The author has heard more than a few sermons. There is a richness to his writing that is saturated in phraseology shaped for the ear of a congregation. But this is not a preachy book. It is a helpful echo of the best parts of all those messages you have heard in the past, collected in one place and strained through a sieve that removed all the parts you didn’t need.
Robert Morgan has taken a long meditative look at the people of Israel and the lessons to be learned from their days with the Egyptian army at their back and the Red Sea in their sight. No place to go and only one place to look–up. And many things to remember. Remembering the promises and the acts of God in the past is the pathway to hope in the present.
“The sea was before them, Pharaoh’s hosts behind them, and the mountains around them. And all this, be it observed, permitted and ordered of God.”
(Irish preacher, 1820-1896)
Morgan’s discussion of his first principle, “Realize that God means for you to be where you are”, is discussed in three short chapters, each headed by a quote from a proven Christian writer and illustrated with a brief story. There is Reba Robinson, praying for a son serving as a marine in dangerous and secret missions and then dealing with PTSD upon his return. There is the story of missionaries Russell and Darlene Deibler arriving on their wedding anniversary in New Guinea just ahead of the Japanese invasion in 1938. Sickness, separation, and the horrors of a concentration camp qualify as an introduction to a “Red Sea” moment—the only option and hope is to look up. (You can read her story at this link.)
South African pastor Andrew Murray journal is quoted on pages 12-13. Murray was in a “Red Sea” moment and retired to his study to write these words:
“First, he brought me here, it is by His will that I am in this strait place: in that fact I will rest.
Next, He will keep me here in His love, and give me grace to behave as His child.
Then, He will make the trial a blessing, teaching me the lessons He intends me to learn, and working in me the grace He means to bestow.
Last, in His good time He can bring me out again—how and when He knows.
Let me say I am here,
(1) By God’s appointment,
(2) In His keeping,
(3) Under His training,
(4) For His time.
Men and women, those four points are called wisdom for your “Red Sea” moments.
The third and briefest section, is titled “What If It’s My Fault?” What saint has not thought or verbalized these words? They are part of the universal doubt of the faithful who still wonder about the matchless grace of God. This brief section too, begins with a short quote from a trusted pen—J.I. Packer.
“Our God is a God who not merely restores, but takes up our mistakes and follies into His plan for us and brings good out of them.”
Yes, that is our God!
“We sometimes cause our own pain”, do we not?! Are we not our own worst enemies at times? Are we not pale and weak and stumbling fools at multiple times in our lives? Do we not make foolish and sinful decisions that hurt ourselves and others, even others that we love? Do we not have multiple occasions to repent and confess our sins to God and others every week (every day, every hour)?
But our God is able to do wonderful things, even out of the sins and stupidity of our human frailty.
I do have one quibble with Morgan in this chapter. On page 14, Morgan writes “God’s forgiveness allows self-forgiveness.” Here, I think Morgan has gone off the Biblical rail of truth. He is trying to say something important–there is life and mercy and grace and joy and restoration after failure. That is important. But the path forward is not self-forgiveness. We aren’t the ones who set the standard. God is. We break His Law and so we cannot forgive ourselves. And part of the problem with trying to “forgive ourselves” is that it takes our focus off of the Great Forgiver and grace-giver and puts it back on ourselves. No, this is not the way forward. But there is a glorious path open to us. What we can do is run to Jesus. Run to Him and His open arms over and over and over and always with the knowledge that He forgives and paid it all on the cross.
The apostle Paul lays it out for us in the 6th chapter of Romans. His general argument is that we are dead to sin but alive to God and we need to “reckon” or “consider” that fact deeply. In short, the key to moving on after sinful failure is not forgiving ourselves but in becoming mesmerized by the grace of God. Don’t look back. Look up to the wonders of a God who knows ALL your sin, loves you still, forgives each one and works it, somehow, for our good and His glory! Be intoxicated with a vision of a bigger God in the midst of your “Red Sea” moments.
As Morgan says at the close of the chapter, “Trust Him. He can make a way.”
Come back Wednesday for a discussion of Red Sea Rule #2.