Then the Lord gave these instructions to Moses: 2 “Order the Israelites to turn back and camp by Pi-hahiroth between Migdol and the sea. Camp there along the shore, across from Baal-zephon.- Exodus 14:1-2
Have you ever found yourself at a dead end in your life? Have you ever believed with all your heart that you have followed the direction of the Lord only to find yourself at a place where not only could you not go any further, but you actually had to turn around and retrace your steps? I know I have.
I also know I didn’t like it. I didn’t like it. I didn’t understand it. And I spent a lot of time crying and grumbling about it. I sure wish I would’ve read today’s account in Exodus with greater revelation and understanding instead of wasting time letting doubt, fear, disappointment, and discouragement settle in.
Praise God! It’s never too late. Though I may have extended my time in the wilderness with all my crying and complaining, the Lord is now revealing important truths to us so we can get on out of the wilderness and cross over into our Promised Land! Let’s take a close look at why God allows dead ends in our lives, by studying this account in Exodus.
The Lord had brought the Israelites out of Egypt. He brought them out with the money of Egypt. He brought them out in divine health. He brought them out the roundabout way so they would not be afraid of the giants in the land. He had been leading them as a pillar of fire by night and as a cloud by day. When the fire or cloud moved, they moved. When the fire or cloud stayed, they stayed.
It was a pretty sweet set up until they hit a dead end. They could go no further. We read in Exodus 14:1-2 that the Lord tells Moses to tell the people to turn back. He gives Moses very specific instructions. They are to retrace their steps and camp by Pi-hahiroth between Migdol, and the sea. They are to camp facing Baal-zephon. We learn in verse 21 that this is the place where the Lord parts the Red Sea.
Now we can skim over the hard to pronounce names and move right to the excitement of the parting of the sea, OR, we could stop and ask the Lord why He did what He did. Why did He first lead them to a dead end? Why did He tell them to turn around and retrace their steps? Why did He have them set up camp facing Baal-zephon, between the sea and Migdol, by Pi-hahiroth?
The first two questions are easily answered when you continue reading Exodus 14. It says in verses 3-4 Then Pharaoh will think, ‘The Israelites are confused. They are trapped in the wilderness!’ 4 And once again I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will chase after you.[a] I have planned this in order to display my glory through Pharaoh and his whole army. After this the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord!” So the Israelites camped there as they were told.
That dead end you may find yourself in- it’s not about you. It’s not about you “missing it”. It’s not about you not being good enough. It’s not about your shortcomings or mistakes. Though it feels as though it is very much about you- it isn’t. It is about the glory of God being revealed.
I know that is easy for me to say in this moment. I also know that when I have hit a dead end my first response has never been “Sweet! I bet God is about to reveal His glory through me in this moment!” Ha. Far from it. My first response usually looks something like this “What did I do wrong? Where did I miss it? Why did I even try again? What is wrong with me?”
I. I. I. Me. Me. Me. Inward thinking. Talk about a dead end. Answers to those questions never come. The don’t come because it is not about us! It is about the glory of God!
Now I am not saying that there is not a place for self examination. We are to examine our hearts daily. The Word also says we are to go to God and ask Him to search our heart and reveal any offense within us. When we hit a wall- a dead end- it is good to go before God and ask Him about it.
However- that is not what we do. Usually we skip the “going to God” part and go straight to looking inward asking ourselves questions. As soon as we do that, the snake comes and adds fuel to the fire with his “Did God really say?” doubt-filled thoughts. We go from “God leading and loving us” to “God leaving and abandoning us”.
It was the same with the Israelites. It says in Exodus 14 11-12 Then they said to Moses, “Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What is this that you have done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? 12 Did we not say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians?’ For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians [as slaves] than to die in the wilderness.” This is even after the Lord made it clear in verse 3-4 that He was about to display his glory!
No one enjoys a dead end. No one enjoys retracing their steps. No one wants to take one step forward and two steps back. I have felt that way in regards to my writing for years. Dead ends. Steps retraced. Tormented by the enemy whispering lies and accusations. It hurts. It stinks. It has caused me many tears of doubt and frustration as I have responded like the Israelites, “Why don’t you just take this desire away? Why did you lead me to believe this time would be different? Why do I find myself in this same place over and over again?! I AM NOT GOING BACK! I AM NOT RETRACING THESE STEPS AGAIN. I HAVE BEEN THERE. DONE THAT. I AM DYING HERE…
Yet here I am. Taking another step. I would be lying if I said I have overcome all of the doubt, disappointment, and discouragement of past attempts at writing and ministry. I would be lying if I said I have it all figured out. Even now as I type the enemy whispers “Why are you wasting your time? How is this going to be any different than the other times? Who do you think you are and what do you hope to accomplish?”
I silence the enemy with every word typed. I silence the accuser every time I hit the publish button and post something new. I ignore the snake and I say “God- may your glory be revealed through me in every situation, even when I don’t understand”.
There is a reason why God had the Israelites camp at the mouth of water, facing the god of the storm and sea, by the watchtower. It is also important for us to camp in this place for awhile as well. We will dive into that next time. Until then, I encourage you to go to God with the dead ends in your life. Ask him to show you the dead ends from His perspective. I believe you will find peace and rest to your weary soul as you allow the King of glory to minister to you.
Heavenly Father, thank you for being a good, good Father. Forgive us for forgetting your goodness when things don’t go the way we expected them to. Forgive for thinking you have lead us into the wilderness to die, when you tell us time and time again that you have come to give us life in abundance. Holy Spirit I ask you to show me with kingdom eyes the dead ends in my life. Show me what you see. Show me the places I have allowed doubt, discouragement, and disappointment to creep in and leave me feeling abandoned and unloved. Thank you for breathing your breath of life into me and resurrecting the dead ends in my life. In Jesus’ name, Amen
Finding Grace in the Dead End,