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 espn.go.com/page2/s/questions/wooden

 

CELEBRATE!!!

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 GREAT(EST) ESCAPE

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.

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.

 

TRAINING GROUND

The early American Indians had a unique practice of training young braves. On the night of a boy's thirteenth birthday, after learning hunting, scouting, and fishing skills, he was put to one final test. He was placed in a dense forest to spend the entire night alone. Until then, he had never been away from the security of the family and the tribe. But on this night, he was blindfolded and taken several miles away. When he took off the blindfold, he was in the middle of thick wood, and he was terrified! Every time a twig snapped, he visualized a wild animal ready to pounce. After what seemed like an eternity, dawn broke and the first rays of sunlight entered the interior of the forest. Looking around, the boy saw flowers, trees, and the outline of the path. Then, to his utter astonishment, he beheld the figure of a man standing just a few feet away, armed with a bow and arrow. It was his father who had been there all night long. His father was with him and protected him in a unique and personal way.

In our scripture this morning, the Lord has brought the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. Over the past couple of Exodus sermons, the narrative has been interrupted by Moses in order to give important instructions to the Israelites from the Lord. He gave them instructions on who could eat the Passover meal, on observing the yearly Festival of Unleavened Bread and on consecrating the firstborn of men and animals to the Lord. Moses now returns to the exodus narrative, and we will see the training ground that God has marked out for his chosen people. They will need to go through this training to take them from being slaves in Egypt to living as his chosen people occupying the land that he promised their forefathers. The Lord’s training ground will be unique because it won’t be the short way, but it will be the best way – because it is God’s way. And his training ground will be personal because he won’t let them go that way alone. He will lead them uniquely and personally just like he does for those who believe and trust in him today. We can trust that his wisdom for the way he guides our lives is the best, we can trust that his promises to and for us are perfect and we can trust in his continual presence with us along the way. That brings us to our big idea that Moses wants us to understand this morning: God leads his people in a unique and personal way.

Before we begin to study our passage this morning from Exodus 13:17-22, let’s ask the Lord to open our hearts and minds to his Word. Heavenly Father, you have brought us to this place this morning to worship you. We have worshiped you through prayer and song and now we want to worship you through your word. Pour out your Holy Spirit on us. Open our hearts and minds and illuminate us so that we can understand what you want us to know and what to share with others we come in contact with this week. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Our first point is God’s Wisdom and is found in Exodus 13:17-18. This is what God’s Word says, “When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, “If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea. The Israelites went up out of Egypt ready for battle.”

When Pharaoh finally relented and let the Israelites go, God did not lead them through the Philistine country even though that would have been the shortest route to the Promised Land. (MAP) You see a map up on the screen with the wilderness wanderings. If they took the green route at the top, it would have taken them about two weeks to get to the Promised Land. That would have been through what was known as the Philistine country when Moses wrote the book. But God in his infinite wisdom took them the red route which would end up taking forty years. Moses, the author, tells us the reason the Lord didn’t take them the shorter route was because he knew that if they faced a war, they would change their mind and return to Egypt. That brings us to our first principle which is “God is All-knowing.” He knows everything from the beginning of time until the end of time because He is eternal. He knew that if the Israelites faced a war soon after leaving Egypt they would be discouraged and want to turn back. In fact, in Numbers 14:3, we see these words, the Israelites are speaking, “Why is the Lord bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?” This took place in the second year after their release from Egypt and they still wanted to turn around going back into slavery or worse.

Now you may wonder about verse 18 which says the Israelites went up out of Egypt “armed for battle.” If they left Egypt “armed for battle” why was God so concerned with them going to war? We need to look at the Hebrew meaning of “armed for battle.” “Armed for battle” meant that they went “in an orderly fashion.” Most commentators say they went fifty abreast just like an army would have. It would have been quite an imposing scene seeing one to three million people walking across the wilderness in “army-like” divisions. This may have kept some smaller tribes in the wilderness from attacking them, but God knew that if a people such as the fierce Philistines attacked then the Israelites would want to turn back. They may have left Egypt in battle formation, but they were not yet battle tested.

So instead of taking them the shorter route to the Promised Land, God led them around the desert road toward the Red Sea. It was a longer way, but it was the better way because it was God’s way. Now we haven’t said anything about the “hard” way. Even though the longer way would keep them from facing warring peoples, it was not going to be the easiest way, either, which we will see in the coming weeks. Both ways were going to be difficult for them, but the difference was that first, God knew what was coming and would guide them and second, God was in control. That brings us to our second principle this morning that “God is Sovereign.” There are a number of reasons, I believe, why God took them the long way around. One, the long way through the wilderness would be their training ground that God would use to teach them to trust in Him and mold them into a nation. I like what Ross says, “God maneuvered his people into a place where they could do nothing else but trust him.” Two, God was not yet done dealing with Pharaoh and the Egyptians. Three, God had given a sign to Moses for the Israelites that it was Yahweh who had sent him. Exodus 3:12 says, "And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.” (Map) Again, as we look at the map of wilderness wanderings, we see that Mount Horeb is there toward the bottom of the arm of the Red Sea. If they had taken the shorter (green) route, they would not have come to Mount Horeb to worship the Lord there. We may think that this was an insignificant promise for God to keep but with what we know about the grumblings of the Israelites in the wilderness, this promise would remind Moses and the people that it was Yahweh who had called Moses at the burning bush, and that it truly was Yahweh who was leading them on the way to the Promised Land.

The Israelites could trust in God’s wisdom for them as he guided them from Egypt to the Promised Land even as he took them the long way around. This is important as we follow the Lord today and especially as we face the unknown. God’s way is not the easy way and most of the time it’s not the shortest way either. We can trust in God’s wisdom as we follow the path that he has laid out for us. We can trust that God knows what is going to happen before it happens and is in control of it. If you are a follower of Jesus this morning, you can trust that he will faithfully guide you along the path that he has mapped out for you and will be there with you at all times. He leads each one of us in a unique and personal way (Big Idea) Psalm 5:8 says, “Lead me, Lord, in your righteousness because of my enemies – make your way straight before me.” And Psalm 23:3 says, “He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.” Each one of us can trust in God’s wisdom and sovereignty for our lives. That brings us to the first next step on the back of your communication card which is: Trust in the Lord’s wisdom and sovereignty as he guides me on the right paths.

The Israelites could trust in the Lord’s wisdom and sovereignty to guide them out of Egypt to the Promised Land and they could also trust in his promises made to them which brings us to our second point, God’s Promises, found in Exodus 13:19. This is what God’s Word says, “Moses took the bones of Joseph with him because Joseph had made the Israelites swear an oath. He had said, “God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up with you from this place.”

We are told that when the Israelites left Egypt, Moses took the bones of Joseph with him. How does this verse show us that the Israelites could trust in God’s promises? In Genesis 50:24-25, we see these words, “Then Joseph said to his brothers, “I am about to die. But God will surely come to your aid and take you up out of this land to the land he promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” And Joseph made the Israelites swear an oath and said, “God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up from this place.” Verse 19 is repeated word for word from Genesis 50:25. This repetition is important because it shows us that some 300-400 years before the Lord brought the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt, Joseph was convinced that God would be faithful and keep his promise to his forefathers to bring his people to the Promised Land. Joseph knew that Egypt was not his home and didn’t want his bones to be buried there. Wierbse says, “What did his coffin mean to the generations of Jews who lived in Egypt in slavery? They could look at his coffin and be encouraged. During their years in the wilderness Israel saw Joseph’s coffin as a reminder that God keeps his promises. Joseph was dead but he was bearing witness to the faithfulness of God.” The presence of Joseph’s body would remind the Israelites that God was keeping his covenant promises.

The Israelites could now trust in the promises of God because what Joseph prophesied had happened. They knew that when God came to their aid, the promise to their forefathers and to them had been fulfilled. Since God kept His past promises they could trust in His future promises as well. This brings us to our third principle this morning that “God is trustworthy.” God kept his promises to the Israelites and the same is true for us today. Think about how and why you trust someone, anyone. It’s because they have kept their promises in the past that you can trust them to keep their promises in the future. And the same is true of God. We trust in God’s promises more each time his promises come true in our lives. Sometimes we can struggle with trusting the promises of God because those around us don’t keep their promises. The difference is you never have to worry about God’s promises coming true. God’s promises always come true. That brings us to our second next step this morning which is to Trust in God’s promises in and for my life.

The Israelites could trust in the Lord’s wisdom and sovereignty to guide them out of Egypt to the Promised Land, they could trust in his promises made to them because his promises were always fulfilled, and they could trust in His presence with them, which brings us to our third point, God’s Presence, found in Exodus 13:20-22. This is what God’s Word says, “After leaving Sukkoth they camped at Etham on the edge of the desert. By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.”

We saw back in Exodus 12:37 that the Israelites journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, where they rested and ate. Now we learn that they left Succoth and camped at Etham. Again, just like Rameses and Succoth, we don’t know exactly where Etham is today, but they would have known back then. Moses was making it clear by giving us the different stages of the journey that the exodus was a true historical event with true historical places. (MAP) Here is Etham which as you can see, they believe was somewhere on the edge of the desert near the tip of the Red Sea.

We are told that the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud by day to guide them on their way and in a pillar of fire by night to give them light. This allowed them to be able to travel by day or by night. This was one pillar not two separate ones. The fire was burning inside the cloud continuously but not visible during the day. Then at night when it was dark the fire could be seen. The pillar of cloud and fire never left their presence; it was with them at all times. It was always going ahead of them. The most important thing about the pillar of cloud and of fire was that it was the Lord’s presence in their midst. The Lord going ahead of them indicated a repetitive action. His presence never left them the entire time they were in the wilderness. This was indicative of his special relationship with his chosen people, reminding us of our big idea that God leads His people in a unique and personal way. He led them uniquely in a pillar of cloud and of fire and he led them in a personal way by being in their midst and among them continuously. The pillar of his presence would go in front of them, guiding them day and night, it would protect them from the Egyptians as we will see in later weeks, and it would be with them continuously. That brings us to our fourth principle that “God is Ever-present.” He is always with us; he will never leave us nor forsake us.

We can also trust in God’s presence with us today. God’s presence was with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph. His presence was with the Israelites in the wilderness in the pillar of cloud and of fire. His presence will be with them in the tent of meeting and in the temple in Jerusalem. And today God’s presence is with his people as the Holy Spirit dwells in those who have believed in Jesus for salvation. If you have not accepted Jesus as your personal Savior, the Holy Spirit does not dwell inside of you. But you can have the presence of God, the Holy Spirit, with you this morning. Romans 3:23 says that we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. The first thing you need to do is admit that you are a sinner. ​​ Romans 6:23 says that for the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. John 3:16 says that God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in Him shall have eternal life. The second thing you need to do is believe in God’s son, Jesus, for salvation, that he came to earth to take your punishment for your sins. Romans 10:9 says, if you declare with your mouth that “Jesus is Lord” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. The third thing you need to do is confess Jesus as Lord and then the Holy Spirit will come to dwell inside of you and guide you as the pillar guided the Israelites and much more.

So, if you’ve never accepted Jesus as your Savior, this next step is for you. My next step is to Admit that I am a sinner, believe that Jesus died on the cross for my sins and rose again, and confess Him as Lord and be saved. If you just made that decision the Holy Spirit is now dwelling inside of you. Now there wasn’t room to put this under the Next Step section so if you made this decision today, please put it in the comments section on the back of your communication card that you made that decision so we can have a conversation because the journey has just begun. Now comes the process of becoming more like Jesus. Now’s the time to learn what it means to be connected to God and we want to walk with you in that.

If you have already accepted God’s free gift of salvation and have the Holy Spirit in you, you can trust that His presence is always with you. There may be times that it doesn’t seem like he is with you but like the Israelites in the wilderness you can trust that he is there. In Hebrews 13:5b-6a the writer of Hebrews quotes God from Deuteronomy 31:6, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” So, we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.” God is with us for the long haul, and we can trust that His presence will always be with us. That brings us to our fourth next step which is to Trust that the presence of the Lord is with me and will never leave me.

In 1984 Louise Degrafinreid of Braden, TN, astounded the nation when she persuaded an escaped convict from a TN prison to surrender. The prisoner, brandishing a gun, surprised Louise’s husband, Nathan, outside their modest home and forced him inside at gunpoint. Louise was not afraid of the gun. Amazingly, this grandmotherly woman with a confidence that had to be from God, began to talk to the prisoner and convinced him that he should put his gun down while she fixed him some breakfast. Surprisingly, the prisoner responded. She spoke to him about her faith in Jesus, and how the young man could have a better life if he accepted Jesus also. When the breakfast was ready, they had grace together and Louise prayed for the young man. They ate together, and by a miraculous working of the Spirit, the young man telephoned authorities, and before long, he was on his way back to a Tennessee prison.

Responding to questions, Louise Degrafinreid talked about the confidence that was hers in God – how she trusted God as ultimate authority, and therefore could overcome her fears. She was secure in the “pillar of cloud by day” and the “pillar of fire by night” that guided her life. It is everlastingly true. The cloud and the fire do not depart. The guiding and sustaining presence is ours always if we put our trust in God. The “pillar of cloud by day” and the “pillar of fire by night” were the constant presence that guided Israel throughout their journey.

So, there are a couple of questions for all of us to answer today. Do we trust the Lord for His wisdom to lead us on the journey of our lives? Do we trust that the Lord will keep His promises to us? Do we trust that His presence is always with us? Are we guided by the “pillar of cloud by day” and the “pillar of fire by night”? What about our church? Do we trust the Lord for His wisdom to lead us on the journey we are on? Do we trust that the Lord will keep His promises to our church? Do we trust that His presence is always with our church? Are we guided by the “pillar of cloud by day” and the “pillar of fire by night”? If we are then we can trust God for all these things. It may still seem that God is taking us the long way around and it may seem like life is still hard, but we can be assured and trust that His way is the best way. So, I pray that individually and corporately we will all be guided by the “pillar of cloud and of fire” trusting in the Lord’s wisdom, promises and presence in and for our lives and for our church.

As the Ushers come to collect the tithes and offerings and the Praise Team comes to lead us in a final song, let’s pray: Lord, you are faithful and your Word is true and everlasting. As we leave this place and go out into the world, help us to remember what the Holy Spirit has put on our hearts this morning. Help us to trust in your wisdom and sovereignty as you guide us on the right paths. Help us to trust in your promises in and for our lives. Help us to trust that your presence is with us and will never leave us. I also pray these things for our church as well. And mostly Lord, I pray that if there are those this morning who do not know you as their personal Lord and Savior that they would take that step of faith inviting the Holy Spirit to dwell inside of them. Lord, we pray for revival, we pray for spiritual awakening in ourselves, our church, our community and the world. Let it start with me, Lord. In Jesus’ name. Amen.