When my son Daniel was a toddler, washing his hair was always an experience. I would put shampoo on his hair, lather and wash and then pour on the water to rinse. As I did, he would tip his head down and the shampoo would run into his eyes, causing pain and tears. I would tell him that if he just looked straight up at me, the shampoo wouldn’t run in his face and get in his eyes. He would say “OK”, and as soon as I started to rinse his hair, he would get scared and look down again. The shampoo would run into his face again, and there would be more tears.
That story is a lot like our relationship to God. We know God is our Father, and He loves us, but sometimes, in difficult situations, we panic and turn our eyes away from Him. This never solves the problem. In fact, we just become more afraid, as the “shampoo” blinds us. Even though Daniel knew I loved him, he had a hard time trusting me in a panic situation. I knew I could protect him, but convincing him of that wasn’t easy when all he could see was water coming down all around him. His lack of trust hurt me, but it hurt him more. He was the one who had to suffer the stinging pain of shampoo suds in his eyes. I’m sure my lack of trust hurts God very much too, but how much more does it hurt me?
In our second week of Instant Replay messages, today we look at the Exodus story of the Israelites as they leave enslavement in Egypt and cross the Red Sea. The reason this story is so important to remember is that it reminds us that the Bible tells us to lift up our head and look to God when problems come – especially when we cannot turn back. God knows how to protect us. But do we remember to do that? When fear comes, we are called to ask God what to do. Sometimes the answer may seem scary, but we know He’ll never pour shampoo in our face!
Would you agree that being a disciple of Jesus is not easy at times? As a matter of fact, some have discovered that since becoming a disciple that their life has been more of a struggle than before. There are some here today that are facing the most challenging days of their life right now! Being a disciple does not keep us from struggles, trouble or even harm. What it does do is to provide us with the strength we could never find within ourselves to move forward one step – and one day at a time knowing that our awesome God walks with us and provides exactly what we will need as we need it! As a disciple, we continuously learn every day to trust – and obey God. But we also recognize, like my son, that it can be hard.
The story of Exodus is written long after the events happen and the author helps the reader with editorial commentary about why things happened or decisions were made. Such is the case in today’s story. Once leaving Egypt, everything seemed to be just great. Finally! The Israelites were free! They were heading out. Next stop the Promised Land! But they needed to know that they could fully trust God. And so do we!
God leads them as a pillar of cloud by day and of fire by night on a strange route. It is not a direct way because God knew that both direct routes would bring potential conflict and war with neighboring nations. So instead, God leads the people on a southern route. And before long they find themselves “on the edge”. They were on the edge of Egypt, the wilderness and the Red Sea. (Ever been on the edge yourself?)
There was trouble all around and they looked up and beheld a frightening sight – shampoo! (Actually, the Egyptian army closing in because Pharaoh had another change of heart and sent the best of his army to bring those slaves back.) There was nowhere to turn for these newly freed people and all of a sudden slavery back in Egypt looked a whole lot better than dying in the desert.
They cry out in fear and God’s response to Moses (vs. 15) is almost comical, “Why are you crying out to me, turn around, lift up your staff and move on!” God tells them to stop staring at their fear and move forward in His strength. Then God does some amazing things that bring about His glory in victory. First, he moves between the Israelites and Egyptians blocking their view of one another. There was darkness on the Egyptian side and light on the Israelite side and neither went near one another all night long. Second, God parted the sea and dried the ground. The Israelites march through safely to the other side. Then the Egyptian army rushes through as well. Third, God reveals his presence as wheels mysteriously come off chariots and the Egyptians finally recognize they’re fighting God not former slaves. Fourth, God tells Moses to once again raise his staff and the water returns destroying Pharaoh’s army. God wins. His people are saved. And they are given one more reason to trust their God. (Another Victory Book entry!)
Fascinating story isn’t it? Yet it is our story too. At times we can be led to places that seem hopeless. We may be led to situations that seem beyond our ability to survive. We even find ourselves at times wishing for the old and difficult ways of our past lives because they seem better than the difficult situation that we find ourselves in at the moment. Are you in one of those tough spots right now? What has you on the edge: finances; unemployment; a troubled marriage; straying children; failing health; grief; addiction…?
Sometimes God uses trials in our lives to break us of bad habits. But other times trials help us trust God more than we trust ourselves. When we are on the edge, there is only one place to look and that is up. God wants us to fully rely upon Him (FROG). That’s how we give Him the glory. Remember it is all about God. The victory is always his and never ours. As the Israelites crossed over to the other side of the sea they looked back at the dead bodies of the Egyptian army and realized that 1) God had provided, 2) that God could be trusted and 3) that God’s power has no limit – regardless of the problem.
Upon whom or what do you place your total trust? Is it Jesus Christ? Is it yourself? Or is it someone or something else? Through grace, God used Jesus’ work on the cross to bring us to freedom and a place in His Promised Land! Keep your head up and let the shampoo pass by.