Category: chariots

Freed to Follow – an exodus Journey Week 4

Sermon

Pentecost 13A
Sunday September 11, 2011.

Exodus: Freed to Follow
Exodus 14:19-31
19 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, 20 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.  

21 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, 22 and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left.

23 The Egyptians pursued them, and all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots and horsemen followed them into the sea. 24 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. 25 He jammed[a] 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.”

26 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.” 27 Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at daybreak the sea went back to its place. The Egyptians were fleeing toward[b] it, and the LORD swept them into the sea. 28 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.

29 But the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left. 30 That day the LORD saved Israel from the hands of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the shore. 31 And when the Israelites saw the great power the LORD displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the LORD and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant.

Today’s part of this Exodus journey is for any of us who have ever tried to fight our way out of trouble or fight our way to success forgetting that The Lord is the One who fight our battles.


It is a Word for us who forget that the Lord is involved in our day, our issues, our fears, our world and all its concerns and who then try and who then try and win battles, be effective, be successful or control our circumstances to “feel better” about life.

We move from that great and dreadful night of the Passover to the first days of freedom with a huge mass of God’s people on the move out of Egypt to an unknown future. The future maybe unknown but at least it is freedom. The feeling of the people is jubilant, triumphant and hopeful. This will rapidly change to fear, doubt, complaint and back again!

Eventually even Pharaoh relents on his hard heartedness and in complete defeat and some anger and grief at the loss of his own Son (the future Pharaoh and son of Ra) and can’t wait for this troublesome people to get out of his country.

The Lord had promised that Israel would not leave empty handed from their slavery. As the Israelites quickly wrap up their meal on the move, word gets out they are out! The Egyptian locals can’t wait to see the back of Israel and in their enthusiasm give lots of stock, jewellery and things of gold and sliver.

This is Israel now as the victorious nation plundering the defeated foe. This is compensation for 400 years of slavery!


1.2 million people and all their livestock and belongings finally get going across the desert under Moses’ leadership. They are not going the short way though. We get a hint that this “little trip” up to Canaan will not be so direct or simple.


This makes sense if we keep the purpose of God in mind. He has created this nation by a promise and sustained his promise from generation to generation. he has said that this nation will have a job. It will be the chosen nation through which He will bless all nations. They need to learn how to be a nation of blessing. They will learn this in the desert. It will take a whole generations length of time (40 years). But this is all ahead for the buoyant people of God at the beginning of their victory procession out into the desert to worship the Lord on his holy mountain.


Pharaoh again changes his mind and this time there is a shift. Up until now, Pharaoh has been wanting to keep these people alive and working in his building sites etc…. But now he wants them dead, dead, dead. Eleven times in the texts before and including our text today we hear that “Pharaoh and all his horses and his chariots” pursued the Israelites. This is unbridled fury. This is road rage! The goal is no longer preservation of a slave nation but the total annihilation of a people.


Can you imagine the terror that overtakes the now not so jubilant Israelites as they feel the vibration of hooves and chariots, see the dust cloud on the horizon and then finally “Look up and see” the Egyptians coming after them at speed!


Instantly, the joy turns to terror, the victory to defeat and the faith to doubt. The doubt of Moses and “his” God comes in the form of complaint. This will be the first of many times when the people will complain against Moses and therefore doubt God. On one occasion later on they are ready to stone Moses to death!


As the feeble arms drop an the knees knock, the people are now “crying out” again as they did in slavery, and as Moses did in the little ark. Nothing seems to been achieved and nothing seems to have changed. The same old foes and fears are upon them and they fall into the same old ways of dealing with them – without faith in the Living God. Sound familiar?


To all of this fear and doubt and turning away from the Lord, Moses gives three short directives. Don’t be scared. Stand. See.


Don’t be afraid, Stand up and See.


When the old foes come and we feel like we are back where we started, we are to put fear away. We are stand at the ready like a soldier waiting for the battle and then See? What are we to see? We are to see the Lord at work – fighting our battles for us.


Israel is an army now. A victorious army on the march but they are a strange army indeed. They are the only army in history who are to not be fearful, stand at the ready and not fight! This is because they cannot win and because the Lord does their fighting for them. They need only to “be still”.


We are an army on a victory procession to life forever in the Lord. He has defeated the greater enemies of sin, evil and death itself and continues to do so as we put fear away, stand alert and watchful so we can see how the Lord fights our battles for us. We need only to be still and know that I am God, as the Psalmist says in Psalm 9.


What a strange army we are! Are you trying to win your battles without reference to the Spirit of the Risen Jesus? You will fail. Are you trying to sure up your own position among others by a show of power or craftiness. You will fail and you will not be a blessing carrier to others as your called to be. Are we trying to work our way out of trouble without faith, reference or time for God’s word to us? We are then being that wicked and adulterous generation that Jesus mentions in Matthew 12. The Jewish religious leaders come to him and ask for a “sign” or show of raw power to convince everyone that Jesus really is “from God”.


Jesus says that even the greatest show of power – the sign of Jonah – a person being dead three days in the belly of the earth like Jonah was in the belly of the whale – and then coming back to life and defeating the great enemy, death, will not be enough for sign-lookers.


Friends, power will not sustain us or bring life and blessing to us and our world. It has its place and time as we see in our text when God does one more mighty act of defeat on Pharaoh by swallowing him and his army up in the sea. Our text ends with the witness that “the people feared the Lord and put their trust in Moses, his servant”.


But how fleeting this moment of faith based on a show power would be! It would be a nano-second until doubt and unbelief and then idolatry would be back again in these same people.


Is this why the Lord eventually became a human being in Jesus Christ and why Jesus wins the final victory over our idolatry and sin and its consequence of death in the weak looking crucifixion and death of his own son?


Is this why Paul says that the good news of God’s freedom and grace poured out for all people is foolishness to people who look for signs of power to be convinced of God’s presence and will?

Is this why Paul says he proclaims Jesus Christ and him crucified, which is a stumbling block to people who are wanting a show of force to win the day?

Is this why Jesus revolutionised the Passover with his own body and blood given for the life of the world through very ordinary bread and wine and commands us to baptise people in God’s name with simple water but his powerful word and why belief and faith and joy come through hearing the Word, not by might or intellect or human strength?


Friends, it is clear in all of this first part of Exodus that we have no power and no victory over anything that really matters in life and that to face life without reference to or faith in the Word of the Lord is futile. This way of the hard heart against the Lord will end in only one way – total destruction, as it did for Pharaoh.


We are called to put fear way and trust. We are called to stand ready to be used by the Lord and see his hand at work in our day. To do anything else leads to our human idol factory getting the upper hand as we all convince ourselves that it was all our doing and that we have got to make this thing work and that we really are the key players in what we face. No, the Lord is always the key player. He is the beginning and the end, the Lord of all lords and the one who does our fighting for us in places we don’t even know about – “principalities and powers”, as Paul calls them.


How sweet it is to be in the Lord’s victory procession and on his holy mountain as we worship in his presence and where he gives us the bread of life – his Word for the journey with him.


Don’t be afraid of what you have to do or have to stop doing.


Stand at the ready with your “sword” – the Word of God in your hand.


See – see the Spirit of the risen Jesus at work in things


Be still. It is enough for today to be still and simple know in the heart that God is; that God is I AM, fighting for you and winning his victory for your body mind and spirit everyday through very ordinary looking things.


Moses and his sister Miriam penned a song after this great victory in the sea was won by the Lord on their behalf…


In your unfailing love, O Lord, you will lead the people you have redeemed.
In your strength you will guide them to your holy place.
The nations will hear and tremble…
The Lord reigns for ever and ever. (Exodus 15:13ff)



Freed to Follow – an exodus Journey Week 4

BETWEEN THE TEXTS



Week 4


• Remember, Exodus is all about two things – knowing God and vocation. Exodus is an account of knowing God through personal experience and how it is that God would call a nation to be the community through which he would bless the human family


• As God said he would, he “passed over” the people of Israel as he struck down all first-born males of the Egyptian nation in a killer blow that paved the way for freedom from bondage to idolatry and slavery itself. (Exodus 12:29-30). Just as Moses and his people had been “crying out” to God, so now there is great “crying out” (weeping and wailing) among Egypt’s families. Just as the Pharaoh had tried to wipe out the Hebrews by that destruction of life – the killing of all infant males – so now God inflicts devastating judgement on Egypt by killing all firstborn human beings and animals.


• This does make us squirm. God seems so destructive and angry and full of wrath and “payback”.


• His judgement on unbelief and the arrogance of continued idolatry of Egypt is effective, because finally Pharaoh wants this troublesome slave labour force to “be gone”. (Exodus 12:31ff). “Leave, God, take your stuff and go!” says Pharaoh.


• God’s promise of Israel actually plundering the defeated Egyptian foe come to pass as the nation urges Israel to leave and gives the Israelites stock, jewellery, articles of silver and gold…. (12:33-36). The picture here is of a victorious army taking whatever it wants from the defeated city. Israel is now different. It is an army on the move taking plunder – but as we shall see, it is a very strange army indeed….


• 600,000 men is a lot of men. If you double that number to include women and then add their livestock and belongings etc you can imagine a huge procession of people stretching for kilometres across the desert on the way to the promised land.


• This actually is a procession – a worship/liturgical procession actually. The purpose of the salvation by God is worship, don’t forget. The reason the Israelites were to leave Egypt was to worship the Lord on his holy mountain. The victory procession has begun!


• We get extensive instructions on how to continually remember this great act of God with more Passover instructions (13:1-16).


• God does not lead the people the direct way out. He has other plans and reasons for his plans. Israel will not be journeying quickly to their new land. This will take some time. Firstly, God has that goal of making them into his holy nation through which he promises to bless the entire world. They have to be trained in their vocation as blessing bearers. In the end it will be a whole generations that will live and die in this desert training ground (“40 years”). Secondly, there is still the matter of the Pharaoh and foreign gods (idolatry) to finish off).


• We get an interesting note that the bones of Joseph, who had dies 400 years prior, were taken out of Egypt as promised by God (13:19).


• This army is on the march with special guidance and presence of God – a pillar of fire by night and a cloud during the daylight (13:20f). The point is that God himself is leading this army. He is in charge.


• We now come to the last battle scene of the Exodus. Pharaoh is hurting and this turns not just to anger but complete rage. He is going to pursue these people of death and absolutely annihilate them. Before he was trying to keep this slave labour force alive and well in their rightful place of slavery. Now he does not care. He gathers all his military forces (the texts say this no less then 11 times!). He hurtles on to wipe out these people (14:5-9)


• TERROR! The jubilant Israelites are stunned and frightened to death when they hear the sound of those horses ad soldiers, see the billowing dust ion the horizon and then finally “Look up and see” that Pharaoh and his army are coming after them at speed. (14:10)


• Now we are “crying out” again. The tables have turned again. And now we hear the first of many times in this desert journey the language of complaint. “Are you bringing us through this to kill us, God?” “Are your intentions really good, God? “Can we go back to comfortable times and what we know please?”


• To all of this doubt, self-pity, rejection of God’s name and character, Moses responds with three sharp directives: 1) Do not be afraid, 2) Stand firm, and 3) See.


o The will be a pattern of how God’s people will win the victory over all things that try to defeat them and sever their trust in the Lord.


o Amazing that there is no call to take up arms. They are put fear away and stand at the ready but not fight!


o God will fight their battles. They need only to be still and see the Lord fighting for them. This is the only army in history who will never win a fight by fighting!


• The Egyptians and all generations will know that the Lord is by the end of this final battle.


WEEK 4 Exodus 14:19-31 (TNIV)


The great deliverance ( relate to THOUGHTS – the bullet points below)


19 Then the angel of God, who had been travelling in front of Israel’s army, withdrew and went behind them. The pillar of cloud also moved from in front and stood behind them, 20 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.


21 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, 22 and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left.


23 The Egyptians pursued them, and all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots and horsemen followed them into the sea. 24 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. 25 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.”


26 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.” 27 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. 28 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.


29 But the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left. 30 That day the LORD saved Israel from the hands of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the shore. 31 And when the Israelites saw the great power the LORD displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the LORD and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant.


THOUGHTS


1. This really is not a battle as such. The Lord is in complete control and in manoeuvring everything into place for a final destruction of Egypt’s gods.


2. There is some attempt at some “scientific” explanation of events. We must not forget that this is not “science” and the writers have no interest in the science or “proof” of what the Lord did. This is not an attempt to provide a complete historical explanation either. Again the writers have little interest in producing “history” texts, as we think of history. They are proclaiming the mighty acts if God in a selective historical way and they are aiming at thoughtful and intelligent proclamation to transform the reader, not just merely inform the reader.


3. This is blind rage. There is no attention to military strategy or patience. This is all our feverish rage with the goal of total annihilation of a people on the part of Pharaoh.


4. Even the Egyptian military know that they are in trouble. There is confusion and supernatural power at work against them and now they know it.


5. Pharaoh’s destruction is complete. There is no military and royalty left in Egypt for time being. Egypt has been “swept into the sea”. Interesting that this is the great fear of the modern state of Israel today. They fear that they will be “swept into the sea” by their surrounding and much more populous Arab neighbours. This causes them to “rule with an iron fist”, as they say. Interesting how the tables turn in history and in the human heart!


6. This momentous display of God’s mighty power does the trick in terms of helping the previously doubting and complaining Israelites “fear God” – at least fore the time being anyway. Wasn’t it Jesus who said, when being asked for a “sign” so that people could believe in him, that even if God raised a person from the dead in a great show of power, this would not be enough to sustain faith in Israel (Matthew 12:38). No, they will get a sign – the “sign of Jonah”. Jesus will be in the belly of the earth fro three days and then rise form the dead. If that is not enough then you are “wicked and adulterous generation” bowing down to any other idols you can find!


7. Interesting that Moses has now earned the respect of the people. Before they did not respect him. Now, by God using him to enact his salvation for his people (Moses holding up his staff over the seas etc….), Moses is closely identified with the Lord in the people’s eyes. Moses now has the Lord’s authority to act (as long as he follows the Lord’s instructions) and the respect of the people. Authority is given AND earned.


REFLECTIONS


• How do you read the biblical story – looking for scientific proof of the events described or as God speaking to you to create faith in your heart?


• Fear is a troubling thing. It can even lead to blind rage and total destruction of left unchecked. What is your number one fear? Is it fear of having weaknesses and being ignorant of important things or fear of being strong and powerful, lest you fall into Pharaoh’s way?


• Power does not seem to equate with deep and lasting faith. The flashy stuff God does has its time and place as we see here, but the “fear of the Lord” the power creates is fleeting. Is this why God uses the weak things of the world to work his powerful love and grace?


• Authority is given to Moses by God, but still has to be earned among the people. Just because you have authority given to you does not mean that you will be a person who can effectively lead those under you. It is a great mistake to use your given authority in such a way as to expect that people should do as you tell them without also winning their respect. Is this what Jesus means when he accuses the religious leaders of his day of “lording it over the people”. Is this what all “authoritarian” kings, Presidents, Governors, and Prime Ministers do? They expect to rule without having to earn respect by careful consideration and respect of their people?