Thursday, April 5, 2012

When His Way Leads to the Sea

Thy way was in the sea, and Thy paths in the mighty waters – and Thy footprints may not be known.” Psalm 77:19

           That verse is both comforting and unfathomable in the same sentence. It is comforting in that His way for the children of Israel (and for us, for that matter) was always in the sea. He didn’t lead them to the Red Sea with the mighty Egyptian army charging behind them and think, “Oh, crap! Now what am I gonna do?”

            He, in His infinite wisdom, led them to the sea. He led them to the place where the wind picked up and thrust the sea into two ominous walls of water. That was His way. His choice. That is unfathomable to me because He could have chosen a path that didn’t lead to the Red Sea. After years of hardship, slavery, and the wrath of Pharaoh it would seem that His children had suffered enough. One would think that God would have been content to whisk them away from the slavery of Egypt right into the promised land.

            But, instead He led them to a place where the sea stretched out in front of them as far as the eye could see and the pursuing Egyptian army spread out behind them as far as the eye could see. You can almost sense their panic. Yes, Egypt and its hardships were awful, but in the moment where they surely thought they faced death in the most unpleasant way, it couldn’t have seemed so bad.

            But then, God tells Moses to stretch out his hand and divide the sea. And, Moses, chock full-of-faith, saw God in the burning bush, used my staff to usher in the ten plagues Moses, watches while God parts the sea and stares in amazement at the dry ground beneath his feet. That must have been an incredible moment, and I’m sure a moment that Moses, not in a million years, would want to rewrite. It was a stepping stone of his faith, it was a story that would be passed down to his sons, and their children, and their children. Down through the ages it would be a story of God’s glory showing up in a guy with a speech impediment and a pretty sturdy staff.

            It a great story. Really, it is.

            But it leaves me with a lot of questions.

            Why did He need to take them through the sea? I mean, let’s be honest. While walking through the sea had to been pretty awesome, it also had to be scary. I’m going to tell you right now that at least once – maybe even twice – I would have thought about what would happen if that water came crashing in around me.

            Why did they have to go to the sea at all? Surely 400 plus years of captivity and abusive slavery had been enough trials for one set of people. After all their years of their slave song and crying out for God to send some one rescue them, He sets them free from the grip of Pharaoh…….and sends them to the sea? Seems to me they’d had enough of God testing their faith. In Exodus 3, God tells Moses that He has heard the cries of His children for help. He says He knows all about their suffering and that He has come to rescue them. Then He tells Moses all about a land flowing with milk and honey. I’m willing to bet as Moses stood there at the sea with the Egyptians hot on their tails, Moses must have thought, “What was that about a land flowing with milk and honey, Lord?”

            Yes, what about that? Why does it seem that the path to the promise is always filled with more heartache, hardship, and dashed hopes than we think we are capable of bearing?

            Oh, yes – it’s because we were never meant to bear it on our own.  It says so in that verse you learned before you were old enough to remember learning it, Philippians 4:13 – “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” Through Christ who gives me strength.

            His paths lead in the water because without them, we’d have this crazy idea that the grace, mercy, and goodness He bestows upon us has something to do with us. It doesn’t. His paths lead to the swirling seas with fear chasing us because that is where we find just how big our God is. Sometimes we don’t see His footprints because we are too focused on our own and whether or not the path is leading the way we think it should.

            Yes, His way leads to the sea and very often into the wilderness and sometimes I can not trace His footprints in the sand even though I try. But, what more proof do I need that I can follow Him? He did, after all, part the Red Sea.

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