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COC 20 Exodus 14_13-31 study notes

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Christ in the Old Testament #20

Exodus 14:13-31

 

READ Exodus 14:10-31

There are brackets around this text that indicate the theme for us. If you mark in your Bible with pen or highlighter, you should clearly mark the words “very frightened” in verse 10; the phrase “do not fear” in verse 13; and the words “the people feared the Lord” in verse 31.

God has chosen to bring very uncertain times to our country. This is a good thing: James 4:14 You do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. But in our decades of prosperity, we started to pick up the allusion of certainty. The stock market will average gains of 7% a year; my job is secure; my insurance will come through; housing prices will go up; my health is good. In a remarkable way, God has chosen to remind many of us that we do not know what our life will be like tomorrow.

This story is from a columnist at marketwatch.com, about two weeks ago.

Last Thursday evening I am with two other gentlemen -- a professor and money manager -- at a holiday party. The money manager asks whether we read the news about Madoff. No, I say, thinking the name Madoff rings a bell but I can't place it. The money manager relates the story. "Madoff," the professor asks. "I think my sister has her life savings with that guy."

He borrows the money manager's phone to call his sister and returns ashen-faced. His sister has lost her life savings. We offer the professor our condolences. I tell him about SIPC and the possibility of his sister getting some of her money back. But really there are no words of comfort.

I return home from the party and tell my wife about the "Madoff story," about the professor, about how sad he looked, about how terrible it all is on top of everything else.

Bob, she says, Madoff is the guy who runs our 401(k). We begin to read the stories on every media outlet possible. Does this mean what I think it means, my wife asks. Yes, I say. You've lost everything in your 401(k). And then my wife asks the question about the elephant in the room. What if her employer, a non-profit foundation, had its money with Madoff? My wife emails her boss to no avail.

After a sleepless night, Friday morning arrives. There's an email from my wife's boss with a timestamp of 5 a.m. My wife rushes to work. By 10 a.m., I get a tearful call. The entire staff has been laid off and all the foundation's programs have been terminated. Their money and a lot of other people's money is gone.

You do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. But when we come face to face with that reality, we are tempted to fear. And fear is obviously the theme of this passage in Exodus 14. Maybe you don’t think of yourself as a fearful person: but if you worry, manipulate, feel depressed, or get angry, those things are very closely related to fear. And when we allow fear to grip our hearts, unbiblical thinking and acting starts to snowball in our lives. The Israelites preferred to go back and be slaves in Egypt, where they had an allusion of security, rather than having to depend completely on God and face an uncertain future with Him. That sounds crazy – but if we allow fear to reign in our hearts, that kind of unbiblical thinking and acting will follow.

So if God’s fame will be spread through in 2009, we need to hear the words of verse 13: “Do not fear.” Exodus 14 shows us the wrong kind of fear, the remedy for it, and the right kind of fear.

Let’s begin by remembering the setting: Israel has just experienced the fulfillment of the promises they have awaited for centuries. God has redeemed them from the oppression of Egypt, and now God’s very presence is leading them away. But God chooses to take them on a wandering route that ends in a trap. Pharaoh sees the wandering, summons his army, and takes off in pursuit. The people are gripped by fear; and in their fear they lash out in anger at Moses, and ask to return to Egypt.

That brings us to verse 13.

Stand by and see the salvation of the Lord which He will accomplish for you today

  • This word translated “stand by” can mean several things, including standing firm or standing in opposition. But here it is followed by the word “see.” So I think the best meaning here is the same one found in Exodus 2:4, when baby Moses is placed in the river, and we are told that Moses’ sister stood at a distance to find out what would happen to him.
  • So these Hebrew words “stand by and see” are the equivalent of our English phrase: watch this. Stop what you are doing and give this your attention.
  • Get your focus off of yourself and get your focus on God and what God is doing. Notice that in verses 11-12 they said: “us us us we us us.” And now in verse 13 God says: stand still and watch what I will do. As you think forward to 2009, are your thoughts primarily about yourself and your circumstances?
  • God calls for your attention: stop focusing on yourself, and focus on what God may do in and through you for His honor.

Stand by and see the salvation of the Lord which He will accomplish for you today

  • Watch what God will accomplish.
  • At this time of year there are plenty of self-help gurus, life coaches, and success motivators to tell you to face your fears. You’re good enough; dig deep within you; face your fears head on. You can do it!
  • God doesn’t direct your attention to yourself; He directs your attention to Himself. Face your fears by turning your attention to God and His sufficiency.  

14 The LORD will fight for you while you keep silent.

  • This does not mean that you are supposed to spend your life as a couch potato doing nothing. But in this particular situation God was going to clearly demonstrate His complete sufficiency. God is more than enough for any challenge, for any situation. If God wants to, he can just have you stand there and be silent and watch as He fights for you.
  • Fear is so dishonoring to God because it questions God’s sufficiency. Fear says “God I’m not sure if you’re up to this task. God I’m not sure you’ve ever had to deal with a situation as messy as mine.” God tells them to watch and be silent, while He demonstrates his complete sufficiency.

15-16 Then the LORD said to Moses, "Why are you crying out to Me? Tell the sons of Israel to go forward. As for you, lift up your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, and the sons of Israel shall go through the midst of the sea on dry land.

  • Here’s a surprise: God tells Moses to stop praying. How could you possibly cry out to the Lord too much? They needed to go forward; obey; get moving.
  • Crying out to the Lord is a wonderful thing, but not if it replaces obedience.
  • One of the dangers of fear is that it paralyzes us spiritually. We stop moving forward, we stop running the race set before us, you just want to stay in bed all day, literally or figuratively, and whine; you shy away from the fellowship of God’s people; and you stop obeying.
  • And so God says: “Enough crying out to me: start obeying. The children of Israel need to go forward; Moses, you need to lift your staff over this sea.”
  • Maybe this morning you know that your fears and worries and concerns have really worn you down spiritually. Fear has been like a big wrench in the gears of your walk with God. You’ve spent a lot of time crying out to God because it seems so hard, but you need to move forward in obedience to Him.

17 “As for Me, behold, I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them; and I will be honored through Pharaoh and all his army, through his chariots and his horsemen. 18 "Then the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD, when I am honored through Pharaoh, through his chariots and his horsemen."

  • Their job was to get their focus on God, and move forward in simple obedience to Him. Now God says “As for me.” God’s going to do the real work.
  • Why will He work? In both verses 17 and 18 He says it will be for His honor. God does all He does for His honor, because He deserves all honor.
  • The same thing will be true in your life in 2009. God will do His work for His glory. His plans will not be thwarted. You get to see and be a part of what God is going to do for His honor.
  • How much courage would you have if today God would tell you “As for Me, here is what I am going to do in and through you in 2009.” Would that ease your fears, if God came and told you that? I love the words of the song How Firm a Foundation: the songwriter asks: What more can He say than to you He has said (already): Fear not, I am with you, be not dismayed, I am your God, I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. The great I AM has already guaranteed you that He will be and do all that You need in 2009 for His glory.  

In verse 19-20, the pillar of cloud, the Lord Himself, moves from in front of them to behind them, and protects them from the Egyptians through the night.

  • Here is Yahweh, the great I AM at work. “I am a pillar to lead you. But now I am a cloud behind you to protect you. I am Yahweh, I am more than enough for my people.”
  • I love this moment. If the glory of the Lord, in the cloud, was in front of them and then moved behind them, it seems most likely that it went right up over them. Here they are, terrified, angry, blasting Moses. And as we noted two weeks ago, they’ve forgotten the presence of God Himself right there in the cloud. And suddenly it moves up over them! You can’t miss it – and there is the presence of the Lord right over them, then moving behind them to protect them. I bet the whining stopped quickly. Oh yeah, God is here?
  • Sometimes we need startled like that. Our minds are racing on problems and solutions and things that could go wrong and decisions we have to make and stuff that might happen, and we need to look up and say “Oh yeah – God. God is here. God is at work. What was I thinking?”

Then in verses 21-22 God works another miracle, sending a mighty wind that separates the sea and dries out the sea bottom and creates a passageway for them through the sea. God will make a way, when there seems to be no way. God continues to do this for His people today. When there seems to be no way, God can make a way. Don’t turn away in fear; don’t turn to sin because life seems impossible; don’t give up in despondency. Trust and obey, for God will make a way at the right time. I Cor. 10:13 God will not allow you to be tempted/tested beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.

Verses 23-25 describe the confusion that God wrought among the Egyptians. This is fascinating because it suggests that if God hadn’t brought this confusion, they would have caught the Israelites while they were still in the sea. The Egyptians were that close. God lets them get that close, and then He does something that is unmistakeably His own work. Notice that the Egyptians know it is Yahweh at work! At the end of verse 25 they say “Yahweh is fighting for them.”

Though this is dramatic, it’s pretty simple. This situation is a setup to display God’s glory. God allowed the Egyptians to get right on Israel’s heels and then He worked in an unmistakeable way – His glory was seen in a way it would not have been seen if the Israelites had given up and headed back to Egypt like they wanted to.

The same will be true for you. If you allow fear to paralyze you; if you turn to sin because it’s just too hard; if you quit in despondency because it’s just impossible; if you become irritable and angry – you will miss opportunities for God to be honored through you. You will miss opportunities for God’s greatness to be displayed. Don’t run from hard things – pray for God to display His greatness in your hard things.

Now, with the Egyptians turned about in confusion in the middle of the sea, Israel gets safely across and God brings the waters back, drowning the Egyptians and completing God’s just judgment upon Egypt.

30 Thus the LORD saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. 31 When Israel saw the great power which the LORD had used against the Egyptians, the people feared the LORD, and they believed in the LORD and in His servant Moses.

  • The opposite of ungodly fear is faith. And the fuel of faith is the fear of the Lord. And of course the fear of the Lord is big biblical thinking about God.
  • To say that another way: big biblical thinking about God fuels faith; and faith drives away ungodly fear.
  • You should eagerly anticipate the ways God will honor Himself in and through you in 2009. It will not always be easy; sometimes it will seem like there is no way forward; sometimes the enemy will be nipping at your heels; sometimes it will seem like it is way too much. But God will be arranging every circumstance for His honor in you and through you.
  • Verses 17-18 tell us that God’s honor was displayed for the Egyptians; verse 31 tells us that God’s honor was displayed for the Israelites. God will do the same through you: He will magnify His greatness in your sight; and He will magnify His greatness in the sight of others, through you.
  • But for that to happen, you need what verse 31 describes: the fear of the Lord. Maybe you’ve recently sounded like the Israelites in verses 11-12. Me Me Me Me, my problems, my impossibilities, my challenges. Now is the time to come to the Word of God and get your focus off of yourself. You must live daily with big biblical thinking about God. You need the fear of the Lord.

As you live in the fear of the Lord, you’ll find a couple things replacing fear. One is peace. Your heart will be at peace because you can say: “If God is here, I have all I need. If God is with me, I have more than enough.” You’ll find peace. You’ll also find anticipation. You will say: “I don’t know what God has in store for 2009, but I’m excited. Because whatever it is, whether it involves deep trial or great prosperity, it will be perfect for God’s honor in me and through me. I can’t wait to see that.”

But before that will happen, you may need to confess sin to God. The sin of being self-focused – “me me me” – instead of God-focused. The sin of fear – doubting the sufficiency of God. No one likes to admit being self-focused. No one likes to admit being fearful. But God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble.

First, confess to God the sins that have been allowed to take some territory in your heart. Then, you have to grow in the fear of the Lord. Earlier this year when we concluded the series on the fear of God, we talked through a list of suggestions for living with big biblical thinking about God. I’ve put that list in your notes again this morning.

Let’s bow our heads together now and talk to the Lord. You may need to confess sin to Him right now. The sin of self-focus or fear; and then ask for His grace to enable you to focus on Him and His glory and what He is doing to make you like Christ and to spread His fame through you.

Questions for Application and Discussion

Read Exodus 15:1-18 carefully. What big biblical thinking about God is found in this song of praise? How could the truths of this song prepare you for a new year?  

Church illustration:

Challenges; financial challenges; personnel challenges; facility challenges; spiritual challenges; church planting plans.

What do I do? Stop doing anything – stop studying; stop reaching out; stop planning anything; hunker down and hope something changes someday.

Start lashing out at people who frustrate me or seem to get in the way or cause problems.

Worry, lose sleep, get ulcers, stress out.

Start to manipulate, and try to scheme to get people to do what I wish they would do.

But fear leading to any of those responses won’t honor God.

What will honor God? Focus on Him, seek Him, one day at a time depend on His grace and faithfully obey Him, study hard, reach out, plan, prepare, serve, disciple. And eagerly anticipate the ways God will show off His greatness by making a way when there seems to be no way.

So what about you? Are you excited about how God might be honored by your life through whatever He chooses to bring in 2009? Is your focus on Him?

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