“When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown.” (Isaiah 43:2 NLT)
In 2004, the shoreline of my beloved and beautiful country, Sri Lanka, was devastated by a horrifying and massive tsunami. The destruction caused in just a few minutes was unimaginable, with close to 40,000 lives lost and thousands of homes wiped out. The rebuilding process was a difficult one as thousands of families and an entire nation had to come to grips with a disaster that no one predicted. It remains a day that is commemorated every year in my country.
Turbulent waters, like floods and tsunamis, dramatically alter people’s lives, many times leading to loss of life and possessions.The term “deep or turbulent waters” could be described aswaters that are too deep or too turbulent (dangerous) for us to cross safely. However, when confronted by such waters (trials) in our spiritual life, we can trust God to carry us to safety by His mighty hand. Through His help, we will find the strength to cross to the other side.
Let’s look at four instances in the Bible where God promised help to his people to cross ‘deep waters.’
1. Crossing the Waters of the Red Sea – Exodus 14
The people of Israel had just come out from horrifying slavery in Egypt and were camped at the Red Sea. Excitement and a sense of adventure were in the air as they were journeying towards The Promised Land – a land flowing with milk and honey.
It was then that trouble struck as Pharaoh decided that he had erred badly in releasing the Israelites from captivity. As his soldiers started pursuing them with great hatred, the people of Israel found themselves well and truly trapped. Behind them were hundreds of Egyptian chariots, and in front of them, the deep waters of the Red Sea. It was an impossible situation.
Exodus 14:10-11 says,“As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the Lord.They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die?”
Sadly, after seeing many amazing miracles from God, the Israelites were terrified – they began to complain bitterly. In fact, it looks like grumbling became their national pastime thereafter! They grumbled about bread, meat, water, and many other things. God provided bread from heaven, meat from the skies, and water fountains from rocks, but they still grumbled! Their clothes didn’t wear out, their feet didn’t swell, yet they grumbled!
When confronted by ‘deep waters,’ let’s be careful not to complain like the people of Israel did. Instead, let’s look back and give thanks as we recount God’s goodness to us in all our past challenges.
In response to the complaints, God, through Moses, assured the people of His protection. Moses told them, “be still,” and then the Lord said, “move on.” This is what Exodus 14:14-15 says,
“The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still. Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on.”
Under divine inspiration, as Moses raised his staff and stretched out his hand over the sea, the Lord provided an amazing miracle!
Exodus 14:21“Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the Lord drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided.”
In its footnotes on this verse, The NIV Study Bible says – “In (Exodus) 15:8 the poet praises the Lord and calls the wind the “blast of your nostrils,” affirming (as here) that the miracle occurred in accordance with God’s timing and under His direction.”
Yes, the waters were divided miraculously by God, and His people walked across to safety while the pursuing Egyptian army was destroyed by the same waters.
Someone said, “If God brings you to it, He will take you through it!” Let’s learn to trust Him through difficult circumstances.
2. Crossing the Waters of the Jordan – Joshua 3
As the Israelites were about to enter the Promised Land, they encountered ‘turbulent waters’ once again. They had to cross the Jordan, which at that moment was a potential ‘death trap,’ as it was at flood stage.
Joshua 3:15 “Now the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest.”
However, when the priests stepped into the water by faith with the Ark (God’s presence), God intervened.Joshua 3:15-16 says, “… as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, the water from upstream stopped flowing… So the people crossed over opposite Jericho.”
Once again, God stepped in and carried them through ‘deep waters’ by a miracle. The entire camp passed over safely. It heralded the beginning of their conquest of The Promised Land.
In its comments on this passage, the New International Bible Commentary says, “… the timing of the crossing marks it as an act of God. The Jordan was fordable at other times (1 Chronicles 19:17). In flood, it could be crossed by strong men (1 Chronicles 12:15); but not by a baggage train, nor by the Levites with the Ark” (Page 288).
3. Crossing the Galilean Sea – Matthew 14
In Matthew 14, we read of how Jesus walked on water as he approached his disciples who were out at sea, battling severe winds and waves. The disciples were terrified when they saw him, but Jesus said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” (Matthew 14:27).
It was then thatPeter boldly stepped into the water and walked toward Jesus. After walking on the water for a while, he looked around at the roaring wind with fear and began to sink. Let’s see Jesus’ reaction. Matthew 14:31– 33 says, “Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” “And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
Jesus proved to the disciples that He was truly the master of the winds and the waves. They learned that He was the unshakeable anchor they needed in the midst of the storm.
The song ‘Oceans’ (Where feet may fail), recorded by Taya Smith, spent 61 weeks at number 1 on the Billboard Hot Christian Songs Chart. Billboard termed it the number 1 Christian song of the 2010’s decade. The popular gospel song, which spoke about stepping out into the unknown, was apparently based around the moment Peter walked on water, in the midst of turbulent winds and waves.
Similarly, when facing ‘deep waters,’ may we step out by faith into the unknown, trusting the Lord Jesus to carry us through to safety.
4. Crossing Rivers of Difficulty
In Isaiah 43:2,the Lord says, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.”
The New Living Translation calls them ‘deep waters‘ and ‘rivers of difficulty.’
Two promises of God are assured in this verse. They tell us that when confronted by ‘deep waters‘ and ‘rivers of difficulty,’
a) We will not drown
b) We will not be swept away
Therefore, with God on our side, let’s cross ‘deep waters’ with these two assurances – We will not drown or be swept away! The Lord will carry us through the waters.
The Founding Pastor of People’s Church in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Dr. Colton Wickramaratne, was once confronted by some hostile villagers at a swirling river. They threatened to throw him into the river unless he agreed to stop preaching the message of Jesus. Pastor Colton firmly stood for his faith, however, and for a moment, it looked like the threat would be carried out. At that critical moment, the Lord intervened, and although the villagers harassed him, the deadly threat was not carried out. By God’s grace, he thereafter built a very successful ministry.
Just as the Lord was with His people at the Red Sea, the Jordan River, the Galilean Sea, and in ‘deep waters,’ He will be with us and help us through every challenge and trial we face. That’s a certainty!