Exodus 14:19-31 – Desert Stories – Crossing the Red Sea with Victory Songs
Here at the Red Sea God required of his people five things: DO NOT FEAR – What are you afraid of? STAND YOUR GROUND – Don’t run away from your troubles. KEEP STILL – Listen for God’s still small voice to speak, and God will guide you through the troubles you face. FOLLOW GOD – When God tells you what to do, then do it! BELIEVE – God will come to your aid. Just believe and follow God’s leader!
Last week we gathered around this Table and remembered the Passover Meal. “Do this in remembrance of me…” are Jesus’ famous last words as he solemnly celebrated the Passover Meal with his disciples prior to his betrayal in the Garden of Gethsemane. It was there in the Garden of Gethsemane where he soon met his betrayer and was taken into custody by the Jewish Temple Guard and a maniple of 200-300 Roman soldiers.
The Passover Festival was the greatest feast day in Jewish culture and the city was flooded with people. The feast drew Israelites from all over to worship at the Temple in Jerusalem, and Jesus was counted among the number who celebrated the great feast in Jerusalem. It was here in Jerusalem in an upper room chamber that Jesus remembered the stories of the great Exodus from Egypt. The night of the great Passover and Exodus out of Egypt became the story of the Hebrew people for all time.
We have been on a journey through the book of Exodus…the story of the Hebrew people who experienced 430 years of abusive power in the form of communal enslavement. A whole nation of people captured for the soul-purpose of supporting an empire. At the time of this great Exodus, Egypt was a powerhouse in the region of the Nile Delta Region.
The slavery was ended through the leadership of one man, Moses, one of the greatest men in all history. Together we have listened to the story of Moses dynamic birth, and his family life in the desert as a Bedouin shepherd. At the age of 80 Moses’ God calls Moses out of the desert to stand his ground in Egypt as the leader of the Hebrew people, and his brother Aaron was also called to assist. Moses struggled to be God’s chosen leader, and voiced numerous excuses why he should be the called one.
But Moses was hand-picked from birth to lead his people. Moses was chosen to lead his people out from under the abusive leadership and false religion of Egypt to worship the One True God: Yahweh, the I AM God. It was through Moses that God was able to deliver his Word to the Egyptian King confronting his abusive power across the vast land of the Delta Nile. God warned the King over and over that the Egyptian’s abuse of power would no longer be tolerated. Ten plagues destroyed the land at the expense of strong-willed leader who would not bend to the voice of God. These ten plagues of creation remind us that God created the whole world, and it is by his power and direction that creation is sustained and destroyed.
The plagues remind us that God is in charge of our water supply as all the water in the land of Egypt was turned to blood. God is in charge of our marshlands and its inhabitants illustrated by the plague of frogs. God is in charge of the very ground we walk upon and the creatures that live within it as demonstrated by the insects that came out of the ground to swarm the land. And, as the swarms of insects came upon the land God spared the land of Goshen were the Hebrew people lived. The sky filled with insects make obvious God’s reign over the airways. The plague of swarming insects affected only the Egyptian people, the Hebrew people were not affected.
God demonstrated through the death of the Egyptian livestock that the One True God of the Hebrews is in control of the life and death of every animal in the land. With the plague of skin disease God demonstrate his authority over every sickness upon the land. And, with the plague of hail God establishes his authority over all the weather events. And, the as the locust flooded the sky God revealed his authority to strip the land of all vegetation leaving nothing to eat for the people.
God has made clear to the Egyptians and the Hebrews alike that all provisions come from the hand of God. The people may have forgotten what God had accomplished through Joseph during the famine years, but through the plague of locust God reminded the people of his greatness to save, and his greatness to destroy.
The last plague, the death of every first-born male animal and Egyptian, was a long night for the Lord our God. It was a night of intent watching as judgment over all Egypt and her false gods caused great suffering. It was a long night of intent watching for the Hebrews as God brought them out of the land of Egypt with great signs and wonders. And from that night on every first-born male would be given over to the Lord’s care.
And, as a sign of remembrance God required of the Hebrews a feast of remembrance, the Passover Feast. Passover Feast continues from generation to generation as an act of remembrance of God’s mighty acts. The death of Egypt’s firstborn marked the passage of the Hebrews slaves to free the people.
After 430 years in political and religious bondage, the Hebrew people left the land of Egypt in military formation. A community of nomadic shepherds traded in their walking sticks to become a spiritual army. Mixed in the community of Hebrews were immigrants who have decided to join the Great Exodus. Those who chose to join the Hebrews in the Passover Feast were required to follow the same religious protocol, circumcision. God required the people to remember the might signs and wonders.
At the time of the Exodus Moses remembered Joseph and gathered up his bones. Through Joseph, God provided leadership to save all of Egypt and many peoples in the surrounding lands from the great famine. Now through Moses, God destroys the land and it’s inhabitants because of their great pride. They had forgotten the God who saved them, and now God is judging their actions.
The Egyptians were plundered as they willingly gave the Hebrews everything they asked for because the Egyptians were afraid they would die as well. And, perhaps the Hebrews gathered up all the evidence of ever having been in the land of Egypt. Perhaps this was God’s way of stripping his presence from their midst. God had given them every opportunity to choose the Hebrew God, and this was their judgment – a life devoid of God’s blessing, his presence.
The Hebrew people were commanded to always remember the experience of God’s great judgment with signs and wonders to free the people from abusive power and false religion. The Passover was a feast that recognized God’s hand to deliver his chosen people from slavery. God required of the Hebrews a celebration feast with unleaven bread and roasted lamb. There was to be no yeast in the whole nation during the feast. The nation was to observe a whole week without yeast as an act of remembrance. And, God required that the people teach their children (Exodus 13.8, 14).
The children were taught through the yearly celebration of the Passover Feast, but also through the setting apart of every first-born animal or child. The Hebrew people were to live out the Passover experience in their very lives by giving their first-borns to God as a ransom and sacrifice. Every first-born male animal was a required sacrifice. Every first-born male child was a ransom to the Lord (Exodus 13.14-15). The Hebrew people were required to mark their hands and foreheads as a way of remembering God’s mighty acts (Exodus 13.9, 16).
But the Hebrew people were not ready for battle with the surrounding nations. They were not ready to fight the Philistines. God knew their hearts. And, God was concerned that they would return to find comfort in their slavery rather than fight a war for a new way of life against the neighboring peoples. Instead of fighting the neighbors they had to face the Egyptians who changed their minds about letting them go.
God guided the Hebrew people by way of the Reed/Red Sea. At the shores of the Red Sea God placed a cloud and a fire to guide their way. It was here at the waters edge that Moses stretched out his hand to provide a clear pathway to freedom through the waters. Today archeological findings of coral encrusted chariots and a golden chariot wheel without coral locates the crossing at the shallow land bridge at Nuweiba, Egypt. It seems that King Solomon eventually erected columns on both sides of the Red Sea at this location to commemorate the Exodus.
Through it all, the Israelite people remained just as stubborn-hearted as Pharaoh. Although the Israelites had witnessed the same 10 plagues as the Egyptians, the Israelites remained just as hard-hearted as Pharaoh. After Pharaoh and his army chased the Israelites to the water’s edge, the people complained with disbelief in God’s willingness to help them.
God assures the people that their fears will not be realized. God will be present and at work on their behalf. The people will stand their ground, and not flee from the situation. In fact God asks them to turn around and go back to a more effective strategic location. God will initiate a divine work on their behalf. God expects the people to be confident in his divine intervention. God’s timing will be on time, in time, and in the fullness of time. God expects the people to stand without worry against the Egyptian warriors.
The people are instructed to keep still, but that doesn’t mean they are not to “move a muscle.” Keeping still is a strategic posture of listening to God before acting. Keeping still is a call for silence in the camp – no worrying or complaining – just listening. God requires the Hebrews full obedience. If the people follow God’s guidance, then they will see God’s salvation. The salvation of God will be individual, corporate, and universal. Salvation will reach every aspect of the human experience of life. God will prove to his people that he is the Creator of the World –land, water, and sky. God will fully illustrate his role as Warrior, and Commander of the Lord’s Army. And, the people will believe in God, and in his chosen leader.
It wasn’t until the parting of the Red Sea that the Israelites are reported to believe in Yahweh, it states, “…and they believed in the Lord and in his servant Moses” (Exodus 14.31). And, it is at this juncture that the people desired to worship God offering songs of victory with musical instrument and dancing (15.1-21).
As a result of their newborn belief in Yahweh, the Israelites are finally able to worship God for the first time as a nation of people. The Hebrew nation witnessed the great work of God, and they revered God. The people were transformed from slaves to worshipers. As the Red Sea God washes away the last of the Egyptian royal guard the Hebrews begin to trust God as their Creator, Savior, and Redeemer. Through these signs and wonders the Hebrew people recognize now more than ever that their God reigns supreme across all the earth.
Here at the Reed Sea God required of his people five things: “to not be afraid,” “to stand their ground,” “to keep still,” “to follow God’s guidance,” and “to believe.”
God speaks, and we listen. God saves, and we believe. God calls, and we obey. God delivers, and we follow. God requires us to share the Gospel to all people especially the children. When we read through the Bible, it is not difficult to see how important children are to God. Even Jesus said to his disciples, “Suffer the little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for to such belong the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19.14, Mark 10.14, Luke 18.16 ASV).
I read some startling statistics this week about our children, and I want to share them with you. I hope they will motivate each of us to invite someone to church. Research Specialist George Barna believes, “By the age of nine, most of the moral and spiritual foundations of a child are in place.” And, the Barna Research Group reported, “Nearly half of all Americans who accept Jesus Christ as their Savior do so before the age of 13.” “Children who attend church and learn the bible when they are young stand a much better chance of having a relationship with God as adults,” according to Christian News. And, according to LifeWay Research, a number as large as “70% of today’s youth are leaving the church.”
In fact the Back to Church Movement suggests that, “Today’s culture is greatly influencing our children’s moral behavior and development — the vast majority of Christian kids today have no spiritual foundation. Fun and games are fine, but as the research indicates, we [as the Church] have raised a generation of children who have missed out on essential Bible training. When the world comes calling, many are falling prey to dubious activities and deceptive philosophies — and they are walking away from their faith.”
Next Sunday is celebrated by many denominations as National Back to Church Sunday. It began as a movement to invite everyone in America back to church by empowering and motivating church members to invite their family and friends to come with them to a special service hosted by the local church. The movement was spurred on by a couple of statistics:
First, Thom Rainer, author of The Unchurched Next Door, notes that “82% of the unchurched are at least somewhat likely to attend church if invited.” And, “Yet only 2% of Christians EVER invite someone to church!” Although our church is not formally participating in the National Back to Church Sunday, I hope you will take their challenge and ask a someone – perhaps a family with children – to come to church this week.