It’s easy for me to read through a book like Exodus and kind of wonder: “How couldn’t they see it?!?” God’s provision, protection, and guidance are so clear chapter after chapter. From protecting Moses as a baby to grand things like splitting a sea in two or food appearing out of thin air day after day, God’s action on behalf of the Israelites is obvious. Yet, they complained constantly, thought going back to slavery would be better for them, made idols while God’s presence was still on the mountain in front of them, and blamed God instead of praising Him. How could this be? Couldn’t they see what God was up to?
But when I really stop to think about it… some days I’m no different. God performs a miracle, but we miss it because we were expecting something different. God figuratively splits seas or thunders from a mountain and the next day we’re so caught up in daily life we forget His power. We become immune to daily ‘manna’ falling from the sky in the form of food and shelter and friendships and His love and start to complain. I’d like to think that if I saw some of the miraculous things the Israelites witnessed I would never stop praising, but I’m not so sure I’d be any different.
One verse that struck me came right as God was enacting this great plan to lead them out of Egypt. Pharaoh had finally worn down and they were on the move. Passover had been instituted and God’s people had been spared the death of the firstborn that plagued the rest of the land. They had not yet come upon the Red Sea, but certainly had plenty to praise God for already.
“So Moses said to the people, ‘This is a day to remember forever—the day you left Egypt, the place of your slavery. Today the Lord has brought you out by the power of his mighty hand. … On this day in early spring, in the month of Abib, you have been set free. You must celebrate this event in this month each year…” (Exodus 13:3-5 NLT)
Reading this translation struck me… REMEMBER… YOU HAVE BEEN SET FREE… CELEBRATE! It goes on to explain how God wants them to celebrate but the party stops pretty quick as they approach the Red Sea and see that Pharaoh has changed his mind. The army is approaching quickly from behind and the body of water ahead has them trapped.
As Pharaoh approached, the people of Israel looked up and panicked when they saw the Egyptians overtaking them. They cried out to the Lord, and they said to Moses, “Why did you bring us out here to die in the wilderness? Weren’t there enough graves for us in Egypt? What have you done to us? Why did you make us leave Egypt? Didn’t we tell you this would happen while we were still in Egypt? We said, ‘Leave us alone! Let us be slaves to the Egyptians. It’s better to be a slave in Egypt than a corpse in the wilderness!’” (Exodus 14:10-12)
Suddenly they wanted to go back. Their current situation seemed worse than slavery, but that’s because they forgot the powerful mighty hand of their God.
Earlier this month I attended a conference. One of the hosts said this as he wrapped up one of our sessions:
Sometimes we feel like: “God you’ve led me to a place where there’s no where out.”
God says: “That’s only because you haven’t seen a sea parted.” – Ben Stewart
As I thought about this story that I’ve heard many times, as well as my own tenancies to complain and forget what God can do, I wondered if a key piece in all of it was the celebration God instituted the chapter before.
When Moses told the people to remember the day they had been set free, he said, “you MUST celebrate it”. One way to read this Scripture would imply a focus on trying to please God and so we must praise Him because He deserves it. It’s true, God does deserve our praise, but I wonder if the “must” here is more about God knowing our nature. He “demands” celebration in a sense because He knows we need it. He knows that we MUST celebrate or we will forget. We must celebrate or we will worry. We must celebrate or we will feel trapped and see no way out. We must celebrate because we are free. Without celebration, we find our souls enslaved again.
I don’t know what celebration looks like for you, but find a way to party today. God has done everything to secure our freedom. May we never be slaves again!
Bonus Thought: Music is one way I choose to celebrate. Maybe this song by Ellie Holcomb can help you live free today!
So we will sing, to our souls
We won’t bury our hope
Where He leads us to go
There’s a red sea road
When we can’t, see the way
He will part, the waves
And we’ll never walk alone
Down a red sea road” – Ellie Holcomb “Red Sea Road”