Responsive Reading: Exodus 14:5-20
Key Verse(s): Exodus 14:19
Background Scripture: John 10:1-30
“The Angel of God who went before the camp of Israel, moved and went behind them,” is what we see is said in my key verse for today. As I shared with you last week, we as genuine believers ought to rest assured in the fact that God is always moving on our behalf. I want you to know and understand today that God’s got your back; God is your shield and protection in the world we live in today.
In Good Care
When you hear me say that God’s got your back, what does that mean to you? I suppose our thoughts would instantly go to how we define what it means for someone to have our back, right?
When one has another’s back, we would say that means they will be there to watch out for us and help us with whatever sort of help that we may need when it is needed. So, the ones that have your back are the ones that you believe will be there for you through thick and thin. We would say that those who have our back are our biggest allies.
To some of you, knowing that God’s got your back brings about a certain assurance. I am certainly one that feels greatly reassured that God’s got my back as I continue on my journey through life; He has brought me through so many trials and tribulations, while lifting me over all obstacles and opposition. I would suggest to you today that the believer ought to rest assured that God is our shield and protection.
The Good Shepherd’s Care
I tell you today that we true believers ought to rest assured that God is our shield and protection because the Lord is always watching over us – The Lord is our shepherd.
In Psalm 23, David speaks about the Lord being his shepherd. David said of God as his shepherd, that the Lord leads him to lie down in green pastures and besides still waters. David said that with the Lord as his shepherd, he is comforted by His rod and staff through the valley of the shadow of death. With God as his shepherd, David said that he feared no evil.
I feel like we often gloss over Psalm 23 as just that passage of scripture that we had to remember as children; the words simply become words with us giving them little thought or meaning. In that psalm, David spoke with great understanding from his own personal walk (experience) with the Lord. We must learn to have this same kind of understanding about the Lord as our shepherd.
As our good shepherd, Jesus said that He is the doorkeeper to the sheepfold of His flock (John 10:1-3). What does this mean? This means that nothing can come into the fold of Christ unless He allows it. So, there is safety and security within the fold of Christ.
As the good shepherd, Jesus goes before His flock and we, the flock, follow Him (John 10:4). When you and I follow Christ, no matter what we face along the way, our good shepherd protects us and Jesus says that He gives His life for His flock (John 10:11). How could you not feel reassured after hearing these words from Christ?
As we know, Christ did lay down His life for His flock when He was crucified on the cross so that you and I could have a chance at everlasting life. When He rose from the grave, Jesus proclaimed that all authority had been given to Him. So, I would ask today, why would I choose for Christ to not have my back?
Out of the shepherd’s care
There are several others on the other hand who do not believe that some ‘imaginary’ God could ever have their back; they choose to rely on others to have their back. Now, it is certainly a good thing when we are surrounded by people that will have our backs. Scripture testifies that it is good to have one be able to sharpen another – that is to help and to uplift each other (Prov. 27:17; 1 Thess. 5:11).
However, we must be honest with the fact that we cannot have each other’s back in the manner that we wish. What I mean by this is that we cannot have each other’s back every minute and every second of the day. At the end of the day, we are all simply human.
You and I can get fatigued; we can grow weary and tired. Not only can we grow weary and tired, there are days where we have to fight off illness and disease. These things do not account for the fact that we will also have times where all of us have to deal with our own personal issues before we can help to deal with another’s issues. All of these things, in itself, can make things rather difficult for us to have each other’s back around the clock.
Yes, it is a good thing to have people that can have your back, but I tell you, we need someone to have our back that can be even more reliable. Yes, it is truly a blessing that you can be surrounded by people who have your back, but it is an even better blessing for God – the One with all authority – to have your back.
Our Shield and Protection
Last week, I referenced how when Satan wanted to put Job to the test, he remarked how the Lord had a hedge – a shield – around him (Job 1:9). I want to show you, again this week, how the Lord moves to have the backs of those who rely on His protection.
Revealed to mankind
In Exodus 14, we find the children of Israel, after having left Egypt, had turned and made camp between Migdol and the sea (Ex. 14:1); they were enjoying the blessing of their brand new freedom from living in the bondage of Egypt.
However, back in Egypt, scripture shows us that Pharaoh was not happy with letting the children of Israel go. We are told that the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, yet again, to the point that Pharaoh decided to pursue the children of Israel (Ex. 14:4). This was not the first time that Pharaoh’s heart had been hardened by the Lord.
Now, someone might ask, why did God harden the heart of Pharaoh? What was the purpose of Him doing that? To answer this question, we must first examine the kind of person that Pharaoh was in his heart.
As we know, the Pharaohs were the heads of the most powerful and advanced nation in the world around that period of time. Most Pharaohs tended to think very highly of themselves which was typical of most kings, emperors, and dictators. This Pharaoh was no different as he thought so highly of himself that he thought himself to be a god among men. So, this Pharaoh was a very prideful man.
Now, there are a few reasons as to why God hardened the heart of Pharaoh’s against letting the children of Israel go. As I mentioned in last week’s Sunday School, the primary reason that the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh was so that He could reveal to mankind His power and authority over all things (Ex. 3:8).
However, at that same time, the Lord desired to send a message to the proud. Again, Pharaoh thought himself to be a god because he lorded over a people that he had enslaved, so, the second reason that Pharaoh’s heart was hardened was because God sought to humble the proud.
In our scripture for today, we will see that the Lord said that He hardened the heart of Pharaoh so that Pharaoh would pursue the children of Israel. In doing this, God said that He would gain the honor over Pharaoh (the proud) and over all his army; the Egyptians would know that He is the Lord (Ex. 14:4). God wanted the world to know back then that He was Lord and the Lord still wants the world to know today that He is Lord of all things.
Do you know and believe that the Lord is Lord of all things? If so, do you believe that God’s got your back? Wouldn’t you want the Lord to have your back?
When the enemy pursues us
As we continue through this passage of scripture, Pharaoh and his servants began to question what they had just done in freeing the children of Israel. They said to themselves, “why have we done this, that we have let Israel go from serving us (Ex. 14:5)?”
Pharaoh began to make ready his chariot for pursuing the children of Israel. Scripture tells us that he took his people with and added six hundred choice chariots to those he was taking to pursue Israel (Ex. 14:6). There was appointed to all the chariots of Egypt captains to every one of them (Ex. 14:7).
So, let us set the scene here of what we are witnessing. As we saw in my sermon last week, the children of Israel were camping in peace with no regards as to what was happening elsewhere. Elsewhere, Pharaoh and his sizable and well equipped army were mounting up to ride against a people who were not well equipped for any sort of battle.
Pharaoh believed the children of Israel to be sitting ducks. As we see in scripture, Pharaoh believed the children of Israel sat bewildered (lost and confused) by the land and closed off from going anywhere (Ex. 14:3). In his mind, being able to defeat and bring them back into bondage was something that the Pharaoh considered to be nothing.
So, Pharaoh and his army pursued the children of Israel with all the horses and chariots of Pharaoh to the point that his horsemen and army overtook the children of Israel as they camped by the sea (Ex. 14:8-9). I can imagine what the children of Israel must have felt in that very moment of seeing Pharaoh and his army. I imagine that their brief moment of happiness turned into hopelessness.
I believe that this is something that we are likely very familiar with; those moments when we feel we have escaped trouble but suddenly trouble comes knocking on the door again. Life is often like this, right? We seemingly move from one thing to the next thing with few moments of happiness; at times it can feel like we are in the midst of a never ending storm with very few breaks.
I want to liken Pharaoh’s pursuit of Israel into something that we as genuine believer’s face today so that we can see why we need someone reliable having our back around the clock. As genuine followers of Christ, we have followed Christ away from the bondage of sin – we are free from it (John 8:31-32). Yet, the master and ruler of that bondage is not happy with the fact that you escaped from the shackles of sin. So, what does this ruler do? Does he not still pursue you today?
Satan, the father of sins (John 8:44) and the one that desires for you to be in the bondage of sin, still gives chase after you because you have found freedom in Christ. Have you never felt like Satan is hounding you and trying to draw you back into the bondage of sin? Yes, Satan certainly operates in that invisible arena but what’s done in the dark eventually comes to light; there are times when we can see Satan coming!
We are not defenseless
Like the Pharaoh, Satan pursues us with a very great army. So, how do you stand against Satan and his army? Are you well equipped to take on this enemy or are you helpless?
Israel, by their outward appearance, would have looked as helpless as they felt; they would have appeared to have been defenseless and an easy target for Pharaoh and his army. Yet, I say to you today, though they may have lost hope and appeared to be defenseless, they were not defenseless by any means. You see, God was watching over His flock and, as we know, He is a mighty good shepherd.
Notice in our key verse the mention of the Angel of God. If you followed last week’s Sunday School lesson, you will recognize right away that this Angel was not a common angel. No, this Angel was the pre-incarnate Christ (God the Son) and He was busy at work. What was the Angel of God doing?
In my key verse, we are told that the Angel of God had gone before the camp and was the pillar of cloud that led the camp by day. This bit of information is backed up for us in the chapter prior where scripture tells us that the Lord went before the children of Israel by day in a pillar of cloud to lead the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light so that they could go by night as well (Ex. 13:21). So, let us understand clearly here that God was with the children of Israel and like a shepherd, he was always watching over and keeping them.
Now, what I want you to pay especially close attention to is what the Angel of God did when Pharaoh and his army overtook the children of Israel. Notice, again, in my key verse that the Angel of the Lord moved – switched positions – from going before the camp to going behind the camp. I said to you today that God’s got your back and we literally see God switching positions to have the backs of the children of Israel here.
Why do you suppose that the Lord was switching positions? I suppose the answer to this question is a simple one. Scripture tells us that the Angel of God positioned Himself between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel (Ex. 14:20). The Lord, I want you to see, was being a shield (a protective barrier) for the children of Israel!
Now, I want you to try to picture this in your head for a moment – the pillar of cloud literally switched from being in front of the camp to being behind the camp. Also let us understand that this was a sight that both the camps of Israel and Pharaoh would have been able to see!
God’s Got Your Back
We are told in that same verse that to one side, the cloud gave light during the night (during the dark); the light would have been seen by the children of Israel. On the other side, the cloud only gave off darkness – the Egyptians were left in the dark. May I say to you today that those who ally with the Lord dwell in His light while those who choose not to ally with the Lord dwell in darkness.
He has your rear
On the battlefield, it is always good to have one that can watch your flank and your six – your rear; you never want to get outflanked on the battlefield and you do not want your enemy coming up from behind you to get the easy drop on you.
The same way that the children of Israel could literally see God switching and moving positions to protect them on their journey to the Promised Land, we can see God do the same for us today. Not only can we see God moving to protect us on our journey but, as we saw last week, we also know that He does this in the invisible arena as well. You see, I am all about the Lord having my back and letting you know that God’s got your back as well.
As the Lord moved to shield and to protect the children of Israel, He does the same for all of us today because we are also of His flock; all who believe in Christ are of His flock (John 10:16). Through the prophet Isaiah, the Lord said, “You shall not go out with haste, nor go by flight; For the Lord will go before you, and the God of Israel will be your rear guard (Is. 52:12).”
Your protective equipment
No, the children of Israel did not have chariots to do battle with Pharaoh and his army nor did they have any weapons; they honestly did not need any of those things. While you are on your journey, at a distance, I imagine Satan views you as easy prey. However, when that roaring lion finally tries to run up on you, he soon realizes you are well protected!
In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul encouraged us to be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might (Eph. 6:10). In order to endure those afflictions and hardships, Paul encouraged us to put on the whole armor of God – our spiritual girdle, breastplate, shods, and helmet; he told us to carry with us a shield and a sword as well (Eph. 6:11,13-17).
However, you will notice that in the armor of God there is no back piece; I remember my dad pointing this out to me several years ago. Pop asked, ‘why do you suppose there is no back piece to the armor?’ He then answered for me, it’s because God’s got your back.
I tell you today that God’s got your back. Yes, we are being chased and pursued by Satan and his army, yet God is watching over us this very moment. No matter what side trouble is coming from, when Satan gets closer to you, he runs into the hedge of God – God’s protective shield. Satan has no power to get through that shield because, as Jesus said, the good shepherd is the door to His fold – Satan can’t open the door!
Again, I say to you that for this very reason, you and I have no reason to ever worry about the enemy getting to us. Try as they might, the Lord will continue to give light to us – bless us – while shielding us from all danger. Those of you who choose to solely rely on others to have your back, how are they helping you against Satan and his army? I encourage you today, ally with the Lord – let God have your back.