Forming Faith Blog

Fear and Faith at the Red Sea (Exodus 14)

Faced with a sea in front and an army behind, the Israelites were overcome by fear. How can we confront our fears with faith in God’s loving presence?

If you haven’t ordered your Narrative Lectionary (or Revised Common Lectionary) faith formation resources for the 2022-2023 program year, it’s not too late! As soon as your payment is processed, you can download the Fall, Winter, and Spring resources and put them to use right away.

Youth huddled in fear on a bridge.
Escape to Freedom: A Short Story

You look behind you, clutching your five-year-old to your chest, trying not to trip over the cracks in the street on this abandoned side of town. You breathe a sigh of relief that the gang who had kidnapped you, your spouse, and your three young kids are nowhere to be seen or heard. Your mysterious rescuer has also slowed down, the giant of a man in front of the rescuer leading the way.

Your leaders slip into an alley, hidden from the street. But then you hear them. The rough rumble of the gang’s motorcycles echoed down the empty street. It sounds like all the kidnapper’s minions are chasing you.

You, with your five-year-old and your spouse dragging along your eight- and ten-year-olds, rush down the alleyway, only to find…a wall. No doors anywhere to be seen.

“What are you doing?” you shout at the rescuer. “Why did you even free us if you’re just going to trap us? It was bad enough being held captive, but now they are going to…” You trail off, seeing the scared faces of your children. Kill us, you don’t say out loud.

“Don’t worry,” said the rescuer. “My boss will come through for us.” He touched his earpiece. “Right, boss?” A pause. “You want me to do what? Okay. If you say so.”

The giant moves behind us to the opening of the alley just as the gang stops. You’re sure that the criminals are just going to shoot him and come get you, but the giant…lights on fire? You don’t understand it, but it’s keeping the gang away. But there’s still the problem of being trapped. The rescuer has pulled out some device and pointed it at the wall, but nothing’s happening.

Then you see it, a faint glow like a huge doorway. The glow gets brighter and starts swirling. Suddenly, the center clears, and you can see your street, your home!

“Go!” shouts the rescuer, pointing through the weird portal. And we do. By some miracle, we are saved! We are free!*

The Red Sea: The Actual Story

That is, very roughly, a small-scale, sci-fi version of our story today. Moses and a tower of fire and cloud are leading the way out of Egypt, but now the Israelites are trapped with a sea blocking their path and the Egyptian army bearing down on them. The pillar of cloud and fire moves between them and the Egyptians. On God’s command, Moses lifts up his staff, and the waters part (though it does take all night). The Israelites escape through the sea. (I didn’t include the Egyptian-army-being-killed part above, but that’s an important detail in the original story.)

Fear Is Reasonable

My point in turning the Red Sea miracle into a modern, sci-fi short story, was twofold. First, I love writing fiction, so, it was fun. Second, it shows the story from the recently rescued people’s point of view. When we see it that way, it’s much easier to understand exactly how much fear we would experience in a similar situation.

True, the Israelites had just witnessed the ten plagues and were following around a miraculous pillar of cloud and fire. And they seemed to have made up the whole “we told you so, we didn’t want to be rescued” speech (Exodus 14:11-12).

But, even if you factor in what the Israelites should have kept in mind, it still would have been a scary situation.

Our Own Fears

Sometimes, our fears are unreasonable. I have a severe phobia of heights. How severe (you probably wouldn’t ask because you’re polite)? I experience that twist of my guts and the dropping of my heart when I see someone in a high place—in a movie or TV show! That’s pretty much the definition of unreasonable fear. But it is real, even if the danger is not. Beyond things like that, we can fear—or at least stress about—futures that won’t likely come to pass.

But fear is real, and sometimes our fears are about real, dangerous things. The question then is: what do we do when we—or our faith formation participants—have those fears?

Faith Formation Connection

First, we should not minimize the experience of our fears, especially not the fears of others. Fear is real, even if the cause may not be rational to you. Second, in a time when you are not afraid, you (and your class/worshippers/etc.) can brainstorm examples of God’s presence and deliverance in our own past experiences; things we can remind ourselves us when we are afraid. Third, we can do a comforting faith practice that reminds us of God’s presence. (It’s best to be practicing those practices in the quiet times, too.)

God’s peace and presence be with you,

Gregory Rawn (Publisher)

Free Resource

During the main Narrative Lectionary year (this year: September 11 to May 28), we provide a free resource download from one of our products to help you in your faith formation ministry. This week, download a free activity “Stand Firm” a cooperative, fun activity from our Living the Word: Kids (PK-2nd, NL). While this activity is written for early elementary classrooms, it can be used in various other settings with children or youth present.

2022-2023 Faith Formation Resources

The program year is upon us. Have you made all your decisions for your congregation’s faith formation needs? It’s not too late to order! As soon as your payment is processed, you can download the Fall, Winter, and Spring lessons for our Narrative Lectionary and Revised Common Lectionary resources.

At Spirit & Truth Publishing, we might just have exactly what you are looking for:

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* If you, for whatever reason, would like to use my story here in your teaching/preaching/whatever, please reference me or Spirit & Truth Publishing somehow when you do. And let me know what happens!

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