God’s Misdirection Play (13:17-18)
The people were equipped for battle (v. 18), revealing that they were expecting resistance. Yet God knew their hearts were still fickle (v. 17), so God directs them through the “long-cut.” Not only do they take the longer route, it is the long route with a dead end at the Red Sea.
The people still did not know what the Exodus was about. They viewed Moses as their leader (14:11) instead of merely as God’s servant (14:31). The longer route was intended to teach a final lesson to Egypt (14:4, 18) and to continue to shape the thinking of Israel. They were used to one slave master—Pharaoh—and would grumble against Moses as if he was their new master. They had much to learn about living free under God.
Reflection: How much of our suffering is because we are not ready to fully follow God and he must, therefore, take us on the long route to protect us from ourselves? How often do we place God and God’s servants into the character molds of previous oppressors? Notice how God continually reveals Himself by name and character in the book of Exodus to break through this strong tendency.
Doubt and Sarcasm (14:11)
The progression seems to miss a beat. Israel is afraid so they cry out to God (v. 10). Then they get sarcastic and accusatory with God’s leaders. Where did that come from? They just witnessed 10 amazing acts of God through Moses on their behalf. Yet they talk to Moses as if this whole Exodus thing was his idea. They do not yet get that Moses is merely God’s servant (14:31).
Moses to his great credit does not personalize their venomous words (14:13). Later in his ministry Moses will struggle to exhibit this kind of faith (Numbers 20). At this time in his life, Moses knows he can’t take the criticism personally, because he has not been the one calling the shots or doing the miracles. He is merely the messenger and Aaron does most of the talking anyway.
Reflection: Who do you turn on when you are afraid? What form/tone do your words take? What responsibility, expectation, or motive do you put on them that is unfair? How do you personalize the fear or anger of others? How does this personalizing serve to further distract the conversation from the main issue(s)?
Fear and Belief
It was because of fear that God led Israel on the long route (Exodus 13:17-18). Similar fear was the root of Israel’s rebellion against Moses (Exodus 14:11). Now it is fear that corrects their hearts causing Israel to believe God and view Moses as God’s servant (Exodus 14:31).
“Israel saw the great power that the Lord used against the Egyptians,
so the people feared the Lord, and they believed in the Lord and in his servant Moses.”
Fear is central to belief. Without an element of fear belief would be merely academic and factual rather than practical and devotional. Prior to seeing the action of God at the Red Sea Israel could have said the words, “Yahweh is God and Moses is His servant.” Afterwards those words resonated deep in their soul and were reverently precious.
It is important to examine the link between your own beliefs and fears.
- What are the great events of your life which serve as markers?
- Where was God in the midst of those events and how did they change your view of God?
- When you grumble, doubt, or rebel who/what are you fearing?
- As you examine those fears what do they reveal is most valuable to you?
- Based on those values, what is your life really all about?
Use these questions to help you identify with the struggle and journey that Israel is on in the book of Exodus. They are continually wrestling with what it means to live free under God when their history and experience makes that hard. Let the interaction of your fears and beliefs allow you to draw greater encouragement and instruction from the activity of God in Exodus.