Only grace can take you safely to the other side

Grace illustration

When it comes to the great escape, most of us resonate with Moses and the Hebrews.

After all … who wants to drown with Pharaoh and the Egyptian army?

Do you know the story of the Exodus? Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt after a monumental battle between God and Pharaoh. Eventually Pharaoh relented and let the people go. Then the anger took over, and he sent his best military strike force after the escaping slaves.

The people were trapped. Moses prayed. God opened a way of escape through the sea. All night long the wind blew. All night long the people hustled across the seabed.

Just before sunrise, the Egyptians made chase through the water-walled tunnel.

Eerie? No doubt. Frightening? With every passing moment, a little more light showed the Egyptians how dangerous their position had become.

Then the chariots started malfunctioning. Not just one or two of them … all of them. The story is told in Exodus 14:25-28.

Let’s get away from the Israelites!” came the first cries of sanity. “The Lord is fighting for them against Egypt.”

By God’s direction, Moses stretched out his hand over the sea. It was daybreak, so the Egyptians struggling to escape and the breathless Hebrews on the shoreline were all able to see what happened next. The water walls collapsed. The two cascading torrents met and crashed. For a moment the clash of men, chariots and water was visible.

Then it was gone. Not a man survived.

What was it like to be one of Pharaoh’s men that day? Would you have left a chariot and started running? Would you have stripped off the heavy amour, hoping you might not sink? Would you have panicked when the lacing of your belt got tangled with your shield? Would you have swallowed salty water the moment you cried for help? Would you have started to swim to the top, only to be held back by a hand on your ankle?

I happened to read this story today when one of the bookmarks I use advanced to Exodus 14. And for the first time, I actually envisioned the drowning. It was not a good moment in my daily quiet time. The cup of coffee in my hand couldn’t soothe the unsettled feeling of disaster.

So I moved to the second bookmark, the one that continually marches through the Psalms. The 32nd Psalm was next in line.

“How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven,
Whose sin is covered!” start the words. 

The Egyptians were caught. They were too deep to rise, too heavy to swim. They were covered.

I acknowledged my sin to You,
And my iniquity I did not hide.

There were observers on both shores. Pharaoh himself apparently watched the destruction of his army. He had lost his first-born son in this battle against God. The economy of the land was destroyed. His people were devastated. His soldiers were drowning. Now even Pharaoh knew: No one can survive the wrath of God.

Unless …

I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord;
And You forgave the guilt of my sin.
Therefore, let everyone who is godly pray to You in a time when You may be found;
Surely in a flood of great waters they will not reach him.

Surely in a flood of great waters … he will not drown.

No drowning. No screaming. No panicking. No facing an instantaneous judgment that cannot be appealed.

David wrote the psalm. He knew what I know. He knew what you should know.

Sin is a weight around our ankles. Judgment is an impossibly high wall of water crashing above us, dooming us to destruction.

By all measure, I should be one of those facing the wrath of God. No ancient Egyptian has anything on me when it comes to sin. Maybe you know the feeling. When it comes to righteousness, my first name is “Un.” As in Un-Righteous.

And yet there is a way to survive the judgment.

Just ask for grace.

That’s all it takes. If you see what you deserve, ask for mercy, God will give it.

Stand on the shoreline of grace and you’ll watch God cover your sin. Every dark mark will be overwhelmed with destruction. Every point of shame covered forever. Every sin forever gone.

Just for the asking.

Think you don’t deserve God’s grace? Look around on the shoreline of the forgiven. No one deserves it. Not Moses, not his people, not me, not you … that’s the whole point. Grace is a gift. And if you want it, there’s only one requirement. You’ve got to admit you need it.

“If we confess our sins,” come the words of 1 John 1:9, “He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

So drown your sins. But you? God wants you to live!