Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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How the Water Shows Us Our Need

Dannah Gresh: Here’s Nancy DeMoss Wulga . . . I mean, here’s Nancy Woogla . . . here's Nancy DeMoss Wolga . . . Here’s Mancy DeNoss Wafflemouth! That's definitely not it! Well, Nancy DeMoss Wol . . . uh . . . Nancy says, “God never gets confused!”

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: God has overarching purposes for what seem to be the dead-ends of life—the painful, difficult, perplexing providences of God. God says, “I know exactly what I’m doing!”

Dannah: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth—ah, I got it!—for Wednesday, August 26, 2020. I'm Dannah Gresh.

Water. You use it and enjoy it all day long . . . and probably take it for granted. It just flips into the background . . . at least until a storm comes, when it’s on everybody’s minds. Nancy’s going to help us look at water from a new perspective. Get ready for some refreshing teaching.

Nancy: If you’re here with us in the room today, you may have just seen me take a sip of water. I’m really thirsty. I’ve been teaching for awhile, and I needed that water. It reminds me that water can be a great blessing—especially when you’re thirsty! Or if you need a shower, or if you need to wash some laundry or clean a kitchen floor, water can be a blessing.

Water can also be a great threat. It can be a nuisance . . . as when, not too long ago, we had to deal with some water getting into our basement from a source we . . . It took us quite a while to figure out how it was coming in, and that was not a blessing! (At least it didn’t seem like a blessing at the time!)

Floods we read about, hear about. Some of you have maybe experienced a flood. Too much water can be a threat. Contaminated water, as was experienced over the last few years, not too far from here, in Flint, Michigan.

Their whole water supply for the town got contaminated. They had lead in the water, and it’s been quite a disaster in that area. That wasn’t a blessing; that’s a threat!

The absence of water can be a great blessing, as at the time of the Flood in Genesis, when the rain finally stopped after forty days and forty nights. The absence of water isn’t always a blessing, though. It can also be a crisis, as in a drought.

There are some parts of the world where people are dying for lack of clean water . . . or any water at all. Our bodies can’t survive without water for any length of time. So the absence of water can be a blessing, or it can be a crisis.

Water figures prominently throughout the Scripture, beginning on the first page of the Bible, as on the third day of Creation God separated the dry land from the seas. And then, Genesis 1, verse 10 says, “And God saw that it was good.”

And then verse 10 of chapter 2 of Genesis (continuing with the Creation account): “A river flowed out of [the Garden of] Eden to water the garden, and there it divided and became four rivers.”

So water in the Garden of Eden was a blessing. God divided the seas from the dry land, and God created water, rivers, to water the Garden of Eden. This was a good thing.

But then we get to chapter 6, verse 11 of Genesis, and we read, “Now the earth was corrupt in God's sight.” This was after Adam and Eve sinned. Children had been born to them and to their children and people began following their own ways instead of God’s ways.

“Now the earth was corrupt in God's sight, and the earth was filled with violence.” And God said to Noah, “Behold, I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth to destroy all flesh . . . Everything that is on the earth shall die” (Gen. 6:17).

So here water becomes not a blessing, but an evidence of God’s judgment. It becomes something that is deadly.

Throughout the Scripture, water is often full of symbolism and significance. I’m thinking, for example, how Jesus offered living water in John chapter 4 to the five-times-married woman of Samaria who came to draw water (literal water) at the well.

Jesus said to her, “Whoever drinks of water from that well, he’ll get thirsty again,”but “Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again” (John 4:13–14). Water symbolizes, as we learn in John chapter 7, the fulness of the Holy Spirit, the gift of God.

You can follow this thread, this theme, all the way to the last chapter of the Bible, when we’re in the new heavens and the new earth. Revelation 22:1 says,

The angel showed me the river of the water of life bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb.

And you go on and read about how this is a life-giving river that brings about growth and fruit and abundance and healing properties. It’s a good thing!

Recently, I’ve been meditating on water in the lives of God’s people in the book of Exodus. That’s where I want to focus over these next few days. We’re going to just walk through there, so be opening your Bible to the book of Exodus, so you can follow along if possible, or scroll along, depending what kind of Bible you’re using there.

As the book unfolds, sometimes water is a blessing and sometimes it’s a threat. Water in the book of Exodus (the second book of the Old Testament) becomes a symbol of an intense conflict between God and His enemies.

Water also proves to be a school for God’s people, to teach them His ways, to cultivate trust in God, to strip God’s people of self-reliance, and to demonstrate the power of God. We’re going to see all this and more as we track through the symbol of water in the book of Exodus.

Today we’re going to look at three scenes that involve God’s people, God’s purposes, and water in the book of Exodus. Over the next couple of days we’ll look at several more scenes, but let’s begin in Exodus chapter 1.

This book starts with the people of God in Egypt. The story of how they got there you’ll find in the book of Genesis. Now they’re in Egypt. The King of Egypt, also called the Pharaoh, is oppressing God’s people, who’ve become a sizable force. When the children of Israel left Egypt, it’s estimated that there were perhaps two to three million Jews.

So in the land of Egypt in this day, this was a sizable group. The King saw an opportunity to use them as slave labor, to build massive cities and other things that he was interested in building.

So, jumping in, in Exodus chapter 1, verses 13 and 14. The Bible says:

They [that is, the Egyptians] ruthlessly made the people of Israel work as slaves and made their lives bitter with hard service, in mortar and brick, and in all kinds of work in the field. In all their work they ruthlessly made them work as slaves.

So as the children of Israel continued to multiply, (they were having babies, which is how God’s people multiply, it’s one way they multiply, by having children that they teach the ways of God) Pharaoh determined that he had to reduce the potential threat of the Israelites!

He issued an edict (and I’m giving you just the short version of this) that all baby boys born to the Israelites . . . Why baby boys? Because they were the ones who could grow up and be warriors. He didn’t want the Israelites to become an opposing army!

So he issued an edict that all baby boys who were born to the Israelite mothers were to be drowned in the Nile River. We see this in verse 22 of chapter 1. The Nile River was considered a god. It was worshiped. It was a symbol of power and strength.

So Pharaoh says, “I’m a god (he was considered a god), and I’m going to drown all these baby boys in the Nile River.”

As we get to chapter 2 of Exodus, we see that there is a baby boy who is born to parents from the tribe of Levi. Verse 2 tells us that this momma hid her baby for three months from Pharaoh’s henchmen, who were coming after all baby boys.

Those of you who have had a baby know that to hide a baby so he can’t be heard or seen for three months is no small challenge! Verse 3, then, of Genesis chapter 2 tells us that, “When she could hide him no longer . . .” What was a mother to do?! “. . . she took for him a basket made of bulrushesand daubed it with bitumen and pitch.” She made a seaworthy vessel for him! “She put the child in it and placed [the basket with the child in it] among the reeds by the river bank” (v. 3).

Here’s a momma who wants to protect her child! And here is the river where all these baby boys are supposed to be drowned, but she puts her baby in a little craft in the river—not to drown her baby, but to preserve her baby’s life. So she hopes and, undoubtedly, was earnestly praying.

We read that Moses’ older sister stood watch over the basket, and how Pharaoh’s daughter then came down to bathe at the river. She saw the basket among the reeds. She sent a servant to retrieve it, and she had pity on the crying baby.

She spared his life and ultimately adopted him as her own son. Then in verse 10 it says, “She named him Moses, ‘Because,’ she said, ‘I drew him out of the water.’” The Hebrew for “Moses” means “drawn out.” So she uses a Hebrew term here and names this baby “Moses.” She knew he was one of the Hebrew children.

She doesn’t take his life, as Pharaoh had order, she saves his life, under God’s providence. She names him “Moses,” which means, “drawn out.” He was drawn out of the water.

Now, Pharaoh had used the Nile River as an instrument of death and to persecute the people of God, but God used the Nile to protect life and ultimately to preserve His people!

So what the enemy intends for evil, God intends—and uses—for good. There’s water . . . it can be a threat, or it can be a blessing. And out of the waters of the Nile God preserved, God “drew out” the one who would deliver His people out of Egypt!

This is a picture of God’s providence. He sees what’s going to happen, and He goes before and He makes provision. This momma, Jochebed, had no idea that this infant child of hers would years later be the savior of God’s people, in a temporal sense. She didn’t know this would be Moses, the great lawgiver, the great leader of God’s people.

She was just doing what a momma instinctively does, and that is trying to protect and preserve the life of her child. But in God’s providence, this child was drawn out of the water and became the one who would deliver his people out of captivity in Egypt.

Well, now we come to verse 23 of Exodus chapter 2, and we’re fast-forwarding eighty years. The intensity of the slavery had gotten worse and worse! Pharaoh was more and more controlling, more and more cruel, more and more demanding, and the people of Israel were in greater hardship. Verses 23–25 tell us that,

The people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the people of Israel [His own chosen people!] and God knew.

God knew! God knows! God’s people, here, find themselves in desperate, dire circumstances. They cry out for help! They don’t know what else to do. They have no other options. And God hears their cry; God pays attention to His people; He deals with them in mercy. He is a covenant-keeping God who, then and now, is attentive to His children.

He knows what they’re going through. He doesn’t always spare them from painful situations and circumstances . . . and that’s because God is writing a story. It’s His story for the good of His people and for His glory. In the midst of writing that story, God is building trust in His people, so they will trust Him and not any human means of escape or deliverance.

As you know the story (many of you), Moses, by this time, is in the desert of Midian. He has had to escape from Egypt (that’s a whole other story; we won’t get into that) and now Moses is in the Midian desert. God calls Moses as an eighty-year-old man, and He sends Moses and his older brother, Aaron, to deliver His people out of Egypt.

And you know how Pharaoh says, “No way! I’m not gonna lose this labor force! No way am I going to let them go and worship their God.” He says, “No!”

The first scene we see of water in Exodus is Moses being drawn out of the Nile River. Now we come, in Exodus chapter 7, to a second scene involving water and God’s providence. Verse 17 of Exodus chapter 7, let me just read a couple of paragraphs here:

Thus says the Lord, "By this you shall know that I am the Lord . . ."

And the Lord said to Moses, "Say to Aaron, 'Take your staff and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt, over their rivers, their canals, and their ponds, and all their pools of water so that they may become blood, and there shall be blood throughout all the land of Egypt, even in vessels of wood and in vessels of stone.'"

Now, blood is going to also become significant in the whole Passover story, the deliverance out of Egypt. But look at the water and the combination, now, of the water and the blood, verses 20 and 21.

Moses and Aaron did as the Lord commanded. In the sight of Pharaoh and in the sight of his servants he lifted up the staff and struck the water in the Nile, and all the water in the Nile [which the Egyptians thought was a god! It all] turned [to] blood. And the fish in the Nile died, and the Nile stank, so that the Egyptians could not drink water from the Nile (vv. 17, 19–20).

So much for their god, right? This was the first in the series of how many plagues? Ten plagues—each one more devastating!

There’s the cumulative effect in the whole nation of Israel as God is sque-e-e-zing Pharaoh until he will bend to the will of God. But God’s not just squeezing Pharaoh. The pharaohs were considered to be gods themselves, so God is confronting the gods of Egypt!

He’s squeezing them, and He wants to show that they are no gods at all! He wants to show that He is the True and Living God, and He’s putting pressure on Pharaoh and the people of Egypt to release God’s people from slavery!

But before it gets easier for God’s people, it gets harder! They experienced the consequences of several of these initial plagues as well.

Again and again, Pharaoh hardens his heart against God. He refuses to let God’s people go—in spite of the fact that they can’t even drink any water here because it’s all turned to blood. Of course, this was a supernatural thing, but we don’t know whether God put blood in those waters or worked through some natural means to make those waters bloody and undrinkable.

But we know that God was at work. God was pulling down the gods of Egypt, and He did it in this first instance by turning the water to blood.

Now we come to a third scene in the book of Exodus, the third one that involves water. Turn to Exodus chapter 14. I’m going to read a lengthy passage here; and for many of us it’s a familiar story. This account becomes throughout the rest of Scripture an account that the Bible writers go back to again and again and again to be a picture of our deliverance from slavery to Satan and sin.

So it’s a story we don’t ever want to forget. It’s a story you want to remind your children of. It’s a story that, today, many believers aren’t familiar with, so I’m going to read a good portion of it, beginning in verse 1 of Exodus 14.

Now we’ve had all the plagues. The people of Israel have observed the Passover, where a lamb is killed, blood is spread on the doorposts, and God passes over His people when the Angel of Death comes and kills the firstborn of each of the Egyptian families.

And so, God redeems His people. They escape out of Egypt. They had to be hugely relieved, hugely thrilled! And yet, right out of Egypt they come to this barrier, another body of water, the Red Sea! And here they are, thinking, We’re free; we’re free; we’re free! But then they find that they are not free.

Look at what happens in Exodus 14, verse 1: “Then the Lord said to Moses.” Keep in mind, God is never absent from this narrative. He’s always there. He’s the One writing the script. Remember that when you feel like you are hopelessly hemmed-in by life’s circumstances. God said:

Tell the people of Israel to turn back and encamp in front of Pi-hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, in front of Baal-zephon; you shall encamp facing it, by the sea.

God didn’t need GPS! God knew where He was. He knew exactly where His people were, and He knew exactly where He was leading them.

Coming to the Red Sea was no accident! God gave the coordinates: “Here’s where you’re supposed to go; here’s where you’re supposed to land!” Continuing in Exodus chapter 14, verse 3:

For Pharaoh will say of the people of Israel, "They are wandering in the land; the wilderness has shut them in. And I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and he will pursue them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, and the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord."

God has overarching purposes for what seem to be the dead-ends of life, the painful, difficult, perplexing providences of God. God says, “I know exactly what I’m doing! I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his hosts!” Pharaoh, the most powerful man on the earth in that day!

And God said, “No, I’m going to show him who’s in charge. It’s not him and all his gods. It’s not the River Nile. It’s not any of these other religions. I will get glory, and the Egyptians will know that I—and I alone!—am the Lord. And the Hebrews did so. They went to where God told them to go.

Now, move ahead to Exodus 14, verses 21 through 23:

Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the Lord drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided.

And the people of Israel went into the midst of the sea on dry ground, the waters being a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.The Egyptians pursued and went in after them into the midst of the sea, all Pharaoh's horses, his chariots, and his horsemen.

Then the Lord said to Moses, "Stretch out your hand over the sea [the second time] that the water may come back upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots, and upon their horsemen."

So by this time, the children of Israel had gone across. They were all on the other side of the Red Sea. God says to Moses on the far side, "Now turn around, stretch out your hand—your staff—once again, over the water, and the water’s going to come back over the Egyptians." Verse 27:

So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to its normal course when the morning appeared. And as the Egyptians fled into it, the Lord threwthe Egyptians into the midst of the sea [out of which He had just delivered His own people!].

The waters returned and covered the chariots and the horsemen; of all the host of Pharaoh that had followed them into the sea, not one of them remained. But the people of Israel walked on dry ground through the sea, the waters being a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.

Thus [verse 30 is a really important verse, because it’s a theme that you see throughout all of Scripture] the Lord saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians [salvation!], and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore” (vv. 21–23, 26–30).

You often have this parallel track in the Scripture of salvation and judgment. Where you see one, you will often see the other. I mark these as I go through my Bible: salvation and judgment; judgment and salvation.

Salvation is not precious if you’re not being saved from something, and what you’re being saved from is judgment. And judgment is not ultimate if you’re willing to look to Christ and be saved from judgment. But those enemies of God who refuse to take His offer of salvation will experience ultimate eternal judgment.

So to the Egyptians, those Red Sea waters were waters of judgment, but to the Israelites those very same waters were waters of salvation! Verse 31: “Israel saw the great power that the Lord used against the Egyptians, so the people [of God] feared the Lord, and they believed in the Lord and in his servant Moses.”

One of my favorite devotionals that I’ve used many times over the years is by my “friend” (as I like to call him), Charles Haddon Spurgeon. It’s called The Cheque Book of Faith. It’s a daily devotional that is based on 365 promises of God.

There’s a promise at the top of each one from the Scripture, and then a Spurgeon meditation on that promise. In the preface to this wonderful devotional book, here’s what he had to say:

I commenced [or I began] these daily portions [he began writing these devotions] when I was wading in the surf of controversy.

Since then I have been cast into waters to swim in, which, but for God’s upholding hand, would had proved waters to drown in. I have endured tribulation from many flails. Sharp bodily pains succeeded mental depression, and this was accompanied both by bereavement and affliction in the person of one dear as life. The waters rolled in continually, wave upon wave.

I do not mention this to exact sympathy, but simply to let the reader see that I am no dry-land sailor. I have traversed those oceans . . . many a time: I know the roll of the billows and the rush of the waves. Never were the promises of Jehovah so precious to me as at this hour. Some of them I never understood till now . . .

Oh, that I might comfort some of my Master’s servants! I have written out of my own heart with a view of comforting their hearts. I would say to them in their trials [and I think if he were alive today, he would say to us in our trials] my brethren [let me add “my sisters”], God is good! He will not forsake you; He will bear you through.

There is a promise prepared for your present emergencies, and if you will believe and plead it at the mercy-seat through Jesus Christ, you shall see hand of the Lord stretched out to help you. Everything else will fail, but his word never will.

Spurgeon closes by saying,

He has been to me so faithful in countless instances that I must encourage you to trust Him. I should be ungrateful to God and unkind to you if I did not do so.

The waters that are for some, waters of judgment, because they won’t believe the Word of God. They need to receive the offer of God and trust His promises because for them, those waters become deadly, all-consuming.

But for those who believe and trust and lift their eyes up to the One True God, those waters can become, actually, waters of salvation. So as you’re walking through them, know that God can be parting those waters, He can be parting those waves.

At times, He may make you walk through deep waters—the psalms tell us that—but He will bring you through. So as you walk through them, cling to His promises, and give thanks for His presence and His sovereign protection in the midst of those waters.

We’re going to pick up tomorrow with some more about water and God’s people and God’s purposes in the book of Exodus. Be sure and join us.

Dannah: It’s amazing how water can symbolize both intense conflict and a demonstration of God’s protection. I love what Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth pointed out just now—how God can be trusted to lead us through the deep waters of life. What an encouragement to hang on to in difficult seasons! God sees the entire picture of our lives, and we are under His providence, like we just heard about Moses.

The Bible is full of situations where He is clearly orchestrating events for His good, His glory, and His love for His children. One place we see God working is in Joshua chapter 2, through Rahab’s story of redemption.

Have you seen God’s redeeming working in your life? No matter what kind of past you’ve experienced, or no matter how desperate your situation seems, know this: Jesus has purchased our redemption through His death on the cross.

We explore the concept of salvation and deliverance more in the newest Women of the Bible study from Revive Our Hearts. It’s called Rahab: Tracing the Thread of Redemption. With your donation of any amount to Revive Our Hearts, you’ll receive a copy of this encouraging study. It’s a way for us to thank you for supporting this ministry, and we hope you’ll see God working in new ways as you dive into His Word. Visit to give, or call us at 1–800–569–5959.

Now, think about this. When you feel like God isn’t hearing your prayer, remember a time when He did answer.

Nancy: In those moments when our circumstances change and it appears that God is not paying attention or that He’s not intervening, the question is, will we choose to keep believing what we have seen and experienced of God in the moments when He was miraculously intervening?

Dannah: That’s tomorrow. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

All Scripture is taken from the ESV.

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About the Teacher

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has touched the lives of millions of women through Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love for Christ and His Word is infectious, and permeates her online outreaches, conference messages, books, and two daily nationally syndicated radio programs—Revive Our Hearts and Seeking Him.

She has authored twenty-two books, including Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free, Seeking Him (coauthored), Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together, and You Can Trust God to Write Your Story (coauthored with her husband). Her books have sold more than five million copies and are reaching the hearts of women around the world. Nancy and her husband, Robert, live in Michigan.