A point of hopelessness

Anyone feel like they’ve hit their lowest point? That circumstances couldn’t get any worse? That all the fighting and believing and faithfulness was for nothing?

Those places seem hopeless – how can You worship God when He seems to have knocked your life off the line labelled ‘God’s plan’? The point of all you’ve been doing was to see His Kingdom come, see His victories won, see His name glorified. But all you’re seeing is defeat left and right, the enemy gaining the ground that you had believed would be won. All God promised you has remained beyond Your grasp, and seems to be pulling further away from you.

A little of what I read this morning might speak to you.

Let me set the scene: the Israelites have been slaves in Egypt for generations, but have seen their mighty God working incredible miracles and wonders against their captors. After a long drawn-out display of stubbornness, Pharaoh finally allows the people to leave. Moses begins to lead them out of the place that has been their prison from birth into a new life of freedom. Then God hands him the next instructions.

“Tell the people of Israel to turn back and encamp in front of Pi-hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, in front of Baal-zephon; you shall encamp facing it, by the sea…”

Alright, cool – lots of strange names, but Moses probably knew what areas God was referring to. But wait, what’s this? – “turn back?” But God was going to give them the Promised Land, and it was definitely not in Egypt – that was slavery, despair and death – as well as being a place that featured quite a considerable lack of promised-land-ness.

Well, we can suppose that God knows what He’s doing, so the wisest thing would be to follow His instructions… But God’s not finished yet, elaborating a little more on why they were to turn back:

“…For Pharaoh will say of the people of Israel, ‘They are wandering in the land; the wilderness has shut them in.’ And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them…”

What?! Hands up if you’re thinking – “Uh, God. I know you’re all-knowing and everything, but I don’t think this was the plan. No really, I think you’ve completely forgotten why we’re here…” – and to be honest, does this reflect a lot of the places we’ve been in our lives? “God, I really think you’ve forgotten the plan – I can’t see how this is kicking enemy butt.Orfulfilling the promises You’ve given to Your people.” Let’s finish the instructions.

“…and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, and the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord.” And they did so. (Exodus 14:2-4)

Hang on – how is God going to get the glory through the thrashing/massacre/re-enslaving of his people? How can God be awesome when the enemy is winning? Why should God get glory when the things He has promised He has plucked out of my grasp and thrown beyond my horizon?

What happens next is the Red Sea.
Winds blow – waters part – Israelites walk – Egyptians perish.

God was glorified when He put His people in a place where there was no way for victory to come through their efforts  – no weapons in hand, a sea at their back and an army of chariots heading towards them – and He turned that situation around dramatically so that everyone knew, without a doubt – that it was THE LORD who saved them (Ex 15:14-16).

The Israelites were not happy with the circumstances God’s instructions had led them into (14:11-12). They could see their enemies advancing, and there was no possibility of the Promised Land becoming reality anymore. Their hopes had been raised only to be dashed onto the rocks. Isn’t it true that sometimes following God’s call leads us into a place that is ridiculously hopeless? And do we sometimes wonder, like the Israelites probably did, whether God really wants to see His plan happen – or if He would rather see us defeated?

I can’t speak for every circumstance. But why not spend some time praising the God who put His people into the most dire situation so that, when the victory came, no one had any doubt that it was God alone who orchestrated the rescue and that the battle was won by His might alone? And who does it not just to make His enemy cower before Him, but to demonstrate to His people – to us – that He is a mighty, powerful and fearsome God.

Israel saw the great power that the Lord used against the Egyptians, so the people feared the Lord, and they believed in the Lord and in his servant Moses. (Ex 14:31)

Even if we haven’t seen God work in our circumstances, remember the Israelites – the impossible promise of the Promised Land was fulfilled, and our God will not go back on His promises to us either. Take heart.

“Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods?
Who is like you, majestic in holiness,
awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?
You stretched out your right hand;
the earth swallowed them.

“You have led in your steadfast love the people whom you have redeemed;
you have guided them by your strength to your holy abode.

(Exodus 15:11-13)

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