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Enter the name of the tune for hymn 362
Extreme weather seems to have been hitting people everywhere this winter. North America was affected by a big freeze with record low temperatures. Parts of Australia suffered a heatwave with bottles of water melting at the Melbourne Australian Open tennis tournament.
In Britain rain and strong winds have dominated, making roads impassable, cutting power supplies and flooding many homes. It may all be the byproduct of global warming which is upsetting weather patterns, or it may be a natural cycle which will recur from time to time. Opinions are divided about the underlying cause. What is perfectly clear however is that water can be an effective barrier when there is too much of it. When a river flows over a road there is no way through, without a boat!
Long ago the infant nation of Israel stopped alongside a watercourse and there seemed to be no way across. It mattered, for the nation comprised slaves who had been told to leave Egypt and now their erstwhile slave masters had second thoughts and wanted them back. They came in pursuit armed and with revenge in their hearts.
With an army behind them and a seemingly impassable watercourse ahead of them, it is understandable that the people looked to their leader for advice and Moses did not disappoint. But the first few words he spoke must have seemed blatantly obvious. He told them to “Stand Still”, which was what they were forced to do as there was no way back and no way forward, but then said this:
"Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace" (Exodus 14:13–14).
Unbeknown to them, Moses had been pleading with God for deliverance and now God told him what to do. He was to lift his rod up over the sea, and tell the people to “Go forward!”, which was precisely what Moses now did, and for once the people obeyed him implicitly. God made a way through the sea and for generations afterwards Israel’s poets and songwriters would celebrate that miracle as a demonstration of God’s power and His ability to save.
Here are the words of a Psalmist looking back and a Prophet looking forward:
"The voice of Your thunder was in the whirlwind; the lightnings lit up the world; the earth trembled and shook. Your way was in the sea, your path in the great waters, and Your footsteps were not known. You led Your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron" (Psalm 77:18–20).
"Thus says the Lord, who makes a way in the sea and a path through the mighty waters, who brings forth the chariot and horse … Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert..." (Isaiah 43:16–19).
What God had done to rescue Israel from Egypt was only a beginning. If you are familiar with the early books of the Bible you will know that it took the refugees many years before they took possession of the Promised Land and became a proper nation, recognized by the nations round about. Their national life was turbulent, to say the least, as they were surrounded by enemies and much hostility.
Right through Bible times the nation of Israel was under threat from larger and more powerful neighbours, like the Philistines and the Assyrians. And when world empires came into existence – the superpowers of their day – the tiny nation of Israel became a subject people. Fiercely patriotic and with a burning desire for independence, they had to accept foreign control as one empire succeeded another.
By New Testament times they were subject to Roman rule and despite their attempts to break free, the Romans brought the nation to an end. First in AD70 and later in AD132 the Jewish people were deported and dispersed throughout the Roman Empire and, over the years, throughout the world.
For nearly two thousand years there appeared to be no way back to the land that was once occupied by the fathers of the nation. Jews were wanderers, people with no fixed abode, a despised, hated and often persecuted nation-within-a-nation. For the wanderers never seemed to lose their Jewish identity, seldom inter-married with non-Jews and made little or no attempt to merge with their surroundings.
A Jew was always a Jew, and that was just as God had intended it. For when it seemed there was no through road, and the political and physical way was blocked, God arranged a way back to the Promised Land and the nation of Israel was reborn.
Of course, the nations that voted for the land of Palestine to be partitioned between Jew and Arab considered that they were acting for humanitarian reasons, to compensate somewhat for the atrocities of the Nazi regime and its tragic aftermath. In fact this was the work of God, unseen and unseeable, but those nations voted to fulfil God’s ancient promises carefully preserved in the Bible. As God had said:
"Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert … To give drink to My people, My chosen. This people I have formed for Myself; they shall declare My praise" (Isaiah 43:19-21).
Today Israel exists as a national testimony to the truth that God always keeps His promises and that His purpose is unstoppable. It is moving steadily towards the greatest event ever: the return from heaven of the Lord Jesus Christ who is coming to Jerusalem to reign in the midst of his people.
There is a way in which you can be part of that multitude of people who will spend eternity with the Lord. Jesus Christ is the way, through truth, to eternal life.