“The Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left.” (Exodus 14:22 NIV)

The Pathway to Freedom can take us through turbulent waters, with many interesting twists and turns along the way. Israel’s crossing of the Red Sea was a miracle story that became their pathway out of the grip of slavery and onto freedom’s shore.

Freedom’s journey took Israel through rough emotional waters and into a sea of pain, suffering and oppression brought on by the Egyptians, who fostered a frightening valley of un-forgiveness, unfairness and injustice. However, the story of Israel’s survival became a yardstick by which other pathways of freedom are measured.

In 2004, with the opening of the National Underground Railroad Museum in Cincinnati, Ohio, the framework of Pathway to Freedom from all manner of oppression was diagramed and contextualized for the ages. The museum presented a pyramid diagram, reflecting the Pathway to Freedom as having three levels: freedom from; freedom of; and freedom to.

On the first level, ‘Freedom from’, that appears at the base of the pyramid there are four categories reflecting life’s turbulence:  pain, suffering, oppression, and discrimination.

On the second level, ‘Freedom of’ there are two categories: “Entitlement (or Basic human rights) and self-expression.”

On the third and final level, the top of the pyramid, there are two final categories: ‘freedom to’ pursue empowerment and self-actualization.

In Exodus (14:19-31), we see ‘Freedom’s Journey’ or the issues along the “Pathway to Freedom,” which are built upon righteousness.

Our liberation is assured on this path when we operate in righteousness. In Exodus, God moved the angel and the pillar of clouds and fire from in front of Israel, to behind them. The cloud now between Israel and the Egyptians was to blind Egypt, to what God is doing at the mouth of the Red Sea, and to provide light for Israel.

To better understand righteousness one should study Psalm 23:3. The ‘path of righteousness’ is the way of duty. People on the path of righteousness create earthly peace, and know they cannot walk on the path unless God leads them to it, and then leads them down it.

On the path of righteousness, God restores our souls as we wander along and even when we stray. Psalm 23, reminds us that like sheep, we all get lost from time to time.

The parting of the Red Sea holds many lessons, and it had many impacts upon the people of the Bible, especially Israel. It was the praise and triumph of Israel, as well as, a form of baptism for them. It was a picture and pathway to the conversion of their souls. The sea was the salvation of Israel and the ruin of Egypt, who were washed away as the sea became their graves.

The crossing of the Red Sea wasn’t an easy march, because it was night. The only light came from the pillar of cloud and fire. God used darkness as their cover. This was a frightening experience, but where God leads us, He will light a path for us.

The ruin of most sinners is brought on by not knowing the Lord, and our own presumption, which cause us to hurry headlong onto a path of un-righteousness, where we become our own destroyers!

What I have learned about God is, He can and will stop the violence of those in pursuit of His people. Why is it men are not able to be convinced of their evil actions, until it is too late? Those who pursue God’s anointed, do so at the risk of their own ruin.

It is the lack of forgiveness which knocks us off the “path of righteousness”, because un-forgiveness is not consistent with the behavior needed on the ‘Pathway to Freedom’. We should make it a habit to forgive those who injury us, and our custom to forgive, until it becomes a habit.

On the “Pathway to Freedom,” we learn to eradicate the issues causing the lack of ‘freedom from’ pain, suffering, oppression and discrimination. There we learn to aid in the defense of those who need ‘freedom of’ entitlements for basic human rights. Finally, on the Pathway to Freedom we aspire to insure ‘freedom to’ empower others, and then we too, are well on our way to self-actualization.

The Rev. Dr. R. Joaquin Willis is pastor of the Church of the Open Door UCC in Miami’s Liberty City community. He may be reached at 305-759-0373 or pastor@churchoftheopendoormiami.org.