In a blog post I wrote on June 13, 2018, on my other blog, “Reflections,” titled, “Moving Forward,” I mentioned a small book titled, “The Red Sea Rules,” by Robert J. Morgan, teaching pastor at The Donelson Fellowship. In his book, he gives us ten strategies or “rules” for dealing with difficult times in our journey through life that come from the story of the Red Sea crossing which is found in Exodus 14. The following it taken from that blog post:
As the story unfolds in this book, it was “an action of God at the time of the Exodus that rescued the Israelites from the pursuing forces of Egypt. According to the Book of Exodus [Chapter 14], God divided the waters so that they could walk across the dry seabed. Once they were safely across, God closed the passage and drowned the Egyptians” (quote source here). It looked like an impossible situation. Behind the Israelites was the Egyptian army of Pharaoh (with over 600 chariots) quickly approaching, and in front of them was the Red Sea. It looked like there was no way out, and that the army would end up slaughtering them. Exodus 14:10-31 (MSG) tells the story:
As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up and saw them—Egyptians! Coming at them!
They were totally afraid. They cried out in terror to God. They told Moses, “Weren’t the cemeteries large enough in Egypt so that you had to take us out here in the wilderness to die? What have you done to us, taking us out of Egypt? Back in Egypt didn’t we tell you this would happen? Didn’t we tell you, ‘Leave us alone here in Egypt—we’re better off as slaves in Egypt than as corpses in the wilderness.’”
Moses spoke to the people: “Don’t be afraid. Stand firm and watch God do his work of salvation for you today. Take a good look at the Egyptians today for you’re never going to see them again.
God will fight the battle for you.
And you? You keep your mouths shut!”
God said to Moses: “Why cry out to me? Speak to the Israelites. Order them to get moving. Hold your staff high and stretch your hand out over the sea: Split the sea! The Israelites will walk through the sea on dry ground.
“Meanwhile I’ll make sure the Egyptians keep up their stubborn chase—I’ll use Pharaoh and his entire army, his chariots and horsemen, to put my Glory on display so that the Egyptians will realize that I am God.”
The angel of God that had been leading the camp of Israel now shifted and got behind them. And the Pillar of Cloud that had been in front also shifted to the rear. The Cloud was now between the camp of Egypt and the camp of Israel. The Cloud enshrouded one camp in darkness and flooded the other with light. The two camps didn’t come near each other all night.
Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea and God, with a terrific east wind all night long, made the sea go back. He made the sea dry ground. The sea waters split.
The Israelites walked through the sea on dry ground with the waters a wall to the right and to the left. The Egyptians came after them in full pursuit, every horse and chariot and driver of Pharaoh racing into the middle of the sea. It was now the morning watch. God looked down from the Pillar of Fire and Cloud on the Egyptian army and threw them into a panic. He clogged the wheels of their chariots; they were stuck in the mud.
The Egyptians said, “Run from Israel! God is fighting on their side and against Egypt!”
God said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea and the waters will come back over the Egyptians, over their chariots, over their horsemen.”
Moses stretched his hand out over the sea: As the day broke and the Egyptians were running, the sea returned to its place as before. God dumped the Egyptians in the middle of the sea. The waters returned, drowning the chariots and riders of Pharaoh’s army that had chased after Israel into the sea. Not one of them survived.
But the Israelites walked right through the middle of the sea on dry ground, the waters forming a wall to the right and to the left. God delivered Israel that day from the oppression of the Egyptians. And Israel looked at the Egyptian dead, washed up on the shore of the sea, and realized the tremendous power that God brought against the Egyptians. The people were in reverent awe before God and trusted in God and his servant Moses. (Quote source here.)
In that blog post, I specifically mentioned Rule #6, “When unsure, just take the next logical step.” That rule is about not letting fear keep you from moving forward, even if you’re not sure what that next logical step might be.
Last night I picked up that book again and read Rule #5, “Stay calm and confident, and give God time to work.” It has to do with waiting, which is something none of us like to do, especially in America where everything moves at such a fast pace. For a couple of decades while working in my career field, I had a pretty typical life. I worked in my professional field at several college and universities starting as an academic advisor and ending as a director. It was a fairly routine life, and the paychecks always provided for my needs. And then one day came along and I lost my last job in that field nine years ago, and I was still ten years away from retirement age. Unfortunately, I was never able to find another job in my field again, and my life changed drastically from that point on.
For a long time after I lost that job I thought I’d eventually find another job in my field, and my life would get “back to normal” until I retired. I spent over almost six years looking for another job while living on the very little income I received from unemployment benefits at first until they ended; then I had to use up my savings, and then take out what I could access from my small retirement account because for over three years and two months after my unemployment benefits ended I had no income at all, and I still had to pay rent and all the other expenses that come with life. Finally I was forced to apply for Social Security benefits when I turned 62 just to have any income again, and it was one fourth of the amount I had been earning from that last job I lost nine years ago.
In other words, my life never went back to the “normal” it had been for so very, very long. It’s still not there nor do I ever expect it to happen again at this point in time after nine years of trying to get it back. I spent almost six of those nine years trying to get it back and the past almost four years living in a sort of “limbo land” after realizing I was never going to get it back. However, I’m still not sure what my future holds (see blog post, “What the Future Holds,” published yesterday on my other blog). However, something tells me that I am hardly alone in this dilemma and that many people have gone through similar situations, and their lives have never returned back to what they once knew, either.
In “The Red Sea Rules,” Rule #5 (pp.55-64) opens up with a quote by Hudson Taylor (1832-1905), founder of China Inland Mission (now OMF International). He spent 51 years as a missionary to China. Here is that quote:
“I am waiting on Thee, Lord, to open the way.”
As I mentioned above, as a whole Americans are not the most patient of people. We hate waiting for anything. Because we have 24/7 access to anything we want if we can afford it, we just don’t understand or care to understand the concept of how patience is a virtue. We often let our emotions run our lives, and if you think that’s not true just watch the news on TV or a lot of the movies coming out of Hollywood nowadays, or go on social media–Anger, frustration, rage, hate, violence, revenge, lust, etc.–it’s all there and in mass quantities, too. We don’t like waiting for anything, and we aren’t afraid to express our frustration, either. We want everything NOW….
The opening section of Rule #6–Stay calm and confident and give God time to work–is titled “Waiting,” and it starts with that quote above by Hudson Taylor. Here is the rest of that section:
One night when I was worried sick about something, I found four words sitting quietly on page 1291 of my Bible. I’d read them countless times before, but as I stared at them this time, they fairly flew at me like stones from a slingshot. The four words, now well underlined in my New International Version, are “leave room for God.”
The immediate context, Romans 12:19, involves retribution. When someone harms us, advised the writer, we shouldn’t try to get even, but should leave room for God’s wrath. There are times when we need to let Him settle the score. But if we can leave room for God’s wrath, I reasoned, can we not, when facing other challenges, leave room for His other attributes? For His power? For His grace? For His intervention? I underlined the words “leave room for God” and have leaned on them ever since.
I cannot solve every problem, cure every hurt, or avoid every fear, but I can leave room for God. I don’t have the answer to every dilemma, but I can leave room for God to work. I can’t do the impossible, but He is able to do “exceedingly abundantly above all” that I could ask or imagine (Eph. 3:20). The Lord delights in the impossible.
Moses told the Israelites: “Fear not; stand still (firm, confident, undismayed) and see the salvation of the Lord which He will work for you today. for the Egyptians you have seen today you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace and remain at rest” (Ex. 14:13-14, AMP).
This is what the biblical phrase “wait on the Lord” is about: committing our Red Sea situations to Him in prayer, trusting Him, and waiting for Him to work. Doing that runs counter to our proactive and assertive selves, but many a modern migraine would be cured by a good dose of Psalm 37:7-8: “Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for Him . . . Do not fret–it leads only to harm.”
If you’re in a difficult place right now, perhaps you need to entrust the problem to the Lord and leave it in His hands awhile. He alone can storm the impregnable, devise the improbable, and perform the impossible. He alone can part the waters. (Quote source: “The Red Sea Rules,” pp. 56-57.)
In the Bible, Paul and Silas [who ministered together] knew about waiting, and they waited well. Acts 16 tells the story of how they were attacked by a crowd, beaten and thrown in jail. Verse 24 says the jailer put them into the inner prison (the dungeon) and fastened their feet in the stocks. He was making sure they couldn’t escape. But about midnight, God showed up. Now it would have been nice if He’d come a little earlier, but Paul and Silas didn’t seem to mind—they just decided to start singing and began to worship the Lord. They began to wait on God.
Verses 25 & 26 say, But about midnight, as Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the [other] prisoners were listening to them, suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the very foundations of the prison were shaken; and at once all the doors were opened and everyone’s shackles were unfastened. God answered them suddenly!
When people patiently and expectantly wait on God in the midst of horrible circumstances, suddenly God breaks through. So don’t give up! Don’t stop believing! Stay full of hope and expectation. God’s power is limitless, and He’ll break through for you. (Quote source here.)
In an article in Relevant Magazine titled, “5 Reasons God Makes Us Wait,” by Eric Speir, pastor, college professor, and practical theologian, the last two reasons he lists (click here to read all five reasons) are as follows:
WAITING TRANSFORMS OUR CHARACTER
Waiting has a way of rubbing off the rough edges of our lives. Most of us know the story of Moses delivering the Israelites from the Egyptians. It’s a grand story of God doing great miracles.
But few sermons talk about Moses having to wait in the desert 40 years before God came to him. God used this time of waiting to transform his character. We know this because when he was a young man he was brash and impatient. In his impetuousness he killed a man and hid the body. When his sin was made public, he ran for his life and was exiled to the desert. When he was given a second chance he opted to do it God’s way and in God’s time.
In the end, the Israelites were delivered from slavery and Moses became a great leader. Waiting transformed the life of Moses and it does the same for you and I.
WAITING BUILDS INTIMACY AND DEPENDENCY UPON GOD
The reason we are able to read about the great men and women of the Bible is because they all had one thing in common. They were all people who learned their success in life was directly proportionate to their intimacy and dependency upon God. For them, a relationship with God wasn’t a get rich quick scheme. For many of them it was a matter of life and death.
Waiting during the difficult times developed their relationship with God. Some of the most intimate relationships we have in our lives are because a friend stood in the trenches with us during the heat of the battle. Maybe this is what the scripture means when it says we have a friend that sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24).
The reason we get to read the stories of these great men and women is because they went through the difficulties of life with God. In the end, they enjoyed the process with God and the promise of God.
I’ve always believed God is just as interested in the journey as he is the destination. If not, all the biblical accounts would only include the feel good parts and not the good, the bad and the ugly of the times of waiting. We may not always understand why we have to wait, but the good news is that God never asks us to wait without Him. (Quote source here.)
I’ll end this post with these words from Proverbs 3:5-6: Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding….
In all your ways . . .
Acknowledge Him . . .
And He shall direct your paths . . . .
YouTube Video: “Impossible” by Building 429: