A Roundabout Way and a Rock
Given By: "Glenn D. Blank" On Saturday, February 4, 2012

Let me explain the title: though it may sometimes appear, as it did to the children of Israel and to Pharaoh and his army, that God had led them on a roundabout route to ruin, in fact it was the route to the revelation that God is our Rock and our Redeemer, our Refuge and our Strength.

This week's portion starts, Ex 13:17-18, "When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, "If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt." So God led the people a roundabout way by the wilderness toward the Sea of Reeds. The children of Israel went up out of Egypt armed for battle."

God could have directed Moses to lead the people the direct way, the road along the sea that later came to be known as the King's Highway, passing through Philistine country along the sea (the Philistines were also known as the "sea people"), right into the Promised Land.

Ancient Egyptian sources record that Pharaoh's army marched on this route into the land in 10 days.

That would have a lot swifter than the 40 years it wind up taking the children of Israel.

Why did God instead lead the people a roundabout way by the wilderness toward the Sea of Reeds?

Ex 13:17 gives part of the reason: For God said, "If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt." God knew the children of Israel were weaklings, not ready to face warfare.

Not only would they encounter fierce resistance from the Philistines, there was also a strong Egyptian garrison posted along the highway to Philistia.

Though they were "armed for battle," their hearts were not ready for battle.

God wanted to prepare and equip them for warfare first. How many of you agree that was wise?

How about us? Do we encounter warfare?

We're blessed in America not to have few physical wars in our land, but behind all physical wars is a spiritual war that has never ceased since God initiated his plan of redemption.

How many you know that we are in facing such a war? 

Check out the prayers going up in our prayer chain!  Do you thank God for equipping us for warfare?

So God told Moses to take a circuitous route that led them into what certainly appeared to be a trap.

Moreover, God knew how it looked. In Exodus 14:3, He says to Moses, "For Pharaoh will say of? the children of Israel, 'They are wandering aimlessly in the land; the wilderness has shut them in."

When Pharaoh's army pulled up, it looked like there was no way of escape.

The children of Israel blamed Moses. Exodus 14:11, "They said to Moses, 'Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die?'"

Have any of you have been in a really tough situation, your backs against the wall (or the sea)?

I remember when the church where we had been meeting told us we needed to vacate the building for the summer.  Where were we going to go? It could have been a crisis for the congregation, but.

What does God want you to do when you are in a pickle? Cry out to God and trust Him to deliver!

God knew what He was doing when He led them there. They were exactly where He wanted them.

Exodus 14:13, Moses answered the people, "Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today."

God wanted to teach the children of Israel that He is their Deliverer, their Rock and their Refuge.

After leading them the Sea and throwing the Egyptian horses and riders back into sea, Israel knew.

God had laid a foundation of faith in them.

However, the portion goes on to tell how their faith soon wavered in the wilderness.

They got thirsty and "grumbled at Moses, saying, 'What shall we drink?'" (Exodus 15:24)

God supplied drink by showing Moses how to make bitter waters sweet.

Then they got hungry, and God gave them manna from heaven.

By this point, I might have noticed a pattern developing, how about you?

However, a little further along the way through wilderness, in an area called the wilderness of Sin, still in this week's portion, came more testing.

Exodus 17:1-2, "They camped at Rephidim, and there was no water for the people to drink. Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, "Give us water that we may drink."

And Moses said to them, "Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the LORD?"

Moses points out that they were testing the Lord.  In fact, the Lord was testing them.

Moses later explained the test to them, in Deut 8:2, "You shall remember all the way which ?the LORD your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not."

How many of you like tests? How many of you like passing them? How many of you know that testing can strengthen you.  God's tests are a form of discipline designed to make us stronger in faith.

So God provided water again, only this time, instead of from a spring, it came from a rock.

Exodus 17:6, "I will stand there before you by the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink." So Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel."

This rock turns out to very significant in the life of Israel from then on.

Later, God directs Moses to provide water from the rock again-only this time by speaking to it.?Why speak to a rock rather the strike it, like the first time?

Well, by this point, Moses and the children of Israel should have recognized that the Rock represented God Himself, who had been following them through the wilderness, step by step.

So Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 10:4, "They all drank the same drink from the Spirit - for they drank from a Spirit-sent Rock which followed them, and that Rock was the Messiah."

That's a lot: the water was not just any water, but the Spirit. The Spirit is the One who gives life.

Also the rock was not just any rock, but a rock that was following them!

I don't think Paul meant that this rock was lumbering along on feet or wheels.

Rather, it kept appearing when the people needed God to provide water for them.

In other words, the rock was a visible manifestation of God, providing the water of life.

By suggesting that this Rock was more than just any rock, Paul was alluding to a very Jewish idea.

At the end of his career, Moses refers to the Rock several times in his final swan song:?

Deuteronomy 32:4, "He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong." Deuteronomy 32:18, "But you deserted the Rock, who fathered you; you forgot the God who gave you birth."

Samuel remembers the Rock: 1 Samuel 2:2, "There is no one holy like the LORD; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God."

So did David, who sings of the Rock in many of the Psalms. 2 Samuel 22:2-3 (Psalm 18:2), ""The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge."

The image of rock is associated with a strong fortress and refuge.

2 Samuel 22:47 (Psalm 18:46), "The LORD lives, and blessed be my rock; and exalted be God, the rock of my salvation." Now we are to bless and exalt the Rock, for the Rock is our salvation.

Psalm 19:14, "May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer." The Rock is our Redeemer.

The Rock appears in many of our songs.  For example, the song "Lead me" comes from Psalms 61:2:?From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I." That's an important lesson, that God wants us to learn from times of testing: when your heart grows faint, call on Him, and let the Spirit of God lead you to the rock that is higher than I.

V'eemru? (And let us say.)

Psalms 89:26, He will call out to me, "You are my Father, my God, the Rock my Salvation."

The Rock became the theme of many songs. "My Messiah only, He only is my Rock.."

Or from a traditional Jewish hymnal: "Rock of ages, let our song, praise thy saving power."?This song in Hebrew was originally "Maoz tzur yeshua-ti.." Rock of strength, my salvation."

That's pretty clear. Christians also had a "Rock of Ages" song, which different verses.

What God wanted the children of Israel to learn, and wants us to learn, is that God is the Rock.

The Rock is a visible manifestation of God, just as the burning bush had been, or the cloud by day and the fire by night, or the various other manifestations of the angel of the Lord.?

These manifestations finally found their focus in the form of the Messiah, Yeshua.

Yeshua is the Rock of our salvation. V'eemru??"You are the rock of my salvation, you are the strength of my life."

Yeshua talked about Himself as the rock at the end of His sermon on the mount, in Matthew 7:24:

"Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock."

What is the rock? The words of Yeshua-the Word made flesh, whose name means salvation.?V'eemru? Have you built your life on the rock??

If you build you life on the sand of self-reliance or anything but the Rock, your life is going to collapse, with a crash.  But if you build your life on Yeshua, trusting Him as the Rock, your life will withstand the storms that come. V'eemru?

Have you built your life on the rock of salvation, the Redeemer of Israel?

"You are the rock of my salvation, you are the strength of my life."  V'eemru?

Questions to Think About

Why did God instead lead the children of Israel a roundabout way toward the Sea of Reeds?

What is spiritual warfare? How is spiritual warfare manifesting in the lives of people you know?

How does God want to prepare His people for spiritual warfare?

What does God want you to do when you're in trouble? Have any of you done that? Any testimonies?

Why is a bad idea to put God to the test?

Why is a good idea for God to put us to the test?

Do you like tests? Why are spiritual tests good for us?

What kind of testing are you going through recently?  Do you need prayer?

Why did Moses and David conclude that the Rock is God?

Why did Paul conclude that the Rock is Messiah?

Have you put your trust completely in Yeshua and His words as the Rock of your salvation?

Do you need to pray further about making sure your life is built on this Rock?