When the children of Israel left Egypt, they did so with great fanfare. As in a pillar of cloud leading them by day, and a pillar of fire by night. Lest you forget, they also had a ton of Egyptian money with them. They saw the plagues, and they saw the result of their obedience in faith to the instruction to smear the blood of lambs on their door frames. All the visual evidence in the world passed before their eyes. However new their faith, God confirmed it time and again through his actions to deliver them, including the actual Exodus itself.
Pharaoh saw these same things, and he sat on his throne in defeat. Despite all of the havoc wrought upon his own people by his stubbornness in the face of God’s power, he refuses to let the matter rest. In a show of incredible military force, he musters his chariots to recapture God’s people and lead them back into slavery.
To recap, the taskmasters, the magicians, the false demigod king all found themselves revealed as powerless before God in his sovereign mastery over nature and his people. So much so that even some Egyptians exited their own homeland with the people of Israel. Those same people had in their view a visual reminder of God’s presence with them. One really cannot ask for much more than that.
Even so, when the people of Israel see the army of Pharaoh descending upon them, their immediate reaction does not prove their faith. Rather, it demonstrates weakness on their part. Immediately, they resort to sarcasm and reinterpreting their own history. Had they ever told Moses to leave them alone that they may continue to receive lashings from Egyptian whips as they attempted to gather straw to make brick? Did anyone of them comment to Moses about the good, honest work they performed for the false god king? Did they announce their delight about the infanticide they endured time and again, stymied only by some strong willed midwives? If none of that sounds familiar to you, you have a good reason: Moses never records such a thing happening. He did not record it because such ridiculous statements never came from the mouths of the slaves of the Egyptians.
Despite such a pitiful response while the visual reminder of God’s favor on them stood right before their eyes, note what does not happen. There does not come forth from the mighty pillar a booming voice announcing the rejection of the descendants of Jacob. God does not say, “Behold, your faith is weak, and now you shall be delivered to your captors!” The promise of God did not become negated by the thought that the army of a beaten king could best the God who could hurl hailstones into their ranks or blot out the sun.
Moses (his inability to speak apparently long forgotten) announced in the midst of their fear, snark, doubt, and falsehoods that God would save them. He would not empower their hands to wield weapons; God himself would fight for them. God’s promise remained true to the weak of faith, to those ready to suffer enslavement yet again. The doubt and fear of the people owned a level playing field with the army of Pharaoh. Both held the power to send the children of Israel back into slavery.
Neither doubt and fear nor Pharaoh and his chariots could overwhelm the power of merciful and faithful Almighty God.
Sometimes application of Scripture to the contemporary Christian can seem difficult, especially in Old Testament narrative. However, here the application jumps out fairly obviously.
Christian, the God of these fearful Israelites is your God. When you pray, you speak to this God. When you sing, the God who saved the people of Israel receives your worship. When you doubt, you doubt the exact same God.
The same God says this through the prophet Isaiah about his own coming into the world:
A bruised reed He will not break
And a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish;
He will faithfully bring forth justice.
Isaiah 42:3 (NASB)
He commands through the pen of Jude: Have mercy on those who doubt (Jude 22, NASB).
Doubt does not mark anyone’s list of good character traits. However, rather than cast these people back into slavery, God remains with them. His prophet, Moses, tells them not to fear. The salvation of God, his gracious action will not bow to human inability. Rather, he delivers on his promise to save. His promise possess greater strength than fear. His promise holds greater strength than your fear. You are not the exception here.
Give your doubts and your fears to God and wait for his salvation.