For the week of February 7, 1998
11 Shevat 5758
The Israelites went through the sea on dry ground..." (Exodus/Shemot 14:22)
We all face obstacles. While we may have different approaches to the obstacles we face, it is certain that obstacles are a part of everyone's life.
We face all kinds of obstacles. Our social situation may limit us in finding the kind of material security we desire. Physical limitations can prevent us from enjoying some of life's pleasures. Prejudice and hatred on the part of others could cause us great suffering. Conflicts within our own selves get in the way of our fulfilling our dreams.
This week's portion is an excellent example of how we can face and overcome obstacles with God's help.
After many years of suffering in Egypt, the people of Israel were now free. Through the mighty acts of God and the faithful leadership of Moses a new beginning had begun. They were now on their way to the Promised Land.
Clearly the days ahead, even under the best circumstances, would not be easy ones. Still the people did not expect such a great challenge so soon. When Pharaoh finally allowed Israel to leave Egypt, he gave up a great portion of his nation's labor force. So he gathered his army and went after them.
The people of Israel, in the meantime, had reached a dead end. With the sea in front of them and the Egyptian pursuing them, they were in a very tight situation.
They did not react very well, but it is difficult to fault them for their reaction. Thinking they were going to die they blamed Moses for getting them into this disastrous situation.
Moses, however, was confident that God would take care of everything, though it seems that he did not fully understand how. He said to the people,
Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today...The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still (Exodus/Shemot 14:13,14).
But God wanted them to go forward: He said to Moses, "Tell the Israelites to move on" (14:15). God then caused the sea to divide, and the people of Israel cross it on dry ground.
A superficial reading of this passage may lead someone to conclude that all we need to do is face our problems head on, and we will overcome them. But that is not what the details reveal.
First, like all that had recently occurred in Egypt, this was a story about God. God told Moses that Pharaoh would pursue them: "But," God said, "I will gain glory for myself through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD" (14:4).
Over and over again throughout the Scriptures we see God making himself known to people. He may be invisible but he dramatically makes his presence known.
Second, God was very involved throughout. The people were never alone. It was God who had led them this way. He provided a miraculous pillar of fire and cloud both to guide and to protect them. In fact, while the sea was in the process of separating, God used it to hold the Egyptian army back and provide light for Israel.
We see here an interplay between God and people. While the people had to walk between the walls of sea water, they had to trust God to see them safely through.
We do not have to face our obstacles alone. God wants to make a way for us too.
Third, God understood his people's limitations. As difficult and as terrifying that this situation was, God chose this route to avoid his people having to face possible war, because he knew that would truly be too much for them (see 13:17,18). God knew how much they could handle.
Finally, we see that the people were able to overcome this obstacle because they were being led by God. .When God had led Israel through the sea, he enabled them to experience the miracle. When the Egyptians tried to cross the sea, they drowned
As we follow God in our lives, we will experience all kinds of obstacles. But if it is truly God we are following, he will see us through somehow, whatever it takes.