Great Bible Study tonight on the end of Exodus 13 and the beginning of Exodus 14. A few interesting comments and questions came to mind.
When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near. For God said, “Lest the people change their minds when they see war and return to Egypt.” (Exodus 13:17 ESV)
Although the Lord has clearly shown through the plagues that he can bring his people victoriously through anything, he mercifully chooses to take them on another route that will not lead to immediate armed conflict.
Why do you suppose this is? The people left “equipped for battle” according to vv. 18. But yet vv. 17 says they might change their mind when they see war. Seems to imply that they are not ready for battle.
So the long way took about 15 days to the Red Sea. Then the crossing. Next they traveled about 25 days to Rephidim. There Amalek came and fought with Israel [17:8]. Did the Lord take them another way to avoid that battle? No. Moses appointed Joshua to “Chose for us men, and go out and fight Amalek”.
And Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the sword. (Exodus 17:13)
So did Israel suddenly become battle hardened after 25 days of traveling through the wilderness? I don’t think so. So what was the point? I don’t think the issue was that he Israelites were not ready for battle. It think it was that the Israelites were not ready to trust God fully.
I think Bro. Jason was on the right track when he was talking about the lack of faith or maybe better – the lack of confidence in our faith especially when we were new Christians. Think about the Israelites: fresh off the deliverance from Egypt where they saw God do miraculous things through the plagues. The Lord had said: “I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment.” How could they not trust in Him for deliverance? They had just lived it!
I think this is the point. God could have taken them the short way and delivered them from the Philistines “by His outstretched arm”. But he wanted to test their faith by demonstrating His power over the Egyptians for His glory and to increase the Israelite’s faith and trust in Him by delivering them again from a point of no hope.
Before the Lord calls Israel to trust that he will fight through them (as he will do with the Amalekites in 17:8–16), he will show them once again how he will fight for them (see 14:13–14).
Fighting for Israel: The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” (Exodus 14:14)
Fighting through Israel: And Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the sword. Then the Lord said; I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.” (Exodus 17:13, 14b)
Sometimes the Lord works for us and sometimes He works through us. Each requires faith and trust and one builds on the other because He is always with us!