Perhaps the most famous story in the Bible, Chapter 14 describes the miraculous and mind-blowing escape that God had been planning for centuries. It’s the climax of the Book of Exodus and has been played out time and time again on the big screen. Hollywood, however, sometimes misses the point as to why God had to go to such extremes to free the Israelites. Moses has been dropping hints in his text for the last several chapters. In Chapter 9, he says that God is allowing this to happen so that the Egyptians will know God’s power and spread His fame throughout the earth. In Chapter 7, he says that God will harden pharaoh’s heart in order to display His miraculous signs and wonders throughout Egypt, and through these signs and wonders, the Egyptians will know that He is Lord. There are several more, but you get the point: God is not only freeing the Israelites, He also is winning over the Egyptian people! Several times in the past chapter, Moses has mentioned that the Egyptians (neighbors and even officials) LIKED the Israelites. They respected them and after seeing what God could do, many of them were convinced of His power, presence and being. I guess we could look at it at kind of a lesson in tough love. And whether or not the Egyptians turned and worshiped the God of the Israelites, they darn sure believed in him after that day!
One thing I never noticed about this epic scene is the time of day it takes place and the number of hours over which the story spans. I always picture Moses parting the Red Sea in the middle of the day with the sun beating down on them. I also tend to rush the whole journey, like they scurry around and run through the waters, and the Egyptians come rushing in – all within a matter of 30 minutes or so. But actually, the escape is quite calm, happens in the middle of the night and requires several hours to enact. The Egyptians were camped outside the Israelites’ camp when darkness fell (v. 20). Then God (the cloud) got between the two camps and flipped on the lights! I envisioned the cloud keeping the Egyptians in the dark and the light allowing the Israelites to see as they were walking. (I don’t know if that’s how it worked. That’s just how I kind of interpreted the text.) In verse 24, Moses writes that “just before dawn,” the Egyptians were starting to enter the road through the sea, so it took the Egyptians hours to execute God’s plan (not 30 minutes, silly girl). “So as the sun began to rise (v. 27) …,” Moses raised his hand, and the Israelites watched as the waves crashed over pharaoh’s army. What a tragic loss. The last sentence left me standing on a seashore watching from miraculous safety as the bodies of those soldiers came washing to land. Soak that moment in. The Egyptians have just escaped the most horrendous ordeal in the most powerful way, and now they see through human lives lost just how great God’s love is for them. It’s hard to wrap our minds around how God justifies the death of some for the lives of others. I can’t pretend to understand, and I’m certainly in no position to try and explain it. What I can say, though, is that if I would have been an Israelite, and I know their journey is getting ready to get super tough, but I would hope that no matter how tough that journey got that I would be able to look back to the moment of watching those bodies wash up on shore and remember that I can trust God no matter the circumstances, no matter the hardship, no matter the heartache because sometimes His plans might sound a bit weird, but they always, always, always have the best interest at heart for the people He loves – even for the Egyptians.
Writing prompt: Egypt
We can see how much God loved the Israelites through His protection over them, but God showed His love for the Egyptian people as well. He was pursuing them through displays of His power while helping the Israelites at the same time. The biggest difference between God’s pursuit of Egypt and Israel is that the Israelites already knew and believed God existed. Write about the ways God pursued Egypt (even if through tragedy), and as you are writing pray over those points, think about why God lets bad things happen (explain it to the universe if you get the answer) and lift modern-day Egypt up in your prayers today.