(Listen to audio above while following along with transcript below – available for download at www.biblestudyministriesinc.com)
My grandson Jonathan is with us and he’ll be leaving this weekend. I thought I would utilize one more time his voice. You have in front of you a little chorus “He Has Broken Every Fetter”. A fetter is a shackle that they put on the legs, a manacle, a chain, and He has broken it. I’m going to have Jonathan sing through that chorus and then we can sing it together.
He has broken every fetter; He has broken every fetter; He has broken every fetter; When He died for me! There is now no condemnation; There is now no condemnation; There is now no condemnation; He has set me free! Free to know Him and enjoy Him; Free to know Him and enjoy Him; Free to know Him and enjoy Him; Free! Forever free!
As we come together to look in His word, I remind my heart and you of that principle of Bible study that is absolutely indispensable, and that is total reliance of God’s Holy Spirit. He’s the One that gave us the Bible and He’s the only One that can show us the Lord Jesus in the Bible. I’ll share two verses and then we’ll pray together. One is the prayer of Moses in Exodus 33:13, “Let me know Your ways that I may know You.” You tie that together with Psalm 103:7, “He made know His ways to Moses, and His acts to the children of Israel.” There’s a difference between the ways of the Lord and the acts of the Lord. Israel saw His acts. They saw the cloud, they saw the manna and the quail, and so on, and they saw the Red Sea open, but Moses saw His ways. Moses not only saw the cloud; He saw that God is the Guide. He not only saw the acts, the manna and the quail and the supernatural preservation of their clothing and shoes; He saw that God is a Provider. He not only saw the act of the Red Sea open; He saw that God is a faithful Deliverer; “Show me Thy ways, that I might know You.” The acts show His ways, and His ways lead us to the knowledge of the Lord.
Our heavenly Father we thank You that as we study the Bible we see Your acts. As we set our hearts to know You we see Your ways, your principles. When we know Your ways, we know You. So, take us forward in a heart knowledge of Christ this morning. We thank You for every part of Your Bible, but now thank You for the book of Exodus, and we just pray, Lord, that You would unveil Yourself. We ask in Jesus’ name. Amen
Let me bring you quickly to where we are in our study of the book. For the past couple of weeks we have been out of Egypt. We saw through the plagues and all that God had delivered us out of Egypt. Everything in the book of Exodus is about salvation, about redemption, it’s about how God sets us free by power and by blood. And it’s all a picture of our relationship to the Lord. They were saved first, not from Egypt, but first from God. They have to be saved from His wrath, His anger. They were saved by blood. He looked down and He saw the blood. Then, having been saved from God, then they need to be saved from Egypt. That’s where we are in our study. A great many Christians have been gloriously saved from the wrath of God, but somehow are still involved in Egypt. They haven’t been completely freed, and the reproach of Egypt is still on them. They’re still slaves to sin, still not knowing what it means to obey the Lord, still in bondage to indwelling corruption, not understanding the ways of God.
I remind my heart and yours that when we speak about salvation, and as it’s pictured here, we are not talking about some philosophy of life, or even about something that God gives. Salvation is a Person, and His name is Jesus. Remember Simeon and he looked at that little baby and said, “My eyes have seen Thy salvation.” Salvation is a Person. Colossians 2:6, “Therefore, as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him.” When you got saved you received Christ Jesus the Lord. You didn’t receive a doctrine. You didn’t receive a creed. You didn’t receive a church. You didn’t even receive a book, even though the Bible has become alive to you. You received Christ Jesus the Lord; a Person. And the verse goes on, “So walk in Him.” It will never get more difficult. The way you got saved, that was the time when you had the most perfect faith. You came helpless and you took Jesus. Now you are a helpless Christian. You come and take Jesus. It will never become more difficult than receiving Him.
Our study of salvation in picture form, Israel is now out of Egypt, but in our study they have not yet crossed the Red Sea. They’ve arrived at the shore of the Red Sea, and we spent a lot of time there. The entire section of our meditation is from Exodus 13:17 when they got out of Egypt, all the way to Exodus 14:20 when they will finally cross the Red Sea. In our present study we’re still on the wrong side of the Red Sea, and actually we’ll not cross this morning. We’ll begin to cross, Lord willing, next time. There are a few things I want us to see from this side of the Red Sea.
Israel has been saved by power and blood. They have dressed up as pilgrims, and they are beginning their pilgrimage. Last time I showed a couple of the early lessons that they had to learn before they crossed the Red Sea. I’ll refresh your mind with a sentence or two. I showed you that they had struggling faith. They crossed by faith, but the Bible says they were filled with fear and doubt. Struggling faith is faith, and God accepts it. You can have fear and doubt and trust the Lord at the same time. Don’t think if you are entertaining some doubts or you have some anxiety, that you aren’t trusting Jesus. It’s wonderfully illustrated with Israel. Then Exodus 14:15, “The Lord said to Moses, ‘Why are you crying out to Me. Tell the sons of Israel to go forward.’” I called attention to the fact that this is the first mention of the expression “go forward”. That’s very instructive, because at that day at that moment what did it take for Israel, 2 ½ million people, and their flocks and herds and beasts of burden, to go forward? The answer is that it took a mighty miracle of God. They could not go forward. That becomes the illustration of growing in the Lord, advancing in the Lord, and going forward in the Lord. There is no going forward apart from a mighty miracle of God. That’s wonderfully illustrated there.
Israel was right there at the Red Sea and behind them was Egypt and on each side there were mountains. Do you remember what the Bible says they did when that predicament dawned on them? They have twelve tribes and they divided it up into four groups of three, and the first group of three formed a committee and they were to go out and cut down trees from the mountains to build rafts to go forward. Is that in your Bible? And then there were three tribes that were designated to keep a good watch on the enemy. And then there was another three tribes to divide the people in groups. The women were to go first and then the children, and they had to get them in groups. The last three tribes were to start baling and they put their hands like this and they were just throwing the water… You say that sounds pretty foolish. It is foolish, and that’s what I did for years. I thought it depended on me. I was making programs and trying every kind of thing. As silly as that sounds, how many Christians think that in order to go forward, “I’ve got to do this and I’ve got to do that,” and they start trying to bale the water out of the Red Sea.
Psalm 62:8, “Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us.” How many moments of the day must I trust the Lord? Trust the Lord at all times. We must never, ever put confidence in the flesh. It’s always a matter of faith. Not only did God accept struggling faith, and not only was the pilgrim life humanly impossible, but when we left off we were discussing Exodus 14:13-15, “But Moses said to the people, ‘Do not fear! Stand by and see the salvation of the Lord which He will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you have seen today, you will never see them again forever. The Lord will fight for you while you keep silent.’ Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Why are you crying out to Me? Tell the sons of Israel to go forward.’”
Let me review that principle, expand on it a little, and then we’ll look at our new material. The observation I made last time, and I’ll repeat now, is that it appears like Moses is receiving a mild rebuke from the Lord. Moses gives these people who are frightened and worried and anxious a wonderful word of victory at verse 13, “Do not fear; stand by, see the salvation of the Lord which He will accomplish for you today. The Egyptians whom you’ve seen today, you’ll never see them again forever. The Lord will fight for you while you keep silent.” Isn’t that a wonderful word? What a testimony that is! I would think that God would give them an “atta boy”,that God would cheer him up because of that. But probably because he didn’t respond like I would have responded. The people had said some terrible things about Moses. Verse 11, “Is it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness?” Don’t forget that Egypt was known as the land of tombs. “Why have you dealt with us in this way, bringing us out of Egypt? Is this not the word that we spoke to you in Egypt, saying, ‘Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians”? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.
Imagine if someone accused you of all those things. Moses didn’t take it personally. He just stood up and said, “Don’t be afraid; the Lord will fight for you. Today is the salvation of the Lord.” I don’t think the Lord was rebuking him when he said in verse 15, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the sons of Israel to go forward.” I think the Lord is giving us the order. In other words, He wants them to go forward by faith, but not until they learn to rest. And Moses gave them the message of rest. God will fight for you. The Lord will do this thing. Don’t be afraid. Trust in the Lord. Be still and relax, and then you can go forward.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, that order can never be reversed. I can’t go forward until I’ve learned to rest. If I attempt to go forward before I’ve learned to rest in Jesus, I’m going forward in the flesh, and we’ll see how terrible that would be. I don’t want to bore you with my testimony again, but all the futile attempts I made before God began to dawn the truth of rest on my heart! I just pray that God will spare you from that. Zachariah 4:6, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel saying, ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of hosts.” The Lord of Hosts is the expression “The Lord of the armies of heaven and earth”, and that’s what he said. How desperately God’s children need to learn that truth, “Not by might, not by power, but by My Spirit.” Oh, may God teach us that!
We need to stand back now, and I want to give a bird’s eye view at this point in the study. I’ll tell you why in just a moment. I want to introduce you to how I think the Holy Spirit has laid out the entire book of Exodus. It’s a spiritual picture album book. The book of Exodus is nothing but stories and pictures of reality. I’ve taken a lot of time in the first twelve chapters to show you how God saves us; by power and by blood, and through His chosen instrument. But as an historical picture, once we’re free, and once we’re out of Egypt, then what? Once I’ve been delivered, what can I expect? What follows? Those redeemed by power and blood, what can they expect to find in their life? I’m calling the remainder of the book, chapters 13 through 40 “The Blessed Outworkings of Redemption”.
I handed a page of notes, and I’m going to ask you to glance at it. You can read the paragraph another time. What I want to show you are six pictures that we’re going to look at, and I’m going to follow the indispensable verse that I shared; we’re going to look at His acts, and from His acts we’re going to see a principle, we’re going to see His ways, and from His ways then we can see the Lord. Let me show you the pictures, and then we’ll look at the realities. The six pictures, right in order; the glory cloud, the song of Moses and Miriam, the manna and quail and water out of the rock, the victory over Amalek at Rephidim, the law at Mt. Sinai, and the tabernacle. That’s what’s left in the book of Exodus.
Each of those has a principle connected with it. The cloud; God guides us, and that’s the reality. The song; after you are redeemed by power and blood, God fills your heart with joy. And we’re going to look at that song. The manna, the quail and water out of the rock; God becomes your Provider. We’re going to look at that. The battle with Amalek at Rephidim; God gives you victory. That’s what you can expect. You are saved by power and blood. The experience at Mt. Sinai; God will show us the New Covenant way to walk in obedience to Him. Finally, the book ends with the tabernacle; that’s worship and union with Him, and God is going to take us there. What can I expect if I’m saved by power and blood? You can expect guidance, you can expect joy, you can expect provision, you can expect victory in your life, you can expect to be able to walk in obedience to the Lord, and you can expect to worship Him in spirit and in truth. All of that is the rest of Exodus, and we’ll take that apart one by one.
I was waiting until we crossed the sea to show you the blessed results of redemption, but God didn’t wait, and so He gives us the first result of redemption, guidance, before they cross the Red Sea. So, that’s where we are this morning. I’m referring to the Shekinah glory cloud, the cloud that begins as soon as they came out of Egypt, and it will continue all the way to the Promised Land. I want to home in once again this morning, God helping, on the Shekinah glory cloud, and this time I’m going to tie it to principles of guidance. We want to see the picture, the cloud, to know His ways. If I’m saved by power and blood, then He will be my God.
Even though we’ve mentioned a few things about the cloud, I didn’t really tie it into guidance, so I might mention a few things we’ve already mentioned. I find four wonderful principles of guidance illustrated by this Shekinah glory cloud. Let me mention the facts, the acts, and then we’ll go to the principles. What are the four that the Holy Spirit emphasizes; four truths about the cloud? The first truth is that He identifies the cloud. That’s a map. The second truth, it was a glory cloud. That’s important. Third truth is that it was with them day and night; a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. The fourth fact is that the cloud that went before them was lifted and went behind them. Those are facts. We need to look at those facts and we’ll see the ways of God. Seeing the ways of God, we’ll know God Himself. May God help us!
How does God identify the cloud? We’ll take them one at a time. Exodus 14:19, “The Angel of God who had been going before the camp of Israel moved and went behind them. The pillar of cloud moved from before them and stood behind them.” That verse tells us that the cloud and the angel are the same. It’s the Lord Himself. As they looked back over the history, Deuteronomy 1:30, “The Lord your God who goes before you will Himself fight on your behalf, just as He did for you in Egypt before your eyes and in the wilderness where you saw how the Lord your God carried you, just as a man carries his son, in all the way which you have walked until you came to this place.” The point is, the cloud is a Person. If you’ve got to know guidance, you’ve got to begin there.
From the first day you came to trust Jesus He has been your guide, whether you knew it or not or whether you paid attention or not. As soon as you become a Christian the Lord is your guide. It’s not a doctrine and it’s not some kind of a formula. People are constantly trying, “how am I going to know the will of God and they try a formula. I think brother F. B. Meyer gave a wonderful illustration of a formula. I tried it, and it didn’t work, but it was a formula. Here’s what he said. He was on a ship one time and sailing through a narrow channel where there were many rocks and sand bars. He got nervous and said to the captain of the ship, “How do you know your way into the harbor without hitting a rock or hitting a sand bar?” The captain pointed on the shore and said, “You see those three lights? Well, I’m going to control my ship and I’m going to go until those three lights line up, and when they become one, then I follow one light. I’m not looking at three. I just follow the one light safely into the harbor.” Then F. B. Meyer went on to say, “God has given us three lights. He has given us the word of God and that’s His light. He’s given us circumstances and that’s His light, and He’s given us peace in the heart. When those three line up, when I know it’s according to His word, and I feel right about it in my heart, and circumstances seem to work that way, I will know the will of God.”
Well, I thought I’d try that, and it didn’t work. I’ll give an example with Jonah. We know Jonah was running from God, right? He was running from the will of God. My, how the circumstances lined up. The boat was right there, and was going right where he wanted to go, he just enough money in his pocket, and it looks like that’s the will of God, but those circumstances went against him. You know that there can be a false peace in your heart, as well. So, it’s not a formula. It’s a Person. It’s the Lord Himself that is your guide. The secret of guidance is the Guide. You keep your eyes on the Guide, you aren’t going to worry about guidance. If you have your eye on the Guide He’ll guide you all the way. “In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He’ll direct your path.” You don’t have to run after the will of God. Just know the God whose will it is. Keep your eye on Him.
We also looked at that second principle. It’s a glory cloud. It’s Shekinah, and remember what Shekinah means. It’s when you take an infinite God who is ubiquitous and is everywhere and you put a fence around Him. If you can take a God who is everywhere and confine Him to a bush, confine Him to a cloud, confine Him to your heart, it’s the Shekinah glory that lives in you; not some of God, and not most of God; but all of God lives in every one of us. That’s Shekinah. But in addition to that, it’s a Shekinah glory cloud, and what I mean by that is that God of glory leads in paths of glory; always for His glory. Whatever He does in your life and mine is designed for His glory. That’s how He guides. 1 Corinthians 6:19, “Do you not know your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God. You are not your own. You’ve been bought with a price. Therefore, glorify God in your body.” 1 Corinthians 10:31, “Whether, then you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” Everything God does, and we say that everything is redemptive. What we mean is that everything is for His glory and His purpose. I’ve heard people say, “I’m doing this for the glory of God. I’m giving this to give God the glory.” We need to check ourselves sometimes on that because if I am really living or giving for the glory of God, I’ve got to be on the path that leads to glory. If I’m going to give Him glory, I’ve got to be on the road that leads to glory.
In the book of Jeremiah they had become ritualistic and everything had become religion instead of relationship. They went through the motions and they were singing the songs and keeping the festivals and sacrificing the sacrifices, and God said, “Because of the way you are living you are going into captivity.” And they said, “We don’t want to go into captivity.” Jeremiah 2:18, “But now what are doing on the road to Egypt, to drink the waters of the Nile? Or what are you doing on the road to Assyria, to drink the waters of the Euphrates?” The next verse is “Your own wickedness will correct you.” And He says, “If you don’t want to go there, get off that road. You are on the road that leads to Egypt. You are on the road that leads to Assyria. You are saying, ‘I don’t want to go to Egypt.’”
If I’m on a road, now I get lost easily, and it’s going to Baltimore, I’m going to end up in Baltimore, if I’m on that road. If I need to get off that road, we need to know what the glory of God is. I think I shared with you before my life verse. John 12:27, I don’t care what comes into my life, I’m going to quote this verse and I’ve quoted it so many times. The verse begins, “What shall I say? Now is my soul become troubled;” maybe a doctor’s report, “What shall I say? ‘Deliver me from this hour?’ For this purpose I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your name.” That’s the purpose for every hour that comes into my life, and that comes into your life. I used to pray, “Get me out of this mess.” And then I prayed, “Keep me in this mess.” And now I don’t care if He gets me out or keeps me in. “Father, glorify Thy name.” All His paths are glory. So, Guidance is a Person. Guidance is glorious Guidance.
And then we also looked at verse 21 & 22 of Exodus 13. “The Lord was going before them in a pillar of cloud to lead them on the way in a pillar of fire by night to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. He did not take away the pillar of cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people.” Guidance is not only personal, intimate, and not only glorious, but it’s constant. Every minute of every day, twenty four hours a day, when you get up and when you go to bed, and when you are awake, and when you are asleep. This is what I consider to be Christian honey; it’s sticky and sweet, even when you sin, the Lord is still there. We’re going to read later on about the golden calf, when they made that idol. Do you know what they did the next day? They gathered manna. How faithful is the Lord? They still had the presence of the Lord, even when they sinned. God does not forsake them. In that connection I love that hymn by Fanny Crosby, every verse begins the same way, “All the way my Savior leads me, all the way,” and then in that first verse, “Can I doubt His tender mercies who through life has been my Guide?” It’s such a precious truth. And then in the third verse, “When my spirit clothed immortal, wings its flight to realms of day, this my song through endless ages, Jesus led me all the way.” All the way; every moment. May God help us see that, that guidance is personal. It’s a real Savior that is leading us. It’s not about following some rules. It’s a Person, and it’s glorious. He’s leading us into His glory. And it’s constant. It’s all the time. He always leads us every moment of every day.
Now we’re going to look, and this will be the rest of our lesson, and may God give light on this, at the fourth and final illustration of guidance, illustrated by the glory cloud. This principle will not invalidate the first three principles; in other words, that it’s personal, that it’s glorious and that it’s constant. This principle might appear to contradict that, but those three truths will never change. This principle that we’re about to look at generally is the most difficult to accept when we think about God’s guidance. Every child of God will learn it. They have to learn it. It’s necessary to learn it, but it’s not pleasing to the flesh. Let’s say it that way.
I want to look at this a little closer in terms of this precious truth of guidance. It’s the inheritance of every blood bought saint, and we’re going to experience this. Maybe you already have. Exodus 14:19, “The Angel of God who had been going before the camp moved and went behind them, and the pillar of cloud moved from before them and stood behind them.” Don’t read this “la, la, la”. The people of God had just learned to keep their eyes on the cloud. God said, “I’ll guide you through the cloud by day, and I’ll guide you with fire by night.” And now all of a sudden there’s change. Exodus 14:15, “Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Why are crying out to Me? Tell the sons of Israel to go forward.” So, God gives a word, “You go forward.” According to Hebrews 11:29, “By faith they passed through the Red Sea as though they were passing through dry land,” they passed through by faith. If you are going to go forward, you are going to go forward by faith. In order to facilitate that, I’m leaving.
You’ve got to picture that now. The cloud is going to go behind. You go forward. Before you were following the cloud. Don’t follow it this time. I’m going to leave you (not really) but the sense of my presence is going to leave you. I’ll still be there. It’s still personal. It’s still glorious. It’s still constant, but now you’ve got to learn to walk by faith. And that’s going to take a miracle. Sometimes when God removes His sensible presence, the sense of His presence, when the signs and wonders go away, and when there is no more feeling in the heart, and there is no more goose bumps, and we sort of get to wondering what happened, and where is the Lord? Has He departed? No this is part of guidance. You’ve got to walk by faith, and not by sight. So, He tells you to go forward when He Himself withdraws Himself. Proverbs 25:2, “It’s the glory of God to conceal a matter, but the glory kings is to search out a matter.” It’s God’s glory to hide Himself, and it’s royal to seek. When He hides Himself, He rewards diggers. Dig and seek. Isaiah 45:15, “Truly, you are a God who hides Himself, O God of Israel, Savior!” So that we can proceed by faith and still know that it’s Him who is guiding us, personally, gloriously, constantly. He sometimes withdraws Himself and goes to the back.
Several wonderful principles are illustrated by that truth and I’d like to take it apart just a little bit. We go forward by faith and His visible presence is removed. We don’t see Him. He’s still there. One of the truths that we glean is that He’s taken away the pillar of fire, now watch this, but He has not taken away His light. There’s difference between the pillar of fire and His light. We still have light. This is like the plague of darkness, remember. Egypt had the darkness, but the sons of Israel had light in their dwellings. We can always claim Psalm 27:11. I like the KJV, “Lead me in a plane path because of my enemies.” He’ll always lead us in a plane path.
Do you see the illustration here? Exodus 14:19-20, “The Angel of God, who had been going before the camp of Israel, moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud moved from before them and stood behind them. So it came between the camp of Egypt and the camp of Israel; and there was the cloud along with the darkness, yet it gave light at night. Thus to one did not come near the other all night.” Don’t forget this is after midnight and is the darkest part of the night. The redeemed are not in darkness. They have the light of the Lord. That principle of light, I won’t get into it, but it’s developed all through the scriptures. Luke 16 and 1 Thessalonians 5 we’re called “sons of light” and “sons of the day”. And Ephesians 5:8, “Children of light.” Remember when you got saved, 2 Corinthians 4:6, “For God, who said, ‘Light shall shine out of darkness,’ is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” The One who said to this universe, “Let there be light,” when they came to you and said, “Let there be light,” and the light of the world filled your heart. You remember. You were there.
At the Red Sea they were given a command, “Go forward in faith.” That doesn’t mean to go forward in darkness. They had light. Go forward in light. God always leads in light; enough light for your feet and enough for the direction, the path. I’ve read so much about faith, and you hear somebody say, “Faith is a leap into the dark.” Don’t believe that for a minute. It is not a leap into the dark. It’s a walk in the light. There’s a whole big difference leaping in the dark and walking in the light. God never leads His children to leap into the dark. There’s always enough light for the next step. Psalm 119:105, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Colossians 3:15, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.”
How do I know if I’m in light? I guarantee you’ll know if your are in darkness. When you know you are in darkness, don’t go that way. He’s going to guide by opening doors and closing doors and shutting things, and you need to learn that God guides from behind. Proverbs 3:6, “In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.” You’ll find it in your heart.
There’s a second glorious truth illustrated by God guiding from behind, becoming invisible, and visible only to faith, invisible to sight, because He wants us to go forward in faith. Try to remember their history. They have been in bondage for centuries. They were in bondage to Egypt and it’s not easy when you are in trouble for a long time, to forget that. That becomes a burden. Technically, doctrinally, God brought them out of Egypt, but they didn’t feel free. They turned around and Egypt was coming with 600 iron chariots. “I’m free.” No, you don’t feel free. Egypt is either coming to destroy them or to drag them back to their captivity. Now, in a real way, then, let’s say Egypt represents their past. They’ve been delivered. Now they turn around and their past is chasing them to take them back again and put them under condemnation. Egypt is a picture of the past. Don’t read that “la, la, la”. The people had just learned that the Lord is going before them. Now He leaves and I’ve got to just walk by faith.
I made a large point about saying that Egypt represents the past. Look what God does. They are terrified in verse 10. They look back and behold, the Egyptians were marching after them, and they became frightened and they cried out to the Lord. This is a huge deal in the life of many Christians, because they are victims of the past; of the abuse of the past that they had to go through, the injustice that took place in the past, the guilt and shame of what they did, or what they were involved in, past failures and blunders. People are in bondage of all the insecurities of the past. Picture what God does here. He places Himself between Israel and the Egyptians, so when they look back they can’t see their past, and they only see the Lord. Do you see that wonderful provision? That’s how God deals with the past. He puts Himself there. He wants you to turn around. He wants you to look back, not to see the past, but to see the Lord. He’s never promised that the past won’t chase you. He just promises it’s got to go through Him before it gets to you. God knows you are going to look back. Man’s ways of dealing with the past are so different from God’s ways. It’s a glorious principle.
Man says, “In order to be free from the past you’ve got to come to a place where you forgive yourself.” That is not in the Bible. Don’t believe that; you can’t do that! It’s ridiculous and it’s nonsense. No place does the Bible say that you have to forgive yourself. If you enter into God’s forgiveness, you are forgiven, and you don’t have to worry about forgiving yourself. When David sinned with Bathsheba he said, “Against Thee and Thee only have I sinned.” To be completely free from my past, no matter how ugly and repulsive and ugly that past may be, all I have to do is turn around and look at Jesus. He not only cleaned the plate, He put His righteousness on it. He erased it and then He put His righteousness on it. I never have to be a victim of my past, and I don’t have to forgive myself, and I don’t have to dig up unresolved conflicts from my youth and my early life, and I don’t have to blame my present problems on some ancestral sin that is following me through, or the fact that my mother didn’t nurse me when I was a baby. It’s all seeing the Lord. The psychologists said, “If you want to be free from your past, go back to the things that are bothering you, write them all down on a piece of paper and then burn the paper.” You have to pay good money for advice like that! It’s unbelievable. “Stay busy. Get involved some kind of project or something, or the universal mantra; “Mmmmmmmm,” just meditate and get it into your mind, the place of passionless peace, and all that kind of thing. That’s not how God deals with the past. He deals with the past by putting Himself between you and your past. Nothing in your past will be a burden if you are looking at Jesus.
Before I close I want to make a couple of other observations. The fact that He got behind is deliberate. He wants you to walk by faith. I just want to give a couple of illustrations. Isaiah 30:20-21, “Although the Lord has given you bread of privation and water of oppression, He, your Teacher will no longer hide Himself, but your eyes will behold your Teacher. Your ears will hear a word behind you, ‘This is the way, walk in it,’ whenever you turn to the right or to the left.” It’s hard for some Christians to think that God guides from behind, but that’s how He guides now. Of course, He lives in you, and the Holy Spirit will guide you, but the point is He takes away the sense of His presence. How does Isaiah 30:20-21 square with Philippians 3:13-14, “Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do; forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead,” I thought I was supposed to not look back and I was supposed to forget those things. Read the context. Philippians 3 is talking about a foot race. When don’t I look back? I don’t look back if it hinders the race. That’s the point of not looking back. I don’t look back at past victories if it hinders the race, or past failures if it hinders the race. But He’s talking about running the race set before you, looking unto the Lord Jesus. Hebrews 12.
The fact that Jesus calls us to run by faith, and He guides from behind, let me give several illustrations of how that works. My first is King David and Goliath. You remember the story. 1 Samuel 17:34-36, he said, “God gave me victory over a bear, God gave me victory over a lion, and Goliath is just like the bear and the lion, if he’s taunting the armies of the living God.” So, if past victories help you with present faith, then look back and take those victories and know that the God who delivered me yesterday will do the same today. That’s one illustration.
Sometimes ministry becomes discouraging. Let me give an illustration; the feeding of the five thousand. Picture it in your mind. Five thousand men plus women plus children, and He took a little boy’s lunch and divided it thirteen ways. He gave each of His disciples 1/13th of a little boy’s lunch. In front of them were groups of people. The smallest group was fifties and hundreds, and you’ve got 1;13th of a little boy’s lunch in your hand. He said, “Go feed them.” I would say, “It doesn’t feel like enough.” That little morsel in your hand represents the all sufficiency of Jesus, and they went they had to take that. Would you break a little off for fifty people? How would they do it? That didn’t feel like enough, but when it was all over, they gathered twelve baskets and everybody was fed and everybody was satisfied. When I come here every Wednesday, I’ll tell you the truth in my heart, I want to give you Jesus, but it never feels like I have enough Jesus. I look back at what has been handed out… If God called me to carry what’s been handed out already it would break my back.
Look back. If you get discouraged and in your ministry, “I have so little to give,” take a look back at what God has done through you. There’s a time to look back. He’s calling us to look back. John 6:13, they had all that left over. All the way my Savior leads me. The voice behind you. My Lillian and I for years we’ve just been bouncing off the walls. When we go forward it doesn’t seem clear. We don’t know what to do. We make decisions and commit it to the Lord. We want His will. Our hearts are set to do His will, but then we look back. Man, we see all the guidance we want to see. You look back and you’ll see all the guidance that you’ll ever want ever to see. Sometimes serious things take place, like with Joseph. What about Joseph? It didn’t look like God was doing anything in his life for a long time. But then he looked back. He said, Genesis 50:20, “”As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good. You sold me; God sent me.”
Sometimes when mysterious things come into your life, a doctor’s report or a loss or a financial loss or kids go crazy, just look back. Exodus 13:14 says to look back at what God has done, “And it shall be when your son asks you in time to come, saying, ‘What is this?’ then you shall say to him, ‘With a powerful hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, from the house of slavery.” God has been working in your life. Tell your kids and tell your grandkids and tell your great grandkids. Look back and let them know the faithfulness of the Lord. And then sometimes God meets you, and you had a problem in your life, 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, “Comfort others with the comfort which you yourself have been comforted by God.” There’s a time to look back, because He’s going to guide us from behind. He’s going to give light. He’s always going to give that light. He’s going to give you victory over the past, so that you are not a victim of the past. The past helps me now and that’s good, then look back and remember that.
Ministry feels like nothing, then watch what God has done. Here is my suggestion to all of you. Walk in faith, trust the Lord for about ninety years, and look back. I think you’ll see all the guidance you ever want to see. If it doesn’t work, do something else.
Lord willing, next week we’ll begin to look at crossing the sea. Let me word it this way to you to use a popular expression, “Trust Jesus; God has your back.” Let’s pray. Father, thank You so much for Your word, that You personally guide us, that Your guidance is glorious, that Your guidance is constant, and that you lead us on in faith, always behind us protecting us, giving us light, showing us the way, and using us redemptively. Work these things in our heart. This is part of the glorious outworkings of being saved by power and blood. We praise you in Jesus’ name. Amen