© 2015 Lynn Abbott
It’s the stuff that nightmares and horror movies depend upon…
Then, comes that sickening feeling: trapped with no way out.
My vivid imagination replays images of Indiana Jones fleeing huge boulders, picking his way through viper pits, or passing through the gauntlet.
Or maybe, your nightmares took a more classical turn, and like my son, you feared the Greek labyrinth and its gruesome Minotaur.
If so, history also provided plenty of fuel for nighttime terrors… for instance, consider the Persian ambush of the powerful Spartans.
Or you may best relate to literature and Tolkien’s Frodo who flees the nine riders.
Whatever the case, the fear of “no way out” haunts humanity.
I certainly can testify that. As a child, I experienced many “dead-end” nightmares.
However, I also watched one too many a Jetsons’ cartoon and Star Trek episode.
You guessed it. Invariably, in my dreams, after being ambushed by some horror, I would scream, “Beam me up, Scotty.”
Evidently, the miraculous powers of the State Farm Insurance ditty had yet to be discovered by Madison Avenue.
Regardless, in my dreams, I jettisoned outta there in a flash. Not surprisingly, the morning sun also danced across my chenille blanket.
Sometimes, I wish the world’s dangers were so easily evaded. After all, at some point, all of us stare into the fierce and glittering eyes of the “unbearable.”
And our nemesis pins us against the wall.
No place to hide.
We confront the monster in a variety of places.
You may meet the behemoth in the workplace. You confront injustice, only to discover a corrupt system that doesn’t value mercy or compassion.
Perhaps, you confront an abominable snowman in a hospital room. Weakened by disease, you lose your independence. You become trapped by a physical condition over which you have no control.
The beast may overtake you at home. Snarling and snapping, the predator stirs up strife and dissension. Relationships crumble, and you feel helpless to heal them.
Some find themselves hemmed in by financial crisis…barely hanging on as their economic earthquake rattles security. Indeed, personal disaster is often exacerbated by severe economic recession, unemployment, and inflation.
You may face horror when you take a stand for your faith. Persecution nips at your heels, and backs you into a tight space.
That’s right. “Unbearable” hunts us down. No one ultimately escapes. Not even Abba’s beloved child.
Unfortunately, in my real world experience, Scotty has yet to hear my frantic cries, and “beam me up.”
Must be a poor connection.
Yet, despite Scotty’s seeming negligence, I find comfort. When I read about Moses and even, the apostle John, I see that Abba has everything in hand.
Most of us readily remember Moses’ situation. As a child, I took for granted the bold Moses who frequently starred in Sunday School, flannel graphs.
But as an adult, I am amazed by his courage.
Of course, Moses must have been elated when Pharaoh finally gave the “go-ahead” for the Jewish people’s release. A little victory dance seemed in order.
However, rather than risk the caprice of the Egyptian ruler, Moses immediately got God’s people outta there. I’m sure he hustled the people as fast as the masses could shuffle.
But God’s itinerary did not follow the most direct path to Canaan. You see, as the crow flies, the quickest route would have led Moses and God’s people into military conflict with the Philistines.
Yeah, Abba always calls it right. A disorganized and bickering bunch of former slaves were thoroughly unprepared to confront the highly skilled, Philistine, war machine.
At first glance, the road through Philistea appeared an easy one, but God saw what the people could not. Although they were God’s chosen ones, they had lost their ethnic and godly identity in Egypt.
First, Egyptian culture had infiltrated their lives. Then, slavery had dictated their days. God had much to teach them, but first, He directed Moses to lead them in “martial array,” (Exodus 13:18).
Yet, as the book of Exodus reveals, they were a far cry from an organized and obedient military force. For this reason, God prepared Wilderness Boot Camp.
And so it was. The Cloud by day and the Pillar of Fire by night led the people deep into the desert. Their detour around Philistea brought them to Etham, located not far from the Red Sea.
Etham was no beach resort. No spa treatment awaited Mo and his traveling companions. Instead, God warned that Pharaoh would revisit his decision to let the Israelis go.
And in fact, the Egyptian ruler had already reassessed his options. Fickle Pharaoh saw the Israeli wilderness experience as opportunity to teach them a lesson of his own. Predictably, his heart had hardened.
Pharaoh’s change of mind came as no surprise to Moses. After all, the ten plagues had resulted because the Egyptian ruler stubbornly opposed God.
Moses had witnessed a major showdown between the “gods of Egypt” and Yahweh. Yahweh obviously trounced the Egyptian idols.
Second guessing, however, got the better of Pharaoh’s common sense.
Or it could have been that the Egyptian economy and lifestyle had come to a screeching halt. After all, the workforce had marched into the desert.
Or maybe, Pharaoh feared that word of the Israeli release would spread. Neighboring kingdoms would believe he had gone soft.
Whatever his rationale, Pharaoh gathered his army, engaged his chariots, and pursued his former slaves.
When the dust clouds from the chariots began to rise in the distance, the Israelis probably felt anxious. They may have wondered if they would experience their first dust storm.
But as the chariots moved closer, there could be no doubt. Pharaoh sought revenge.
What surprises me most about this passage is the fact that God had directed Moses and the people to camp by the Red Sea. Moses and the people were following God.
I can sympathize with the people’s genuinely human response. They whined, “‘Is is because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you dealt with us in this way, bringing us out of Egypt?” (Exodus 13: 11).
Then, as if to clinch the argument, they whimpered, “…it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness,” (Exodus 13:12b).
It isn’t their response that I find most interesting, however. What amazes me as I read Exodus 13 and 14 is that God not only forewarned Moses, but that He allowed this seemingly catastrophic scenario in order to accomplish His ultimate purpose.
God said, “…I will be honored through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know [italics mine] that I am the LORD,” (Exodus 14:4b).
Without question, Abba knew that Pharaoh’s Egypt would back Israel into a corner. Yet, He allowed it.
The purpose? God planned an amazing display of His power and grace in the lives of His beloved people.
Moses responded to the people’s complaints and fears, “Do not fear! Stand by and see the salvation of the LORD which he will accomplish for you today…The LORD will fight for you while you keep silent,” (Exodus 14: 13,14).
Backed up against the wall, the people likely felt disheartened, angry and afraid.
Abba’s response? I am about to do a mighty work through you. Do not fear. Stand back; wait quietly for my salvation.
Pharaoh’s chariots thundered. Moses, however, obediently followed God’s command and stretched out his hand over the Red Sea.
And the waters parted. Where there was no way, God miraculously constructed a beach boardwalk.
More than that even. Abba provided limited access for His people.
When the Egyptian army tried to follow, Pharaoh swiftly discovered that chariots do not perform well in muddy sand. As the chariots began to swerve and then, sink into the sea floor, the Egyptian’s began to panic.
Indeed, they recognized that God fought on Israel’s behalf (Exodus 14:25).
But it was too late. God had instructed Moses to once again stretch out his hand over the sea, and the waters crashed in upon the Egyptians.
Yes, sometimes Abba does give us more than we can handle. Again and again, we face the “unbearable.”
But you and I can take heart. Abba has a magnificent plan. When our backs press against that cold stone, He brings forth miraculous beauty. In our lives, He demonstrates His power and grace for all to see.
On such occasions, Abba parts the Red Sea. And the Egyptians know beyond a shadow of doubt that Yahweh is the Great “I AM.”
With back against the wall, I fear the fierce “unbearable.” But then, the Red Sea parts. Grace blooms.
But not always.
Sitting with Abba this past week, I asked, “Father, why do you choose to miraculously rescue some of your beloved and not others? What’s up with that?”
As always, Abba anticipates my questions. And He clearly orchestrated my time in His Word.
When I gathered my morning cup of English Breakfast tea, and sat down for my daily “through the Bible” reading, I’m sure God smiled.
I opened the next book of the Bible in my daily reading plan: Revelation.
As I began reading John’s extraordinary book of last things, Abba graciously answered my finite queries.
Suddenly, I recognized that on the Isle of Patmos, John’s back also pressed hard against the wall. Imprisoned for his faith in Christ, John entertained no hope for escape.
He was trapped.
The Aegean Sea would not part. In fact, John died on what was, at that time, a deserted island.
Yet, while God’s plan for John did not include a splashy rescue, it certainly was as miraculous.
Certainly, the Egyptians did not come to know the LORD through John’s imprisonment. Nor did any remarkable, physical miracles occur on Patmos.
However, John met Abba in a spectacularly, deep way.
As a result, in the book of Revelation, John painted a powerful portrait of our Sovereign Savior.
Sometimes, Abba rescues His child in order to demonstrate His grace and power so that the world might come to know Abba.
But on other occasions, our heavenly Father simply sustains you and me so that we might come to know Him better.
We know and reflect the Great “I AM” in ways that would have been otherwise impossible.
Back against the wall? Rest assured that Abba has an incredible plan for you, His beloved child.
Grace leads you and me. Mercy carries us… piggyback… through dark waters. God’s love warms dark, cold spaces and illuminates lives.
Abba is all-sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9). By His power, we persevere even in the face of life’s nightmares.
In fact, in the midst of the “unbearable,” we gain a deep and beautiful knowing.
Yes, the connection with Abba is good. All the time.
“For Thou dost light my lamp; The LORD my God illumines my darkness. For by Thee I can run upon a troop; And by my God I can leap over a wall. As for God His way is blameless; the word of the LORD is tried; He is a shield to all who take refuge in Him,” ~ Psalm 18:28-3o.
“For Thou hast tried us, O God; Thou hast refined us as silver is refined. Thou didst bring us into the net…We went through fire and through water; Yet, Thou didst bring us out into a place of abundance,” ~Psalm 66:10-12.