Everyone else at the hotel had hired 4x4s to take them to see the lions, but we figured that would show a lack of faith in our clapped out minibus – how hard can it be? Well, we saw the lions, but we didn’t half get battered about as our driver hurtled round the *bumpy* Ugandan wilderness in his beloved Isuzu.
There is a sense in which we can view the Christian life like holding on white knuckle style, until we get to heaven. You are saved and now you strive and get battered about trying to live in the light of the promised future – bluntly, between salvation and consummation, we are abandoned to joyless religion.
Our lives are indeed a journey through the wilderness, and Canaan’s rest is still far away. But we are not left without a guide, a friend who lights our path to the oasis, one who cares and comforts his people and with whom we can fellowship.
This pillar of cloud and fire of verses 21 and 22 acted like a tour guides umbrella leading the people from place to place. The umbrella shows the tourists where the guide is. Stay with the blue brolly, and you know you are with the guide and heading in the right direction. Likewise, as Ch 14:19 states it was the Angel of the Lord who was leading the people – he was in the cloud and fire. Walk with the cloud and you know you are walking in the immediate presence of God the Son. A gospel sign with the gospel word. Pretty cool huh?
Ch 13:17-21 shows how God wasn’t unsympathetic to the Israelites concerns. He knew how easy it would have been for them to want to go back and so he leads them via a desert path. It’s not the easiest route but it is the best one – the one that keeps them in his fold. The Angel of the Lord was Israel’s shepherd-guide, leading them in person along the way which is best. He doesn’t chuck a map at them and then leg it!
This is great news for the Hebrews – I love the fact that verse 8 of Ch 14 has them marching out boldly! Their Saving Lord, the Divine Angel ahead of them in the cloud, they pursued Him with boldness, walking 10 feet tall with their God.
Pharaoh’s pursuit however was equally as bold (Ch 14:1-9). He sent the best forces after them to cut them down. They headed the Israelites off and hemmed them in by the sea.
The Israelites thought that they had been abandoned in the wilderness to die by Pharaohs sword. They turned their eyes from the saving Lord who was with them and instead looked at what was coming and believed that they would have to fight. Do you see the problem?
They stopped resting upon their communion with the Angel of the Lord. They un-hid themselves from the Rock and were found standing only on desert sand. Take your eyes off the Lord Jesus and you end up looking at self and at the world and the inevitable conclusion is fighting, striving … religion.
So what happens next? What should we do when we doubt the presence and fellowship we have with the Father, through Christ and by the Holy Spirit - His care, his provision? Lets see what happens here first:
A) Moses delivers a rip snorting call to battle… “you people of the Living God who face adversity, who waver, who have fear, who long for better times, who take their eyes away from the goal – dig in, hold on tight, white knuckle style to the bitter end…”
B) They are simply reminded of the glorious gospel of free grace which had saved them. All they need in the face of the wilderness, the enemy and the longing, is to have their eyes turned back to the Lord, their Immanuel. "Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today… The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still." (Ch 14:13-14)
Look at the one who fights for you. Look to the Son of the Most High who brought you out of tyranny, who dwells with you. Stand upon the Rock and be still for he stands before you to face the great enemy. He will defeat death this day. He will loose you from your chains and by the breath of his Mighty Spirit he will provide a path to the rest and perfection of his eternal Kingdom.
In other words, WE don’t DO anything except receive again the gospel. Moses and the Israelites were told to stand a watch – they are given another gospel sign.
And so verse 21 (cf 15:8,10) by His Spirit, the Lord drove back the sea which stood in front of them while Himself guarding them against the Egyptians behind them. The invitation to cross was clear. They came into and received the Lord’s salvation. Interestingly, the Lord draws the great enemy into his chosen way to save his people. It is here that he throws the accuser down. Salvation for his people and victory over evil occur at the same place.
What a gospel we have!
Be still – your efforts won’t save you. Rest in the Christ who has gathered you into himself, has gone through the waters for you, lived for you, who has taken you through death defeating the enemy, brought you into new life and taken you to the Father’s side. Be still and see the salvation of the Lord.
The Israelites saw the salvation of the Angel of the Lord and placed their trust in Him (14:31).