable phenomenon. It seems that admitting that God holds the ultimate power over the lives of men and the laws of Nature is as difficult for many today as it was for those living in ancient Egypt. Nevertheless, God did move in a miraculous way to save His people from the hand of their enemies. He still does today.
To God goes all glory. In service to Him,