I want to speak to you this morning about Detoured, Dehydrated and Deserted. Have you ever been around Robin Hoods Barn? I have. A couple of years ago we went to Europe on a vacation. We didn't know anything about it. We thought, " Well, we'd go there, rent a car, drive around 3,000 miles, come back to the airport and go home." But they speak different languages there. It is not all in English. And the road signs were unreadable. So we just got used to detours. We went on a lot of detours. I'm an expert in making u-turns! We couldn't read their languages at all. We made some bad detours. Sometimes we were the only people going the right way down some of the streets. Do you ever feel that God sometimes reroutes your life and you are headed for a Dead End? Do you ever feel that way? I want you to listen anew to a famous Bible story that I think will be very helpful to us today.
The Israelites were journeying toward Canaan. They had just left Egypt and they were relishing their freedom. And their trip was riddled with detours, and dead ends, and dehydration, and dry desserts. Can there be a lesson in this for us? I think there is. Maybe you are helplessly bogged down in some dead end job. Maybe you have dated and dated and you feel doomed to be single the rest of your life. Maybe you feel boxed into a hole with no exit. How do you react to negative things that happen in your life? Maybe your adult child is not making you proud. He is too old to spank. And you just don't know what to do, and you feel like it is a dead end with no departure gate.
Well, let's read an exciting story here in Exodus 13:17,18. 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." So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea and the Israelites went up from out of Egypt armed for battle.
The Divine Detour.
They had a detour. Now we tend to think that God should have led them on the shortest route, but He led them on the longest route. What was their destination? Their destination was the Promised Land. What did God do? God led His children on a long hot dusty detour that lasted 40 years. Now surely God made a mistake here, didn't he? God actually saw that His children required the harshness of this detour! God led them the long way because it was the better way. Had they taken the shortcut they would have ended up in the land of the Philistines, and they weren't prepared yet to do war. And they weren't ready to do battle with those bullies. And so God's detour circumnavigated them around the danger. And it did several other things.
The next time your job, your marriage, your education, your dating messes up and you go off on some detour I want you to think that maybe, just maybe, God allowed that to happen to open up a better path for you. Could that be possible? I think it can. Maybe you are languishing in a wheelchair and you think, "Lord, this is bad." Well, is there some good that can come out of that? Maybe you have been diagnosed with some bad disease and you think, "Where is God?" Maybe you are about to go on a Holy detour, a divine detour. Maybe you need this divine detour.
The Children of Israel were saturated with Egypt, with its customs and its habits. They reeked with the smell of leeks. They smelled like Egypt. Egyptianism directed their very life. God had to resort to some drastic measures to get pagan Egypt out of their life. And they had to learn to respect and to trust God. So God led them on a Detour.
And for the first time in about 400 years they tasted freedom. They were though with their slavery. The slave masters were no where to be found, and God was their leader. They were so thrilled about that.
And how did God lead them? How did that happen? Were there road signs? No. The was such a lack of road signs, and their path was so crooked, that God led them by a cloud. Cloud Leadership. It was actually better than a sophisticated GPS receiver. All they had to do was follow a big cloud. That's pretty simple isn't it? And you are under the shade of that cloud the whole way. It's wonderful. And at night the cloud warms you. They didn't have sleeping bags.
Imagine what Cloud Leadership would be like. Wouldn't that be neat if we had that today? Let's suppose that you are studying for a final examination. It's a tough exam. And as you review, a little cloud highlights the areas you will be covering in the exam. You follow the cloud's leading and become better prepared for the test. Wouldn't that be neat. Or you get the picture book of all the fellows and all the girls in your school. And you think, which girl should I date? And you open the book and right over a certain picture there is a little bright cloud. That's the one! "Thank you Lord." Wouldn't that be neat? Or you drive your old jalopy into the brand new car lot and you get out and you look around and over there is a cloud hovering over a car. You walk over to it and it's a brand new red Corvette! "Thank you Lord! You have such good taste!" Cloud Leadership!
When you are on God's Divine Detour how should you act? To benefit from Cloud Leadership you have to Follow the Cloud. Will you know where you are going? Probably not. When you are on a Divine Go Around... your job description is to simply just trust God and keep following that cloud.
Now keep in mind that God's little cloud might even be a black little cloud sometimes. He might lead you on a nasty detour. It might hover over the picture of a girl that will give you grief. And you say, "well how can that be?" To build into your character some missing quality. It might lead you into a dead end job. The cloud is not misleading you, it is building you up. You keep following God's cloud and it will eventually lead you to the promised land.
Paul refers to this same experience. Let's go back over here to 1 Corinthians, and Paul relates to this experience and how we should relate to this story. Look a I Corinthians 10:1-6. For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers, these people we just read about, were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. 1 Cor 10:2 They were all baptized. You see, that's how they were baptized. These people were born again Christians. They were baptized in the sea, Paul says. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food They were growing spiritually. and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered over the desert. They lost their lives, didn't they? Here they were born again Christians, they were baptized. They had a good experience with God, and they lost it. Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did.
You see, they were baptized. They were in the Lord, but they didn't quite go far enough. They were all baptized in God's evangelistic series, but their hearts were not right. They were "set on evil". Paul says their experience is for our well-being, for our example so that we can learn a lesson from them so that we can avoid repeating the same thing that happened to them.
You see, going to the Red Sea is just as much God's will as going through the Red Sea. One day that cloud, the cool shade of that cloud, started to move and they unpitched their tents, packed up, and they started to follow it. And it moved them all the way to the borders of the Red Sea. And it stopped, so they stopped. And they pitched their tents and then lo and behold there came Pharaoh the next morning. And they thought, "what are we going to do? We are boxed in. We can't go this way. We can't go that way. And we certainly can't cross the sea. And here comes Pharaoh. What are we going to do? Lord, you haven't led us the right way." And they started complaining. And they started criticizing Moses. And when Pharaoh came, he came with all of his elite troops. All the chariots of Egypt were there. These were like tanks in those days. And they were bearing down upon them and thousands of these evil pagan hardened soldiers were bearing down upon them and soon they would all be in chains again, they would all be taken back to Egypt, they would all be slaves again and be making bricks like they had before. Why are you doing this to us Lord? You have delivered us, and now you have led us into a dead end."
Have you ever been between a rock and a hard place? Who was the Rock? The Rock was Jesus. You are liable to die if they do surgery and liable to die if they don't. I've found that the hard places of life have taught me some of the most important lessons of life.
The Israelites had been doing it themselves for hundreds of years down there in Egypt. They'd ben making their own bricks, mixing their own clay. They'd been molding the clay. They'd been gathering their own straw. And fighting their own battles. They needed to learn as we do, that God really wants to fight our battles for us if we'll just trust Him. You see, we, like they, should not rely on man-made weapons. Let God do personal battle with your problems. Hand the problem over to Him. God wants all of us to be conscientious objectors. I think the military classification is 1-A0. He doesn't want you out there doing battle on your own. He will always win the war for you if you'll trust in Him.
Our extremity is God's opportunity to act on our behalf. We think God helps those who help themselves but in reality God helps the helpless, if the truth were known. And we are helpless. They were helpless. They could not save themselves.
Let's go back to Exodus 14, our scripture reading. In the King James version, Exodus 14:13 says, And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord. In the New International for Exodus 14:14, ir says, "The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still." We don't like to be still. We don't like to stand still. We like to do it ourselves. What we need to do is wait, trust in the Lord, and pray to Him, and not worry about it, and not get discouraged about it, and He'll take care of the problem in His own time. You are not going to be starving to death next week. You are going to have food to eat next week. So, trust in Him.
It seemed they were going to die. Here they were, Detoured and seemingly Deserted and left to die. That is what it seemed. The Red Sea was before them. There was no ferry waiting to take them across. There was no way to go in either direction. They were surrounded. Death was certain. How often we think God has made a bad mistake in our life. And the bible says that God led them there. God led His people into that situation. Why did He do that? Actually they were exactly where God wanted them. They needed some education. So do we. We need to be taught to abide in Jesus. We need to stop worrying and start waiting on God. When troubles surround you, and you can't look this way of that way, try looking up!
God leads us into impossible circumstances that we might see His possibilities and His mighty deliverance. Immediately God put His cloud between His Children and the Egyptian enemy. This did two things: it confused the Egyptians and kept the Israelites from gazing upon the problem. God wants us to look to Him for the solution Him and not be overwhelmed by the problems.
Exodus 14:21 Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the LORD drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. A wide freeway was created there between the waters. I like God's construction time table. Rather than store orange barrels along mile after mile of highway for months and months, God created His super Highway overnight. The next morning they marched over a dusty sea bed to the other side safely.
The Egyptians thought, "We'll do the same thing." But, you know, the Devil can't run His artillery on God's roads. When the Egyptian soldiers took up chase and got fully between the walls of water they got a big bath because God told Moses to stretch his hand over the waters. Moses waved his stick and God's angels stopped holding the water back and a watery grave buried the Egyptian army. He buried their problem. God took care or their problem. Not one of the Egyptians escaped. God will take care of your problems.
Not one of God's people killed even one Egyptian. You don't have to do personal battle with the devil. Jesus took care of that on the cross. You just turn your impossible problems to Him and watch His deliverance. What did they do? They walked where God led. They waited for God to help. They stood still. They watched God perform. And that's all God wants us to do. And God did it all! He did it without any assistance on their part. Salvation is 100% provided by Jesus Christ. All you do is accept it, and rejoice in it, and live according to the joy that you have.
Now, Paul continues to warn Christians back here in 1 Corinthians 10:9-11. It says, We should not test the Lord, as some of them did--and were killed by snakes. And do not grumble, as some of them did--and were killed by the destroying angel. These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come.
So, when your place is a dead-end dilemma in the Hands of Jesus Christ He will turn it into a freeway that will deliver you all the way to the heavenly Canaan land.
How elated they were to see their enemies exterminated. They even sang a song of praise: the Song of Moses and Miriam. They sang that song out there in the desert. Each of us have been baptized in the water as they were. Rescued from the slavery of sin. But not long after our new life, we notice the path gets hard again. We have to go through some deserts looking for oasis, we're looking for some water, we're parched and times get tough. We look for the land milk and honey but we taste the grit of sand and thirst for water. Why would God do that? Well, there were four Purposes in that. Come over here to Deuteronomy 8:2. Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years. And here are the four purposes. There's a purpose in God's detours. To humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. Those are thr four purposes. There's a purpose in dead-ends and detours and dry holes and dehydration.
Let's talk about that dehydration. Next, right after they left the Red Sea and three days later they were dying of thirst. They had all these animals, and they had to have water. Do you know how much water a cow drinks? They had to have water. They were Dehydrated. Look at Exodus 15:22 Then Moses led Israel from the Red Sea and they went into the Desert of Shur. For three days they traveled in the desert without finding water. And they were getting desperate. You can imagine how you would be. You're out there in the desert. It's hot. And they were in the desert. They didn't have any water and they were hot. There were no wells. The way was desperate. They were hot and dusty and these thousands of animals were about to die and they started complaining. They were about to die. Three days before they had stood and sung the song of Moses and praising the Lord, and now they were just hours from death by dehydration.
How had this happened? The irony was that God had actually led them to this parched dry place. Do you suppose God still does that today? God led them to that parched dry place. And the people grumbled against Moses. In three days Moses went from Hero to Zero!
Hard times tend to dry up our faith. When the money runs out and the check book is dry and there is very little money left, we tend to get discouraged. But it takes tough times to break up the bad characteristics in our life. How often our biggest predicament becomes our biggest profit if we will learn from our mistakes. The root system of a tree only goes deep in trying times. It's going down searching for water, and that strengthens that tree. Storms, wind, dry times make deep roots.
Israel's actions seem stupid to us today. We would never behave like they did....would we? Do we? Do we complain? God rescued them and baptized them all but they all died apparently losing their eternal life there in the desert. Could that happen to us? Paul continues: 1 Cor 10:12 (New King James) Therefore let him that thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. So, you be careful. When the money runs out, when your health runs out, when bad things happen to you, you be careful. Those are times that should either make you or break you. And it depends on how you react to the Lord Jesus Christ. So, be careful.
I will tell you that if you want to go from zero to hero in God's sight, then you need to endure, to tough it out, to hold fast until Jesus comes. That's what you want to do. Until Jesus comes and leads us through the gates into the promised land where there is milk and honey and good things. So, hold on. Hold fast till Jesus comes. Don't give up like they did. Learn from their example. We can all make it to heaven if we don't give up.
Sources: Bible Amplifier, Exodus, by Jon L Dybdahl, Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1994. Moses, by Charles R. Swindoll, Word Publishing, Nashville, TN., 1999. James O. Davis, Assemblies of God Evangelist. Hymn of Praise: #71 Come, Thou Almighty King Scripture: Ex. 14:13, 14 Hymn of Response: #600 Hold Fast Till I Come
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last updated July 25, 2004/em> by Bob Beckett.