They stood there. Waiting. In the dark. Their leader had told them to watch and see what God could do, so they watched. Some of them, anyway. Some looked back, I’m sure. To see where they’d come from. Who was after them. The “border” between them and their enemies: the concrete exhibition of His presence and protection over the past several days.
Then the angel of God, who had been traveling in front of Israel's army, withdrew and went behind them. The pillar of cloud also moved from in front and stood behind them, coming between the armies of Egypt and Israel. Throughout the night the cloud brought darkness to the one side and light to the other side; so neither went near the other all night long. Exodus 14:19-20 (emphasis mine)
So the cloud that had been leading them throughout their wanderings thus far was now behind them. But power was being exhibited in front of them as well—in the darkness of nighttime.
Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the LORD drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left. Exodus 14:21-22 (emphasis mine)
The Egyptians pursued them, and all Pharaoh's horses and chariots and horsemen followed them into the sea. During the last watch of the night the LORD looked down from the pillar of fire and cloud at the Egyptian army and threw it into confusion. He made the wheels of their chariots come off so that they had difficulty driving. And the Egyptians said, "Let's get away from the Israelites! The LORD is fighting for them against Egypt." Exodus 14:23-25 (emphasis mine)
So, the Israelites crossed the Red Sea with God’s light behind them rather than before them. And also behind them were the Egyptians. So, looking back could cause them both fear and hope. Just like, for us, seeing our past can both encourage and discourage us.
So, they walked through the night, God’s pillar of fire and Pharaoh’s armies on their tails. Until every last one of God’s people had crossed to the other side. And then our God acted once again, as the sun came up.
Then the LORD said to Moses, "Stretch out your hand over the sea so that the waters may flow back over the Egyptians and their chariots and horsemen." Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at daybreak the sea went back to its place. The Egyptians were fleeing toward it, and the LORD swept them into the sea. The water flowed back and covered the chariots and horsemen—the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed the Israelites into the sea. Not one of them survived. Exodus 14:26-28 (emphasis mine)
So God delivered as the sun came through the clouds, as the darkness of night cleared to show the brightness of day.
And isn’t this just like Him? We’re worried about our plights, and though God has cleared a way, we can’t always see to the other side. We look back and remember His faithfulness in the past—and those who are trying to stop us from staying on God’s path. But if we stick to it, when dawn breaks our enemies are vanquished and we can celebrate God’s goodness. (See Exodus 15:1-21)
Heavenly Father, thank You for always being with us, even when we can’t see You before us. Help us, Lord, to keep our focus on where You want us to go, no matter what may be following us. And when we are following You in the darkness, Lord, help us know exactly where to go, and to trust Your leading, even if it is from behind us. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen
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Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength