Thursday, July 15, 2010

Paths of Deliverance

Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the LORD drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left. Exodus 14:21-22 (NIV)

What do you think of when you think of deliverance? Do you think of relief? A way out of the pain, confusion or sorrow? In my life, I've found that paths to deliverance aren't always like what you'd expect. I've thought about this many times as it relates to the Israelites as they were crossing the Red Sea. How frightening it must have been to see the Egyptian armies coming in the desert. Just when the Israelites thought they had made a break for freedom and a new start in life, the enemy comes charging on their heels. Not only do they have the threat of their past captors enslaving them once again, but as they start to run, night sets in.

Sometimes it can feel like we've gotten free of one situation only to turn around and find trouble on our heels again. As we muster the strength to try to run again, night falls and we feel surrounded. Like the Israelites, we are tempted to doubt God's faithfulness. We begin to recount our past struggles as possibly better than our current ones and we face the temptation to retreat to old habits or simply to hide. We just don't see a way out of our own inevitable defeat.

But as God's Word so faithfully points out, God's ways are not our own. Paths to deliverance are not always marked with parades and singing and neon runways. Sometimes pathways for our deliverance seem dark, chaotic and out of control. However, despite our limited vision and perspective on the situation, God in His sovereignty sees those situations as a beautiful backdrop for displaying His glorious ability to save and to deliver.

Think for a moment what the Israelites must have felt. Sheer terror, discouragement, a sense of being simply overwhelmed at the thought of imminent defeat. They had their enemy at their heels, the sea in front of them, and the mirror of their own inability to do anything about it in between. But God had plans to deliver them, and in that night - amidst the darkness, with the enemy encroaching, He began to push back that sea. He made a way out of no way. This was a miracle! No one had even thought about this option, but God had it in mind all along.

That's where most of us stop in this story, but there is so much more to consider. Can you imagine being an Israelite walking through on dry land looking at walls of water beside you on either side, unsure of when they might come crashing down? I speculate that too must have been pretty scary. Not only did they not know when the water might envelope them, but they also still must have thought the enemy could simply continue following them on past the sea.

God had different plans. His path to deliverance was miraculous and frightening, yes, but it was also sufficient. The same God who parted the sea in the first place was the same God who threw the enemy army into confusion and ultimately swallowed them up in victory. Read it here:

The Egyptians pursued them, and all Pharaoh's horses and chariots and horsemen followed them into the sea. During the last watch of the night the LORD looked down from the pillar of fire and cloud at the Egyptian army and threw it into confusion. He made the wheels of their chariots come off so that they had difficulty driving. And the Egyptians said, "Let's get away from the Israelites! The LORD is fighting for them against Egypt."

Then the LORD said to Moses, "Stretch out your hand over the sea so that the waters may flow back over the Egyptians and their chariots and horsemen." Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at daybreak the sea went back to its place. The Egyptians were fleeing toward it, and the LORD swept them into the sea. The water flowed back and covered the chariots and horsemen—the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed the Israelites into the sea. Not one of them survived.

I don't know where your dark nights right now in life are. I don't know what struggles or past temptations or imminent fears are nipping at your heels, with handcuffs in tow. What I do know is that if you belong to Jesus, then you serve a God who is mighty to save and to deliver. In America, we often believe that means we will always find our way out of trouble and fear and hardship. The Bible tells us differently.

Sometimes the paths to deliverance are long and hard. Sometimes they are a battle. Sometimes they are filled with fear and chaos, and even on the path to our deliverance, we are unsure how it will all come together for victory. What we do know is this: our God is able to make a way out of no way. Heaven, earth, wind and wave obey His command and He can do whatever He pleases to bring our deliverance. His Son, Jesus, walked a lonely road to a hill and a cross, proving that deliverance does not always come the way we expected.

As we face our deserts and those things that chase us this week, jeering that our defeat is near, may we remember once again that our God is faithful, sovereign, and able. He can move in ways we'd never expect and He always has the final say. What you see as a frightening enemy at your feet, or a wall of water at your side may simply be a marker on your path of deliverance. May that bring us peace as we trust in our Deliverer and watch His majestic plans unfold.

Psalm 144:2 He is my loving God and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield, in whom I take refuge, who subdues peoples under me