Great stories of the Bible: Crossing the Red Sea: Part 1

Crossing of the Red Sea

Joel S. Heckendorf

To the east . . . the Red Sea. To the west . . . the powerful Egyptian army breathing down their necks. How did the people of Israel get themselves between this rock and hard place? More important, what would they do now?

Read Exodus 13:17–15:21.


Culminating in the Passover, God sent a series of amazing plagues that loosened Pharaoh’s grip, allowing Israel to escape Egypt. With eye-popping excitement, an Israelite could divulge details of how they arrived at the banks of the Red Sea. The frogs. The locusts. The darkness.

But the plagues were in preparation for the trip. God’s pillar of cloud did not follow the GPS-recommended route from Egypt to the Promised Land. In fact, the most natural, straight-line route didn’t require the crossing of any water. God went out of his way to lead them to the Red Sea. God knew his people. He knew what he wanted for them. And God knew he needed to guide his people to a point where they had no choice but to depend on him.

God knows you. God knows what he wants for you. And God knows the easiest path is not always the best path to get you there. The Christian life is not lived in straight lines. At times God deals us detours. Sometimes those detours lead us right between a rock and a hard place.


When the Israelites looked up and saw the Egyptians marching after them, they wanted to go back. They thought being slaves in Egypt was better than the situation that God had presented. Wisely, their God-appointed leader, Moses, encouraged, “Wait.”

God’s delays are not denials. He knows what he’s doing even when it appears that we are hemmed in or pinned down. “Do not be afraid. Stand firm. . . . The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still” (Exodus 14:13,14).

Easier said than done. Like Israel, it’s so easy for us to blame God for leading us to difficult situations. It’s easy to think, “If only I hadn’t followed the Lord.” Fellow Christian, do not be afraid. “Stand firm. . . . The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

For the Israelites, God split the sea in front of them. The situation that once spelled doom now spelled deliverance. But notice where God was. He led them to the difficult situation. But then the angel of God and pillar of cloud went behind them (Exodus 14:19) to protect them.

You can have that same confidence. When God leads you to a difficult situation and you’re too afraid to put your toes in the water, know that the Lord who brought you there will move your forward and protect you. No matter what enemies pursue or what walls stand in front, know that the Lord already stretched out his hands to bring you to the real Promised Land.

Exploring the Word

1. Tell the story in your own words. Then read the account. Which details did you omit or mistakenly add?

Answers will vary. If studying in a group, split up into smaller groups and see how many different details are included in the exercise. Why do you think some details made every list and other details didn’t make any lists?

2. Why do you think this story is one of the most popular stories included in children’s Bibles?

It’s action-packed and dramatic. Miracles are popular stories to include in children’s Bibles as they help gain attention.

3. What does this account teach about the difference between fear and faith?

Fear is when we can’t see God through our circumstances. Faith is when we see our circumstances through God. When we know that our God loves us and is powerful, wise, and trustworthy, we will be better prepared to handle rock-and-hard place situations.

4. Read Psalm 27:14. Relate any biblical or personal examples when you’ve “wait[ed] for the Lord”?

Psalm 27:14—“Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart.” Biblical examples may include Joseph in Egypt, Job, David while being pursued by Saul, Noah and the flood, Ruth, etc.

5. “Move. Pray. Move.” Apply God’s directive in Exodus 14:15 to your life.

God invites us to pray, but he also encourages us to move forward with the opportunities he presents in life. For example, if we’re praying for a job and he gives us the opportunity to develop skills for a particular job, God doesn’t want us to simply pray. He also wants us to utilize the gifts that he has given us. Even in a perfect world, God gave Adam and Eve activities to carry out (Genesis 1:28). At the same time, we humbly go forward with a “God-willing” attitude and seek to glorify him in whatever we do (1 Corinthians 10:31).

Contributing editor Joel Heckendorf is pastor at Immanuel, Greenville, Wisconsin.

This is the first article in a 12-part series on the popular children’s Bible stories and how they apply to our lives today. Find answers online after Dec. 5 at


Next month: The battle of Jericho



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Author: Joel S. Heckendorf
Volume 102, Number 12
Issue: December 2015

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