(June 9, 2022) Richard Winter reminds us that God has purposes for such dilemmas…
Do you identify with the following? You believe God is in charge of everything and that He’s leading you to heaven. But… just when you think life is going to be easy, it seems as though you’ve hit a dead end, or you seem to be taking a detour when you wanted to go right from your problem to your blessing!
You hit a dryhole, a dilemma.
Ring a bell? If so, remember that the Israelites had this problem too and they came through.
Israel was captive in Egypt and God was going to deliver them to the promised land. Oh they had the promise… but God’s deliverance was not the way they expected things to happen (Exodus 14:8-12)! They hit a dead end, encountered a detour! The reality is that God’s dead ends, detours and dryholes are not mistakes but –
Exodus 13:17 tells that ‘When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, “If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.”’
Neither did He lead them on a direct route, but on a detour around by the desert road toward the Red Sea (v18)! This was not a mistake; it was a divine detour.
God has a purpose in His detours! With Israel, He knew that if He guided them on the straightest route, or the shortest route, they would go through Philistia. There they would meet the war-like Philistines and be frightened. With their hearts filled with fear, they would become dismayed, discouraged, defeated, and want to go back to Egypt. He knew that they were not ready for war.
Although that was some 3,500 years ago, we 2022 Christians could ask ourselves ‘Are we ready for war?’ because God has called us to a holy war against evil today!
We need to understand that this holy war is a spiritual one and we need to be prepared for it. The apostle Paul wrote, ‘For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms’ (Ephesians 6:12).
God knows what we are ready for, and for what we need to be prepared. He has a land of blessing for us, a place of fulfillment and a job for us to do. Yet we may not be taken straight to the place of activity and blessing because God knows what we are capable of handling and that we may need to learn more about His life lessons.
There are times when we can get some place too quickly. For those Israelites, the wilderness was God’s bootcamp, a place of hardness, of drought and discipline. God was toughening them up, getting them ready.
Doubtless, the children of Israel did not understand what was going on at the time. They did not know all that God had in store for them. But they didn’t have to know… it was enough that God knew. The children of Israel had never seen the Philistines and didn’t know what was out there ahead of them. God knew that they weren’t ready, and knows whether we are too. Hence His bootcamp for us.
Many times, we pray for a certain job or ask God to give us a home, or we pray for a future spouse. We wonder why we seem to be going around in circles. We’re just not ready.
- God is never in a hurry. Take the example of Moses… God called him but to ‘get ready’ he would spend 40 years in the desert!
- God called Paul… but he wasn’t ready yet, and God sent him down to Arabia for three years of preparation!
- What about you? The important thing is not that we know, but that God knows, and we follow Him… even if it seems to be a detour, some dry desert place, some dead end.
Israel didn’t know God would lead them through the desert with a pillar of fire and cloud… they didn’t know the direction they should travel but God did. They had to walkaround the desert in big circles for 40 years until they learned the lesson of the detour!
Moment by moment, we need to walk in the Spirit because God sees some Philistines that we don’t and some weaknesses that we don’t see; He knows things that we don’t know. We need to keep our eyes on Him.
As Israel is led out of Egypt, the Egyptians give chase, and another problem appears in front of the Israelites. This time they can see what it is – the Red Sea.
God is leading the children of Israel, but now they come to a dead end. Mountains are on either side of them, the Red Sea is in front of them, and Pharaoh and his armies are coming behind them! They’re boxed in with no way out that they could see. Their aggravation with the detour and dead end turns from aggravation to desperation as they blame Moses.
But God had put them exactly where He wanted them! He did it for a purpose. God put them in that dead end because He was going to bring judgment to Pharaoh (Exodus 14:3-4), and they were going to witness it, seeing God’s power at work yet again.
In life’s journey, we’ll come against difficult situations, and see no way out. When we come to this place, we need to remember that there is no panic in heaven, only plans. God knows exactly what He’s doing!
Those Israelites didn’t know what God was doing, but they were in His will when they came to this dead-end dilemma. It was God who led them there… so that the place of desperation would become the place of dependence. When we come to such places where there is absolutely no way out, then we have to cast ourselves completely on the Lord.
Dead end/detour/dry-hole’s four experiences
When God led the Israelites to this dead end, He wanted them to do four things… just as He wants us to do today!
1. Don’t be afraid (Exodus 14:13ESV)
God will allow us to come to a place where there seems to be all kinds of things to fear but, as He said to Israel through Moses, ‘Fear not.’
- It’s encouraging to know that ‘Fear not’ or its equivalent is in the Bible 365 times, one for every day of the year.
And God gave Israel several other commands that are still life-applicable to us today. He is our competency, adequacy, our sufficiency (2 Corinthians 3:5 ESV, 9:8ESV).
2. Stand firm (Exodus 14:13)
This means that it is out of our hands; there is nothing we can do.
Of course we always think that we have to do something, but sometimes God puts us in a place where there is nothing that we can do! It’s a case of standing firm and waiting for God to display His love and power.
In Galatians 5:1, Paul encourages us this way: ‘Christ has liberated us to be free. Stand firm then…’ See also 1 Corinthians 16:13, 2 Corinthians 1:24, and James’ direction in James 5:8. Most importantly Jesus’ encouragement in Luke 21:19, ‘Stand firm, and you will win life.’
3. See God’s salvation (Exodus 14:13)
Now this doesn’t mean to see the salvation of the Lord after the event when the dilemma is over. Rather it’s going through whatever the opposition is with the eye of faith! Standing still long enough is to see, to watch what God is going to do even before He does it.
This is a time of faith where we just simply say that we refuse to fear, and we place ourselves in God’s hands. By faith, we see our way out even when we don’t! And then, God shows us the way; the way that we hadn’t seen before.
The writer of Hebrews had this to say: ‘Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see’ (Hebrews 11:1).
4. Go forward (Exodus 14:15)
God tells the Israelites to move on! Then he turns the Red Sea into a superhighway. God specialises in things that seem to be impossible (Jesus confirmed this in Matthew 19:26, Mark 9:23, 10:27, Luke 1:37, 18:27).
This is not a time to stop the work of the church – sharing the gospel message and growing stronger in faith – and whatever else God proscribes we do. When He says ‘Go’ – we go!
The so-called impossibilities in our lives are opportunities for God to display His glory and might if we are living in the Spirit and have our eyes on that pillar of cloud and fire.
As we follow the Lord, we will also come to detours and dead ends. This where we walk by faith and not by sight but walking in the Spirit. God is on the throne, and leading us.
Though Israel couldn’t see it, right over the hill from where they were murmuring was a beautiful oasis. If Jesus Christ died for us on the cross and saved us, do we really think that He saved us to abandon us? Did God invest so much in us and brought us so far to just abandon us? No! Even in the barren and bitter places, Jesus is enough.
There are times on life’s journey when we’re seemingly camped in a desert place, and the experience we find is absolutely bitter. We think that God has forsaken us. But He hasn’t; God is proving us. We’re not out of God’s will! He brought us here; it’s right on the map He has for our lives.
Right over the hill, God has His oasis. You can’t see it, but God can. An important thing in life is not for us to know what God knows.
The important thing for us is that we walk in the Spirit and keep our hearts right with God.
- If you come to a detour, praise God… He knows where you are.
- If you come to a dead end, praise God… He has a detour.
- If you come to a dry hole, praise God… He has rivers of living water ahead!
Our Lord knows the way through the wilderness. All we have to do is follow Him. You will not always know the way, but you can always follow the guide who knows – Jesus, the Christ, the Saviour of the world.
Do you know Jesus personally? If not, pray to Him today, asking Him to come into your life.
- Call on Jesus today.
- Genuinely repent (turn) from your sins.
- Ask God to forgive you for them.
- Acknowledge Jesus as Lord of your life.
- Welcome the Holy Spirit to be your friend (John 14:16).
A benediction is good at this point – the words of the Lord to Moses and so to us the people of God: ‘The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine on you and be gracious to you;the Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace.’
Dr Richard Winter pastors The Connection Church, Huntington Beach, California