Have you ever been there? Have you ever been caught between two impossible choices? Have you ever found yourself in a situation where there are no good options? We all end up in this very difficult spot on occasion. This danger zone is so familiar that Aerosmith, NRBQ, Van Morrison, and The Killers all sang about what it’s like between the devil and the deep blue sea.
There’s a perfect example of this in Bible. Moses finds himself in this predicament in Exodus chapter 14. It’s only natural to wonder how a leader like Moses let this happen. Did Moses fall asleep at the wheel? Was Moses at fault for getting his people into this situation? I think there’s a couple of lessons that we can learn from Moses when he found himself between an Egyptian devil and the deep Red Sea.
Two impossible choices
Moses is a good leader. Moses has already successfully led millions of people out of slavery from one of the world’s most powerful empires. At this point in his life, you would think Moses could live on easy street. After all his hard work, Moses should be on the beach sipping a drink with a little umbrella and it. You would think the hard work is behind him and the rest is going to be easy – and you would be wrong!
Moses finds himself between two impossible choices. Moses leads the people to a place called Pi-hahiroth. The Bible gives very specific details about this place in Exodus 14:2. Pi-hahiroth is a spot on the beach near the Red Sea. This should be a place for Israel to celebrate. Instead it becomes a horror scene.
Go back and read Exodus 14:1 and you will see that this isn’t Moses’s fault. It is God that places his people at the border of the Red Sea. God led the people to this spot. If you were in the crowd with Moses that day you would stand on the edge of the Red Sea and scratch your head. You would be asking yourself, why on earth would God bring us here? The Red Sea is too broad and too deep for anyone to cross on their own. Swimming the Red Sea was the equivalent of jumping over the Grand Canyon.
What was in front of you was an impossible obstacle. Apparently, it was God’s plan to put his people in this impossible situation.
Between a foreign devil and the Red Sea
Just when you thought it couldn’t possibly get any worse – it does. Even a casual examination of Exodus chapter 14:4 shows that God motivated Pharaoh to leave his palace and chase after the people of Israel. God prompts the Army of Egypt to track down his own people. Think about how confused and frustrating Moses must have been when he learned God prompted Pharaoh to chase after him. Imagine how hard it must be for Moses to understand why God would do something like this.
The crowd with Moses on the edge of the Red Sea quickly went from confusion to terror when the ground started to shake beneath them. I am convinced most of Israel recognized the sound of chariots and of soldiers marching before they even saw the Egyptian army. I am also convinced that many Israelites would have been strongly tempted to doubt God at this point.
Many of us today asked the same questions that Israel might have been asking at the edge of the Red Sea. Questions like… Where did God go? Did God forget about us? Does God know that I’m about to die? If God really loves to me why would he let me get in this situation? This is exactly the kind of questions the people were asking in Exodus 14:11.
The dark spot where God shines his glory
God does something spectacular at the end of Exodus 14 that is still talked about 3000 years later. God put Moses and Israel at the edge of the Red Sea on purpose. He put them at a spot where there was nothing in front of them but absolute disaster. He put them in a position where everything behind them spelled certain death. There was no way out of this “devil and the deep blue sea” circumstances.
Then God parted the waters! In Exodus 14:21, Moses stretched out his hands and God departed the waters. Don’t be mistaken, it wasn’t Moses who parted the Red Sea; that’s something only God can do! The people of Israel walked through the deep blue sea on dry ground. God eliminated one half of this impossible situation for Israel when he parted the Red Sea.
However, there’s still the devil inside Pharaoh that Israel has to contend with. When Israel goes through the Red Sea on dry land, Pharaoh decides to send his army after them (Exodus 14:23). God didn’t really rescue Israel at all if Egypt can slaughter them on the opposite side of the Red Sea.
In order to deal with the other half of the impossible situation, God commands Moses to once again, to lift his hands over the water (Exodus 14:26-27). This was the moment where God did away with both the devil and the deep blue sea in one instant. Israel is now standing on dry land, and the armies of Egypt are totally annihilated in one miraculous moment!
Why did God lead Israel between the devil and the deep blue sea in the first place? The answer is also found in Exodus 14:18. This impossible situation was orchestrated by God so that he could put his glory on display for the world to see. Israel would see God’s great power. Egypt would learn to fear God after this a great miracle. The rest of the nations of the earth would talk about what God did in this impossible situation. God acts in mysterious ways but he always acts for his glory.
The next time you find yourself stuck in between the devil and the deep blue sea, don’t panic. Place your trust in God. Ask him to deliver you from the impossible circumstances with which you find yourself. Trust that God is bigger than your problems. Ask God to put his glory on display through your circumstances.
This post originally appeared on Struecker’s personal blog.