The children of Israel were in a hopeless predicament!
The Red Sea was before them; the mountains were to the left and right; and Pharaoh and his iron chariots were closing in from the rear. God's people seemed helplessly trapped — like sitting ducks, just waiting to be cut down. Yet believe it or not, God purposely had led them into this precarious spot!
It was panic time in the camp of Israel. Men shook with fear, and women and children wept as they huddled around grandparents and relatives. Suddenly Moses was mobbed by irate family leaders who cried, "Surely this is the end! Weren't there enough graves in Egypt to bury us there? You had to drag us out here to die. We told you in Egypt to let us alone. It was better to be slaves there than to die in this miserable wilderness!"
I wonder if even Moses had a moment of trepidation about their circumstances. Yet when this man of God wept, the Lord seems to have chided him: "Wherefore criest thou unto me?" (Exodus 14:15).
No one in Israel could have known what a great deliverance God was about to bring for them! Suddenly the winds parted the sea, and the people walked through the parted waves on dry ground. When Pharaoh and his powerful army tried to follow, the waters began to rage again — closing in and drowning them all!
What a sight it must have been! The people of God looked back from the other side and saw their mighty enemy destroyed like tin soldiers. Then a song went up in the camp as, once again, they realized God had delivered them from impossible circumstances! Scripture records their reaction — and the song they sang:
"Israel saw that great work which the Lord did upon the Egyptians: and the people feared the Lord, and believed the Lord, and his servant Moses. Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the Lord, and spake, saying, I will sing unto the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea. The Lord is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation: he is my God, and I will prepare him an habitation; my father's God, and I will exalt him" (Exodus 14:31, 15:1-2).
You may know this glorious song of victory, taken directly from the Scriptures. Christians lift up their voices to sing it in many churches today.
But, beloved, note the following words and emphasis in this passage — because they are the heart of this message!
"Israel saw that great work which the Lord did upon the Egyptians... THEN sang Moses and the children of Israel this song" (Exodus 14:31; 15:1).
They sang the right song — but they sang it on the wrong side! Israel's song was not sung in true faith, because they sang it only on the other side of the Red Sea — the side of victory and not of testing!
You see, there are two sides to all our trials and temptations: the testing side and the breakthrough side; the east side of darkness and hopelessness, and the west side of victory and deliverance. Any doubter can sing after the testing has passed and the victory has come. Rather, it's on the testing side that the Lord wants us to learn to sing His praises. He deserves our worship in the darkest moment, when there appears to be no way out, when it is absolutely hopeless — and He alone can deliver!
You can imagine the scene in Israel after their victory: Miriam dancing with all the maidens, tambourines shaking, everyone singing and shouting praises to God. Scripture says they exclaimed boldly: "The people shall hear, and be afraid...the dukes of Edom shall be amazed; the mighty men of Moab, trembling shall take hold upon them; all the inhabitants of Canaan shall melt away" (Exodus 15:14-15).
How secure and powerful they must have felt. But the victory was hollow because Israel had already failed the test that day! Only Moses had a right to sing on the west side. Before the waters parted, the people had moaned and groaned and complained and cried!
The Great Need of This Hour Is for Christians To Learn To Sing the Song of Deliverance On the Testing Side of Their Trouble.
God's purposes in allowing us to stumble into hopeless crises is to test us — to build in us a foundation of trust in Him! How else will His people be able to trust Him for all the battles that lie ahead?
We've all heard a lot recently about ministers falling into sins such as adultery and financial scandal. But much worse in God's eyes is the growing numbers of ministers who walk away from the ministry because they've allowed doubt and fear to overcome them.
We receive letters from all over the country telling us whole congregations are falling into temptation and ruin because the pastor who once preached faith gave up and left. He couldn't sing the right song on the right side!
Beloved, every crisis you face right now is an opportunity to learn to trust God — to build a foundation for everything that comes at you for the rest of your life! This test was an opportunity for Israel to put a mirror to their heart and show them the doubt inside — so they might turn to God in faith!
If only they had remembered the miracles they'd witnessed in Egypt, they would have been able to say, "Live or die, we are the Lord's!" They could have encouraged one another by lifting up a song of praise — the same song they eventually sang on the wrong side: "Great is our God, and greatly to be praised...." It could have spread throughout the camp and ignited their faith! That would have established a foundation for an abiding faith in God! It would have begun a faith so fire-tested and unshakable that it would have seen them through the hardships of the wilderness and the battles of Canaan. It would have established them as the people of God on earth — a light unto the nations!
But Israel did not sing. They lost all confidence in the love of their heavenly Father — and accused God of neglecting them!
A dear brother in the Lord recently unburdened his heart to me about a deep, dark trial he has endured for some time now. About a year ago he gave up a well paying job because he saw that in the near future he would have to compromise to remain there. For months he has sent out numerous resumes, but nothing has opened up for him.
This has been a time of severe testing for him, and he has received all sorts of advice from well-meaning Christian friends. Some tell him there must be sin in his life that's why God hasn't opened a door. Others say, "If you just have enough faith...."
But this brother told me, "If God is trying to tell me something in all this, I'm not getting the message. I just don't see the purpose yet. It's okay for people to encourage someone like me who is hurting — but until you go through it yourself, you just can't know the pain! I love the Lord, but it looks so hopeless. This trial just keeps dragging on — and I keep hitting dead ends everywhere I turn!"
Then he said something that struck me deep within — and became the spark for this message: "I want to come out of this trial with a testimony. I don't want God to just give me another job, deliver me from my troubles, and allow me to continue on without my having learned anything of Him.
"People all around are watching me and I want them to see a testimony to God. I want to come through tested and tried. Otherwise, all I've learned about trusting the Lord is nothing but empty theory. Unless it works in hard times, it's useless!"
The Flesh Argues, "Who Can Sing When You're Hurting So Badly?"
Some would say, "But it's not natural to sing songs of deliverance in such pain. If we'd been in Israel's shoes, we'd have cried in fear, too. It's only human to worry when you think of your spouse and family — when you're unemployed, your children are in trouble and all kinds of problems are facing you."
Brothers and sisters, God doesn't see it that way. His perspective is vastly different from ours. Was He heartless to say as He did to Moses, "Why are you crying out to me? Tell the people to move on!" Does this mean He doesn't care about our human passions and hurts?
No! Scripture says, "Thou hast seen how that the Lord thy God bare thee, as a man doth bear his son, in all the way that ye went" (Deuteronomy 1:31). He was a loving, caring father. And He didn't take kindly to their endless insults and insinuations that He had forsaken them!
You may have teenagers in your family. As you see what's happening in our country, our cities, our schools, you may wonder if God's able to hold things together. But don't even begin to think that our loving, heavenly Father doesn't hear your prayers and won't keep a wall of fire around your children!
The Lord told Israel, "Moreover your little ones, which ye said should be a prey, and your children, which in that day had no knowledge between good and evil, they shall go in thither, and unto them will I give it, and they shall possess it" (Deuteronomy 1:39). God delivered the children — but not the adults who refused to trust Him!
There's nothing wrong with going to the Lord when you're hurting, and crying, "Help!" God understands when you're heartbroken and things look black. David said, "In my distress...I cried unto my God" (Psalm 18:6).
But the time comes when the Holy Spirit meets you in the prayer closet and says, as He did to Moses, "Why are you still crying? When will faith rise up in your heart?"
You see, God knows you're not in danger. He knows the way He's going to use to deliver you. In fact, He has a million ways. You just can't see them when your back is to the wall! For the children of Israel, the wall was the Red Sea. If they'd have tried going into the mountains, the lions and beasts would have devoured them. They were stuck, trapped — right where God wanted them!
They received God's deliverance that day — and they sang afterward. But their song was shallow, without foundation. Here is the proof that it was shallow: Three days later they were back to their old ways of doubt and fear!
All they did in their hour of crisis was suppress their fear. They pushed it down inside and slapped on a coating of praise. They never dealt a death-blow to doubt. Yet that was the whole purpose behind the crisis!
The World Requires of Us A Song In the Midst of Hard Times!
Beloved, there is a song that can be sung — and it must be sung on the right side. And you can be sure that if the world knows you're a Christian, they will demand it of you. The Psalmist says, "They that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion. How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?" (Psalm 137:3-4).
The people of God were in the hardest place of their lifetime. And as they were carried away, their captors required of them a song. Yet there was no life in them anymore — nothing but depression, despair, hopelessness!
Multitudes of Christians are in the same position today. You may be trapped by your circumstances. The devil is chasing you down coming at you 90 miles per hour with an old temptation. You're on the edge of giving up, thinking, "I can't make it. In spite of all my crying and praying, it looks like I'll be this way as long as I live. That old bondage is going to hound me forever!"
When Israel fell into the Babylonian bondage, their captors cried to them, "Sing for us! Play for us! We've heard all about you and what your God did for you. Our spies told us everything! Now take out your tambourines and bring out your harps. Play us a song! Show us your joy in your God!"
I don't believe this demand was made only in mockery. I believe it was also a pitiful plea. The Babylonians' gods had left them empty and dry. They had no hope. But they had heard Israel singing to their God — a God who had seen them through impossible circumstances. They said, "These people have a God who can open a sea for them. His fire comes down from heaven. He stands against their enemies. There's got to be something to this God of theirs!"
Like all the world they wanted to see a people who endured the same problems they endured and faced the same battles they faced — yet who could sing and shout and hold their faith in the darkest of hours! The Babylonians demanded a song because there's something in every person's heart that cries out, "Where on the face of the earth is there something that can make you sing even when you've lost everything?" They needed a testimony! And it is important that the children of God, wherever they are at whatever time, sing the songs of Zion: "God, I believe You, no matter what's happening!"
The world is not going to respond to just another testimony, however. Church programs often leave people dead and dry. Even healings nowadays can have little impact because the world has seen so much of "miracle medicine" — heart transplants, limb transplants, eye transplants.
No, the world is shouting to us, "You can show us a miracle! It isn't the Red Sea opening up that impresses us. It's not seeing the blind given sight or the lame healed. It's that you can look at the darkest hour of your life, a situation that's hopeless to all human reasoning — and yet you smile with joy, singing praises to God! That's the miracle we want to see!"
Your Doubts Must Be Dealt a Death-Blow On the Testing Side Or You Will Become a Confirmed Murmurer!
If you don't deal with your doubts, you'll be given over to a spirit of murmuring and complaining. You'll live that way and die that way. Your doubts cannot simply be suppressed. They have to be pulled out by the roots!
Let's look at Israel just three days after their deliverance from Egypt. They had been singing, shaking their tambourines and testifying to the power and strength of a mighty God, boasting that He was leading and protecting them. Then they arrived at Marah which means "waters of bitterness." This was to be another testing place for them.
You see, God just keeps allowing crisis after crisis until we finally get the lesson. If we keep refusing to learn it, a time comes when He gives us over to our own bitterness and murmuring. "And they went three days in the wilderness, and found no water.... And the people murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink?" (Exodus 15:22, 24).
On Sunday, they were having a great time — singing, dancing and praising! Now it's Wednesday — and they're already in trouble. Another crisis, and they're falling apart!
How could a people lose their confidence so quickly? Because they never had any! They never had that foundation built under them!
So again they failed the test! They had learned absolutely nothing from their previous crisis — and again they missed an opportunity to shine forth the greatness of their God. From that day on Israel was beyond learning anything from God!
They even began to take His goodness for granted. They had no food, so He sent them manna from heaven. He dropped quails out of the sky, piling them up outside of the camp three feet high. But not a word of thanksgiving was heard! Instead, the people turned to greed, hoarding all that God gave them. Israel became stiff necked!
Oh, what a shame it is to go from crisis to crisis and learn nothing in the process! It carries with it a curse — that you will be given over to a spirit of murmuring!
Four Great Deliverances Later, They're Given One Last Chance!
Israel had witnessed God's miracle at the Red Sea. They'd seen the healing waters at Marah. They saw the water flow from the rock on Mount Horeb. And they saw manna and quails appear from heaven.
Now they were poised and ready to go into the Promised Land. God had given them one final opportunity to come to the ground of trust and faith in Him.
They had sent 12 spies into Canaan and 10 came back with an evil report: "Surely it floweth with milk and honey.... (But) the cities are walled, and very great.... We be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we. The land eateth up the inhabitants...and all the people that we saw in it are men of a great stature. And there we saw the giants...and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers" (Numbers 13:27-28, 31-33).
The report caused utter chaos in the camp of Israel. Every pent-up emotion, every doubt and fear that had built up inside, came churning out in anger at God! When Joshua stood up and said, "God is with us! God is able!", they all wanted to stone him!
The people didn't know it — at the time, but this testing was to prepare them for their first battle in Canaan, at Jericho.
The spies told them, "The first thing you're going to find in there is a walled city called Jericho. It's impenetrable. There's simply no way in! We have no weapons, no battering rams. It's useless, hopeless. Why even try to go over there?" Beloved, that talk came right out of hell! And that is exactly what the devil wants you to think about your problems: "There's no way out of this." Yet you know God already has a plan! You just can't see it. All you see is that wall ahead of you.
But God sees infinitely more than you do. To Him, there is no wall there. It's an easy thing for Him to go right through it. There are no complications involved for Him, because He doesn't recognize the power of the enemy. It's time to begin to trust Him!
For Israel, this was a final chance. It was a time to rise up and sing, to show God their trust! It was time for someone to stand up and say, "We thought we were dead at the Red Sea — and He delivered us! We thought it was the end for us at the bitter waters of Marah and He delivered us! We thought we were dying of hunger in the wilderness — and He delivered us! We thought it was all over many times. But every time God brought us out of danger. He has brought us safely thus far! Let us testify to the world that our God is able!"
Yet no one did! Israel failed its final test! Where was the victory, the song? There was none! Israel only wept!
"And all the congregation lifted up their voice, and cried; and the people wept that night. And all the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron: and the whole congregation said unto them, Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt! or would God we had died in this wilderness!
"And wherefore hath the Lord brought us unto this land, to fall by the sword, that our wives and our children should be a prey? were it not better for us to return to Egypt? And they said to one another, Let us make a captain, and let us return into Egypt?
"Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before all the assembly of the congregation of the children of Israel.... And the Lord said unto Moses, How long will this people provoke me? and how long will it be ere they believe me, for all the signs which I have shewed among them?" (Numbers 14:1-5,11).
Finally, God' s patience ended. Listen to what He said to the confirmed murmurers: "Tomorrow turn you, and get you into the wilderness by the way of the Red Sea.... Your children shall wander in the wilderness forty years...until your carcasses be wasted in the wilderness" (Numbers 14:25, 33).
Jesus, heal our doubt Fear and unbelief.
"Ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord" (James 1:6-7).
The world is full of Christians today who will not hold onto God's holy Word. They think it is an innocent thing to sit at the table in the house of God and murmur and complain, as if God doesn't hear. God does hear our murmurings! They are accusations that He does not care, insinuations that He has let us down!
God has warned me not to give voice to nagging doubts and fears — not to my wife, not to friends, not to loved ones, not to colleagues. God says to take those doubts to the cross and say, "Jesus, heal my unbelief! Take it out!"
Israel spent the next 40 years in turmoil — backbiting, complaining, jealous, full of bitterness. What a miserable existence they led — still claiming to be the children of God, still claiming to be holy. But that was their testimony — not God's.
There's no job, no deliverance, for a man or woman who complains continually before God. You'll stay unemployed the rest of your life! Or if you do get a job, it'll be a yoke around your neck! This is a matter of life or death! You must come to a place where you learn to trust Him. If you learn it now, the next time a crisis comes you'll sing and shout with praises to your Deliverer! Oh, the victory will be there — but more importantly, you'll have dealt a death-blow to all doubt, fear and unbelief.
Where do you start? By looking right into the mirror of God's Word! Consider your words and actions over the last 30 days: Have you been murmuring? complaining? You may answer, "Yes — but I haven't been murmuring at God!" Oh yes, you have! No matter where or to whom you complain, it's all directed at God!
Every place I turn in my Bible, I see: "Trust Me, and I'll see you through! Just commit your ways to Me." What does that require? Simply this: Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord. You ask, "But what if nothing happens?" That response reveals doubt and fear!
Dear saint, turn to God today and say, "Lord, I've done everything I know how to do in my situation. I know there's nothing I can do to fix the problem anyway. I'm going to trust You — and wait for Your victory.
Let God make you a testimony to the world — a witness of His faithfulness. Love Him with all your heart right now. Give Him all your problems, all your faith and trust — and He will give you the right song on the right side!