Oz & The Old Testament
I am reading through the Old Testament right now. It’s a little like showing up in Oz, walking down the Yellow Brick Road and trying to find your way in a strange land. You see a lot of things that don’t make sense. You notice some odd characters. The lion and tin man and scarecrow show up as food falling from the sky and a talking donkey and a bunch of complaining people marching through a sea. But you keep walking along... because surely this all leads somewhere good?
The crossing of the Red Sea is a story we’ve probably all heard a time or two. The Israelites, led by Moses, have left Egypt and they’re headed toward the Promised Land. But then Pharaoh ups and takes his army after them, thinking the Israelites will be trapped in the wilderness and he will defeat them in no time.
The Israelites panic, questioning God and Moses and their willingness to leave Egypt in the first place. (If you’ve read Exodus before, you know this happens a ridiculous number of times and grow frustrated with the Israelites before realizing you are just like them.)
And then something really crazy happens. God uses Moses to divide the water, and they walk THROUGH THE ACTUAL SEA on dry ground, chariots and all. When the Egyptians try to follow, it doesn’t work out so well for them.
Here’s the thing: since we know the story pretty well, it often seems harder to meditate on the important events that are happening. But when we take the time to look closely and soak in the verses? Gosh, we might just see the Creator behind all of the curtains.
If you have a moment, take some time to read through Exodus 14 (I’ve also included it at the bottom of this post for you).
I know that was lengthy, but hang with me for a second for a few reflections from this passage:
1. God is after His own glory. And His glory is what’s best. (v. 4, 18, 31)
At the end of the day, God is going to be glorified. There’s no doubt about it. And if we are wise, we will live out a constant desire to display the Lord’s magnificence. We will want His glory above our own, because His glory is what’s best for every single person on the planet.
2. No matter how many times we doubt, God remains faithful. (v. 10-12)
The Israelites feared for their lives, but God came through. How many other times do we see His faithfulness despite His people’s failures play out? Scripture is filled with this story. My life is filled with this story. Praise the Lord that His power is made perfect in our weaknesses.
3. It’s important to proclaim truth in tough situations. (v. 13-14)
Even if it’s preaching to yourself. Even if you don’t feel like it. Show up for your people through prayer and encouraging verses. Show up for yourself by going back to the Truth in God’s Word, over and over again.
4. God will lead the way, but He also works behind the scenes. (v. 19)
I love that God led the way in a pillar of cloud, but the scary part is when He goes behind the Israelites, coming between them and the Egyptians. God often does His best work behind the scenes, which is honestly pretty frustrating. We want to see the whole plan, but a lot of life requires heaps of trust. A lot of life looks like wandering through the wilderness. We have to believe the Lord keeps His promises, even when we can’t see the Promised Land.
5. The Lord shows mercy to His people. (v. 26-31)
Let’s not miss this: God saves His people AGAIN despite their grumbling hearts and bad attitudes. And anytime we see redemption in the Bible? We know that we are being pointed toward the ultimate redemption: Jesus. The Lord continuously shows extravagant mercy to His people, y’all. What a beautiful and holy Gospel this is.
There’s one more verse I want to highlight here. Exodus 14:14 reads:
The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.
Now, I don’t think this means to be passive or still in the literal sense (although sometimes we do need to slow down). But in this passage, the Israelites are about to march through the Red Sea and Moses needs them to get their butts in gear. When I read this verse a few weeks ago, I completely lost my cool. Because I read it as a command to surrender, to have faith in the God who is on our side, who is after our best and His glory.
How many times do I try to do all the things? How many times do I try to take control of the situation or plan out every detail? How many times do I turn to anxiousness or fear when I should be turning to God? How many times do I respond to tough situations just like the Israelites?
The answer to all of the above: Too. many. times.
Brothers and sisters, the Lord of the Universe is fighting for us! Let’s loosen our grips on our own plans and the ways we think they should play out.
Let’s lay down all of the things we were never meant to carry and follow Him into the better Promised Land.
EXODUS 14 (NIV)
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. 3 Pharaoh 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 horses and chariots, horsemen[a] 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[b] 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 toward[c] it, 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 mighty hand of the Lord displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant.