Have you prayed and prayed and prayed for a certain outcome and then, on the cusp of it being delivered to you it is suddenly far away again? Have you ever thought, “Finally, a break comes my way,” only to see it all dissolve before your very eyes? Did you ever stop and wonder what God was playing at? Were you thinking you were part of some cosmic joke you didn’t get? Chances are the longer you’ve lived life, if you haven’t already, you’ll at some point have these sorts of thoughts. It’s a natural response. We get so eager to see what we’ve wanted and desired that when it’s snatched away from us we can’t believe it. How could this happen? Why did God permit it? You know, I bet a certain group of people known as the Israelites wondered the same thing, especially after a situation like this one:
Then Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron. “This time I have sinned,” he said to them. “The LORD is in the right, and I and my people are in the wrong. Pray to the LORD, for we have had enough thunder and hail. I will let you go; you don’t have to stay any longer.”
Moses replied, “When I have gone out of the city, I will spread out my hands in prayer to the LORD. The thunder will stop and there will be no more hail, so you may know that the earth is the LORD’s. But I know that you and your officials still do not fear the LORD God.”
(The flax and barley were destroyed, since the barley had headed and the flax was in bloom. The wheat and spelt, however, were not destroyed, because they ripen later.)
Then Moses left Pharaoh and went out of the city. He spread out his hands toward the LORD; the thunder and hail stopped, and the rain no longer poured down on the land. When Pharaoh saw that the rain and hail and thunder had stopped, he sinned again: He and his officials hardened their hearts. So Pharaoh’s heart was hard and he would not let the Israelites go, just as the LORD had said through Moses.
– Exodus 9:27-35, NIV
The plague of hail had seemingly taken the fight out of Pharaoh. So he agreed to allow the Israelites to go. He told Moses and Aaron this and the two men prepared for departure. Moses, being a man of his word, asked God to stop the thunder and the hail and God ended the plague. However, this only caused Pharaoh to change his mind and he once again was adamant that the Israelites would be going nowhere. After this plague, it says Pharaoh hardened his heart. The choice of what to do was his. And Pharaoh chose against God. He would not get another chance to have control over that decision. Because after the next plague, the plague of locusts, we’re told that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart (Exodus 10:20). So we have a case here where another person had snatched away countless dreams and then a case where God, by acting through that person, seems to have done so as well. Why? That’s an important question. If God could cause Pharaoh to harden his heart, why didn’t He cause it to soften? Why didn’t He cause Pharaoh to give in before any of the plagues? Why was there a fight at all? And then in that second case, why did God intervene, seemingly against His people? God took action against the Israelites through Pharaoh, right? Not exactly. See, there was a bigger plan at work.
There was a plan of a Passover. A plan where a lamb without blemish would be slain and its blood would preserve the people from death. It was an event where the firstborn sons of the Israelites would not die, because the firstborn Son of God later would. Without these series of events there is no Passover. And then this clear pointer to Messiah, to Christ, is missing. There was something greater to come from all this suffering and turmoil. But see, the Israelites didn’t have to wait years to see some results to their struggles. Actually God had something a bit closer on the timeline, like the parting of the Red Sea.
Again, there’s a bigger plan here. The Israelites were smashed up against the water with nowhere to go. The Egyptian army was bearing down on them. This was bad. This was really bad. But then God did something only He could do. He split the waters so they could cross. But God didn’t stop there. He stood between the Israelites and the Egyptians (Exodus 14:19-20). He then let the Egyptian army go onto the seabed (after the Israelites had crossed) and confused them (Exodus 14:23-25). He was showing His people that He would fight for them. They didn’t have to rely on their strength, they had to rely on His. They weren’t their own salvation. He was their salvation. He was the One to deliver them from their enemies. He was the One to save them from death. He was giving them a foreshadowing of what Jesus would do for us all.
Maybe we don’t understand why our hopes are dashed at the last minute. Maybe we don’t get that just when something is within our grasp, it is suddenly taken away. But if we’ll wait, if we’ll trust, we’ll see the bigger plan. We’ll see God doing something a whole lot greater than what we had focused on. So if it doesn’t make sense to you, be patient. God is at work. He’s got something better coming. He’s up to something magnificent. You just have to have faith that He’s going to deliver. And when He does, it’ll be awesome.