Exodus 13:17-14:29 - Enjoying The Presnece of God
Thomas S. Myers
ENJOYING THE PRESENCE OF GOD
A family was having family devotions. The father explained that they were going to look at the presence of God. His 5 year old daughter said, "Oh good daddy, I like presents." Her father said, "Honey, I don't mean presents, like birthday presents, I mean the presence, like how God is present here." As we enter Exodus chapter 13 and 14 we come to the miracle of the children of Israel crossing the Red Sea on dry ground. But there is a greater miracle in Exodus chapter 13 & 14. It is this: That God is always present and will take care of whatever we go through. What we need to do is to take care of how we go through difficulties. No matter what you go through, God's presence is there. This section of Scripture illustrates that when you recognize that God is present and that He is there to lead you, there is no need to panic, no need to worry, fret or stew. From this section of Scripture we learn 4 very vital principles.
FIRST -- WHEN GOD LEADS, IT MAY NOT ALWAYS BE THE ___________ DISTANCE.
17 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." 18 So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea. The Israelites went up out of Egypt armed for battle. (NIV)
It is interesting that from verse 17 God did not lead the Israelites by the shortest route. And as a matter of fact look at Verse 18 and notice how God led them. Notice the word "around" (niv),
1 "ABOUT" (kj)." The Hebrew word literally means that God led the children of Israel in circles. Literally translated it would say, "God led the people in circles by the desert." Can you see the children of Israel marching in circles? Was it a mistake? Not at all. Did God know what He was doing? Of course He did. This was a divine detour. We say that a straight line is the shortest distance between two points, but it may not always be the best distance. You see, sometimes you can get where you're going to quickly or even end up in the wrong place.
The year was 1920. The scene was the examining board for selecting missionaries. Standing before the board was a young man named Oswald Smith. One dream dominated his heart. He wanted to be a missionary. Over and over again, he prayed, "Lord, I want to go as a missionary for you. Open a door of service for me." Now, at last, his prayer would be answered. When the examination was over, the board turned Oswald Smith down. He did not meet their qualifications. He failed the test. Oswald Smith had set his direction, but now life gave him a detour. What would he do? As Oswald Smith prayed, God planted another idea in his heart. If he could not go as a missionary, he would build a church that could send out missionaries. And that is
what he did. Oswald Smith pastored The People's Church in Toronto, Canada, which sent out more missionaries than any other church.
I can see the children of Israel, marching out of Egypt taking this detour, this cul-de-sac because God has a greater plan. And they're doing it with dignity and confidence. According to VERSE 18, they are even armed to do combat. They are so eager to enter the destination of the promised land. However, when you follow God's will, it may not always be the shortest way to your destination, but it is always the best way.
Since God did not lead the children of Israel by the shortest distance, where did He lead them?
Look at VERSE 18.
18 So God led the people around by the desert road ... (NIV)
God led them into a wilderness. Is that where God is leading you? Is God leading you in circles, in a wilderness? Now you can grumble and complain or you can trust that God is leading you. Do you know what is interesting? The children of Israel are not grumbling. Now that is unusual for any congregation, right? The question that I want to ask is, why aren't they grumbling? Why isn't there any complaints about going in a circle? Why isn't there the gripes about being led about in a wilderness? Let me tell you why they are not grumbling? The answer is found in the second principle:
In their leading, they recognized the presence of God.
SECOND -- IN GOD'S LEADING, ________________ THAT GOD'S PRESENCE IS ALWAYS WITH YOU.
The reason they are not grumbling at this point is that they recognize that God's presence is with them. Look at:
21 By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. (NIV)
They had the unmistakable presence of God leading them. During the day, the Lord God's presence was manifested by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. As long as they looked straight ahead and as long as they looked up they saw the God was with them and leading them. It did not make any difference to them if they were being lead in a circle, cul-de-sac, or a dead end. You see that is the way it is when you recognize that God's presence is with you. When you know that God is with you,
there is nothing to grumble about, and there is nothing fear, but there is plenty to rejoice about.
Charles Swindoll's sister Lucy Swindoll was a field representative for her alma mater. She was traveling around the Southwest reaching potential students. As she was driving down the interstate, she sensed that she was being followed. Since she was alone and it was dark, she became very uneasy. To see if she was really being followed, she pulled off the interstate into a small town. The car behind her also turned. She made a right turn, the other car also turned. She made a left turn, the car again followed her. Now she knew she was definitely being followed. She quickly pulled into a motel, rushed into the lobby and registered. She noticed that the car was now parked, with its lights on, just a half block away. After registering, she got back into her car and drove to her room. She grabbed her suitcase, quickly locked the car, and ran to her room. Once inside, she locked the door, and checked to see that the window was locked. Feeling secure she took a quick shower. While she stepped out of the shower, she noticed that the venetian blind was up a little on one end, and suddenly she had this horrible sense of fear that she was being watched, and that the person who was following her was just outside the window. As she approached the window she noticed that someone had slipped a piece of paper on the chest of drawers. These words were written on the paper were from Psalm 4:8 & Isaiah 26:3
8 I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety. (NIV)
3 You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you. (NIV)
She said when she saw those verses, she was enveloped with an enormous sense of God's presence. With a towel wrapped around her, she marched over and yanked the venetian blind down, put on her
pajamas, turned the lights off, got into bed, immediately fell asleep and had the best sleep in years. Isn't the presence of God comforting? When you recognize that God is present, in the most tragic situation, there is calm. However, there is a third principle.
THIRD -- WHEN YOU _____ TO RECOGNIZE THE PRESENCE OF GOD, GRUMBLING AND PANIC ALWAYS SETS IN.
Anytime you take your eyes off Jesus and put them upon circumstances you're going to get discouraged. Look at:
10 As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the LORD. 11 They said to Moses, "Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? 12 Didn't we say to you in Egypt, `Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians'? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!" (NIV)
What has changed the posture of the children of Israel? All of a sudden they are grumbling and complaining? I'll tell you what has happened. The children of Israel have become distracted and have taken their eyes off the Lord. Just a moment before
they were confident and full of assurance that God was leading them, but now they have turned around and they have now focused their attention upon the army of Pharaoh.
Does that sound familiar? When things are going well, you keep your eyes on the Lord, but when the trials come you place your eyes on the problem. And when you do that panic sets in, and you get worried. Now when we do that God does an amazing
thing. Look at EXODUS 14:19-20 and look at what God does when we take our eyes off Him.
19 Then the angel of God, who had been traveling in front of Israel's army, withdrew and went behind them. The pillar of cloud also moved from in front and stood behind them, 20 coming between the armies of Egypt and Israel. Throughout the night the cloud brought darkness to the one side and light to the other side; so neither went near the other all night long. (NIV)
What is God doing? Do you see what God is doing in verses 19 & 20? The Israelites have taken their eyes off the Lord, so what does the Lord do?
FOUR -- When we take our eyes off the Lord, the Lord ____________ to regain our focus.
The Lord moves the cloud in the direction that they are looking. Here is the point, when you walk away from the Lord, the Lord does not say, "Well, I guess I lost that one." Instead He seeks you out and protects you. Remember the story that Jesus gave about the lost sheep (Luke 15:4-6). A sheep had wondered off. And what did the shepherd do? He sought the lost sheep and when he found it, he carried back home on his shoulders.
12 As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness. (NIV)
That is what God did for the Israelites. When their eyes shifted from God to the army of Egypt, God like a shepherd moved the pillar of cloud between the children of Israel and the army of Egypt. When we walk away from the Lord, just like a shepherd, He will seek us out, find us, and carry us back. Isn't the Lord gracious to us.
Now look at Exodus 14:21-29:
21 Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the LORD drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, 22 and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left.
23 The Egyptians pursued them, and all Pharaoh's horses and chariots and horsemen followed them into the sea.
24 During the last watch of the night the LORD looked down from the pillar of fire and cloud at the Egyptian army and threw it into confusion. 25 He made the wheels of their chariots come off so that they had difficulty driving. And the Egyptians said, "Let's get away from the Israelites! The LORD is fighting for them against Egypt."
26 Then the LORD said to Moses, "Stretch out your hand over the sea so that the waters may flow back over the Egyptians and their chariots and horsemen." 27 Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at daybreak the sea went back to its place. The Egyptians were fleeing toward it, and the LORD swept them into the sea. 28 The water flowed back and covered the chariots and horsemen -- the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed the Israelites into the sea. Not one of them survived. 29 But the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left.
Most people look at this passage of Scripture and see a great miracle. Do you know what is really great about Exodus 14? It is the fact that the only limits to God's leading and His presence are the limits we put on God. Given this fact there are 3 timeless lessons suggested in Exodus chapter 13 & 14.
1. The best way to face changes is to _______ to the unchanging God.
We live in a world that is constantly changing. Although change can at times be very threatening, there is the One who does not change.
The Lord can be trusted to bring stability to us when we feel threatened. As David said, "The
Lord is at my right hand." The Lord's presence is the stabilizing factor.
2. GOD'S PRESENCE ELIMINATES FEAR OF ________.
4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. (NIV)
The great fear of the children of Israel was that they were going to die. When the Lord moved the cloud so that the children of Israel could see that the Lord was still with them, their fear of death fled.
3. NEVER FORGET THAT BETWEEN YOU AND YOUR PROBLEM THERE IS GOD.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. (NIV)
Later, in verse 5, the Lord speaks to His people and says, "Fear not, for I am with you." The assurance of God's presence gives us great comfort in times of trail and crisis. In 1984 Louise Degrafinreid of Brando, Tennessee persuaded an escaped convict from a Tennessee prison to surrender. The prisoner, brandishing a gun, surprised Louise's husband and forced him inside their home at gun point. Louise was not afraid of the gun or the escaped prisoner. She had such composure, that she asked the man if he needed a breakfast. He said that he was starving. So Louise fixed the man the best breakfast he had ever eaten. While she fixed the breakfast, she began to talk the man into surrendering. After finishing the breakfast, he agreed to surrender and he picked up the phone and called the prison. Reporters asked her how she could be so calm? Her answer was, "I was secure in the presence of God."