Moses parting the Red Sea is probably one of the most commonly told Bible stories. We grow up in church hearing about this incredible miracle. We learn how God pulls through at the last minute to save his people from total destruction. I’ve been doing a lot of studying over Moses again. First it was for personal study, and then to use some specific lessons during my Sunday Night talks to the teenagers. I recently taught from this story, and was struck by a detail we rarely give attention to. Perhaps it has been so long since you have read the story that you have forgotten this detail to. It is found in a simple question. Why in the world did Israel get caught between the Egyptians and the Red Sea in the first place?
How in the world did they get into such a predicament? Did they disobey God? Did they get lost? Did they simply take a wrong turn? Were they trying to catch a boat? Why in the world did they go this route? More importantly, why did God let them walk in this direction?
The truth is God did not simply let them fall into this ambush, He actually lead them into it. At the beginning of this story were read a conversation between God and Moses. God informs Moses that he is going to lead them into a trap. He is going to lead them into a situation where they will be sitting duck. They will be beyond easy for Pharaoh’s army to pick them off. The temptation for Pharaoh would be too great.
I don’t know about you, but I find this incredibly fascinating. We often ask the question, “To what extent should I rely on God and follow His leading?” We wonder where the line is between following God no matter what, and just being foolish and irresponsible. This is Moses first act as the official leader of Israel. His choice of where to lead them by any textbook standard would seem completely irresponsible, but he does it anyway.
Moses admittedly had a bigger bonus then most of us to. He heard pretty clear directions from God. It did not come off as cryptic. There was no wondering if this is what God wanted, or just Moses imagination. God’s directions were clear. Often when we try and follow God’s guidance we feel like we do not receive such clear instructions.
I have to wonder if that would change anything though. What would I have done if I was in the position of Moses? Would I have taken an action that by all reasoning appeared to be irresponsible? Moses would seem to be reckless and clueless by leading Israel into such a trap, but he did it because it was God’s desire for him to do so.
I don’t think we like to talk about this story. We don’t like to think that God purposefully leads us into dangerous situations sometimes. We don’t like that he leads us into something that provides hardship and opportunities to fear. It doesn’t fit with our man made version of God that is almighty protector who would never even consider leading us into harm’s way. He did though. The beginning of the story is unsettling. We don’t like hearing this sort of thing.
I think the biggest reason for disliking it though is because we will inevitably realize that sometimes we are going to be lead to the Red Sea. Sometimes we are going to be called to do things that will seem irresponsible to others. We will be seen as foolish, clueless, and even selfish. We don’t like this part of the story because it answers that question we never really wanted to know the answer to, “Just how far down this road do I need to go?” We don’t want to take foolish actions just out of random necessity, but sometimes we are called to do what in the moment appears utterly foolish.
We can’t stall out in fear at this point of the story though. After all, it is really only setting the scene for something much grander. When Moses heard God’s instructions it seemed for all the world as though God’s purpose was to lead Israel to certain doom. He even told Moses upfront that He was leading them into an ambush. We can’t miss God’s reasoning though. Why was He leading them into an ambush? It was so God could show his fully power and glory and he wanted his chosen people to have a front row seat. Sometimes God calls us to do the unthinkable. Sometimes he tells us to be irrational. Sometimes he tells us to look like the fool. In so doing He adds on one heck of a teaser, “Watch this”.