God Parts the Red Sea

God parting the Red Sea is always a VBS favorite. But it is still one of my favorites as an adult. As I was reading this a couple of weeks a ago a few things struck me that I had never thought about before. Here is the text (Exo 14:10-31):

“As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the LORD. 11 They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? 12 Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!”

13 Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. 14 The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

15 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on. 16 Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground. 17 I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them. And I will gain glory through Pharaoh and all his army, through his chariots and his horsemen. 18 The Egyptians will know that I am the LORD when I gain glory through Pharaoh, his chariots and his horsemen.”

19 Then the angel of God, who had been traveling in front of Israel’s army, withdrew and went behind them. The pillar of cloud also moved from in front and stood behind them, 20 coming between the armies of Egypt and Israel. Throughout the night the cloud brought darkness to the one side and light to the other side; so neither went near the other all night long.

21 Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the LORD drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, 22 and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left.

23 The Egyptians pursued them, and all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots and horsemen followed them into the sea. 24 During the last watch of the night the LORD looked down from the pillar of fire and cloud at the Egyptian army and threw it into confusion. 25 He made the wheels of their chariots come off  so that they had difficulty driving. And the Egyptians said, “Let’s get away from the Israelites! The LORD is fighting for them against Egypt.”

26 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea so that the waters may flow back over the Egyptians and their chariots and horsemen.” 27 Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at daybreak the sea went back to its place. The Egyptians were fleeing toward  it, and the LORD swept them into the sea. 28 The water flowed back and covered the chariots and horsemen—the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed the Israelites into the sea. Not one of them survived.

29 But the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left. 30 That day the LORD saved Israel from the hands of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the shore. 31 And when the Israelites saw the great power the LORD displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the LORD and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant.”

I put in bold two things that I found interesting. The first is that God’s people were told to be still because God was going to fight for them. I think that is a concept many of us, myself included, need to get under our belts. What is interesting about that statement is that God involved the people in what was about to happen but the result wasn’t dependent on their power and ability. For instance, God told Moses to raise his staff over the water for it to be divided and for it to come back together. Moses obeyed God. God involved him in the events. But in the end, it was God fighting for them. They depended on following the lead of God for their deliverance.

The second thing was the actual miracle of parting the sea. I don’t like hypothesizing about too much but a couple of things struck me about the pure physics of this event. Here in Florida we are known to get hurricanes that produce a great amount of sustained wind. But even under the worst of circumstances (150+ mph winds) a hurricane has never produced a wall of water. They have never been so strong as to make water stand up in a wall, much less for hours and hours. What is even more amazing to me is that God sent such a powerful wind and yet none of God’s people were blown away! God is not bound by the laws of physics and can do things however he wants but in human terms you are talking about an event where a wind several hundred miles an hour stands water up into two walls, dries the ground beneath, and not a single person standing within who knows, a quarter mile of this event, is blown away. That is pretty amazing. That is how powerful God is. What is more, the water stood in a wall even after the wind ceased because the people were able to walk through the gap without any wind blowing.

There are several other miracles that are tucked away into this story. The angel that brings a cloud of darkness on one side and light on the other is one. God knocking the wheels of their chariots is another. What a mighty God we serve. No wonder this story became part of the bedrock foundation and narrative of an entire race of people. It is reflected all over the Old Testament in the psalms and prophets and elsewhere. It is the story of a liberation from one of the greatest powers of their day that could only take place through providential circumstances.