I found this little verse tucked away in Hebrews 11. You know, the faith hall of fame. But seriously, how did I miss this one?
By faith the people crossed the Red Sea as on dry land, but the Egyptians, when they attempted to do the same, were drowned. –Hebrews 11:29 (ESV)
I think of the faith chapter as those big shoes we strive to fill. Faith to build an ark. To believe in an heir when you are old. To stand before Pharaoh and say “let my people go.” But rarely do I think of the faith it took to cross the Red Sea.
In fact, I generally think of their lack of faith. Remember Exodus 14:11? They said to Moses, “Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us in bringing us out of Egypt?” I’m not seeing faith there, are you?
In verse 14, Moses tells the people, “The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” But that wasn’t completely true. The Israelites had a part to play in this miracle, as seen by God’s instructions to Moses in verse 15: The Lord said to Moses, “Why do you cry to me? Tell the people of Israel to go forward.”
Tell the people of Israel to go forward. Here’s the description Exodus 14:22 of the situation: And the people of Israel went into the midst of the sea on dry ground, the waters being a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.
Imagine just how frightening that would be. There is a wall of water on your right. A wall of water on your left. The Egyptians are behind you, yes, but they might just carry you back to captivity. Alive. If those water walls give way? You will drown. And the opposite shore seem so distant! Would you have had a hard time putting your foot on that dry ground path? I know I would have! I was nervous the entire time we visited Maui, knowing that if a hurricane or tsunami came, we had no where to go. If the water had been a visible and viable threat? Oh my!
By faith, Israel crossed the Red Sea, Hebrews tells us. By faith they stepped onto that dry ground, believing that God would not release the waters before they reached the other side. I’m sure the Egyptians had faith when they ventured in after Israel, but their faith was misplaced, believing that nature or a god of their own making would keep the water walls intact. Only God–I Am That I Am–could command the waves to stay. And only He could command them to fall. That is what Israel had to choose to believe in order to make the journey. And make the journey they must, for God’s plan required their faith to walk it. He didn’t pick them up and carry them across.
So how does Israel’s faith crossing the Red Sea encourage my faith in the here and now? By reminding me that sometimes faith isn’t as “in your face” as building a giant boat or parenting a child in your old age. It isn’t always as dramatic as telling your descendants to carry your bones with them when they return to their promised land or forsaking riches and power. Sometimes faith is as unheralded and normal and right as taking step after step along a path that God has opened up before me, believing He’ll bring me through to the other side.