Charles Henry Mackintosh

Great Waters

C. H. Mackintosh

Exodus 14.

"They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; these see the works of the Lord, and His wonders in the deep".  Psalm 107:23-24.

How true is this! yet our coward hearts do so shrink from those "great waters".  We prefer carrying on our traffic in the shallows, and, as a result, we fail to see "the works" and "wonders" of our God; for these can only be seen and known "in the deep".

It is in the day of trial and difficulty that the soul experiences something of the deep and untold blessedness of being able to count on God.  Were all to go on smoothly, this would not be so.  It is not in gliding along the surface of a tranquil lake that the reality of the Master's presence is felt; but actually when the tempest roars, and the waves roll over the ship.  The Lord does not hold out to us the prospect of exemption from trial and tribulation; quite the opposite:  He tells us we shall have to meet both the one and the other; but He promises to be with us in them, and this is infinitely better.  God's presence in the the trial is much better than exemption from the trial.  The sympathy of His heart with us is sweeter far than the power of His hand for us.  The Master's presence with His faithful servants while passing through the furnace was better far than the display of His power to keep them out of it (Daniel 3).  We would frequently desire to be allowed to pass on our way without trial, but this would involve serious loss.  The Lord's presence is never so sweet as in moments of appalling difficulty.

Thus it was in Israel's case, as recorded in this chapter.  They are brought into an overwhelming difficulty:  they are called to "do business in great waters":  "they are at their wit's end".  Pharaoh, repenting himself of having let them go out of his land, determines to make one desperate effort to recover them.  "And he made ready his chariot, and took his people with him; and he took six hundred chosen chariots, and all the chariots of Egypt, and captains over every one of them.  ...  And when Pharaoh drew nigh, the children of Israel lifted up their eyes, and, behold, the Egyptians marched after them; and they were sore afraid: and the children of Israel cried out unto the Lord".  Here was a deeply trying scene — one in which human effort could avail nothing.  As well might they have attempted to put back with a straw the ocean's mighty tide, as seek to extricate themselves by aught that they could do.  The sea was before them, Pharaoh's hosts behind them, and the mountains around them.  And all this, be it observed, permitted and ordered of God.  He had marked our their position before "Pihahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, over against Baal-zephon".  Moreover, He permitted Pharaoh to come upon them.  And why?  Just to display Himself in the salvation of His people, and the total overthrow of their enemies.  "To Him that divided the Red Sea into parts, for His mercy endureth forever, and made Israel to pass through the midst of it, for His mercy endureth forever, but overthrew Pharaoh and his host in the Red Sea, for His mercy endureth forever" (Psalm 136:13-15).

Extract from Notes on the Pentateuch, by C. H. Mackintosh.

Great Waters