Greetings in the name of the Father, the son, and the Holy Spirit.
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good!
His faithful love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods.
His faithful love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords.
His faithful love endures forever. (Psalm 136:1-3)
Israelites were fully satisfied with the water that God made sweet at Marah. It was three days later after crossing the Red Sea. Their joy of witnessing God’s power was bewildered rapidly to none as they walked through the desert where no water was found for three days. The good memory of complete deliverance was forgotten so quickly.
The hot and dry desert was a true trial after crossing the Red Sea. The Israelites were getting thirstier, but the sun was hot, and there was a bone-dry desert. Wherever they looked, there was the same desert. Then three days later, they found an oasis in the middle of the desert. All felt that they were finally saved because they found water.
Their hope was short-lived. Soon they found that the water was too bitter to drink, even for the extremely thirsty people. It was a huge blow to their faith in God. How many times did they pray for water? Countlessly many. They believed their prayers led to water, but the water was too bitter to drink. All devastated. They did not know what to do. Then they harshly criticized Moses and God and were about to stone Moses.
Moses escaped from the people and ran to God. Then he prayed to God for His help. What faith Moses had! But this faith of Moses did not come easily. Forty years ago, Moses ran away from the same Israelites, but he didn’t run to God but to the Midian wilderness. It was his hiding place, but God used Moses’ hiding place to carve out Moses whom He wanted. It took forty years in the wilderness for Moses to be truly connected with God. Then he heard God’s voice, which was God’s mission of liberating the Israelites.
Since then, Moses came to God first whenever a challenge got into his life. For example, Moses was rejected by Pharaoh nine times, although he exactly followed God’s instruction in the faith. What a disappointment! But he went back to God again and again and endured all things in God. God raised His hand and strongly touched Pharaoh’s heart during the tenth plague, which made Pharaoh listen to Moses. Then Pharaoh let the Israelites, God’s people, go under Moses’ leadership.
Then the Israelites followed Moses like sheep. However, their trust in Moses was quickly shattered. Soon Pharaoh changed his heart and started chasing the Israelites. The Israelites saw the rapidly approaching Pharaoh’s army. Then they became panicked in fear of the Pharaoh’s army. Then they complained to Mosses and told Moses they wanted to return to their slavery in Egypt. Even so, Moses did not abandon hope and trusted God that God would surely deliver the Israelites. He would not let the Israelites perished in the wilderness by the edges of the swords of the Pharaoh’s army, which was the finest at that time.
The Israelites’ specific complaint was about the Red Sea that blocked their way. If it had not been there, they could have run from the Pharaoh’s army, but they couldn’t. They thought that the Red Sea was the biggest impediment. Then they blamed Moses and God, who brought them to the wilderness beside the Red Sea.
To their eyes, the Red Sea was the biggest obstacle at that time, and the Red Sea was there because of God. Why? God brought them to the place and caused them to camp along the shore of the Red Sea. They said it was evidence that God did not want to help them anymore while breaking the solemn promise to save them from slavery and to lead them to the Promised Land. Thus, Moses was also the worst person ever who directly caused them to die in the middle of the wilderness. Without Moses, they could have peacefully lived in Egypt without being violently killed by the Pharaoh’s army in the wilderness, although they remained slaves in Egypt. Then they started praising the former lives in Egypt as slaves while condemning Moses. They completely lost their faith in God.
We are almost one month into 2023. Have we received what we prayed for this year? Yes, some of us got God’s answer, but like the water the Israelites found after three days in the desert, was it too bitter to accept as it was? Initially, we give thanks to God for answering our prayers. Then we checked what we received from God, but it was not what we really wanted. It does not solve our problems or meet our needs. Simply it is useless. What a disappointment! We thought God answered our prayer, but that was not the case.
Some of us must have met the Red Sea, which blocks the only way to get out of our impending trouble quickly coming. Our hearts quickly says, “It is the only way to get out of the problem surely coming, but why it blocks the only option.” Overcoming our heart’s voices, we tried all other potential options with hope in prayers, but none worked.
Our hearts scream while asking where God is and what happened to God’s promise. We thought that God was there with us and He was guiding us through the paths of righteousness. But definitely, it is not the case. We clearly see the danger is quickly coming, but God is not there because the situation does not change at all.
Let’s see how God did when the Israelites were in such a dire situation. All of the Israelites were angry and complained to God and Moses. But Moses prayed. Indeed, God made Moses pray, although all Israelites were completely disappointed and lost faith in God.
Had Moses the strength to pray to God at that time? If Moses had tried to pray with his own strength, Moses would have never been able to pray to God. He was only one, and there were 3 million angry Israelites.
Yes, Moses indeed prayed to God, but he did not pray by his own strength but by the strength given by God. It is the secret of a true prayer to God. Such prayer does not have a human origin but of God.
Jesus Christ prayed to God as follows:
“Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” (Luke 22:42b)
After all, we are all sinners and don’t meet God’s standards, as an archer misses the target with his arrow.
For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. (Romans 3:23)
As a human being, it is impossible to pray to God when comforting a disastrous event like the Red Sea. The Israelites believed in God and followed Moses to the wilderness by leaving Egypt. They all believed God was with them. But they saw the Pharaoh’s army chasing them down with glittering swords and spears riding on horses and chariots, and the Red Sea blocking their way to escape from the army. Then what’s the logical conclusion about God?
And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)
We sometimes meet a situation where impossibility collides with God’s promise. To the Israelites’ logic, there was none except getting killed due to the Red Sea because of God. It was the gut of the issue in the heart of the Israelites. However, from God’s point of view, the Israelites were problematic because they had already judged God by concluding the most tragic ending. Then they complained, blamed, and decided to run away from God.
Surely, the above phenomenon is not confined to the hearts of the Israelites only. It is rather common to all. We gauge God’s blessings. If it is good to our eyes, then we judge God as good. If not, we conclude God is not so good or even against us. Is it true? No. God doesn’t change. He has never changed, and He will not change forever.
Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow. (James 1:17)
God is not like us, who change and cast shifting shadows, but God is holy (set apart from us) and always faithful. Only are we constantly changing and always influenced by situations that we meet. Thus, although God gives us the best, sometimes we feel it is the most terrible thing we have ever received from God because it does not match our expectations and is even harmful to us. Of course, we don’t consider the time facor. Today’s good to us is not necessarily good tomorrow because the situation might change tomorrow.
Had God really changed His love toward the Israelites when the Pharaoh’s army chased the Israelites? Did God intentionally take them out to the wilderness next to the Red Sea to be trapped? No. Indeed, it was the way to fulfill God’s perfect will.
First, let’s examine the Pharaoh’s first response after sending away the Israelites.
Pharaoh and his officials changed their minds. “What have we done, letting all those Israelite slaves get away?” they asked. So Pharaoh harnessed his chariot and called up his troops. He took with him 600 of Egypt’s best chariots, along with the rest of the chariots of Egypt, each with its commander. Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, chased after the people of Israel, who had left with fists raised in defiance. The Egyptians chased after them with all the forces in Pharaoh’s army—all his horses and chariots, his charioteers, and his troops. The Egyptians caught up with the people of Israel as they were camped beside the shore of the Red Sea near Pi-hahiroth, across from Baal-zephon.
Indeed, Pharaoh would never let the Israelites go away completely and forever from Egypt. Pharoah realized that it was a gigantic mistake. Pharoh badly needed the Israelites, who were the very engine that ran the entire economy of Egypt. Without them, the entire Egypt economy would collapse unless making their own people work like the Israelites as slaves. It was unthinkable.
Then what’s God’s perfect way to completely isolate the Israelites from the Pharaoh’s influence? Is there a way to discourage Pharaoh forever? Remember that Pharaoh got hit hard by ten plagues and lost his firstborn son during the tenth plague. Indeed, all the plagues and losing his firstborn son could not completely deter Pharaoh.
Surely God had the perfect solution. God’s wisdom transcends all understanding. God put the Red Sea in front of the Israelites. Then God lured the Pharaoh’s army to the shore of the Red Sea and then into the Red Sea before utterly destroying the finest Pharaoh’s army before Pharaoh’s own eyes. None of the ten plagues directly touched the Pharaoh’s strength – his world-best army equipped with the best chariots, horses, swords, and spears, but finally, God did.
In the scene, Pharaoh lost all. It was not all. God physically separated Pharaoh from the Israelites. The Red Sea was the physical barrier between Pharaoh and the Israelites. What perfect wisdom and a complete solution of God!
How was the behavior of the Israelites while God was patiently taking them through His perfect plan? They complained and were angry at God without knowing God’s plan. Then they said they would return to Egypt to be slaves again. To make the way to go back to Egypt, they tried to stone Moses.
Indeed, the Red Sea was God’s perfect blessing specifically prepared for the Israelites! However, the Israelites viewed the Red Sea as the impediment that kept them from saving their lives.
What does the Red Sea teach us? Something that we are completely convinced that what God provides is the one that actually blocks us. We believe it needs to be eliminated from our lives, but it is not. It is the best blessing God has prepared for us, as the Red Sea became the best blessing to the Israelites. Yes, we sometimes see the impending problem and danger rapidly approaching. And it is humanly impossible to avoid it. Then we complain and even are angry at God. However, the lesson is rather than complaining to God about the dire situation we confront, we pray to God and give thanks while believing that it is God’s perfect blessing prepared for us.
Then why God used the Red Sea? To build up the Israelites in Him. Yes, building up is not easy and not something to enjoy. The threat the Israelites felt was real, along with the fear of death. But it was the greatest opportunity to grow and mature in Him. God’s goal is to create His children in maturity to have even a truer and deeper relationship with Him. Moses found this relationship with God after 40 years of life in the wilderness. Moses did not know, but throughout the years, God was always with Moses and led him through the path of righteousness. Then Moses was able to hear God’s voice truly.
Moses struggled because he could only see what he could, not the big picture God had planned. Even so, Moses drew nearer to God. He faithfully prayed for God’s guidance, but the Israelites already judged the situation with their logic and ran away from God. Then what did God do for Moses? God poured His spirit into His heart and made Moses strong in prayer. Imagine 3 million Israelites were against Moses and tried to stone him. Moses stood up against all odds and pressure from the Israelites in faith again.
“Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” (Luke 22:42)
The Israelites saw what God had done when they stood on the other side of the Red Sea while watching the bodies of the Pharaoh’s army washed up on the share. Then they realized what the Red Sea truly meant. However, their faith could not grow instantly. They complained again three days later to God and Moses because the water they found was too bitter to drink. Thankfully, they did not complain for the last three days while walking through the desert, which is a positive sign for their spiritual growth. They made the first baby step, and their long faith journey was ahead of the Israelites. They were spiritually just a baby. It was not surprising that soon they complained to God about the taste of the water. Like a baby, they refused to drink the water.
Their journey would have been significantly shortened if the Israelites had drunk the water despite the bitter taste. Their arrival at the Promised Land could have been very soon. However, as we know, it was not the case.
Have we met the Red Sea? Does it block our way and eliminate our only logical option to solve the dire problem we confront? Then let’s remember what the Red Sea really meant to the Israelites.
God has the ever-bigger and best plan for us. But to our eyes, it often looks like a disaster. God also provides bitter water as His answer to our prayers. Then please don’t lose heart, but it is the opportunity God has provided for us to prove our maturity in faith in Him. Thus, whether we confront the Red Sea or we get bitter water, we give thanks to God while trusting Him and getting an ever-deepening relationship with God
Before concluding, let us share one more. Surely, many of us would fail like the Israelites. Then please see what God had done for the Israelites. God provided, and God had never given up on the Israelites. God kept leading them through the paths of righteousness using Moses, who prayed continuously in all situations.
Why? God loved the Israelites as His children. If we confront an impossible challenge, ask this question: aren’t we God’s children? Yes, God loves us and is always with us no matter what happens. God never changes and is faithful to His children forever.
“You fathers—if your children ask for a fish, do you give them a snake instead? Or if they ask for an egg, do you give them a scorpion? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.” (Luke 11:11-13)