Crossing the Red Sea - Exodus 14.1 - 15.21 (Part 6 in a Series of 11)
October 5, 2008
Introduction: Read Exodus 14.
Prayer: O, Lord - Who is like You? Confident in battle; Faithful to the faithless; Fighting for us! You will gain honor. The world will know that You are the Lord. You will gain honor for Yourself over the world. What is become darkness to the world becomes light and the way out for us. You have become a wall of power to either side of us, holding back that which would defeat us. You look down and trouble those that rise up against us. You fight for us!
Who is like You, O Lord? The destroyer of those who oppose You and the deliverer of those who obey You. You have saved us. Let us see Your work of redemption. Let us fear You and believe Your holy Word. We praise and exalt You. Glorious in power, fearful in praises, and doing wonders. Lead forth in mercy.
Who is like You, O Lord? May dread fear fall upon those who oppose You. Let them be as still as a stone. Triumph gloriously and cause Your people to fear because there is none like You in all the earth!
Transition: Let’s examine three stages in God’s battle plan against Egypt…
Stage 1: The Prelude to Battle (14.1-18)
Before any battle begins, the plans are made and the lines are drawn. When an overwhelmingly powerful enemy arrays itself against a weaker foe, the situation becomes fertile ground for three elements in the prelude to battle:
1. There is the overconfidence of the superior power.
2. There is the cowardice of those who realize what they think to be inevitable.
3. There is the uncommon valor of a few courageous souls.
Just before the fight begins, both sides reach a point of no return. It is here that one must be fully committed to the fight.
The Overconfidence of Those Opposing God (14.1-10)
Israel camped before Pi Hahiroth between Migdol and the Red Sea. While these places cannot be traced to an actual location on the map, it is clear that Israel was closed in by the wilderness and the Red Sea. They had been moving in a northeasterly direction when God had them turn and head into what seemed like a trap. Of course, it was a trap but not for Israel.
Pharaoh was extremely overconfident because the Israelites appeared bewildered and hemmed in on all sides. God brought Israel into a vulnerable situation in order to exploit the overconfident Egypt. Pharaoh arrogantly pressed a military advantage he thought he had. He pursued Israel, but God would gain honor over him. The Egyptians would finally know that God is the LORD.
The impetus for Pharaoh’s overconfident pursuit came when his people changed their minds about allowing all their slaves to escape. “Why have we done this, that we have let Israel go from serving us?” This emboldened Pharaoh even after the devastation of the 10th plague. He brought his finest to the battle lines - 600 choice chariots and a captain over each. The LORD hardened and Pharaoh pursued.
The children of Israel went out of Egypt with boldness (14.8), but when Pharaoh drew near they were very afraid. That fear was generated by the supremely confident foe that they faced.
Application: 1 Corinthians 10:6 states that “these things (referring to the Exodus events) became our examples.” Pharaoh and Egypt represent the world, the flesh, and the devil. The devil is extremely confident. When we make a decision or a choice in life that demonstrates a commitment to Christ, it does not come without a challenge.
Satan uses fear, doubt, and discouragement to overwhelm us. He charges ahead flailing away at the horses and rumbling upon the iron wheels of temptation seeking to turn us back to bondage. This is demonstrated even in the way that the seed of God’s Word is snatched from our hearts before it even germinates in our lives or when persecution (no matter how mild) keeps us from doing the right thing.
The Cowardice of Those Overwhelmed with Fear (14.11-12)
Israel gave into fear. They simply did not believe that God was an ever-present help for them. Their eyes were upon the Egyptians who marched after them. They cry out to the Lord - not is faith but in fear. The Psalmist points out their lack of understanding: “Our fathers in Egypt did not understand Your wonders; they did not remember the multitude of your mercies, but rebelled by the sea - the Red Sea” (106:7).
We think about Pharaoh’s overconfidence even after the ten plagues, but what of Israel’s desperate fear even though they witnessed God’s overwhelming protection? They cry out to God but do not wait for an answer. Instead, they rail against God’s man, Moses:
Because there were no graves in Egypt, have you taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you so dealt with us, to bring us out of Egypt? Is this not the world that we told you in Egypt, saying, ‘Let us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than that we should die in the wilderness (14.11-12).
They pledged allegiance to Pharaoh and slavery while denying the power of God. Why? They were a overwhelmed with fear!
Application: It is the same with us. We see God who desires to lift the bondage of sin in our lives. He wants full commitment in our fight against it, but we are less than committed. How do I know this? Consider how we respond when our backs are against the sea of problems we face in life.
· We become angry and embittered against God and everyone or thing that represents Him.
· We forget the problems by amusing ourselves to death.
· We mask the problems with addictions.
Our security for years was in a television, a bottle or cigarette, or even sexual fantasy. So when the pressure of life is on for us, where do we go? We go back to the very thing that destroyed our lives …that which Christ saved us from. The terrible friends, the sickening habits, and the destructive thoughts are longed for even as Israel longed to return to Pharaoh.
The Courage of Those Fortified by Faith (14.13-18)
Moses responds with meekness to the rebellion of Israel. “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace” (14.13-14).
The difference between Moses and the children of Israel was one of perspective. They saw Pharaoh bearing down on them while Moses saw God fighting for them. It’s that simple. Moses quietly instilled courage by gently rebuking the children of Israel. “Stand still. See what God will accomplish on your behalf!”
You don’t expect your general to tell you to stand still as the enemy presses down upon you. But this is no mere military conflict. It was a battle fought not by soldiers but by the LORD God.
Application: Faith is the key to salvation and the key to sanctification. We don’t run, but stand and see the salvation of the LORD. He shall fight for us and we will hold our peace! His work on the cross freed us from sin and continues to free us for righteous and courageous living.
“Take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit…” (Ephesians 6.1-18).
It is difficult to stand courageously. We desire to run and hide or cry in fear. When caught between a rock and a hard place, stand still and look to God for deliverance!
Transition: The first stage in the battle is a prelude which unveils the faithful and the fearful. But when the fight is on, it is important that we find…
Stage 2: The Place of Victory (14.19-31)
As the battle rages, victory is eventually secured when the high ground is gained and the enemy overwhelmed with unrelenting supremacy. This place of victory is sweet. Exodus records three such climactic victories that Israel would constantly return to: 1) The Red Sea Crossing 2) The Giving of the Ten Commandments 3) The Glory of God Filling the Tabernacle.
While all these are great victories, chapter 14 is essential for God’s people. It is a victory that is savored and remembered throughout generations of Israelites. It is a victory that belongs to us as a church today. It is ours by the gracious extension of God’s merciful hand to Gentiles. How did God fight for us?
· The Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind that blew all night and made the sea turn to dry land - the waters being divided (14.21).
· The Angel of God led the people out front; now He moved behind the people (14.19). The pillar of cloud, darkness, light, and fire had been out front; now it moved behind the people (14.20). God Himself buffered Israel from the enemy.
· This manifestation of God indicates that He was with His people to protect them but also to guide them. He would never forsake them. Imagine watching all this supernatural activity unfold! Light and guidance for the people of God …mystifying, cloudy darkness for those who oppose them.
· God parted the waters of the Red Sea as He protected His people. He provided a way of escape at the same time that he made a watery grave.
· God slowed the Egyptian army by making the wheels come off their chariots. He fought against Egypt and Egypt knew it: “Let us flee from the face of Israel, for the Lord fights for them against the Egyptians” (14.25).
· The Egyptians turned back, but it was too late. “Thus Israel saw the great work which the Lord had done in Egypt; so the people feared the Lord, and believed the Lord and His servant Moses.” Israel also witnessed the Egyptians dead on the seashore that day.
The place of victory begins with faith as evidenced in the phrase: “The Lord will fight for us.” God did these things to redeem His people …to save them. He also did this for His honor and so that the Egyptians would know that He alone was the Lord:
Exodus 14:4 “Then I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, so that he will pursue them; and I will gain honor over Pharaoh and over all his army, that the Egyptians may know that I am the Lord.”
Exodus 14:17-18 “And I indeed will harden the hearts of the Egyptians, and they shall follow them. So I will gain honor over Pharaoh and over all his army, his chariots, and his horsemen. 18Then the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I have gained honor for Myself over Pharaoh, his chariots, and his horsemen.”
God’s people were not in the place of victory as they toiled in bondage. When God led them out and fought for them, He gained honor for Himself. All knew that He is the LORD. His children finally feared and believed Him (14.31). God redeems; His people respond in faith, recognize His power to deliver, and in gratitude honor Him as Lord of All! There is no greater place of victory!
Application: God redeems the sinner who responds in faith. The place of victory is accessed by grace through faith. The unsaved people all around us sit upon the shores of the Red Sea and await death. They cannot escape if they neglect so great a salvation.
Jesus said in John 5:24: “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.” Our desire has to be that people would cross over from death into life!
Transition: The first stage in the battle is a prelude which unveils the faithful and the fearful. But when the fight is on, it is important that we find the place of victory in the redemptive work of Christ. Finally, this evening, no victory of this magnitude is ever forgotten. Hence…
Stage 3: The Postlude of Praise (15.1-21)
Years after the battle or the war is over, soldiers remember. Sometimes the memories cause anguish and terror. Not a few bring tears of regret and sorrow. However, veterans of just conflicts will invariably remember with fondness the decisive push that won the day.
This is a song Moses and the children of Israel sang to the Lord. Deliverance and redemption demand praise and worship. One way God’s people manifest worship is through singing. Singing allows us to express the joy we have for what God accomplishes on our behalf. It is a barometer of the heart. That is why our singing ought not to be sensual, man-centered, lifeless, or apathetic.
Exodus 15 is a hymn of worship to the holy God of redemption. We learn from it at least two things: 1) Who is God? 2) What has He done?
The enemy appears in arrogance but only pointing to the God who sent him to a watery grave. It is God who did this thing.
Who is God?
· Glorious and Triumphant (15.1, 21)
· Our Strength and Song (15.2)
· Our Salvation (15.2)
· Man of War (15.3)
· Glorious and Powerful in Battle (15.6)
· Great and Excellent in Battle (15.7)
· Glorious in Holiness (15.11)
· Fearful in Praises (15.11)
· Merciful to Redeem (15.13)
· Guiding with His Strength (15.13)
· Reigning Forever (15.18)
The enemy in arrogance said, “I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil; my desire shall be satisfied on them. I will draw my sword, my hand shall destroy them.” Well, it did not happen the way Pharaoh planned.
Moses asks twice of the LORD, “Who is like You?” None. That is why we must extol God’s holiness, terrifying power, wonder-working majesty, and merciful redemption. The puffed-up arrogance of Pharaoh and the Egyptians becomes still as stone as His people pass over into the mountain of God’s inheritance, the place He has made - the sanctuary His hands have established. And what of the enemy - they sorrow, become dismayed, tremble, and melt away. The children of Israel see it and respond in awe as the bodies of the arrogant army wash up to the shore of the Red Sea.
What Has God Done?
· He has triumphed gloriously (15.1).
· He has cast the enemy into the sea (15.4).
· He has dashed the enemy in pieces (15.6).
· He has overthrown those who rose against Him (15.7).
· He sent forth His wrath to consume the enemy as stubble (15.7).
· He created the walls of water to deliver His children (15.8).
· He brought the walls down to create a watery grave (15.10).
· He has done wonders (15.11).
· Has shown mercy in leading His redeemed (15.13).
· He has purchased them, brought them in, and planted them in the mountain of His inheritance (15.16, 17).
· He shall reign forever and ever (15.18).
Salvation like this demands singing. The postlude of praise comes from this inner, spiritual perspective. It is a perspective that comes to those who are content and faithful in the work God has called them to do!
Conclusion: The first stage in the battle is a prelude which unveils the faithful and the fearful. But when the fight is on, it is important that we find the place of victory in the redemptive work of Christ. Finally, no victory of this magnitude is ever forgotten. The postlude of praise wells up within the grateful hearts of a faithful remnant. May God make us part of these faithful few.