Exodus 14:16. Lift up your staff, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, that the people of Israel may go through the sea on dry ground.
We can only imagine the terror the Hebrews must have felt standing on the banks of the Red Sea that day. They had just been rescued from their Egyptian slave masters by the mighty hand of God. They survived the Passover night. And they marched out of Egypt unopposed. But now here comes Pharaoh’s army in deadly pursuit. The enemy is behind them and the Red Sea is in front of them. The people cry out in misery, “Why did you bring us out here to die, Moses?” “Let us return to our slavery in Egypt.”
Moses’ response to them is not exactly what we might expect:
Exodus 14:13-14. 13 And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. 14 The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”
Stand still. Shut up. Watch God fight for you.
We probably expected a response closer to “grab a weapon and defend yourself.” Or, “run for your lives!”
But instead they are told to do what is completely counter-intuitive. Stand still and be quiet. Don’t try to fight, and don’t run away, and don’t give in. Trust God.
And then God tells them to do the unthinkable. The one thing that definitely won’t work. Go forward into the sea.
Exodus 14:15. Tell the people of Israel to go forward.
Moving forward into the sea was a far greater act of faith than you may realize. In ancient times the sea was not just a body of water, it was believed to be the source of all evil and chaos. Ancients called it the abyss and equated it with hell. No one could control the sea. The sea is death. And that is exactly what God is asking them to walk into.
The Hebrews’ salvation had already come on Passover night. By the blood of the lamb they were saved from death. But then, led by God, the Hebrews still had to walk through the deadly waters of the Red Sea. Why? It’s not so that they would die, the substitute lamb already did that for them. They had to walk into the sea so that their slave masters might die. Just like with Noah’s ark, the sea wasn’t their destroyer that day, it was their salvation.
Jesus came to conquer the sea. His actions pictured this when he walked on the waters of the sea, or stilled the sea’s raging storm with a word, or drove demonic pigs into it. In his death and resurrection, Jesus conquered the sea of sin, and evil, and death for us once and for all.
Now Christ offers us his new life. But his life is the cruciform life of putting to death the slave masters of our hearts. Like the Hebrews, we have been saved by the blood of the lamb, but now we must pass through the sea. Not so that we can die – we already died with Christ – but so that our slave masters might die.
How does this happen? It begins by standing still and being silent and seeing the victory of the Lord our God on the cross. He has passed over our sin by his blood. He has fought death for us and won. Do you believe this?
If you do, then you can move forward into the sea. Into the chaos and evil of life, choosing to suffer so that in that suffering we might see the power of Christ’s love for us drown the enemies that would enslave us. Pride. Self-righteousness. Fear. Lust. Selfishness. Jealousy. Each of our desperately pursuing old masters now exposed and overwhelmed through faith in Christ’s love that is greater than anything else.
“To live is Christ” is a life of walking in freedom through the sea but also on the dry ground of Jesus Christ. Following him into the waters of his holiness that would save us by drowning all that would enslave us.
What sea of suffering are you walking through right now?
You in Christ
How does knowing that you are safe on the dry ground of Christ allow you to face your suffering as an opportunity to destroy what would enslave you?
Christ in you
How can you seek Christ’s holiness over comfort today in your trial?
Playlist: Through the Sea
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