Monday, February 20, 2012

Passing Through

By faith they passed through the Red Sea as by dry land, whereas the Egyptians, attempting to do so, were drowned. (Hebrews 11:29, NKJV).

Have you ever been faced with an obstacle in life that appears insurmountable, yet your very survival depends on overcoming it?

Moses faced many such trials and not just on behalf of himself personally, but on behalf of the estimated 2,000,000 slaves he lead out of Egypt. In fact, at this point in this chronology of Old Testament faith, we switch from "he" to "they" in this verse, signifying that it is now the corporate faith of the Children of Israel in view, rather than that of just one man.

In today's business parlance, the Red Sea was a "show-stopper". It represented a dead end to necessary progress away from Pharaoh's army toward safety in the Wilderness, and there it lay before the fleeing refugees, an impassable harbinger of slaughter and death.

Twice the LORD commanded Moses to stretch out his arm over the Red Sea, once to part the waters for the safe passage of his followers, and once, after they had passed through, to bring the waters back down upon the heads of the pursuing army.

Note that God literally gave Moses a hand in the outcome, enabling him to participate in a miraculous rescue as well as a devastating victory. Pharaoh took lightly the warnings he received about persecuting God's people, and through Moses, he paid a horrendous price.

Also recall that prior to this culminating rout, the Angel of the Lord placed Himself between the Children of Israel and the pursuing army. 

And the Angel of God, who went before the camp of Israel, moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud went from before them and stood behind them. So it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel. Thus it was a cloud and darkness to the one, and it gave light by night to the other, so that the one did not come near the other all that night. (Exodus 14:19, 20, NKJV).
To His own, the Presence of God is light and safety. To His enemies, it is darkness and chaos.

Now the world looks at this event through the eyes of unbelief and relegates it to the realm of myth or legend or parochial misunderstanding on the part of the participants. The world gets a lot of things dead wrong.

The believing of this account as literal history is itself an opportunity for faith. Consider for one moment the following points of logic.

Defeating the Egyptian army could have been accomplished in any number of supernatural ways far less conspicuously miraculous; illness, confusion, insubordination. The method chosen was clearly meant to be challenging, controversial, and impossible to ignore, both at the time and retrospectively.

It is extremely unlikely that Moses, a central player in the event and a man well-taught in Egyptian culture and geography, could have mistaken the Red Sea for something less formidable. As unlikely as an entire army being foundered and drowned in a shallow body of water capable of being driven apart by a natural wind. 

The description employed of "walls of water on either side", however unbelievable to some, could hardly be mistaken for meaning something other than "walls of water on either side". Surely Moses understood the meaning of a wall, having lived at least 40 years among monumental Egyptian architecture.

So either the account is a complete fabrication (as opposed to a "primitive misinterpretation" of actual events), or it is a factual recounting of an episode inexplicable without the miraculous.

If God exists, as described in Scripture, He is certainly capable of intervening in the natural world in ways designed to draw attention to His existence. If His purpose were to remain inconspicuously backstage, He must be capable of that, as well. Since He has has routinely done both throughout redemptive history, He either exists and is real, or else He is a complete figment of human imagination.

Hence, the opportunity for faith.

If the prospect of publicly confessing belief in the miracles of the Bible embarrasses you, then your view of God is small, indeed. And your life and experience is constrained by the limits of your own intellect and understanding.

Your dependence on the world of your senses and mind must ultimately end in utter despair and hopelessness, no matter how grand and lofty your view of the physical universe.

For in the end, you live in a world that has neither meaning nor purpose beyond the faint remnant odor of your few scant years of existence, and then you merely blink out of existence as if you never existed at all.

If that is your conscious choice, then your life is worth no more than the errant ripples on a pond barely disturbed by the random impact of a mote of dust. 

If so, party on, in a desperate search for something unattainable and vaporous, and decry me and those of faith as fools.

As for me and my house?

Give me Jesus, the Light of the World. The Lamb of God. The Giver of Life Everlasting.

Without God, without faith in the God of the Bible, there is no hope or purpose.

He has made His existence unmistakable, written indelibly in the very fabric of space and time, and especially in the historical events recorded in His word.

It takes work to disregard that evidence, and a stubbornness of will and a gritted-teeth dismissal of facts perfectly embodied in the Pharaoh of Egypt… who lost everything in a futile attempt to deny reality.

Do not make the mistake of thinking this life is all there is.

We, like the Children of Israel through the Red Sea, are just passing through.