“By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land” (Hebrews 11:29).
“The people” referred to were the Israelites who followed Moses out of Egypt. The Lord had rescued them from bondage and had promised them a homeland of their own. When we read their story in the book of Exodus, some of these people were not shining examples of faith. But here, at least, was one occasion when they got it right.
The New Testament writer of Hebrews draws our attention to the faith of the people that enabled them to obey God and pass through the parted waters. The writer treats this event as a true fact of history and not as a fictional pious legend. He wants his readers to remember that the God of the Bible is a God of miracles. The Lord is keeping his promise to his people to deliver them by means of a great miracle.
The first century and twenty-first century readers of the book of Hebrews are being reminded that “without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6). The Old Testament people of Israel are examples of faith. Moses led them in faith. When God told him to stretch out his staff over the waters of the Red Sea, he did so and the waters parted miraculously (Exodus 14:10-31).
The Israelites were in a desperate situation. In front of them was the sea. Behind them came the Egyptian army in pursuit. It was like being caught in a vise. They were trapped and helpless. The Lord was teaching them to trust him. He wanted them to learn that he is trustworthy and true to his promises.
Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still” (Exodus 14:13-14).
The Lord wanted the Hebrew people to trust him in every situation. He wanted them to know that he was determined to save them and make of them a great nation. Their part was to believe, to rest in him, and to stand still and see his glory at work on their behalf.
This is the lesson the Lord wants us to learn. Living by faith means that we put our full trust in the promises of God. It is trusting God when all we have to go on is his word. The people crossed over on dry land because they had faith that God would not forsake them or forget them. God will not forget us, either. He will be with us if our faith is in him, no matter what impossible situation we may be facing.
Zane Hodges told a story about an elderly gentleman known as Uncle Dudley. He had lived all his life in a small town in West Virginia. A friend who was an aviation enthusiast invited him to take an airplane ride over the town. They flew around, looking at the familiar sights below. When they landed, the pilot turned to Uncle Dudley and asked him if he was scared during the flight.
“No,” came the hesitant reply. Then Uncle Dudley added, “But I never did put my full weight down.”
That is what some Christians try to do. They have trusted in Jesus Christ for their eternal salvation, but they have not put their full weight on him to meet the struggles and difficulties of this life. They try to solve their problems in their own inadequate strength. They have never put their full weight down. They have not learned that the Christian life is to be lived by faith.
Hebrews 11 begins with a concise definition of faith. “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1). Faith is our response to what God has said in his word. It takes seriously God’s revealed truth. It anticipates the future with hope because of God’s infallible promises and his loving presence.
Pastor Randy Faulkner