May 9

Unseen Footprints

Psalm 77:16-19 When the waters saw you, O God, when the waters saw you, they were afraid. Indeed, the deep trembled, the clouds poured out water; the skies gave forth thunder; your arrows flashed on every side. The crash of your thunder was in the whirlwind; your lightnings lighted up the world; the earth trembled and shook. Your way was through the sea, your path through the great waters; yet your footprints were unseen.

This psalm begins as a lament and ends up as an encouraging recollection of God’s deliverance of His people from Egypt. The Exodus was the single greatest work in Israel up to this point, and was how the nation of Israel recalled both their beginnings as a nation and the power of their God.

As the psalmist remembered God’s victory there, he dramatically ties in the parting of the Red Sea with victory over nature itself: cloud, thunder, lightning, and the trembling of the earth. These natural elements—particularly the sea and other bodies of water—were thought of as chaotic elements in the ancient world. Those who believed in many gods ascribed divinity to those elements, and one of the great differentiations with Israel’s God is that He has complete control over them. In this psalm, He has complete control through them.

While the reader probably understood immediately that the psalmist was referring to the Exodus, God’s dominance over nature is clearly presented here as greater and more all-encompassing than that one act. At the end of a description of the fierce power that nature can unleash, there is a quick picture of God’s movements that is breathtaking in its brevity and its poetic beauty: “Your way was through the sea, your path through the great waters; yet your footprints were unseen” (v. 19).

If God’s footprints are through the sea and the great waters, then He has immense powers over everything, over every circumstance that can be thrown our way—even those things that are considered the most difficult of trials. If God can make His way through all that, then we are guaranteed victory in Him.

If His footprints are through the great waters, then how big our God must be! Footprints (with the marvelous and instructive exception of Jesus and Peter) are usually found on the bottom of a body of water. What we have here is a picture of the Almighty God striding through the strongest forces of nature—representing every circumstance that can be thrown against us—delivering us without leaving a trace of His efforts. Leaving no footprints can imply that the victory comes from above, of course. But it can also imply how He can bring victory without showing us where He has been and how He has done it. Not a trace. No evidence. Not even a footprint. Yet He was there, delivering His people.

Sometimes God graciously let us see a trail of His activities, and we can rejoice in how marvelously He brought something about. And sometimes God graciously hides where He has been, deliberately not leaving a trail. Either way, He knows best and we praise Him for it.

Prayer: Lord, thank You that You often let us see how You have moved to bring Your will about. And thank You that sometimes You prefer to hide Your footprints. Help me to understand that You hide them for good reasons and for Your purposes. Help me to rejoice in Your will being done, no matter how evident You make Yourself.

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