This morning was one of those times where a verse just spoke RIGHT to my heart as I was reading the story of the Israelites leaving their captivity in Egypt and crossing the Red Sea. After being slaves in Egypt for over 430 years, the Israelites are finally leaving and no longer slaves…something they’d been praying and pleading for for SO many years! I saw myself in the story as the Israelites and could relate to their struggle to trust God and not be overcome with fear, anxiety, and the need for control and comfort as they stepped into this new thing God was leading them into. I have the tendency, in all areas of life, to “tighten” the reins, start to worry, and speedily re-gain control any time I feel I am beginning to lose it. So the reminder to be still, in Exodus 14:14, pictured above, was so convicting and assuring to me…I wanted to share that with you this morning with hopes it encourages you as it did me.
ONE of the most visible area this constant struggle for control plays out in my life (because sadly there are many other areas too!) is in my classroom. I am so quick to jump on any behaviors to keep the order and peace. At times, this is a good thing, but at other times, it completely steals my peace as I start freaking out and figuring out how I can fix it…what if I do this? What if I move that person here? I’ll take recess. I’ll call home. I have an endless list of strategies and when I’m most stressed, I use them ALL at once which creates such an anxious space within my own heart, and within the hearts and minds of my students as well.
Now, let’s get back to the Israelites…When the Israelites first left Egypt, Exodus 13: 17 says, “God did not lead them along the main road that runs through Philistine territory, even though that was the shortest route to the Promised Land. God said, “If the people are faced with a battle, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” So God led them in a roundabout way through the wilderness toward the Red Sea.” This was the first place I could relate. I thought of my own journey in life and how many times I’ve had to take the “long route” and I began to wonder how many times those longer routes were actually protection from God and an opportunity not only to grow, but to trust Him and His timing. How beautiful that our Creator knows us so well and desires to protect us, even if it means re-directing us on a longer route to get to His final goal for us. Sometimes, the longer route is protection!
I can personally say that I feel like I am currently on the longer route in regards to my career. I’ve struggled so much with teaching, something I never thought I would struggle with but God is beginning to bless me with the ability to see all the different areas He has been growing and strengthening me THROUGH this longer route. I can say with great certainty that without these years of struggling with teaching, I wouldn’t be as nearly as close to God as I am. I wouldn’t pray as much. I wouldn’t notice His presence as much in my life. I’d rely more on myself than on Him and be more confident in my own abilities, rather than knowing HE is the one who gave me this gift and everything I need to be successful at my job. He’s taught me how to be obedient. How to seek guidance from Him and to step into action with the direction He gives me, even when it’s not what my heart wants at that time. To be at peace, even when chaos surrounds me. To look for the blessings and things I have to be grateful for when nothing seems to be going my way. I cry just thinking about these things because it’s been such a journey and such a struggle at times, but I am so thankful I have held on and continued to press on with His help or I would have missed out on so many blessings.
That doesn’t mean I have perfect days every day or that I don’t falter, but I’m realizing all the things this longer route has taught me. I still believe I’m on this long route, and who knows when it will come to an end, or if it even will, but I know that God is with me all along the way, just as He was with the Israelites…
Exodus 13: 21-22 says that as they were on this longer route, “The Lord went ahead of them. He guided them during the day with a pillar of cloud, and He provided light at night with a pillar of fire. This allowed them to travel by day or by night. And the Lord did not remove the pillar of cloud or pillar of fire from its place in front of the people.”
And I believe the Lord does the same for us today. He lights our path, protects us from our enemies (including our own selves), provides us with assurance of His presence, and leads us on all of our “routes” of life, which ultimately, he uses to lead use to true freedom, just as it did for the Israelites.
So as God is continues to lead the Israelites, Pharaoh suddenly decides that he can’t believe he let the Israelites leave Egypt and not be his slaves anymore. The Bible says he regretted his decision and changed his mind, so he resolved to chase after the Israelites and to bring them back to be slaves. He brings his entire army and starts to chase after the Israelites, who when they see the army, start to freak out.
I realized after reading that, that we are JUST like the Israelites. Anytime we face opposition or hard times, we doubt. We get upset. We question God and wonder if we misunderstood His plan. At this point, the Israelites are so discouraged they are even willing to go back to SLAVERY rather than have to face a challenge, even when God has made His presence, protection, and promise to deliver them so apparent by bringing them out of Egypt and slavery in the first place! How quickly we forget…
On our journey, we WILL face attacks too, just like the Israelites did. That is because we have an enemy. While God desires freedom for us from our own “Egypt”, Satan desires us to be held in bondage or slavery, just like the Israelites were. When we start to step into freedom, satan realizes that he is losing his hold on us and he starts to chase after us, just like Pharaoh did with the Israelites. It’s in those moments that we have to have faith. We have to stand still, to trust God, to know HE has us and will protect us. We have to fight the desire to go back to “Egypt”…whatever your Egypt may be.
And that’s where the verse I first shared comes in. Moses’ response to the people’s doubt and fear baffles me. He tells them in Exodus 14: 13, “Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today. The Egyptians you see today will never be seen again. The Lord Himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.” And if you read on, the Lord does just that. He parts the Red Sea so the Israelites can walk through, and just as the Egyptians are trying to go through as well, the water recedes back and all the Egyptians are swept away.
It broke my heart to read Exodus 14: 24 where even the Egyptians realize that “The Lord is fighting for [the Israelites] against Egypt.” It took a miracle not only for the Egyptians to realize God’s power, but for the Israelites to believe too. They didn’t trust or believe until AFTER the miracle in Exodus 14:31 where it says, “When the people of Israel saw the mighty power that the Lord had unleashed against the Egyptians, they were filled with awe before Him. They put their faith in the Lord and in his servant Moses.”
It’s sad to think that it took ANOTHER miracle for them to believe when God had rescued them from slavery in the first place AND He had physically been with them and guiding them on their journey…but then I realized that the same is true of us today too. How often do we doubt and distrust God, when He is right here with us all the time and when He has already saved us from our “Egypt” or things that held us in bondage? He desires freedom for all of us, but that journey to freedom isn’t always easy. It will be full of trials and challenges, because we have an enemy who so badly wants us to not experience the freedom God wants for us. But nothing can keep us from God. He will fight our battles for us! So don’t give up on whatever God has shown you He is doing or working on in your life. Keep going and trust the journey. It may be longer than you hoped, but there are so many blessings along the way, and what greater blessing than the Lord himself and to have a relationship with Him…
I feel like there is so much more I could say, but I’m going to wrap it up here. If you have any other insights, revelations, or comments I’d love to hear them! I hope you have a great day!