Photo Courtesy Flickr: Neveen
A single breath, just like the one blown into Adam’s mouth that filled him with life. That’s how I’ve always imagined the parting of the Red Sea. A breath and suddenly the sea just split in two.
Just split. As if a miracle of that grandeur should ever be accompanied by the word “just.”
It wasn’t until a few days ago that I looked at Exodus 14 long enough to dispel my “just split” myth. I’m so glad I did, for in it I found myself. Perhaps you will, too.
You know the back story. Pharaoh just released the Israelites, whom he had used as slaves. They fled Egypt in the direction of the Red Sea. Their newfound freedom seemed short-lived as they realized they were trapped: the sea in front and Pharaoh and 600 of his best chariots behind.
The roar of panic rose, mixed with anger at Moses for leading them to a certain death. “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!” (Exodus 14:11-12).
And then, the response I wrote about a few weeks ago that still has my head spinning (and my feet stopping!):
Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Exodus 14:13-14
But here’s where it gets even more remarkable: God told Moses he would use it for his glory and “then the angel of God, who had been traveling in front of Israel’s army, withdrew and went behind them. The pillar of cloud also moved from in front and stood behind them, coming between the armies of Egypt and Israel. Throughout the night the cloud brought darkness to the one side and light to the other side; so neither went near the other all night long” (Exodus 14:19-20).
Are you picturing this? Both the angel of God and the pillar of cloud literally moved behind the Israelites, creating a very real barrier between them and the Egyptians.
Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the Lord drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land.” Exodus 14:21
“All that night.” There goes my breath theory and in comes something more powerful. But before I get to that, stop and think about what was happening: darkness and light separated God’s people from the ones who had enslaved them. A strong east wind roared all night long. Did the Israelites know what was happening? Could they see the waters piling up on themselves? Did the sound of wind hitting water sound more like the thing they feared, or more appropriately, the ones they feared? Did it sound like horses or armed men making their way towards them? Did their panic rise, or were their fears diminished?
I don’t know.
But here’s what I do know: by morning, they could walk across the sea on dry land. But I also know that a night can be a horribly long time when your enemies are close behind.
This is the story that causes tears to stream down my face and makes my knees buckle and hit the ground in praise. Perhaps it does for some of you, too, who have also been in bondage to something or by someone. Maybe you’ve also felt the thrill of freedom, those baby steps of fleeing captivity only to choke in panic as that thing suddenly came up behind with a wall in front.
Death or a life of bondage yet again? Those seem to be the only options, just like they were the only ones the Israelites could see.
But then, the barrier. Oh, we might not see it, for I dare say there is so, so much that happens on a spiritual realm that we are blind to. The protection. The winds, those strong forces that might make us think we’re being opposed when really its the very thing that will save us.
And the reason? To bring God glory.
Then the Lord said to Moses, “. . . I will gain glory” (Exodus 14:15-17, obviously excerpted, yet preserving the context)
Can’t you see it? A wall of water on the right. Another on the left. Perhaps the Israelites stretched their right arm to the standing water on that side, and their left to the other. Arms outstretched to the One who did it.
If the winds are blowing in your life or you’re waiting for the sea to part, are you willing to be still and let God fight on your behalf?
If your enemies are at your back, can you recognize God’s protection on you?
If you’ve encountered places that should be raging waters, yet you walked over the dry land, have you stopped to say thanks?
Oh, God. Words can’t express, but take our simple word of thanks–thank you for protecting those you love. Thank you for providing in ways that surpass our understanding. And thank you for using us in ways to bring glory to your name. We love you. Amen.