“And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the LORD caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided.”
Exodus 14:21 (ESV)
Can’t sleep? Do you climb in bed only to lay there with thoughts of what you need to accomplish over the next couple of days? Or do you think about what transpired during the day? Do you toss and turn, burdened with fears or concerns? Or, has this global pandemic of Covid-19 created a myriad of problems for you and your loved ones? What is it that is keeping you up all night?
When I first wrote this blog about eight years ago, I had a friend who had $2100 in monthly prescription medications that had just lost her insurance. I had another friend whose 17-year old daughter had revealed she was pregnant by a 14-year old boy, both from families in my church. Another friend’s son was battling a rare cancer and the doctors were struggling to save his leg, as well as his life. My family was also not immune at this time. My husband had lost his job and the threat of foreclosure on our home was looming in front of us.
So, what do we do about all these things that keep our minds revving all night long? Do we flip our pillows over in hopes that the cool side brings us rest? Or do we stare at the ceiling, hoping solutions will simply drop down on us? Do we reach for sleep medications, which we know will only make us groggy in the morning? Maybe we reach instead for our laptop and do a search for TROUBLE SLEEPING. And maybe that search has led you to this blog.
So, why did I choose a verse in the Bible that doesn’t include key words like “worry,” “apprehensive,” “frightened,” or “desperate?” What does the parting of the Red Sea have to do with our anxieties? You probably know the story that leads up to this memorable event, but I’ll recap: The Israelites had been in bondage for 400 years to the Egyptians. Moses was sent by God to tell Pharaoh to release His people. But Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he refused, despite Moses’ warnings and the 10 Plagues that were sent. Not until Pharaoh’s first-born son was taken by the Angel of Death did Pharaoh ‘kick’ the Israelites out of his land. But after they left, Pharaoh had a change of heart. There were no more slaves to do all the dirty, menial jobs for him. So, Pharaoh sent his Egyptian army to capture and return the millions of Israelites back to Egypt.
The Israelites had fled Egypt to follow Moses and the pillar of cloud by day and pillar of fire by night, but were now panicked, bunched on the banks of the Red Sea, as they saw the Egyptian army coming to retrieve them. They know they are trapped. There is nowhere to go, no road to lead them out, no way of escape. So, they cried out to Moses who cried out to God. And God instructed Moses to raise the staff in his hands. But this is where the biblical account detours from Cecille B. DeMille’s epic movie, The Ten Commandments.
In the movie, Moses turns to face the Red Sea, lifts his staff, and the waters immediately begin to peel back. Contrary to that, the Bible tells us in Exodus “…the LORD caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind ALL THAT NIGHT and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided.” It only took minutes for Charlton Heston/Moses to part the Red Sea in the movie, but the Bible says that it took God all night. Let’s think about that. The night is when it is the darkest. The night is miserable when sleep won’t come. The night lasts for eternity when there is no rest.
The Israelites could not see God working in front of them because God (a cloud column by day and a pillar of fire by night) had moved to the back of the millions of Israelites to create a barrier between them and the Egyptians that were in hot pursuit. The only thing the Israelites saw was the pillar of fire holding the Egyptians back. They were anxious, focused on the ominous threat that snapped at their heels and could not see God at work before them.
If we back up a little in Exodus, to the 13th and 14th verses, Moses tells the people, “Fear not, stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD… The LORD shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.” Therefore, don’t be dissuaded if God doesn’t provide a means of escape in an instant, like in the movies. God worked to part the Red Sea all night long, in the dark, and from the other side of the bank. Just because we cannot see God at work doesn’t mean He’s not at work.
So, climb back into bed and find your rest. Know that God is up all night, fighting in the dark, for you. And, if you cannot see Him, you may as well just close your eyes.
“The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”
Exodus 14:14 (NIV)