Do you associate obedience with the story of the crossing of the Red Sea in Exodus 14? Have you ever stopped to really take in the story? If you’re like me, you were under the impression that the miracle was immediate. Moses raised his hands, the sea parted and the Israelites crossed on dry land in a matter of minutes. That’s at least what the Sunday school stories led me to believe.
But when you read the text carefully, you find that the story plays out quite differently over 2 days. Take a look:
Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the LORD drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided.
And the people of Israel went into the midst of the sea on dry ground, the waters being a wall to them on their right.
Exodus 14 :21-22
The people were scared because Pharaoh had pursued them and there they were stopped by a large river they couldn’t cross. Just like what happens to us sometimes, their fear came out as anger and they were quite cross with Moses. Back a few verses in the story we read their reaction:
They said to Moses, “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!”
Moses, after speaking with the Lord, tells the Israelites to just be still, that God will fight for them and Moses himself then acts with obedience.
Moses stands with stretched out hands. That’s all God asked him to do.
Instead of an immediate parting, the east winds begin to blow. Over the course of the night the river parted. There was dry ground in the morning.
How often, in our humanity, do we want immediate fixes from God. We want to pray and have an immediate healing or resolution of our situation.
How often don’t we scream in anger, recount all the what-ifs, scheme and plan, all while shaking our fists at God because He’s not immediately answering our prayer and request for saving.
God has provided us a beautiful story to provide an antidote for our striving, a road map of sorts to teach us how we should respond in the face of trial.
We learn that being angry and going down the what-if rabbit trail is not fruitful. That got the Israelites nowhere. Instead it got them reprimanded. God instructed them to stop and be still instead.
In the Psalm 46:10, we are instructed to “Be still and know that I am God.” In context, we are told it is so that the Lord will be exalted among the nations and in the earth. Later on in the New Testament, Jesus calms the storm on the Sea of Galilee with “Be Still”. There’s a pattern in scripture that being still before the Lord is a surrendering to His will and glory, a surrendering that bring saving.
This is where the obedience comes into play. In the midst of our trial, we must be still and then we need to obey.
“Be still. Stop striving.”
That was the part the Israelites were asked to play in their saving.
“Stretch out your hand over the water.”
That was the part Moses was asked to play in the story.
The rest was up to the Lord. The saving was the Lord’s part in the story and He used his creation to do so. He sent the east wind.
Could God have done an immediate miracle? Absolutely. He could have easily parted the waters in a matter of minutes or caused Pharaoh and his army to just drop dead where they stood. But He didn’t. He chose to use His creation and use the circumstances be a lesson for the Israelites. This most definitely isn’t about God being incapable. This is about God teaching His people. They had to walk the hard road to fully lean and rely on God. Then the miracle was that much bigger and amazing in their lives. The miracle would showcase God’s glory.
I can’t help but wonder if the Israelites realized what was happening. Did they understand that the wind was part of the miracle? Or did they think the wind was just something else to fight through. A trial within a trial, if you will. Did they find it hard to sleep that night, not knowing the wind was actually working to provide rescue?
How often isn’t that our reaction too? Maybe we obey begrudgingly. Surrender, but not happily? And then things get worse. I have been there!
But don’t lose faith! Take strength from the Israelites! Look what God did! In the morning, they found the sea parted and a way out of the scary situation they found themselves in.
And it all started with obedience. That’s really where it all starts, isn’t it? If you find yourself in the middle of something hard, start with obedience and then watch for God working!
For more posts on the study of Exodus, visit my Studying Scripture page!