Exodus 14:13, 14
Have you ever faced an impossible situation? I have been in seemingly impossible situations. Every person, if honest, will likely admit that he or she has faced incredible challenges that, from a human perspective, appear impossible.
I. THE CHALLENGE OF SUFFERING
The children of Israel faced an impossible situation in their exodus from Egypt. After 400 years of bondage, they were in desperate need of revival and reformation. Exodus 13 records an epic struggle between God and Pharaoh. Moses and Aaron convey the divine message: “Let my people go so that they may go and worship me” (Ex. 8:1). Then God leads them into the wilderness.
The Bible says that “[w]hen Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near” (Ex. 13:17, ESV). Because God had an agenda for the children of Israel, He had them take the long way—through the wilderness. The Israelites left Egypt prepared for battle (verse 18); they expected Pharaoh to come after them. The Israelites were ready to fight in their own strength. Little did they realize how unprepared they were.
II. DIVINE DEPENDENCE
Sure enough, Pharaoh had second thoughts. The children of Israel were scared (read Ex. 13:19, 20). God prophetically told them through Moses what would happen (14:1-4). The children of Israel stepped out in faith. They listened to God as they went in the “wrong” direction. Yet, as they continued, they had doubts. One thing was clear: they were very unhappy with their leadership, specifically with Moses. They did not like what Moses had to say. They were upset.
Yet God desired to teach them, but He could not do so until He placed them in an impossible situation. As the children of Israel headed in the wrong direction—toward the Red Sea—God used their situation as a teachable moment. God’s agenda was to test and, ultimately, build their faith.
As the Egyptian army drew near, the Israelites’ worst fears were realized. They were trapped! Yet God intervened with a cloud of shade by day and a pillar of light by night. God came between them and the Egyptian army. Moses reassured them: “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent” (Ex. 14:13, 14).
Moses lifted his rod over the sea, and the Lord intervened so “the waters were divided” (Ex. 14:21). All through the night, thanks to the pillar of light, the Israelites crossed the sea on dry ground. The next morning, the “Egyptians pursued them into the midst of the sea” and were destroyed (verse 23).
“Thus the Lord saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore . . . and they believed in the Lord and in his servant Moses” (Ex. 14:31). It was not until the Israelites were in an impossible situation that God could truly test and teach them. As the apostle Paul later observed, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9).
True revival and reformation begins when we recognize our need for divine dependence. When we find ourselves in a situation that looks impossible from a human perspective, that is when God can work in our lives individually and as a church family.
III. LESSONS FOR MODERN ISRAEL
The dominant watchword of nineteenth-century America under Andrew Jackson’s leadership was “forward”—variations of “go ahead,” “go forward,” and the general idea of forward motion. This was an era of progress, as a nation of immigrants spread westward across the United States. As America grew, a young prophetess named Ellen G. White had a different idea of what moving forward was all about.
In her book Testimonies for the Church, Ellen G. White admonished early Adventists with the chapter entitled “Go Forward.” Here she recounted the story of the ancient Israelites. “The history of the children of Israel,” she wrote, “is written for the instruction and admonition of all Christians.” She also noted that it had particular application for God’s people waiting for Christ’s return at the end of time. “God’s cause is onward, and He will open a path before His people.”1
“The Lord is now dealing with His people
who believe present truth,” Ellen White wrote. “He
designs to bring about momentous results, and
while in His providence He is working toward this
end, He says to His people: ‘Go forward.’ True,
the path is not yet opened; but when they move on
in the strength of faith and courage, God will make
the way plain before their eyes.”2
I love our worldwide Seventh-day Adventist
Church. I see God doing amazing things. At the
same time, especially in the 10/40 window, I am
also cognizant of just how daunting the challenge
is to share the Adventist hope. At times, as I reflect
on a recent Annual Council initiative for “Mission
to the Cities,” the task seems almost impossible.
Many of the world’s largest cities need to hear
the good news of the gospel, and sometimes this
challenge seems overwhelming.
Yet the message of the Exodus for modern
Israel remains the same: “Go forward.” God is
at His finest when we find ourselves in situations
that look impossible from a human perspective.
As Ellen G. White concludes, “‘Go forward’
should be the Christian’s watchword.”3
Here is an additional quotation from the Spirit
of Prophecy: “God in His providence brought the
Hebrews into the mountain fastnesses before the
sea, that He might manifest His power in their
deliverance and signally humble the pride of their
oppressors. He might have saved them in any
other way, but He chose this method in order to
test their faith and strengthen their trust in Him.
The people were weary and terrified, yet if they
had held back when Moses bade them advance,
God would never have opened the path for them.
It was ‘by faith’ that ‘they passed through the Red
Sea as by dry land.’ Hebrews 11:29. In marching
down to the very water, they showed that they
believed the word of God as spoken by Moses.
They did all that was in their power to do, and then
the Mighty One of Israel divided the sea to make a
path for their feet.”4
God brings us through seemingly impossible
situations so that our faith will be strengthened.
Although these experiences are difficult at the
time, God takes us the long way because He has
an agenda. The challenge for you and for me is to
have faith. Have faith in God and move forward
1 Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, 4:25.
2 Ibid., 26.
3 Ibid., 28.
Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets, 290.
Michael Campbell, Ph.D., is assistant professor
of historical/theological studies at the Adventist
International Institute of Advanced Studies in the