I will sing to the Lord, for He is highly exalted; the horse and rider He has hurled into the sea. The Lord is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation; This is my God, and I will praise Him; My father’s God, and I will extol Him. The Lord is a warrior; The Lord is His name. Exodus 15:2-3
I grew up in church, and the story of God parting the Red Sea is as familiar as Snow White and the Seven Dwarves to me. If I’m not careful, it becomes as ho-hum as a fairy tale.
Moses didn’t have that problem. The man had just lived it. Pharaoh’s army was hot on his tail, and in a deafening rush, the waters of the sea piled up in two shimmering blue walls, leaving a path of dry land between them. He rushed his people through the bizarre tunnel, but they could hear the whips and shouts of Pharaoh’s horsemen right behind them, wheels grinding over the gravel. An entire army was after them, heading through the same escape path. The Israelites were far too panicked to stop and admire the fish swimming passed their heads.
But just as the last Israelite reached the opposite shore, the watery walls collapsed, drowning the Egyptians in blue death.
Moses stood on that beach trying to wrap his mind around it – the most amazing thing he had ever witnessed. This was a man who had never even seen a movie seeing the hand of God do the impossible. Well, is it any wonder he burst into praise? “The Lord is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation!”
Who could help but feel strong in God at that moment?
But, let’s not forget all the dreary, sweaty, disappointing moments that lead up to it. God told Moses to free the Israelites, a task he didn’t want, for which he felt ill prepared, and at which he failed several times. He trusted God enough to march into Pharaoh’s throne room and tell him to free the Israelites, and Pharaoh not only said “No,” but made the Israelites’ work harder. And that turned the very people Moses was trying to rescue against him. You know the rest – plagues and complaining until finally Pharaoh released them, only to change his mind and send his army after them. Hardly a ringing victory.
Was God any less Moses’ strength in those times of discouragement, of rejection, of trying and failing? When I hit a roadblock, I tend to feel like God is no longer my strength, that He hasn’t really given me the task, or that He just doesn’t care if I complete it or not.
The tasks God gives us are hard. It seemed to me, in sweltering Africa, that if God had sent me there, He should have done me the favor of making the language a bit easier to learn and kept me healthier. I mean, malaria and diarrhea? Come on, God! How am I supposed to share Jesus with these people if I can’t get out of bed and can’t speak when I do? But God didn’t make Africa easy for me. Most of the tasks he’s given – on any continent, exotic or not — have been so difficult that it was impossible for me to complete them on my own strength.
And perhaps, that’s the point.
May I praise God for being my strength not only in the moment of awe-inspiring victory, but also in the uphill battle before it.