“Exposing the Exodus”
The Controlled Exit – (Chapter 13 Verses 1-22)
We come now to the closing verses of this chapter (v17-22). Human nature wants what it wants and wants it now, instantly. However, when God directs us along the slow route you can rest assured it is for a good reason. Such is the case here (v17). If he were to lead the people of Israel along the most direct route the first thing they would be faced with would be an Egyptian border patrol, and then Caananite warriors perhaps. Now remember they have just been delivered from years of slavery, they would be hesitant, petulant, by no means what you would call a cohesive fighting force. No bunch of people are made ready for that overnight. It will take years of training, discipline, they will need to be, under God, developed in the school of hard knocks into a disciplined army. For there will be many battles to fight along the way. They will need the full armour of God (Ephesians :10ff). But having the equipment (v18) and the necessary trust in God for battle are not the same. Think of the realistic condition of Israel as a people at this time, and with the hindsight that we have. There were hot-heads amongst them that would absolutely sure that they were ready for anything. Excitement and emotions are running high due to their having been just released. Isn’t that how it is when we are first converted? But that excitement and emotion as we grow in faith and they are substituted with reason and trust. But that takes time, there is no direct route. And so God takes them the slow route so they will learn to wait upon and learn to trust him. In the very next scene faced with the Red Sea and the Egyptian forces come after them, we see exactly how unready they are. There will be many such lessons to be learned in the wilderness. Think of the Lord’s disciples, so sure that they were ready to face anything for him, to undergo the same baptism as he. But he said, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now” (John 16:12). And the apostle Peter had to learn the very hard way, after thrice denying that he even knew Jesus, that he was not ready either. So if the Lord is taking you what you think is the slow route, trust him, there is a good reason for it.
We see here prophecy fulfilled also as Joseph’s bones are carried with them (v19-20). And yet another reason for the God-controlled exit, taking the slow route. They must worship God on the mount where Moses met God. “So He said, “I will certainly be with you. And this shall be a sign to you that I have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain” (Exodus 3:12). So this had to be fulfilled. Then there is the Canaanites to consider also, the cup of their iniquity is not yet full, “but in the fourth generation they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete” (Genesis 15:16). The judgment of God, the sword of his justice cannot begin amongst the Canaanites until their cup is full. But why towards the sea you might ask (18)? This is to lead them into a trap, which Pharaoh well knows. Because the time for the final act of judgment against Pharaoh and his hoards has come (v20-22). This is God’s deliberate leading of his people into this situation, a pillar of fire by night and cloud by day. There is no mistaking. Because there is also another lesson for Israel in this. They must learn that salvation is of the Lord. That they can indeed overcome their foes and every obstacle in their way, but in God, not in their own strength. This that is about to take place is what God said he would do, “and I indeed will harden the hearts of the Egyptians, and they shall follow them. So I will gain honour over Pharaoh and over all his army, his chariots, and his horsemen” (Exodus 14:17). All the honour, all the glory will go to God himself. And all the nations will hear of it and will fear, “The people will hear and be afraid; Sorrow will take hold of the inhabitants of Philistia. Then the chiefs of Edom will be dismayed; The mighty men of Moab, Trembling will take hold of them; All the inhabitants of Canaan will melt away” (Exodus 15:14-15). This is the reason for the cul-de-sac, for the slow route, the controlled exit from Egypt. God so leads his people at times so that their faith and obedience may be tried to the uttermost, and discovered, suffers his children to fall into great extremities before he will reach forth his hand to help them, as in the case with Job. In our impossible situations, we give them to the Lord, we cry to him from the depths in what seems to us a total impasse. In the assurance that it is he who has led us this way for our benefit and for his own glory.