Israel was in bondage in Egypt when God raised up a deliverer, Moses. The people watched with wonder as God performed miracle after miracle. A staff that turned into a serpent; water turning to blood; frogs; gnats; flies; locusts….. So many signs and wonders God performed. So many tangible evidences of His might and power. Then at Passover, the application of the blood on the door posts, the deaths of the first born of the disobedient – more evidences of God’s working. He was there with them, unmistakable, and working among Israelites and Egyptians alike. The proof was everywhere to be seen.
Finally Pharaoh let the people go. They left Egypt quickly, trusting in God’s power to protect them. God led them by a pillar of cloud during the day, and at night a pillar of fire. This was just even more evidence of God’s plan being fulfilled for Israel, and more proof to these weary people that God was leading them forward. They were progressing onward, yes, but they had no idea of what was just ahead.
God told Moses to have the Israelites turn back from where they were and to encamp by the Red Sea. I wonder how many Israelites had serious doubts about this decision that God had made. Still they were safe, though, because there were ways around the sea. That is, until they looked out on the horizon and saw the hordes of Egyptian soldiers bearing down on them. There was no way of escape now. They were surrounded by water that was impassable, and by soldiers that were impassioned, and by a situation that was impossible!
The people of Israel feared greatly at this reality. Gone were the thoughts of locusts and frogs and water turning to blood. Gone was the trust that we think they should have shown in the God Who had led them this far by performing so many miracles. All they could see was the hopeless situation all around them, and the doom they knew was impending. They cried out to the Lord and to Moses in their fear and anger. “What have you done to us in bringing us out of Egypt? It would be better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness!”
Moses replied, “Fear not; stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord which He will work for you today. The Lord will fight for you and you have only to be silent.” What? Be silent? We’re all going to DIE!!!! Those are my words because I imagine I would say something like that in this situation……which is why I was so struck the other morning as I read Psalm 77:19: “Your way was through the sea, your path through the great waters; yet your footprints were unseen.”
God’s footprints were all over the place as He brought plague after plague upon the people of Egypt. It’s comforting to have footprints to follow when you’re going through a hard time, even if you’re not exactly sure where they will lead. The Israelites never dreamed that God would lead them to the Red Sea and then leave them there as they were surrounded by the blood thirsty Egyptians. They forgot God’s power as they looked at their seemingly impossible situation. They forgot to trust when God’s footprints were unseen in the water.
Yet God’s way for Israel was through the sea. His path for Israel was through the great waters. Sometimes that’s where my path leads, too – up against situations and events that are deep with trouble or fraught with questions. God wants me to venture forward, trusting in Him even when I can’t see his footprints in the water. You see, it’s not the footprints I need to be trusting. It’s God Himself that I need to lean on with faith and obedience.
And I can fully claim the promise of Isaiah 43:2: “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you.”