God told the people to camp between Migdol and Pihahiroth, a location situated between two mountain passes, with the sea bordering a third side (see Exodus 14). The only possible route of escape was back into the wilderness and that was blocked by Pharaoh's approaching army. The Israelites were horrified at their situation but their God had led them there!
Let me point out something here: God could have arranged to knock the wheels off the Egyptians' chariots at any time in the wilderness, stranding them and starving them to death. But, instead, He waited until they were between the walls of the separated sea.
God also could have sent the supernatural cloud down upon the Egyptians' camp to confuse them. Those soldiers would have run around in the confusing mist for days. But, instead, He chose to send the cloud behind the Israelites as protection.
Or, God could have sent a single angel to slay the entire Egyptian army in the blink of an eye. In fact, He could have chosen to destroy them at any point. But the Lord did not do any of those things. Instead, He squeezed Israel into a tight, alarming situation, a crisis that was impossible to escape by human means.
I believe the Lord had two purposes in allowing this impossible situation for His people:
- He was determined to annihilate Israel's enemies; never again would they have to look over their shoulders in fear. God was saying, in essence, "I'm going to strew your enemies' bodies along the shore so that you can see every one of them dead. Then you will know I have all power!"
- God wanted to provide an opportunity for His people to put their lives in His hands — to stand still and trust Him to give them direction.