God's Leadership - Part II: Other Four Principles
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

Open your Bibles, please, to the book of Exodus, chapter 14. We have said that the exodus of the children of Israel from Egypt illustrates some eight things related to the leadership of God in our everyday lives. First, God's leading is always orderly; there is never any confusion. Second, God does not always lead the shortest way to any given destination. Third, God leads by faith, even though it may be ridiculous to those who do not understand and cumbersome and burdensome to ourselves. Fourth, God sometimes leads into entanglements.

Need to Stand Still

We take up our discussion of the historical event of the exodus of the children of Israel from the land of Egypt with the fifth thing that is related to the leadership of God: God sometimes leads us to do nothing. Does that seem strange? It does to most people, because most people tell us that God expects us to do something ourselves; God expects us to use every legitimate means available to us to accomplish any God-given purpose. That is all right, as far as it goes, but many times it is but a smokescreen for a lot of misdirected activity–activity which is not led and not directed by the Lord.

In chapter 14 of the book of Exodus, notice verses 13 and 14. You will remember that the children of Israel were murmuring against Moses and against God, saying, “It would have been better for us to die in Egypt than to come out here in the wilderness to make our graves.” In answer to their murmuring:

Exodus 14

13And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will shew to you today: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen today, ye shall see them again no more for ever.
14The LORD shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.

We say on the basis of this passage of Scripture that God sometimes leads us to do nothing. Sometimes God says, “Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord.” This is a very difficult order to obey. Certainly when impetuous people are involved, when busy people are involved, it is a difficult order to obey.

Most of us, if we are energetic at all, want to do something; and we do. In many instances what we do is in the energy of the flesh and not at the direction of the Spirit. That is why we find again and again in the Word of God exhortations to wait on the Lord.

Difficulty of Waiting

It is interesting to notice that many times when we find the exhortation to wait on the Lord, we have the exhortation repeated. For example, in Psalm 27 the Psalmist said in verse 13:

Psalm 27

13I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.
14Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say on the LORD.

Notice the repeated exhortation. The reason was that most of us find it very difficult to wait. It is a difficult order for us to obey, and a rather stern order for God to give. But keep in mind that when He was speaking to the Israelites, He preceded it with precious words: “Fear ye not.” They were afraid; they had cried out in terror before the Lord, saying, “Lord, don't you know that the Egyptians are right on us? We are afraid. What can we do?” The first thing He said was, “Don't be afraid; fear not.”

It is encouraging to know that the Lord is touched with the feeling of our infirmities (Hebrews 4:15), and that He does know when we are fearful. He reminds us that He is ever near and there is nothing for us to fear. You remember well the words recorded by the Spirit of God in the letter to the Hebrews, words that are applicable to this particular incident, I believe:

Hebrews 13

5Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.
6So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.

If the Israelites could have heard God speaking as we are speaking at the moment, they would not have needed to be afraid. They would have known that He would work for them, because that is exactly what He was saying to them: “Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord.”

Faith Needed for Waiting

I would like to emphasize something that I believe is not often emphasized in connection with these verses of Scripture. It was not only difficult to wait, but it took faith for them to wait, because there was much related to the future in this statement: “Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will show to you today: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen today, ye shall see them again no more for ever. The Lord shall fight for you. Ye shall hold your peace.”

The reason I am emphasizing the future tense of these verbs is to indicate that we should not be too critical of these Israelites. If God had said to them, “Wait a minute; here I am, doing the thing right now,” it would not have been so bad. But He told them to stand still–not to do anything at all–and in due season they would see the salvation of the Lord. We have no way of knowing how long they had to wait; we have no way of knowing how long they had to stand still to see the salvation of the Lord. We do know this: They could see the approaching Egyptian army; they knew the sea was in front of them; they did not know what they were going to do. There was a time of real testing as they waited.

We would remind you, then, that in the midst of God's leading us, we must be prepared for those times when He tells us to stop and wait on Him. The Psalmist says in Psalm 37:

Psalm 37

23The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD…

How often have we read that verse. How often have we depended upon it and found encouragement from it. But someone has said–and it would be wise for us to remember–that not only the steps of a good man, but his stops as well, are ordered of the Lord, and the stops are always harder than the steps.

So long as we can keep moving, we feel as if we are accomplishing something; but when God says, “Wait!”, it is difficult indeed. Remember that God sometimes leads us to do absolutely nothing, especially when you become the recipient of free advice from well-meaning persons who tell you that God expects you to put feet to your prayers, that God helps those who help themselves. Those those well-meaning people will tell you that you do not have enough faith, that if you did, you would step out on faith and not be just sitting around doing nothing.

Keep your ear tuned toward God; close your ears to the advice of well-meaning friends and loved ones; and when God says, “Stand still!”, you stand still. You will have the privilege, as we read here in verse 14, of seeing the Lord fighting for you while you hold your peace. God is able to do things you cannot do; He is able to solve problems you cannot solve. Sometimes when you try to help Him, you make quite a mess out of the situation. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord.

When to Move Forward

However, there comes a time when God does not want us to stand still, when God wants us to move forward. In verse 15, we read:

Exodus 14

15And the LORD said unto Moses, Wherefore criest thou unto me? Speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward:
16But lift up thy rod, and stretch out thine hand over the sea, and divide it: and the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea.

Then notice verse 21:

Exodus 14

21And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the LORD caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided.
22And the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea upon the dry ground: and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left.

Two other principles related to the leadership of God come to us from this paragraph. First of all, God never commands to go forward without the promise of making a way. I do not say that God never commands to go forward without making a way; you may have to step out on faith. But I do say that God never commands to go forward without giving us a promise upon which we can rest, and that is exactly what He did here; He said:

Exodus 14

15…Speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward:
16But lift thou up thy rod, and stretch out thine hand over the sea, and divide it; and the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea.

That is the promise. Many times when we read this portion of the Word, or when we are thinking about it, we get the idea, and perhaps leave the impression with others, that the children of Israel stood on the seashore, Moses lifted up his rod, the sea rolled back, the dry ground appeared, and they went merrily across on dry land. I beg to suggest that that is not what happened.

Red Sea Crossing By Faith

The reason for that suggestion is found in chapter 11 of the book of Hebrews. This chapter has a record of a number of things that were done by ancient men of God on the basis of faith. Notice verse 29:

Hebrews 11

29By faith they passed through the Red Sea as by dry land: which the Egyptians assaying to do were drowned.

Did you notice what this verse said? By faith they passed through the Red Sea as by dry land; by faith they did it. If the water was already rolled back and the land was already dry, I don't think it would have taken very much faith for them to go through; I believe that if you examine this story very carefully, you will find that they were to go forward, and as they went forward:

Exodus 14

21Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the LORD caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind [and He kept that wind blowing all the night long, dividing the waters].
22And the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea upon the dry ground: and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left.

I believe that as the children of Israel started through the sea, as they took their first step, the waters just rolled back; and each additional step was a sign for the waters to roll back in a wall on each side so they could go through on dry ground. God miraculously worked, using the elements as instruments in His hand to accomplish this miracle of the Red Sea which was so important in the minds of the Israelites. It was to them what the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ is to the Christian Church.

Illustrations of God's Power

In the New Testament, whenever the Holy Spirit of God wants to talk about the power of God, He makes reference to the Resurrection. For example, in Paul's letter to the Ephesians, when he was talking about understanding the power of God, he said, in chapter 1:

Ephesians 1

19[I am praying that ye may be able to understand] …what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power.
20Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places,
21Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come:

When Paul said, “I want you to understand the power of God,” he added, “I am talking about the power of God that was manifested when the Lord Jesus Christ was raised from the dead.” If we had time to trace through the Old Testament references to the Red Sea experience, we would find that it was always used as an illustration of the tremendous power of God. God was able to roll the waters of the sea back; and as He did, the children of Israel went through on dry ground by faith.

God never gives the command to go forward unless He gives a promise to encourage our hearts in so doing. We must learn to rest upon the promise. When we do, we are following God by faith; and as we take one step after another on the basis of the promise of God, the power of God becomes manifested.

When an Obstacle Becomes a Help

The seventh thing, and it is drawn to our attention in this paragraph, is that when God leads, that which is feared becomes a blessing and that which is an obstacle becomes a help. Let me say that for you again: When God leads, that which is feared becomes a blessing, and that which is an obstacle becomes a help.

Of what were the Israelites afraid? Oh yes, the Egyptians were back of them, that's true; but of what were they afraid in addition to the Egyptians? They were afraid of the waters of the Red Sea; they were afraid of the waves; they were afraid of what would happen to them if they went into the water. But they were reckoning without God. When Moses stretched his rod across the sea, what happened? The waters rolled back and formed a wall on each side of them so that they were protected from even the gusts of the east wind that blew upon the sea that night. The very thing they feared–the very waves–became a source of blessing and protection, and that is always true. If we are in the center of God's will, and if we are following His leading, that which we fear and that which might prove to be an obstacle to us can become a very real blessing.

Be Sure of God's Leadership

One other thing we would leave with you in relation to the leadership of the Lord as it is illustrated in the experience of the Israelites. When men attempt without God's leadership what others do with His leadership, catastrophe results. Here is an individual who seems to be succeeding in everything he does. It looks so very good. Here is another individual who says, “I want to be like that, so I will do exactly what he does.” Instead of blessing, there comes heartbreak and disappointment. Instead of blessing, there comes catastrophe.

I want to give you a very concrete illustration. There was a Christian layman who felt led of God to make God a partner in his business and to give God ninety per cent of his income. He gave testimony of how God honored that decision and of how God prospered him and enabled him to make a great deal of money, and he used it wisely for the Lord. There was another individual who observed that; he said, “That's wonderful! I will do the same thing.” So he started giving God ninety per cent of what he had, and in eighteen months he was bankrupt. He could not understand it, and he became very critical of God. He said, “I did what I thought God would want me to do, and God did not stand by me; God failed me.” Well, it was not God's fault. It was a case of an individual's attempting to do without God's leadership what another individual had done with His leadership.

Look again at Exodus, chapter 14:

Exodus 14

23And the Egyptians pursued, and went in after them to the midst of the sea, even all Pharaoh's horses, his chariots, and his horsemen.
24And it came to pass, that in the morning watch the LORD looked unto the host of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and of the cloud, and troubled the host of the Egyptians,
25And took off their chariot wheels, that they drave them heavily: so that the Egyptians said, Let us flee from the face of Israel; for the LORD fighteth for them against the Egyptians.
26And the LORD said unto Moses, Stretch out thine hand over the sea, that the waters may come again upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots, and upon their horsemen.
27And Moses stretched forth his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to his strength when the morning appeared; and the Egyptians fled against it; and the LORD overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea.
28And the waters returned, and covered the chariots, and the horsemen, and all the host of Pharaoh that came into the sea after them; there remained not so much as one of them.
29But the children of Israel walked upon dry land in the midst of the sea; and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left.
30Thus the LORD saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the sea shore.
31And 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.

Quite a contrast, isn't it? The children of Israel walked upon dry land in the midst of the sea, and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand and on their left, but the Egyptians were dead upon the sea shore. The Holy Spirit of God, making a comment upon this incident in Hebrews, chapter 11, vers 29, said that the Egyptians, trying to do what the Israelites did, were drowned. Why was that? God was leading the Israelites; He was not leading the Egyptians. God was leading the Israelites; God was judging the Egyptians.

Let me repeat for you this eighth principle in relation to the leadership of the Lord; When man attempts without God's leadership what others do with His leadership, catastrophe results. It boils down to a simple statement: You should not do anything just because someone else has done it and succeeded. You should do it only if the Lord leads you.

Review of Eight Principles

I would like to run back over the eight principles of leadership which we have gleaned from our study of the exodus of the children of Israel. First, God's leading is always orderly. Second, God does not always lead the shortest way to any given destination. Third, God leads by faith, even though it may seem ridiculous to other people and cumbersome and burdensome to the people whom He leads. Fourth, God sometimes leads into entanglements–into dangerous, serious situations. Fifth, God sometimes leads us to do nothing but to stand still. Sixth, God never commands to go forward without the promise of making a way. Seventh, when God leads, that which is feared becomes a blessing; that which is an obstacle becomes a help. Eighth, when men attempt without God's leadership what others do with His leadership, catastrophe results.

Pillar of Cloud and Fire

We need to touch upon the pillar of cloud and fire. You will notice that I am saying “the pillar of cloud and fire” and not “the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire,” because we believe a careful examination of the text reveals that it was one pillar; it was simply a cloud by day and fire by night. It is first mentioned in the last part of chapter 13:

Exodus 13

20And they took their journey from Succoth, and encamped in Etham, in the edge of the wilderness.
21And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night:
22He took not away the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people.

Then in chapter 14, verse 19:

Exodus 14

19And the angel of God, which went before the camp of Israel, removed and went behind them; and the pillar of the cloud went from before their face, and stood behind them:
20And it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel; and it was a cloud and darkness to them, but it gave light by night to these: so that the one came not near the other all the night.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if we had a pillar of cloud, a pillar of fire, by which we could be led? It would be so simple. If we wanted to know which direction we should go, there would be a pillar of cloud, a pillar of fire; and as it moved, we would move. It would be so simple. We wish we had something like that to guide and direct us today. But I would like to suggest that we have something far better than a pillar of cloud and pillar of fire. Perhaps more accurately I should say that we have “Someone” far better instead of “something.” I am not referring to a thing, but to a Person.

Holy Spirit Guides Believers

You are familiar with chapter 8 of Romans, verse 14:

Romans 8

14For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.

No, we do not have a cloud today to lead us from place to place. Rather, we have the blessed Holy Spirit. Notice with me the illustration in the pillar of cloud and fire that explains to us the leadership of the Holy Spirit in this day in which we live. The first thing is that the cloud was not given to lead the Israelites until after they had been redeemed from Egypt. In Egypt they did not have this pillar of cloud and fire. The same thing is true of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit was not given until after the Lord Jesus had redeemed us on the Cross, and it is not given until after we are born again. We are very plainly told in the Word of God that the world cannot receive the Holy Spirit (John 14:17), but we do receive Him, because we have this experience of grace in our lives.

For Illumination and Protection

The pillar of cloud and fire was given for one express purpose, and that was to meet the needs of the children of Israel in their wilderness wanderings. The Holy Spirit is given to the Christian Church for that same reason. The hearts of the disciples were quite disturbed because the Lord Jesus Christ was leaving them; and He said, “It is really best for you that I go away, for if I do not away, the Comforter will not come. But when I am gone away, I will send Him to you (John 16:7). The Comforter will guide you in this wilderness experience.”

We have the Holy Spirit as the Israelites had the cloud. In what way does He make provision for us? You will remember that the pillar of cloud and fire was to give light to the Israelites as they traveled by night; it was to illuminate them. We are told that this is the very reason the Holy Spirit is given to believers today; the Holy Spirit is given in order that we may be guided into all truth (John 16:13).

In Psalm 105, verse 39, we learn that this pillar of cloud and fire was not given only for guidance and light and direction, but it was given also for protection; it hovered over the Israelites as they made their difficult journey through the desert, and it protected them from the heat of the sun. We are reminded that the Holy Spirit of God is given for that same reason–that we may be sealed unto the day of redemption (Ephesians 4:30).

You also notice concerning the pillar of cloud and fire that the pillar of cloud was never taken away from the Israelites during their wilderness journey. We are reminded that the same thing is true of the Holy Spirit and the believer today. The Holy Spirit is never removed from the believer (John 14:16).

Light On the Child of God

One last thing we would emphasize: The pillar of cloud and fire came between the Israelites and the Egyptians. On the Israelites' side, it was as bright as day; on the Egyptians' side, it was as dark as night. What are we to learn from this? That the Holy Spirit cannot be received by the world (John 14:17) any more than that pillar of cloud could be light to the Egyptians. The Holy Spirit is darkness to the world (John 1:5), but light to the child of God, because the Spirit indwells the believer and convicts the unbeliever.


Home Contact Us Bible Studies Books King James
Abilene Bible Church Living Bible Studies
Dr. Daiqing Yuan Tim Temple Dr. Joe Temple
Some icons on this site used courtesy FatCow Web Hosting

www.livingbiblestudies.org