More from the IDF Major. Because his talk was given at a Christian church and he is an orthodox Jew, he shared some lessons on faith from the Jewish understanding of the writings of Moses.
First, there’s the point about taking an ancient document seriously. Various naturalists have tried to come up with explanations denying the miraculous and instead positing a shallow “Sea of Reeds” in which the Exodus could wade across ankle deep while the pursuing chariots got stuck in the mud.
And old joke paints one such scenario, in which a secular history teacher attempts to explain a “shallow” crossing knowing that a Biblical youth was in the class. At the end of the lecture, the teach challenges the youth as to what he thinks now, and he remarks that God is really amazing. Shocked, the teacher asks how he can think that after the lecture, and the youth responds that it is miraculous that God drowned the Egyptian army in a mere 6 inches of water!
Aside from that detail, the account also twice mentions the WALLS of water:
- “The sons of Israel went through the midst of the sea on the dry land, and the waters were like a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.” (Exodus 14:22, NASB)
- “But the sons of Israel walked on dry land through the midst of the sea, and the waters were like a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.” (Exodus 14:29, NASB)
A persistent gentle breeze taking an inch or two off the depth of a shallow crossing would hardly result in testimony about walls of water. Even if one rejects the scriptural account and claims legendary embellishment, they must still deal with the elimination of the Egyptian army.
In the attempt by David Down to realign ancient Egyptian chronology to match up to what is recorded amongst all of its neighbors (because traditional dating assumes one dynasty at a time, despite knowing of many concurrent dynasties), he makes some interesting points. Traditional dating puts the 18th dynasty in power during the Exodus, but a re-alignment puts the 12th dynasty in power and that one has prolific archaeological evidence of widespread slavery during the period. Further, the ancient histories of Egypt record that after that dynasty, invaders called the Hyksos poured in and conquered “without a battle.” Secular scholars simply disagree with the ancient historians and call it a gross exaggeration. Or was the army of the 12th dynasty absent from the field because they were buried under the Red Sea?
A Time for Prayer and A Time for Action
The Major pointed out that as the Egyptian army was closing in and the Jewish people panicked, Moses replies: “Do not fear! Stand by and see the salvation of the Lord which He will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you have seen today, you will never see them again forever. The Lord will fight for you while you keep silent.” (Exodus 14:13-14, NASB).
Wow! What a statement of faith. But the Major, fluent in Old Testament Hebrew, points out that English translators struggle with God’s response because in the Hebrew, it is actually quite harsh. He said one of the worst renders it as, “Wherefore criest thou unto me? speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward” (Exodus 14:15).
The Major pointed out that in the original Hebrew, the tone is akin to a parent getting annoyed at a pestering child and snapping, ‘What are you bothering me for?!’ In the context here, God is essentially saying to Moses, “My people are about to get wiped out and there you are talking about faith and prayer? Get the people moving before it is too late!”
The Major continued by pointing out that rather than folks standing at the water’s edge waiting for it to part, Jewish tradition holds that the people had to wade into the water and the Sea did not actually part until it was up to the eyeballs of the lead man – indicating that he could go no further without perishing unless God miraculously intervened.
The Major reminded the audience that as an Orthodox Jew, he absolutely believes in the power of prayer and that God is personal and answers prayer. However, there is a time to pray and a time to act. And the illustration from this difficult-to-translate answer from God was basically that this was not the time for prayer, but the time for action.
Many Christians struggle with differentiating a time for prayer and a time for action. I’ve seen and experienced this as a particular weakness in Reformed circles because the heavy emphasis on God’s sovereignty results in folks never acting but simply praying and praying for miraculous deliverance, yet even tempering those prayers with ‘If it be thy will.’ Otherwise if they act and succeed, then they were sinfully not relying on God (and should not expect to succeed if not relying on God’s deliverance).
I did eight military moves during my time in service, and went from being a single guy to starting a family. I definitely experienced a difference in that when we take action with what God has put under our control, we will either see a string of “coincidences” clear the path of obstacles to the end result when God wills it, or else a string of negative “coincidences” making the path nearly (but not completely) impossible when we are going against God.
Take charge of what has been given into your charge. You have authority over something – your family, your business, your home and land, or more depending on your role. Exercise that authority, but do so toward Godly ends and via Godly means, and you will experience God’s interaction with you in your action. Recall that in discussing the walk of a Christian, the letter to the Philippians advises “work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you” (Phil 2:12-13). There is a command for the individual to do something, but a reminder of God’s work in and amongst their actions.