Friday, February 3, 2012

Exodus 14:10-14 Seeing the Invisible

"As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up,
and there were the Egyptians, marching after them.
They were terrified and cried out to the LORD.
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?
Didn't we say to you in Egypt,
'Let us alone, let us serve the Egyptians'?
It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!'

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.' "

Exodus 14:10-14 (NIV)

The Israelites were justifiably terrified when they saw Pharaoh and all of his forces approaching.  He had brought the full power of the army of Egypt with him as he pursued the Israelites, and Egypt had the best army of its day.  In comparison, the Israelites probably had only bows and arrows, slings and perhaps the occasional weapon which they may have been able to obtain from their Egyptian neighbors before they left.  Also, while Pharaoh's forces were trained soldiers, Israel's company included civilians, the young and elderly, and flocks and herds of animals.

The frightened people began to cry out to the LORD.
 That was a smart move, for God was the only One who could help them.

However, in their terror, they also began to blame Moses for what they perceived as a failure of leadership.  Rather sarcastically they wondered aloud if a shortage of graves in Egypt had been the reason Moses had brought them out to the desert to die.  They hurled accusations at Moses:  "What have you done to us?"  

This passage also reveals that even before they had left Egypt, the Israelites had resisted the thought of leaving and had wanted Moses to leave them in their bondage to the Egyptians.  I don't think that this fact had been mentioned previously.  They had somehow convinced themselves that servitude was better than other unknown consequences or seemingly certain death.

Here is where Moses' character shines forth.  Instead of trying to
  • justify his actions or
  • berate them for their ungratefulness or
  • remind them that he had risked his own life many times during his appearances before Pharaoh's throne on their behalf,
Moses looks upon them with compassion.  He sees that they are terrified.  He doesn't say, "Well, then, why don't you just go back to Egypt, if you liked it so much?!", [as I may have been tempted to do.]  Instead, he tells them that they do not need to be afraid, for the LORD would fight for them and deliver them with a mighty victory.  All they needed to do was to stand firm, and the LORD would deliver them.

 In fact, Moses goes so far as to say that the Egyptians which they would encounter today would never be seen by them again.  That is a pretty big claim, and I bet some wondered how that could ever happen.  If someone gave a prophetic statement like that, they better be sure that it was true, for otherwise that prophet would have, shall we say, a rather shortened life expectancy.
How about you?  Are there things which threaten to overwhelm you, to drag you back into slavery or to even kill you?  God is the same yesterday, today and forever.  He will deliver those who are His, who call upon Him for help.

In the New Testament, in the book of Hebrews, an interesting thing is mentioned about Moses' mindset at this time:

"By faith he left Egypt,
not fearing the king's anger;
he persevered because he saw him who is invisible."

Hebrews 11:27 (NIV)

Since this statement came in the midst of a chapter about faith, I don't think it meant that Moses suddenly got a physical glimpse of God.  God had appeared to Moses years before in the burning bush, but now I think that it is more like Moses is looking at God with the eyes of faith, believing that God would keep his promises to Israel.  He always has.  He always will.

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