Meditations on ‘Focusing Faith’ : 21. Desperate Faith
Heb 11:29 By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned
Faith can sometimes lead us to do great and amazing things. In a more rational moment we may look on what happened, gazing with the wisdom of hindsight, and conclude that our action was motivated by desperation. Yesterday we considered perseverance as an expression of faith but sometimes it is an expression of desperation although the two can hardly be understood apart. I used to know a youngish woman who had three children. As is so often the way, her husband had abandoned her. Her children were still young and so she had to care for them and could not work and thus lived on benefits. Life was a struggle and one day I said to her, “How do you cope on your own with these three, how do you keep going?” She replied, “What else is there to do, they are mine and I love them.”
A mother’s love provided the motivation for her to persevere. I was put in mind of Peter’s reply to Jesus on one occasion when a number of the other disciples were leaving Jesus and we find, “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” (Jn 6:67-68) i.e. there is nowhere else to go, there is no one like you. Sometimes the course of action appears drastic but it is the only one that is either reasonable or feasible.
Our verse today follows the one of yesterday when the Israelites held the first Passover and then were told to leave the country: “During the night Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “Up! Leave my people, you and the Israelites! Go, worship the LORD as you have requested. Take your flocks and herds, as you have said, and go.” (Ex 12:31,32) Now there were three sages in what followed. First the Lord told them to go by a particular round about way (see Ex 14:1-3) and this will make Pharaoh think they are lost and he will come after them. Second, the Lord revealed that this was His plan to lead Pharaoh to his destruction for this was His judgment on him (v.4). Third, Pharaoh heard what they were doing and we read, “Pharaoh and his officials changed their minds about them,” (v.5) and decided to pursue and destroy them.
So far Moses has led the people of Israel as the Lord has told him and that in itself was an at of faith. They have put themselves into a difficult position where they are on a peninsular with sea on three sides and Pharaoh is coming up behind them full of wrath. Humanly speaking it looks as if they are lost and, indeed, the Israelites, “were terrified and cried out to the LORD. 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? 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!” (v.10-12) They are desperate, understandably so.
Then we read, “Then the LORD said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on. 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. 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. The Egyptians will know that I am the LORD when I gain glory through Pharaoh, his chariots and his horsemen.” (v.15-18) This Moses does, the waters part, the people pass through, Pharaoh and his army follow but the waters come back and they are all drowned, and thus the writer to the Hebrews records it, “By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned.”
Faith we keep saying is hearing the Lord and responding to Him. In the accounts of Exodus we have observed the Lord speaking, Moses hearing and obeying in respect of:
- The plagues, (dealing with the world)
- The Passover (avoiding judgment)
- Leaving the land by a roundabout route (leaving the world behind)
- Coming into an impossible situation with Pharaoh behind (finding trying circumstances)
- Moses parting the Red Sea (experiencing the miraculous)
- The people passing through on dry ground (ditto)
- Pharaoh being destroyed as the waters returned. (the enemy being cut off)
Every one of the above acts was an act of faith, an act of responding to God and I have put after each one of them a general description which corresponds to what happens in the spiritual realm when we are saved and become a Christian.
- We are convicted of the wrongs of godless life
- We receive Jesus as our saviour to save us from God’s judgment
- We commit our lives into God’s hand as He leads us out of our old lives
- We trust Him to lead us in new paths
- We experience the miraculous, being born again and then being led by the Holy Spirit
- The old life is cut off and we walk free from the shackles of the enemy.
Each one of these things is an act of faith. We hear God, we believe Him and we respond to Him and He puts His own Holy Spirit within us, we are adopted into His family and He leads us out into a new life, a life of continual faith. It required faith to get here, it will require faith for us to remain faithful until the time when we eventually enter heaven. It is a life of faith.