(19) The angel of God who was going before the Israelite army moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud moved from in front of them and took its place behind them. (20 It came between the army of Egypt and the army of Israel. And so the cloud was there with the darkness, and it lit up the night; one did not come near the other all night. Exodus 14: 19-20 (NRSV)
If ever there was a time of great certainty in this world, that time has long since passed. This world in which we live is a world filled with a great cloud of unknowing. We don’t know what tomorrow holds, for there is a sort of darkness blocking our view.
There is a darkness both in the world and in our lives. But, let me impress upon you that this darkness is not necessarily or always bad or problematic. The darkness, of which I speak, simply represents the uncertainty that defines the reality of our lives and our world.
The reality of the darkness means that we cannot walk by sight for very long. So, what then are we to do?
When all around us is darkness, there are three things that we, as the children of God, can do. First, we can strive to sense the presence of God in the darkness. Secondly, we can seek the protection of God in the darkness. Lastly, we can rely on God to lead us onward through the darkness.
Some 3,300 years ago, one dark and fearful night when the stars refused to peek out from behind the low lying clouds in a moonless sky, on the barren banks of the Red Sea, there stood a weary and worried band of Israelites.
There they stood, facing a raging Red Sea. There they stood, with an angry band of evil Egyptians pressing in from the rear. In a word, they were between a rock and a hard place, in the darkness. These God trusting folk were in one mess of a jam.
They left old Egypt land because some man named Moses came and told Pharaoh
that some God they had never seen said to let my people go.
Israel, having heard the voice of God and having seen the mighty movement of his hand, having seen frogs fall out the sky and hail catching fire, after having seen seven destructive plagues in Egypt, Israel decided that if the God who did all of that said move, they were going to move.
For a while, things were going along just fine. For a while, the wheels of life were turning their way. For a while, everything that could go right went right. For a while, life was good and times were easy. For a while, everything was cool.
But, don’t you know things will change? After having seen the power
of God, Pharaoh decided to let Israel go free. But, now Pharaoh had a change
In a rage, his face all twisted up and ugly, Pharaoh called his best army to war. “Get my chariot ready! Get my horses ready! It’s time to ride, kick tail, raise hell and put an end to the dreams and hopes and plans of these folk who dare dream of being somebody and going somewhere.”
And, it is at this point that our text picks up. Egypt on one end and a Red Sea on the other, and stuck in the middle were some folk whose hopes and dreams were fading fast. But, as if that wasn’t bad enough, things got worse.
Not only were the Egyptians pressing in with a quickness, not only was the Red Sea waiting to swallow them up and spit them out on the shore, but now, when the night was dark, now, when times were tough, now, when troubles were serious, now, when they really needed the Lord, the word of God says that the cloud that was God’s presence, that was going before the Israelite army leading the way, the pillar of fire that once lit up the pathway, now was gone.
Oh, I declare, when life is at its hardest, sometimes, that’s when God seems to just abandon us. When we are down so low that we don’t know how we are ever going to get up, when we are hurt so bad that we forgot what feel good even feels like, that’s when it seems that God, like everybody else, has just forgotten about us or just plain left us high and dry.
Now, the Israelites would die, either by the sword or by the sea. Now, these folk who dared to trust God seemed abandoned by God. There was darkness all around them.
But, I want you to see what the word of God says. It said that the cloud that was out front, now moved to the back. Yes, it moved. God moved. But, God was still present. God was still on the scene.
God may not always be where we think He ought to be. God may not always be
out front, leading the way. But, he’s still God and He will never leave
us nor forsake us.
When tears fill our eyes and we can’t see any reason for hope, hope on anyhow, because God is still God, and God is still with you.
When it seems like all that you have been living for and working for is now shattered before you, and you feel like you don’t have the strength to go on, just know that you are not alone; just know that even in your darkest hour, the Lord your God is still with you. Just remember, He promised to be with you to the end of time.
Yes, there will be some trials. Yes, there will be some tough days and dark
nights. But, even then, God is still present.
God said, in Isaiah 43:2 that when, not if, but when you go through the deep waters, He will be there. When you go through the rivers of trials and tribulations, God will be there. When through fiery trials thy pathway may go, God will still be there.
And, because God is always wherever we are, because God is always with us in the midst of adversity and struggle, the children of God can always depend on God for divine protection.
The Israelites soon discovered that the same God who led them out of Egypt, the same God that led them to the Red Sea, was the same God who would keep them safe from all manner of hurt, harm and danger.
That cloud that led them, turned out to be the same cloud that would keep them. You see, the spirit of the Lord will never lead us, where his grace and power cannot keep us.
All night long, the cloud, the presence of the Lord, kept the Egyptians from overtaking the Israelites at the Red Sea. All night long, God stood between evil and his children. All night long, the Lord put a wall of protection around those that knew how to call on his holy name.
Notice, the word of God says that with the darkness, the cloud was there.
In other words, with the darkness, the Lord was there. With the darkness, with
the danger, with the trouble, with the darkness, God was present.
Just like the sun behind the clouds is still there even if you can’t see it, that’s how God is. Even when you can’t see him, he’s still there watching out for you.
We live in a world where anything and everything may go wrong, but God will
be there. We live in a world where there are no real guarantees, but the Lord
is still present.
We live in a world of trouble and danger. But, God has a track record of showing up whenever troubles pop-up. God has a track record of being an ever-present help in a time of trouble.
And, because God is present, we need not fear any man, woman, boy or girl, for the Lord our God will see us through every trial. The Lord our God, who is everywhere at all time, at the same time, our God, who’s so wide you can’t get around him; our God, whose mercy runs so deep, you can’t fall beneath him, God, will come to our rescue. He’ll meet us when we are in trouble deep. He’ll protect us when enemies abound on every hand.
The same God, who was with Daniel in a lion’s den, is the same God who
will meet us when our enemies come to devour us. The same God who met three
Hebrew boys in a fiery furnace is the same God who will meet us when the fires
of a hard life are threatening to burn our hopes, joy and peace.
The same God that kept Israel safe at the Red Sea cares about you and He cares about me. And, because he cares about us, He’ll take good care of us. Because he cares about us, he will deliver us from whatever comes to destroy, delay, deny or defeat us.
This God that will not allow the devil to destroy us, is the same God that
will make a way for us to move on from where we are to where he wants us to
The same God who has set us free from the bondage of our own Egypt, the same God who has met us in our darkest night of life, is the same God who will lead us on through our troubles to the blessed place he has in store for us. And, it is this blessed fact that brings us to that last and greatest dynamic of this gospel of Exodus.
The God who was always present, the God who is a mighty protector in a time of trouble, turns out be the God who proves to be a mighty good leader.
God wants to do more than just set people free. God wants to do more than
just put a wall of protection around us.
God wants to lead us onward, from where we are to where he wants us to be. And, this is that last point that becomes abundantly clear at the Red Sea.
There at the Red Sea, God, working in and through Moses, God led the people through the darkness and through the stormy sea on dry ground.
Oh, my people, in the life of every Christian, in the life of every church, there will come a time when we’ve got to move forward. There will come a time when we’ve got to move on by faith.
Every congregation, every household of faith have got to press on through trials, press on through hard times, press on through doubt, press on through shortage, press on through fear. We’ve got to press on by faith.
But, know this, my beloved in the Lord. Even when we walk by faith, darkness will still be on every hand. There will still be some deep waters in our way. There will still be some Egyptian type danger pressing in on us fast and furious. But, that’s the time that God does what God does best.
When it seems like there is no way out, God will move. When it seems like
there is no way that we can move forward, that’s when God will move.
When it seems like we are stuck in place, too weary to move ahead and unable to turn back, when it seems like we can’t go another step, when we’ve done all we can do, and it’s still not enough. Let me tell you about my God.
Let me tell you about a God who is bigger than all of our burdens. Let me tell you about a God who is stronger than our worst stumbling blocks. Let me tell you about a God who is able to do exceedingly, abundantly more than we could ever ask, think or imagine.
Oh, look at God work. Consider, if you will, the condition of the Israelites.
There were Egyptians in the rear and a Red Sea in the front. It was a hopeless
But, time after time, God proves to be the hope of the hopeless and the friend of the friendless. He proves over and over and over to be a mighty good leader.
When it was time to move, the Lord made a way. When it was time to press on, the Lord opened doors. When it was time to stop living at the Red Sea of impossibility and move on to the promised land of unlimited opportunity, God came on time and made away.
All night long, still with the darkness, God, in a strong east wind drove back the sea so that Israel could move forward. All night long, the Lord our God was on the move. And, the word of God says that the Israelites went into the sea on dry ground.
Oh, I want us to see just how good God is. It was still dark, but God was there. The sea was still a sea. The waters were still deep. The Egyptians were still mean, mad and moving their way. But, God was there to lead Israel through the darkness and the danger.
God led them through the waters. God led them through the trouble and the danger. God led them through the doubt, through the fear, through the Red Sea. God made a way. And, he is still a way-maker!
God is with us; therefore, we need not worry about today or tomorrow. God
is with us, and if God is with us, we know that He’s working out what
we can’t seem to figure out.
God is with us, and if God is with us, what have we to fear, what have we to dread? God is with us, and I just know that he who started us on this great journey will see us through. God is with us.
When through fiery trials our pathway may lead, God will be there. When through
the darkest night our souls may wander, God will be there. When strong winds
blow and storm clouds gather in our lives, God will be there. And, He will
see us through.
He will see us through the flood and the rain. He will see us through the dark and the dangerous. He will see us through the worst that life has to offer. The Lord will see us through. I know that I know that I know the Lord will make a way somehow!
© Clarence W. Davis 2004, Used by permission BlackandChristian.com
Rev. Clarence W. Davis is the pastor of Friendship Missionary Baptist Churchin Colorado Springs, Colorado. A frequent contributor to BlackandChristian.com, Davis earned a Master of Divinity and Master of Theology degrees from Harvard Divinity School.