Have you ever blamed God for your problems? Some of my greatest frustration comes when I know I am walking in obedience, but God is putting roadblocks in my path.
A friend was telling about how excited he was that a co-worker was becoming receptive to the gospel after a long time of blaming God for a late-term miscarriage. He was beginning to recover from the anger and pain; in fact, his wife was pregnant again. He was listening and responding positively in weekly Bible studies.
And then his wife miscarried again.
Understandably, my friend was upset. Here he was being faithful to share the gospel, and it seemed the Lord was intentionally hemming him in. Why would the Lord make things so…impossible?
In Exodus, God rains frogs and locusts and hail and boils and darkness and blood and many other strange things upon Pharaoh and the Egyptians. He takes Pharaoh’s firstborn son. Finally, he let’s God’s firstborn son Israel go. The people hastily depart from 430 years of slavery into the unknown.
Then God does something strange. It’s almost like he wants Pharaoh to chase his people:
“Tell the people of Israel to turn back and encamp on front of Pi-hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, in front of Baal-zephon; you shall encamp facing it, by the sea” (Exodus 14:1).
So God redirects the people, specifically telling them to camp by the sea. As in, no way under it, no way around it, water in both directions, sea. He even reveals his intentions to Moses:
“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, 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 14:3-4)
God is using his people as bait! It’s not the wilderness that has shut them in–it’s God himself. He has put his people in an impossible situation so that Pharaoh will corner them. He is not merely content to save Israel. He uses his people to garner glory over Pharaoh. The man who said, “Who is the LORD, that I should obey his voice and let Israel go?” will bow his knee in humility before the glorious strength of this LORD before the story is over (Exodus 5:2).
As Pharaoh’s army bears down upon them, the Israelites begin to realize that their God has led them into a death trap. And they do what I do so often. They run their mouths:
“Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness?? What have you done to us in bringing us out of Egypt? Is not this what we said to you in Egypt: ‘Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness” (Exodus 14:11-12)
So many words. I completely understand. I cannot tell you how many times I have come home and unloaded on my wife about all of my frustrations with the Lord. Frustrations at church. Frustrations with children. Frustrations in sharing the gospel and seeing no fruit. (**Recently, frustrations with a malfunctioning laptop!)
Why has the Lord done this? I know he did it. He’s sovereign. He brought the people out of Egypt when could have just left them alone. Here I am trying to be obedient and he’s led me to either a watery grave or the sharp edge of Pharaoh’s sword. This is the end, dear brothers and sisters. And God is to blame.
Then Moses said…
After the people say their piece–fretful, upset, frustrated, angry–Moses steps up to the microphone and says two words:
Are the circumstances impossible? Yes. Has the Lord intentionally put you there? Yes. Is it his fault? Yes. Then be quiet and let him do what he does best:
“Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” (Exodus 14:14)
We all know how the story ends. God opens the sea. The angel of the Lord keeps Pharaoh’s army at bay with a blazing pillar of fire until God’s people are safely through. Then the Lord allows Pharaoh to pursue through the sea. He claps all his hosts with two walls of water. And here is the result:
“Thus the Lord saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. 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.” (Exodus 14:30-31)
We are a culture of oversharing, but spewing your frustrations is not a virtue. It is a sign of faithlessness. If the Lord has brought you into impossible circumstances, if he is frustrating your obedience, if he has lead you into the valley of the shadow of Death, it’s his fault. Therefore, expect him to demonstrate his power so that you might fear and believe.
You have only be silent. This is your role in the story of God’s mighty acts of salvation. When you take hit after hit, can you keep your mouth shut? Pray that the Spirit will stifle the unbelief that wants to pour forth from your heart and out of your mouth. Complaining and grumbling come naturally in difficult and uncertain circumstances. Silence is Spirit-given.
The Lord is determined to flex his muscles over his enemies. He is determined to strengthen your faith in the Lord and his appointed Savior Jesus Christ. But first, he has to hem you in.