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…” Ex 14:1
Suddenly ejected from Egypt, by now the Israelites have traveled by a longer unusual route, at night with fiery pillar lighting the way, and now they are instructed to turn back so as to appear to be lost.
Meanwhile their former captor and his armies are hot on their trail, hunting them down. Just as God said He would (14:4, 8) God intentionally hardened Pharaoh’s heart that he would see their steps as a opportunistic miscalculation whereby to pursue them and exact his revenge.
God, we know, had other plans. In fact, the LORD’s plans were infinitely above the present circumstances in their scope. God’s plans were not just temporal, they were eternal. This wasn’t just about God’s just wrath upon an evil people but showing His sovereignty over their gods.
I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, and the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD. – Ex 14:4
What about the Israelites? Was it cruel of God to use them to appear confused and thereby to use them to lure Pharaoh to them? Absolutely not. Like a mother bear just feet away from her vulnerable cub, they were not in any real danger at all.
The Israelites were turned back and panic was setting in. Despite God giving them a glimpse into His plan, all they saw was their enemy closing in for the kill. (More about their reaction next time.) Little did they know that in God’s plan they were very much surrounded by Him and still moving forward in God-wrought victory. I’m sure it wasn’t how they would’ve had it if they were in control.
I know that feeling.
Believing faith is inseparably joined with a desire for God’s will above ours. When God saves a person, they would much rather stay in their sin and be His enemy than to bow in submission and repentance. But the Holy Spirit gives saving faith; and in that is the supernatural desire to want what God wants–for us to be saved and reconciled. From the moment of a person’s new birth, if it is true, there is a desire to always ever want what God wants more than whatever it is we might want, no matter how much.
The Christian reads this passage and exults in God’s strategic brilliance in orchestrating their rescue (a rescue that was promised 430 years earlier, mind you!). We can’t help but rejoice in seeing the wicked cast down, but the best part is seeing God getting the glory due Him. It’s why we should always look forward with hope to that Day when, at long last, the Lamb receives the full reward for His sufferings.