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MONDAY— So God led the people around by the way of the wilderness toward the Red Sea. Exodus 13:18

There is much debate within Christian circles about whether God acts or reacts. Both are true, but there are some events recorded in the Bible about which God boldly states that He caused. He claims responsibility for “blight and mildew in crops” (Amos 4:9), for “plagues” (Amos 4:10), for calamity (Jer. 49:32), and for causing the fleeing Israelites to take the long way around, a way that smacked them up against an impossible situation: The Red Sea. Imagine being in that throng of terrified Israelites, fleeing the only home you’d ever known, following a man you’d barely met, and facing an ocean with an army in hot pursuit. How could this be God’s will? Had He brought them this far only to drown them? Disaster was their only option.

We’ve all gone through seasons when disaster seemed our only option. Our first response is usually panic as we consider what awaits us. Unemployment? Homelessness? Childlessness? Singleness? If we know we’ve done nothing to get us to this place, we usually look toward heaven with one of two attitudes: either God wasn’t paying attention when this happened or God brought us to this place for His good purposes. The first reaction often propels us to find our own solutions, many of which cause greater problems. The second seems to be what scripture supports. It was God who led the Israelites to the Red Sea, and it may be God who leads us to our own looming disasters because that is where we must rely on His deliverance.

Final Thought: God often orchestrates what seems to us to be disasters because it puts us in position to watch Him work.

Prayer: Father, I’d like to think you’ll protect me from every painful circumstance, but that’s not how you work. Instead, you allow me to face disasters so that I learn to call upon you and trust your plan. I’m never helpless when you’re in charge. Amen.
TUESDAY— But Moses told the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the LORD’s salvation…” Exodus 14:13

“Do not be afraid! Stand firm and God will provide the rent money…the medical treatment…the college degree…the job…” We all need a Moses to speak those words to us when we’re facing a scary future. But how could Moses be so certain that God would deliver Israel? After all, this didn’t look good for them. They weren’t soldiers. They had little kids, families, and scared adolescents. What were they against the finest army in the world? Why should they believe Moses? Why should we?

There is a vast difference between boastful claims and rock-solid faith. Dozens of self-proclaimed “prophets” declare “Thus saith the Lord…” that turns out to be nonsense. So how do we know who to believe? How do we know what to believe? We start by analyzing our situation. Is it one God can bless? We cannot declare freedom from bills that we accumulated foolishly. We cannot declare that Mr./Ms. Hottie will marry us because that desire is ours, not God’s. Moses declared deliverance with great confidence because he’d already met with the Lord and this whole thing was for the Lord’s glory, not his. We can stand firm and not be afraid when we know this is God’s plan, not ours. When we desire God’s glory, we’re on the same page with Him. If we did not cause the situation and we’ve run out of ideas, we’re told to stand firm and wait for the Lord’s salvation.

Final Thought: When circumstances are beyond your control, analyze your situation. Is it one God can bless? Stand firm.

Prayer: Lord, help me analyze my situations. The ones I caused myself, I repent of and ask you to help me learn from them. But the others, I need you. Only you can deliver me from this hard place, so I commit to waiting for you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
WEDNESDAY— “The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Exodus 14:14

Red limped back into camp and was immediately surrounded by his hiking team. “What happened!” “You’re bleeding!” “Wow, Red, your clothes are nearly torn off!” He sank into a camp chair and tried to stop the violent shaking that had taken over his body since the grizzly attack nearly two hours ago. “I…he…it was a grizzly. Biggest thing I’ve ever seen… I started running and he chased me. Man, they’re fast!” Clark stepped forward with a first aid kit and a frown. “You ran? That’s the worst thing you can do! We all went through the training. You’re supposed to stand still, not run!” Red nodded slowly and wiped blood from his torn jeans. “Yeah, climbed a tree but he pulled me out…ran, but he caught me…forgot all my training…”
Wilderness etiquette tells us what to do if we encounter a bear in the wild: stand still and speak softly. Running or climbing trees only makes things worse. Christian etiquette tells us what to do when we encounter vicious gossip, spiteful relatives, or an upper management that decided we’re non-essential. Our first response is like Red’s. We want to run, retaliate, or defend ourselves. But the Lord says to bring it to Him and then be still. Being still is hard when everything in you says RUN or FIGHT. But God wants us to be still and wait on His answer. When we are still, we avoid digging a deeper pit. Stillness allows us to hear the voice of God and rest in His peace. God won’t fight battles we’ve picked. He’ll fight those He picked when we’re still.

Final Thought: What danger are you facing about which the Lord is whispering, “I will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

Prayer: Lord, you know what I’m scared about. I’ve done all I can do, so now I call upon you to fight for me. I will do whatever you ask, just give me faith to trust that you are fighting for me. I will be still and wait for you. In Jesus’ name, amen.
THURSDAY— The angel of God, who had been going before the camp of Israel, moved and went behind them. Exodus 14:19

Sometimes God leads us as clearly as a tour guide. We see Him opening doors we could not open, kicking obstacles out of our way, and pointing to our destiny. It’s as clear as though we were reading a map—then He seems to disappear. “What happened?” we cry. “Did I mess up? Did I take a wrong turn?” We’ve grown comfortable with the presence of God and suddenly we don’t sense His nearness anymore. To our best understanding, we didn’t move. So where is He in those times?

This verse gives us a clue. The presence of God had led the Israelites with a cloud and pillar of fire. They’d grown comfortable seeing Him always before them, directing them, guiding them—then He wasn’t. Where was He? That mighty power which brought Pharaoh to his knees had led them to this place—and then He was gone. Or was He? God had not abandoned them; He merely switched from offense to defense. Instead of guiding them forward, He went behind them to defend them from the Egyptians. As long as they obeyed Him, His cloud made them invisible to their enemies. And as long as we are walking with the Lord, we need never fear that He is not with us. Sometimes He leads, but sometimes He defends. We won’t know until we get to heaven about the drunk driver who missed us, the layoff notice that never came, or the virus we never caught. Simply because we don’t sense the nearness of God doesn’t mean He is not close—He’s just switched positions.

Final Thought: If the guidance you once experienced from the Lord is gone, maybe He’s behind you, defending you.

Prayer: Father, thank you that you never leave me. Even when I don’t feel your presence, your word says you are never far away. Thank you for guiding me and defending me from all Satan tries to do to me. I will trust you. In Jesus’ name, amen.
FRIDAY— …the LORD drove back the sea… and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground… Exodus 14:21-22

There was no way. NO. WAY. With an army behind them and the sea in front of them, they were hemmed in. The Israelites had never seen Charlton Heston’s movie. They’d never seen the Flannelgraph pictures in Sunday School. This was happening in real time and it was impossible. No way could a million people cross this sea. Even if everyone could swim, what about the animals? The carts full of supplies? The babies? What about the toddlers, the elderly, and the sick? What about…?

When we’re facing a Red Sea, we think of a hundred reasons why there is NO WAY. We remind the Lord of how impossible our situation is. What about my physical limitations, Lord? What about my lack of education? My medical bills?
The Israelites had only two options: go around the sea or go back to Egypt. But God was not limited by their options. He would take them right through the sea. Not slogging through the mud—on dry ground! The same God who took Israel through the sea is not limited by our options either. He intends to take us right through the problem—on dry ground. But we’ve got to follow Him because He’s got lessons along the way and solutions we never imagined. When our situations seem impossible, we don’t need to panic or try to swim across. We trust in the God who can turn an ocean floor into dry ground overnight.

Final Thought: Your efforts will have you slogging through mud. God has a dry-ground solution if you’ll obey Him.

Prayer: Father, so many things seem impossible, but I’m learning to trust in your dry ground solutions. When I’ve come to the end of possibilities, may I never forget that you don’t need my options. You’re already working on it. Thank you. Amen.