Scripture: 1st Reading: Exodus14,5-18; Resp. Psalm: Exodus15,1-6; Gosp. Accl.: Ps95,7-8; Gospel: Mt12,38-42
It is a mark of wisdom to see the handwriting on the wall. It is a sign of tact to know when to bow and retreat. It is a sign of great discernment to know when a superior power is at work and to retreat in the presence of this superior power, knowing that all contestation and further struggle with this power will not only be futile but can end in personal disaster and death.
Pharaoh and people like him do not know this. When one possesses transitory and transient power and does not realize that the power is only for a time, his destruction lies around the corner. Pharaoh thought he was god. He failed to realize that he was a mere mortal. Even today, many people are still making the same mistakes and ending the same way Pharaoh and his army ended. They never learnt from history and disregard the teaching of God's word.
When Pharaoh realized that Israel had fled, he changed his mind. Of course at this point, he was no longer the only one acting; satan, the skillful deceiver had entered and fully taken possession of his heart. So he decided to give Israel a hot chase. Israel was marching on foot, Pharaoh and his army were on horses and chariots, the most advanced and most sophisticated weapons of war at that time.
Israel had absolutely nothing. The people themselves realized their predicament when they lifted up their eyes and saw the chariots of Pharaoh pursuing them. It was clear that humanly speaking, Israel was in dire straits. The oncoming battle was going to be quick and decisive, bloody and terrifying. Israel must have thought that the slavery they would be subjected to after this encounter would be so terrible, vicious and destructive. The people were justifiably afraid. Who would not?
Israel expressed these much. They cried out to the Lord and remonstrated with Moses: "Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us, in bringing us out of Egypt? Is this not what we said to you in Egypt, 'Let us alone and let us serve the Egyptians'? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness."
So humanly speaking, Israel had nothing and realized this stark reality and the looming disaster. On the realm of the divine, Israel had everything: Israel had Yahweh, the mighty God of the battle. When one has Him, he has everything. In His mighty presence, every enemy is toast to the birds of the air, the fish in the sea, the rodents and vermins in the soil.
It was on the strength of the power of the mighty One on battle that Moses responded to the fearful Israelites to fear not, stand firm and see the salvation that Yahweh would work for them that day because "the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again." God was not going to use chariots to accomplish His designs and give Israel victory. God was going to use the most inconsequential instrument ever, something that is used by herdsmen and cattle rearers: a rod!
God was going to use just a rod, a wooden stick! That was all. To show to Israel and all generations of humanity that would read this story of liberation that power belongs to God, that He can liberate and set free with the most inconsequential and most unexpected of all things. God changed that rod of Moses into a rod of power! He told Moses to lift the rod, stretch out his hand over the sea and divide it, that the sons of Israel might go on dry ground through the sea.
Yahweh told Moses that Pharaoh would attempt to pursue Israel and that that would be the end of him and his army because "I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, his chariots, and his horsemen. And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I have gotten glory over Pharaoh, his chariots, and his horsemen." Yahweh triumphed gloriously; the chariots of Pharaoh sunk into the depths of the sea. The Lord, glorious in power, shattered the enemy.
God performed this great sign of liberation in the sight of the people, not like the signs the Scribes and Pharisees were asking our Lord to show today. Our Lord told them the sign is that of repentance and change of heart. The sign was not to harden the heart. That was what Pharaoh did not have and perished in the sea.
The word challenges us today. No enemy can overcome us if God is with us and we are with Him. The Pharaohs of this world are like mist and the dew of the morning: they vanish. We must not be daunted, therefore. Let us hold on to Him.
Let us pray: God our Father, we thank you for the victory and liberation you granted to Israel that led Israel's salvation from sure annihilation. Display that power in our lives. Open our eyes to see the wonders of your love. Grant us victory over our problems. Amen.
May the Living Word of God find a true dwelling place within our hearts and souls today and always.