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No Footprints

When the waters saw you, O God, when the waters saw you, they were afraid; indeed, the deep trembled. The clouds poured out water; the skies gave forth thunder; your arrows flashed on every side. The crash of your thunder was in the whirlwind; your lightnings lighted up the world; the earth trembled and shook. Your way was through the sea, your path through the great waters; yet your footprints were unseen. Psalm 77.16-19.

In the film “City of Angels” there is a scene I particularly like where angels are walking along the beach at what I think must be Santa Monica, but the impressions of their feet in the wet sand vanish as quickly as they are made. Angels have indeed passed along the beach but they have left no footprints. “And so it was,” says the Psalmist, “when God led the Children of Israel through the Red Sea. He was surely there, leading the way, else the waters of the sea would never have reared up and formed a way of escape for the Israelites fleeing from the Egyptians, but God left no footprints in the soft, damp earth of the seabed. Their deliverance itself was the sign of his presence.”

I am struck by the simple thought this morning that so it has been in my own life. Almost every morning, I begin my prayer time with the Third Collect at Morning Prayer from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer:

O Lord our heavenly Father,
almighty and everlasting God,
who hast safely brought us to the beginning of this day;
defend us in the same with thy mighty power;
and grant that this day we fall into no sin,
neither run into any kind of danger,
but that all our doings may be ordered by thy governance,
to do always that is righteous in thy sight;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

By so doing, I begin every day with a celebration of God’s deliverance. This morning, just like every morning since I became a Christian, I am able to begin my prayers with the thanksgiving that he has “brought me safely to the beginning of this day.” There were no footprints for me to follow yesterday or the day before or the day before that; but the waters parted for me yesterday as they have parted for me every day of my life and the unseen God who is my Lord and Saviour has led me through to dry ground.

Interestingly, the Hebrew word translated “path” in this morning’s reading (shabiyl) is actually in the plural — “Your way was through the sea, your paths through the great waters” — and this has led some rabbinic commentators to suggest that there were in fact twelve paths through the Red Sea, one for each of the tribes of Israel. This, they say, is also suggested by Psalm 136.13 where the literal translation of the Hebrew text is that God divided the Red Sea into “parts” rather than into just the “two” spoken of by most translations. Why interesting? Because the path God makes for me is not the path he makes for you. My path is unique and so is yours. I do not know what this day holds but I do know that the Lord is already ahead of me, opening up a special way through it for me and me alone — even though I cannot see his footprints.

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3 comments on “No Footprints

  1. Chaz says:

    Thanks Neil….

    I am in the process of a career change. Keeping a positive perspective is essential.

    God has shown me time and again that he has walked before me and prepared a way. So that I need only obey and be vigilant in what responsibilities he has given me in the task…. and to not be anxious and fearful.

    I can only imagine how fear and anxiety must have wanted to creep in when the Children of Isreal walked through whatever parting God made for them in the Red sea.

    Yet he always was there for them to guide them. Even when they messed up. And they messed up a lot in their journey out of Egypt…. no?

    Anyway… today’s post was particularly meaningful…. so thanks.

    Ciao.

    Chaz

    Like

    1. Neil says:

      Hi Chaz. I’m always delighted and humbled in equal measure when the Lord speaks to someone across thousands of miles through something I have written. I’m praying that you will know the deep peace of Christ in your heart through your time of change. God bless. Neil.

      Like

  2. Chaz says:

    Neil…. I am going through a job change that I find quite anxiety provoking…. or at least the anxiety is trying to come in to knock me around.

    I am reminded by your post that God is going before me. And he is with me on this journey like he has been on all other journies in the past.

    He turned around seemingly impossible circumstances. Numerous times. And very recently. Today in fact. Absolute miracles and blessings.

    Yet I am so quick to forget. Not unlike the children of Isreal in the desert. I suppose it is a longstanding tendancy of us humans.

    So it was to this matter that the post spoke.

    So thanks.

    God Bless.

    Chaz

    Like

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