The seventh day of Passover – splitting the sea!

Happy Passover, my dear friends.

According to the Torah, we are commanded to celebrate Passover for seven days. The first day is a rest-day called a shabbaton, or “little sabbath”. So is the seventh day. Both commemorate great wonders performed by the Creator while redeeming His people from Egypt.

On the first day was the pesach, which is translated as “passing over” but literally means “hopping”. The Holy One went through the land of Egypt and struck down the firstborn in every house that did not have the blood of a lamb on its doorposts… regardless of whether it was an Israelite or Egyptian house. But He skipped over every house that did have the blood… regardless of whether the trusting family was Israelite or Egyptian.

The seventh day saw a similar miracle, called in Hebrew Kriyat Yam Suf, literally “the tearing open of the Sea of Reeds”. Here too, a distinction was made between the Creator’s obedient people, who walked through the walls of water on dry land, and His defiant enemies, who were caught in the collapsing walls and drowned. They realized too late that “the LORD is fighting for them against the Egyptians” (Exod. 14:25).

This sort of thing still happens today. Even when it is foretold by the prophets that Israel will never cease to be a nation as long as the sun is shining (Jer. 31:35-36), Israel’s enemies continue to “conspire together… saying, ‘let’s wipe them out as a nation…’” (Ps. 83:3-4)

Indeed, centuries beforehand the Creator told Abraham the entire Exodus story: his descendants would “be enslaved and oppressed for four hundred years. But I will also judge the nation whom they will serve, and afterward they will come out with many possessions.” (Gen. 15:13-14) This included material wealth like Egypt’s silver and gold, and spiritual wealth like the Holy One Himself escorting them in a Pillar of Cloud and Fire.

But just fresh out of slavery, the Israelites were new to this whole idea of walking with GOD. As they left the cities of Egypt behind, they were in high spirits, for they could see that “the LORD was going before them in a pillar of cloud by day to lead them on the way, and in a pillar of fire by night to give them light.” (Exod. 13:21) It was easy to go out “boldly in the sight of all the Egyptians” while their former masters were mourning and “burying all their firstborn” (Num. 33:3-4). But after seven days of elation, they reached a dead-end, with the sea in front, the desert on either side, and the dreaded enemy coming behind them.

And it seemed… just for a short while… that trusting the LORD’s salvation was a mistake.

Perhaps the Cloud and Fire were just an illusion that Moses had conjured up? No, a conjured vision couldn’t sustain itself with nearly a million people for seven days and nights, nonstop (Exod. 13:22). Perhaps they had misunderstood the directions? No, the directions were clear: “Turn back and camp in front of Pi-hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea; you shall camp in front of Baal-zephon, opposite it, by the sea.” (Exod. 14:2)

In short, the Creator intended for them to be trapped! “For Pharaoh will say of the sons of Israel, ‘They are wandering aimlessly in the land; the wilderness has shut them in.’ And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will chase after them; and I will be honored through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD.” (v. 3-4) To provoke that action, the Creator arranged for the king and his servants to hear “that the people had fled,” (v. 5) and then He made sure that the Egyptian army successfully tracked the Israelites to their camp by the sea (v. 9) – a journey of two or three days.

This is a pattern with the Holy One. When He lets His people know exactly what enemies will do, He doesn’t immediately spell out what He will do in response. Our part is difficult but rewarding: Wait, watch, and trust that He is “up to something”.

Again, though, the Israelites were new at this. First, they did the right thing; they cried to the LORD (v. 10). But waiting was too hard when you could see the dust of the Egyptian chariots approaching, and there was nowhere to hide. They turned on Moses – they blamed him for the “mistake” of thinking that they could walk away from slavery.

Moses’s answer: “Do not fear! Stand by and see the salvation of the LORD… The LORD will fight for you, while you keep silent.” (v. 13-14). But he himself couldn’t resist the panic; he also cried to the LORD! (v. 15)

Implied in the Creator’s answer is the idea that He was ready to give more instructions… once Moses calmed down enough to act on them. (As the leader of a great nation, he was also new at this.)

The lesson for us? When we call on the Creator for help, it’s not enough to express our fears and hopes, or to ask, “Where are You??!” We should expect the help that we are asking Him to send, and be ready to move with it the moment it arrives!

And yet, as we see in the crossing of the Sea, accepting the Holy One’s miraculous help may also take courage. Imagine walking on a dirt path between two giant quivering walls made of water… in a huge crowd that prevents you from backing out!

Faith is not passive, but active. We must find out what the Creator intends to do, and then follow Him in the doing. “All nations surrounded me; in the name of the LORD I will certainly fend them off… I will give thanks to You, for You have answered me, and You have become my salvation.” (Ps. 118:10, 21) On the other hand, this favor is not earned; it is given as soon as we begin to trust: “The one who trusts in the LORD, lovingkindness will surround him.” (Ps. 32:10)

We also need to recognize that the Creator doesn’t always deliver His people from physical harm. The hardest challenge to waiting and trusting GOD was in the Holocaust, when millions of Jews were sent to their deaths. The story is told about one such “death train” headed for an extermination camp, packed with crying children and parents trying to soothe them while inwardly agonizing over their fate. As some were praying, one person began singing the traditional song, “I believe with perfect faith in the coming of the Messiah… and even if he delays, I will still wait every day for him to come.”

Some were miraculously rescued from that horror, which is why we have eyewitness testimonies. Most were not rescued. Some Jews lost their faith as a result; some found their faith strengthened. Regardless, there is no doubt that the Holy One heard every suffering person, just as He heard the crying of His people in Egypt.

After instructing Moses on how work with Him, the Holy One repeated His goal: Take the Israelites through the sea on dry land, provoke the Egyptians to chase them, and then… be “honored” in some way still not revealed. “And the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD.” (Exod. 14:4, repeated in v. 18) Only when Moses took action did GOD also take action, effortlessly sending the Egyptians into a panic and receiving the honor that He spoke of (v.24-25).

We who have the advantage of knowing the holy Scriptures can recognize this announcement as a prelude to supernatural action, a deed that could only be attributed to the Lord of heaven and earth. The promise that someone “will know that I am the LORD” occurs in the Tanach over 50 times, and all of them are impossible situations. Seven times it relates to the redemption of Israel from Egypt. Others are about the beginning – and end – of Israel’s exile, and the judgment of the wicked. One refers to the holiness of Zion in the End of Days:

“Then you will know that I am the LORD your GOD, dwelling on Zion, My holy mountain. So Jerusalem will be holy, and strangers will no longer pass through it.” (Joel 3:17)

The slavery in Egypt, the Exodus and the parting of the Sea are used as metaphors in a prophecy of Israel’s return from worldwide exile. And as with the original Passover miracles, this also is something only the Holy One can do:

“’When I scatter them among the peoples, they will remember Me in distant countries, and they with their children will live and come back. I will bring them back from the land of Egypt and gather them from Assyria; and I will bring them into the land of Gilead and Lebanon until no room can be found for them.

“’And they will pass through the sea of distress, and He will strike the waves in the sea, so that all the depths of the Nile will dry up. And the pride of Assyria will be brought down, and the scepter of Egypt will depart. And I will strengthen them in the LORD, and in His name they will walk,’ declares the LORD.” (Zech. 10:9-12)

When the Creator performs a miraculous act with Israel, it has a ripple effect.

“So the LORD saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. When Israel saw the great power which the LORD had used against the Egyptians, the people feared the LORD, and they believed in the LORD and in His servant Moses.” (Exod. 14:30-31)

Israel wasn’t the only nation to be deeply impressed. Forty years later, Rahab of Jericho told Joshua’s spies that the Canaanites had “heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Sea of Reeds before you when you came out of Egypt… When we heard, our hearts melted and no courage remained in anyone any longer because of you; for the LORD your God, He is GOD in heaven above and on earth below.” (Josh. 2:10-11) 

And far into the future, many nations would hear about Israel’s amazing GOD and would say to one another, “Come, let’s go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the GOD of Jacob, so that He may teach us about His ways, and that we may walk in His paths.” (Isa. 2:3)

And that is His ultimate purpose for “baring His holy arm in the sight of the nations – So that all the ends of the earth may see the salvation of our GOD.” (Isa. 52:10) People in every generation, from every nation on earth, will put their faith in Him, forming an unbreakable chain of testimony: “He alone is GOD in heaven and on earth.”

Far from being obsolete, believers in the Creator need to speak up today more than ever. In spite of our digital world claiming that yesterday’s news is not relevant, people are desperate to grab onto something that will not change under the pressures of momentary fads, drifting boundaries, or bullying mobs. In spite of the endless forms of escape from depression through drugs, trances or “virtual reality”, people are hoping that somewhere, someone will tell them that they are not random accidents in an uncaring universe – but rather they are called into being for a purpose, by Someone who loves them and can guide them into fulfilling, meaningful lives.

In spite of the world falling into moral darkness while we watch helplessly, people long to believe that there is a bright Day of Judgment coming, when all wrongs will be made right – when the LORD’s righteous king, the Messiah, will bring an end to corruption, betrayal and abuse. 

“And He will delight in the fear of the LORD, and He will not judge by what His eyes see, nor make decisions by what His ears hear. But with righteousness He will judge the poor, and decide with fairness for the humble of the earth. And He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked. Also righteousness will be the belt around His hips, and faithfulness the belt around His waist.” (Isa. 11:3-5)

We who expect that blessed Day are standing in a long, long line with others who came before us. We declare with Israel’s forefather Jacob: “For Your salvation I wait, LORD!” (Gen. 49:18) We repeat the words of Israel’s great king David to the rest of humanity: “Sing to the LORD, all the earth! Proclaim good news of His salvation from day to day. Tell of His glory among the nations, His wonderful deeds among all the peoples.” (2 Chron. 16:23-24)

The song that Israel sang on the other side of the split Sea of Reeds says it best (Exod. 15:2):

“The LORD is my strength and song,
And He has become my salvation;
This is my GOD, and I will praise Him;
My father’s GOD, and I will exalt Him!”

May we stand shoulder to shoulder in our declaration of faith in the living GOD.

Be blessed by the Most High, from Zion and Jerusalem,


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