Friday, January 28, 2011

Hall of Faith Series : Crossing the Red Sea

Good Friday morning everyone.  Once again we will be continuing in our series on those featured in Hebrews 11, otherwise known as the Hall of Faith.  This week we are continuing on in the faith of Moses and the growing faith of the people of Israel. 
By faith they passed through the Red Sea as by dry land, whereas the Egyptians, attempting to do so, were drowned. Hebrews 11:29 NKJV
For today's study, we return to Exodus.
Now the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: "Speak to the children of Israel, that they turn and camp before PI Hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, opposite Baal Zephon; you shall camp before it by the sea. For Pharaoh will say of the children of Israel, 'They are bewildered by the land; the wilderness has closed them in.' 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." And they did so.  Exodus 14:1-4 NKJV
When we left off last week, the people of Israel finally departed Egypt after the Passover.  We are in the beginnings of the journey to the Promised Land and God has revealed to Moses that Pharaoh is up to his old tricks and will once again change his mind.  He instructs Moses to camp by the Red Sea to lead Pharaoh into a trap, a trap that will cost Pharaoh and his army their lives. 
Now it was told the king of Egypt that the people had fled, and the heart of Pharaoh and his servants was turned against the people; and they said, "Why have we done this, that we have let Israel go from serving us?" So he made ready his chariot and took his people with him. Also, he took six hundred choice chariots, and all the chariots of Egypt with captains over every one of them. And the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he pursued the children of Israel; and the children of Israel went out with boldness. So the Egyptians pursued them, all the horses and chariots of Pharaoh, his horsemen and his army, and overtook them camping by the sea beside PI Hahiroth, before Baal Zephon.  Exodus 14:5-9 NKJV
Just as God said it, it happened.  Pharaoh changed his mind and was set on pursuing and retaking Israel back into slavery.  He took a powerful army of chariots, horses, and soldiers and caught up to Israel near the Red Sea.  Just as God had said, Pharaoh thought he had Israel trapped.  God had other plans.  In reality, it was Pharaoh who was trapped. 
And when Pharaoh drew near, the children of Israel lifted their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians marched after them. So they were very afraid, and the children of Israel cried out to the LORD. Then they said to 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 up out of Egypt? Is this not the word 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."  Exodus 14:10-12 NKJV
If this is not a lesson for us to try to see things from God's perspective and not our own limited view then I do not know what is.  I mean, from an earthly perspective, Israel was in a real tough spot.  Their backs were up against the Red Sea and a large, powerful, and angry Egyptian army was closing in fast.  They were no match for a sea or a great army.  Their faith was tested and was even cracking as they questioned the wisdom of Moses in bringing them out of slavery to begin with.  It was this whining and questioning that would continue to get them into trouble. 
And Moses said to the people, "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."  Exodus 14:13-14 NKJV
There are some quotes from Scripture that should be stamped on our hearts and minds.  This is one of them "Do not be afraid, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord."  There is no impossible situation when God is your Father.  The people thought that they were in dire circumstances with either dying by the sword of the Egyptians or the waters of the Red Sea.  Moses encourages them that God will come through.  We have the benefit of Scripture so we know that they are in no danger, and that they are right where God wants them to be. 
And the LORD said to Moses, "Why do you cry to Me? Tell the children of Israel to go forward. But lift up your rod, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it. And the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea. 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. "Then the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I have gained honor for Myself over Pharaoh, his chariots, and his horsemen."  Exodus 14:15-18 NKJV
God now reveals His plan.  He is going to part the Red Sea for the people of Israel to cross, lure the Egyptians into the parted sea, then let the waters return drowning the Egyptians.  God chooses such a dramatic plan to show the Egyptians once and for all that He is the Lord.  Of course, they will know that even more when they meet Him in a very short time. 
And the Angel of God, who went before the camp of Israel, moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud went from before them and stood behind them. So it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel. Thus it was a cloud and darkness to the one, and it gave light by night to the other, so that the one did not come near the other all that night.  Exodus 14:19-20 NKJV
God's plan begins to take shape.  First He came between the Egypt and Israel causing darkness to the Egypt and light to Israel.  This blinded the Egyptians to what Israel was doing with the effect of giving Israel a head start.
Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the LORD caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea into dry land, and the waters were divided. So the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea on the dry ground, and the waters were a wall to them on their right hand and on their left. And the Egyptians pursued and went after them into the midst of the sea, all Pharaoh's horses, his chariots, and his horsemen.  Exodus 14:21-23 NKJV
Moses stretches out his hand and the Lord parted the sea allowing Israel to move across.  Do not lose the faith in the actions of Israel.  Just imagine how high those water walls must have been on either side.  An entire nation walking between two giant walls of water is a huge step of faith.  Egypt seeing Israel making it across decided to pursue them through the sea. 
Now it came to pass, in the morning watch, that the LORD looked down upon the army of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and cloud, and He troubled the army of the Egyptians. And He took off their chariot wheels, so that they drove them with difficulty; and the Egyptians said, "Let us flee from the face of Israel, for the LORD fights for them against the Egyptians."  Exodus 14:24-25 NKJV
The trap is now set.  God breaks their chariots and they end up stuck in the middle of two giant water walls in the middle of the Red Sea.  The gravity of the situation sets in as the Egyptians begin to panic.  They now know (and should have know a long time ago) that the Lord God fights for Israel.  Judgment is coming, and they know their fates are sealed. 
Then the LORD said to Moses, "Stretch out your hand over the sea, that the waters may come back upon the Egyptians, on their chariots, and on their horsemen." And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and when the morning appeared, the sea returned to its full depth, while the Egyptians were fleeing into it. So the LORD overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea. Then the waters returned and covered the chariots, the horsemen, and all the army of Pharaoh that came into the sea after them. Not so much as one of them remained.  Exodus 14:26-28 NKJV
Moses stretches out his hand and the sea closes in on the Egyptians.  Pharaoh and his army met their watery death by the hand of God.  None survived the judgment of God.  May this be a warning to any of those who choose to side against Israel.  God fights for His people.  More accurately, God annihilates for His people.  There is no "fight" when that fight is against the Lord. 
But the children of Israel had walked on dry land in the midst of the sea, and the waters were a wall to them on their right hand and on their left. So the LORD saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. 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.  Exodus 14:29-31 NKJV
God was glorified and the mighty wonder of the destruction of the Egyptian army solidified the faith of the people in the Lord and the leadership of Moses. 
 
There are two lessons I want us to bring home today, though the parting of the Red Sea holds many lessons.  First, we sometimes have a hard time understanding the God of the Old Testament and of the New Testament.  They are the same God, but some seem to think or teach that God somehow changed when Jesus came to earth.  Our God is the same God yesterday today and forever.  We see here a great picture of that one God in that He simultaneously brought darkness to the Egyptians and light to the Israelites.  He is the same today darkening the mind of those who reject Him while giving light to the minds of those who accept Him.  We also see here that God simultaneously was seen as the God of salvation by the Israelites and the God of judgment and wrath by the Egyptians.  In the same way, when judgment finally comes, it is the same God who will welcome all those who accepted the free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ into eternity and cast those who reject that gift into the lake of fire.  God did not change for the new covenant.  Instead of pouring His wrath out on the world for its sin, He poured it out on Jesus on the Cross.  And because of that, we now have our Mediator Jesus between us and God so that when we look to Him we see the Lord and the grace and mercy provided through His sacrifice and when God looks upon us He sees us as righteous through the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ.  God's wrath will again be poured out on those who reject that gift and anyone who thinks that God has gone "soft" in the New Testament will learn the same lesson the Egyptians learned. 
 
The other lesson is that no matter what circumstances may seem like in life, God is ultimately in control.  If you think you are stuck between a rock and hard place, do not cry out in despair but wait on the Lord.  Just as God led the Israelites through the Red Sea, He can lead you over, around, or through the rock or the hard place or He can just simply remove them.  There is no such thing as impossible from God's perspective.  There is no hopeless situation when the Lord is in control of it.  The Israelites were in for all worldly purposes an impossible situation.  I daresay that none of them could have imagined that God would just part the Red Sea and allow them to walk across.  If we stay in God's will for our lives (as Israel did when they obeyed God as to where to camp), we can always be assured that we are where God wants us to be.  If we are where God wants us to be then we never have anything to fear.  God is leading us to salvation not to destruction, remember that always no matter what situation you are in.   When you find yourself in a seemingly hopeless situation, remember these words "Do not be afraid, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord."  Amen.
Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!
The LORD of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah  Psalm 46:10-11 NKJV

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