I bet you’ve heard that phrase before. Personally, I feel like my GPS is scolding me when I hear the word, “Recalculating.” It’s as if the little device is implying, “Can’t you just turn when I say’ turn?’” Occasionally, I have caught myself talking to the GPS out loud saying something like, “Be quiet, I know a better way. You’re trying to take me the long way around.”
In Exodus 13, as the Children of Israel are fleeing Egyptian bondage under Pharaoh, the Bible tells us that God led them out the long way around. The Bible indicates that the Children of Israel began to complain about their location -as if to say, “Moses, we need to seriously recalculate!”
“When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near. For God said, “Lest the people change their minds when they see war and return to Egypt.” So God led the people around by the way of the wilderness toward the Red Sea” (Exodus 13:17-18).
Did you catch that? The reason that God took them the long way around was so that they couldn’t turn back easily when they see the Egyptian army coming after them.
Ouch! Does that mean that God intentionally led them into a difficult and dangerous position? Absolutely. And that’s not the end of it.
In the next chapter, God instructs Moses on where to set up camp.
“Tell the people of Israel to turn back and encamp in front of Pi-hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea…” (Exodus 14:2).
The word “Migdol” means “fortress” or “watchtower.” In other words, God led his people to camp in a place where they were stuck between an Egyptian watchtower and the Red sea. Now they were trapped.
It wouldn’t take long for word to travel back to the Egyptian army from Migdol. Can you imagine what the Egyptian messenger would have said? After riding as fast as possible back to the army headquarters, he would probably yell out something like, “Those Israelites are right where we want them –trapped between our fortress and the Red Sea. What were they thinking?”
As soon as the Egyptian army showed up on the horizon, the children of Israel were thinking the same thing –what were we thinking? They complained to Moses, “Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness?” (Exodus 14:11).
While it may not have made sense humanly speaking, it made perfect sense to God. What looked like a major step back for God’s children was actually setting the stage for a remarkable move of the Lord.
In fact, God told the people, “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 14:13-14).
And we all know the rest of the story. God delivers Israel from the Egyptian army by parting the Red Sea enabling them to escape. Then, after they escaped, God crushed the Egyptians by collapsing the Sea over them.
I think it is safe to assume that we all are looking for the “Red Sea” moments in life, but very few of us embrace the “Migdol” moments.
When we read this account of the children of Israel and the Egyptians, it doesn’t take any faith for us to see that Migdol served a purpose in God’s plan. However, when we are the ones encamped between the enemy and the Sea, faith is the only way to believe that God is in control!
Just like a bow and arrow, before God propels us forward, He sometimes pulls us back.
When the unexpected bills cause us to wonder how we will provide for our family, God is not worried.
When the death of a young believer leaves us asking “why?”, God is not confused.
When our most trusted friend betrays our trust, God is not caught off-guard.
Faith means trusting God’s sovereign ways no matter what. That’s easy when we are standing on the other side of the red sea watching the Egyptians drown. But it’s difficult when God places us between Migdol and the Sea. The key is to realize that no matter our circumstances, God is in control. Our situations may change, but He remains the same.
Wherever you are in life right now, God has not forgotten you or neglected you. Have faith –there is no need to “recalculate!”