Summary: Such a small word … just three letters … b-u-t. A small word that we use a hundred times or more a day. “But” … it’s a word that can have dire consequences. Imagine getting hard labor for 40 years for one word … “but” … “b-u-t” … and not just for you but for your whole family too.
When I was growing up in upstate New York, in the summer we would go to swim in an icy glacial lake called “Green Lake.” Deep … almost 200 feet deep … and crystal clear. You could drop a quarter in it and tell if were heads or tails when it hit the bottom. And cold!!
They had two diving boards there. A regular one and a “high” dive … 12 feet high. I loved to dive off the regular diving board. I’d try to get as much spring as possible and fly as high as I could … and then splash into that icy-cold water. So that high dive spoke to me … called to me.
One day, when I was 12 years old, I answered that high dive’s siren song. I told my brother and some friends that this was the day. I was going to do it! I was going to climb that high dive and take the big plunge … something my brother or my friends had ever done before.
Now … from the ground looking up, that high dive didn’t look all that intimidating … but when I reached the top and walked out to the the end of that diving board and looked down … Yeow! It seemed like it was a mile above the water. It felt like I was in the clouds looking down … and the water was a long, long, l-o-o-o-o-n-g ways down!
My loving, supportive, encouraging brother began yelling “Common! Jump!” My friends took up the chorus: Jump! Jump! Jump!” I think even the lifeguard and the people on the beach were chanting “Jump!”
I stood there. My toes tightly curled over the edge of the all-too-springy diving board … my brother and friends watching and waiting … the whole world shouting “Jump! Jump! … me, staring down at that clear glacial water a thousand feet below …
I wanted to jump … Lord knows. But …
Such a small word … just three letters … b-u-t. A small word that we use a hundred times or more a day. “But” … it’s a word that can have dire consequences. Imagine getting hard labor for 40 years for one word … “but” … “b-u-t” … and not just for you but for your whole family too.
The Hebrew people moved to Egypt during a time of severe famine and fell under the protection of Joseph. You know … Jacob’s son with the “techni-colored” robe. Joseph had become Pharaoh’s right-hand man … his “go-to” guy. Under the protection of Joseph, the Hebrew refugees put down roots and prospered.
Fast-forward 400 years. The Hebrew people find themselves forced into economic slavery to the Egyptians, making bricks that were being used to literally build the Egyptian empire. For hundreds of years, the Hebrew people prayed for God to deliver them. Generation after generation labored and died under the crack of their Egyptian task masters’ whips … until … one day a crazy old man wandered in from out of the desert, walked right up to Pharaoh and his advisors, and demanded: “The Lord, the God of Israel, says ‘Let my people go’” (Exodus 5:1).
Thus began an amazing display of power. Our God beats down Pharaoh and the Egyptian empire and their gods over and over and over again … to the point that the Egyptian people beg and plead with Pharaoh to let the Hebrew people go. And when the Hebrews leave, the only things they take with them are a little food, some clothes, and some of their Egyptian neighbors’ jewelry. That was it … period. And they set off through the desert to a place they’ve never been to before … a place promised to them by God.
It is at the Red Sea that God destroys the Egyptian army … without a spear, a shield, an arrow, or a chariot … just water.
God had a new land and a whole new life planned for His people. He was going to lead them to Canaan … the Promised Land. He would guide them and take care of them until they got there. Over and over He displayed His power to them. He made bread appear on the ground. Meat to fall out of the sky. He brought water out of a rock. They saw His glory surround a mountain and then descend upon the Tent of Meeting … a sign that His Presence was with them and traveled with them in the wilderness. He protected them from marauders and bandits. And then, true to His word, He brought them right up to the edge of Canaan.
Like me on that high dive that day, they were right there … right on the very edge … looking across the Jordan River … ready to plunge into the Promised Land … but …