All That Night

11 They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt?  12 Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!”

21 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.

Exodus 14:11-12, 21

These versus are taken from the passage of Exodus in which Moses has recently led God’s people, the Israelites out of Egypt. They were enslaved for over 400 years, and it was time for God to start them down the path to their new lives. It was not an easy transition for them, as you may have guessed from the opening lines.

They had witnessed God’s literal supernatural power as He plagued Pharaoh and Egypt. They’d been led by a pillar of fire and a pillar of cloud. In short, they had seen God work in big ways, and they should have been able to trust Him by this point. But they kind of didn’t. They saw the Red Sea ahead of them and the Egyptians in pursuit behind them and they doubted the plan. They doubted that God had their best interests in mind. They doubted God.

To be fair, it doesn’t look like they’ve come into a great situation. While they were in slavery in Egypt, they were suffering, but they were in a situation that made sense to them. They understood what was desired from them: work hard, stay in line. It’s hard to believe they were almost longing for that suffering after just escaping it, but in a weird way, I understand the pull of that familiarity. Egypt was something they had gotten used to; this new experience of running in the desert was unknown and unsettling.

Through some of my own struggles with sin or, in a different way, transitions I’ve made to new phases of life, I get what they are experiencing. I never really liked high school, at least for the last year or two. I was usually bored in class and felt like I was wasting my time being there. Yet, in adult life, I often think back to how simple those times were. I didn’t have bills, anxiety, or a sense of my unknown future.

Let me be clear, I’m not saying being in high school is slavery. And obviously adult life offers lots of good things to balance the hard things. What I’m saying is, when we’re in new situations that are by most metrics better than past ones, we still often long for that simpler past.

We long for the time when we lived in sin and weren’t challenged by Jesus’ words, or a time when we were in an unhealthy relationship, but at least we had someone and didn’t feel so lonely, or when we hated our job, but at least we put in our 8 hours and forgot about it when we clocked out. We know that being with Jesus, being single but healthy, and caring about the work we do are all good, but at times they feel harder or somehow worse than what we lost.

One day, maybe, you felt God pulling (or shoving) you into a new direction, so you followed. And it’s great that you did! Yet now things feel unfamiliar, shaky, weird. They feel different and you are looking at God thinking, “So I followed you here, what now? This doesn’t seem better.” The new situation doesn’t feel how you hoped it would and you’re longing for what you left behind. God’s timing and way of doing things are making you feel lost. But remember, it is his timing, and He is still guiding you, so you’re not lost.

Not to put too fine a point on it– because I know we all get it by now– but what I’m saying is that God moves us into new situations when he wants us there. A lot of times, it doesn’t feel like we’re in a better position, but it may be because we don’t have God’s perspective.

Further, in this part of the Israelites’ story, they were free but by no means in a perfect or settled situation. They still had to travel through harsh landscapes to get where God wanted them. If you are in a period of changing situations—recovery from sins, a new job, a breakup, family hardships—it may seem worse than where you can from. But I know this passage gave me a nudge to keep in mind that this exact place may not be the end of what God is moving us towards. We may be waiting between an obstacle ahead and demons pursuing behind, but this portion of the journey is temporary.

Now to that second piece of scripture. I’ve read this story and seen depictions of Moses (okay, well God really) parting the Red Sea literally since I was a child. Like probably a hundred times or something. But I think every time up until now, I had this idea that the sea split in a matter of a minute. Like God literally just crashed through the middle and it spread instantly. Which would have been awesome, and which he obviously could have done, because God.

Yet, if you read the passage again, it clearly says, “all that night.” I checked at least five different translations, old ones and newer ones, just to see if it was a phrasing thing. Every one includes some version of this. Meaning? God did not part the sea in a matter of a few minutes. He took the whole night, or most of the night at least, to part the sea.

Maybe that isn’t mind-blowing to you. Maybe you’ve never heard this story anyway, and you don’t see what the big deal is. For me, it kind of changed my thinking about how God works. I’ve always heard, “in God’s time,” or whatever else people say, but for some reason this version of that spoke to me.

God took the whole night to part the sea, giving the Israelites passage to the other side. I really can’t claim to understand why he did it this way. The people were already panicking and losing hope. They already wanted to head back into slavery. Why did he not work faster to help calm them down? I don’t have that answer. What I know is, they had to wait a whole night with pursuers behind them. We may have to wait for our God to work out our parent’s marriage trouble, or for our boss to treat us like adults, or our desires for sin to weaken.

But God works all through the night (and day, but I’m trying to stick to a theme, okay?). Does it feel awesome when this stuff takes way longer than we want, and we feel like we’re drowning? Not at all. Would we hurry things along if that was in our power? Yeah, I know I would most of the time. Somehow, we have to keep in mind that God’s timing is His alone. If you’re facing something hard, I’m really sorry it’s taking longer than you want it to. I feel that pain in my own life daily.

Remember that he took all night to part the sea. If it feels like He’s taking too long to part the sea in your life, don’t give up hope. The sea will part, and you will walk across to the other side.

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