Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Exodus 15.9–13 NRSV 

9

The enemy said, ‘I will pursue, I will overtake,

    I will divide the spoil, my desire shall have its fill of them.

    I will draw my sword, my hand shall destroy them.’

10

You blew with your wind, the sea covered them;
 

   they sank like lead in the mighty waters. 

11

“Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods?

    Who is like you, majestic in holiness,

    awesome in splendor, doing wonders?

12

You stretched out your right hand,

    the earth swallowed them.

13

“In your steadfast love you led the people whom you redeemed;

    you guided them by your strength to your holy abode.


Pharaoh had been warned and after 10 serious signs and wonders, the people of God were finally freed from the grip of Egypt’s bondage. As the people headed away from slavery and toward God’s promises, the hard-heart of Pharaoh exercised one last rebellious act, chasing after the Hebrew people to destroy them. As the people fled, they saw that there was no escape. They found themselves trapped between a rock and a hard place—the pursuing Egyptian army and an impassable sea. 

This situation is often called a Catch-22, meaning, “a dilemma or difficult circumstance from which there is no escape because of mutually conflicting or dependent conditions” (Oxford Dictionary). And so there’s a man-made problem and a nature-made problem. What to do? Honestly, nothing—at least, not on their own. 

And this is where we find ourselves in today’s world. We look at the circumstances in our lives and we try to make it better, only to find we’re making it worse. It’s what happens when broken people try to fix broken situations. But what happens when a holy and perfect God gets a hold of a broken situation? What happens when a God who is an expert at making a way gets a hold of a situation where there seems to be no way? 

In the text today, we see that the most important thing Moses and the people can do is listen to God. Deliverance will come from the Lord; all they have to do is comply. Moses tells the people in 4.13 & 14, “Do not be afraid, stand firm, and see the deliverance that the Lord will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you see today you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to keep still. 

Did you hear the key phrases? “…see the deliverance that the Lord will accomplish for you…” and, “The Lord will fight for you…”. God is the hero, the active agent of change. All the people need to do is recognize God and let it all happen. And so God tells Moses to raise his staff and stretch out his hands and the sea will divide. Here we see that both the instructions and the power come from God. 

It is important to note that deliverance comes from outside of us. If we could save ourselves, we would; but we cannot. And we spend so much time devising plans and inventing ways to do things, when all the while both the path and the power come from God. It’s only because the Hebrew people trusted God’s plan and received God’s power that they were able to sing the kind of song they do in our today’s text. The victory is the Lord’s and the Lord’s alone. 

What we want for you at this Church is for you to be able to sing the song of our text today; to be able to acknowledge that God is Lord in the midst of the evil army, that God is Lord over the impassable seas of our lives. He is God over the nations and God over the creation. 

It is when you are between a rock and a hard place that you must seek the wisdom of God and invite the presence of God into your circumstance. You’re sitting here today wondering, “Pastor, what does it mean to do nothing and let God lead? What does it mean to ask for God’s wisdom and invite God’s presence?!” 

It means to cast yourself down at the mercy of God and put your whole trust in His grace. There are plenty of things you can “do” to encourage that relationship, but it all begins with raising your head above the pursuing army and the deepest sea and looking to the God who can make a way. 

As we experience deliverance in our lives, we are encouraged by God to grow in relationship with Him, just as the Hebrews were in the desert after passing through the sea. It is here that God’s will and path are revealed and we receive His presence among us. We learn how to call upon the presence of God and invite Him not just into our lives, but into every circumstance. 

We are to exercise discipleship to its fullest. To know God through a life of worship and reliance. To both praise God for His goodness and beg God for His interaction. We must attend to all the necessary areas of our lives where God may be shut out—making Him Lord over our life, our families, our relationships, our work, our exercise, our diet, our hobbies. If it’s a part of our life, then it must be given over to God. 

God invites us to let Him be the hero in our lives, our deliverer; but as we see throughout the Scriptures, God invites us into a deeper place, a place where He lives and works in and through us. Discipleship is faithfully participating in God’s work in and through us. 

I say let us become disciples, faithful followers of God through Jesus Christ. Let us call upon God to deliver us from the Catch-22s of life. Let us recognize that He is Lord over the powers of this world, whether man-made or created. Be our strength, O, God. Amen. 

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