Have you ever felt trapped? You might be at a dead-end in your marriage. You can’t get out. You have kids looking to you as their hero, and a mortgage with both of your names on it. You might be in a culdesac in your career. The culture is toxic, the team is under-resourced, and there’s no possibility for promotion. But you don’t know where to turn or who to call. Maybe you feel trapped by an addiction that’s slowly taking your money and sucking the life out of you. You might feel trapped in a family that never seems to be happy with your performance. You never measure up to their standards, but you have nowhere else to turn for relationship and connection. Maybe you’re surrounded by a sea of impossibility after stepping out of your comfort zone to chase God’s dream. Obstacles are everywhere. You don’t have funding, staff, connections, or even a track record of success. You know God led you here but have no idea how to get to the other side. You might be hemmed in by your past failures. You can’t shut down the condemnation inside, saying you don’t deserve a better future. You have no idea how to get past your past. In those no-escape circumstances, the enemy surrounds us like a flood.
Pharaoh’s Gestapo returned with their report. “The Hebrews are confused, lost, and overwhelmed by the wilderness. They’re trapped by the water, like sitting ducks. What are we doing sitting here?”
Exodus 14:6 says Pharaoh called up all the available chariots in Egypt. To give his army swagger, he readied his chariot to lead them. The chariots of Egypt were a terrifying sight – the Abrams tank of the ancient world. They were large enough to hold two soldiers, one driver and shield-bearer, and a highly trained archer. It operated like a moving platform, constantly weaving in and out of the battle, and attacking points of weakness. After a murderous rampage, Pharaoh’s chariots would corral his wounded, lost sheep and bring them back to slavery forever.
What were the Hebrews doing on the beach that evening? Swimming and enjoying the ocean breeze over their sunburned faces? Were they celebrating with friends, as their kids built forts of sand? Whatever the evening activity, it was interrupted by the distant rumble of chariot wheels and the thunder of hooves drumming the ground. This was their worst nightmare come true. Like the crazy, bad guy popping out for one last attempt at the end of a thriller, out of nowhere Pharaoh shows up. His army slowed their trot and marched ominously toward them.
Notice how they responded in Exodus 14:10, “…They were terrified and cried out to the Lord.” Isn’t this the reaction of every person on the planet when tragedy looms? Even the avowed atheist and agnostic cry, “Oh my God!” It’s what we’re supposed to do when surrounded by our enemy. The psalmist put it this way in Psalm 34:4, “I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.”
But they soon gave up praying and turned on Moses in anger. Notice Exodus 14:11-12, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!”
While their panic appears reasonable, their reaction is cast as a rebuke. This horrible crisis was their greatest moment, a gift from God that would forever set them apart as his people. But they turned from the cloud of God and fixated on the cloud of dust made by Pharaoh’s chariots. The crisis exposed the paper-thin quality of their faith. We’ll see this same reaction all through Exodus. Whenever the going got tough, instead of trusting God with faith and expectancy, they complained and blamed Moses.
Wherever you feel trapped today, could it be that God has led you to that place? You have nowhere to turn. You must be where you are. How should you respond? Like Israel, instead of turning to God, we turn on one another. We start blaming other people – “If only my wife would give me more sex. If only my husband would show more appreciation. If only my boss would see my true potential. If only my parents would just accept me as I am. If only my pastor would let me lead that area of ministry. If only our government would pass this legislation.”
If we will get our eyes off people and fix our attention on our awesome God, he will make a way when there seems to be no way.