In God’s dealings with Israel we see the Lord’s work of spiritual expansion. Through Moses Israel saw the light: Yahweh had come to deliver them. Soon Pharaoh had “let the people go.” But “God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter…God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea” (Exo. 13:17-18). This longer road was God stretching them; he even led them to a dead end. Yahweh brought them to a place where they could only be saved by a miracle; salvation could only come through the parting of the Red Sea.
Pharaoh quickly changed his mind about letting Israel go free and pursued Abraham’s descendents. Now they were between a “rock and a hard place.” Their backs were against a sea that was impossible to cross and their faces were staring at Pharaoh’s extraordinary army. At this point they were terrified. 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!” (Exo. 14:11-12, italics mine)
The Israelites had forgotten that in the beginning God made an expanse that divided the waters: “So God made the expanse and separated the water under the expanse from the water above it.” They did not comprehend that God’s ways never change. If the Lord is going to create a new nation, he also has to bring them through the waters of death. What kind of death? Death to their own ability to save themselves. Death to their own logic. Death to their own past history.
Moses exhorted them: “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still” (Exo. 14:14). Faith may be defined as stillness: not the stillness of complacency, but the stillness of surrender. It is in this stillness of surrender, where we die to our own possibilities, that God says, “Let there be an expanse between the waters to separate water from water” (Gen. 1:6).
At this point, the Lord said to Moses, “Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground” (Exo. 14:16). This is exactly what happened—Israel escaped through the dry ground. Yet, ironically their salvation ended up being Pharaoh’s destruction. “The water flowed back and covered the chariots and horsemen—the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed the Israelites into the sea. Not one of them survived” (Exo. 14:28).
Prayer: Lord, you are the good shepherd. You lead me and guide me. But you don’t lead me down the easiest road, you lead down the road that will bring an end to myself. And in this place where I die, you come and deliver. You stretch my faith and make a way where there seemed to be no way. May I trust your ways today and this year.