Big things take time

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.”  Then the angel of God, who had been traveling in front of Israel’s army, withdrew and went behind them. The pillar of cloud also moved from in front and stood behind them, coming between the armies of Egypt and Israel. Throughout the night the cloud brought darkness to the one side and light to the other side; so neither went near the other all night long.  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.  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 jammed the wheels of their chariots 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.  But the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left.  That day the LORD saved Israel from the hands of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the shore.  And when the Israelites saw the mighty hand of the LORD displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the LORD and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant. – Exodus 14: 15-31

This has to be one of the most famous stories involving water in the bible –the parting of the Red Sea.  Charlton Heston raises his staff and walls of water form.  The Universal studios version of the parting of the sea is still a clear memory for me.  When I was a child we visited universal studios, of course they had to liven up this already amazing account by adding a JAWS shark attack midway across the “dry land” just to make it worth the price of admission.  The Hollywood account pretty much glossed over the whole God thing.  It was mostly Moses, his staff, and special effects.  But even in the Hollywood account God came between the Egyptians and the Israelites.

As I reflected on this account I noticed something that I had not noticed previously, there was a significant time period between when God said he would part the sea and when he accomplished the task.  It was not an instantaneous thing a la Cecil B. Demille.  A strong east wind blew all night to drive the water back so the Israelites could pass on dry land.  This version would not have been nearly so dramatic as the Hollywood version.

The timing and nature of the parting of the Red Sea is interesting from a scientific perspective.  As discussed in yesterday’s post, the water at the end of the Gulf of Aqaba was very shallow (~27 meters at current sea level).  At the lower sea level probably occurring at the time it may have been as shallow as 5 meters.  The “strong east wind” may have created something that is common in the Great Lakes called a Storm Surge or Seiche.  In Lake Eerie seiches from strong southwest to northeast winds have created changes in lake level of as much as 22 feet (~ 7 meters).  This event may have been a miraculous suspension of natural laws, but it need not be “rough magic” as C.S. Lewis puts it and Hollywood portrayed it.

There are a couple of aspects of this account that are interesting and reassuring: 1) The “strong wind” that took all night to accomplish sea parting means sometimes big things God is doing take time.  Sometimes I grow impatient and try to strike out on my own.  This would have been disastrous for the Israelites as the sea would not have been parted yet and they probably would have perished as they were washed into the sea; 2) God was located between the Israelites and the Egyptians.  As was discussed in the the post from Yesterday, our “Egypt” can look like many things: drugs, alcohol, addictions of many sorts, family dysfunction, etc.   It is reassuring to know that God is between us and those things and that to accomplish big things in our lives God  it sometimes takes time.

Prayer:  Lord it is sometimes hard to wait on your timing and there is a temptation to strike out on our own.  God grant me patience to wait on your plan even when night falls and it seems you are not there.

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