When Pursued. Pray!—Exodus 14:8-10
8 The Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt and he pursued the Israelites, who were going out boldly. 9 The Egyptians pursued them, all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots, his chariot drivers and his army; they overtook them camped by the sea, by Pi-hahiroth, in front of Baal-zephon. 10 As Pharaoh drew near, the Israelites looked back, and there were the Egyptians advancing on them. In great fear the Israelites cried out to the Lord. Verses 8-10
When Satan Pursues Us We Must Cry Out To The Lord
5 For the waves of death encompassed me, the torrents of perdition assailed me; 6 the cords of Sheol entangled me, the snares of death confronted me. 7 In my distress I called upon the Lord; to my God I called. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry came to his ears.” 2 Samuel 22:5-7
¨ With [FERVENCY]!
17 Elijah was a human being like us, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. 18 Then he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain and the earth yielded its harvest. James 5:17-18
12 Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. 13 When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, 14 I will let you find me, says the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile. Jer 29:12-14
¨ With [OTHERS]!
18 Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. 19 Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them. Matthew 18:18-20
23 After they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24 When they heard it, they raised their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth, the sea, and everything in them, …” 31 When they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness. Acts 4:23-24 & Verse 35
¨ With [FAITH]
31“Simon, Simon, listen! Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your own faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned back, strengthen your brothers. Luke 22:31-32
Good to see you. How is everyone doing this morning?
Satan is described in the Scriptures as a serpent, a fowler bird, a wolf, a lion, and as a dragon. The reality is that he is extremely deceitful like a snake, he steals lives like crows do seed, he is like a hungry wolf in pursuit of sheep, he prowls like a lion to devour souls, and without any doubt he is a terrible monster like a dragon. He is not only evil personified, but he is the instigator and source of evil. And Satan’s one consuming passion is to recapture those stolen from him by the grace of God. If you are a Christian then Satan watches your name and your life closely for every opportunity to destroy you. You are one of the very few free souls not under his eternal slavery, and his greatest lust is to put you back into the chains God freed you from at the cross.
Do you believe there is a spiritual being like I just described? Or are you more inclined to dismiss him as the preacher’s boogieman? Yet there is so much evil in the world. I have a very hard time explaining it simply as the natural inclination of human hearts. I really do think that the Hitler’s, Stalin’s, and the Osama Ben Linden’s of this world have help! I know the evil I’ve committed is not what I wanted or intended to do, but it came from a source that was both personal and frightening.
Have you ever felt the presence of Satan as he pursues you? Have you sensed him behind events in your life? If you had been one of the Israelites fleeing slavery in Egypt 1500 years ago you would have. You would have first heard him in the roar of moving chariots and shouting men. At that moment you would have turned back to see Satan in a cloud of dust with armed disciplined soldiers marching towards you. You would have smelled him in the fear and sweat of your fellow travelers. You would have felt him as your skin goose bumped in icy cold mounds, and your stomach became nauseated with freezing terror.
The Bible reports, “8 The Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt and he pursued the Israelites, who were going out boldly. 9 The Egyptians pursued them, all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots, his chariot drivers and his army; they overtook them camped by the sea, by Pi-hahiroth, in front of Baal-zephon. 10 As Pharaoh drew near, the Israelites looked back, and there were the Egyptians advancing on them. In great fear the Israelites cried out to the Lord.”
From this report it seems on the surface that God is responsible for Pharaoh’s decision to chase the children of Israel. If that is all we see, in my opinion, we are missing how God sometimes uses Satan to accomplish his will. For example God is responsible for Job’s misfortunes by allowing Satan to afflict him. Paul says to the Thessalonians that God sends strong delusions to those who disobey the truth so that they will be condemned. God did harden the wicked king’s heart, but the Evil One was all ready enthroned in Pharaoh to change his mind. It was Satan who led him into the wickedness of opposing God, and God simply used Satan and this wicked king to accomplish his will.
God and Satan are opponents. They are not friends and they are not equals in any way. They do not cooperate, but Satan fits into God’s plan and God uses him. God allows him to pursue us so that we might glorify and trust him. Remember last week we learned that wherever we are in life God has led us there to glorify him. And I want you to consider that we are under Satan’s pursuit to glorify god. I believe you and I are being pursued by His chariots. I know that God has led us to this place and this time to glorify him, and that we need to acknowledge Satan but keep our eyes on God.
Let’s acknowledge that Satan is pursuing us with chariots of legalism. Some of us grumble and murmur because it is not the way we have always done things. We are bound by rules not even found in Scripture. Let’s acknowledge that Satan is pursuing us with chariots of love for ease. He does this because when God calls us to glorify him with service we prefer to sit in a pew and be consumers and not contributors. Let’s acknowledge he is pursuing us with chariots of immorality. Some of us have confused grace with a license to sin. Satan will do whatever he can to have us sin against our own bodies made for God’s Holy use. Let’s acknowledge that Satan is pursuing us with chariots of unforgiving hearts, and that some of us want to shoot our wounded. That we say angry cruel words judging people motives with impossible standards.
But in acknowledging Satan’s pursuit we must not take our eyes off of God. When Satan is allowed to pursue us we must stop and cry out to God. David did this when was delivered from the hands of his enemies and in particular of Saul’s. Listen to him as he says, “5 For the waves of death encompassed me, the torrents of devilish ungodliness assailed me; 6 the cords of Sheol entangled me, the snares of death confronted me. 7 In my distress I called upon the Lord; to my God I called. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry came to his ears.” David acknowledged Satan’s pursuit by comparing it to a flood, to blowing pouring rain, to strong entangling ropes, and to traps. He did not let Satan overwhelm him. He kept his eyes on God in his distress and cried out to him. So how do you acknowledge Satan and keep you eyes on God. The only way that David did it and the children of Israel did it was by prayer of course. Verse ten says that they cried out to the LORD.
When Satan pursues us we must cry out to the LORD with fervency. Satan’s pursuits are not small efforts on his part to destroy God’s people. He is intense with hatred and evil, and will not give up easily. If you falter he will be on you like a rabid dog. A few years ago in a London news paper called the Sun it “bore the headline: ‘Vicar Savaged by Dog called Satan.’ ‘A Vicar,’ reported the paper, ‘is recovering from being savaged by an Alsatian called Satan. Alan Elwood, 45, was bitten all over his body and his trousers and shirt were ripped to shreds in the farmyard attack in Westport, Somerset. ‘It was terrifying. I was lucky to get out of it,’ Mr. Elwood told the Sun.” (From The Red Sea Rules by Robert J. Morgan, Page 35)
Like this Alsatian dog Satan the Devil will be all over you with an intensity that is positively frightening. The children of Israel were in great fear, and we need to see that praying with fervency is how we keep our eyes on God and not on the evil one bearing down on us. Elijah was like us. James says, “Elijah was a human being like us, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. 18 Then he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain and the earth yielded its harvest.” He faced Satan and 400 prophets of Baal with fervent prayer. His prayer wasn’t an after thought, but his main defense that went directly to the throne of grace.
Jesus tells the disciples to watch and pray in the garden of Gethsemane. Paul says to the Ephesians to pray in the spirit and keep alert and persevere in prayer after admonishing them to stand against Satan by putting on the whole armor of God. Prayer is about concentration of your heart and will. It is not a magic formula of abra cadabras, but it is a cry to God to stand between you and Satan’s forces. Job had a hedge at all times. Even when Satan pursued him God limited Satan activity. And Job never stopped praying with intensity and fervency. He refused to curse God and die. He refused to stop crying to God, and God heard him and came to him. Satan can bark and growl and lunge at us and God stands squarely between you and him.
God says to us through Jeremiah, “12 Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. 13 When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, 14 I will let you find me, says the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.” God promises that when we seek him with all our hearts we will find him. That means to pray with concentration and fervency. He says he will act to bring us into his place of safety and refuge. When you pray you must pray hard and long. You must set you mind upon God. Whenever the pursuit of Satan is through legalism, pleasure, immorality, or hatred then fervent prayer keeps Satan out and your heart and mind in Christ.
Next when Satan pursues us we must cry out to the Lord with others. Like most fathers and husbands my family is very special to me. If you are a dad you’ve probably have had this kind of experience where one of you children has a request, and you think it over and you tell them yes or maybe or not now. No big deal it is only one of them. However, the pressure grows when both of them or all three of them have the same request. I find I am not intimated by three teens as much as I sense the importance of their desire to them. Now here is the clincher when they get mom on their side. The request is almost a 100% sure deal at that point. My family together in the same desire is almost an irresistible combination for me not to decline their request.
If we are to acknowledge Satan, but keep our eyes on the Lord we need to understand that praying with others is irresistible to God. Jesus understands this too. He say’s “18 Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. 19 Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” Jesus in the context of Matthew 18 is talking about difficulties in personal relationships. He is specifically referring to Satan’s pursuit of the church through angry hearts. Praying together is irresistible to God in solving our relationship problems. And this principle works in all of Satan’s pursuits.
Jesus is the clincher when two or three are gathered in prayer He is there among them. Get that combination started and God will hear and grant the request. He is telling us that to our Father His spiritual family is very important. He is very clear that praying together has that kind of effect on God’s will. It is not that God is intimidated by a million prayers, but he loves us and when we pray together with the same desire God grants it out of his deep pleasure with us. We are telling the Father our eyes are firmly fixed on you and we will not be afraid of Satan’s forces even when they are driving towards us.
In the book Acts we see an example of God’s pleasure. Luke tells us, “23 After they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24 When they heard it, they raised their voices together to God … 31 When they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness.” God filled them with his presence as he shook the place up. Their prayer together provided God with an opportunity to encourage them. Satan was pursuing them through the temple leaders, but they went on preaching the word with boldness. Our prayers together have that affect. It keeps our eyes on God and allows us to acknowledge Satan’s pursuit. And we will not falter when we pray together.
When Satan pursues us with division or with stubborn hearts we need to pray together. How else can we keep our eyes on God? We talk our problems to death and end up focusing on them, and not on God’s power and Bible answers. We take our eyes off of God and put them on Satan’s chariots. Even when Pharaoh is pursuing the Israelites they were crying out to the Lord together our text tells us. They were praying together. Like the Israelites we are to pray together when Satan pursues us with his chariots. Leaders of the church must spend more time in prayer together in order for God to grant his blessings. Members must pray together with fervency, and God will protect and care for us. A great church is built on prayer. A great life is built on prayer, and especially when it is with others. Praying together forms a fence around us and no dog named Satan is able to penetrate it to savage us spiritually.
Lastly when Satan pursues us we must cry out to the LORD with faith. Exodus 14:11 tells us that the Israelites were not praying with faith. They were bitterly complaining to Moses that it was better to die in Egypt. In Hebrews chapter 3 God informs us that they were a generation of unbelieving people. God was angry with them for forty years in the wilderness because of this failing. The Hebrew writer calls this unbelief a wicked sin. Jesus is often frustrated with the disciples because of their lack of faith. And when he was about to die interestingly he is praying for Peter faith because Satan was going to pursue him.
Apparently like with Job; Satan and God had a conversation about the disciples. Jesus tells Peter, “31 “Simon, Simon, listen! Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your own faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” The word demand in this verse can also mean to obtain permission. Satan is granted his demand to shake Jesus’ disciples to their core. Jesus pictures his trial and death for them like the sifting of wheat at harvest time. The chaff is removed after the grain is beaten and thrown in the wind. Judas becomes the chaff because he loses his faith. The rest are gathered in as wheat to God because of their faith. So Jesus prays that Peter’s faith would not fail him but would turn to strengthen the others. This puts new light on his words to Peter after his resurrection in Galilee. Remember Jesus asks Peter if he loved him more than the others three times. And with every response Peter says, “Yes Lord I love you.” Then each time Jesus commands him to feed or tend his sheep. Jesus is showing us that praying with faith is never too late.
You see there are three great attitudes that define a Christian heart when he or she is pursued by Satan. Love is the greatest action of the Heart. Hope is the brightest joy of the heart. And faith is the surest path of the heart back to God. “Thomas Watson, the Puritan writer, said, ‘Faith is to prayer what the feather is to the arrow; it feathers the arrow of prayer, and makes it fly swifter, and pierce the throne of grace.” (From Red Sea Rules, by Robert J. Morgan page 48) Jesus knew that prayer without faith is aimless.
Peter’s problem was not that he failed Jesus but his lack of faith. In a boat in the sea of Galilee Peter’s faith failed him in the Devil’s storm. When he tried to stop Jesus from going to Jerusalem to die it failed him so badly Jesus called him Satan and told him to get out of the way. And in the hour of the cross it failed him one more time. Peter would take his eyes off of God and put them on Satan. His cruses and denials of his Master allowed Satan to sift him to the core of his being. But what is neat about faith is that we can always put our eyes back on God through it. That is what Jesus wants Peter to do. He wants Peter to repent and turn again to follow him.
And that is what God is calling you to do this morning. Jesus is praying for you that your faith not fail. He is praying that you will put your eyes squarely on God while acknowledging Satan’s pursuit. Through your faith in prayer God can defeat Satan’s chariots of legalism, ease, immorality, and un-forgiveness in your life.
If you are like Peter your faith has failed, and your courage has been lost. You’ve fallen victim to Satan’s powerful army by taking your eyes off of God. This morning you may be being sifted by Satan to know if you are chaff or wheat. And your life and heart are being shaken by powerful forces beyond you. Satan is driving his chariots straight for your heart. Or he is coming like a brutal savage dog to viciously attack your soul? If you don’t survive is not God’s power that is lacking. He’s granted you passage through every Red Sea he’s led you to. It is not in Satan’s power to destroy you, because Jesus has disarmed him at the cross. It is therefore up to your faith put your eyes on God in prayer and fly straight to the throne of grace.
Spontaneous Prayer in closing.