Shammua, the son of Zaccur, of the tribe of Reuben, stepped out of his tent and was immediately blinded by the setting sun. Yet instead of the beautiful orb in the sky, what he saw once his eyes adjusted chilled his blood. With Israel's back to the Red Sea, now all the chariots of Egypt were bearing down on the multitude. Panic raced through the camp, and Shammua joined his brothers in demanding of Moses: “Why has God led us here to die in the wilderness?!” (Ex. 14:10-12).
All too often we as Christians read through this passage, and almost as if we were seated in the place of God; we look down in judgment upon the children of Israel. Yet we forget how frequently we respond in the same manner. We stand guilty of the accusation Satan levied at Job: that we only praise God while we still have His hedge of protection around us (Job 1:10), and then call “injustice” when it's taken away. Like Job we cry out: “Why God?” and like the Israelites, we accuse God of bringing us to our own downfall and our own destruction. When God has led us to a point in our life where we are up against the sea, there's no sign of a route or any passage of forward progression, we're trying to follow the Lord's leading, but now we're stuck, and we ask God “why have you brought us here?” I know, because that is where I am now in my own life. And when we're stuck with our backs against the sea we look into the distance, and we see an overwhelming trial coming straight at us, and we demand to know “why would God lead us here?”
How should we respond? When the Israelites cried to Moses, the prophet ordered them to “Fear not, [and] stand still!” (Ex. 14:13). To contrast the wrong and right responses, let’s review a few correct actions. Centuries later, three men stood before a king with their back to the fires of a blazing furnace, and even though they had no guarantee for salvation they followed the words of Moses to “fear not” and refused to move from their conviction to obey the Lord above all else (Dan. 3:14-18). Furthermore, when the might of the Enemy threatens to overrun us, rather than behave as the freed slaves in the wilderness, we should instead follow the example of Hezekiah when pressed against the might of Assyria, and humbly appeal to the Lord for His aid and deliverance, rather than accuse Him of not caring (2 Kings 19:14-19).
Yet we are still left with the question: why would God do this? Clearly, God always intended for the Israelites to pass through the Red Sea, so He could have just had them go immediately, rather than wait for Pharaoh’s chariots, and the complaints of the people. Part of the answer is given by Moses: “see the salvation of the Lord, which he will show you today: for the Egyptians you now see, you will never see again.” (Ex. 14:13). While God could have done the miracle at an earlier time, this demonstration of power would not have been remembered as well had it occurred at a time of safety rather than as a means of deliverance, and so it is with our own struggles. Finally, we do not know the witness and testimony God is working through our trials, just as the Israelites could not have known, but as exemplified forty years later, the Canaanite harlot Rahab also found salvation in God through the testimony of the Red Sea deliverance (Jos. 2:9-10), who in turn brought along the line of the Messiah (Matt. 1:5). So, if you find yourself with your back to the sea, remember to wait, and trust in the Lord that He has a purpose, whether you see it today, or tomorrow, or maybe forty years from today, there is a reason. And if discouragement rears its ugly head, do not hesitate to humbly ask for the strength and deliverance of our holy Father.