His Footprints Left No Trace!
“Your way went straight through the sea; your pathways went right through the mighty waters. But your footprints left no trace!” Psalm 77:13-20 (CEB)
Intro: We all know people who will not stop and ask for directions. I recently saw an Insurance company report that said people travel an average of 275 miles a year aimlessly driving around lost rather than asking for directions. More than a twenty-five percent of people wait at least half an hour before stopping to ask for directions. And a stubborn 12 percent refuse to ask for any directions at all. With price of gas over $3.50 a gallon that can easily add up to over $3,500 dollars worth of gas in a lifetime.
The Insurance company report went on to suggest that a number of auto accidents were caused by people looking at maps, GPS systems, and going the wrong direction on a one way street, and even being involved in an accident as a result of being distracted while arguing with their co-passenger about going the wrong direction. Being lost is not fun.
Today we are going to talk about following God. Or more specifically we are going to talk about the Common English Bible translation of the last part of Psalm 77:19 “His Footprints Left No Trace!”
I. God is Clear About the Direction He is Leading.
“13God, your way is holiness! Who is as great a god as you, God? 14 You are the God who works wonders; you have demonstrated your strength among all peoples. 15 With your mighty arm you redeemed your people; redeemed the children of Jacob and Joseph. Selah” Psalm 77:13-15
A. God’s way is holiness!
We sing hymns like “Great is Thy faithfulness,” O God my Father, There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
We sing hymns like “Take My Life and Let It Be,” Take my feet and let them be swift and beautiful for Thee;
“Saviour Like A Shepherd Lead us,” Early let us seek thy favor, early let us do thy will;
“Where He Leads Me I Will Follow,” I will follow, I’ll go with him, with him all the way.
All of these songs are deep in meaning especially when our journey is upheavaled. When our course takes on an unexpected change. When the direction of our life is suddenly altered. When the road is unfamiliar and we feel a little lost. We sing can about following God. We are not simply mouthing some whimsical and poetic thought it is a response to God’s holiness, it is a response to the real love of God, it is our obedience to God’s calling and God’s leading us to follow Him. We walk in the footprints of holiness! We walk in the footprints of the Almighty God!
(You can easily spin off on the following sub-points.)
B. God works wonders. Psalm 77:14
---God’s miracles and faithfulness have always sustained us through the difficulties in life.
C. God is mighty and leads to redemption. Psalm 77:15
---No matter how far away from God or how great our sin, God is mighty and leads to forgivness.
Take a careful look here:
D. Let’s not ignore the tiny word “Selah”
---It is used 71 times in the Hebrew book of Psalms. It means GOD HAS SPOKEN. Or an alternate transliteration is “STOP AND LISTEN.” In other words: God has clearly spoken. God has clearly given directions. We simply need to stop and get directions from God!
Let me tell you something else I have learned about God
II. God Does Not Lead us on a trail that is a Dead End.
16The waters saw you, God— the waters saw you and reeled! Even the deep depths shook! 17 The clouds poured water, the skies cracked thunder; your arrows were flying all around! 18 The crash of your thunder was in the swirling storm; lightning lit up the whole world; the earth shook and quaked. 19 Your way went straight through the sea; your pathways went right through the mighty waters. But your footprints left no trace! Psalm 77
It sounds like the trail is a dead end. When they looked back; the footprints in the sand were gone…
Mary Stephenson was born November 8, 1922 in the Philadelphia suburb of Chester, PA. She was described as strong headed, and a person of great resilience. Her life became very difficult after the loss of her mother at age six. Her father raised all eight children by himself. Mary grew up during some of the toughest times in our Nation's history. People who lived through the Great Depression are somehow just tougher than people today, having experienced some of the lowest and saddest times in life. At a time when she needed God the most she wrote the poem “Footprints in the Sand.”
“I don't understand why in times when I needed you the most, you should leave me. The Lord replied, "My precious, precious child. I love you, and I would never, never leave you during your times of trial and suffering. When you saw only one set of footprints, It was then that I carried you.”
I know what some of you are thinking. This is nice to see the one set of footprints in sands. It is nice to know that God is carrying you through the lowest and the saddest and most troublesome times in life.
But that’s not what the Israelites saw when they looked back. When they looked behind them at the footprints in the sand at the crossing of the Red Sea, “God’s footprints had left no trace!”
It looked like the trail was a dead end.
I bet a lot of people looked at the cross and thought it too was a dead end. When they heard the nails being driven into the hands and feet of Jesus, some people thought that was it was a dead end.
When they saw the Roman solider take a spear and piece the side of Jesus and out flowed blood upon the ground and water spill from his side, some people thought that was a dead end.
When Jesus said, “It is finished.” Some people thought that was a dead end trail.
When they laid Jesus in the tomb, when they rolled a stone at the door, when they came to the tomb and found it empty, when Mary thought she was speaking to the gardener, and she asked him “where have they taken the body of My Lord?” She and disciples surely thought that was the end of the trail.
But I have some “Good News” our God is not a God of dead end trails, but our God is a God of new beginnings. The crucifixion was not the end. The tomb was not the end. The cross was changed from a dead end to the beginning of a new covenant forgiveness by grace. The tomb was changed from a place of death to a new reminder of Easter resurrection and eternal life.
When the children of Israel looked behind them and the water had washed away the footprints of God that was not the end. Like baptism today, it was the death of the old way of slavery back in Egypt. It was the death of the old life of bondage.
You see “God’s footprints left no trace” for them to travel back into slavery, back into bondage, back into repression, oppression, and subjugation caused by the sins of the past. God did not want them to follow the trail backward and return to Egypt. God didn’t leave any footprints for them to trace backward into their old life style. He washed the old trail away!
Some people are lost because they have been backtracking. It is time to stop looking behind at where you have been and start looking ahead to where God wants you to be!
God’s way is not a dead end trail. Backward is the dead end. Backward was Egypt and slavery and bondage and sin. He doesn’t leave a trail that is dead end. He wants you to look forward at where you can go and what you can become.
III. God’s Trail will Show you Where to Go
20 You led your people like sheep under the care of Moses and Aaron. Psalm 77
Moses and Aaron were great leaders. The name "Moses" comes from a root meaning "take out,"
1. Moses was “taken out of the Nile river in a basket” But his name is also reference to God’s greater plan to “take out” the children of Israel from Egypt. Moses was to “take out” or lead where God was leading.
2. Aaron was Moses’ older brother. Aaron served as Moses spokesperson. The bible teaches that Moses had a speech impediment. So often it was Aaron who did the talking. But not only the talking it was Aaron, not Moses, who cast down the staff that became a snake before Pharaoh (Ex. 7:10-12). It was Aaron, not Moses, who held out his staff to trigger the first three plagues against Egypt (Ex. 7:19-20; Ex. 8:1-2 or 8:5-6; Ex. 8:12-13 or 8:16-17).
Both of these men are remembered for their commitment and loyalty and promise and faithfulness of going where God led them to go.
God knows that it is human nature to go backward to the places we are use to hanging out and to the ways we have always done it. In Exodus 16 they had not been in the wilderness for more than thirty days before some in the congregation of Israel said, “In the land of Egypt we had flesh pots and we had bread enough to eat until we were full.” They began to grumble and murmur and complain against Moses and Aaron and they said, “let’s go back across the Red Sea and return to place where we came from.”
They forgot just one thing…, “God’s way went straight through the sea; God’s pathways went right through the mighty waters. But God’s footprints left no trace!” Psalm 77:13-20 (CEB)
When we think about the Old Testament story of the children of Israel in the dessert for 40 years they were not wondering around aimlessly. No! Deuteronomy 8:2 says God led them those 40 years in the wilderness to humble them, and prove them, to know what was in their heart, to test them to see if they would keep His commandments or not.”
When the Egyptian Pharaoh let the people of Israel go God had led them past through the land of the Philistines, past the mighty army of their enemy and God led them through the wilderness. Exodus 13:21 says the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud to lead them the way, and by night a pillar of fire to give them light to go by day and night.
Christ died to set us free from sin. Not free to go back into slavery to our selfish desires. But thanks to Christ we are now able to stand against those old habits and to walk away from additions and to move away from the patterns of negative social conditions and behaviors that enslaved us. God takes away the old footprints of where we have been so that we will look for the footprints of where He is leading us anew.
“Galatians 5:1 Christ has really set us free. Now make sure that you stay free.”
How do you stay free? You don’t swim back across the Red Sea and go back to Egypt. God has closed that pathway. God has closed that trail. God has erased those footprints of the backward past.
Closing: God is always clear about His direction and where He wants to lead you. When one door closes that could be God telling you not to go back that way but to be looking for another door to open. When it looks like you have come to a dead end. Don’t think it’s over. It could be God saying you are lost because you have been driving without my help. You need to stop and listen. How long has it been since you stopped and ask for God’s direction in your life? Today you are invited to make a decision to move forward in the direction God is leading. If God takes care of the sheep in the field how much more is He going to take care of you? God closes the way to our past and opens the way to a new and better future.