This blog is supposed to be about Daniel (at least, until we finish the book), and it is most of the time. But sometimes life gets in the way of “most of the time.” On this Friday night in Next-To-Nowhere, USA, I’m feeling trapped for a number of reasons I won’t bore you with. And it’s reminded me that sometimes God’s the one who tucks people right between that proverbial rock and hard place.
Exodus 13 records the story of the Israelites, trapped by God. With Egyptian dust still on their shoes, the Israelites were headed to the Promised Land on the heels of the worst night in Egyptian history. Death had crept through the country, and an angry, grief-stricken Pharaoh had ordered the Israelites out. They grabbed their belongings, rushed out of Goshen, and began their desert journey. Undoubtedly for the first few miles, they cast anxious eyes over their shoulders, wondering if this was too good to be true. Soon, though, the stretches of sand swept away their four-century-old nightmare. By Exodus 14:8, the army was “marching boldly,” the Promised Land within their scope of imagination. They were free.
The Bible clearly says God took them the way He did, even though it wasn’t the shortest route. He led them straight to the shore of the Red Sea. Then the people heard it: The distant sound of thundering chariots. The ominous pounding of Pharaoh’s furious army. Sizing up their situation in an instant, the Israelites knew they were trapped. The water in front, the strength of the world behind. What had happened to their dream? What had happened to God’s plan? Hadn’t they followed His cloud-fire pillar? Hadn’t they marked their route by His road map? “What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt?” they screeched at Moses (Exod. 14:11 NIV). Hope that was only hours old disappeared in a deluge of familiar despair.
The only answer Moses could give was, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today…The Lord will fight for you” (Exod. 14:13,14). Did Moses have a plan? No. All he had was a promise and a dream of freedom. And that was enough. “Hang in there,” was all he could tell the paralyzed people. “God is on your side.”
Holding on to the promises got them through the night, but it wouldn’t have gotten them to the Promised Land. “Tell the Israelites to move on,” ordered God, already preparing the way for them (Exod. 14:15). During the night the sea waters parted, and in the morning the frightened people marched. They moved, but not because they saw the ultimate victory. They kept marching because the alternative was unthinkable.
You know the rest of the story. The people of God crossed to the other side, the Egyptians raced into the Red Sea after them, and God pulled the plug. The formidable foe was washed away as the God of Israel displayed His incredible power. And the people of God wondered what they ever worried about.
Trapped? Depends whose side you’re on. The Egyptians were trapped. The Israelites were triumphant. Trapped? Do like the Israelites did…hold on to the promise and keep marching.