The Holiness of God: Suffering as a Teacher of Holiness.
Read Exodus 15:1-18.
“Who is like you, majestic in holiness…in your strength you have guided them to your holy habitation.”
Just when it seemed God had rescued the people of Israel from the clutches of slavery, the situation took a dramatic turn for the worse. After Pharaoh let the people go, he had a change of heart and gathered his formidable army and hotly pursued them into the empty wilderness. With the Egyptians pursing them with their horses and chariots (the ancient equivalent of tanks), the Israelites were trapped. In front of them, an impassible bed of water. Behind, the Pharaoh and his army bent on revenge. It is little wonder that the people became frightened and began to doubt Moses and God’s purposes. However, what causes panic and despair in our hearts, is no threat to an infinitely powerful God who is majestic in his holiness.
In a powerful display of God’s power over creation, the nations, and the affairs of man, God spectacularly acts on behalf of the Israelites. First, he positions his powerful angel, who was serving as their protective guide, to stand between the armies of Egypt and the people of Israel, serving as an impassible protective wall between them. Then he sent a strong wind, causing the waters to separate to enable the people to cross the sea. So thorough was God’s deliverance that the text mentions that they crossed on dryland. They did not even have to march through the normal mud that sits on the bottom of any body of water. However, even as they crossed, the Egyptians were not deterred, but pursued after them. With a dramatic and final defeat of Egypt, God completely destroyed their army and put to death Pharaoh when he brought the waters crashing down upon them. So devastating was this defeat, it would be centuries before they would again become a dominate nation in the Ancient Near East.
While the people cowered in fear that God’s plans were going awry, God was working to reveal his holiness and guide the people to not only the land he had promised them, but to the dwelling place of God’s protection. The word translated “habitation” refers to the enclosure of a shepherd where he provides safety and protection for the sheep. When used of God, it speaks of the place where God protects his people, culminating in the eschatological dwelling of God’s people—i.e. the messianic city. When we are going through trials, it is easy to lose sight of God. As the pressures mount around us, our focus naturally shifts from God’s activity to our crisis. As a result, we, like the people of Israel, begin to question God’s plan and doubt God’s continual care. However, God uses suffering and adversity to reveal his holiness and guide us to his dwelling place. Suffering is not the threat to us, rather it is used by God to demonstrate his holiness, that he is unique and unparalleled, and he alone is God. It is when we encounter situations that are beyond our control and ability that we begin to understand and realize God’s holiness. What we see as threats become opportunities for us to see God in a new and fresh way. When you start to feel discouraged, insecure or threatened, prayerfully ask God for a new and fresh understanding of him. Ask God to reveal his awesome holiness and then trust that he is about to do something incredible in your life, not necessarily by altering your circumstances, but by transforming your view of him.