“Which way to Sylvan Lane?” a young traveler inquired of a neighborhood storekeeper in pre-GPS days.
“Turn right at the next corner, and go straight, you’ll run right into it. You can’t miss it.”
Sometimes, though, these “can’t miss it” directions have been missed in the bewildering maze that showed up when one turned right. It leaves him wondering, DID he for sure take the right turn?
When it comes to beliefs, it is worth checking! Many people are confident—at least comfortable—that they are right, when it is largely because they agree with their friends, or family, or someone they trust, yet hold to beliefs that have no solid supporting evidence. Others are satisfied they are right mainly because of the sheer number of travelers on the road.
But where is the surety that it is the right road? It is right ONLY if it goes straight with the word of God.
Doesn’t it remind us of that straight ahead verse in Proverbs?
Proverbs 4:25–27 25Let your eyes look straight ahead, And your eyelids look right before you. 26Ponder the path of your feet, And let all your ways be established. 27Do not turn to the right or the left; Remove your foot from evil.
When the Israelites left Egypt, after the death plague and Pharaoh turned anxious to have them gone, God gave clear, step by step instructions. They were to leave post-haste. He also gave Moses a prophecy of what was going to happen. When Pharaoh realized what he had lost, he would be upset. Angry. Ready to force them to return. They would reach a place near the Red Sea where they would appear to be trapped, and might fall victims of Pharaoh’s anger, were it not for God’s protection. God was ready for that too.
Let us read the account of what happened after the victorious night they left Egypt, after they had been gone only a few days.
Exodus 14:1–9 1Now the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 2“Speak to the children of Israel, that they turn and camp before Pi Hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, opposite Baal Zephon; you shall camp before it by the sea. 3For Pharaoh will say of the children of Israel, ‘They are bewildered by the land; the wilderness has closed them in.’ 4Then I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, so that he will pursue them;
Why was God said to harden Pharaoh’s heart? Pharaoh’s heart was already hard. God was only using Pharaoh with Pharaoh’s own set of mind. He wanted the labor of those Israelites. Listen to the text and you will see what happened.
Pharaoh had resisted releasing the Israelites from the beginning—they were profitable for his nation, and Pharaoh wanted to keep them. Otherwise why the first 9 plagues? With every plague God sent, Pharaoh would relent to get rid of the discomfort, and return to his old mindset. His repentance was only as deep or as long as his misery.
4Then I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, so that he will pursue them; and I will gain honor over Pharaoh and over all his army, that the Egyptians may know that I am the Lord.” And they did so.
Now as they were on their way starting into the wilderness… continuing in Exodus chapter 14,
5Now it was told the king of Egypt that the people had fled,
This is all Pharaoh needed to hear—that they were gone! Even though they were going with his permission—even a loud, audible command of Pharaoh.
First reaction, Pharaoh and his servants blamed themselves for releasing the Israelites.
5… 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?”
Time for hot pursuit! Act quickly! Full force!
6So he made ready his chariot and took his people with him. 7Also, he took six hundred choice chariots, and all the chariots of Egypt with captains over every one of them. 8And 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. 9So 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.
Exodus 14:10–20 10And 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.
Now it was 9-1-1. They were afraid. When they “lifted their eyes and behold, the Eypgtians marched after them”!!
They were “VERY AFRAID.” Time to seek God’s help.
And time for disrespect. Ingratitude. Even sarcasm.
11Then 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?
It was first complaint, and only the beginning of complaints against Moses, and against God.
12Is 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.”
When they had complained in their bondage, now they were complaining about their deliverance—better to have stayed serving the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness?
What was Moses’ response? Did he return in kind, disrespect for disrespect? Hate for hate? Not at all. Hear his reply:
13And Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever.
Moses knew what God was going to do, that God had promised to be with them. This was just the beginning, but it would be good!
14The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.”
Moses cried out to God for His help. Hear God’s reply:
15And the Lord said to Moses, “Why do you cry to Me? Tell the children of Israel to go forward.
Then there were specific instructions for Moses.
16… lift up your rod, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it. And the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea.
Here was a miracle, such as they had not seen before. Could they believe it? Could it silence the complaints? No, but it would be their deliverance.
17And I indeed will harden the hearts of the Egyptians, and they shall follow them. So I will gain honor over Pharaoh and over all his army, his chariots, and his horsemen.
This account would be told and retold for centuries in honor of the God of Israel, who brought His people safely through the Red Sea on dry ground.
18Then the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I have gained honor for Myself over Pharaoh, his chariots, and his horsemen.”
The angels were assisting, the pillar of cloud by day, the pillar of fire by night.
19And the Angel of God, who went before the camp of Israel, moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud went from before them and stood behind them.
The angel pillar and cloud served a double purpose: light, darkness and defense through the night.
20So it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel. Thus it was a cloud and darkness to the one, and it gave light by night to the other, so that the one did not come near the other all that night.
Another miracle: the angel provided light by night for the Israelites, and a cloud and darkness to the Egyptians, a wall of separation between them—another evidence that God was protecting them.
The “angel of the Lord” is singular not plural—was it the task of a single angel to form the barrier of protection?, or more likely an angel cloud or angel pillar? Maybe it is the head angel in command of the angelic host. We are not told. But it was God’s miraculous provision for the safety of His people. They had nothing to fear, if they had only believed God.
What is the lesson for us?
Take the command and go forward! Straight on!
We have chosen the path of righteousness, and that is a most distinctive path:
Proverbs 12:28 28In the way of righteousness is life, And in its pathway there is no death.
Think of that: NO DEATH –the ONLY path of its kind in the whole world!
After the Israelites had left Egypt, they needed the command to “Go Forward.” It was not safe to stay where they were or to go back. There was only one right way: FORWARD. They obeyed, and God led them.
“the God that lived in Moses’ time is just the same today.”
Though there are no spectacular demonstrations of God’s power now, He is just as strong to deliver through His unseen messengers—the angels—all who keep straight on in the narrow way.
Caution and ceasless watching must be practiced by the traveler in the straight and narrow way, because there are dangers at every step, pitfalls to be avoided, temptations to be resisted, difficulties to overcome.
But there must be no going back or turning aside or standing still.
Start where you stand and never mind the past;
The past won’t help you in beginning new;
If you are done with it at last,
Why that’s enough, you’re through!
This is another chapter in the book,
This is another race that you have planned;
Don’t give the vanished days a backward look—
Start where you stand
—and “Go forward.”
There must be no going back, or turning aside, or standing still.
Only one way: Straight forward, if we would find the LIFE Jesus said lies at the end.
Matthew 7:14 14Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.
This is the route Paul took, always making progress, forgetting the things behind and reaching forth unto those things before, he pressed toward “the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”
Observe the wild animals. Their safety lies in their alertness. They are wary and not easily caught. They are quick to sense danger and by the very feel of the ground will detect a hollow sound before they come to the brink of a trap.
We should be as wise as the dumb creatures and use as much caution, for are we not told,
Proverbs 4:14–15 14Do not enter the path of the wicked, And do not walk in the way of evil. 15Avoid it, do not travel on it; Turn away from it and pass on.
We do not have to go out of our way to find a pitfall. They lie in our path every day: the pitfalls of jealousy, pride, foolishness, bitterness, envy, impatience and many more. How cautiously we have to tread to avoid them, even build high heaps around them so we will not fall there again, so that we have nothing to hinder our going straight FORWARD.
Jeremiah 31:21 21“Set up signposts, Make landmarks [high heaps – KJV]; Set your heart toward the highway, The way in which you went. Turn back, O virgin of Israel, Turn back to these your cities.
Let us ponder well our path and watch with greater diligence every step that we may keep right, and go straight.
Weymouth’s translation of Hebrews 13:7 gives us fitting direction:
Hebrews 13:7“Remember your former leaders , it was they who brought you the Word of God. Bear in mind how they ended their lives, and imitate their faith.”
If we do this, like them we shall be granted the right to dwell forever in the soon coming Kingdom of God.
The Israelites were given the right directions: “These are the statutes and judgments which you shall be careful to observe in the land which the Lord God of your fathers is giving you to possess, all the days that you live on the earth”(Deut. 12:1).
But they were going the wrong way, “every man doing whatever is right in his own eyes” (Deut. 12:8). Wisdom teaches us to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.”
Our prayer should be: “Direct my steps by Your word, and let no iniquity have dominion over me.” (Ps. 119:133). Then, we know we are on the RIGHT PATH going STRAIGHT AHEAD to the Kingdom!