As I was finishing the "Abba" painting, I sensed that perhaps the next painting would depict "Yahweh Shammah" (The Lord is There), but the more I waited on the Lord, I kept receiving increasing confirmations that this painting was to be about "Immanuel" - God with us. Everywhere I looked God was highlighting His promise to always be with those who call upon Him. From my favorite allegory to my morning devotions to the Bible verse my son picked to write one morning, the theme of God's continual guidance was inescapable. The key verse which God spoke as I was beginning this painting, and the reason why I painted a man walking with the Lord through the Red Sea, is Isaiah 43:2-3 :
"When you go through the sea, I am with you. When you go through rivers, they will not sweep you away. When you walk through fire, you will not be burned, and the flames will not harm you."
Notice that this verse says, "when you go through the sea," not "ifyou go through the sea." The name Immanuel, God with us, doesn't mean that we will be insulated from trials, failures, and tests, but it does mean that we never face even a single struggle alone. It means the Lord will never withhold His help from us to do His will. It means that no matter where we go, as David so eloquently describes in Psalm 139: 7-12, the Lord's watchful eyes and right hand will never fail to sustain us :
"Where can I go to escape Your Spirit?
Where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend to the heavens, You are there;
if I make my bed in Sheol, You are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle by the farthest sea,
even there Your hand will guide me;
Your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me,
and the light become night around me”—
even the darkness is not dark to You,
but the night shines like the day,
for darkness is as light to You."
So today, if you find yourself in the midst of the raging seas my friends, I pray you will look upon this painting and begin to envision yourself, not surrounded by difficulties, but surrounded by the presence of your faithful God. Appeal to Immanuel, your ever-present help in time of need. Trust anew that He will never leave you nor forsake you. Take heart and hear the voice of your Shepherd speaking as He did to Much-Afraid in Hannah Hurnard's allegory, Hind's Feet on High Places:
"I assure you, however, that never for a moment shall I be beyond your reach or call for help, even when you cannot see me. It is just as though I shall be present with you all the time, even though invisible."