Can you imagine the scene described in Exodus 14? After the tremendous challenge of escaping from Egypt, Israel faced the Red Sea, with Pharaoh’s army rapidly approaching from behind. Everyone saw the cloud of dust coming. There were no boats to ferry the people across the water. There was no arsenal to distribute so the people could fight. No one had to tell the Hebrew people that they were in an impossible situation.
The Hebrew people quickly started complaining (a common occurrence throughout their wilderness wanderings); read their words in Exodus 14:10b-12. Then Moses responded (verses 13, 14). He told them to stand there, do nothing, and let God take care of the problem. But it is evident that God wanted the Israelites to do more than just wait for Him. Notice what God said (verse 15).
We must not make light of the Israelites’ situation. They had no way to cross the sea in front of them. Even boats could not have easily carried all the people across before Pharaoh’s army arrived. Extra-biblical material reveals that approximately 2 million Jews left Egypt; this underscores the difficulty of their situation.
The Scriptures say that Pharaoh sent 600 of his best chariots, all the chariots of Egypt, and their officers. The Hebrew word used for “officers” is salisim, which was used to describe three-man chariots. There were about 1,800 soldiers in the best chariots, plus drivers for the rest of the chariots, not including the horsemen described in verse 19. No wonder the Israelites were terrified!
There is a spiritual principle here. Moses told the people to stand still and let God take care of things. But God countered, “Get the people moving forward.” The Christian life is not static or passive; it is dynamic and active. This principle doesn’t change when an obstacle is placed in our path. This principle doesn’t change when the road gets a little bumpy. This principle doesn’t change when there’s a sea in front of us and we have no boat. This principle doesn’t change when the enemy attacks us and our situation looks impossible. God requires us to keep moving forward. But how do we do this?
I. WE MUST HAVE CONFIDENCE IN GOD (EXOD. 14:13, 14).
When seemingly impossible situations arise, we must maintain our confidence in God. Let’s consider three aspects of this principle.
A. Our confidence in God must be freely extended.
Because our confidence in God is personal, it must be freely given; it cannot be coerced. I learned a long time ago that you cannot make people trust you. You may convince them to say they trust you, but actually trusting you may be another story. You may say you trust and have confidence in God, but only God knows your heart.
In 1 Timothy 4:10, Paul tells Timothy that their trust in God has prepared them for their work and their suffering. Their laboring and suffering for Christ have not forced them to trust Him—just the opposite. We learn to freely rely on God.
B. Our confidence in God must be firmly expressed.
Trust or reliance is not a loosely-applied principle. Any deviation is “not trusting.” We may allow many things to weaken our trust. It is easy to attend church and give testimonies about trusting God for all your needs. It becomes more difficult to trust when you are diagnosed with a terminal illness, have a prodigal in your family, or lose all your material possessions. We need to remember the words of Jesus found in John 16:33. We must trust firmly in the One who gives us victory. We learn to proclaim with Paul (1 Cor. 15:57).
C. Our confidence in God must be fully experienced.
When we rely fully on God, we are proving God. In my life, I have experienced and seen in the lives of others that human efforts will not bring success; in fact, they will make our situations more difficult. Our anxieties and restlessness hinder the work that God is trying to do through us. We can have full confidence in God because He is able to help us. Remember Paul’s words in Ephesians 3:20.
In Exodus, Moses told the people, “Fear ye not, stand still, and see.” This was good advice. Moses wanted the people to have confidence in God’s abilities. As in those days, we know we can freely, firmly, and fully have confidence in God for the seemingly impossible situations in our daily lives.
II. WE MUST PRACTICE OBEDIENCE TO GOD (EXOD. 14:15).
When God makes His will known, our only option is obedience. Obedience follows confidence.
A. Our obedience should be unwavering (verse 15).
For Israel, going forward meant walking right into the sea. The lesson here is that God doesn’t want us to waver. If we truly have confidence in God, unwavering obedience is a natural response. This is the idea the author of Hebrews had in mind when he said, “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water” (Heb. 10:23). James says it like this: “But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed” (James 1:6).
B. Our obedience should be guided by authority (Exod. 14:21).
The rod of Moses was the symbol of divine authority, power, and discipline. The rod pointed the way that the people needed to follow. Today the Word of God points us in the direction we are to go. Often people say that God wants them to do this or that. But their decision is often based on emotion, not on God’s Holy Word. Our obedience needs to be guided by the authority for the Christian life, God’s Word (2 Tim. 3:16, 17).
C. Our obedience should lead to separation (Exod.14:27-29).
For the Israelites, moving forward caused separation. They were being separated not only from Pharaoh’s army, they were being separated from their old lives. They were seeing the mighty hand of God at work in their midst. If the Israelites had not moved forward, they would have faced Pharaoh’s army, his wrath, and either slavery or death. Our obedience to the Lord will separate us from sin’s power (Luke 9:62).
III. WE MUST HAVE A PURPOSEFUL EXPERIENCE OF GOD (EXOD. 15:1).
The Israelites’ experience with God was real and dynamic. It did not happen by chance. It had purpose! Consider God’s leading in this situation.
A. Their experience happened at God’s place (Exod. 15:4).
The place the Israelites found themselves was a real place. It was the place or dained for the people to make a decisive move. They had to either return to Egypt with Pharaoh or move forward through the sea with God. There are places God is taking us. In each place He chooses, God will allow us to experience His working on our behalf. God leads us to places where we can fulfill the purpose He has for us. This was Abraham’s experience (Gen. 12:1). God had a definite plan for Abraham, just as He has a definite plan and purpose for each of us.
B. Their experience happened as God had planned.
What was God’s purpose in the Israelites’ experience? It was at least threefold.
1. There was the experience of wonder (Exod. 15:11).
As Moses and the people continued their song of praise, they sang of the wonders God had performed. The word “wonders” (Hebrew pele) means “the extraordinary, a miracle, or something marvelous.” God was doing marvelous things, and the Israelites were personally experiencing them.
2. There was the experience of worship (Exod. 15:1).
Verse 1 says they “sang . . . this song unto the Lord.” This was the experience of worship. In our worship, there needs to be a time when we praise God for what He has done in our lives.
3. There was the experience of witness (Exod. 15:14, 15).
What the Lord had done for the Hebrew people would soon be told abroad. The mighty works of God should be shouted from sea to sea. We need to tell others what God is doing in our lives. Listen to what Jesus told the demoniac in Mark 5:19: “Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee.”
Our experience with God has a purpose. When a situation seems impossible, we must have confidence in God, practice obedience to God, and understand that God has a purpose in all the experiences we have with Him.
General Conference Ministerial Association
"So it is with every other one of God’s requirements. All His gifts are promised on condition of obedience. God has a heaven full of blessings for those who will co-operate with Him. All who obey Him may with confi dence claim the fulfi llment of His promises."
Ellen G. White - Christ’s Object Lessons, page 145
Maria Estebanell is a local church elder on the island of Lanzarote in Spain. Her husband is a pastor, and she is developing a Women’s Ministries program in their church. They have two adult children; their son works for the church, and their daughter is married to the president of the Spanish Union of Churches. Maria’s passion for starting churches led her to open Lanzarote church in July 2007. She says, “There is nothing more gratifying for the church member than to preach the message of salvation to unbelievers. God needs men and women who put their lives in His hands and who desire to follow His voice. God needs people to take the gospel and present it to the world.” Maria is a dedicated church elder who believes she will never be too old to be used by God. She remarks, “Even though my husband and I are of retirement age, there is no such thing as retirement when we are working for God.”
Costel Poenariu is a local church elder at the Craiova 1 Church in Romania; he has been an elder in this 630- member church for five years. He is married to Gabriela, and they have two daughters. Costel is deeply committed to the work of being an elder. He says, “I enjoy giving Revelation Seminar Bible studies and leading evangelistic seminars. I also enjoy visiting church members with my pastor once a week. I believe that reaching out to the church member, especially in their homes, not only can be a blessing for them, but blesses me as well, and encourages me to continue my ministry as a local church elder.” Because of Costel’s ministry, three churches have been founded, and he has even helped to construct the new church buildings. Costel believes that the definition of ministry is ‘the act of serving’ and understands this is his duty in the church.