Glory

God is passionate about His glory.

Exodus(35) (Part of the Rescued(34) series)
by Marc Webb(75) on May 5, 2024 (Sunday Morning(343))

God's glory(7)

Children ages 3 to 4th​​ grade can go to Children’s Church

GLORY

The movie “Glory” is a historical war drama about the 54th Massachusetts Infantry, one of the Union Army's earliest African-American regiments in the Civil War. The film depicts the soldiers of the 54th from the formation of their regiment to their heroic actions at the Second Battle of Fort Wagner. It stars Matthew Broderick as Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, the regiment's white commanding officer. Throughout the movie, the black regiment is mainly given manual labor to do as Colonel Shaw lobbies his superiors​​ to allow them to fight. Finally, they are given a chance and in their first battle at James Island, South Carolina, the 54th successfully repels a Confederate attack that had routed other units.

Afterwards, the Union Army undertakes a major campaign to secure a foothold at Charleston Harbor which involves assaulting Morris Island and capturing Fort Wagner, whose only landward approach is a strip of open beach; a charge certain to result in heavy casualties. Shaw volunteers the 54th to lead the attack and they suffer serious losses as they charge the fort at dusk. As night falls, the regiment is pinned down against the fort's walls. Attempting to encourage his men forward, Shaw is struck by several​​ bullets and killed. One of the men, despite his previous assertion that he would not do it, lifts the flag and tries to rally the men before he himself is shot dead. Then others take up the charge, and the soldiers break through the fort's outer defenses. Seemingly on the brink of victory, the 54th realizes that the enemy has cannons pointed right at them.

The morning after the battle, the beach is littered with the bodies of black and white Union soldiers and are all buried together in a mass grave. A textual epilogue reveals that the regiment lost over half its numbers during the assault and that Fort Wagner never fell to the Union Army. However, the courage demonstrated by the 54th spurred Congress​​ to authorize the raising of black soldiers throughout the Union. Over 180,000 volunteered and President Abraham Lincoln credited them with helping to turn the tide of the war.

The title of the film recalls the "glory" for which First-Sergeant Robert John Simmons, who was mortally wounded at Battery Wagner, came to fight. Simmons himself wrote, in an account of the Battle of Grimball's Landing that was published in the New York Tribune on December 23, 1863: "God has protected me through this, my first fiery, leaden trial, and I do give Him the glory." For at least some of the African American soldiers, it was about something higher than themselves. It was more than just hoping to​​ be freed from slavery. Some like Robert John Simmons were moved to give God the glory for bringing him through the trials and struggles of war.

When I read something like this it makes me think, do I give God the glory for the conflicts and trials that he brings me through? Our trials are nothing compared to war, but do we stop and give Him the glory for the great things he has done for us. In today’s scripture we are going to see four things. We are going to see God’s Plan, Pharaoh’s Pursuit, Israel’s Panic as they forget the great things that God had already done for them, and God’s Power. But right at the beginning, we are told that everything that will happen will be so God will gain “glory” and that Pharaoh and the Egyptians would know that he is the Lord. I want you to think about this today as we delve into Exodus 14:1-14: God took the Israelites the long way around for his glory, he will destroy Pharaoh and the Egyptians for his glory, God is in control of our lives and he promises we will go through trials and tribulations and it will be all for his glory, and Jesus died on the cross for our sins for the Father’s glory. John 17:1 says, “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you.” Everything that God does is for his glory, and his alone and that brings us to what Moses wants us to know and understand this morning,​​ “God is passionate about His glory.”

As we ponder the implications of that big idea, let’s open our time of study with prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, we pray that your Holy Spirit will fill each of us this morning as we open your Word. Lord, we want to be connected to you more this year and one way to do that is through the study of your Word. So open our hearts and minds to what you want us to learn this morning and what you want us to share this week. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Our first point this morning is​​ Plan​​ seen in Exodus 14:1-4. Follow along as I read those verses. This is what God’s Word says, “Then the Lord said to Moses, “Tell the Israelites to turn back and encamp near Pi Hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea. They are to encamp by the sea, directly opposite Baal Zephon. Pharaoh will think, ‘The Israelites are wandering around the land in confusion, hemmed in by the desert.’ And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them. But I will gain glory for myself through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord.” So the Israelites did this.

The Lord unfolds his plan to Moses who in turn will relay it to the Israelites. He tells Moses to “turn back” or literally “go back from where you came.” (Map) If you look at the map on the screen you see that Etham, where they have stopped, is at the top of the arm of the Red Sea. This is where scholars believe Etham was located. Notice the red dotted line. Instead of going east of the Red Sea and into the wilderness, God brings them back into Egyptian territory, to the west of the Red Sea. If they had kept going, they would have missed the Red Sea altogether. But instead, God guides them to a very precise location. Moses mentions three distinct places, Pi Hahiroth, Migdol and Baal Zephon. If you follow the red dotted line, you see where they believe Migdol was located. God guided them to a place between Migdol and the Red Sea. These places have very appropriate meanings. Pi-Hahiroth means “Place of Liberty” which it was about to be. Migdol means “tower” or “fortress.” The Lord was going to be their refuge and a tower of strength against their enemies. Baal-Zephon means “Lord of the North” and in scripture “north” was frequently associated with judgment. Pharaoh and the Egyptians would be judged here at the Red Sea.

The pillar, the presence of God, is still leading the Israelites, but we may wonder what God is doing? For all intents and purposes, they were out of Egyptian control and on their way to Mt. Sinai. If you were here a couple of weeks ago, we learned that God leads his people in a unique and personal way, and this is another step on that unique journey God was leading his people on. The Lord tells Moses why he is turning the people around. He is making the Israelites look vulnerable so he can lure Pharaoh into pursuing them. The Lord was not done meting out his justice to Pharaoh and the Egyptians for their enslavement of his people and the killing of the Israelite babies back in Exodus 1. He wants Pharoah to think that the Israelites are wandering around in circles, confused and not sure which way to go. The Lord wants it to look like the Israelites have hemmed themselves in by the Red Sea and have no way of escape.

This brings us to our first principle that​​ God’s ways are not our ways. Isaiah 55:8-9 says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” We can’t fathom God’s thoughts or ways as they are so much higher than we can even imagine. But as Christ-followers we can and must trust in his ways. Even when we are going through trials or nothing in our lives seems to be going the way we think they should, we can still trust in the Lord. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. That brings us to our first next step on the back of your communication card which is​​ Trust in God’s ways, especially when I don’t understand them, so that my paths are made straight.

The Lord is going to harden Pharaoh’s heart so he will pursue the Israelites. We talked about this before in the plague’s narrative. God did not change Pharaoh's heart, he strengthened it. Pharaoh already had the inclination to pursue the Israelites. All God did was strengthen his resolve so that he could do nothing else but pursue them. We then see why the Lord was doing this. It was to gain glory for himself through Pharaoh and his army and so that the Egyptians would know that he is the Lord. In Exodus 5:2, when Moses went to ask Pharaoh to free God’s people, he said, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey him and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord and I will not let Israel go.” Everything that God does is for His glory. Not only would Pharaoh and the Egyptians “know that Yahweh is the Lord'', so would the Israelites and the surrounding nations, which would cause the Lord to gain glory.​​ (Big Idea)

Lastly, we are told that the Israelites obeyed Moses and the Lord; they obeyed God’s plan to “turn back.” Now we may wonder, how much did Moses tell the people? Did he really tell them that God was luring Pharaoh and his army out in order to hem them in between them and the Red Sea? We don’t know. We can surmise from what happens later on that he didn’t or that he did and they were overly confident that it wouldn’t pose a problem. But no matter what Moses told them, at this point, we are told they were obedient.

Now that we have seen God’s plan, next we will notice that God’s plan works to perfection, which brings us to our second point,​​ Pursuit, found in Exodus 14:5-9. This is what God’s Word says, “When the king of Egypt was told that the people had fled, Pharaoh and his officials changed their minds about them and said, “What have we done? We have let the Israelites go and have lost their services!” So he had his chariot made ready and took his army with him. He took six hundred of the best chariots, along with all the other chariots of Egypt, with officers over all of them. The Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, so that he pursued the Israelites, who were marching out boldly. The Egyptians—all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots, horsemen and troops—pursued the Israelites and overtook them as they camped by the sea near Pi Hahiroth, opposite Baal Zephon.

Pharaoh is told that the Israelites have fled. But didn’t Pharaoh let the people go? In fact, didn’t he “kick” them out of Egypt? Some commentators believe that three days have passed and now instead of coming back to Egypt, the Israelites have continued to go farther away. In Exodus 5:3, Moses asked for a three day’s journey so that the people could worship the Lord and Pharaoh may have been under the assumption they would return after three days. The Israelites have stayed in Egyptian territory so far and​​ Pharaoh’s outposts have seemed to keep him informed as to what they were doing. When they make no move to return, Pharaoh and his officials have a change of mind. They realize they have lost their free labor force and want to go and bring them back into slavery. In fact, they probably believe that it should be easy to do so since the Israelites are just wandering around confused. Interestingly back in Exodus 10:7, his officials seem to side with Moses and lobby for Pharoah to let the Israelites go but now​​ that the danger from the plagues has subsided, the officials now side with Pharaoh.

Pharaoh makes his chariot ready and takes his army with him. The Hebrew here means that he readied in​​ haste. He didn’t waste any time going to bring them back. Pharoah takes six hundred of his best chariots and the “best of the best” charioteers. He also takes all the other chariots in Egypt with him. Chariots would have been the fastest way to catch up to and overtake the Israelites. The chariots also had officers over them. Normally, chariots had two men each. One steering the chariot and holding the shield and the other shooting arrows and attacking the enemy. But Pharaoh takes officers with him that are​​ over each of the chariots. This shows how badly he wanted to bring the Israelites back. Not only did he take the best he had, but he also made sure that the command structure and communication was impeccable. He was doing everything in his power to bring God’s people back.

The Lord now hardens Pharaoh’s heart and he pursues the Israelites. We get a little tidbit that the Israelites were marching out boldly. In Numbers 33:3, the Israelites marched out “defiantly” and they continued to march “triumphantly” all the way to the sea where God led them. They are probably pretty confident after finally being freed from slavery and moving toward the Promised Land. Pharaoh's horses, chariots, horsemen and troops pursued the Israelites and overtook them near Pi Hahiroth. The Egyptian forces are mentioned again to deliberately show the strength of the military that is coming against the Israelites. It shows the inequality between the Egyptian army and the Israelites and how there was no human way of escape.

We are now set up for what will be the final conflict between Yahweh and Pharaoh. God has led both the Israelites and the Egyptians to exactly where he wants them. His plan for his people, their oppressors and the murderers of Israelite children will come to fulfillment. Pharaoh has pursued God’s chosen people believing they are his people to do with as he wished, and he has them trapped between his army and the Red Sea. Pharaoh and his life are a warning to us today. God is patient but there comes a time when his patience runs out and then comes judgment. He had given Pharaoh and the Egyptians ample reasons to acknowledge him as Lord and let his people go from slavery, but they refused. There are two ways God can be glorified in our lives: either in his saving mercy or in his just judgment. (Big Idea) Which way will you glorify the Lord??? That brings us to our second next step which is to​​ Acknowledge Yahweh as Lord, glorifying Him as the Savior of my life.

That brings us to our third point this morning,​​ Panic, found in Exodus 14:10-12. This is what God’s Word says, “As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the Lord. They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!”

All of a sudden, the Israelites who had been marching out boldly, triumphantly, and defiantly, look up and see Pharaoh and the Egyptians approaching. They probably saw the massive cloud of dust being kicked up from the chariots and the troops and they panicked. They are terrified and cry out to the Lord.​​ Now we may take this as a positive reaction but then they react negatively toward Moses. They say three things that show where their state of mind is, possibly proving that their crying out to the Lord was not as positive as it may sound.

One, they are sarcastic​​ with Moses. They accuse Moses of bringing them out to the desert to die since there were no graves in Egypt. This is sarcastic because of course there are graves in Egypt. Egypt was known for their massive graves or pyramids. This was not funny sarcasm but angry and biting sarcasm leveled against Moses that was caused by their panic. Second, they blame Moses for the predicament they are in. We are never told that they collectively told Moses to “leave us alone.” In Exodus 4 when Moses and Aaron went to the​​ elders and told them everything the Lord said and performed the signs, they believed and bowed down and worshiped the Lord. Now some individuals may have told Moses to leave them alone but nothing was ever collectively recorded and I believe it would have been recorded in the past if it had bearing on the present. Their panic caused them to blame Moses for their predicament. Third, they distorted the past. Who in their right mind would want to go back to slavery? But even more than that, they say, “it would be better for us to serve the Egyptians.” This word “serve” is the same word as “worship.” Back when Moses asked for permission to take the Israelites on a three-day’s journey, it was to “serve” or “worship” Yahweh. The Israelites’ panic causes them to distort not only the past but the truth. They said it would be better to “worship” Pharaoh than to die. Imagine if we today said that it would be better to worship Satan than to die. Death would be much more preferable and even imperative to worshiping Satan. Merida says, “The Israelites were out of Egypt physically, but Egypt had not gotten out of their hearts.”

We as humans, whether followers of God or not, often forget what God has done. We forget his power displayed in our lives. We see this with Pharaoh. He must have thought that the plagues were the limit to what God could do so he went out with all his chariots, officers, etc. to bring the Israelites back into slavery. It never dawned on Pharaoh that the Lord who could kill every firstborn in the land could keep Pharoah from taking his chosen people back to Egypt. Then we see the response of the Israelites who had witnessed the same plagues and saw the Egyptians burying their dead on the way out of Egypt. It never dawned on them that the Lord who could kill the firstborn of the Egyptians and not kill the firstborn of the Israelites could keep Pharaoh and his army from capturing them. It never dawned on Pharaoh and the Israelites that God’s power was limitless. That brings us to our third next step this morning:​​ Remember the power that God has displayed in the past and trust in his power for my future.

As the Israelites look on in panic and terror at the approaching Egyptian army with their chariots advancing, we are set up to see God’s Power which brings us to our fourth point,​​ Power, found in Exodus 14:13-14. This is what God’s Word says, “Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord​​ will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

Moses has been treated with angry sarcasm by his own people. They have blamed him for the situation they are in and have distorted the past and the truth because they are terrified and in a panic. He could have reacted in a number of negative ways, but he doesn’t. Moses, who had to flee Egypt after killing an Egyptian and who tried to turn Yahweh down when he was called at the burning bush, now reacts positively to the Israelites' negativity aimed at him. He responds with courageous and reassuring words. These same words will be used later to encourage King Jehoshaphat. 2 Chronicles 20:17 says, “You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.’”

We see similarities that should be a lesson for us today. First, “do not be afraid.” The Israelites must have been thinking, “Ok, Moses, we are hemmed in. We are between a rock and a hard place. Of course we are afraid.” Israel’s forefathers also needed to be told “do not be afraid.” Abram in Genesis 15:1, Isaac in Genesis 26:24 and Jacob in Genesis 46:3. I am sure there have been many times in our lives where God has told us to “not be afraid, I got this.” God doesn’t dismiss our fears. He tells us to not​​ be afraid, not because our fears have no basis, but because as Isaiah 41:10 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 Psalm 46:1-3, that Sue read earlier, says, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth gives way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. So we do not need to be afraid.”

Two, Moses says, to “stand firm.” A lot of times our response to fear is “fight or flight.” Our fears can cause us to flee, to run away or to fight our way out. But God wants us to stop and pray and many times wait on him to reveal his plan to us. Three, Moses says if they do “stand firm” they will be ready. Not ready to fight or take flight but to see the deliverance that the Lord will bring them. Moses may not have known exactly what was going to happen, but he had faith that Yahweh would deliver them. Yahweh had said he would gain glory for himself through Pharaoh (Big Idea) and Moses believed him. Hebrews 11:29a says, “By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned.” Moses then says something interesting: the Egyptians they see today you will never see again. This may have had something to do with them drowning in the Red Sea but it may also have meant that they were not going back into slavery and so would ever see these Egyptians again.

Four, we see the mighty power of Yahweh as Moses says the Lord will fight for them and all they needed to do was to “be still.” Alexander says, “The narrative leaves nothing to chance in that there is no way Israel gets away from Pharaoh alive without divine intervention.”​​ The battle belonged to the Lord, not them. This brings us to our third principle that the​​ Lord fights for his people.​​ The Israelites needed to know that their deliverance was from God alone. “To be still” meant they did not need to do anything but that they were to stay calm and keep quiet. This was not the time for panic, terror or complaining.

A grandfather and his grandson were on a walk. As they walked along the trail, the grandfather pointed to a small plant and told the young boy to uproot it. The boy did so easily. They came to a slightly larger plant, and the grandfather told the boy to do the same to that one. After some effort and a little more time, the boy was able to complete the task. The grandfather then pointed to a large plant and told his grandson to uproot this one. The boy’s eyes widened as he examined the task before him, but in obedience to his grandfather, went to work. He struggled for some time but was unable to get the plant to budge. The grandfather stepped to the boy’s side and helped him pull. Both of them were finally able to ease the plant from the ground. Along with the plant came a system of roots almost as long as the plant itself.

As the grandfather and the grandson continued their walk, the grandfather told the boy that the largest plant was the most difficult to pull out because of its roots; they had grown too long. He explained to the boy that our habits are much the same. If we catch them early, we can pull them ourselves. If we wait too long, we are powerless against their roots unless someone else comes into our lives and helps us to pry them loose.

The people of Israel had been in captivity for hundreds of years. Their habits of dependency and lack of faith had deep roots. Ten plagues may have broken up a little of the soil in these habits, but ahead of the Israelites were some major acts of prying and pulling to bring them to the point of being ready for the promised land God had told them about. The first huge plant will be the Red Sea and they will be powerless against Pharaoh and his army unless someone else helps them pry it loose. The theme of Exodus is “saved for God’s glory” and the Lord will deliver Israel from Pharaoh and his army in a way that guarantees that he will receive all the credit and the glory. (Big Idea).

As the ushers prepare to collect the tithes and offerings and the praise team comes to lead us in a final song, let’s pray: Heavenly Father, thank you for your Word and the truths in it. Thank you for the applications that we can glean from it. I pray that individually and corporately we will continue to strive to be connected to you by applying your Word to our lives and our church. Help us to trust in your ways, especially when we don’t understand them, so that our paths are made straight. Help us to acknowledge you as Lord, glorifying you as the Savior of our lives. Help us to remember the power you have displayed in the past and trust in that same power for our future. Lastly, help us to know that you fight for us and are passionate about your glory. So let us do everything for your glory and not our own. In Jesus name, Amen.