Summary: There are similarities between the Israelites at the crossing of the Red Sea and those outside our church families.
In 1997, 20th Century Fox released an animated musical about Anastasia, lost princess of Russia. In the film, we first meet Anastasia leaving an orphanage that has been her home for the last ten years.
She has forgotten her identity, but she knows she has one. She longs for a family, but she is alone in the world. As she makes her way down a snow covered road, she sings of love, home, and family. She musters her courage, as she begins a journey into her future that she knows will take her into her past, and teach her heart what she has yet to learn.
This scene within this animated and fictitious tale of Anastasia reminds me of the Israelites camped here by the sea, trapped by the waters behind them and the approaching Egyptian army in front of them.
In great fear and helplessness, they cry out to Moses:
“Was it because there weren’t enough graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!”
But Moses responds to the cries of the Hebrew people and he tells them three things:
Don’t be afraid.
Stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will bring you.
The Lord will fight for you; you only have to be still.
As the story continues, the Israelites will see God intervene between them and the Egyptian army. Yet to come, is the most remarkable, most amazing event ever recorded. The sea waters divide into two walls that allow the Israelites to pass across the sea bed on dry land to the other side. The other side offers safety. The other side offers salvation. Once across, the waters return to their place, sweeping away the Egyptian army. The Bible tells us that after this incredible, suspense-filled event, the Israelites look across and see the bodies of their pursuers lying on the opposite shore. Yet its not this great cataclysmic event that catches my attention. It is the Israelites we first meet in our Bible story, trapped in fear and desperation on the shore.
What is it in their story that brings to mind this scene in Anastasia? Its the same similarities about the Israelites that remind me of those outside our church. There are those within our community who are like the fearful Israelites with their backs to the sea. Like Anastasia setting out from the orphanage, like the Israelites setting out from Egypt, they walk through our doors.
They are looking for love, home, and family. There are, in fact, several similarities that I see between the Israelites and those outside our church.
First of all, they often know who God is, but they don’t depend on God. There beside the river, as the Israelites looked up to see the Egyptian army coming, fear grips them, and they cry out to Moses. Its as if everything they have been through in recent days never happened. In Egypt, Moses performed many miracles in the name of God. Ten different plagues descended upon the Egyptians while the Israelites remained untouched. The worst of these was the death of the first born male child in every Egyptian household. The Israelites had just commemorated this event for the very first time in the Passover. Blood from sacrificial lambs had been spread across the door frames of their homes. The angel of death passed over the Hebrew homes covered by the blood while each Egyptian home experienced tragic loss. The result was their release from slavery and captivity. In anguish, Pharaoh finally sent them away. They had only come as far as they had come because of the work of the Lord.
As we read their story, we wonder how they could have forgotten this fact so quickly. And yet, if we recall some of our own journeys, times will come to mind when we knew who Jesus was, but we didn’t have a relationship with him. Our minds knew Jesus, but our hearts did not know Jesus. There are those in our daily acquaintances who at this very moment are at that very spot in their lives. They know of God, but they don’t depend upon him. When life becomes difficult, as it does for all of us, they are quick to revert to the same old unproductive and dysfunctional ways of resolving their issues. They know they won’t work, but its the only way they know how to do things.
Drawing a parallel to Anastasia, she knows her past will tell her who she is, but she just can’t remember the past. She knows that she has a home and family who will love her somewhere. She just doesn’t know who they are.