The invention of the satnav has changed many lives. There are no arguments over which way you should go and you can even get a lovely voice telling you what to do. I’m not sure many people would want to be told to “turn left in 500m … turn left in 200m … turn left” if a human was quite so demanding. Of course if you don’t follow the demands you can get the disappointed voice (ours sounds disappointed anyway) saying “recalculating”. But along with this wonderful invention there have been interesting routes through tiny roads, across rivers and through private land … but because the satnav says so, people still follow. Sometimes, the satnav just needs to give up and say “turn around where possible”.
We have reached a pivotal part of the Israelites story. They have been led out of Egypt by GOD. He has made His presence and guidance very evident. He leads them with a pillar of smoke by day (this provides shade) and a pillar of fire by night (heat and light). In the hope of not being sacrilegious, it was the very first, and by far, best satnav. GOD was leading them out of slavery and into a land that flowed with more than they could imagine. He was doing as He had promised.
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. 22 Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people. Exodus 13:21-22
I can imagine the spectacle … but I doubt that my imagination can do it justice. I think about the people following this cloud that stretched from the ground and up into the sky … and I can see them marching out with boldness. Nothing could stop them! The one and only GOD had rescued them and was leading them for all to see.
8 The Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, so that he pursued the Israelites, who were marching out boldly. Exodus 14:8
Isn’t it amazing then, that the enemy came after them and caused them to fear.
The fear of being caught was caused by the fact that GOD had led them to a dead end. Instead of leading them around the mountains and across the river, He led them through the mountains where they could not flee and to the Red Sea, that was impossible to cross. GOD had trapped His own people.
Why would GOD do such a thing to His people? Surely He knew that Pharaoh would come after his slaves. In fact, GOD led them this way because Pharaoh would come after them.
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!’ Exodus 14:10-11
The people were fearful and panicked. They complained and whinged to Moses. The pillar of smoke and fire had not left them … but they didn’t trust GOD and understand that He was freeing them so they rejected Him. They thought they had been led to their death. Strangely enough, death is what was on GOD’s mind too.
The dead end was just that. This was the place where their identity as slaves, fear and obscurity would be put to death. But before it could be killed they had to look it in the face. All the things that called them back to Egypt were now threatening them. It was time for GOD to bring the enemy to a dead end.
It is easy to judge the Israelites, but in reality, do we act the same? When we have been led to a dead end by GOD do we just want to go back to the place which was just slightly more comfortable? The Israelites, under slavery, were set to die, but in this place, their death appeared much more imminent! This was their “Turn around where possible” moment, when GOD was saying “Follow this road for a while”.
I think that when GOD leads us we can appear to be bold, especially when things seem to fit nicely into place, but He will lead us to dead ends. Will we still be bold? There are many stories in the Bible that show us GOD led dead ends – Abraham up the mountain with Isaac, Joseph locked in a prison … Jesus on the cross. The dead end always serves a purpose and it is the beginning of something new.
The dead end …
- It offers us the opportunity to look back at the thing that is chasing us and face it.
- It provides us a different perspective of an enemy that can only pursue but cannot destroy without our permission to submit to it.
- It forces us to stand with our back against the wall and cry out for help.
- It enables us to test just how bold we are and how much we can trust GOD, it grows our faith.
We may not have a pillar of smoke and fire with us, but we do have GOD! We can walk out boldly when we are led by GOD. He may lead us to dead ends … but they are not meant to be our dead end, they are the dead end for the enemy. If you are at a GOD led dead end, maybe there is something that you need to face, put in it’s place and destroy its power. This is the place where you can ask for favour with GOD and see how big GOD is.