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]
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]
Life isn’t usually rainbows and butterflies. Often there are moments when we wonder what God is actually doing. What is the plan?!? We look at the storms around us, and because we do not think like He thinks, we cannot grasp what He is doing. This is where faith comes in play.
When the Israelites were actually sent away by Pharaoh to go and worship the Lord, it seemed as if finally, Pharaoh was releasing them. But God then tells Moses that Pharaoh will have a hardened heart yet again, and he will chase after the Israelites. God tells Moses this is something that He planned so as to display His glory.
Today, you might not understand what is happening in your life or in the lives around you. The plan you imagined is not the one that is unfolding. You may be unsure what is going to happen next. No worries—we aren’t made to know these things. We were made to glorify God. Trust in His plan. Press onward, clinging to your faithful Father. He will see you through. Continue to point to Him. To Him be all the honor, glory, and praise!
“Then the Lord gave these instructions to Moses: ‘Order the Israelites to turn back and camp by Pi-hahiroth between Migdol and the sea. Camp there along the shore, across from Baal-zephon. Then Pharaoh will think, ‘The Israelites are confused. They are trapped in the wilderness!’ And once again I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will chase after you. I have planned this in order to display my glory through Pharaoh and his whole army. After this the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord!’ So the Israelites camped there as they were told.’” – Exodus 14:1-4 [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]
When considering a change in life, do you consider if you can do it? When you are facing a difficult situation, do you consider if you can do it? From what I have seen, many people consider their own strength. Whatever they are faced with, they consider if they alone can do it. If they cannot physically, financially, and emotionally do it, then that is it.
Moses was told to go lead the Israelites out of Egypt and he immediately considered if it was something he could do alone. He said “what makes you think” that I can do that? More or less it was an excuse because Moses considered his own strength and knew it was impossible. But it wasn’t impossible for God.
Too often we consider our own strength but we are not doing life alone. We have a God who is all-powerful. We have a God who is mighty. We have a God who created the Earth. We have a God who sustains us, who provides for us, who helps us, who blesses us with all that we see, feel, and know. Today, remember that God is with you, and consider what you can do through Him rather than without Him. So much more is possible when you see things through Him.
“Moses answered God, ‘But why me? What makes you think that I could ever go to Pharaoh and lead the children of Israel out of Egypt?’
‘I’ll be with you,’ God said. ‘And this will be the proof that I am the one who sent you: When you have brought my people out of Egypt, you will worship God right here at this very mountain.’”
– Exodus 3:11-12 [MSG]
There will always be some things that we are very good at and some things that are not very easy to undertake. We have weaknesses. Some of us are uncoordinated. Some of us do not do well speaking in front of crowds. Some of us are not good with math. We all have something we can consider as a weakness, something that isn’t our strong suit.
When Moses was commanded to go speak to Pharaoh and to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, he was not so eager to go right away. He made excuse after excuse, and one of those excuses related to his problem with speech. Eventually his brother Aaron is mentioned to assist and off Moses went after a bit of dragging of the feet.
But what do we read in Acts? Luke wrote that Moses “was powerful in speech and action.” He wasn’t so weak after all. Why? When we are weak, the strength of Christ is able to step in because of our humility to recognize we cannot do it alone. Moses was powerful in words and deeds because it was through God’s power that he spoke, and he followed through on those words. He acted. If it wasn’t for the action, the words wouldn’t have meant so much. If it wasn’t for God, he wouldn’t have been able to speak at all.
“Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in speech and action.” – Acts 7:22 [NIV]
In Exodus 12, the people are given instructions: “be fully dressed, wear your sandals, and carry your walking stick in hand” (v. 11 NLT). They were getting dressed for travel. These people were slaves, slaves that were not allowed to leave due to the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart. But God was preparing the Israelites for the Lord’s Passover. God promised that they would soon be leaving.
Getting dressed for travel was an act of faith, trusting that God truly was going to do as He said. Are you dressed for travel? Are you prepared to do whatever God has called you to do? Are you believing the promises of God? The Word of God?
We might not need to have sandals on and a walking stick in hand, but we should always be prepared to walk in faith. Trusting God—trusting His Word, His character, His promises—that’s faith. Believing Him. And the only way you can believe Him is to know Who He is and what He promises. That requires prayer. That requires reading His Word. So are your sandals on? Are you ready?
“These are your instructions for eating this meal: Be fully dressed, wear your sandals, and carry your walking stick in your hand. Eat the meal with urgency, for this is the LORD’s Passover.” – Exodus 12:11 [NLT]
The exchanges between Moses and Pharaoh are interesting. Again and again, Moses approaches Pharaoh to ask for the people to be released to worship God. Pharaoh continues to refuse or to add stipulations that were unacceptable, and then when the plague would come, it would cause him to ask for removal of the plague. Pharaoh continued to consider himself and his power. He continued to see himself in charge.
Now in today’s verse, we see Pharaoh doing something he didn’t do previously. He sent for Moses and Aaron. No longer were they coming and requesting permission to take the Israelites and worship God. Pharaoh was now sending for Moses and Aaron during the night. After the Passover, he saw this great power from God and no longer were the brothers approaching him. He was sending for them. He was telling them to leave—all of them—to get out and do what they requested.
Pharaoh may have later reconsidered, but for this one moment he saw the power of God. He might not have wanted to accept it—rather he wanted to put it out of sight—but he felt it and he didn’t like it. This same power is still at work today. We have a choice—we can accept it or we can try to put it out of sight. We can consider the greatness of God—or we can choose to look away. Just remember the power of God does not cease to be simply because we do not recognize it. God is God no matter what we decide to believe.
“Pharaoh sent for Moses and Aaron during the night. ‘Get out!’ he ordered. ‘Leave my people–and take the rest of the Israelites with you! Go and worship the LORD as you have requested.’” – Exodus 12:31 [NLT]
I love to read about the parting of the Red Sea. As the Israelites were traveling, it must have been awesome to have this presence of God in the form of the pillar of cloud. That pillar of cloud and pillar of fire went before them and led them all the way. I think that’s so awesome to consider—God’s presence in those forms leading the way of the people.
When the Egyptians approached the Israelites after Pharaoh decided he no longer wished to allow the Israelite slaves to leave, something happened which I see happening again and again in my own life. In today’s key verse, we read that the angel of God as well as the pillar of cloud moved from the front of Israel’s army and went to the back to stand between Egypt and Israel’s armies. The presence of God right there, blocking the enemy from attacking. Amazing.
Sometimes we expect that God will be leading us in a particular way, but He is repositioning to fully do what only He can do to bring about His plan. Sometimes we cannot see what God is doing in our lives, even to the point that we wonder if He is doing anything at all, when He is actually repositioning to do something great. Don’t ever forget that He is always there—He’s always at work seeing His great plan fully achieved.
“Then the angel of God, who had been leading the people of Israel, moved to the rear of the camp. The pillar of cloud also moved from the front and stood behind them.” – Exodus 14:19 [NLT]