The Greater Miracle

As God led the Israelites out of Egypt, Exodus 14:2 reports that God instructed the people to “camp in front of Pi-hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, in front of Baal-zephon.”  Chuck Swindoll points out, “At this location they would be just south of several massive Egyptian fortresses, north of the barren Egyptian desert, west of the deep Red Sea, and east of the approaching Egyptian army.  In other words, God led his people into a geographic cul-de-sac—the most vulnerable spot they could be in militarily.” (Moses: God’s Man for a Crisis, p. 64-65)

The people are in for a great challenge…and it’s about to get worse!  Exodus 14:9 reports, “The Egyptians pursued them, all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots, his chariot drivers and his army; they overtook them camped by the sea, by Pi-hahiroth, in front of Baal-zephon.” 

The Israelites are hemmed in with a large, well-equipped, angry army pursuing them.  The people grumble to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness?  What have you done to us, bringing us out of Egypt?  Is this not the very thing we told you in Egypt, ‘Let us alone and let us serve the Egyptians’?  For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness” (Exodus 14:11-12).

But God led them to that seemingly God-forsaken-place to do a miracle.  Actually God led them there to perform two miracles: a lesser miracle and a greater miracle. 

The lesser miracle would be the parting of the sea for the Israelites to walk through.  This is a lesser miracle in that it is less taxing on God and could be accomplished by good civil engineers with the right supplies.  (I, for example, have taken a train underneath the English Channel, from London to Paris, so it would not be too difficult for God to part some water.)

The greater miracle would be to build a heart of trust in doubt-filled people.

To accomplish the greater miracle, God would work to move people to focus less on the problems that surround them and to focus more on the God who cares for them.  When they looked around, they saw a vast desert on one side, an impassible sea on another side, and a superior army in the only remaining direction.  What they saw filled them with terror and despair.  But Moses said to them, “Do not be afraid, stand firm, and see the deliverance that the Lord will accomplish for you today” (Exodus 14:13).

Like the Israelites, when we focus on the problems that surround us, we are often filled with terror and despair.  It would be better for us to focus our attention on the God who cares for us.. 

Donner Atwood writes, “During the terrible days of the Blitz, a father, holding his small son by the hand, ran from a building that had been struck by a bomb.  In the front yard was a shell hole.  Seeking shelter as quickly as possible, the father jumped into the hole and held up his arms for his son to follow.  Terrified, yet hearing his father’s voice telling him to jump, the boy replied, ‘I can’t see you!’  The father, looking up against the sky tinted red by the burning buildings, called to the silhouette of his son, ‘But I can see you.  Jump!’  The boy jumped because he trusted his father.”

Atwood adds, “The Christian faith enables us to face life or meet death, not because we can see, but with the certainty that we are seen; not that we know all the answers, but that we are known.”

The greater miracle is accomplished when God moves a person to focus less on the troubles that surround us and more on the God who cares for us.  Catherine Pulsifer puts it this way, “Faith is strength when we feel we have none; faith is hope when all seems lost.”

To accomplish the greater miracle, God would work to move people to grumble less and to practice being still before the Lord.  The people grumbled about dying in the wilderness, but Moses said to them, “The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to keep still” (Exodus 14:14).

When troubles confront us, we tend to do what the Israelites did.  We grumble.  We complain.  We run from our troubles.  Or we try frantically to fix things our own way. 

But God invites us to be quiet before him so as to take in the resources that God would pour into us.  Leighton Ford has observed, “When I am overtired, it is usually because I have tried to do it all myself and not trusted God’s strength fully enough.  When I am apathetic, I have not trusted his grace enough.  When I am anxious, I have not trusted his goodness and power enough.  When I am afraid—especially of failure—I have not trusted his love enough.” (The Attentive Life, p. 127) 

The greater miracle is accomplished when God moves a person to wait quietly and trustingly on him.

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