I love a good shortcut. Almost every day as I drive to work, I take a shortcut. Yet there are times in life when shortcuts are not best—when the easy way isn’t the best way.
When we dream about something we desire for the future, we want a shortcut to reach the dream. We want the money, but we do not want to do all the work. We want the title, but we don’t want to start from the bottom. We want the stuff, when we do not yet have the money to pay for it. We want the relationship, yet we do not want to make the investment.
In today’s passage, we read of the Israelites leaving Egypt, and of how God did not lead the people to take the shorter route. It’s true—sometimes shortcuts are great. Yet in life, we oftentimes have something to learn on the journey that we can only learn by travelling for a longer length of time. Suffering less is desirable, yet in suffering we often grow in our dependence on God, and our faith flourishes. Next time you have the opportunity to choose a path to take, instead of immediately jumping at the quick results, ask God what will bring you closer to Him.
“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.’” – Exodus 13:17 [NIV]
Our prayer lives are filled with cries to God for help. This is certainly something we see demonstrated throughout the Bible – and God wants us to come to Him. It is important for us to declare our dependence on God and to seek His will for our lives. Intercession on the behalf of others is also important.
Nonetheless, as we approach the Lord, there are moments when we expect Him to do something in particular to intervene and change situations when He wants to see us through the situation. There are moments when we pray for God to do something to help others, when He actually has something for us to do within the situation.
When the Israelites left Egypt, we read in Exodus 14 of the Israelites crying out to God for help when the big chase is happening. Moses tells the Israelites to fear not because God will fight for them. Yet immediately after this, God is asking why Moses is crying out to him. He says, “As for you, lift up your staff, stretch out your hand… divide it.” Right here we see how God’s people with God’s power can achieve God’s will. Many times, it is people who will be used to answer prayers. As you cry out, be open to God’s voice for the response. There may be an “as for you” moment right around the corner.
“The Lord said to Moses, ‘Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to break camp. As for you, lift up your staff, stretch out your hand over the sea, and divide it so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground.’” – Exodus 14:15-16 [CSB]
Moses had the great task of bringing God’s people out of Egypt. He had to deal with the hard-hearted Pharaoh and the stiff-necked Israelites. The first meeting with Pharaoh caused the Israelites more burden and they were not happy with Moses—they actually wanted God to judge him for making them a stench. Moses responds by turning to God at this point and he asks why—“Why did you ever send me?”
How many times in life have you asked God why? How many moments in your life did things not make sense? When was the last time you thought God was doing a certain something, but the situation was very different? What about when you believe God wants you to respond to a particular calling or command, yet after you pour your energy into obediently following in faith, you find yourself making someone a stench—or even becoming the stench yourself?
Life is not easy, and we do not always understand what God is doing. We cannot see the big picture. We cannot think or imagine like God. We are commanded to act in faithful obedience. We are often quick to ask God why, perhaps because we are upset with the results. Yet God is not finished yet with us. There is a bigger picture. We miss out when we focus on the quick results we can see with our human eyes. We miss out when we forget that the true fruit of obedience, the true blessing, is having a relationship with God. Walking side-by-side with the Lord was our purpose from the very beginning. Though sinners, through the blood of Christ, we can again walk side-by-side with the Lord. Today, rejoice in His presence and enjoy this great blessing. Remember it is never in the why… the answer is always the Who.
“Then Moses turned to the LORD and said, “O Lord, why have you done evil to this people? Why did you ever send me?” – Exodus 5:22 [ESV]
When Abram and Lot had conflict arise because God blessed them with so much, Abram initiated the separation of the two. He gave Lot the choice of the land to select. He basically said, “You go one way, and I’ll go the other.” Verse 9 notes that Abram said, “Separate yourself from me. If you take the left hand, then I will go to the right, or if you take the right hand, then I will go to the left” (ESV).
The narrative tells us that Lot made a choice. He “looked around and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan toward Zoar was well watered.” Seeing the great land, he made his selection. While choosing the Jordan Valley, he disregarding what was happening in the area. He was taking residence in the area of Sodom and Gomorrah. Sadly, we all know these choices. We see what looks amazing, but it’s too good to be true.
We often make Jordan Valley Choices. We sacrifice for the sake of temporary pleasure. We choose to participate in things that get us close to crossing the line. We spend time near those who will cause us to move in the wrong direction. We pick what looks good from what we see on the outside, thereby missing the better choice. Today, focus on the choices you are making. Are you trying to select what you think would be most rewarding to you, no matter where it leads? Well-watered land isn’t always the most refreshing.
“Lot looked around and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan toward Zoar was well watered, like the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt. (This was before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.)” – Genesis 13:10 [NIV]
Kibroth-hattaavah means “graves of gluttony.” It was given this name because of all of the people who were buried there that craved the meat that was served in Egypt. After God led His people out of the bondage of the Egyptians, the Israelites grumbled. They complained and said, “Oh, for some meat.” God’s provision was not enough. The people were rejecting the Lord. They even said that they “were better off in Egypt.”
As a result of their rejection of the Lord and His provisions, they received what was on their hearts. They received meat, more meat than they probably imagined. So much meat was provided that it was promised: “You will eat it for a whole month until you gag and are sick of it.” When the meat was delivered, they did not humble themselves, repent for their sin, and thank the Lord. Instead, they gorged themselves on the meat. The anger of the LORD “blazed against the people, and He struck them with a severe plague.”
The people were so fixated on the provisions and promises of God, rather than God Himself. It was more about what they could get, than Who they could be involved with in a relationship. Rather than accepting the God of the Universe, they wanted meat that provided temporary satisfaction. Today, consider what you want. Are you desiring something temporary, or something eternal? Are you focused on God or on the provisions of God? Are you trying to fill yourself up with God or with something else?
“But while they were gorging themselves on the meat–while it was still in their mouths–the anger of the LORD blazed against the people, and He struck them with a severe plague. – So that place was called Kibroth-hattaavah (which means ‘graves of gluttony’) because there they buried the people who had craved meat from Egypt.” – Numbers 11:33-34 [NLT]
When Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, came for a visit, he had “heard about everything God has done.” This verse isn’t a verse people usually post as the big motivational verse. This isn’t the life-changing verse for most people. But look at it closely. This man had heard what God did for Moses and the Israelites. He heard. To hear, someone must have shared. Not only was someone sharing, but they were sure to mention that “the LORD had rescued them from Egypt.”
This verse speaks volumes about what we should be speaking about with others—how our gift of gab or our social media savvy can help point people to Jesus. Someone who wasn’t able to see how God moved in mighty ways to rescue His people, still heard about what had happened. People gave God the glory. People spoke of the great things God had done. People heard about everything from those willing to share their testimony.
Today, understand that you have a great testimony to share. You might think it’s not as grand as the parting of the Red Sea. Don’t overthink things my friends. Every person has a testimony; each testimony is important. John ended his book to tell us that the world could not contain all that could be written about the works of Jesus (John 21:25). We each have a part to share. Our testimony is a blessing. Our testimony is a gift. Our testimony needs to be shared. Share today. Remember your testimony is not only meant to be kept in your head to remind you of how God acted, but to share with others who desperately need to meet Jesus.
“Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, heard about everything God had done for Moses and his people, the Israelites. He heard especially about how the LORD had rescued them from Egypt. – Exodus 18:1 [NLT]
The Israelites were quick to complain about God when they didn’t have their eyes on food. Just after God brought them out of Egypt, they forgot what He rescued them from, because they were hungry. Where was the food? We would be better off back in Egypt.
Even though the Israelites were complaining, God showed His glory to them. He didn’t withhold His glory. How awesome is that?!? He graciously allowed them to “see the awesome glory of the LORD in the cloud.”
Have you ever seen God’s glory? If you haven’t, you haven’t been looking. Despite each of us being sinners, He allows us to see His glory. Despite us often being ungrateful, He allows us to see His glory. Today, thank Him for His gracious ways. Thank Him for allowing us to experience Him—allowing us to see His glory!
“And as Aaron spoke to the whole community of Israel, they looked out toward the wilderness. There they could see the awesome glory of the LORD in the cloud.” – Exodus 16:10 [NLT]
The Israelites were not happy campers after they left Egypt. The people continued to complain as they went through the Wilderness. The people were hungry and considered how better they would be if they had only stayed in Egypt, because there was food available.
The people went up to Moses and began to complain about their current situation. They were hungry. They were frustrated. They complained. The Bible notes in this verse that the complaints were not against Moses—the complaints were against God. Take nothing personal. They are upset with God.
Many times people get frustrated with their current situation. They lash out at you. But they aren’t necessarily upset with you. They are upset that their plan isn’t aligning with God’s plan. They complain because they only see the present; they don’t see what God has prepared for them. They grumble because they believe the provisions of God aren’t enough. They want more. Keep speaking God’s Truth in love. The battle is His!
“In the morning you will see the glory of the LORD, because he has heard your complaints, which are against him, not against us. What have we done that you should complain about us?” – Exodus 16:7 [NLT]
Pharaoh thought that Moses and Aaron were distracting the people. When Moses and his brother went to Pharaoh to ask for the Israelites to be released, it was seen as something that would distract the people from their work. But as we consider God’s people, it is important to remember that this work they were doing for Pharaoh was not what they were meant to continue.
The Israelites were enslaved in Egypt. God’s chosen people were enslaved in Egypt. This was not what God had planned for His people. Sadly, the people strayed and this was the consequence. Even so, God planned for redemption for His people. The true distraction was sin and the consequences of sin.
Sometimes we think some things are distractions when, in fact, other things are the true distractions. Today, ask the Spirit to reveal any true distractions in your life. Stay focused on the Kingdom work.
“Pharaoh replied, ‘Moses and Aaron, why are you distracting the people from their tasks? Get back to work! Look, there are many of your people in the land, and you are stopping them from their work.’” – Exodus 5:4-5 [NLT]
As God shares His plan with Moses, He lets Moses know that Pharaoh would not let the people go when he would make the request. Even though Moses was being sent to make this special request, the numerous requests would never work. It was the mighty hand of God that would cause Pharaoh to release the people of Israel.
The “mighty hand” that “forces,” can be described as being “under compulsion.” God is saying that Pharaoh would not allow the people to go unless forced to do this at some point. Imagine being Moses. Imagine the request from God—to go and speak to Pharaoh with a promise that he would not listen. Doesn’t it seem crazy? Go ask this person to say “yes,” but understand he will always say, “no.”
If you are told that what you do will not be successful on your part, would you still do it? Would you be satisfied knowing that the mighty hand of God was going to handle it? Why would Moses even be needed at all if God’s strength was going to be what changed Pharaoh’s mind? All this points back to the glory of God. Remember, this was God’s power on display. Moses showed up and was used as a vessel, but at the end of the day, it was the mighty hand of God that caused Pharaoh to release His special people.
“But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless a mighty hand forces him.” – Exodus 3:19 [NLT]