Much could be said about Moses’ managerial skills. As evidence of his great leadership capacity, consider the panorama of Israel’s epic exodus. It wasn’t a haphazard riot. It wasn’t a rush like a crowd exiting a burning building. It was orderly. Planned. Directed. “At the end of 430 years, on that same day, all the Lord’s military divisions went out from the land of Egypt” (Exodus 12:41). The New King James says, “it came to pass that all the armies of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt” (Exodus 12:41, NKJV). The New International Version says, “all the Lord’s divisions left Egypt” (Exodus 12:41, NIV). “The Israelites left the land of Egypt in battle formation” (Exodus 13:18). Like a battalion of highly trained military men, they marched out of Egypt with Moses in the lead.
It wasn’t a small group. “The Israelites traveled from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand able-bodied men on foot, besides their families. A mixed crowd also went up with them, along with a huge number of livestock, both flocks and herds” (Exodus 12:37–38). The adult men numbered about six hundred thousand. When you include the number of women and children, most Biblical commentators suggest that their total number was around two million. That’s ten-times the population of Amarillo!
“When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them along the road to the land of the Philistines, even though it was nearby; for God said, ‘The people will change their minds and return to Egypt if they face war.’ So he led the people around toward the Red Sea along the road of the wilderness” (Exodus 13:17–18). Leaving Egypt, the Israelites could have followed a major trade route along the shore of the Mediterranean Sea. Traveling just ten miles per day, they could have entered the Promised Land in about two weeks. Easy-peasy, lemon squeezie! But that’s not what God did. He knew that going the easy route would have led the crowd of brick-makers directly into the land of the fierce Philistines. So, God led them southeast, into the wilderness wasteland. “They set out from Succoth and camped at Etham on the edge of the wilderness” (Exodus 13:20).
They didn’t go alone. God didn’t hand Moses a map and say, “Good luck!” “The Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to lead them on their way during the day and in a pillar of fire to give them light at night, so that they could travel day or night. The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night never left its place in front of the people” (Exodus 13:21-22). From that day on, the Lord never left them! “The cloud of the Lord was ... visible to the entire house of Israel throughout all the stages of their journey” (Exodus 40:38).
I just looked out the window and didn’t see a strange pillar of fire. Then I looked into God’s Word, and I clearly see His promises. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; in all your ways know him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5–6). “Be strong and courageous; don’t be terrified or afraid of them. For the Lord your God is the one who will go with you; he will not leave you or abandon you” (Deuteronomy 31:6). “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). “I will not leave you as orphans; I am coming to you” (John 14:18). “The Lord will not leave his people or abandon his heritage” (Psalm 94:14). “Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Don’t be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He won’t leave you or abandon you” (1 Chronicles 28:20). He is forever, always, “Immanuel... ‘God is with us’ ” (Matthew 1:23).