47. The End Game

Meditations in Exodus: 47. The End Game

Ex 14:13-14   Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

Whenever you are faced with a block of Scripture, it is important to our understanding to see how it is made up. In the remainder of this chapter we see Moses encouraging the people (v.13,14), the Lord declaring His intent (v.15-18), the Lord’s protection of Israel (v.19,20), Israel crossing the sea dry (21,22), the Lord confusing the pursuing Egyptians (v.23-25), Moses releasing the water to destroy the Egyptians (v.26-38)  and a final summary (v.29-31). That is the breakdown of what is here.

But before we cover those verses let’s remember that this is the end game, if we may put it like that, of a long play on God’s behalf which He spoke of right at the beginning but it is interesting to note that He had spoken from the beginning about the death of the first born, but never about Pharaoh’s death. It is almost as if the Lord was reticent to declare terminal judgment upon him, almost as if the Lord was keeping the door open to the possibility of Pharaoh eventually relenting. Yet we see that never happened and in fact Pharaoh still has pride bubbling in him so that a simple suggestion from the Lord’s emissary has him charging off after Israel.

So, first of all Moses’ encouragement of his people: Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (v.13,14) It is a threefold declaration of faith:

  1. i) “you WILL see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today,”
  2. ii) “the Egyptians you see today you will never see again,”

iii) “The Lord WILL fight for you.”

And from this there are two consequences:

  1. i) “do not be afraid”, i.e. you need not be afraid.
  2. ii) “stand firm” i.e. stay where you are and God will act – “be still”

Second, see the Lord declaring His intent. This comes in three parts. Part 1: a call to get moving: “Then the LORD said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on.”  Then Part 2: How to cross the water: “Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground.” Part 3: What He will do with the Egyptians: “I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them. And I will gain glory through Pharaoh and all his army, through his chariots and his horsemen. The Egyptians will know that I am the LORD when I gain glory through Pharaoh, his chariots and his horsemen.”  (v.17,18) Note He doesn’t actually say at this point what He will do, only the result.

Third, we see the Lord’s protection of Israel: “Then the angel of God, who had been traveling in front of Israel’s army, withdrew and went behind them. The pillar of cloud also moved from in front and stood behind them, coming between the armies of Egypt and Israel. Throughout the night the cloud brought darkness to the one side and light to the other side; so neither went near the other all night long.” (v.19,20) The pillar of cloud comes between the two groups and thus prevents Pharaoh from reaching the Israelites.

Fourth, we see Israel crossing the sea dry:“Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the LORD drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left.” (v.21,22) Again it is to be something with Moses at its heart, so his staff stretched out over the sea enables the Lord to divide the waters and Israel pass through this miraculous divide.

Fifth, we then see the Lord confusing the pursuing Egyptians: “The Egyptians pursued them, and all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots and horsemen followed them into the sea. During the last watch of the night the LORD looked down from the pillar of fire and cloud at the Egyptian army and threw it into confusion. He made the wheels of their chariots come off so that they had difficulty driving. And the Egyptians said, “Let’s get away from the Israelites! The LORD is fighting for them against Egypt.”(v.23-25) As the Egyptian army follow Israel what may be a combination of mud and rocks perhaps, cause big problems for the chariots and the charioteers soon see the impossibility of the situation and basically cry, “Let’s go back, let’s get out of this!”

Then, sixth, the destruction of the Egyptian army: “Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea so that the waters may flow back over the Egyptians and their chariots and horsemen.” Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at daybreak the sea went back to its place. The Egyptians were fleeing toward it, and the LORD swept them into the sea. The water flowed back and covered the chariots and horsemen–the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed the Israelites into the sea. Not one of them survived.” (v.26-28) Again note it is the combination of the work of Moses (with his staff)  and the Lord that brings about the death of Pharaoh and his army.

Finally, seventh, there is a final summary: “But the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left. That day the LORD saved Israel from the hands of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the shore. And when the Israelites saw the great power the LORD displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the LORD and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant.” (v.29-31) Israel saved, the Egyptians destroyed, resulting in a new level of faith in the Lord in Israel.

Just a final point to conclude this part of the story of the Exodus. The judgment was a judgment of God. It was God who destroyed the first born and then it was God who destroyed the Egyptian army and Pharaoh. BUT Moses had a part to play even if it was merely holding his hand out again and again. He was God’s signpost to the watching world that this was an act of God. Everything appeared to hinge on him. Now the Lord delights in using His people and in the New Testament the teaching about “the body of Christ” has you and me as members of this body, members who God uses to achieve things. If we refuse to be used, little will happen. We are to be God’s signposts to the watching world, a means for them to come to belief. May that we so.

4. God of Partnership

Lessons from Israel: No.4 : God of Partnership
Ex 3:9,10 9And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. 10So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.    11But Moses said to God, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” 12And God said, “I will be with you.

We are in this series, we said, looking at the lessons to be learnt from God’s dealings with Israel, going right back to Moses, and we have been seeing the initiating of contact by God, the Lord revealing Himself as the God of history who had had dealings with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob previously, and who was here now for Israel who were suffering in captivity in Egypt.

Now the previous meditation and this one are very closely linked. We saw in the previous one that the Lord sees all that happens on the earth and is moved to come to bring deliverance. Now we see HOW he will bring that deliverance. I think so far, Moses would be feeling first amazed at this experience, then in awe at the recognition of who it is who is speaking to him and then possibly very glad that God intended to come and deliver his people, the people he left forty years ago, out of the slavery in Egypt.  So far, so good! Indeed when the Lord reiterates what has happened, it’s still all right: “And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them.” (v.9). Yes, the Lord sees and knows, so it’s going to be all right now!

But then the bomb falls: “So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.” (v.10) What? Hold on! Hang about! I didn’t see that coming! Where did that come from?  Those are the various responses we might give today. Moses is not excited by this thought; in fact he thinks it’s definitely not a good idea: “But Moses said to God, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” (v.11) Moses is a smart guy. He’s been doing the maths on this in his head. Pharaoh, big powerful world leader, me, small insignificant shepherd. Power plus insignificance doesn’t work.  Well no, it doesn’t, but God’s going to balance up the equation: “And God said, “I will be with you.” (v.12). Pharaoh versus an insignificant shepherd = disaster (for Moses!). Pharaoh versus the insignificant shepherd + God = disaster (for Pharaoh!).

Now that is a completely different ball game – except Moses isn’t convinced yet, as we’ll see in the next mediation, because he really doesn’t yet know this One who is speaking to him out of a burning bush. He really doesn’t know if he can trust this voice and it’s all very well for that power to have been there centuries before to enable old Abraham to have a baby, but is that power big enough to deal with a seriously nasty ruler? It’s probable that those were the sort of things going round in Moses’ mind, because they are the sort of things that go round in ours, and Moses was no different from us.

So now we come to the crucial question that must be lurking in the back of any thinking mind: why does God want to bother to involve Moses? Why doesn’t God just get on and judge Pharaoh and just take Israel without asking? He’s got the power, so why not do it the easy way? Why involve an insignificant shepherd?

I suspect the answer is to do with communication and visibility. Communication is the fuel for relationships and the Lord is always looking to build relationships with the human beings that He has created. Love always wants to express itself and God wants to express Himself to whoever will listen, come near and get involved. He’s got Moses’ ear but perhaps Pharaoh would not be able to hear God, because he was so self-centred. By visibility, I mean God making Himself known. By the end of this whole episode in history we are going to have learnt a lot about God. The Bible is all about God communicating with people and revealing Himself to people by the way He acts. By the end of all this there is going to be a story to be told – a long story and a story that will get passed on and on, and every time it does, someone else is going to learn some significant stuff about God. So God is going to use an insignificant shepherd to bring the most powerful ruler around to his knees. oh yes, this is going to be a story worth telling – apart from what it is going it achieve, this is going to be important. Do you remember what Paul said? “But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.” (1 Cor 1:27)

In the New Testament, Paul refers to us as “God’s fellow workers.” (2 Cor 6:1) Today God continues to work alongside us, using US to bring about His purposes on the earth. Yes, He could do it all on His own but He chooses to reveal Himself through His people. Remember though, whenever He calls you to do anything, He doesn’t ask you to do it alone. The message is still the same: “I will be with you.” His power and presence is always with us. Indeed He’s said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” (Heb 13:5) which evokes the response, “So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.” (Heb 13:6) Let’s remember that.