Your path led through the sea,
your way through the mighty waters,
though your footprints were not seen. — Psalm 77:19
Several years ago, Academy Award-winning actor Denzel Washington delivered the commencement address at Dillard University, a historically black university founded in 1869. His first piece of advice for graduates about to embark on life’s journey was three simple words: “Put. God. First.” Denzel explained, “Put God first in everything you do. Everything I have is by the grace of God. Understand that. It’s a gift.” The famous actor explained how 40 years earlier he had been flunking out of college, but ultimately, with the help of God, he got to where he is today.
Psalm 77 makes reference to the parting of the Red Sea. The truth is that God didn’t just part the sea once thousands of years ago. God parts the sea every single day. How is that possible? There are three phrases in verse 19, each of which teaches us about the miracles that God performs daily in our lives.
The first phrase reads, “Your path led through the sea . . .” Our lives are often like the raging sea – turbulent, uncertain, with no secure footing. We can’t see how we will get through our circumstances, or how there is a way out when none is apparent. But our God is a God who makes a way through the sea and helps us through. Although it may look like we’ve hit a dead end, with the grace of God, we can get through things we never thought we could and we can reaches places we never dreamed we’d get to. Our God makes a path through “our” sea.
The second phrase of the verse reads, “your way through the mighty waters . . .” In the original Hebrew, the verse is translated, “Your ways (plural) through mighty waters . . .” The Jewish sages comment that this refers to the Jewish tradition that when God parted the Red Sea, He created 12 different paths — one for each of the 12 tribes. The significance is that there are many different pathways on a spiritual journey toward God. We each have unique strengths and challenges, and so our life’s journey is not the same as anyone else’s path. God creates specific paths for each of us, and no one should get caught up in someone else’s journey. The path that God has given us is ours for a reason, and we need to embrace it fully.
Finally, we read “though your footprints were not seen.” Looking back 40 years later, Denzel Washington can see how God guided him and helped him; however, the evidence isn’t always easily seen. We, too, have to look closely to see God’s grace in our lives. God’s footsteps may not be seen, but His presence is unmistakable.
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With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President