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Between a Rock and a Hard Place

“For Pharaoh will say of the children of Israel. They are entangled in the land, the wilderness hath shut them in.” (Exodus 14:3)

The miracle of Exodus 14, when God opened the Red Sea so the children of Israel could escape from Pharaoh and his army, is one of the greatest examples of God's power to deliver His children in the Word of God. Almost every child of God has read or heard this story many times. I would encourage you to read it again, even before you read the remainder of this message, and allow the Holy Spirit to make it very real to you again.

There is something in this story that is very common to the entire human race. No matter where you are in this life, lost or saved, you can relate to this story. There is a place in this story that every man and woman comes to in their lifetime. There are those of you who will come to this place many times. I want mainly to speak to those of you who are truly saved, for this story relates to the children of God, but you who are not serving God will understand it quite well.

"For Pharaoh will say of the children of Israel, They are entangled in the land, the wilderness hath shut them in." (Exodus 14:3) The children of Israel were brought to that place where their backs were against the wall. Many call this place, "between the devil and the deep blue sea." But let us call it, "between a rock and a hard place." Israel would experience exactly what this place was like. Their place was called Baal-zephon, the Lord of Darkness. When the Lords of Darkness would have crushed them, God moves in a miraculous way and makes a way of escape through the Red Sea. Not only does God make a way of escape, but He destroys the enemy as well.

The Outstretched Hand of God

Let's look at how God performed this miracle. "And Moses said unto the people, 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, and ye shall hold your peace. And the Lord said unto Moses, Wherefore criest thou unto me? speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward: But 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. And 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. And 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." (Exodus 14:13-16; 21,22) God tells Moses to stretch out his hand over the Red Sea, and a way of escape will be made.

Listen, many times we want God to speak that way again. When we find ourselves "between that rock and a hard place," we want God to stretch out his hand so that we can miraculously move forward. At that moment of despair and fear, when we feel overwhelmed and shut in with no where to go, we just hope that God will make a way where seemingly there is no way. It might be a place where it is hard physically or spiritually, or it might be finances or a relationship. But no matter what it might be, you just wish you could get a miracle like Israel did. You wish God in heaven would just lift His hand and part your Red Sea.

God Has Offered More Than Just His Hand

I believe God can and still does part those Red Seas in our lives. But I believe there is something possibly even greater that we can experience. Although Israel's Red Sea was parted, that generation refused to embrace the promises of God. That generation would never enter the promised land. That same God in Heaven has given us more than just His right hand of power.

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.” (John 3:16A) God has given us His Son. He came to dwell among men on this earth. Now, through the power of the Holy Spirit, this same Jesus can live in the hearts of men, making man his habitation.

God has chosen to give us Himself. He chose to live with us so that we might know Him and know His heart. If God had stayed in heaven, if He had not sent his Son, we would not know the heart of God as we do today. If He had not come and walked beside men in all their circumstances and situations, we would not be able to understand His heart the way we can now.

Listen, God has made a choice. God has chosen not to stand at a distance and only stretch out His hand over your rock and hard place. But through His Son, God has chosen to come to your rock and hard place. It is no longer just an outstretched hand, but now God allows us to have His heart in this place. Between the rock and that hard place, God desires to come to us with a fresh touch of His heart and His love that can be even more powerful than His right hand outstretched.

Too many times when we get in these tight spots, all we want is God's hand to be lifted up over our circumstances. We fail to realize just how big God really is. God wants to get closer than His hand. He wants you to experience His heart.

If God only lifted up His hand over your circumstances, you would only have improved circumstances. But if you are relieved and comforted by His heart, you have had a personal encounter with Him, the Person. You get the joy and comfort of His company in the midst of your rock and hard place.

You begin to realize that enjoying His company in the midst of that hard place is better than the good times without Him. You will begin to understand that if all the trials were gone and everything seemed outwardly bright, the brightest things cannot relieve the heart. It is only His heart that can really relieve you in this place. You will learn that His company is better than the comforts of this life. "I have set the Lord always before me: because He is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Thou wilt show me the path of life: in thy presence is fullness of joy." (Psalms 16:8,11A)

In your path of life, God desires to offer you more than just His hand of deliverance. Many times he will use these tight places to draw you ever closer to Himself. God never has a problem parting Red Seas; it is the human heart that He so patiently deals with until He has the communion He desires. Could it be, your rock and a hard place is just an opportunity for God to give you more of Himself?

A Thief In a Tight Spot

All through the Bible and all through the history of mankind, over and over again God has shown Himself in ways that man least expected it. Men have learned the true heart of God in these tight places.

Do you remember when Jesus was crucified, they hung Him between two thieves. The one thief would recognize who it was he was hanging beside, and he would say, "We receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom." (Luke 23:41,42)

What did the other thief say? "And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on Him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us." (Luke 23:39)

Do you see the difference? Both of these men were between a rock and a hard place. But what they desired was two different things.

The thief who said, "save thyself and us" just wanted to be delivered from the pain and agony of death of that cross. He wanted someone to lift a hand over his tight spot that he might go free.

The other thief found something altogether different on his cross. He experienced something in his tight spot he had never experienced before. This man found the company of Jesus between his rock and hard place.

As this thief hung in this tight place, he opened his heart to Jesus. He called Him, “Jesus, Lord.” As he opened his heart in his hard place, he heard the heart of Jesus cry out. "Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." (Luke 23:34A)

As this man heard these words from Jesus, he realized what he had found. He didn't want to be free of the cross; he wanted the assurance of this man's company. He wanted more than just a hand to be lifted up to set him free. This man, as he stood between his rock and hard place,

What did Jesus say to this man in his tight spot? Be delivered from this cross? No! “And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, today shalt thou be with Me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43) A thief got more than a hand in his rock and hard place, he got the heart and abiding presence of Jesus Christ. "Thou shalt be with Me."

Changing More Than Your Circumstances

In John 11, we find two other people between that rock and a hard place. Lazarus, the brother of Martha and Mary, was dead. They simply wanted Jesus to come and speak the word or "lift up his hand" over this hard place.

But Jesus didn't come immediately. He tarried for two days before He came. Jesus would do more than lift up His hand and change their circumstances. Before Jesus would raise Lazarus from the dead, He would reveal His Heart in a way they had not seen before.

“Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw Him, she fell down at His feet, saying unto Him, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, He groaned in the spirit, and was troubled. And said, Where have ye laid him? They said unto Him, Lord, come and see.” (John 11:32-34)

Jesus would walk with these to the grave of Lazarus. Did you hear that? Jesus, the Son of God, is walking with these to the grave. They have received more than a hand lifted up, they have His company.

What happened as they walked with Him to the grave? "Jesus wept. Then said the Jews, Behold how He loved him." (John 11:35,36) They saw the heart of Jesus as they had never seen it before.

His weeping on the way to the grave opened their eyes to see His great love for Lazarus. They received more than "a hand lifted up," they received His company and a revelation of His heart full of love.

Drawn To Him In This Place

The disciples of Jesus found themselves between this rock and a hard place. They were in this hard place because Jesus sent them there. "And straightway Jesus constrained His disciples to get into a ship and to go before Him unto the other side, while He sent the multitudes away. And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up into a mountain apart to pray: And when the evening was come, He was there alone. But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary." (Matthew 14:22-24)

These disciples find themselves in the midst of the raging sea, while Jesus is in the mountain praying. Jesus knew exactly what was happening. He knew before He sent them to the other side. But what did Jesus do? He could have lifted His hand from the mountain and caused the storm to calm. He could have walked down the mountain to the shore and lifted His hand like Moses, but He didn't.

What did Jesus do for those disciples who found themselves between a rock and a hard place? "And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea." (Matthew 14:25) Jesus chose to walk across the water to these disciples. Did He do this so that He could make it calm? No! There was something else Jesus wanted to do in the midst of their storm. When the disciples recognized it was Jesus, listen to what Jesus said, "But straightway Jesus spake unto them saying, Be of good cheer, it is I; be not afraid. And Peter answered Him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. And He said, Come...."(Matthew 14:27-29A)

Jesus wanted Peter to "come" to Him in the midst of the storm. "Come to Me" and experience my heart and my company in the midst of your rock and hard place. These disciples would experience much more than a hand lifted up, they would experience the very heart of Christ reaching out to them.

Maybe as you read this, you too are between that rock and a hard place. Could it be that God is trying to show you something even greater than His hand lifted up. Too many times when things are going well, we draw our enjoyment from those things around us. Why don't you allow the grace of God to strengthen you in the midst of your rock and hard place to draw from the joy of His presence and His company. Allow Him to show you His heart before you ask for His hand.

“There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God....God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved….” (Psalms 46:4A, 5A) Allow those streams of His presence, His company, His heart to fill your heart as you experience this rock and hard place. Look for Him, the person, that you might know Him as never before. His heart can make you glad long before He lifts up His hand.