September 17, 2023 | Doug Sauder
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“Now it was told the king of Egypt that the people had fled, and the heart of Pharaoh and his servants was turned against the people; and they said, ‘Why have we done this, that we have let Israel go from serving us?’ So he made ready his chariot and took his people with him. Also, he took six hundred choice chariots, and all the chariots of Egypt with captains over every one of them. And the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he pursued the children of Israel; and the children of Israel went out with boldness. So the Egyptians pursued them, all the horses and chariots of Pharaoh, his horsemen and his army, and overtook them camping by the sea beside Pi Hahiroth, before Baal Zephon. And when Pharaoh drew near, the children of Israel lifted their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians marched after them. So they were very afraid, and the children of Israel cried out to the Lord. Then they said to Moses, ‘Because there were no graves in Egypt, have you taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you so dealt with us, to bring us up out of Egypt? Is this not the word that we told you in Egypt, saying, “Let us alone that we may serve the Egyptians”? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than that we should die in the wilderness.’”—Exodus 14:5–12 (NKJV)
As we examine this passage of Scripture, it’s essential we understand it was God who deliberately led the children of Israel to this exact spot. It wasn’t misfortune or Moses’ bad leadership that put them in what seemed to be, quite literally, a dead end. That’s the actual fact according to the biblical record, but it’s not what their hearts were telling them. With the weight of Pharaoh’s forces bearing down on them and the expansive Red Sea blocking any possible escape, their fear displaced any faith they may have had in God’s desire to deliver them.
We really can’t point an accusing finger at them, can we? Because if we’re altogether honest, we do the very same thing. We allow fear to displace our faith—fear in the Pharaoh’s of this world, fear in the impassable seas of circumstance, fear in all that’s happening around us to take hold of us and dominate our hearts and minds. And here’s something fear will always do to us, as we see here with the children of Israel, it warps our view of God and His heart towards us. We lose confidence in the promise of Him leading us to a new and better land. All that gets buried beneath our fear, which would lead us to believe He’s only led us to a dead end.
Fear sees death where God promises life, despair where He decrees joy, and anxiety where He wants peace. Fear takes us captive and lead us in the opposite direction of God’s will for our lives. We see this demonstrated over and over in the Word of God as well as our daily experience. So, the question of all questions cannot be avoided, “Why do we allow fear to have such an influence over us?”
The answer is actually given to us in this account as we examine it closely. Everything seems to be going along without a hitch until the children of Israel saw the Egyptians marching after them. It’s from this moment onward they’re filled with the fear that distorts their sense of reality and robs them of all God wants for them. It was their focus, what they looked at, which shifted their faith to fear—and the same holds true for us.
Now, let’s truthfully consider what has our focus. I won’t even list the possibilities at this point, but will let you fill in the following blank; “If I’m being brutally honest, my focus in life tends to be on _______.” And if we fill in anything other than our all-knowing, all-powerful, everlasting, and ever-loving Lord, we’re prone to falling to our fears.
This doesn’t mean we have a one-track mind that never gives a thought to anything but God. That’s unrealistic and weird! But what it does mean is that just as a compass will always point to magnetic north, our lives are always oriented to the truth of who God is and all He’s done for us. That’s the sort of focus that strengthens faith and quenches fear.
Pause: Where did the children of Israel go wrong in their response to Pharaoh’s pursuit?
Practice: Take what you learn from the children of Israel and apply it to your daily life?
Pray: Father, I confess that I’m prone to looking at things in ways that get my focus off of You and that never leads me in the right direction. Please help me to train my focus on You, to take my thoughts captive so they don’t make me captive to fear. Amen.
Pastor Dan Hickling serves our online community, also known as the Calvary Chapel Online Campus. He and his wife Becky have been married for 22 years and have two children, Lauren and Danny. Both Dan and Becky have been part of the CCFL church family for 22 years and have served in full time ministry for 20 of those years.