Saturday, August 27, 2011

Sing to the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously!

I was reading this morning in Exodus 14.  The story about how God brought the Israelites through the Red Sea.  God allowed them to walk through on dry land.  But the mighty Egyptian army, fervently pursuing them to bring them back to slavery, was covered by the water and "not one of them remained."

Prior to the miraculous parting of the Red Sea, as the Israelites stood on the bank wondering why God had brought them out of Egypt only to die in the wilderness, they scoffed at Moses (and ultimately God).  But God responded to them through Moses and said,
"Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord which he will work for you today.  For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again.  The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent."
I don't want to over analyze our lives or over dramatize the events of our summer.  But I also want to pause and listen to God - to remember the areas of our lives that he has recently touched.  For all of us, in the midst of our feverishly high-paced lives, we must stop and give pause to God's workings - to see him, to hear him, to remember him.  That is what Heather and I have been doing recently.  And God especially spoke to me through Ex. 15 this morning.  So walk with me as I remember.

We are in the midst of moving back into our basement now that the Missouri River is slowly edging back into its banks.  As we are moving back, we feel as though in the same way that our basement was completely emptied of everything - including the tearing out of carpet and scrapes and gashes on walls - God emptied our lives through a similarly painful process.  As the basement became a hollow shell where our kids could no longer live, our lives also seemed hollow and barren.  But God didn't just touch the physical house we lived in.  No, he touched much more.

I know that I've talked about our summer's woes here before, but I can't stop remembering God's vivid workings in our lives.  In addition to the basement (which now seems very minor), God brought about flooding at work, breast cancer in my mom, a heart attack in Heather's dad, kidney cancer in my dad, and a very painful situation within our family - painful beyond all the other difficulties we faced this summer.  And in the same way that our basement was gutted, our lives - including dear family members, and right in our own home - was shaken beyond what we thought possible.

We also stood at the Egyptian side of the Red Sea many times this summer, looking back at the approaching Egyptian army.  And we equally complained to God and wondered why.  In the same way, we saw no way out, no way that God could rescue us.

But he did.

As we were placing things back in the basement yesterday, and moving back from a state of semi-clutter that existed before the summer, to now a state of semi-organization, we see how how it was necessary for God's hand to empty our lives in order to bring healing and order back into our lives.  We see how God has healed both my mom and dad from cancer, we see Heather's dad's life spared from a serious heart attack, we see a restoration within our own family that is above and beyond what we could have asked or thought.  We have been slowly healed of the scrapes and gashes that occurred and are grateful that he is the one that brought about the scrapes and gashes and that he is the one who heals them too.

In all of this God walked with us.  His hand brought every instance of suffering.  And his hand brought every instance of healing.    No I don't fully understand how that works, but I do know that his word unapologetically declares that he is in control:  "I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things."  Is. 45:7.

We now stand on the other bank of the Red Sea and look back at God's victories.  The Israelites also stood on the other bank, and it says in Ex 14:30, "Thus the LORD saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore."  That must have been quite a sight.  A sight that they should never have forgotten.

But they did.

We want to look back at the great victory that God brought about in our lives and never forget.  We want to stand on the bank of the end of our summer and remember that God can do anything and that he will stand with us through any depth of suffering.  And he will bring great joy to our lives in the process as we taste his nearness.  Whether God brings immediate rescue or not, he is faithful and he is greater than any depth of suffering you or I will face.

After passing through the Red Sea, Moses celebrates God's victory with a song in Ex. 15.  I encourage you to read through it as you look back and celebrate the victories that God has brought in your life.  These are times when we place stones of remembrance in an act of worship to our God.  We remember God's workings as Moses did (Ex. 15:11):
Who is like you, O LORD, among the gods?
Who is like you, majestic in holiness,
Awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?

and we also echo Moses' sister Miriam's song (Ex. 15:21):
Sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously,
The horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea.
Imagine what those words meant as they literally were looking at the horse and rider washing up on the shore.  Though that may seem graphic, God wants to show his power and wants us to remember the utter and complete defeat of his enemies.  His careful protection of his children has no bounds.

We know that God does not always throw the horse and rider into the sea.  Sometimes he allows suffering to last for long periods of time.  Sometimes the suffering is not removed in this life.  He is perfectly just and righteous in placing it in our lives whether it is brief or long-lasting.  It is in those times that we taste and see him in ways not possible during the more pleasant periods of our lives.  So in suffering, we can rejoice, because we feel his presence.

Even though there is no guarantee of relief in this life, we know that there will be a full and perfect healing and restoration on the last day.  He will perfectly make all things complete when we cross that final river and are brought home safely to our Father's arms.

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