Today’s OT reading (Exodus 14:21-31) is one of those texts that just belongs on the big screen. Walls of water stretching on either side of the Israelites as they pass through the Red Sea. Egyptians struggling with clogged chariot wheels, unable to steer as they pursue the people of God. Then, when the Egyptians realize that Yahweh is fighting for Israel—the same Yahweh who sent all the plagues upon Egypt—they give up their pursuit and turn back. But it is too late. Moses stretches out his hand over the sea, and the water comes crashing down, drowning the Egyptian army.
It’s good to have someone fighting for you if you need saving. I don’t often think about God doing battle on my behalf, but that’s a useful image for me to hold on to. There are forces in this world—some human, some spiritual, many of my own creation—that fight against me. I like knowing that God sticks up for his people. Although the work he does in my life rarely (if ever) belongs on the silver screen, the fact that God is doing anything on my behalf is noteworthy.
Why does God bother? Why does he stick up for anyone? He’s God. He doesn’t need us. He isn’t contractually obligated to defend the cause of a particular person or group of people. He’s above all of that, yet he comes down right in the middle of it. Our God is a personal, loving, self-disclosing God. That’s who he is at his core. And the greatest gift he gives us is an awareness of that.
Do you remember those Warner Brothers cartoons that featured the two dogs walking down the city street? One of them was big and powerful (Spike) and the other was a little jumping yappy dog (Chester) who followed Spike around everywhere and clearly considered it a privilege to be associated with the larger, protective dog. I think we’re supposed to be like that smaller dog. We’re supposed to be bouncing off the walls because we have a God who loves us and who protects us. Like the Israelites, we forget that pretty often. We get mired in the problems of today and forget how God has always saved us from our troubles in the past. Instead, we’re supposed to remember that God does things like deliver his people from captivity in Egypt and save us from our own trials.