It’s one of those stories; I’ve read it a thousand times. I’ve heard it told over and over again since I was a kid. The Red Sea parts and the Israelites walk through. Then come the Egyptians and the sea comes crashing in again. God has delivered his people and now they are on their way to the Promised Land.
It’s a wonderful story and in some ways much of God’s story of redemption hinges on this event, this setting free; this passing through the waters which Paul links to baptism in his first letter to the Corinthian church. This even sets the stage for what we can expect and for who God is in his redemptive working.
But as I read this morning, something struck me. Something I had never really given thought to. Maybe to you it will not seem significant. Maybe it won’t to me either after I’ve had time to process it. But it definitely jumped out at me.
Why does God have Moses part the Red Sea? Why doesn’t God just do it himself?
What I mean is this: God could have simply said, “Get moving, I am making a way for you.” But he doesn’t. He tells Moses to use his staff to part the waters.
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the people to get moving! Pick up your staff and raise your hand over the sea. Divide the water so the Israelites can walk through the middle of the sea on dry ground. Exodus 14:15-16
Now, I’m not trying to pick a part a tiny piece of the story and blow it out of proportion, but I do think this is worth looking at. Obviously it’s still God doing it, but involve Moses at all? Our jealous God who protects his glory and insists that others don’t take credit for what he alone has done, allows Moses to be the front man here. Why? It’s not like the people would have assumed Moses did it on their own. They know that he is only there because God sent him to deliver them. He’s made that clear from the beginning. But what’s the value, the point in parting the sea through Moses instead of just doing it?
Is God trying to get them to take the initiative? To stop sitting around and being fatalists (thus the “Why are you crying out to me?” comment from God)? Or maybe God just wants Moses to have some confidence. Maybe the message is that God’s people will be used by God. That God will do things through his people, not just around them.
Honestly, I’m not sure, but I do think the final verse of Exodus 14 is important.
When the people of Israel saw the mighty power that the Lord had unleashed against the Egyptians, they were filled with awe before him. They put their faith in the Lord and in his servant Moses. Exodus 14:31
God was building trust in himself, and in the Moses. Those who were following saw God and his chosen leader for them in a new light. They had a new confidence because God did this great act not just around, but actually through Moses. And they will definitely need this example in the days to come.
It causes me to stop and wonder. Are there times when God looks at me in the midst of circumstances I can’t control and instead of whining about it he would rather I simply pick up my staff and act. He would rather I listen to his direction and move forward—into the “impossible”—than have me simply sit and assume that God will do something. I wonder how often I wait for God to do something around me when he is ready to do something through me. The process itself (around or through) may be subtle in distinction, but the implications for going forward in the other side will be radically different.
Then Moses raised his hand over the sea, and the Lord opened up a path through the water with a strong east wind. The wind blew all that night, turning the seabed into dry land. Exodus 14:21
He raised his staff, God worked through him, and then they walked…