The following are some humorous entries that have been found on hospital charts. The patient refused autopsy. The patient is recovering from a forehead cut and became very angry when given an enema by mistake. The patient has chest pain if she lies on her left side for over a year. On the second day, the patient’s knee was better, and on the third day it disappeared. The patient has been depressed since she began seeing me in 1993. The patient is numb from her toes down. The patient was alert and unresponsive. I saw your patient today, who is still under our car for physical therapy. The patient’s lab test indicated abnormal lover function. The patient’s skin is somewhat pale but present. The patient has two teenage children, but no other abnormalities. No doubt, these were probably written by some sleepy intern or frazzled nurse. But that describes most people in our society today – they are overworked and weary. Perhaps, it even describes you these days. It certainly described Moses in the days after God used him to free the Israelites from Egypt.

This morning as we study Exodus 18:13-27, we get an inside look at Moses’ daily routine. When Moses is not traveling with the Israelites through the wilderness, fighting the Amalekites or dealing with the people’s grumbling, complaining and quarreling, it seems he is judging and hearing disputes, seeking God’s will for the people and teaching them God’s decrees and instructions, all from morning until evening. This seems to be happening every day after day and he is overworked and weary, trying to do the work of ministry by himself. His father-in-law, Jethro, who was visiting the camp, notices this is wrong and not good for the welfare of Moses and the Israelite people. With his newly confessed faith in Yahweh, Jethro was specially positioned by the Lord to give advice to Moses that he would desperately need as the law was soon to be given at Mt. Sinai. The advice was really simple: “You need help.” Jethro was saying that Moses needed to share the work of the​​ ministry with others so he would not get burnt out or worse. This morning, we will study the weight of Moses’ leadership, Jethro’s godly wisdom to Moses and how more effective Moses can be in the work of the ministry that God had uniquely called him to do. That brings us to the big idea that God wants us to understand this morning that​​ God is pleased when His people share the work of the ministry.

Let’s pray: Heavenly Father, we pause and thank you for another opportunity to be in your house to worship and praise you for who you are and what you have done for your people. Pour out your Holy Spirit on us as we hear your word. Open our hearts and minds to what you are saying to us. Let us take it deep into our hearts and souls and allow it to transform us. And then help us to pass it onto others that need to know about you this week. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Our first point this morning is Weight found in Exodus 18:13-18. This is what God’s Word says, “The next day Moses took his seat to serve as judge for the people, and they stood around him from morning till evening. When his father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he said, “What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?” Moses answered him, “Because the people come to me to seek God’s will. Whenever they have a dispute, it is brought to me, and I decide between the parties and inform them of God’s decrees and instructions.” Moses’ father-in-law replied, “What you are doing is not good. You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone.”

Exodus chapter 18 is a transitional chapter. Most scholars believe this chapter is out of place in the chronology of the book and is placed here thematically based on what came before and what will follow. Last week I mentioned that the account of Jethro making his confession of faith in Yahweh was an epilogue to the first twelve chapters of Exodus. God was fulfilling his promise to Abraham that his descendants would be blessed​​ by God in order to be a blessing to the world. And we saw that last week. Moses gave his testimony to Jethro about the salvation that the Lord had brought to him and his chosen people, and Jethro heard it and made a confession of faith.

Now the second half of chapter 18 is a prologue to the rest of the book. This account of Jethro giving advice to Moses about how to better handle his ministry to the people will prove invaluable especially after the Lord gives the Law in the next couple of chapters. At this point, God has not formally given the Law to His people, but they have a knowledge of right and wrong and how they were supposed to live. Genesis 26:5 says that God made the covenant with Abraham because “Abraham obeyed me and did everything I required of him, keeping my commands, my decrees and my instructions.” God has inherently been handing down informal laws and statutes since the beginning of time. That was fine before but now that the Israelites are becoming a growing nation, and a formal giving of the Law was appropriate. And once God formally makes his law known to the people, it would exponentially create more work for Moses. So, God especially positions Jethro to notice the weight of Moses’ leadership, in order to put an organizational structure together, to assist him in doing the work of the ministry to the Israelites.

We notice that it’s the very next day after the events we studied last week. Jethro makes his confession of faith, brings a burnt offering and other offerings to God and breaks bread with Moses, Aaron and the elders. The very next day, Moses goes about his daily work. Even the presence of his father-in-law in the camp couldn’t keep him from doing the work of the ministry. He takes his seat to serve as judge and the people stand around him which would have been normal in that day. We also noticed that this went on from morning till evening. This would have been the daily scene as the Israelites camped in the wilderness. We see Jethro’s reaction to this scene. Probably after observing what is​​ happening that first day, he goes to Moses and inquires about what is going on. It seems in Midian that was not the way things were done. But interestingly, this was the way that Pharaoh did things in Egypt. As we studied the plagues, you may have noticed that Moses and Aaron seem to have no problem getting an audience with Pharaoh. This was because Pharaoh was readily available to meet with those who wanted an audience with him. And Moses would have been intimately aware of how this procedure worked living in the palace as a young man.

Jethro inquires why Moses is the only one doing the judging while everyone else just stands around. Moses says it was because they were waiting for him to impart God’s will to them, to decide disputes between parties and to inform them of God’s decrees and laws. The Lord had chosen Moses as His prophet to the people of Israel and as he was intimately connected to Yahweh, the people accepted him as the one to intercede for them, try the cases brought before him and make rulings based on God’s decrees and instructions. Moses had seemingly taken on doing this work of ministry all by himself. God has been silent on whether that has been a good thing or not, but because Moses has recorded Jethro pointing out the dangers and Moses’ blind spots in doing ministry, we can believe that the Lord is orchestrating these events. ​​ 

Jethro points out a number of blind spots that Moses has as he is doing the work of ministry. First, Moses, even though he was doing good work for the Lord, can’t see that the way he was conducting ministry was not good. As God’s prophet, he may have thought he was the only one able to give answers to the people as they sought God’s will and the only one who could decide the disputes brought before him. He may have thought he was the only one who knew God’s decrees and instructions well enough to be able to correctly inform the people. Second, this is what God called him to do, but he couldn’t see that the work was too heavy for one person. Moses couldn’t see that he was wearing himself out, wearing out the people, as well as trying their patience. Scholars believe​​ there were something like 600,000 men not counting women and children in the Israelite camp and there could have been up to two million people total. The workload would have been enormous. Think about this: one half of one percent of the men is three thousand people. How long would it take to adjudicate, intercede for and impart God’s decrees and instructions to three thousand people. Moses is not getting through every single case every day which means they are having to come back the next day. And by the time he gets through the first three thousand another three thousand have taken their place. We know that the Israelites have grumbled, complained and quarreled with Moses and the Lord. Imagine the quarreling they are doing with each other in a group of people that size. Third, Moses can’t see that he needed to delegate some of the lesser responsibilities to others. God may have been calling others waiting for Moses to equip and use them in ministering to the people but he hasn’t done that yet.​​ God is pleased when His people share the work of the ministry​​ (Big Idea).

We all have blind spots. We have them at home with our family, we have them at work with our co-workers, we have them with our friends, and we even have them here with our church family. It was important that Moses had a trusted and godly person who could bring the blind spots in his life into the light. By allowing Jethro to point out his blind spots, Moses’ ministry could flourish and be all that it could be. And it is important that we also have those trusted and godly people in our lives who can lovingly point out our blind spots. In the context of the church, if we surround ourselves with at least one trusted and godly person whom we allow to point out our blind spots, then our ministry can flourish and be all that it can be. That brings us to our first next step on the back of your communication card this morning which is to​​ Allow​​ at least one trusted and​​ godly​​ person to​​ point​​ out my blind spots.

Jethro has seen the weight of Moses' leadership and ministry to the Israelites, now we’ll see the wisdom of Jethro as he gives godly advice​​ to Moses, which brings us to our second point,​​ Wisdom, found in Exodus 18:19-23. This is what God’s Word says, “Listen now to me and I will give you some advice, and may God be with you. You must be the people’s representative before God and bring their disputes to him. Teach them his decrees and instructions and show them the way they are to live and how they are to behave. But select capable men from all the people—men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain—and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. Have them serve as judges for the people at all times but have them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves. That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you. If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied.”

We see Jethro’s wisdom as he gives Moses advice. “And may God be with you” means that Moses should first discern from God if Jethro’s advice is in accordance with God’s will. There are three areas that Jethro points out to Moses that he should concentrate on. First, he was to continue to be the shepherd of God’s people. As part of that shepherding, he was to intercede between God and the people. This was the most important ministry that Moses had as God’s prophet. It is important to note that Jethro wasn’t trying to usurp Moses' role given to him by God, instead he wanted to help Moses be more productive in that role. Second, Moses would also shepherd the people by instructing and teaching them God’s decrees and instructions. It seems that Moses was the only one who had a firm grasp on that and so was the only one able to impart God’s teaching to the people. But it was more than just teaching, Moses was to help the people apply the truth of God’s Word to their everyday lives, showing them how to live and behave. Once they knew God’s teaching for themselves and were living it out, they could settle some lesser disputes on their own. The petty complaints would grind to a halt because everyone would know and understand God’s teaching and could police themselves in the minor matters.

Third, Moses was to shepherd the people by involving others in the work of the ministry. Jethro advised him to appoint other officials or judges who would oversee a certain number of people. Some would be appointed over thousands, some hundreds, some fifties and some tens. This would create a hierarchical organization that would help Moses to better minister to the people. Jethro even gave Moses advice on the qualifications for these men. First, they were to be capable men from all the people. This meant he was to select or discern men who could also be discerning of the truth. These men could not be limited to family or friends but must come from a cross-section of the entire nation so there would be no suspicion of favoritism. Second, they were to be men who feared God. This meant they reverenced God and rejected evil. Psalms 111:10 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding.” It was important that these men ``feared the Lord” and were wise and had good understanding. Third, they were to be trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain. This meant they had to be men who first knew the truth and would be reliable and consistent in making judgements. They also had to hate dishonest gain. Psalms 119:36 says, “Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain.” It was important that the hearts of these men were led by the standards of God’s law so that they wouldn’t fall prey to taking bribes to persuade their rulings. They were to be fair, just, absolutely reliable knowing that God would hold them accountable for their behavior as judges. We see these same type of qualities in 1 Timothy 3:1-3 that Sue read earlier. “Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.”

These men would serve as judges, set up kind of like our court system today. We have family courts, city courts, county courts, state courts, federal courts, and the Supreme Court. It would start in the family units of ten where lower-level judges would decide the simple cases and if a case was too difficult it could go to the next level’s judge and so on until it ended up in Moses’ lap, who was effectively the Supreme Court of the land. This would also be an effective way to pass down God’s words to the people starting with the smallest group of ten people. This passage is paralleled in Deuteronomy chapter 1 where we learn that Moses asks the people to choose these men and then he appointed them having veto power over any he thought inappropriate. This advice would lighten Moses’ load significantly, giving him more time to do the ministry of being a prophet, interceding before God and the people, and teaching and instructing the people on God’s decrees, which would show them how God wanted them to live and behave not only with him but with each other.

The load would be lighter because he would be sharing the ministry with other capable and godly men (Big Idea). By implementing Jethro’s advice, Houtman says, Moses would be “able to focus on the main thing, communicating the covenant to the people. He would also be able to stand the strain and the people would go home satisfied. Isn’t that what we want either as leaders or in the leadership where we work and go to church? Those in leadership positions want to be able to stand the strain at work or in ministry and those who are under leadership at work or church want to be confident in their leaders and go home satisfied that their leaders have their best interest at heart. Notice again that Jethro qualifies his advice, “If God so commands.” Jethro didn’t want Moses to take his word for all of this and just do it. He wanted Moses to take his advice before God himself to know what his will was in these matters.

Jethro has given his godly wisdom to Moses, now we will see the new work of Moses as he implements his advice, which brings us to our third point,​​ Work, found in Exodus 18:24-27. This is what God’s Word says, “Moses listened to his father-in-law and did everything he said. He chose capable men from all Israel and made them leaders of the people, officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. They served as judges for the people at all times. The difficult cases they brought to Moses, but the simple ones they decided themselves. Then Moses sent his father-in-law on his way, and Jethro returned to his own country.”

We see Moses reacting three ways in this passage which shows us the type of leader he is. One, he listened. He listened to Jethro and did everything he said. He followed his father-in-law’s advice to the letter. Two, Moses was teachable. He realized he didn’t know how to organize a massive people such as the nation of Israel had become. Third, he was humble as we have seen before. It takes great humility to be shown your blind spots and to respond by listening and being teachable instead of getting upset and lashing out. I don’t know about you, but I want to have that same humility and teachable spirit. Now, one thing we may notice is that God never speaks, so how do we know that Moses was doing God’s will? Every commentator says that the fact that Moses implemented Jethro’s advice proves that at some point God had given his unrecorded ok. If Moses was not to have followed Jethro’s advice, then it would not have happened. Another proof we can see is that in the narrative, Jethro wanted Moses to seek God in the matter. This should be a lesson to us as well when taking advice from others. First, seek God’s will.

He chose capable men who had the qualifications Jethro put forth and made them leaders and judges over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. We are told that Moses implemented the plan just as Jethro gave it to him. Moses would handle the difficult cases and the under judges would decide the simpler ones themselves. It seems like Moses and the underjudges served well together so Moses probably wasn’t a control freak and allowed them to truly share in the work of the ministry (Big Idea). Then we are given a short and abrupt note that Moses sent his father-in-law on his way, and he returned to his own country. “Sent” is the same neutral word used in 18:2 speaking of Moses sending his wife back to her father in Midian. It suggests a warm, happy, congenial parting not Moses trying to “get rid of Jethro.”

Here at Idaville Church we have an organizational structure as well. Our highest governing body is the board but they also play an important role in sharing the load of ministry within the church. I am going to have them stand up as I mention their name. Linda Asper is in charge of the Christian Education Commission. If you are part of her commission or are a teacher, please stand. Bev Fleming is in charge of the Finance Commission. If you are part of her commission, please stand. Laurin Fleming is the Board Chairperson and in charge of the Outreach Commission. If you are part of his commission, please stand. Sherl Shaffer is in charge of the Property Commission. If you are part of his commission, please stand. Doug Asper is in charge of the Worship Commission. If you are part of his commission, please stand. If you are part of the Spiritual Care Commission, please stand. At the moment, we do not have a chairperson for the Spiritual Care Commission. We also have three members-at-large voted on by the membership. They are Becca Asper, Sue Thompson and Carole Zeaser. You can stand as well. I am also on the board as the Assistant Pastor, overseeing the Youth Ministry and preaching and teaching in various capacities. I want to let you know that since the Pandemic, we have split up the congregation between the nine board members and we regularly pray for each one of you, for the church and for our ministries of the church.

There are also a lot of you in the congregation that take on leadership roles in certain areas at certain times. This church always rallies together to do the work of ministry here at Idaville Church. You will see that this week at VBS. I want the board to know and everyone here to know that the ministry of Idaville Church doesn’t get done without you. Ministry can’t be done by one or two people. It takes us all to do ministry correctly and to do it in a way that is honoring and glorifying to God. So, I thank you and the board and the board thanks the congregation,as well. Sharing the work of the ministry shows how much we care for each other. Sharing is Caring especially when it comes to sharing the ministry.

In the next month or so, each of our chairpersons are going to take a few minutes on a Sunday morning to share what their commission does and to ask you to consider joining a commission. Our goal is to match people’s gifts, skills and abilities with each specific commission. You can go to our 2024 Yearbook (with the yellow cover) and look at pages 7-8 to get an idea of what each commission is responsible for. I encourage each of you to be praying about where God is leading you to serve here at Idaville Church. That brings us to our second next step this morning which is to​​ Prayerfully​​ consider joining a commission and​​ share​​ in the work of the​​ ministry​​ at Idaville Church.

Now maybe God has already been working in your heart and mind to serve in some capacity at Idaville, if that’s the case, this last next step may be for you,​​ Join​​ the​​ commission where I can best use my​​ gifts​​ and​​ abilities.​​ It takes all of us to the work of the ministry.

As the ushers come to collect the tithes and offerings and Gene and Roxey come to lead us in a final hymn, let’s pray, God, as we leave your house, let us be aware of what you have been saying to us this morning. May we pay attention to your Holy Spirit as it guides us, teaches us, rebukes us and corrects us this week. Help us to find one trusted and godly person who we will allow to point out our blind spots. Let us prayerfully consider joining a commission or to join a commission where we can best use our gifts and abilities so we can all share in the work of the ministry at Idaville Church. In Jesus’ name, Amen.



HUMOROUS HOSPITAL CHARTS​​ (Marshall Shelley, (From a sermon by C. Philip Green, Cure for Weariness, 8/17/2012)

Dare to Share

There was a man who had an unobstructed view to a construction site from his house. As he watched a building go up, he was really intrigued when one day a large crane came in and placed, right in the center of the concrete slab, a large silver box. He wondered, “What in the world is this silver box?” It was obviously important, since the construction that was taking place was being built around it. The box was about the size of a large living room, but he couldn’t figure out what it was. Finally, he walked over and talked to the guys who were doing the construction, and he discovered that it was a bank that was being built, and the silver box in the center was the vault. It was, of course, the most important part of the bank, large in size, but also central to everything this bank would stand for. It lay at the heart of the bank, defining its purpose, giving it value, and making it distinct from every other building in the area.

This story serves as a helpful metaphor for the defining and organizing principle in one’s life. The one thing in a person’s life that is most central, most important, and that everything else is constructed around. The question for each one of us is, “What is the organizing center of our lives? It may be achievement or success as we pursue what we think is the American dream. It may be maintaining a sense of comfort or security as we try to minimize our pain and maximize our pleasure. It may simply be survival as we are going through a season of deep trials as the Israelites have been, and just want to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Whatever the organizing principle of our life is, we all know that it probably should be consistent with both our highest purpose as human beings and the deepest longings of our hearts. Obviously, if we are Christians, and image-bearers of God created by him, accountable to him, and redeemed by him, for both his glory and for our good, then that reality should profoundly affect the way we organize and structure our lives, so that knowing God and making him known, becomes the center. But just because we believe that knowing God and making him known is the most important thing, doesn’t necessarily mean that we structure our lives accordingly.

This morning, we are going to be in Exodus 18:1-12. This passage is really an epilogue to the first seventeen chapters of Exodus. As we have studied this book so far, we have seen the story of God’s redemption of his chosen people, the Israelites. We’ve seen what it means to be redeemed by the blood of the Lamb and set free from slavery to sin and death. We’ve seen the “Good News” of Jesus Christ played out over these first seventeen chapters. We’ve also seen practical instruction for living the Christian life. We’ve talked about worship and the importance of worship in chapter 15. We’ve talked about trials and how to face those trials, as we have studied the children of Israel in their wilderness experience, as God tested them, and they tested God and put him on trial. And last week, we talked about what it means to fight our spiritual battles, the battles of faith. We learned that the battle belongs to the Lord as he has already won the war with Satan. We’ve seen how we are to live a life of sanctification on this earth as we wait to go to our Promised Land.

But the main point of this book is found in Exodus 7:5, which says “And the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord, when I stretch out my hand against Egypt, and bring the Israelites out of it.” Exodus is about Yahweh making himself “known” to the world. He made himself known to Pharaoh and the Egyptians and he made himself known to the Israelites. And he wanted his chosen people to then make him known to the world. Which brings us to our big idea this morning that “God desires to make himself “known” to all peoples.” So today as we look at Exodus 18:1-12, we will see three “testimonies” that will bring this big idea to life.

Let’s pray:


The first testimony is God’s Testimony found in Exodus 18:1-6. This is what God’s Word says, “Now Jethro, the priest of Midian and father-in-law of Moses, heard of everything God had done for Moses and for his people Israel, and how the Lord had brought Israel out of Egypt. After Moses had sent away his wife Zipporah, his father-in-law Jethro received her and her two sons. One son was named Gershom, for Moses said, “I have become a foreigner in a foreign land”; and the other was named Eliezer, for he said, “My father’s God was my helper; he saved me from the sword of Pharaoh.” Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, together with Moses’ sons and wife, came to him in the wilderness, where he was camped near the mountain of God. Jethro had sent word to him, “I, your father-in-law Jethro, am coming to you with your wife and her two sons.”

The first testimony is God’s testimony to Jethro. We haven’t seen Jethro since Exodus 4 when Moses left his employ as a shepherd and went back to Egypt to ask Pharaoh to let God’s people go. So, Jethro is doubly introduced here, first, as the priest of Midian and second, as Moses’ father-in-law. Jethro knew from Moses that his people, the Israelites, were in slavery in Egypt and had been for generations. He knew that the Lord had revealed himself to Moses at the burning bush and that Moses was being sent to confront Pharaoh, to free the Lord’s people from slavery. Somewhere along the way, Jethro has heard about everything God had done for Moses and the Israelite people. He has heard the testimony about how the Lord brought the Israelites out of Egypt. He has probably heard about the ten plagues that the Lord brought upon Pharaoh and Egypt and about the Lord’s destruction of the Egyptians at the Red Sea. He heard all about how the Lord saved his people by bringing them out of slavery.

In verses 2-4, we see a “flashback” to an earlier story that was not recorded. It seems that at some point, Moses sent his wife Zipporah, and his two sons back to Jethro in Midian. We don’t know when this happened. It may have happened right after the incident in Exodus 4 where the Lord was going to strike Moses dead because he hadn’t circumcised his one son. After Zipporah circumcised their son, the Lord spared Moses’ life. It may have happened right before things got dicey with Pharaoh sometime before or during the ten plagues. But most commentators don’t think Moses would have sent them away at that time, so that they could have observed the Lord’s salvation of his people. This would have been a convincing testimony for his non-Israelite wife to experience. It also could have happened sometime after the exodus from Egypt and the Passover night. It may have been Zipporah who related all that God had done for Moses and the Israelites to her father. One reason this wasn’t recorded is probably because it wasn’t important to the story. The story of Exodus is about the Lord and making him known to the world not about Moses and his family relations.

We are then reintroduced to Moses’ son, Gershom, whose name means “I have become a foreigner in a foreign land.” Moses had to flee Egypt and Pharaoh’s palace because he killed an Egyptian. He fled to the wilderness and came to Midian, where the priest, Jethro and his daughters lived. He married Zipporah and because of the alienation he felt, named his first son, Gershom. We are also introduced to the second son of Moses. He was mentioned but not named in the episode in Exodus 4 and may have been the son whom Moses neglected to circumcise. Moses named his second son, Eliezer, saying, “My father’s God was my helper, he saved me from the sword of Pharaoh.” The mention of “my father’s God”, shows Moses’ awareness of being part of God’s covenant people. Probably because of his encounter with Yahweh at the burning bush, Moses realized that God didn’t exile him to Midian but instead saved him from the sword of Pharaoh. The naming of Eliezer is related to the Lord revealing himself to Moses in the Midian wilderness, but it would have also taken on added significance in the present in light of the Lord’s salvation from Pharaoh and at the Red Sea. The Lord had proved himself faithful and showed himself to be a helper to Moses, in every sense of the word. The names of his two sons told the story of Moses’ life and the lives of the Israelite people. The Israelites probably felt that they had been exiled to Egypt for the past four hundred years waiting for God’s plan of salvation to take place, that had been promised to their forefathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. And now they’ve been saved from the sword of Pharaoh by God’s mighty right hand and brought out of slavery, through the Red Sea and the wilderness.

Eight times in this passage, Jethro is described as Moses’ father-in-law and only once is he described as the priest of Midian. The focus is on his relationship to Moses and that relationship, and the testimony of what God did in saving his people, prompts a family reunion. Jethro sent word to Moses letting him know that he was coming to him and bringing his family to him. Jethro, along with Moses’ sons and wife make the trip from Midian to the desert where Moses was camped near the mountain of God. The mention of the mountain of God was a foreshadowing of what is to take place on Mt. Sinai in chapter 19.

Now that God’s testimony about what he has done for Moses and his people has brought Jethro to Moses, now we are going to see Moses’ testimony to Jethro about what the Lord has done. That brings us to Moses’ Testimony, found in Exodus 18:7-8. This is what God’s Word says, “So Moses went out to meet his father-in-law and bowed down and kissed him. They greeted each other and then went into the tent. Moses told his father-in-law about everything the Lord had done to Pharaoh and the Egyptians for Israel’s sake and about all the hardships they had met along the way and how the Lord had saved them.”

The first thing we notice is the love Moses has for his father-in-law. We see this love in two ways. One, we see it in the respect that Moses shows Jethro. Moses is the human face of the nation that conquered Egypt and the Amalekites and coming on the heels of the victory against the Amalekites, Moses could have deigned to have Jethro brought to him, but he doesn’t do that. Moses goes out and meets his father-in-law showing his humility and the respect he has for him. He actually bows down before Jethro, subordinating himself before him. “Bowing down” probably meant he fell to his knees and put his face to the ground. Mackay says, “This was a standard eastern greeting extended to one who is in a position of honor or respect.” Two, we see his love for Jethro in his affection for him. After Jethro would have raised Moses up from the ground, they kissed each other on the cheek and then greeted each other. This greeting is translated as “shalom” literally meaning “peace.” It means wholeness, completeness and health indicating that they would have asked about each other’s welfare and how they had been since they last talked. After the formalities and public greetings were finished, they went into Moses’ tent. This is a genuine picture of Moses humbling himself before his father-in-law, showing him love and respect, and treating him with great hospitality as his guest.

The second thing we notice is that Moses confirms God’s testimony and all the things that Jethro has heard. He recounts what the Lord did to Pharaoh and the Egyptians for Israel’s sake. Moses told Jethro about all the good things the Lord did for them such as bringing the plagues against Egypt, the Passover feast and the Angel killing the firstborn of Egypt, both people and animals. And about their exodus from Egypt and the deliverance by the Lord at the Red Sea. But notice he doesn’t just hit the high points. Moses also recounted all the hardships along the way. How there were times of bitter water, no food and then again no water and about the battle with the Amalekites. He would have told him how the Lord provided for them, protected them and his special presence with them. He also would have told him about the grumbling, complaining and quarreling of the Israelites against himself, Aaron and the Lord. He probably recounted how the people put both he and the Lord on trial and how they tested the Lord. But through it all Moses never forgot what the Lord had done for him and his chosen people. He recounted how the Lord had saved them from Pharaoh, slavery and so much more. Notice that Moses’ testimony is completely God-centered. It was all about the Lord and nothing about Moses going back to the kind of humble man Moses was. We see it in his greeting of Jethro and in his testimony to him about what the Lord had done.

This story, coming on the heels of the battle with the Amalekites, shows the contrast between the foreign nations that are hostile to the Lord and his people and the ones that are friendly toward Him and his people. God’s salvation will include all peoples, Israelites and non-Israelites. And so, Moses’ testimony about what the Lord had done is a lesson for us all. The Lord desires to make himself known to all peoples, Christian and non-Christian, in two ways, by saving His people and by His saved people. God made himself known to the Israelites by saving them from Pharaoh and bringing them out of slavery in Egypt. And then Moses gave his testimony about what the Lord had done for him to Jethro. We have also been saved; saved from an eternal separation from the Lord and we must be willing to give our testimony to his saving grace. 1 Peter 3:15 says, “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord, always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” We must be ready and willing to give our testimony to those we come in contact with so that the Lord will be made known to all peoples.” (Big Idea). That brings us to the first next step on the back of your communication card which is to “Be prepared to make the Lord known by giving testimony to what He has done for me.”

That brings us to our third testimony this morning, Jethro’s Testimony, found in Exodus 18:9-12. This is what God’s Word says, “Jethro was delighted to hear about all the good things the Lord had done for Israel in rescuing them from the hand of the Egyptians. He said, “Praise be to the Lord, who rescued you from the hand of the Egyptians and of Pharaoh, and who rescued the people from the hand of the Egyptians. Now I know that the Lord is greater than all other gods, for he did this to those who had treated Israel arrogantly.” Then Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, brought a burnt offering and other sacrifices to God, and Aaron came with all the elders of Israel to eat a meal with Moses’ father-in-law in the presence of God.”

In this section we see Jethro’s testimony in two ways. First, we see him rejoicing. He was delighted to hear what the Lord had done for Israel in rescuing them from the hand of the Egyptians and he genuinely praised the Lord because of his salvation of them. Jethro rejoices in three things. He rejoices in the goodness of God, the deliverance of God and in the greatness of God. And in rejoicing in the greatness of God, he seems to make a confession of faith in the Lord. This confession could have been a deeper understanding of the Lord or could have been a first-time commitment to the Lord as we see in 2 Kings 5:15 in the confession of Naaman, “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel.” Jethro confessed, “Now I know that the Lord is greater than all other gods.” He was stating that Yahweh had conquered not only Pharaoh but the gods of Egypt as well. Fretheim states, “Jethro publicly confesses that Yahweh is God of gods and Lord of lords. He now knows that Yahweh is incomparable.” It is interesting that Jethro had been told about Moses’ encounter with Yahweh at the burning bush but that didn’t cause him to come to make a confession of faith. It wasn’t until Moses gave his personal testimony of the saving power of Yahweh in his life and the lives of his people that a change took place inside of him and he wanted to know and be known by the Lord.

Second, we see Jethro’s testimony as he commemorated his confession of faith. He brought a burnt offering and other sacrifices to God. Merida says, “He demonstrated his faith in Yahweh by offering a burnt offering to atone for past sins and to appeal for forgiveness and acceptance before God. He also offered sacrifices to account for any inadequacies in approaching Yahweh. He wanted to ensure he was accepted in genuine fellowship with Yahweh in his presence.” Next, we see Jethro commemorating his confession by worshiping the Lord in partaking in a fellowship meal with Moses, Aaron and all the elders of Israel in the presence of God. They broke bread, possibly having communion together, as people of God in His presence. This was a holy and sacred event taking place between God’s people, the Israelites, and those outside the Israelites community. It would have been important that the leadership of Israel affirm Jethro’s newly professed faith. We notice that God’s plan for the redemption of the world is seen in Jethro’s confession after Moses giving his testimony of the Lord’s salvation. The Israelites were blessed to be a blessing, and this is seen in a palpable way here.

In 2017, Comedian Jeff Foxworthy, was running a weekly Bible study for homeless men in Atlanta, and he recalled how one man revealed to him a very personal story. Jeff asked the group, “What is the Bible?” and someone said it was just a book of rules. So Jeff picked up his Bible and dropped it in a trash can that was in the room. He said, “If it’s a book of rules, would that bother you?” Foxworthy said one of the biggest guys in the class, named Wayne, got up, took the Bible out of the trash can, wiped it off and gave it back to him and said, “Don’t ever do that again.” He said, “Wayne, if that’s just a book of rules, why does that bother you so much?” Wayne then told his story. He said, “When my mother died, I inherited $70,000 from an insurance policy. I never had money in my life and I lost my mind. I started buying crack, got two girlfriends and started partying all day long.” ​​ He said, “When you are partying like that you don’t go to work and about a week later I got fired. But we didn’t care, we had money and we were partying all the time. Two months later I got evicted from my apartment, so I had all my stuff in some suitcases and backpacks.” He continued, “We just moved around to cheap hotels and we were partying day and night. But as we were moving along, I’m losing my stuff piece by piece. And the only thing I had from my mother was a Bible that she gave me when I was a little kid. On the front page, on the inside, she had written this love letter to me telling me about how Jesus was the answer. As we continued to bounce around, I realized I had lost the backpack that had that Bible in it.” He said “This went on for a few more months and the money ran out. The next day the two girlfriends left and now I don’t have an apartment or a job. He said, “I was on the street for a year and a half begging people for money and still have a crack habit. One day a guy came by and picked two of us and said he needed help with a project.” Jeff continues the story, “And Wayne, being a big strong guy, was picked along with another person and taken to a place about a hundred miles away where this guy had bought an old two-story apartment building. He was cleaning it out and was going to refurbish it and rent the apartments. Dwayne started on the bottom and the other guy started at the top. He got all his stuff cleaned up, bagged it up and threw it in the dumpster. Then he went up to help the other guy who was in the last room. But out in the hallway there was a pile of stuff in the corner. He asked the guy if he wanted him to bag it up and throw it in the dumpster. The other guy said that those were some things that he found that might be worth something. He told Wayne to look through it before they packed it up and threw it away. Wayne went over to the pile and started looking through stuff and he reached down in the dust and the dirt, and he pulled out a book and opened it up and there’s the love letter from his mom. It’s his Bible a year and a half later and a hundred miles away. Wayne said he collapsed to the floor and started sobbing. Wayne said I figured if God was gonna chase me that hard I would finally quit running. ​​ Foxworthy concludes, “It was that amazing find that led the man to change his ways entirely. Now, he’s been clean for eight years and he’s helped scores of people get off the streets.”

What a testimony of what the Lord did for Wayne! The Lord pursued Wayne and made himself known to him. And like Jethro, Wayne who had heard about Jesus from his mother, had to be brought to the point of making a confession of faith, being saved by God, so he could make God known to others who were living on the streets. Maybe that’s right where you’re at this morning. God has been pursuing you and making himself known to you or he’s been using someone in your life to make himself known to you. Maybe the Holy Spirit is telling you that today is to make your confession of faith.

First, we need to admit that we are sinners and that our sin separates us from God. Romans 3:23 says, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” ​​ And Romans 6:23a says, “For the wages of sin is death” but it’s not a physical death but a spiritual death, a separation from God for all eternity. Then we need to believe that God sent his son, Jesus, to take our punishment for our sin. Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” And lastly, we need to repent of our sins and confess Jesus as Lord of our lives. Romans 10:9-10 says, “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.”

So if you’re ready to make your own confession of faith this morning and begin to tell others your testimony about what the Lord has done for you, the last next step may be for you. My next step is to “Admit I am a sinner, believe that Jesus was crucified, buried and rose again and confess Jesus as Lord of my life.” If you made that decision this morning, please mark the back of your communication card, so I can be in contact with you.

As the ushers prepare to collect the tithes and offering and as Gene & Roxey come to lead us in a final hymn, let’s pray:


Knowing God and Making Him Known | Exodus 18 | Brian Hedges | November 19, 2022


Feff Foxworthy | Tik Tok | What is the Bible to You?


Holy War

In Deuteronomy 20, we see the concept of Holy War and the phrase is used to describe Israel’s conquest of the land of Canaan. It is called Yahweh’s Holy War because he is the​​ one who directed and empowered his people to military action. In Exodus 15:3, God is described as a “warrior.” In Deuteronomy 20:4, he is described as the “one who goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you.” In Psalms 24:8, he is “mighty in battle” and in 1 Samuel 17:45, he is without question “the God of the armies of Israel.” God promised Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to give them a land for their inheritance by His divine right. But they wouldn’t possess it right away. In Genesis 15:13, God told Abraham that his descendants would be strangers in a land that was not theirs, where they would be enslaved for four hundred years. Then they would return to the Promised Land to conquer it. The Canaanites, who possessed the land, were a wicked​​ and depraved people who were filling their cup with sin. God showed the Canaanites grace and mercy by giving them another four hundred years to repent and when the cup reached its full, judgment would come.

This idea of Holy War might be difficult for us to understand but there are several things to consider. First, the command was from the Lord. He is all-knowing and perfectly righteous, so his command was just and fair. Second, the Canaanites were hostile to God and his people and the most depraved culture of the time. They engaged in sexual immorality, the occult, idolatry and child sacrifices. Third, when Moses encountered the Amorites for the first time, he offered grace to them if they would allow them to pass by. They refused and brought judgment upon​​ themselves. The Amorites could have left the land and avoided conflict with the God of Israel who they knew was powerful. Four, God could have removed them himself, but it was his will that the Israelites conquer them as a test of their obedience to Him.​​ Fifth, there were some, like Rahab, who repented and were spared by God’s mercy and grace. Sixth, the killing of Canaanite children spared them from growing up in​​ that depraved culture. Seventh, the destruction of the Canaanites was to be a one-time event​​ not to be repeated by future generations. Israel was specifically called to destroy only the Canaanites that illegitimately occupied the Promised Land and to offer peace to other nations if they would have it. This shows that the judgment of God was precise and planned, not careless and haphazard. Lastly, destroying the Canaanites would prevent them from becoming a corrupting influence upon God’s people who were called to holiness. We know that the Israelites historically failed to obey the Lord and they began to practice the evil things that the Lord hated. Because they became corrupt, God destroyed and expelled them from the Promised Land by the same military means that they used to conquer it in the first place.

God is holy and just and gracious and merciful and so is Yahweh’s Holy War against those that oppose him and his people. This includes Satan and his demons today. The awesome thing is that the Lord has already fought and won the war with Satan and the forces of darkness on the cross. The battle belongs to the Lord. This morning, we are going to see the first battle of Yahweh’s Holy War. As the Lord is leading his people in the wilderness to the Promised Land they are attacked by the Amalekites. They weren’t Canaanites but their attack on God’s chosen people brought out his holy justice and he commanded the Israelites to fight. He was still testing and teaching them about who he was and what he expected from them as His people. He wanted them to trust in Him, rely on Him and be obedient to Him. He has​​ been testing and teaching them to rely on him for provision, protection and presence. Today, we are going to see that he will test them to see if they will rely on him for the victory. That brings us to our big idea which is​​ God desires His people to rely​​ on Him for the victory.

Let’s pray: Lord, as we open your word today pour out your Holy Spirit on us. Teach us, guide us, rebuke us and correct us through your Spirit so that we may learn more about who you are and how you want us to live. In Jesus’ name,​​ Amen.

Our first point is​​ Battle Stations​​ found in Exodus 17:8-9. This is what God’s Word says, “The Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites at Rephidim. Moses said to Joshua, “Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will​​ stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands.”

We have seen the Lord’s continued provision for his people in the desert. He has provided for their basic necessities of water and food and has proven to them time and time again that they can trust in him and rely on him for provision, for protection, and for his presence with them. He has been testing them to see if they would be obedient to him and this morning the testing and teaching continues as the Israelites are attacked by the Amalekites.​​ So far, the Israelites have been attacked from within as they’ve grumbled, complained and quarreled with Moses, Aaron and the Lord. This is the first time that they have been attacked from the outside. We notice that the Israelites are still in Rephidim.​​ If you remember last week, God led them to a place of “rest” where there was no water and they quarreled against Moses and God putting them on trial for attempted murder. God lovingly and graciously supplied them with water from the rock at Horeb. According to Paul in 1 Corinthians this wasn’t just any water, but spiritual water given to them from Christ. It was the special presence of the Lord to his people.

We notice a few things in these couple of verses. First, the Amalekites attacked the Israelites not​​ vice versa. The Israelites, who are being led by God to the Promised Land, weren’t trying to conquer the land. We don’t know why they attacked Israel, but it may have been a territorial conflict over water rights in the desert which would have been common. The Amalekites descended from Amalek, who was one of the chiefs whose line came from Eliphaz, Esau’s eldest son. If you remember, Esau and Jacob were twin brothers, and Jacob stole the birthright from Esau and went on to become Israel, God’s chosen people. No wonder there were hostilities between the two nations. We get more insight about this battle from Deuteronomy 25:17-19, where we learn that the Amalekites​​ attacked the rear of the Israelite ranks where the old, the infirm and the slower people were.​​ They cowardly attacked the weakest and the slowest. We are also told they had no “fear of the Lord.” These things might explain why the Lord treats them so harshly later on.

Second, Joshua was to put an army together, get to their battle stations, and be ready to fight the Amalekites. We are introduced to Joshua for the first time in the Bible and are literally told nothing about him. Normally they would have mentioned his father’s name or the tribe he was from. We can conclude that he was well known among​​ the first readers and that he was a talented and trusted fighting man. Later, we find out that it was Joshua who led the Israelite army that conquered the Promised Land. Third, the battle would start the next day with Moses standing on top of the hill. His​​ battle station would be a suitable vantage point where he could take a position of authority and control. “Tomorrow” represents the time the Lord will act to punish Israel’s enemies. In Exodus 9:22 and 10:12, Pharaoh was given a day’s warning before the plagues came. This is a last warning before we see another redemptive act by the Lord to save his people. Moses would be on a hill overlooking the battle where the army and the rest of Israel could see him. Seeing the staff of God would give the army and the Israelite people confidence in the Lord’s power and presence with them to overcome the enemy. Mackay says, “It (the staff) symbolized the presence of God in power, and it would be by that power that the outcome of the battle would be decided.” This is the same staff that last week struck the rock at Horeb bringing lifesaving water to the people and the same staff Moses used in the plagues. It signified God’s power and presence among his people.

Now that Joshua, the army, and Moses had taken up their battle stations, we come to our second point called​​ Battle Testing, found in Exodus 17:10-13. This is what God’s Word says, “So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. As long as Moses held up his​​ hands, the Israelites​​ were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset. So, Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.”

The battle with the Amalekites was the next stage of testing for the Israelites. Would they rely on the Lord for the victory? (Big Idea)​​ We learn something else about Joshua here: he was obedient which will make him a suitable successor to Moses. We also see that Moses, Aaron and Hur go to the top of the hill overlooking the battle. Aaron of course is Moses’ brother, but Hur is introduced abruptly without family or tribal identification. The historian, Josephus, says he was Miriam’s husband, which would make him Moses and Aaron’s brother-in-law. He may have also been the grandfather of Bezalel, who was one of the builders of the Tabernacle. Later on, we see​​ that Hur was one of the elders of Israel appointed by Moses.

It is important that all we are told about this battle was that Joshua fought the Amalekites and what the result was. This tells us that the battle itself is not the focus.​​ The focus is what Moses was going to be doing while the battle was raging below him.​​ Moses must have received some instructions from the Lord that we aren’t privy to. Moses was to hold his hands and the staff up during the battle. As long as his hands were raised, the Israelites were winning the battle, but if he lowered his hands, they would be losing. The Hebrew here has the meaning of a continuous raising and lowering of Moses’ hands over a period of time. There was no doubt that there was a connection between what Moses was​​ doing and what was happening on the battlefield. The battle would be won totally through the sovereign will of the Lord. Commentators are split as to what exactly Moses was doing. Was he just holding up the staff of God or was he also praying and interceding with God for the victory? For the Jews lifted hands was the posture of prayer. No matter what he was doing he knew where the power for the victory would come​​ from. It would come from Yahweh. And, in some manner he was interceding with God for the victory whether or not it was just by holding up the staff or also by praying.

I think what’s also important is what happened next. Moses grew tired of holding his hands and the staff up. This wasn’t because of any weakness on Moses’ part but because holding his​​ arms and hands up for a days’ time couldn’t be done in his own strength. So, we see the support, teamwork and connectedness between Moses, Aaron and Hur. They sat Moses down on a stone and helped to hold his hands and staff up, one of each side of him. In​​ this way they bore the burden together. They were able to hold his hands steady till sunset. Through obedience, perseverance, teamwork and a reliance on the Lord, the result was victory for Joshua and the Israelite army. Joshua overcame the Amalekites by​​ the sword, meaning​​ that he mercilessly and totally defeated them, even though casualties were inflicted on both sides.​​ Joshua is given the credit for the victory but it was the power and presence of the Lord that won the battle. The Israelites trusted in,​​ relied on and obeyed the Lord and he gave them the victory. Stuart says, “It was important that the Israelites understand unmistakably that the only reason they could win against the Amalekites was that God was fighting for them, giving them the victory” (Big Idea).

As Christians, we are in a daily spiritual battle with the forces of darkness, the world and Satan. We can’t even begin to win the daily skirmishes without the Lord. It takes obedience, perseverance, teamwork, intercessory prayer and total reliance on the Lord. But the most awesome and glorious thing is the Lord has already won the battle. By the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, the battle has already been won. We can rejoice in and praise the Lord that the battle belongs​​ to him which brings us to our first next step on the back of your communication card which is to​​ Praise and glorify the Lord and rejoice that the battle against Satan has already been won.​​ We see the Lord testing and teaching the Israelites here. Would they be faithful​​ to fight? They didn’t have to fight the Egyptians at the Red Sea but now the Lord was calling upon them to fight. But Moses, Aaron and Hur also had a part to play in the battle, interceding with the Lord and trusting in him for the victory. Also, would the rest of the Israelites be faithful in believing in the power of the Lord represented by the staff of God held up in Moses’ hand. The Lord was testing and teaching them who he was and how he expected them to act as his chosen people and they​​ had passed this test.

Now that they had been​​ Battle Tested, the Lord wanted the​​ Battle​​ to be​​ Remembered​​ which brings us to our final point found in Exodus 17:14-16. This is what God’s Word says, “Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered and make sure that Joshua hears it, because I will completely blot out the name of Amalek from under heaven.” Moses built an altar and called it The Lord is my Banner. He said, “Because hands were lifted up against the throne of the​​ Lord, the Lord will be at war against the Amalekites from generation to generation.”

The Lord wanted this first battle to be remembered and commemorated for a couple of reasons. First, he wanted it to be remembered because he had fought for his people and​​ given them victory. Second, he wanted them to know that he promised to “blot out” the name of Amalek from under heaven. Why the harshness of this judgment from the Lord. We just need to look back to the Egyptians. They enslaved God’s chosen people and wouldn’t let them go. They were systematically trying to exterminate the Israelites and the Lord destroyed them at the Red Sea. The Amalekites were also trying to exterminate the Israelites (and in cowardly fashion) and keep them from arriving in the Promised​​ Land. They were trying to thwart the purposes of God for his chosen people which is why they were included in Yahweh’s Holy War. The battle and God’s promise to “blot out” the Amalekites would be remembered in two ways. First, it would be written down. This probably refers to the Torah, the first five books of the Bible written by Moses. The second​​ way it was to be remembered was by telling Joshua. Joshua would need to be told of the Lord’s promise to “blot out” the name of Amalek from under heaven because​​ it would be his responsibility as the military leader of the Israelites. This would not be a quick “blotting out” as it would take many generations until Haman the Agagite was hanged in Esther 7:10, about 1300 years after this first battle.

Next, we see Moses commemorating God’s victory over the Amalekites in another way. He built an altar. This is the first altar recorded being built since Jacob built an altar at Bethel in Genesis 35. Moses built this altar to honor and glorify the Lord and memorialize what the Lord had done for them in defeating the Amalekites. He called the altar, “The Lord is My Banner” referring to the military custom of using a pole as a rallying point for the troops. The Lord is the banner that we must look to and turn to in prayer for his power and presence in defeating our enemies. The Lord once again proved that his provision, protection and presence was with his people. This proof again comes after the Israelites had questioned his presence with them. The presence of the Lord with​​ his people and his power was also proven to their enemies and the other nations in the area and in the Promised Land. The Lord’s testing and teaching of his people in the wilderness was a convincing testimony to the world about who Yahweh was. Through the​​ defeat of the Amalekites, the Israelites grew in their faith and God’s name was glorified. ​​ 

There is some disagreement between scholars in interpreting whose hand is being referred to in verse 16. Is it the Lord’s hand, the hand of the Amalekites or Moses’ hand? The NIV which I read from seems to imply it was the hand of the Amalekites lifted “against” the throne of the Lord. The NASB says, “Because the Lord has sworn, the Lord will wage war against Amalek from generation to generation.” This implies it is​​ the Lord’s hand in swearing an oath. The result is the same whether it is the hand of the Amalekites or the hand of the Lord. The Lord will be at war with the Amalekites from generation to generation. This is a holy war​​ that would be fought between the Lord and the Amalekites because of their cowardly attack on God’s people, trying to keep them from fulfilling His purposes for them and getting in the way of his redemptive plan.

One winter’s day in a little fishing village on the New England coast a storm came up suddenly while the boats were out to sea. The men rowed desperately to reach the safety of the harbor. Everybody made it except for one old man named John. He had almost reached the mouth of the harbor when a great wave came along and dashed his tiny boat up against the rock. He managed to pull himself up on the tiny ledge and hang there for dear life. His friends saw what happened but there wasn’t anything they could do about it. It was growing dark, and the seas were high. All they could do was wait. They built a bonfire on the shore and kept it burning all night. Every once in a while, someone would throw his cap up in the air, hoping that the old man would see it. At last dawn began to break, and the winds began to die down. They put out their boats and were able to get close enough so they could bring him safely back to shore.

When the old man had been warmed by the fire and had been given something to eat, they asked what it was like out there. “Well,” he said, “it was the longest night of my life. I made out pretty well at first, but then a big wave came along and flattened me out and I felt myself slipping. I was worn out. I was ready to give up. My old father went down at sea, and I had decided my time had come. ​​ But just as I was ready to let​​ go, I looked through the darkness and saw somebody’s cap going up in the air. I said to myself, “If there’s somebody who cares enough about old John to stay out on a night like this, I guess I’m not going to quit yet. Just then the winds seemed to ease up,​​ and I got a fresh hold, and well, here I am.”

Connect that picture with Aaron and Hur holding up the hands of Moses and know that that’s a picture of being interconnected with the Lord’s​​ people. ​​ We hold their hands up in our prayers, in the kindness that​​ we show by simply being with them, by joining them sympathetically when they enter the dark night of their soul, and we pray, and we pray, and we keep on praying. We’re being the Lord’s intercessors and we’re connected with the Lord’s people. This bearing​​ of one another’s burdens and being connected together is important to us as Christians and the Church. Which brings us to our second next step: My next step is to​​ “Hold up the hands” of my Church family with my prayers and in being connected with each other for the glory of the Lord.

As the ushers prepare to collect the tithes and offerings and as Gene and Roxey come to lead us in a final hymn, let’s pray: Heavenly Father, it is good to be in the House of the Lord with fellow believers. Thank you for this​​ time that we could spend in your Word. I pray that we will be faithful to spread your Word to those we come in contact with this week. May we remember that you have already won the battle with Satan and help us to live out that fact daily as we live as your children. Help us to also “hold up the hands” of our Church family with our prayers and in being connected with one another. And help us to do this to honor and glory you and your holy name. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Opening: Yahweh’s Holy War – Dr. Stephen​​ R. Cook

Closing: Maxie Dunnam – Commentary on Exodus (“Story of the Iron Gate,” Clarence J. Forsberg)

People’s Court

It is not uncommon for people to shake their fists at God in the midst of tragedy and suffering. The Bible includes the stories of righteous men who questioned God for what they considered poor management of creation. But Nebraska State Senator Ernie Chambers has taken his complaints to court. In October 2007, Sen. Chambers sued God for "causing untold death and horror" in the form of "fearsome floods…horrendous hurricanes, [and] terrifying tornadoes." Furthermore, says the senator, God has wrought "widespread death [and] destruction" and terrorized "millions upon millions of the Earth's inhabitants." Chambers filed the suit to make a statement about the American court system. Outraged by a recent lawsuit he considered frivolous, the senator intends to demonstrate that "anybody can file a lawsuit against anybody." His motion against God, then, is tongue in cheek; Chambers, who has a history of antagonism against Christians, has no vested interest in his suit against the Almighty. Nevertheless, the case raises important questions about God's activity in this broken world. Is God to blame for poverty, warfare, and natural disaster? Chambers seems to think so. To him the facts are clear: there is suffering everywhere, and God is everywhere. Therefore, God must cause suffering. But God Is not the only being who is everywhere. So are sinful human beings.

In our scripture this morning found in Exodus 17:1-7, the Israelites put God on trial. The Israelites feel they have been suffering ever since they left Egypt. They suffered when they saw the Egyptians closing in on them at the Red Sea. They suffered when they had gone three days without water and only found bitter water at Marah. They suffered in the Desert of Sin when they thought they were starving. Now once again they are suffering, and the facts are clear. Moses and by proxy, God, is to blame for their suffering and today they will put them both on trial. The People’s Court is now in session.

You know, the Israelites weren’t wrong. It was the Lord who led them out of Egypt into the desert. It was the Lord, who was leading them the long way to the Promised Land. It was the Lord who led them to bitter waters. It was the Lord who led them to a place where there was no food. It was the Lord who was testing them to see if his people would trust in, rely on and be obedient to him. And this morning, we will see that it was the Lord who led them to a place where there was no water. The people will put the Lord on trial for three things: not providing for them, not protecting them and not being present with them. And we do the same thing today. How many times do we make demands of God, not wanting to wait on his will and timing? How many times do we accuse God of wanting to harm us during our trials and testing? How many times do we think that God has abandoned us in our wilderness? We have all put God on trial one way or the other. But we need to remember that the Lord will test us in order to grow us up spiritually and to strengthen our relationship with Him. He wants us to pass these tests that he brings into our lives. That brings us to our big idea this morning that Moses wants us to understand: God desires his people to trust in him for his provision, his protection and his presence.

Let’s pray: Heavenly Father, thank you for bringing us to your house this morning and fill us with your Holy Spirit. Let us not be conformed to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of our minds as we study your Word. Thank you for your promises found in your Word, especially those for provision, protection and your presence. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Our first point is Crisis and Complaint found in Exodus 17:1-3, 7b. This is what God’s Word says, “The whole Israelite community set out from the Desert of Sin, traveling from place to place as the Lord commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. So they quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.” Moses replied, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you put the Lord to the test?” But the people were thirsty for water there, and they grumbled against Moses. They said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?” (7b) and because they tested the Lord saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”

The Israelites continue to move from place to place in their journey from Egypt to the Promised Land. In Exodus 16:1, we learn that they left the oasis in Elim and traveled to the Desert of Sin. Now they leave the Desert of Sin and come to Rephidim. If you look at the map on the screen, you see Marah is #4, Elim is #5, and then Dophkah is #6. In between Elim and Dophkah is the Wilderness or the Desert of Sin. We learn from Numbers 33:13–14 that they traveled from The Desert of Sin to Dophkah and then to Alush, which is not on this map, and then they arrive at Rephidim which is #7. This is what the author means by “place to place.” Nothing of importance happened at Dophkah and Alush so nothing is reported. Rephidim would be the final stop before Mt. Sinai where God would give them the law.

We notice a few things about this journey from the Desert of Sin to Rephidim. One, it was the Lord who was leading them. The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire at night is still going before the people. In the wilderness, he was leading them to testing in order to grow them up spiritually and to strengthen their relationship with him. Two, they camp at Rephidim. To camp meant that they would eat, drink and rest before starting out on the next part of their journey. In fact, Rephidim means, “to rest.” Three, at Rephidim, there was no water for the people to drink. Now we see the crisis. There was no water to drink where they camped, and it was the Lord who had led them there. The Lord led them on purpose to a place where there was no water to continue to test them to see if they would trust in him, rely on him and be obedient to him. The Lord had already provided water once, quail and manna, so, surely, they would trust him to give them water again. But sadly, no they didn’t trust the Lord. Enns says, “To have two similar episodes (lack of water) so close together points out the absurdity of the people’s lack of trust in Yahweh.” He was testing them to trust Him to provide for their daily needs, in this instance, for water (Big Idea) and they failed.

We now see their complaint. They did more than grumble, they “quarreled” with Moses and “demanded” he give them water. This word “quarreled” is significant because it meant that the people were beginning legal proceedings against Moses. They were in effect taking him to court and presenting charges against him. Moses responds with a familiar refrain reminding them that it was the Lord who led them here not him. By mentioning the word, “test”, he is reminding them that this is a test from the Lord but now they are putting the Lord to the test. They are trying to manipulate the Lord to act in their timing, not his. They were trying to force the Lord to jump through their hoops and make him accountable to them. Putting the Lord to the test is outright sin and rebellion against the Lord. In Matthew 4, Jesus totally rejected this idea when Satan tested and tempted Him by trying to manipulate him to act.

But the people weren’t listening to Moses. Their “thirst” had taken over just like their “stomachs” had in the previous passage. They were blind and deaf because of their thirst. Commentators agree that the situation seems to be more serious than Marah and the Desert of Sin. They weren’t faking their thirst, but they weren’t trusting in the Lord to provide water as he had done before. They were refusing to wait on God to give them what they desperately needed. They continue to make complaints and accusations, viciously attacking Moses. We again hear a familiar accusation, “Why did you bring us out of Egypt to die?” They even included their children and livestock in the complaint showing the intensely personal nature of what they were feeling. The people had felt close to death before because of hunger and thirst but God had come through every time. The Lord was testing them to trust Him to provide their daily needs, in this instance, the protection of their lives (Big Idea). He had protected them from Pharaoh and the Egyptians in slavery and at the Red Sea. He had protected them from death by thirst at Marah and death by hunger in the Wilderness of Sin. They weren’t saying that the Lord’s timing was slow, they were accusing the Lord of not being a good God, not being a faithful God and that he didn’t care about them. They wanted the Lord to prove he was a good God and to do it immediately. They tested the Lord because they doubted he could take care of them. They accused Moses and the Lord with attempted murder.

Now in verse 7b, we see their third complaint and accusation: “Is the Lord among us or not?” Think about what they are saying. These people have been traveling for about six weeks now with a supernatural pillar of cloud by day and pillar of fire by night going before them. Back in chapter 16:10 we see these words, “While Aaron was speaking to the whole Israelite community, they looked toward the desert, and there was the glory of the Lord appearing in the cloud.” These same people less than two weeks ago saw the “glory of the Lord” appear in the cloud and they have the audacity to ask “if the Lord was among them or not.” The Lord was testing them to trust Him to provide for their daily needs, in this instance, His presence (Big Idea).

After all they had seen the Lord do for them, the Israelites still did not trust the Lord to provide for their needs of provision, protection and His presence. But we shouldn’t be surprised. We do the same thing. We don’t trust the Lord for our daily needs all the time either, even when we know God’s promises found in the Bible and have experienced them for ourselves. God promises to provide for us. In Luke 12:24 it says, “Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!” God promises to protect us. In Isaiah 41:10 it says, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” And God promises His presence to us. In Deuteronomy 31:8 it says, “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” We see God’s promises in his Word for provision, protection and His presence with us. We can be assured and trust in the Lord that he will keep his promises to us, which brings us to our first next step on the back of your communication card. My next step is to trust in the Lord for my daily needs of provision, protection and presence.

Not only can we trust in the Lord for our daily needs, we can also trust in the Lord for our deepest need. That brings us to our second point, Court-martial and Christ, found in Exodus 17:4-7. This is what God’s Word says, “So Moses cried out to the Lord, saying, “What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me!” Then the Lord said to Moses, “Pass before the people and take with you some of the elders of Israel; and take in your hand your staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink.” And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel. Then he named the place Massah and Meribah because of the quarrel of the sons of Israel, and because they tested the Lord, saying, “Is the Lord among us, or not?”

Moses does what he is supposed to do and what he has done in the past, he cries out to the Lord. But he also seems to lose his focus on the Lord. He says, “What am “I” to do with these people?” It seems that Moses is getting fed up with the people’s grumbling, complaining and now quarreling. He is probably thinking, “How much more can I take?” What really has Moses upset, though, is that the people are almost ready to stone him. He was about to be court-martialed and sentenced to death. Stoning was the normal sentence carried out on someone who was seen as a threat to the survival of the community. It was a legitimate and legal form of punishment. Cole says, “This is the last stage of rejection of a leader in Israel. Christ (John 10:31), Stephen (Acts 7:58) and Paul (Acts 14:19) all faced stoning at the hands of God’s people, the very ones to whom they had been sent.”

Moses had forgotten that he could trust the Lord for his provision, protection and presence. He was the Lord’s instrument, and the Lord would provide what he needed, would protect him from the quarreling people and his presence would always be with him. Next, we see the Lord’s answer to Moses. And it’s not a rebuke for forgetting he could trust Him but His provision and Presence to him. The Lord was going to give the people what they wanted even though they were putting the Lord on trial and putting him to the test. He would do this in miraculous fashion. First, it would be a public miracle. He told Moses to take some of the elders and walk ahead of the people. Moses was being vindicated as God’s chosen leader. Second, it would be witnessed by the elders who would be the jury and would see the evidence presented by the Lord proving his provision, protection and presence. They would make the ruling in the People’s Court, and it would become part of what they know, teach and how they judge the people in the future.

Three, it would be a continuation of the miracles God did in Egypt. Moses was to take in his hand the staff that he struck the Nile with in the first plague. It would be the same staff, the same power, the same grace and the same God. Then the Lord instructed Moses to “go.” “Go” meant to follow the Lord’s leading. Four, the miracle would happen by God’s presence. The Lord would lead him to the rock at Horeb and “stand before” Moses. We are acutely aware of the Lord’s presence here. The people accused the Lord of not being with them and again he graciously showed that he was there with them and had never left them. The Lord commanded Moses to strike the rock and he promised to lovingly and graciously provide water for the people even though they had again failed his testing. And Moses obeyed the Lord in the sight of the elders. The Israelites needed more than physical water; they needed spiritual water. They thought they needed water to drink but what they really needed was the Lord, which was their deepest need

Notice that we aren’t explicitly told that water came out of the rock but we can be assured it did. But Moses wants the people to know their testing ended in failure. They failed the greatest test in light of God’s greatest gift – himself. We see this in the verdict, so to speak, as Moses gives what I call a closing statement. Moses called the place Massah, meaning “to test” and Meribah, meaning “to strive, to argue, to contend.” The famous Old Testament scholar Gerhard Von Rad thus concluded that the names Massah and Meribah “imply that legal cases were investigated and decided by ordeal there.” One commentary called these places, Testingsville and Complainingsburg. How would you like to live in a place with those names? Not me. These places received their names because the Israelites quarreled with Moses and tested the Lord. They didn’t trust in the Lord for his provision, protection or His presence but he lovingly and graciously gave them what they asked for without rebuke or punishment. (Big Idea)

The play “The Sign of Jonah” is about a group of people who put God to the test. They wanted to know who was responsible for the Holocaust—the destruction of millions of Jews and others in the Nazi concentration camps. The play not only asks the question, “Who’s to blame?” but it also draws both the cast and the audience into the answer. No one is really to blame. A storm trooper merely followed orders. An industrialist merely kept up production. A citizen simply did not become involved. Yet in defending their own innocence each of the accused becomes an accuser. All are guilty. Some are guilty by words; others by silence. Some by what they did; others by what they did not. And suddenly the accused accusers all take up another cry. “We are to blame, yes, but we are not the most to blame. The real blame belongs much higher. God is to blame! God must go on trial!” So that is what the people do: They put God on trial. In the play God is accused, prosecuted, convicted, and sentenced. What is the sentence? The characters decide that God must “become a human being, a wanderer on earth, deprived of his rights, homeless, hungry, thirsty. He himself shall die. And lose a son, and suffer the agonies of fatherhood. And when at last he dies, he shall be disgraced and ridiculed.” Of course, that is exactly what happened. God sent his Son into the world, and people did to him what the Israelites wanted to do with Moses. The Son of God was a man without a home, a wanderer on earth. He was hungry and thirsty. And when his life was almost over, he was deprived of all his rights. He was stripped, mocked, beaten, and then condemned to die the most disgraceful and excruciating death—death on a cross.

The rock that Moses struck with his rod was Christ and symbolized God and his salvation. It showed how God would submit to the blow of his own justice so that out of him would flow life for his people. The rock was Christ because like the rock, Christ was struck with divine judgment. The judgment that Christ received on the cross is the proof of our protection. It shows that we will not suffer eternal death for our sins. God has taken the judgment of our guilt upon himself, and now we are safe for all eternity. The rock was also Christ because it flowed with the water of life. In his Gospel John records how, in order to confirm that Jesus was dead, “one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water.” The blood was the blood that he shed for our sins. But John also mentioned the water, not simply to prove that Jesus died on the cross, but also to show that by his death he gives life. Jesus also said, “Whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst.” He is our provider as well as our protector. More than that, everyone who comes to Jesus by faith is filled with the Holy Spirit, and now his life flows within us. Jesus went on to say, “Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” In Christ, God is for us what he was for Israel—our provider, protector, and ever-present Lord. This is what Paul meant in 1 Corinthians 10:3-4, “They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.” Paul calls the rock at Horeb a type of Christ, pointing us to Christ just like the Passover Lamb. In the same way that God was with Israel at Horeb, he is with the church in Christ. Our Lord is our Rock, and we trust in his provision, his protection, and his presence. Israel’s and our deepest need is Christ, our living water. Let’s purpose to trust in Christ, our living water, for our salvation – which is our deepest need. Which brings us to our second next step which is to trust in the Lord for my deepest need.

As Gene and Roxey come forward to lead us in a final song, let’s pray: Lord God Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth. May you be honored and glorified by our lives as we live out the Gospel of Jesus Christ this week. May we trust in you for our daily needs of provision, protection and presence and may we trust in you for our deepest need, salvation. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Opening: “God on Trial” (article in Preaching Today)

Conclusion: Ryken’s Commentary on Exodus

Keep Your Fork

Several years ago, an article on Sabbath-keeping appeared in the pages of the in-flight magazine of United Airlines. The author began by identifying a common problem. “Not so long ago,” she wrote, “I was just another harried working mom, rushing through the day with one thought always in mind: Why isn’t there any time?” Eventually she found the time by enjoying a weekly day of rest. She went on to say, “Now, if someone told you there was a way to stop the onslaught of everyday obligations, improve your social life, keep the house clean, revive your tired marriage, elevate spiritual awareness, and improve productivity at work—all overnight and without cost—you’d probably say the claim was absurd. I certainly did. But I was willing to see if some cosmic miracle cure might really work, and after a year of earnest research, I’ve discovered that adherence to a Sabbath yields a precious gift of time. My personal life, my professional life, and my family life have all improved, and I plan to go on celebrating the Sabbath.” Now as far as we know this woman was not a Christian. No doubt she would experience an even deeper rest if she set aside the works of her own righteousness to rest upon the grace that God offers in Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, she experienced God’s blessing because she is made in God’s image. Like everyone else, she needs a day of rest. Now she enjoys God’s gift of a Sabbath—a gift that is still ours for the taking.

In our scripture this morning, God is going to introduce the Israelites to this day of rest, a sabbath, a stoppage of work for a day. He would introduce it through the bread that he provided them; that he had “rained” down from heaven. This bread would not only be physically tasty but spiritually tasty, as the Lord would use it to test and teach his people the way of obedience. His sabbath grace and his sustaining grace would test them to see if they would be obedient to his instructions. This was for their benefit not his. The bread would taste good to their bodies but the sabbath would taste good to their souls. But they needed to be obedient. The Lord continues to lovingly and patiently test and teach His people because they wouldn’t be able to grow to fully know him if they didn’t first obey Him. The same is true for us, today. That brings us to our big idea this morning that God desires obedience from His people.

Before we dive into our scripture this morning, let’s pray: Dear Heavenly Father, we approach your throne this morning, humbly asking for your Holy Spirit to fill us as we look into your Word. Let your Word be a light unto our feet and a lamp unto our paths. Help us to put all other thoughts away in this moment and focus our hearts and minds on you. May all we think, say and do here be honoring and glorifying to you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Our first point this morning is Sabbath Grace found in Exodus 16:21-30. This is what God’s Word says, “Each morning everyone gathered as much as they needed, and when the sun grew hot, it melted away. On the sixth day, they gathered twice as much—two omers for each person—and the leaders of the community came and reported this to Moses. He said to them, “This is what the Lord commanded: ‘Tomorrow is to be a day of sabbath rest, a holy sabbath to the Lord. So bake what you want to bake and boil what you want to boil. Save whatever is left and keep it until morning.’” So they saved it until morning, as Moses commanded, and it did not stink or get maggots in it. “Eat it today,” Moses said, “because today is a sabbath to the Lord. You will not find any of it on the ground today. Six days you are to gather it, but on the seventh day, the Sabbath, there will not be any.” Nevertheless, some of the people went out on the seventh day to gather it, but they found none. Then the Lord said to Moses, “How long will you refuse to keep my commands and my instructions? Bear in mind that the Lord has given you the Sabbath; that is why on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days. Everyone is to stay where they are on the seventh day; no one is to go out.” So the people rested on the seventh day.

We first need to go back to the end of our scripture from two weeks ago. The Lord had lovingly and patiently supplied bread from heaven for the Israelites to eat in the desert, even though they grumbled and complained. And we saw a number of miracles from the Lord in that early part of chapter 16: the quail he provided, the bread from heaven, the fact that no matter the quantity that each person gathered, it always came out to one omer per person per day, and lastly the fact that it would not last till the next day. God was testing his people to see if they would trust in Him, rely on Him and be obedient to Him. To that end, Moses commanded the people to not save or hoard the bread from heaven till the next morning. Of course, we saw that some paid no attention to Moses or to God’s command and their bread was full of maggots and began to smell. There were consequences for their disobedience. And their disobedience made Moses angry.

Now as we begin our passage, we can notice a few things in the very first verse. It seems that for the next five days, everyone did as they were told and gathered as much as they needed. Those who had disregarded the Lord’s instruction seemed to learn their lesson and didn’t keep any bread for the next day. We also notice that once the sun rose and grew hot the bread melted away. God seems to be instilling a work ethic and a routine in His people. He didn’t want His people to be greedy but to trust in Him for their daily bread, but he also didn’t want his people to be lazy. They would need to get up early enough in the day, every day, to gather their omer of bread before the sun got too hot or it would melt. The Lord provided the bread from heaven, but the people had to gather it themselves. It is possible that the melting of the bread was also a miracle from God to teach them responsibility and a proper work ethic. We know from creation that work is a gift from the Lord.

On the sixth day, we see another miracle. When the people went out to gather bread on the sixth day everyone had gathered two omers per person. They may have gathered what they had every other day but when they got home, they discovered that everyone had gathered double the bread. Now back in verse 5, God had told Moses that this was going to happen on the sixth day, but it seems that Moses didn’t tell his leaders or the people. The leaders noticed what happened and reported it to him. Moses uses the experience of collecting double the bread to educate the people about what the Lord had commanded concerning the seventh day. The seventh day was to be a day of rest, a “holy” sabbath to the Lord. He had supplied twice the bread on the sixth day so that the people could rest on the seventh. This was the physical part of the sabbath grace gifted to them from the Lord. The Israelites would have realized immediately that the Lord was different from Pharaoh. John Currid writes: “No concept of Sabbath rest has been found in ancient Egypt. That fact underscores the difference between Yahweh and Pharaoh: the God of the Old Testament is compassionate and caring towards his people. Pharaoh was merely a burdensome taskmaster.” The gift of the Sabbath was to remind His chosen people that God had redeemed them from slavery and from Pharaoh. Each Sabbath day would be a day to remember their salvation. There was also a spiritual part of this sabbath grace. The seventh day was to be holy or “set apart” for the Lord. They were not only to rest physically and renew their strength, but they were to rest in Him spiritually and strengthen their relationship with him. The Lord made the Sabbath a priority for the people without making it a hardship on them, hence his Sabbath grace.

Moses told them to bake and boil the bread as they chose, and the leftovers could be kept till the next day. They probably baked or boiled all the bread they gathered each day so there were no leftovers. Now they could prepare whatever quantity they wanted on the sixth day knowing that the leftovers could still be prepared and consumed on the seventh day without consequence. The next day the leftover bread did not rot or smell. God provided their sabbath food on the sixth day and they would not find any bread on the ground on the seventh. Again, this was another miracle from the Lord. The miracle provision of bread the first six days of the week was miraculously suspended on the seventh day. Now the Lord introduces the sabbath test. The Israelites were not to go out and look for bread on the seventh day because that was a day for physical rest and spiritual renewal. Again, some of the people disobeyed the Lord and went out searching for bread anyway. Of course they didn’t find any. We are not told why these people searched for bread on the seventh day. Honestly, it seemed like an easy instruction to obey, which may be the point. God was testing his people in order to teach them to obey his commands and instructions. If they couldn’t obey the easiest instructions, how were they going to be able to obey the more difficult ones. Their willful disobedience proved their rebellious hearts.

Next we see the Lord’s response to their disobedience. He rebukes them through Moses since he was God’s spokesperson to the people. This rebuke reminds us of God’s rebuke to Pharaoh in Exodus 10:3, “How long will you refuse to humble yourself before me?” Now he says, “How long will you refuse to keep my commands and instructions?” This was a warning to them that they were still more like the Egyptians than the holy people he had called them to be. God is wondering, rhetorically, when his chosen people would learn to trust in, rely on and be obedient to Him. This is the one and only time we see God respond to their grumbling, complaining and disobedience this way, in chapter 16, so his rebuke is not the focus. The focus is his testing and teaching of them. He was testing them in order to teach them that he desires obedience from his people. Obedience to his commands and instructions would be paramount to their relationship with him. (Big Idea).

He reiterates that he had given them the sabbath as his gift to them. The Sabbath was to be a privilege not a restriction. Mark 2:27 says, “Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” It was for their physical and spiritual well-being that he gave them bread for two days. He then elaborates on the sabbath rest. They were to stay where they were on the seventh day and not go out. This gave them the opportunity to focus on the Lord and spiritual things. We see obedience in that the people rested on the seventh day reminding us that God rested on the seventh day of creation. We, as Christians, still today, tend to struggle with ‘remembering the Sabbath and keeping it holy.” There are many reasons for this. One, there is the pressure of our culture. The Sabbath day is no longer recognized as a special day of rest and worship. It is just like every other day of the week. Two, we prefer to follow our own agenda and not allow God to dictate how we spend our days. This reminds us of the willful disobedience of the Israelites. Three, the fear of legalism. The Sabbath becomes a list of rules to keep instead of a holy day set apart to worship the Lord and to rest physically. Four, we fear that keeping the Sabbath will be boring. Whatever the reason, the Sabbath was given to us as a gift from the Lord for our physical and spiritual well-being and as a commandment to us. It is a weekly opportunity for us to witness to those who don’t know Jesus, as it distinguishes us from the rest of the world. It is important that we remember the sabbath and keep it holy which brings us to our first next step: “Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy to the Lord.”

The Lord had instituted a sabbath grace for his people, now he was going to institute a sustaining grace. That brings us to our second point, Sustaining Grace, found in Exodus 16:31-36. This is what God’s Word says, “The people of Israel called the bread manna. It was white like coriander seed and tasted like wafers made with honey. Moses said, “This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Take an omer of manna and keep it for the generations to come, so they can see the bread I gave you to eat in the wilderness when I brought you out of Egypt.’” So Moses said to Aaron, “Take a jar and put an omer of manna in it. Then place it before the Lord to be kept for the generations to come.” As the Lord commanded Moses, Aaron put the manna with the tablets of the covenant law, so that it might be preserved. The Israelites ate manna for forty years, until they came to a land that was settled; they ate manna until they reached the border of Canaan. (An omer is one-tenth of an ephah.)

For the first time, the Israelites put a name to the bread they had been eating. Two weeks ago, I called the bread “manna” and mentioned that the name came from their question, “What is it?” when they first saw it lying on the ground. But now we see the author using the word “manna” for the first time. We also get a further description of the manna. In verse 14, it was described as “flakes like frost” now it is described as “white” in color and tastes like “wafers made with honey.” The author uses the coriander seed to point out that the manna was white in color not necessarily the same in taste or texture. The manna tasted good. Guzik says, “It wasn’t tasteless gruel or pasty porridge. Since it could be baked like bread or cake, eating manna was like eating sweet bread every day.”

Next, we see another miracle as the Lord commanded Moses to take one days’ ration of manna, an omer, and keep it for the generations to come. We see the sustaining grace of the Lord as the manna that could only be kept for the day, the manna that would melt in the heat of the sun, would now be kept for generations to come. The Lord was pouring out miracle after miracle on his people, looking to draw them to himself, testing and teaching them to be obedient to his instructions and commands, bringing them deeper into relationship with himself, and preparing them for the covenant relationship that he would introduce at Mt. Sinai. This sustaining miracle of the manna was to prove his Presence with them in the wilderness. He had supplied what they needed to survive physically and spiritually, and future generations of Israelites were going to be able to see the manna and put their trust in the Lord. Moses then tells Aaron to take an omer of manna and put it in a jar and place it before the Lord and with the “tablets of the law.” Some versions say, “in front of the Testimony.” They were the same thing; the Ten Commandments. We don’t know exactly when Aaron did this because the Ten Commandments had not been given yet. He may have done it in the present, placing the jar of manna in front of the pillar of cloud where the Lord dwelt. Or it may have been done once the ark of the covenant was built and the Ten Commandments given.

Then we have a couple of verses that were probably written by someone other than Moses after Moses had died. The first mentions that the Israelites ate manna for forty years until they reached the border of Canaan, the Promised Land. Moses never made it into the Promised Land, so he probably didn’t record this. The Lord miraculously provided manna for his people the entire time they were in the wilderness. Now that they were in the “land flowing with milk and honey” there was no more reason for the “wafers that tasted like honey.” Joshua 5:10-12 says, “On the evening of the fourteenth day of the month, while camped at Gilgal on the plains of Jericho, the Israelites celebrated the Passover. The day after the Passover, that very day, they ate some of the produce of the land: unleavened bread and roasted grain. The manna stopped the day after they ate this food from the land; there was no longer any manna for the Israelites, but that year they ate of the produce of Canaan.” Our last verse mentions that an omer is one-tenth of an ephah. The reason for this verse is because by the time this book was written no one remembered what an omer was. It had become obsolete as a measurement and the ephah had become the common measurement used. What this verse tells us is that because this is the only place in the Bible that the word “omer” is used, the story of the Israelites in the wilderness is a very ancient one. ​​ 

There was a woman who had been diagnosed with cancer and had been given three months to live. She contacted her pastor to discuss certain aspects of her final wishes. She told him which songs she wanted sung at the service, what scriptures she would like read, and what she wanted to be wearing. The woman also told her pastor that she wanted to be buried with her favorite bible. As the pastor was preparing to leave the woman suddenly remembered something very important to her. "There's one more thing." she said excitedly. "What's that?" asked the pastor. "This is very important," the woman continued, "I want to be buried with a fork in my right hand." The pastor stood looking at the woman not knowing quite what to say. "That shocks you doesn't it?" the woman asked. "Well to be honest, I'm puzzled by the request," said the pastor. The woman explained. "In all my years of attending church socials and functions where food was involved, my favorite part was when whoever was clearing away the dishes of the main course would lean over and say you can keep your fork. When they told me to keep my fork, I knew that something great was about to be given to me. It wasn't Jell-O or pudding. It was cake or pie. Something with substance. So I just want people to see me there in that casket with a fork in my hand and I want them to know that ‘Something better is coming, so keep your fork too.'" The pastor knew that the woman had a better grasp of heaven than he did. She knew that something better was coming. During his message, the pastor told the people of the conversation he had with the woman shortly before she died. He also told them about the fork and about what it symbolized to her. The pastor told the people how he could not stop thinking about the fork and told them that they probably would not be able to stop thinking about it either. He was right. So the next time you reach down for your fork, let it remind you, oh so gently, that there is something better coming.

Think about this: God gave the Israelites manna in the wilderness that tasted like wafers of honey. The manna from heaven was a foreshadowing of the Promised Land that was “flowing with milk and honey.” The Promised Land would be the place where the temple of the Lord would be built and where his presence would dwell among his people. God gave the Israelites and us the Sabbath so that we would have a day of rest; a physical rest from our labors and a spiritual rest in order for us to renew our relationship with the Lord each Sabbath day. Hopefully, that is what you are doing here this morning; you are renewing and recharging your relationship with the Lord. But the Sabbath rest was also looking forward to that eternal rest with the Lord in heaven. You see the Sabbath is the fork that symbolized to the Israelites that something better was coming. They needed to obey God’s instructions about the Sabbath to fully reap its benefits. The Sabbath would be the sign of the covenant that we are fast approaching at Mt. Sinai. So just like in the story I just read, let today and every sabbath day be the fork that reminds you that something better is coming and to be obedient to all that the Lord is instructing you to do as he tests you and teaches you along the way. That brings us to our second next step which is to “Remember something better is coming and obey the Lord in all things.”

As Gene and Roxey come to lead us in a final hymn, let’s pray: Lord, thank you for the goodness and richness of your Holy scriptures. As we go about this week, may your Word permeate our entire being. May we tell others about you and your Word and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Help us to remember your Sabbath, your gift to us, and keep it holy unto you. Help us to also remember that something better is coming and to obey you in all things. Walk with us this week and we give you honor and glory for the great things you have done in our individual lives and in the life of Idaville Church. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Opening: Ryken’s Commentary on Exodus

Conclusion: The Fork (


Take the Training Wheels Off

There was a little boy who was being trained to ride his bike by his father. On the first day out his father said to him. "Son, there are three things you should always remember if you are going to learn to ride a bike." The excited son committed all three to memory: "Keep your eye on the road, don’t lean to the left or the right, and remember Daddy’s right there." As the boy mounted the bike his father had him repeat the three rules and then ran along beside him shouting encouragement and reminding the boy to keep repeating the three rules. After each ride the boy was excited and thrilled. After the third ride, his father ran alongside him but didn’t say anything as the boy kept reciting the three rules. One day the boy mounted the bike as usual and took off chanting to himself "Keep your eye on the road, don’t lean to the left or the right and remember Daddy’s right there!" Two blocks up the road he looked back and was surprised to find out that his daddy had not made the run with him but was waving from the front yard. When the boy returned the father said "Son let this be a lesson to you in life. You will succeed if you can keep your eye on the road, never stray to the left or right and remember, even when you can’t see him, not me, your heavenly father’s right there!"

(From a sermon by Robert Drake, "Training Wheels" 7/6/2009)

One of the great challenges of youth, after learning to walk, is learning to ride a bicycle. It requires balance and a sense of self-confidence. To assist in this process, manufacturers came up with a special set of wheels that would attach to the back wheel of a bicycle. These wheels were called “training wheels” and they were to help provide balance and confidence for the rider. It provided balance whenever the rider leaned too far to the left or to the right and provided confidence because the little wheels didn’t always touch the ground. Maybe your bike was not equipped with training wheels, and you learned the old-fashioned way, with a parent or another adult running along beside you holding on to you. The training wheels or the adult served a purpose, but there came a time when the training wheels were no longer necessary. In fact, the only way to truly learn to ride the bike was to take the training wheels off or ride without the aid of an adult.

God’s chosen people are right at that point. God has been running alongside them and making sure they don’t fall over. He has been teaching them to trust in, rely on and be obedient to him but he also wants to move them further along in their faith in him. His ultimate goal is to bring them into a covenant relationship with him. He wants a relationship with his people where their hearts are completely surrendered to Him. He wants their faith to become a lifestyle or a “love” style, to move from their head to their hearts, so when they get to the Promised land, they are ready to fulfill their purpose. The same is true for us today. The Lord wants our faith to mature into a “love” style. He wants our hearts to be completely surrendered to him and a step towards that is to take the “training wheels” off our faith. Keeping the training wheels on your bike keeps you from truly enjoying the ride and keeping the training wheels on our faith keeps us from truly enjoying our relationship with the Lord. That brings us to our big idea this morning which is God desires the hearts of his people to be completely surrendered to Him. ​​ The Lord looks to accomplish this in various ways: by making and keeping his promises to us, by showing us his glory and by being faithful to us.

Before we start to unpack what that meant for the Israelites in the wilderness and what it means for us today, let’s pray: Heavenly Father, we come to you this morning hungry for your presence, hungry for your Word and hungry to worship you. Pour out your Holy Spirit on us and allow us to focus only on you and your Word. Let us feed on your Word and allow it to nourish our souls. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Our first point is God’s Promise found in Exodus 16:1-5. Follow along as I read. This is what God’s Word says, “The whole Israelite community set out from Elim and came to the Desert of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had come out of Egypt. In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.” Then the Lord said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions. On the sixth day they are to prepare what they bring in, and that is to be twice as much as they gather on the other days.”

The time of rest and relaxation at the oasis in Elim has come to an end. It was time to go back into the wilderness on their way to Mt. Sinai. The whole Israelite community left Elim and entered the Desert of Sin. “Sin” was probably a shortened form of Sinai, but the desert would definitely be a place where the Israelites would continue to sin by their grumbling, complaining and lack of faith. It has now been a month since the Passover night when the Israelites left Egypt after the Angel of Death passed over, killing the firstborn of all the Egyptians. ​​ 

Seemingly, almost as soon as they enter the desert, the people start grumbling. We can notice a few things here. There is a difference between the grumbling here and the grumbling we studied last week. Last week the reason for the grumbling was mentioned before the grumbling started. They had gone three days without finding water and when they finally did find water, it was bitter, and then the grumbling started. Now the people start grumbling and complaining before there is even a problem. What this implies is that they were not starving at this point. Things were not dire and life threatening as they were at Marah. In fact, they probably would not have gone hungry because of the livestock they had with them. They would have had milk and cheese and possibly could have slaughtered an animal for its meat. This time their grumbling came from a heart of discontent not because they were going to starve. This grumbling and complaining showed where their hearts were. Their hearts were still in Egypt and not with the Lord. Also, we notice that the whole community is now grumbling. Somewhere between the oasis at Elim and the present it went from the “people” grumbling to the “whole community” grumbling. ​​ This was a formal and unanimous complaint. Maybe this discontent was being spread by a few throughout the entire community but at some point, the entire community showed their hearts were not inclined toward the Lord. We also notice that they are now grumbling against Moses and Aaron. This is the first time we have seen Aaron in the desert wanderings, and now he is also getting blamed for what the Israelites are going through.

Next, we notice how the grumbling caused the people to respond. First, it caused them to forget common sense. The Lord had saved them from their cruel treatment and slavery at the hands of the Egyptians. Remember that it was the Israelites who cried out to the Lord for freedom. Now they spurned his salvation and believed it would have been better to die by the Lord’s hand on Egypt. This revealed how little they valued the freedom the Lord had given them. Second, it caused them to forget reality. The way they remembered it, they had all the meat and all the food they ever wanted to eat. First of all, in the ancient Near East meat was not a staple of their diets. Second, slaves were not given the choicest foods to eat. In fact, the Israelites were treated cruelly by the Egyptians who had no problem working them to death so why would they feed them well. Third, it caused them to make cruel and baseless accusations against Moses and Aaron. They accused them of bringing the entire assembly out into the desert to die forgetting that it was the Lord in the pillar of cloud that was leading them through the wilderness. Their grumbling and complaining was an open rebellion against the Lord not Moses and Aaron.

The Lord lovingly and graciously responded to the people as he didn't even acknowledge their grumbling and complaining. He just promises to feed them. In fact, he is going to do the miraculous in “raining” down bread from heaven for them. This pointed to the way the bread would appear and the abundance they would have of it. The Lord knew their complaining spirit indicated a problem in their relationship with him. And he wanted their hearts to be completely surrendered to him, so he lovingly, patiently and graciously promised to give them what they complained about. (Big Idea). The same is true for us, today. When we grumble and complain to the Lord, and we all do it, it shows that we have a problem in our relationship with him. We aren’t content with what he has given us. Or we don’t trust that he has our best interest at heart. Or we aren’t relying on him to supply our daily needs. And by doing those things we are being disobedient to him, and it causes us to struggle in our faith. It’s like we are resisting to take the training wheels off our faith. He wants us to completely surrender our hearts to him which will then deepen our relationship with him. A first step to surrendering our hearts to the Lord is to “fast or stop complaining” and that brings us to our first next step on the back of your communication card which is to Fast my complaining spirit, surrender my heart and deepen my relationship with the Lord.

The Lord promised to provide food to them which would also include the testing he had for them. They had failed the last test but that didn’t cause him to give up on them. He was going to test them and teach them until they surrendered their hearts to him. The test would be if they followed his instructions as to the food that he was about to provide. He wanted them to conduct their lives according to his divine instructions. He was testing them in a small way before testing them in a larger way at Mt. Sinai. The Lord told Moses that the people were to go out each day and gather just the food that they needed for that day, and no more. Then on the sixth day they were to gather enough for two days and prepare it to last for two days. He was testing them to see if they would trust in him, rely on him and be obedient to him. Here the Lord was alluding to the Sabbath looking backward to the rest that he observed at creation and forward to the fourth commandment that he will give the people later. Stuart says, “The resulting arrangement provided a weekly opportunity for the emerging Israelite community to be tested by God and to learn about his faithful provision. God could see how they were doing in learning to obey him in advance of his giving them his full covenant law.”

Now that God’s promise had been given, the Israelites were going to see the glory of the Lord which was to guide them to respond by surrendering their hearts completely to him. That brings us to our second point, God’s Glory, found in Exodus 16:6-12. This is what God’s Word says, “So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, “In the evening you will know that it was the Lord who brought you out of Egypt, and in the morning you will see the glory of the Lord, because he has heard your grumbling against him. Who are we, that you should grumble against us?” Moses also said, “You will know that it was the Lord when he gives you meat to eat in the evening and all the bread you want in the morning, because he has heard your grumbling against him. Who are we? You are not grumbling against us, but against the Lord.” Then Moses told Aaron, “Say to the entire Israelite community, ‘Come before the Lord, for he has heard your grumbling.’” While Aaron was speaking to the whole Israelite community, they looked toward the desert, and there was the glory of the Lord appearing in the cloud. The Lord said to Moses, “I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites. Tell them, ‘At twilight you will eat meat, and in the morning you will be filled with bread. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God.’”

God’s glory was going to be revealed to the Israelites because he had heard their grumbling against Him. In fact, they were going to see the “glory” of the Lord in two ways. First, they would see the glory of the Lord through his provision, and this would cause them to know that he is the Lord that brought them out of Egypt. They needed to be reminded that he was the same Lord who did that for his people only a month ago. The Lord would accomplish this by giving them meat that evening and then all the bread they wanted in the morning. And he did this because he heard their grumbling against him. We see the loving patience, long-suffering and the grace of the Lord here. He didn’t punish them, he didn’t rebuke them, instead he showed them his glory.

Second, they would see the Shekinah glory of the Lord. Moses told Aaron to call the whole Israelite community to come before the Lord. Again, this showing of his Shekinah glory was due to them grumbling. But the Lord was also using this to draw them to himself so they would surrender their hearts to him and come into a deeper relationship with him. While Aaron was talking to the people, they saw the glory of the Lord appearing in the cloud. We don’t know exactly what happened. Maybe they saw the pillar of fire within the cloud shining out. And we don’t know if the people could hear the Lord’s voice or not, but they knew that the Lord was speaking. The Lord told Moses to relay the information he had previously told him. He repeated that they would have meat that evening and be filled with bread in the morning, and this would cause them to know that the Lord was their God. We can really see the contrast made in this section between the grumbling of the Israelites and the loving patience, long-suffering and the grace of the Lord. Six times in these seven verses it is mentioned that the people grumbled. Moses was reminding them that even though they seemed to be grumbling against him and Aaron, they were really grumbling against the Lord. But the Lord was going to provide for them, nonetheless.

A second step to surrendering their hearts completely to the Lord was for the Lord to show them his glory, so they would know he was the same Lord who brought them out of Egypt and that he was the Lord their God. We need to be reminded of God’s glory in our lives as well. He has proven his love to us over and over again. He has provided for us over and over again. He has shown us that we can rely on him over and over again. He has kept his promises to us over and over again. Seeing his glory in our lives should cause us to give God the glory, surrender our hearts completely and come into a deeper relationship with him. That brings us to our second next step on the back of your communication card which is to Give God the glory for the great things he has done for me.

God’s promise had been given and God’s glory had been shown, God would now be faithful to his promise. That brings us to our third point, God’s faithfulness, found in Exodus 16:13-20. This is what God’s Word says, “That evening quail came and covered the camp, and in the morning, there was a layer of dew around the camp. When the dew was gone, thin flakes like frost on the ground appeared on the desert floor. When the Israelites saw it, they said to each other, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, “It is the bread the Lord has given you to eat. This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Everyone is to gather as much as they need. Take an omer for each person you have in your tent.’” The Israelites did as they were told; some gathered much, some little. And when they measured it by the omer, the one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little. Everyone had gathered just as much as they needed. Then Moses said to them, “No one is to keep any of it until morning.” However, some of them paid no attention to Moses; they kept part of it until morning, but it was full of maggots and began to smell. So Moses was angry with them.”

This section shows the fulfillment of God’s promise to the Israelites. He was faithful to them by bringing meat or quail that same evening. Notice that it was not just some quail he brought them. This was an abundance of quail as it covered the camp. He showed mercy and grace toward them. Again, he didn’t punish them or rebuke them for their grumbling and complaining spirit. He provided an abundance of what they wanted. Then when morning came and the dew was gone, there was a thin flaky layer like frost on the desert floor. This was something the Israelites had never seen before. They asked what it was, and Moses told them it was the bread from the Lord that he promised to give them. Their question “What is It?” is translated “man hu” and is where we get the word for “manna.” Moses then gave them the command from the Lord concerning the manna. The quantity that each person was to gather was an average of one “omer” per person living in each family’s tent, per day. An “omer” was equal to about two quarts.

We see obedience in that the Israelites did as they were told. In their obedience we see another miracle. The gathering of an omer per person would not have been a precise science. Some ended up gathering more than an omer and some ended up gathering less. But when each family measured it out, the ones who gathered too much didn’t have too much and the ones who gathered too little didn’t have too little. God was faithful to provide for his people. The test was not in gathering an omer of manna but that no one was to keep any of the manna until morning. They were to gather only enough each day for that day. They were not to store it or hoard it for later. They were to trust in and rely on the Lord for their “daily bread.” This was part of having faith in him, giving their hearts completely to him and being in a covenant relationship with him.

The truth he wanted to impart to them was that it would supply all their physical needs, but they had to trust in him to do it in his way and in his timing. But the Lord also wanted to teach them that he had all they needed for their spiritual life as well. Jesus tried to impart this truth to the Jews after he fed the five thousand in John chapter 6. The people were following him because they wanted more physical food. But Jesus in John 6:35 says, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never go hungry and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” Jesus was spiritual bread, the true “manna” from heaven, but they couldn’t understand and in John 6:41 it says, “At this the Jews there began to grumble about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” They grumbled against Jesus just as their ancestors did against God in the wilderness. Jesus is our “bread of life.” He is the only bread that satisfies, he is the only bread that is sufficient, and he is the only bread that sustains. Maybe you are here this morning or online and you aren’t feeding on Jesus as the bread of life. You don’t know Jesus as the one who is all satisfying, all sufficient and all sustaining. You don’t know him as your Lord and Savior. But you can know him as all those things this morning. First, you must admit that you are a sinner, second, you must believe in your heart that Jesus was crucified to take the punishment for your sins, was dead but rose again, and third, you must confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and you will be saved. If you have never accepted Jesus then maybe this next step is for you, which is to Admit that I am a sinner, believe that Jesus died for my sins and rose again, and confess Him as Lord of my life. If you just made that decision, make sure you mark that next step so we can be in touch with you. We are excited for the next step of your journey with the Lord.

So the Israelites did as they were told and obeyed the Lord commands. But there were some who paid no attention to Moses and, in effect, paid no attention to the Lord. They disregarded his commands. Maybe they were afraid and didn’t trust the Lord to provide for them the next day. Maybe they were lazy, not wanting to get up early the next morning to gather their manna for the day. Whatever the reason they were disobedient and there were consequences: in the morning the manna they had saved was full of maggots and smelled. They had saved it but couldn’t eat it. And Moses was angry with them. Now it doesn’t say that the Lord was angry with them. Again, he doesn’t chastise them, he doesn’t rebuke or punish them. He was gracious and merciful even though they were disobedient, and he was still faithful to them and supplied quail and manna for them. He wanted them to take the “training wheels” off of their faith. So, he was loving, patient, long-suffering and gracious with them, wanting them to surrender their hearts completely to him, and wanting them to be in a deeper relationship with them.

Ryken, in his commentary, tells the story of a woman whose family was almost out of food. The woman writes: Our broken, often discouraged single-parent family lived in the suburbs of Philadelphia.… As usual, bills accumulated, and financial pressure intensified.… We had little food and no money to buy groceries. One Friday while I was home during a lunch break, I did what came easily: I sat on my bed and cried. During my crying and groaning the phone rang.…“I’m from the Philadelphia Inquirer Action Line, and I understand you could use a Thanksgiving dinner.… We would like to know where you shop, so next Tuesday you can go to the store of your choice and pick up a gift certificate for $50.… We hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving.”

My reaction was joy, relief, and excitement—plus guilt. I had neglected to trust the Lord, who remains faithful. Glancing at the clock, I rushed back to work and straight to a friend’s office. Barbara had heard me exclaim many times that Jesus loves us. With great enthusiasm I told her what happened. She responded with a glint in her eye. “Ginny, I’ll do one better than that. I have a turkey that was given to us in the freezer… I’ll bring it to you on Monday, and you can spend the extra money on something else.” …On Tuesday … as we put the groceries away at home I was reflecting on how faithful God is even when our trust falters. Then, as I was about to shut the cabinet, the doorbell rang.… “Is your mother home? We are from the Church of the Open Door.… We have brought you your Thanksgiving dinner.”… With my mouth still open we watched as they brought in seven bags of groceries—and a 21-pound turkey.

We had to clear space for the groceries in the bathroom linen closet, the laundry room and under one bed. As we were preparing for bed that night, I received another phone call—Carol, a friend from church. “Ginny,” she said excitedly, “John and I have just come from the market and we bought food for Thanksgiving.… We want you and the kids to come over .… We won’t take no for an answer.”

You may have never been in that exact situation but that’s not what’s important. God provides for each of his children in a different way. What is important is to know that if we were in that situation, it would be for the testing of our faith. All we would need to do is trust in Jesus, who for the sake of his glory will provide what we need when we need it. He wants to take the “training wheels” off our faith so that we will surrender our hearts to him and come into a deeper relationship with him. I pray for each of us this morning.

As the ushers come to collect the tithes and offerings and as Gene and Roxey come to lead us in a final hymn. Let’s pray: God, we thank you again for your Word. We thank you that it gives us instructions on how to live and that it gives us hope and promises directly from you. Help us to grow in its knowledge and help us to fall deeper in love with it and with you. ​​ Help it to guide us this week and into the future. In Jesus’ name, Amen.



Wilderness University

Players gathering for the first day of basketball practice at UCLA were full of anticipation. They wondered how their coach, John Wooden, would set the tone for the long season to come. They didn’t have to wait long. Veterans knew what was coming. But first year players were no doubt perplexed by the initial lesson imparted by their Hall of Fame coach: He taught them how to put on a pair of socks. He did not teach this lesson only once, but before every game and practice. Why? Wooden discovered many players didn’t properly smooth out wrinkles in the socks around their heels and little toes. If left uncorrected, these wrinkles could cause blisters that could hamper their performance at crucial times during games. Many players thought the practice odd and laughed about it. Wooden knows some of them still laugh about it today. But the coach would not compromise on this basic fundamental principle: “I stuck to it. I believed in that, and I insisted on it.” In our desire to grow as Christians, we can easily forget about the fundamentals of our faith. If we do, we run the risk of developing painful spiritual blisters that can hurt us as we run our race.

This morning in our scripture found in Exodus 15:22-27, we see the Israelites in their first week at, what I call, Wilderness University. This was the place where God was going to teach them how he was going to be their God and how they were to be his people. Just like Coach Wooden, God was going to teach in perplexing and unorthodox ways. In basketball, Coach Wooden knew that the players’ equipment, including their socks, would be vital to their success. In living as God’s children, the Lord knew that he had to equip them with certain characteristics that were vital to their success as his Chosen people. The wilderness was going to be the university of higher learning that the Lord would use to teach them those lessons. The Lord does the same for us today. Our wilderness are the trials and testing that God takes us through in order to sanctify us or to make us more like Jesus. Coach Wooden started with socks. The Lord started with faith. If this fundamental wasn’t taught first blisters would break out, physical ones for Coach Wooden’s players and spiritual ones for the Israelites. It was imperative that the Lord teach them to trust in Him, rely on Him and be obedient to Him so they would be ready to do his will and fulfill the purposes he had for them in the Promised Land. That brings us to our big idea this morning: God desires to teach us to trust in Him, rely on Him and be obedient to Him. This is Faith 101, and the lessons include trouble, testing and teaching. As we become more proficient and obedient in these lessons we become more like Jesus.

Let’s pray: Heavenly Father, as we open your Word this morning, pour out your Holy Spirit on us. Open our hearts and minds to what you want us to learn and what you want us to apply to our lives. May these words spoken this morning bring you glory and honor. Help us to become more and more like your son, Jesus, every day. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Our first point this morning is Trouble found in Exodus 15:22-24. Follow along as I read. This is what God’s Word says, “Then Moses led Israel from the Red Sea and they went into the Desert of Shur. For three days they traveled in the desert without finding water. When they came to Marah, they could not drink its water because it was bitter. (That is why the place is called Marah).” So the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What are we to drink?”

Again, like last week, at the beginning of our passage we see the word “then” which should cause us to look at what came before. What came before is the Song of Moses that was sung to the Lord for his deliverance from the Egyptians at the Red Sea and his total destruction of Pharaoh’s army. Now Moses leads Israel from the Red Sea into the desert of Shur. In Hebrew it says that Moses “caused the Israelites to set out” from the Red Sea implying that they may not have wanted to leave that place of triumph to travel into the desert. After four hundred years of slavery in Egypt, they have just had their first “mountaintop” experience. They are like Peter at the Transfiguration in Matthew 17:4, “Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” They may have been like, “Hey Moses, did you just see what God did. It’s good for us to be here. Let’s camp out here for a while.” They probably realize that the only way forward was through the desert and that was not going to be as good as where they were right now. In the human experience we know a few things about mountaintops. One, the mountaintops are not usually where the learning and growing takes place. It’s not where our faith is tested because life on the mountaintop is good, and we don’t seem to have a care in the world. It is the wilderness, the desert, where learning and growing usually happens because that is where our faith is tested. But, in our humanness, the wilderness is not the place we want to be because life is tough there.

Two, the mountaintop experiences are usually followed by valleys. We can’t stay on the mountain forever and the only way is down. Satan will use the valleys especially after mountaintop experiences to discourage us and shame us, etc. Our successes are usually followed by failure. We see this in scripture. Immediately following the victory at Jericho, we see the Israelites defeat at Ai. After the victory of Peter confessing Jesus as the Messiah we see the defeat of Peter’s denial of Jesus. Even after Jesus Baptism, which was a mountaintop experience, Jesus went into the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil. Of course, Jesus overcame the Devil’s temptation becoming the example we must follow to make it through the wildernesses of our lives. One more lesson we can learn: Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil. Guess who was leading the Israelites into the Wilderness? The Lord was leading them in the pillar of cloud. The wilderness does not come as a surprise to God, he is in control of the wilderness, he is the one leading us into the wilderness usually for a time of testing and teaching because he wants us to trust in him, rely on him and be obedient to him (Big Idea).

So Moses caused the Israelites to travel into the desert of Shur. According to Stuart, the Desert of Shur was a vast, rugged, sparsely populated wilderness region in northern Sinai. Once they left the banks of the Red Sea, they traveled in the wilderness for three days without finding water. It would have been very difficult to make it in the desert without water, especially with that amount of people, and with the children and animals. We can imagine the people are getting worried and anxious. They are probably rationing what water they have left which means their energy levels aren’t where they needed to be. Maybe they had completely run out of water by this point. But then they come to Marah. They must have been overjoyed at finally finding water. But the joy was short-lived as the water was too bitter to drink. We get an aside from the author that the reason this place was called Marah was because the water there was bitter. In fact, the name Marah means “bitter.” They Israelites had traveled for three days without finding any water and when they finally found some it was bitter and undrinkable. This was the first test from the Lord. How were they going to react to this hardship? Would they cry out to the Lord for help? As we see they reacted in the wrong way. The people became “bitter” towards Moses and grumbled against him. This was the beginning of a reoccurring habit for the Israelites as there are over a dozen passages in the first five books of the Bible where we see the Israelites grumbling and complaining.

The Israelites sinned a number of ways here. First, they were forgetful. They forgot what the Lord had done for them less than a week ago. Psalms 106:7 says, “When our fathers were in Egypt, they gave no thought to your miracles; they did not remember your many kindnesses, and they rebelled by the sea, the Red Sea.” Second, they were selfish. Their primary concern was what God could do for them and were probably thinking why hasn’t he just done it already. Three, they were anxious. ​​ “What shall we drink?” revealed their anxious hearts. In Matthew 6:31-33, it says, “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Fourth, they grumbled against Moses which was really grumbling against the Lord. Moses was just the human target that they could see and vent at. Their worry and anxiety, their grumbling and complaining, showed an attitude and a heart problem that if left unchecked would lead to a host of other problems. This spiritual heart problem was what the Lord wanted to heal in the wilderness. They were spiritually immature and it was the reason for the Lord’s testing and teaching.

This was the Lord’s Wilderness University where he was going to teach them Faith 101. They were going to need many examples of the Lord’s grace, mercy and goodness toward them in the troubles they were going to face, in order to build the kind of faith that He wanted them to have. We are a lot like the Israelites. We love the mountaintops. We love it when things are going well in our lives. But when circumstances go awry, we cry out to the Lord in complaint. We say things like, “I don’t know why this always happens to me?” or “why doesn’t God hear my prayers” or “Why doesn’t God care about me.” We say, “Lord, what have you done for me lately?” We forget that he saw us through a particularly tough time just last week. We forget that our faith grows in times of trouble. In fact, we don’t really even want to think about that. But God is good all the time even when he is leading us to bitter waters. It shows his mercy, grace and compassion that he doesn’t want us to be infants in our faith. He wants our faith to grow to maturity and the only way that happens is through trials and troubles in our life. So we know that God is good because he has proven it over and over again. The key is to remember his goodness the next time and every time that trials and trouble comes our way. That brings us to our first next step this morning which is believe in the goodness of God even when he leads me to bitter waters.

Once we identify that trials and troubles have come, that is when we need to be ready for the testing and the teaching that the Lord brings to us to grow our faith. That brings us to our second point, Testing and Teaching, found in verses 25-27. This is what God’s Word says, “Then Moses cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a piece of wood. He threw it into the water, and the water became fit to drink. There the Lord issued a ruling and instruction for them and put them to the test. He said, “If you listen carefully to the Lord your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, who heals you.” Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs and seventy palm trees, and they camped there near the water.”

Once the Israelites ran into trouble the testing began. The test was, how were they going to react to the trouble they found themselves in? We know they reacted badly. They grumbled against Moses and the Lord. But notice how Moses reacted. He cried out to the Lord. He didn’t grumble against the Lord as the people had done to him. He cried out to the Lord on their behalf asking for him to provide water for the people. We have some good examples in the OT about how to deal with troubles. Joseph was sold by his brothers into slavery and then thrown in jail for a crime he didn’t commit. He kept trusting in the Lord, believing that he had a plan for his life and that plan would sooner or later be fulfilled no matter what. And it was. We also have the story of Job. God allowed Satan to take everything away from him but his life. He lost his family, his wealth, etc. His wife told him to curse God and die but Job was a righteous man. He may not have understood what was happening and why and even came close to going too far with God, but he trusted in the Lord and had faith that whatever happened was God’s will for his life. And now Moses. When he is attacked and grumbled against, he doesn’t attack and grumble against the Lord. He cries out to the Lord. He trusts the Lord to take care of his people. These are the examples we need to study and strive to follow, not the Israelites who just three days after seeing their miraculous deliverance at the Red Sea, let their circumstances cloud their faith in the Lord. That brings us to our second next step which is to handle the difficult situations in my life by crying out to the Lord.

Moses cried out to the Lord and the Lord answered his prayer. The Lord showed Moses a piece of wood and when he threw it into the water the water became sweet. The word “showed” means “instruction.” The Lord was instructing Moses connecting their testing with his teaching. We see the faithfulness and patience of the Lord with his children. He showed his faithfulness by supplying what they needed right when they needed it. And he showed his patience by not rebuking or punishing them for their grumbling, complaining and lack of faith. He was testing and teaching the Israelites so that they would learn to trust in Him and rely on Him. He knew it was going to take time to get them where he wanted them to be. He was going to have to be faithful time and time again, over and over again, testing them again and again and continually teaching them, until they learned how he wanted them to react to the troubles they encountered. This process wasn’t going to be a quick one but the Lord was in it for the long haul. His lesson plan was to test them and then teach them. His teaching would set them up for more testing that was going to take place in the future.

What was this teaching? It was to listen carefully, do what is right, pay attention to commands and keep decrees. First, they were to listen carefully to the voice of the Lord their God. They had probably been listening to the many gods of the Egyptians, but the Lord had proved them to be false gods. Now he wanted them to listen to the Lord who was their God. Second, they were to do what was right in the eyes of the Lord. Not what was right in their own eyes. Third, they were to pay attention to the Lord’s commands. Fourth, they were to keep all the decrees of the Lord. We begin to see a pattern for faith in the Lord here. The Lord wanted his people to trust in Him, rely on Him and be obedient to Him (Big Idea). ​​ What were these commands and decrees that the Lord wanted them to keep? We don’t know for sure, but they were probably an introduction to the Law that the Lord would give them more fully at Mt. Sinai. In this introduction to the Law, He also introduced the concept of covenant. A covenant established the basis of a relationship, including conditions, promises, and consequences if those conditions are unmet. The Lord’s teaching of listening carefully, doing what is right, paying attention to commands and keeping decrees were the conditions of the covenant. The promise was that if they kept those conditions, they would have physical health. None of the diseases the Lord brought on the Egyptians would come on them. The consequences are implied here that if they do not keep those conditions those same diseases would come upon them. Mackay says, “Divine displeasure was often associated with disease and illness.

The Lord’s teaching in verse 26 called for loyalty and obedience to him. He wanted them above all else to please him by doing what was right in his eyes not their own. And if they did, he promised to be Jehovah-Ropha, “the Lord who heals you.” Anders says, “In the Old Testament “ropha” means “to restore, to heal, to cure … not only in the physical sense but in the moral and spiritual sense, as well.” At Marah God demonstrated his healing power by curing the bitter waters. And this was intended to teach the Israelites to trust him for every kind of healing. Psalms 103:1-5 says, “Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits—who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” This was a promise that if they turned to him in confession and forgiveness when they sinned, he would heal them spiritually and they would be kept physically well. Just a note that this was the old covenant. In the new covenant, today, we understand that having faith and believing in Jesus doesn’t mean we will live a completely healthy life.

The Lord’s first lesson in Faith 101 was complete. He had tested them and taught them what he required of them as his people, and if they were obedient to his teaching, he would not bring any of the diseases on them that he brought on the Egyptians. The next lesson and the next phase of testing could begin. But before that next lesson started, The Lord led them to Elim where there were twelve springs and seventy palm trees and they camped there. We see the mercy and grace of the Lord. He had already given them good water to drink at Marah. The bitter waters had already been made sweet. But instead of taking them immediately back into the wilderness for the next semester, he gave them a “spa” day, a three-day weekend or a Spring break, so to speak. Elim was a place of abundance and was symbolic of fullness and blessing. This is what the Israelites had to look forward to if they would trust in Him, rely on Him and be obedient to Him in the future (Big Idea).

The cool thing about this story is that the Lord was patiently and lovingly bringing his people along knowing their past but not wanting them to stay there. He knew where he wanted to take them and knew what their teachability level was in the beginning of their time together. Just like high school and college, when you are starting out you take freshman level courses not senior level ones. Your teaching starts out easy and then gets harder as the classes progress. You have to start with 100 level classes before you can get to the 200 and 300 level classes. In the Wilderness University that the Lord had enrolled them in, they had to start out with Faith 101 before they could get to Faith 201, etc. They had to learn how to put their socks on properly so they wouldn’t get spiritual blisters. The Lord didn’t rebuke and punish them at this point because they were just starting out. In fact, he led them to an awesome oasis where they could rest and relax. But, he wasn’t going to leave them at Elim. He wanted them to learn and progress in their faith and in the covenant he had introduced to them. The next test was coming, and it was coming so that they would grow and mature in their faith. It was coming so that they would learn to trust in, rely on and be obedient to him, instead of grumbling and complaining.

Testing is important in the development and maturity of our faith. We see this in James 1:2-4, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. I Peter 1:6-7a, says, in the Living Translation, “So be truly glad! There is wonderful joy ahead, even though the going is rough for a while down here. These trials are only to test your faith, to see whether or not it is strong and pure. It is being tested as fire tests gold and purifies it.” Life is rough on this earth. Sin has caused this to be. But we have something better to look forward to. God does test us, not because he wants us to fail, but because he wants us to learn to succeed. And we succeed by listening carefully to his voice, doing what is right in his eyes, paying attention to his commands and keeping all his decrees. I think the key is allowing Him to turn the burdens that we bear through His testing and teaching of us into blessings. Just like the Israelites, it is a matter of our attitude towards testing and our hearts toward the Lord.

My conclusion is from Anders' commentary: One pastor of a small church in the Midwest learned this truth while visiting a widow in his church. As he talked with her, he noticed two large jars of beads on a shelf. He asked why one jar was nearly full of beads while the other jar had only a few. “Through my life I have experienced many burdens that God has changed into a blessing for me,” she told him. “The jar with a few beads represents my burdens, and the nearly full jar stands for the burdens God has turned into a blessing in my life. As he does so, I move a bead from one jar to the other. It doesn’t help to complain when I hurt, but it does help to look for God’s hand in turning things around.”




Wiersbe says, “If life were nothing but tests, we would become discouraged. If life were all pleasure, we would never learn discipline and develop character. Let us be grateful that the Lord gives us enough blessings to encourage us and enough burdens to humble us and that he knows how much we can take.” So, during the course of our lives, God will take us to the desert and will test us, and we will have opportunities to react to his testing. We can complain and doubt God’s leadership, as the Israelites did, or we can trust for the bead to be transferred from the jar of burdens to the jar of blessings. That brings us to our last next step which is to Be grateful to the Lord for his testing and teaching knowing it is for my good and to mature my faith.

As the Ushers prepare to collect the tithes and offerings and the Praise Team comes to lead us in a final song, let’s close our time together in prayer. Lord God, thank you for this time we have spent together worshiping you and learning from your word. As we leave may we be committed to worshiping you and serving others daily. Help us to believe in your goodness even when you lead us to bitter waters. Help us to handle the difficult situations in our lives by crying out to you. Let us not complain and grumble about them but be grateful for your testing and teaching knowing it is for our good and to mature our faith. Help us to trust in you, rely on you and be obedient to you in all things. Finally, help us to stay connected to you and to each other. In Jesus’ name, Amen

Source: Coach Wooden Started with Socks



In 1792 a group of settlers traveled to Africa. There were more than a thousand of them, all of African descent. Some had worked as slaves on American plantations. Others had served as soldiers in the British army and then moved north to live in Canada. Together they planned to resettle what is now Sierra Leone, on land purchased as a Province of Freedom. The settlers were all professing Christians. When they reached Africa, they marched ashore singing a hymn by William Hammond: “Awake, and sing the song Of Moses and the Lamb! Wake every heart and every tongue, To praise the Saviour’s Name.… Sing on your heavenly way! Ye ransomed sinners, sing! Sing on, rejoicing every day In Christ, the eternal King!” It was an appropriate hymn to sing. The settlers had been released from captivity, they had crossed the sea, and now they were entering their promised land. So they sang of the prophet Moses, who brought Israel out of Egypt. They also sang to Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, who had set them free to serve God in a new land. God had done such a great thing for them that it called forth a song of praise. They couldn’t contain their celebration as they sang of who the Lord is and what he had done for them.

In our scripture this morning, in Exodus 15:1-21, we are going to see another group of slaves who have been released from captivity, have crossed the sea and are now ready to start out on their way to their Promised Land. When these slaves were finally free, on the other side of the sea, they sang a song to the Lord, about the Lord and for the Lord. God had set them free so that they could worship him in a land all their own. And in celebration they brought forth a song of praise for who the Lord is and for the great thing he did for them. That brings us to our big idea this morning that God is worthy and deserves our worship for who He is and what He has done.

Let’s pray: Heavenly Father, thank you for being with us this morning. Pour out your Holy Spirit on us and give us insight into your Word. Use it to teach us, to rebuke us, to correct us and to instruct us in righteousness. Let us hide it in our hearts so we may not sin against you and may it guide us on the path of our lives. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Our first point is God’s Victory found in verses 1-5. This is what God’s Word says, “Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the Lord: “I will sing to the Lord, for he is highly exalted. Both horse and driver he has hurled into the sea. “The Lord is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him. The Lord is a warrior; the Lord is his name. Pharaoh’s chariots and his army he has hurled into the sea. The best of Pharaoh’s officers are drowned in the Red Sea. The deep waters have covered them; they sank to the depths like a stone.”

The word “then” lets us know that what comes next is because of what came before. And what came before was the Lord bringing the Israelites through the Red Sea on dry ground and the destruction of the Egyptian army. The song opens with identifying who sang the song and why. Moses and the Israelites sing a song of praise to the Lord, because of that mighty act which brought him victory over the Egyptians. This song has been called many things. The Song of Moses, The Song of Salvation, Song of the Sea, Song of Triumph, Song of Redemption, Song of Victory, to name a few.

This was probably a spontaneous celebration by the people because now their salvation, God’s power and God’s presence had been made real to them. The only proper response they could give was praise and worship to the Lord for who he is and what he had done for them. Moses and the Israelites sing because the Lord is worthy and he deserves it. He is the one true God and the only one worthy to be highly exalted and lifted up. Notice that the song never mentions Moses and what he did but only Yahweh and what he did. Worship should always be focused on the Lord and never on human beings. When we worship, it should always be to and for an audience of one. This is the first song, psalm or hymn recorded in the Bible. The name “Lord” or his pronoun is mentioned ten times in this section as they sang to the Lord praising Him for their deliverance. It was something they could not have done for themselves. The Lord is highly exalted because he has “hurled horse and driver into the sea. Hurled” gives the sense of being slung violently from a “slingshot.” The word used for “Lord” in verse 2 is translated “I Am.” Moses was bringing attention to the promises given to him at the burning bush and the awesome name of the Lord. ​​ 

The song describes five attributes of the Lord that they worship him for. First, they worship him because he is their strength. Notice that the Lord didn’t give them strength, he was their strength. Second, they worship the Lord because he is their “defense” or “might” or “song” depending on your version. The Lord not only fought for them but defended them as well. The word “song” gives the sense that the Lord is the reason for their song of praise and worship. Third, they worship the Lord because he has become their salvation. They recognized that they couldn’t save themselves but were in need of a Savior to bring them out of slavery and give them total freedom. Fourth, they worship him because he is their God and their father’s God. Now after first hand experience of what Yahweh had done for them, they profess that he was now their God and claimed the fact that he was also their father’s God. We all need to have our own personal faith. We can’t get to heaven on our parents’ or grandparents’ faith. Our faith is made personal when we believe that Jesus Christ died on a cross for our sins and rose again, that he took our punishment for sin, that we are broken before Him and we confess that we are in need of a Savior. This is what happened to the Israelites. The Lord saved them when they couldn’t save themselves and they professed him as their God and the God of their father Abraham. This was their confession of faith.

Fifth, they worship the Lord because he is a warrior literally meaning “man of war.” One of God’s names is Jehovah-Sabaoth which means “Lord of hosts'' or “armies.” This title is used 285 times in the OT reminding us that the Lord fought for his people as he promised he would. We are also reminded that the Lord is holy and just and is opposed to evil and anything that goes against his purposes and comes against his people. Stuart says, “They understood their God to be a warrior, one who would lead them into battle, who would fight for them during battles, and who would ensure their survival as his people.” The statement “the LORD is his name” clarifies the identity of the one who conquered the Egyptian army. He is none other than Yahweh, himself. Pharaoh claimed to not know who their God was, when Moses first came to him, but now, he did know His name.

The Lord was victorious as he hurled Pharaoh’s chariots and his army into the sea. In fact, he defeated Pharoah’s best officers by drowning them in the waters. Pharoah’s campaign to bring the Israelites back was a coordinated and thought-out military undertaking. Pharaoh didn’t just take a few men out to bring them back, he took the best of the best that he had, and the Lord totally destroyed them. In verses 4 and 5 there are four references to the sea including “deep waters” and “depths.” By commanding the “deep waters” to cover the Egyptians, Yahweh showed that he is the Lord of all creation. The word “depths” refers to the underworld where the Egyptian army was relegated after their drowning. The use of these words is confirmation that it wasn’t shallow water the Lord took the Israelites through but a deep sea. The Egyptian army, who opposed the Lord, sank to the depths of the sea like a stone thrown into it, never to be seen again. So Moses and the Israelites celebrated, praising and worshiping the Lord for who he is and for what he did for them which reminds us that God is worthy and deserves our worship for who He is and what He has done (Big Idea).

Our second point, God’s weapons, is found in verses 6-10. This is what God’s Word says, “Your right hand, Lord, was majestic in power. Your right hand, Lord, shattered the enemy. “In the greatness of your majesty you threw down those who opposed you. You unleashed your burning anger; it consumed them like stubble. By the blast of your nostrils the waters piled up. The surging waters stood up like a wall; the deep waters congealed in the heart of the sea. The enemy boasted, ‘I will pursue, I will overtake them. I will divide the spoils; I will gorge myself on them. I will draw my sword and my hand will destroy them.’ But you blew with your breath, and the sea covered them. They sank like lead in the mighty waters.”

The song turns from singing about the Lord to singing to the Lord. We notice that the weapons the Lord used to defeat the Egyptian army were not the conventional weapons of warfare. The first weapon was the Lord’s “right hand” which was the hand of skill and power. The term “right hand” is used over fifty times in the Bible. In Psalms 45:4 it teaches us. In Psalms 48:10, it is full of righteousness. In Habakkuk 2:16, it is the cup of judgment. It is also a metaphor for divine power in action. ​​ Psalms 17:7 says, “Show me the wonders of your great love, you who save by your right hand those who take refuge in you from their foes.” And Psalms 60:5 says, “Save us and help us with your right hand, that those you love may be delivered.” The Lord’s right hand was “majestic in power”, and it shattered the enemy. The Lord is supreme over all things and subject to no other powers. He is mightier than anything or anyone else. The enemy, whether the Egyptian army in the present or an enemy in the future, would be vanquished and no longer pose a threat to God’s people. The Lord’s right hand also showed the “greatness of his majesty” which threw down those who opposed the Lord. This speaks to the beauty of how God threw the Egyptian army down. It was glorious and awe-inspiring. The second weapon was the Lord’s “burning anger” which consumed them like stubble. He took the leash off of his burning anger and forcefully set it in motion. Consumed like “stubble” signifies a rapid and complete removal from this life.

And the fuel for bringing his power to bear against Pharaoh and the Egyptians was their enslavement and cruel treatment of God’s people and the drowning of Israelite babies in the Nile River. God’s punishment was appropriate as he drowned their people for drowning his people. The third weapon was the “blast of the Lord’s nostrils.” This blast or wind was not random but used to fulfill God’s purposes. In the Bible, nostrils can be translated as anger so with the “wind of his anger” the Lord piled the waters up and they stood firm like a wall and the deep waters congealed in the heart of the sea. These phrases describe the walls of water on either side of the Israelites as they walked through the Red Sea on dry ground. This continues to confirm the miracle of separating the waters of the sea. It wasn’t a “retaining wall” that he created in the midst of the sea but huge, tall, walls of water. It also confirms the Lord’s mastery over the elements. Earlier in verse 5 we saw his mastery over the waters now we see his mastery over the wind. The wind is his to command and he does it as easily as we breathe in and out. He commands the winds and the seas, and they obey. The Lord’s anger reminds us of what the Egyptians had done to God’s people. Because the Lord is holy, he hates sin and because of his righteousness, sin must be punished.

Next, we see the attitude and the arrogant claims of Pharaoh and the Egyptians. They believed it would be easy to pursue and capture them. That they would divide the spoils and gorge themselves probably meaning they would take back all that the Egyptians had given them when they left Egypt. They were expecting a fight, but arrogantly confident they would win. Pharaoh boasted that his hand would destroy them, but his hand was nothing compared to the right hand of the Lord. Pharaoh was a lot of “hot air.” All the Lord had to do was breathe and the sea drowned his army. The wind of destruction took them down as quick as a lead weight in the mighty waters; a variation on the stone in verse 5.

The Israelites were so overjoyed at what the Lord had done for them that it caused a celebration of praise and worship, about the Lord, for the Lord and to the Lord. And we should do the same. When was the last time you gave the Lord honor, praise, worship and glory for the great things he has done for you? When was the last time you celebrated those things? If you have accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you can celebrate your salvation which is freely given to you. (Big Idea). That brings us to our first next step on the back of your communication card which is to Praise and worship the Lord for what he has done in my life.

That brings us to our third point, God’s character, found in verses 11-16. This is what God’s Word says, “Who among the gods is like you, Lord? Who is like you—majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders? “You stretch out your right hand, and the earth swallows your enemies. In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed. In your strength you will guide them to your holy dwelling. The nations will hear and tremble; anguish will grip the people of Philistia. The chiefs of Edom will be terrified, the leaders of Moab will be seized with trembling, the people of Canaan will melt away; terror and dread will fall on them. By the power of your arm, they will be as still as a stone—until your people pass by, Lord, until the people you bought pass by.”

In this section we see God’s character. First, he is incomparable. Psalm 86:8 says, “Among the gods there is none like you, Lord; no deeds can compare with yours.” And Psalm 89:8 says, “Who is like you, Lord God Almighty? You, Lord, are mighty, and your faithfulness surrounds you.” The Lord is the one and only true God. He is supreme and sovereign over everything and everyone. The emphatic repetition of the rhetorical question “Who is like you?” makes the forceful statement that there is no one like the Lord. Moses and the people sing of three things that confirm this. One, he is “majestic in holiness.” His beauty is seen in that he is good and always does what is right. He is set apart, unique and absolutely pure and just. Two, he is “awesome in glory” meaning that his power and might are impressive. He is rightly to be feared and should be praised. When we think about the Lord, who he is and the miraculous acts he has done, we should stand in awe, and it should cause us to be overwhelmed with reverence for him. Three, he is wonder-working. He does the supernatural, the miraculous and the amazing. He is so powerful that all he has to do is stretch out his right hand and the earth does his will. In this passage we have seen the Lord command the wind, the sea and now the earth expressing the totality of God’s power. In verse 12, the word “earth” again refers to the underworld, speaking of the Egyptian’s judgment by the Lord.

The second characteristic of the Lord is his unfailing love. The Hebrew word is “khesed.” There is no one English word that can describe all that “khesed” is. It can be translated “mercy,” “grace,” “love,” “goodness,” “kindness,” “loving-kindness,” “steadfast love,” and more. The idea behind “khesed” is that the Lord is passionately loyal to his people even though he is superior to them, and they are undeserving. This points to the covenant that the Lord will make with Israel in Exodus 34. He will guide them and lead them as their king because he has redeemed them for His purposes. He is to be their God and they are to be his people. Cole says, “God is seen as the ‘redeemer kinsman’ of his covenant people, Israel.” The third characteristic is the Lord’s strength. The Lord’s strength is seen in two ways. One, he will guide them to his holy dwelling. The dwelling is holy because the Lord’s special presence will be there. This could be talking about three places, Sinai, Canaan, or the Jerusalem temple or maybe all three. It has always been God’s plan to dwell with his people and to someday take them home to be with him. John 14:3 says, (Jesus is talking to his disciples) “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” Spending eternity with the Lord is what redemption and salvation brings to all believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 3:18 says, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.” The Lord is strong enough to lead his people to Sinai, Canaan, Jerusalem and eventually to Heaven.

Two, we see his strength and power as he strikes fear into the hearts of the nations. The nations will hear what the Lord has done for his people, and they will tremble. They will fare no better than Egypt when they encounter the Lord and his people. The nations mentioned are roughly in the order the Israelites will encounter them. The Philistines will be gripped with anguish. Anguish is the word used for the mental and physical effects of being terrified. The chiefs of Edom will be terrified causing them to be distressed and dismayed when confronted by the Israelites. The leaders of Moab will be seized with trembling and the people of Canaan will melt away because terror and dread will fall on them. The fact that the nations heard what the Lord had done to the Egyptians is confirmed in a number of OT passages. In Exodus 18:10-11, Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law says, “Blessed be the Lord, who hath delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians and out of the hand of Pharaoh … now I know that the Lord is greater than all gods.” In Joshua 9:9, the Gibeonites said to Joshua, “Your servants have come from a very distant country because of the fame of the Lord your God. For we have heard reports of him: all that he did in Egypt. And hundreds of years later, in 1 Samuel 4:8, the Philistines said, “Who shall deliver us out of the hand of these mighty Gods? These are the Gods that smote the Egyptians with all the plagues in the wilderness.”

The fourth characteristic is the Lord’s power. By the power of his arm, he will make them as stone. He will petrify the nations and they will be so scared that they will not be able to lift a hand against his people as they pass through their territory. Just like the Egyptians sank like a “stone” the future enemies of Israel will be as “still as stone.” “Pass by” could be alluding to the Israelites passing through enemy territory or crossing the Jordan River in Joshua 3 which leads into the Promised Land. The Israelites are God’s chosen people, a nation created by him and redeemed by him for his purposes. As we continue to study Exodus, we will notice that the Israelites do not defeat their enemies as easily as this passage suggests. But Moses is writing these words from God’s perspective and from His perspective their enemies will be conquered. Moses wanted the Israelites to see their future from God’s point of view not their own. The battle belongs to the Lord, and he has promised to fight for them. They need not worry or doubt. This is good for us to remember as well. We must keep our focus on the Lord and not our circumstances. It’s hard to do but it is necessary if we are not to be swayed by Satan and the world. We have been promised a heavenly home spent with God and Jesus for eternity. We need to persevere and trust in the Lord because the end is never in doubt.

Now we come to our final point, God’s Promises, found in verses 17-21. This is what God’s Word says, “You will bring them in and plant them on the mountain of your inheritance—the place, Lord, you made for your dwelling, the sanctuary, Lord, your hands established. “The Lord reigns for ever and ever.” When Pharaoh’s horses, chariots and horsemen went into the sea, the Lord brought the waters of the sea back over them, but the Israelites walked through the sea on dry ground. Then Miriam the prophetess, Aaron’s sister, took a timbrel in her hand, and all the women followed her, with timbrels and dancing. Miriam sang to them: “Sing to the Lord, for he is highly exalted. Both horse and driver he has hurled into the sea.”

In this section we see the promises that God made to his people for their future. He will lead them into the Promised Land that he has set apart for them and will plant them on the mountain of His inheritance. The mountain of His inheritance is Mount Zion, the hill in Jerusalem where the temple would be built. Mount Zion will be the place, the sanctuary, he will make, where he would dwell with his people. This verse is looking ahead to that time. The words “you” and “your” are used five times in this one verse. Being planted on the mountain was solely the Lord’s doing. Israel had nothing to do with it; they only followed the Lord as he led them to it. Two, the words “inheritance”, “dwelling” and “sanctuary” describe the land in religious terms because the place he was leading them to, was where they would worship the Lord and fully get to know him. Up to now they didn’t fully “know” the Lord. They had been in captivity in a foreign land with foreign gods. Now he was leading them to a place where they could fully know Him and worship Him as their ancestors did and to a land that was their own. This would fulfill the covenant promises of descendants and land made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

In verse 18, the song ends where it began: with its focus on the Lord. The Lord is their victorious king, and he will reign forever and ever. ​​ This emphasized the sovereignty and eternality of the Lord. Who the Lord is, and his attributes have been celebrated in this passage. He is incomparable, sovereign, eternal, majestic, awesome, wonder-working, all-powerful, loving, and faithful. Just as in the beginning, the song ends with a joyful outburst of praise to the Lord for who he is and what he has done for his people. We, also, as God’s people, need to spontaneously and joyfully burst out in praise and worship for who the Lord is. (Big Idea). In fact, I would like to do that right now as we praise the Lord for who he is. Just shout out an attribute of God that you want to praise him for. That brings us to the second next step on the back of your communication card which is to praise and worship the Lord for who is. This should be an ongoing celebration of praise and worship, not just one and done.

In verse 19, we have a summary of what happened in chapter 14. The Lord drowned the Egyptian army in the sea, but the Israelites walked through on dry ground. In verse 20 we have the first mention of Miriam by name. She is identified as Aaron’s sister and is called a prophetess. A prophet or prophetess was someone who the Lord directly spoke to in order to give a message to his people. Miriam is the sister who watched over Moses as a baby when he was placed in the Nile River by his mother and was able to convince Pharaoh’s daughter to have his own mother wean him. The celebration doesn’t stop at the end of the song. Miriam picks up a timbrel or tambourine and celebrates with all the women. They pick up tambourines of their own, follow her dancing as she sings the song to them. This again is a spontaneous and joyful celebration of praise and worship.

The song Miriam sang is almost exactly word for word as the opening phrase of the Song of Moses in verse 1b. “Sang” literally means “answered” and gives the sense of a call and response or chorus to what Moses and the Israelites were singing. Miriam taught the song of Moses to the women as she sang, ensuring that the song would be sung in every Israelite family and home. Everyone descended from Abraham or new to the nation would know the story of their peoples’ redemption and salvation by heart. The song would be repeated again and again to remind them of God’s great and miraculous deliverance at the sea. The point is also made that the women as well as the men were involved, meaning that the “song of salvation” is for all of God’s people. Israelite men, women and children were all saved by the Lord, and all needed to praise and worship Him for who he is and what he had done for them.

The title of the sermon today is Celebrate because Moses and the Israelites were so overcome with joy, relief and emotion for what God had done for them that they couldn’t contain it. They sang and danced and played instruments to the Lord, for the Lord and about the Lord. As we approach paying off the tax debt and bank loan, we need to think about how we are going to celebrate. It is imperative that we celebrate, praising and worshiping the Lord for what he has done for us. It has been miraculous and supernatural, and he deserves all the honor and glory for it. And what’s cool, is it isn’t the first time the Lord has come through for this church. He has always been faithful and always will be. This is just the next time and each time he is worthy and deserving of our worship for who He is and what He has done for us. (Big Idea). So, be on the lookout for how we will celebrate that. That brings us to our last next step which is to Celebrate along with my church family the Lord’s deliverance from our tax debt.

We started with a group of slaves who had been set free, crossed the sea, and entered into their Promised Land singing and celebrating. Today, we saw the Israelites who had been set free, had crossed the sea, and sang the song of Moses in celebration. And this Song of Moses echoes all the way to the Book of Revelation chapter 15, where a multitude has come from great suffering, has experienced great victory, stands on the shores of a great sea, and sings a song of praise and thanksgiving of deliverance and victory. I like what Spurgeon says, “It is obvious, then, from the plentiful allusions to this song in holy scripture, that it is full of deep spiritual significance. It teaches us not only to praise God concerning the literal overthrow of Egypt, but to praise him concerning the overthrow of all the powers of evil, and the final deliverance of all the chosen.”

Revelation 15:3 shares three elements with Exodus 15. One, the focus is on God and what he has done. Two, God’s everlasting rule is glorified. Three, the nations fear God. God’s deliverance is not just about saving a group of people but asserting his right to rule over all creation. The Song of Moses and the people’s celebration is a picture of the eternal singing and worship that we will enter into when Christ comes to make all things new. That is the very vision that John received in Revelation 15:2-4 and I would like to end reading those verses and then echoing Exodus 15:18. This is what God’s Word says, “And I saw what looked like a sea of glass glowing with fire and, standing beside the sea, those who had been victorious over the beast and its image and over the number of its name. They held harps given them by God and sang the song of God’s servant Moses and of the Lamb: “Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are your ways, King of the nations. Who will not fear you, Lord, and bring glory to your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.” And Exodus 15:18, “The Lord will reign for ever and ever.”

As the ushers prepare to collect the tithes and offerings and the praise team comes to lead us in a final song, let’s close in prayer: Lord God Almighty, creator of heaven and earth, I worship you for your perfect Word. Help us to take it and apply it according to your Holy Spirit’s prompting. You are worthy and deserving of our worship at all times for who you are and what you have done; not only in our individual lives but in the life of your church here at Idaville. May we never forget it and continually celebrate it. In Jesus’ name, Amen.



The Civil War was fought in 10,000 places, from Valverde, New Mexico, and Tullahoma, Tennessee, to St. Albans, Vermont, and Fernandina on the Florida coast. More than 3 million Americans fought in it, and over​​ 600,000 men—2 percent of the population—died in it. American homes became headquarters, American churches and schoolhouses sheltered the dying, and huge foraging armies swept across American farms and burned American towns. Americans slaughtered one another wholesale, right here in America in their own cornfields and peach orchards, along familiar roads and by waters with old American names. In two days at Shiloh, on the banks of the Tennessee River, more American men fell than in all the previous American​​ wars combined. At Cold Harbor, some 7,000 Americans fell in 20 minutes. Men who had never strayed 20 miles from their own front doors now found themselves soldiers in great armies, fighting epic battles hundreds of miles from home. They knew they were making history, and it was the greatest adventure of their lives. The war made some rich, ruined others, and changed forever the lives of all who lived through it.​​ Ken Burns – “The Civil War: the Cause”

We can’t begin to understand American history—the glories, horrors, and contradictions of America itself—without knowing something about the war we fought against each other, North and South, from 1861 to 1865. As one historian put it, “What the Iliad was for the Greeks, the Civil War is for Americans.” As long as there is an America to talk about, Americans will be talking about the Civil War. In the same way, as long as there is a Bible and people who follow the God of the Bible, people will be talking about the crossing of the Red Sea. Poems will be written, sermons preached, and movies upon movies made. It was, perhaps, the most famous event in the history of Israel. For Israel, the crossing of the Red Sea was much like the Civil War is for America. We cannot understand their history apart from it. It’s the event that the​​ Israelites kept telling themselves over and over again, and that God would remind his people over and over again when they forgot his great power and care for them. It was the greatest escape orchestrated by God for His chosen people in their history. In it he showed his almighty power and his power over creation. He showed his power over probably the greatest fighting force in the region at the time. And he displayed his power for all to see in order to save his people and gain glory for himself.

If we can’t understand Israel’s history apart from the crossing of the Red Sea, we surely can’t understand our Christian history apart from it, either. The crossing of the Red Sea became the central act on that side of the cross of God’s redemptive history to save his people. The crossing of the Red Sea was a great escape but some fifteen hundred years later, there would be the Greatest Escape of all time which would save God’s people. In it he would again show his power over creation. He would show his power over sin, death, the grave and Satan. He would display his power for all to see in order to save his people once and for all. And he would again gain glory for himself. That brings us to our big idea this morning that Moses wants us to understand which is “Our God is mighty to save.” He is all-powerful and he wielded that power to save the Israelites once and for all from Pharaoh and the Egyptians and he wielded that power to save us from our sin and from Satan once and for all. Our God is Mighty to Save!!!

“A Flood of Fear of Faith” Kevin DeYoung

Let’s pray: Dear Heavenly Father, you are mighty to save. You have displayed your power for all to see from the beginning of time. You displayed it in the creation of the universe. You displayed it in the plagues culminating with the killing of the firstborn of Egypt. And you continue to display your power throughout the world today. We are grateful for your power, especially your mighty power that saved us from eternal separation from You. Pour out your Holy Spirit on us this​​ morning so that we may see your power once again in your Word. I pray that we would never downplay the mighty miracles we see in the Bible or those we see in our lives. Give us eyes to see and ears to hear your power and might. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Our first point this morning is​​ “Frozen”​​ found in Exodus 14:15-20. Follow along as I read. This is what God’s Word says, “Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on. Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground. I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them. And I will gain glory through Pharaoh and all his army, through his chariots and his horsemen. The Egyptians will know that I am the Lord when I gain glory through Pharaoh, his chariots and his horsemen.” Then the angel of God, who had been traveling in front of Israel’s army, withdrew and went behind them. The pillar of cloud also moved from in front and stood behind them, coming between the armies of Egypt and Israel. Throughout the night the cloud brought darkness to the one side and light to the other side; so neither went near the other all night long.

Right in the beginning of our scripture, we come across a puzzling statement from the Lord to Moses. Most commentators believe that God is talking to the Israelites through Moses because Moses was their spokesman between them and the Lord. The people may have been frozen with fear because the Red Sea was in front of them and they could not see any way to get past it. But it is also possible that Moses was frozen as well, just not with fear. Moses knew that the Lord would somehow gain glory through Pharaoh and his army and that the Egyptians would know that he is the Lord. He knew that the Lord was going to deliver them, but he may not have known exactly how that deliverance was going to happen. Last week, we saw that he told the Israelites to stand firm and be still and they would see the Lord’s​​ deliverance, that he would fight for them, and they would never see these Egyptians again. Moses may have been seeking God in prayer for what to do next and may have been frozen, so to speak, in that position.

And now the Lord says, “Enough. I have heard your crying out, and I have heard your prayers. Now is the time to get up and move. Now is the time to go forward.” This is good for us to think about today, as well. It is good and well to cry out to God about what we are going through. It is good to pray for his direction and guidance for what’s next but there comes a time when we must go forward. Sometimes crying out and even prayer can become a crutch that keeps us from completely surrendering our lives to the Lord or going out to the ends of the earth spreading the gospel. I like this quote from Spurgeon: “Far be it from me to ever say a word in disparagement of the holy, happy, heavenly exercise of prayer. But, beloved, there are times when prayer is not enough—when prayer itself is out of season. When we have prayed over a matter to a certain degree, it then becomes sinful to tarry any longer; our plain duty is to carry our desires into action, and having asked God’s guidance, and having received divine power from on high, to go at once to our duty without any longer deliberation or delay.​​ C.H. Spurgeon – “Forward! Forward! Forward!”

The Lord tells Moses to raise his staff and stretch his hand over the sea. We have seen God work through Moses before using his staff in bringing the plagues of blood, frogs, hail, locusts, and darkness. Moses’ staff or the “staff of God'' was the symbol of God’s power and presence and reminds us that it was not Moses performing the mighty acts but the Lord. It also showed that what was about to happen did not happen by chance. The raising of Moses’ staff will divide the water so the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground. The Lord will harden the hearts of the Egyptian army so they will follow the Israelites into the sea. He will strengthen their hearts causing them to do what they already wanted to do which was to capture the Israelites and take them back to captivity.​​ The Lord again states that he will gain glory through Pharoah and his army, his chariots and his horsemen and they will know that he is the Lord. The Israelites may have also been frozen because they could see the Egyptian army close​​ behind them. So, the Lord now moves from guiding his people to protecting his people. The Angel of God, which is the pillar of cloud and fire that had been guiding the Israelites from in front, now moves and stands behind them, coming between the armies of Egypt and Israel. We see the protection God gave his people as the cloud brought darkness to Pharaoh and his army but light to the Israelites. The darkness kept the Egyptians from attacking the Israelites all night long.

We may ask, “Why did God tell Moses to go forward and have the Angel of the Lord move behind them in protection only to wait out the night? I believe there are a couple of reasons. First, God’s timing is perfect. Two, maybe God was still pursuing Pharaoh and his people. I am reminded of 2 Peter 3:9 which says, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead, he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”​​ Think about this: What happened the last time that the Egyptians were plunged into darkness? The ninth plague of darkness was followed by the tenth plague of the killing of the firstborn of Egypt. Pharaoh was going to know that Yahweh was the Lord sooner or later but maybe it didn’t have to take more death for Pharaoh and the Egyptians to accept it. If they stopped long enough to think about what happened the last time darkness came upon them, they may have turned back and gone home. Three, and I think the​​ main reason for waiting through the night was so that what was going to happen would happen in the light of day. The Lord would gain glory by destroying the Egyptian army and saving his chosen people in daylight, in front of everyone to see.

That brings us to our second point this morning,​​ “Faith,”​​ found in Exodus 14:21-25. This is what God’s Word says, “Then Moses stretched​​ out his hand over the sea, and all that night the Lord drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left. The Egyptians pursued them, and all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots and horsemen followed them into the sea. During the last watch of the night the Lord looked down​​ from the pillar of fire and cloud at the Egyptian army and threw it into confusion. He jammed the wheels of their chariots so that they had difficulty driving. And the Egyptians said, “Let’s get away from the Israelites! The Lord is fighting for them against Egypt.”

We see the faith of the Israelites and the misguided faith of the Egyptian army. First, we see the faith of the Israelites. Moses stretched out his hand (and staff) over the sea as God commanded him to do. This seems to have happened during the night while the Angel of the Lord was between the two armies. The Egyptians had no knowledge of what was happening to the Sea. We see the almighty power of God in a couple of ways here. One, the Lord drove the sea back with a strong east wind. We are reminded of Jesus calming the storm in Mark 4:39, 41, which says, “He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” Two, the bottom of the sea turned into dry land. The wind the Lord brought was so powerful that the ground wasn’t wet, or even damp but was dry. Three, we see the Lord’s power in that the waters were divided with a wall of water on the Israelites right and a wall of water on their left. Stuart says, “The term used for “wall” here, ḥōmāh, connotes a very large wall—not a small stone wall or retaining wall but always a massively large (usually a city) wall, towering above the Israelites, who marched on dry land with walls of water on either side of them.” Imagine the power that the Lord displayed in dividing the Red Sea with towering walls of water that were probably a mile or more wide. The Lord is all powerful and the Lord of all creation because​​ he is​​ the only one who can command the wind and the seas, and they obey.

There have been many theories put forth trying to debunk the miracle at the Red Sea. There are those who would say that the crossing happened in a shallow body of water, possibly the Reed Sea. “Yam Suph'' can be translated as “Sea of Reeds” which is swampy and marshy, but the Septuagint (the Greek Translation of the Bible) translates Yam Suph as the “Red Sea.” And when Yam Suph is used in the Bible, it always refers to the Red Sea. Because of the cities it references, in 1 Kings 9:26 and Jeremiah 49:21, it​​ must mean the large body of water we know as the Red Sea. Also, the word ‘Yam’ never refers to a marsh or a swamp but always a lake, sea or some large body of water. When we take all this evidence and then see towering city walls of water separated by a mile or more of dry ground, we can believe this was not an ordinary, natural phenomenon or a story that we can explain away. It was a miracle brought by the Lord through his almighty power. (Big Idea).

This brings me to a funny anecdote, from Ryken’s commentary: “No matter how one looks at it, crossing the Red Sea was a miracle. Donald Bridge tells the story of a liberal minister preaching in an old, Bible-believing, African-American church. At a certain point in his sermon the minister referred to the crossing of the Red Sea. “Praise the Lord,” someone shouted. “Takin’ all them children through the deep waters. What a mighty miracle!” However, the minister did not happen to believe in miracles. So he said, rather condescending, “It was not a miracle. They were in marshland, the tide was ebbing, and the children of Israel picked their way across in six inches of water.” “Praise the Lord!” the man shouted again. “Drownin’ all them Egyptians in six inches of water. What a mighty miracle!”

When we try to explain away the miracles in the Bible as ordinary or natural or didn’t really happen that way, we diminish God and his power. We put him in a box and think we can understand or fathom him which is so far from the truth. God is bigger and greater than all people​​ and all things and we must stand in awe of who he is and what he can do. He still does miracles today, but if we continue to diminish his power displayed in the Bible, we won’t have eyes to see the miracles he performs today. This brings us to our first next step which is to​​ Believe​​ in the miracles of the Bible and the​​ power​​ of God to make miracles​​ happen​​ today.​​ Because of the power of God, the Israelites were able to walk through the Red Sea on dry ground. This was a major step of faith for them. They could probably hear the strong wind and see the walls of water towering about them. They had no way of knowing how long the walls of water would stay up. Mackay says,​​ “It was an act of faith to walk through that watery valley and take advantage of the salvation the LORD had provided for them. Salvation is an act of faith on our part, we have to accept it to take advantage of the salvation the Lord wants to freely give us.” We are reminded of Hebrews 11:29 which says, “By faith they passed through the Red Sea as​​ by dry land.”

Next, we see the misguided faith of the Egyptian army in Pharaoh.​​ They all pursued the Israelites right into the sea, following orders from their king. They believed that he knew what the right thing to do was. We continue to see the power of the Lord as he looked down from the pillar of fire and cloud and threw the Egyptian army into confusion. Their confusion would have been heightened as the wheels of their state-of-the-art chariots started to come off. Their chariots literally became “heavy” and they had difficulty driving them. The Lord did this to bog them down until the Israelites could get across the sea. I believe God has a sense of humor so as I read this, I can see a three stooges’ scene being played out with the Egyptians driving around in circles confused with the wheels of their chariots coming off. Psalm 77:17-18, talking about this event, says, “The clouds poured down water, the heavens resounded with thunder; your arrows flashed back and forth. Your thunder was heard in the whirlwind, your lightning lit up the world; the earth trembled and quaked.” With all​​ this happening while they were in a confused state imagine the panic and dread they are feeling. At some​​ point, they finally get the idea that the Lord of the Israelites was fighting for his people, and they realized this was a fool’s errand. They tried to get away from the Israelites, but it was too late. They now knew that Yahweh was Lord and proclaimed it as so.

That brings us to our third point, “Fulfillment,” found in Exodus 14:26-31. This is what God’s Word says, “Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea so that the waters may flow back over the Egyptians and their chariots and horsemen.” Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at daybreak the sea went back to its place. The Egyptians were fleeing toward it, and the Lord swept them into the sea. The water flowed back and covered the chariots and horsemen—the entire army of Pharaoh​​ that had followed the Israelites into the sea. Not one of them survived. But the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left. That day the Lord saved Israel from the hands of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the shore. And when the Israelites saw the mighty hand of the Lord displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant.”

We see fulfillment in this section in two ways. First, we see the Lord’s judgment on the Egyptians. The Lord again commanded Moses to stretch out his hand over the sea and at daybreak the sea went back into its place and the waters flowed back over the Egyptians and their chariots and horsemen and drowned them. The Egyptians were judged for their sins: keeping the Lord’s chosen people in the cruelest and harshest slavery and killing the Israelite babies. Moses again obeys the Lord’s command which brings us​​ to a great truth. God will often use human beings to do his miraculous works on the earth. He used Moses, ​​ the disciples, and he uses us today. It is possible that there are many miraculous works that do not happen today because the people of God aren’t willing to stretch out their hand. It was God who separated the waters and saved his people, but it was Moses who was willing to act on​​ his commands. I pray that we will be like Moses. That brings us to our second next step which is to​​ Be​​ willing​​ and​​ obedient​​ to allow God to use me as an​​ instrument​​ for his will in the world.

In their confusion, it seems the Egyptians on the shore kept running toward the sea even after it went back into its place and the Lord swept them into it. The Hebrew for “swept” means “shaken” which gives the picture of the Lord shaking out a dusty sheet or towel. I picture them going head over heels into the middle of the sea. The entire army of Pharaoh was killed. Not one survived!!!! We are not told explicitly in this scripture what happened to Pharaoh, but his destruction was inevitable because of the​​ Lord’s judgment on him. In Psalm 136:15, that Teresa read earlier, implies that both Pharoah and his army were swept into and drowned in the Red Sea. The gods of the Egyptians were also again judged by God here. I believe another reason God waited till daybreak to finish destroying the Egyptian was because that was when their sun god, Ra, was supposedly rising in the east. They found out that neither Ra nor Pharaoh could save them. Ryken says, “According to one ancient Egyptian inscription, “He whom the king has loved will be a revered one, but there is no tomb for a rebel against his majesty, and his corpse is cast into the water.” This inscription was a threat to drown Pharaoh’s enemies, but in the end the Egyptians were the ones who were lost at sea!”

Second, we see fulfillment in that the Lord saved his people by his power and might.​​ (Big Idea)​​ His people went​​ through on dry ground with the wall of water on their right and left. This repetition underscores how powerful the miracle was. On that day the Lord saved Israel from the hands of the Egyptians. The word “hand” is mentioned a number of times in this section, and it reminds us of what God said in Exodus 6:6, “Therefore, say to the Israelites: ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm​​ and with​​ mighty acts of judgment.” This was the fulfillment of what God promised Moses. We notice that the Israelites “saw” a couple of things. They saw the dead bodies of the Egyptians on the shore. Not that long ago they saw the Egyptian army approaching and they were terrified, panicked and criticized Moses. Now they saw their dead bodies and knew they were free from their oppression once and for all. The Lord kept his covenant promises toward his people and demonstrated his faithfulness to them. The mention of Israel marks the beginning of the nation with Yahweh as its leader.

They also saw the great power of the Lord displayed against the Egyptians and this caused them to do two things: they feared the Lord and they trusted in Him and in his servant, Moses. This was the result God intended. Moses being described as a servant here is a result of his obedience to the Lord and he is elevated to a position of honor and authority. He is now vindicated by the people who had vilified him earlier in Exodus 14:11. From the beginning it is clear that Yahweh has orchestrated everything for​​ his glory and so that everyone would know that he is the Lord. ​​ 

(From Ryken’s Commentary) Notice the order: God did not wait for his people to trust in him before he saved them. Instead, God took the initiative. They didn’t earn it or deserve it; God did the work for his honor and his glory. First the people saw their salvation and then they feared and believed. First God delivered them from danger, saving them when they couldn’t save themselves. Then they responded in faith, trusting God and worshiping him. As Christians, Israel’s great escape is part of the history of​​ our own salvation. However, we have experienced an even greater escape—the greatest escape of all. We have been saved from our bondage to sin through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Here again we see the order of salvation, in which God took the initiative. It is while we were still sinners that Christ died for us. God’s saving work comes first, and then we are called to respond in faith.

Maybe you are here this morning and you have never responded to Christ’s call to be saved. Today, you can experience the greatest escape of all – the escape from the bondage of sin and from eternal separation from our Lord. If you have never accepted Jesus as your Savior, this next step is for you:​​ Accept​​ Jesus as my Savior and​​ experience​​ the greatest​​ escape​​ of all.​​ If you made that next step, please mark the back of your communication card so we can be in contact with you and help you move toward baptism and becoming more like Jesus.

What happened at the Red Sea ought to help us clarify our relationship to Christ. The only “Red Sea experience” that really matters is the one that Jesus had when he passed through the walls of death and came out victorious on the other side. This means that baptized Christians have already had their “Red Sea experience.” We had it at Calvary and in the garden tomb, because when Jesus died and rose again, he did it for us. Now that we are safe on the other side we must do what the Israelites did: fear the Lord and put our trust in Him.

As the ushers come to collect the tithes and offerings and as the praise team comes to lead us in a final song, let’s pray: Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for your power and might you displayed in saving your chosen people at the Red Sea. Thank you for your power and might displayed in the death and resurrection of your Son, Jesus. You are truly mighty to save and we honor you and give you all glory this morning. Give us eyes to see your miracles today. Move us to be willing and obedient to be used as your​​ instrument in the world and I pray that you will draw those who do not know you into salvation so they can experience the greatest escape of all. And we thank you for all mothers. In Jesus’ name, Amen.