A Child's Lenten Meditation-Day 8
17 When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, "If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt." 18 So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea.The Israelites went up out of Egypt ready for battle. 19 Moses took the bones of Joseph with him because Joseph had made the Israelites swear an oath. He had said, "God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up with you from this place." 20 After leaving Sukkoth they camped at Etham on the edge of the desert. 21 By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. 22 Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.
1 Then the LORD said to Moses, 2 "Tell the Israelites to turn back and encamp near Pi Hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea. They are to encamp by the sea, directly opposite Baal Zephon. 3Pharaoh will think, 'The Israelites are wandering around the land in confusion, hemmed in by the desert.' 4 And I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and he will pursue them. But I will gain glory for myself through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD." So the Israelites did this. 5 When the king of Egypt was told that the people had fled, Pharaoh and his officials changed their minds about them and said, "What have we done? We have let the Israelites go and have lost their services!" 6 So he had his chariot made ready and took his army with him. 7 He took six hundred of the best chariots, along with all the other chariots of Egypt, with officers over all of them. 8 The LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, so that he pursued the Israelites, who were marching out boldly. 9 The Egyptians--all Pharaoh's horsesand chariots, horsemen and troops--pursued the Israelites and overtook them as they camped by the sea near Pi Hahiroth, opposite Baal Zephon. 10 As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the LORD. 11 They said to Moses, "Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? 12 Didn't we say to you in Egypt, 'Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians'? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!" 13 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. 14 The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still."15 Then the LORD said to Moses, "Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on.16 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. 17 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. 18 The Egyptians will know that I am the LORD when I gain glory through Pharaoh, his chariots and his horsemen." 19 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, 20 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. 21 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, 22 and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left. 23 The Egyptians pursued them, and all Pharaoh's horses and chariots and horsemen followed them into the sea. 24 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. 25 He jammed the wheels of their chariots 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."26 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." 27 Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at daybreak the sea went back to its place. The Egyptians were fleeing towardit, and the LORD swept them into the sea. 28 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. 29 But the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left. 30 That day the LORD saved Israel from the hands of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the shore. 31 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.
The Israelites have been slaves a really long time. The Egyptians have purposely kept them weak. They know brick making, and the lash of the whip when they fail to meet a quota. They don't know how to fight to defend themselves, they don't know how to govern themselves. They don't know how to be a strong nation. They are on the run, hardly daring to believe that what just happened did in fact happen.
Pharaoh told them to go, and they have gathered everything in the middle of the night and started the long walk out of Egypt with all their belongings, children, and even herds of sheep, goats and cattle.
They are not moving fast, and they are not easy to defend.
God decides not to lead them the quick way through the land of the Philistines. The Philistines might attack them and they might be too afraid to face them and go running back to Egypt.
Most people would prefer to be in an uncomfortable situation that they already know how to deal with more than to face something that is scary that they have never dealt with before.
Can you think of any things that you thought were scary until you knew more about them?
God was pretty sure the Israelites would be too scared of the Philistines to keep going, so he led them a different way and had them make camp near the Red Sea.
God is pretty smart. Have you ever noticed that? He is showing the Israelites mercy, by not forcing them to do something that is scary for them right away before they have gotten stronger. At the same time he is making a trap for the Egyptians if they decided to chase after the Israelites to take them back to Egypt.
And then God does a wonder. If the cloud of smoke and pillar of fire leading them out into the wilderness wasn't impressive enough, he splits the sea for them to walk through on dry land to the other side.
All over the world passing through water has come to symbolize a new birth. Do you know why that is?
When babies are in their mother's body still they are in a sac full of fluid that's clear and a but salty, like sea water. Before they are born that water sac usually breaks and water gushes out first. To be born, all of us have to pass through water.
When they passed through the sea the nation of Israel was reborn. On one side they were a bunch of scared and frightened slaves. On the other they were safe, and all the nations around were afraid to do anything to them because of what their God had done for them.
Of course, they still had a lot to learn, about who God is, about how to live righteously and keep their part of God's covenant between their father Abraham and himself. They would need to learn why God chose them and rescued them.
But this moment, when they passed through the sea, this was the beginning of a nation, a people, through whom all the earth would indeed be blessed.
What do you think God's plan for the Israelites is?