The Red Sea Place
By Billie Marie Zal
Most of us have read about Moses parting the Red Sea so that the Israelites could cross over. Pharaoh of Egypt had given them permission to leave after a remarkable series of events (miracles) but now Pharaoh was pursuing them with his own great chariot drivers - six hundred strong, and men of war.
Unfortunately, so they thought, Moses had led them to the brink of the Red Sea to encamp there. But when the people saw the Egyptians approaching them they began to cry and blame Moses for leading them into such a situation.
What was Moses to do? God had promised that He would send them into the promised land, and they were well on their way; but all now seemed lost and God’s Word only an empty promise which would doom them to death.
They had no faith. I have read that faith works best when there is no natural hope, and it’s true. I have proved it to be true throughout my spiritual history. But it’s a hard “saying,” and few people actually believe it and they never experience it. What is good about this kind of situation is, that we lose all hope in self effort and turn to God - sadly enough - as a “last Resort.”
Moses was accustomed to hearing God’s voice and so he stretched out his hand over the sea and God caused it to go back by a strong east wind all night and made the sea dry land. Moses’ obedience had given them the way out. We don’t know for sure, but he might have been as fearful as the others. But he possessed a living faith and so God could work. This great Exodus was ordained by God, arranged by God, and it was no accident that Moses found himself and the people with his back to the Sea. God had instructed him to encamp there.
In today’s Christian society, we are often led to believe that when we come to such a “Red Sea place in our lives” we are to get ourselves out of it.
But I, for one, never got away with that. I COULDN’T get myself out of anything, and so like a child, I rested on that knowledge that my Father could do anything. And He always saw me through, just like He said He would.
My knowledge of His Word has gotten me through many, many such places and when I read that Moses was eighty years old when God finally called Him to lead His people out of Egypt, then I knew that God could accomplish that which He asks us of us, for His sake.
Such an occasion happened in my spiritual infancy, and it is truly a miracle that I ever continued on to love and serve God. I was no unusual person, I had no particular graces. I was still a babe in Christ! But God demanded much of me, and within a year after I was born of His Spirit, He told me to go to southern Mississippi and minister there.
It was a foolish thing, really, to those who were close to me. They did NOT believe that God had spoken to me. I had a position in Chicago as an executive secretary, and I had no car, and no financial means of making that long trip. But I realized that this was a Red Sea Place in my life, and God would get me there. If I didn’t have a car. . . Well, I didn’t go beyond the command. I was going. God got Moses and millions of His people through the sea on dry land, and He would get me all the way to Hattiesburg, Mississippi.
I was not a brave soul. Doubts came in and went as quickly as they came. We don’t have to entertain them; we can tell them to leave, and I did. And then, in ways I cannot even remember, I began to get things together to make that journey. My folks, who thoroughly disapproved of my going, came to me and said I could have their old car. Daddy actually never drove it in the city (Chicago) so they just gave it to me. I have always known WHO told them to!
Then I began to pack, and by the time I finished, that care looked like something out of the “Grapes of Wrath” movie. I had boxes piled almost to the ceiling of the back seat, and ropes tied to the front and back, boxes piled on top. I smile now, as I think how I must have looked to people who passed me on the way.
That car was a monster. It wouldn’t start half the time, and had to be pushed. Or - I had to lift the hood and push the “butterfly valve” down as someone else gave it the gas. And it drank gasoline. I could see the EMPTY arrow looming more quickly than I wanted to admit.
I really didn’t know for sure where I would be living, and because the car was so old, I could only drive 35 miles per hour. My sister Kathleen, who had said I could stay there till I found a small house to rent was about to all the state police to have them find out what happened to me. I was a day or two late and couldn’t afford a long distance call to let her know I was just having “take my time.” Once the tire went flat and my spirits drooped. It was hot, and I had no help to change that tire. But suddenly a big car pulled to a stop when the driver saw me. He got out, asked me where the jack was, and got busy. In no time at all, the tire was changed and he was gone. He was a huge black angel, I’m sure of that. And his smile had encouraged me on my way!
But I finally did arrive. Within two days I had found a dilapidated old house whose walls had faded wall paper and whose kitchen was actually the “back porch.” At night I learned to knock on the wall before I went in there; in that area they have such HUGE “Pine Tree cockroaches” and I couldn’t bear to face them. Once I found one crawling up my kitchen drain and I ran screaming while someone else got him out.
So that was the beginning of all the Red Sea places in my Christian life. God knew what He was doing; I needed the discipline of such experiences to make me grow eventually into the likeness of His dear Son. We all do.
Another Red Sea Place in my life was the time I needed a car down there, in Hattiesburg. The old one had finally breathed her last breath right in my driveway, and with the ministry I had received from God, I HAD to have a car to get around in.
Again, I had no idea of how I would get one. I checked out the papers, and the used car prices and my heart sank. No way could I ever buy a car, not any kind, and I began to pray.
About that time, a preacher came by. I will never forget him nor the faith he exhibited that day. We were chatting, and he said before he left, he would like to know if I had a need for anything. I told him, no, and then he looked at my old car sitting there and said, “What you got there - a broken down car?” I nodded my head, and he said, “That’s it. I’m gonna pray to our Father and He’s gonna hear and send you a car.”
With that declaration, he pulled off his cowboy hat, took off his jacket and threw it on the ground and knelt down and began to pray. I will always believe that he ALMOST prayed down the heavens. Hr rent them with his prayers. He shouted to God and said, “Father, you know this woman has to have a car to tell people about you. She can’t walk, and you have the means to get a car to her. I don’t know how, but you can do it, and I’m claiming a car for her and You never fail to answer a need like this, because You will honor Your own work.” He said much more, but by the time he was finished, I was actually wondering if a car would “materialize” right then and there!
Of course it didn’t. But God did something rather grand, I thought. Before He had called me to the ministry, I was given a gorgeous ring. It was hand wrought, heavy god, and it held nine diamonds and five rubies, all of them very large stones. It was beautiful and I treasured it. A woman in India had sent it to me from her estate.
But as I went about ministering mostly to tiny country churches, I noticed many of the people looking at my ring, and if began to become less precious to me. I finally took it off, put it away, and didn’t wear it anymore. It didn’t fit into the kind of work God had called me to do in His Name.
As soon as the preacher finishing praying, he smiled, said goodbye and left. I never saw him again, but slowly, like a tiny cloud that forms on the horizon and begins to grow larger by the hour, a thought formed in my mind. What did I have in my possession that I could sell, and use the money to purchase a car with?
At first, the thought was just a suggestion, but then it grew and eventually I saw my ring. That gorgeous heirloom, that I had treasured, would have to go. It could never bring in the kingdom of heaven, but a car would be my means of presenting God’s lovely Word to those who had not yet been born of Him.
I thought perhaps I might miss it; I ran an ad, got a buyer, and sold it at a terrible loss, but it was the only chance I had and I grabbed it. And I got a car. It was a good used car, several years old, but it had brakes and a floorboard, and it never leaked when rains came. My old car had holes in the floorboard and if I were not careful, my foot would go through it when I’d try to accelerate. In fact, one day, after I left a church in the wilderness, I was driving along one of those gravel roads like a cardboard, and without realizing it, parts began to fall off, one at a time. Through the heavy red dust, I would see the lights of the car behind me flashing and I would stop. Some lovely Baptist lady would come running. “I picked up your rear view mirror,” she’d say. And happily, I’d drive on. Also once I was invited to such a “fancy” church in Jackson, Mississippi, and when I drove into the parking lot, a young man came running up to “park the car” for the hotel guests. The church had reserved me a room and I felt grand.
But when the young man looked inside, he had a difficult time trying to look expressionless. My upholstery was hanging, the hole in the floor board was conspicuous by now, and he couldn’t hide his disbelief. But I acted as though I had gotten out of a lovely car - no use to feel embarrassed at what God had given me - and marched into the lobby to register! I might also add that those ladies in that church had hearts of gold, and after the service was done, they gathered round, stuffed my purse with money (I never asked for an offering, God had said no) and gathered up all the sandwiches, cookies, cake and good things they’d made and sent me back with them. I began to wonder afterwards if perhaps they thought I might be starving; the word about that car probably got around. But God used it for good and I had more than enough to drive home and eat for awhile on that delicious southern food!
However, that Red Sea Place in my life was covered by a poor southern Baptist preacher’s prayer who refused to concede to the devil’s whispers that I was finished. I had the resources to get the car he prayed for, and I got it.
My life has been a history book of such places, and those miraculous answers. My God has never failed me. He is my Father, I belong to Him, and He will make sure that I keep going till the day He speaks and I come HOME to Him. I recall my own son, such a sweet little guy of eight years old, who heard me praying one of my “desperate prayers” late one night in my basement room at Northlake, Illinois. Richard had a lovely room upstairs but I took the basement. My parents lived up above me, it was their home, and I was determined that Richard would have the love of his grandma and grandpa. Children need that kind of love.
So I opted for that dark “hole in the ground” and lived it out for seven years. Time and again there was no way I could get through that Red Sea Place; I had hardly any money and I determined to pay my parents for mine and Richard’s food, and take care of his needs myself. That was a legitimate desire, and God answers legitimate desires.
So I prayed us through. On one night, as I recall, he heard me praying and telling God (as if He didn’t know) that I had no money at all, not a penny, for the week ahead. I listed my needs, and then claimed my faith in His Father heart, and His ability to supply my need. He had asked me to live this way, so He was honor bound to send the help I needed.
Suddenly, I heard a big “crash” outside the little plastic folding door that gave me a hint of privacy from the stairs to the kitchen. Startled, I went over to the door, swung it back and saw no one. I was about to go back and pray again, when I looked down and I saw an envelope. It was from my little boy. He had enclosed his treasure - a WGN Chicago silver dollar he’d gotten - and a few pennies he had saved up for his “tithe.” He never said a word about it, nor did I. But I didn’t need to go back and pray. My prayer had been answered, and I knew that the needs would all be met somehow, because of the faith of a little boy who loved me and who loved Jesus. And I was not disappointed. God provided, little by little, as HE saw fit. And I never went hungry nor did my son.
The trouble with most of us is, that we want God to do things our way. Even in the grace of healing, we forget that it is grace, and we have nothing to do with the healing. I used to think that we had to “have faith.” But then I searched the Scriptures and there were occasions when Christ healed even when a person didn’t know who He was and never asked. He healed a demon possessed man who was bound by Satan. But the man didn’t ask Him to. So in one of my Red Sea Places concerning sicknesses, I rested in the knowledge that God would heal me in His own way, in His own time, and if I didn’t fret and rebel, He could teach me things which I could never learn any other way, than by the discipline of pain.
That is the kind of God we have. He is a Father, and He never lets us down. He is in control, if we let Him be. If we want to run our own lives, He steps back and waits until we make a big mess of them, and then we know that we need Him to turn that Red Sea Place into a way across to new spiritual knowledge.
We can praise Him that we have such a God and such a Savior!
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