Worship Music

Exodus 15:1-21

Christianity Today article “The Waning of the ‘Worship Wars'”, January 6, 2016

“Out: Organs, bulletins, and choirs. In: Spoken amens, raising hands during worship, and using projection equipment for song lyrics and sermon notes. This change to the American church is deeper than just a formality swap, said the authors of the latest National Congregations Study (NCS). Instead, it’s part of a “decades-long trend in American religion away from an emphasis on belief and doctrine and toward an emphasis on experience, emotion, and the search for a least-common-denominator kind of worship in a time of ever less salient (prominent) denominationally specific liturgical and theological content,” wrote the authors of …one of the most rigorous surveys of local religious congregations in the US.”

Place that trend is obvious – music used in weekly gatherings. No, not referring to volume or instruments used. Are other elements more important than just those. For example, who is singing, what do the words they sing communicate? Often is praise team or worship leader performing for an audience. What passes for praise music could just as easily be love song for boy or girlfriend. Little sound Bible doctrine found in modern music identified as Christian. In fact, not designed to express and teach truth but rather evoke certain kind of response.

Have just finished reading words from piece of worship music from 34 centuries ago – profound contrast between what those words say and what typical modern congregation would hear. Not coincidence that vital signs of American church are cause for concern. Not just about music – that is symptom, not the cause of problem. Root cause – trend away from belief and doctrine… Music reflects that trend.

Will consider from our text – theme, three verses, and reprise… summary repeat. Notice who is clearly the object of worship and attention – the LORD, not anyone else.

A. theme v.1 — the LORD is to be worshiped

final deliverance from slavery

God promised to deliver from taskmasters, from Pharaoh so they could serve Him – crossing the border, Red Sea first significant milestone

milestone?? yes, deliverance from only the beginning; then comes process of being delivered to what takes its place

freed from remaining threat

until decisive defeat of Pharaoh and his military, Israelites still at risk of being re-enslaved in Egypt – certainly Pharaoh’s goal

would be other enemies of various sorts with goal of enslaving them again – for now, under God’s immediate oversight, no threats to cause fear

several things to give them courage – Red Sea between them and Egypt; army and equipment destroyed; pillar of fire / cloud

immediate response

had to be a victory won by YHWH – he alone has power and authority to achieve this kind of result – only response: WOW!

awe and wonder and rejoicing and celebration and thankfulness and praise – iow, worship of God who has done all this

the beginning of what God delivered them to: worship and service to him alone – single-hearted devotion to God who loved and saved them, expressed in worship

B. verse one v.2-5 — the LORD is my God (who He is)

worship may be prompted by what God has done, must not neglect who God is – clearly identified: YHWH is my God

my strength and song

both source and focus: the one from whom I receive, to whom I return – strength, supply, power, direction my Provider

whenever am made mindful of who he is by what he does, proper to return praise, thanksgiving, glory… individual / corporate

worthy of praise, to be exalted

apart from what he does, YHWH is worthy of worship and praise – he is indeed the best of beings, worthy of all we can give him and more

he is above all gods, does not always hold that position in our estimation – need to actively exalt him, remind ourselves and others of his rightful place

a man of war

YHWH is a warrior… with no equal – knows both friend and enemy perfectly, knows how to advance friends and defeat enemies, bring glory to himself in process

more important than simply knowing it, God does it – God wages war on his enemies and those of his people, now the church

be thankful for that – we do not have ability to defeat enemies or even resist their advance; must have God fighting for us and through us to have any hope of victory

deals with his enemies

let’s say, back in the day, friends with Jack Dempsey; hanging out together, somebody tried to pick fight with you – got it made, right?? not if Jack kept hands in pockets

same with God – doesn’t just know how to wage war on his enemies, he actually does so… and fights to win… every time

sometimes, as with Pharaoh, utterly defeats enemy and destroys; other times, subdues enemy, makes him a friend, like us

C. verse two v.6-10 — the LORD is glorious in power (what He has done)

power over enemies

God said he would “gain honor over Pharaoh and his army” (14:17) – kept his promise, deserves praise for that

used his power to defeat enemies, deserves praise; did what only He could do, none other great enough, deserves praise

demonstrated in miniature how his wrath against sin and sinners will be displayed on great Day of the Lord, when “the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, [will hide] themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains,and [say] to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?” Rev. 6:15-17

power over created order

no power known to man could ever produce effect God did working through means in just a few hours, causing created things to behave counter to design

only one of number of times when God would use his power to provide for his people and in process bring glory to himself

power to protect his people

same power used to provide way of escape / deliverance for his people and close that way on enemies, destroying them

Moses makes clear in his worship hymn – God did not just let nature take its course and drown Pharaoh… oh well, too bad

was God actively using his power both for his people and against his enemies – protecting from harm during passage, continuing protection after all were across

D. verse three v.11-18 — the LORD is like no other (what He will do)

question with obvious answer – no one is like YHWH; if you had any doubts, look at what just happened at the Red Sea!

majestic in holiness, awesome in deeds

is God’s holiness that makes him glorious and majestic – perfect in purity, absolutely good, no shadow of imperfection

what God does deserves awe, reverence, praise – God does not act merely to show off; acts with purpose: our good, his glory

he will finish his work of salvation

every other god without exception can only enslave – YHWH delivers; even better, he will deliver his people completely

unlike us, God always finishes what he begins – his intent to bring his people to destination, can be counted on to do that

fill his enemies with terror

true God does not talk big, make threats, then not follow through – God’s reputation precede his people all the way to Jericho

if we are to take God and his expectations seriously, how much more his enemies – those who think they can despise him without risk of judgment

bring his people safely home

doesn’t drop them off, establishes them in new home – supplies all necessary for flourishing, ultimately in his very presence

the past guarantees the future

has cared for his people until now, will continue – God does not change, does rule his kingdom and will rule forever w/o end

E. reprise v.19-21

immediate cause for praise – deliverance

significant portion of praise, element of worship music relate to deliverance from slavery – exalting the God who delivers

not limited to what God did, includes what God will do – deliverance not yet complete, still have far to go under guiding hand of God… through wilderness and all the way to Promised Land

response to praise – more praise

Moses had led in worship, now Miriam leads ladies in more praise and celebration – probably repeated what Moses just sang

praise promotes joy

focusing attention and singing on praising God encourages both singers and hearers, brings joy to ones praising, that lasts for more than moment

Don’t like idea that God is violent, God of war, yet we love the Cross. Greater violence was done against sin and Satan at the Cross than in any other conflict known to mankind. What God accomplished when he deliver his people from Egypt by destroying Pharaoh and his army is real picture in miniature – shows what God accomplished when he delivered his people from sin by punishing his Son the Lord Jesus. Reveals two things: horrors of sin, greatness of God’s mercy.

A Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) committee desired to add “In Christ Alone” to the denomination’s new hymnal, Glory to God, set to be released this fall (2013). But it first requested permission to avoid theological controversy by altering the modern hymn’s lyrics from “Till on that cross as Jesus died/the wrath of God was satisfied” to “Till on that cross as Jesus died/the love of God was magnified.” …The “view that the cross is primarily about God’s need to assuage God’s anger” would have a negative impact on worshippers’ education”. CT

Awfulness of what Lord Jesus experienced on Cross shows horror of sin. That it was Jesus and not us shows greatness of God’s mercy. How can we not worship the one who showed his love to us in that way. How can we not sing his praise to all who will listen?

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8. Why do you think evil in your hearts?

Matthew 9:4 But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts?

Read: Matthew 9:1-8; Mark 2:1-12; Luke 5:17-26

Setting:

Jesus’ own town (Matthew); Capernaum, at home (Mark); later, went to his house (Matthew)

crowd that filled space, spilled out into street (Mark); included “experts in the law” (Matthew), Pharisees and teachers of the law from Galilee, Judea, Jerusalem (Luke)

Jesus preaching the word to them (Mark); four or more men plus paralytic, down through the roof, forgiven then healed (Mark)

Person(s) being questioned:

experts in the law and Pharisees – religious leaders of the day

Jesus had significant enough following, came from all over country to check it out

based on their apparent assumptions, were already biased against Jesus

Question behind the question:

Two distinct but related issues: attitude toward Jesus, attitude toward others (shepherds to flock)

How do you suppose I know your heart? (was not obvious in body language – see Mark 2:8)

What is man’s greatest need?

You are spiritual leaders – what are your ministry priorities?

Expected response:

Why are you acting like God?

Why do you accuse us of evil?

How do you know what we’re thinking?

Jesus’ point:

did not recognize Jesus as Nicodemus did – John 3:2a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.”

accused Jesus (rightly) of acting like God while they (wrongly) acted like God toward Jesus and paralytic

were more concerned with protecting theological territory than showing genuine compassion to the lost

Jesus must have authority to forgive sin since only God knows heart/thoughts – healing miracle visibly confirmed it

eternal destiny is far more significant than present circumstances – need for forgiveness and reconciliation with God far more important than any other consideration

Modern Application:

the Gospel is non-negotiable – sharing the Gospel is most compassionate thing we can do

except in emergency/crisis situations, no Gospel no help; is ok to direct those who reject Gospel to secular agencies

problem with relational evangelism – encourages mindset that puts relationship before evangelism; often never get to Gospel

organizations church supports must be Gospel-centered… clearly and articulately so – no biblical precedent for undercover Gospel work

showing love of Christ to others no more meaningful than simple compassion when they don’t know it is Christ whose love is being shown

Sins of the People

Micah 2:1-5

Favorite pastime in many parts of world, not just here – complaining. Is activity that shows no respect for categories: rich/poor; young/old; healthy/sick; much responsibility or little. Comes just as easily for those who appear to have everything as those who appear to have nothing. Does not seem to be any shortage of things to complain about, either. Weather, neighbors, other drivers, price of (fill in the blank), and on and on. Complaining not necessarily sinful – complaining with right motive about right issue to the right audience, maybe ok.

Might wonder, you sure ’bout that? Well… approx. 50 Psalms are either individual or community laments. Basically specific form of complaint, directed to God, about person or situation believed to be unjust or evil. God is displeased with both evil behavior and injustice, is pleased when his people view same way. Also expects us to do what we can to overcome bad behavior by others. When is beyond our ability to change situation or person, is right to complain to God, seek his intervention.

Behaviors identified in text to one extent or other common in 21st century world. God makes his displeasure plain, there are steps we can / should take also. First, accusation brought against defendants; then description of how God will intervene and change their circumstances; prophet’s conclusion of what that action will produce; then what our response should be in similar situation.

A. accusation v.1-2

plot evil

will be consequences for those who purposely make sinful plans – comes with opportunity for repentance instead of rebellion

will not be simple slap on wrist – rather, major calamity / disaster that brings intense suffering and loss, clearly not accidental

class of people with economic / social / political power plotting how can use that power to their own advantage

during day, lay awake nights or dream of ways to further own agenda at expense of others, sining against God and neighbor

practice evil

some, a very few, content to make plans to do evil but not implement – lack courage, conscience kicks in, no opportunity

for most, things lead to things, plans lead to practice – James 1:15Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.”

prophet’s target – those who plot and put into practice ASAP… at morning light, eager to move agenda forward

often motivation not thought out – plan evil because they are evil, enjoy evil, have power to carry it out – do because they can

specific evils

covet

basic sense – strong desire with eagerness – is used both positively and negatively in Bible: Do not covet (Ex. 20:17); Covet [earnestly desire] the best gifts (1 Cor. 12:31)

becomes sinful when what is forbidden is covet, when desire exceeds proper bounds, or sinful motivation

in view here: desiring what is forbidden to the individual/business/agency, wanting what is not theirs to have because rightly belongs to another

specific objects of desire – houses and lands, tangible property; principle applies to anything, not just real estate

steal

compounding sin of covetousness, add to it by theft – seizing property without just compensation, in this case probably $0

little warning if any of planned action – simply show up with sheriff and boot ’em out; no opportunity to avoid disaster

not property acquired by other questionable dealings – has come to them by family inheritance traceable to Joshua

oppress

“abuse of power or authority, the burdening, trampling, and crushing of those lower in station” TWOT

two-edged sword: deprives individual of shelter and probably its contents and means of earning to replace what was lost

made homeless with no job, no money for sec. dep. / first / last month’s rent, no way to earn monthly rent either… or provide for daily needs

modern parallels abound, all the way from individual to corporations to nations and national leaders; do not need to think very hard to come up with those for whom evil is way of life, make their way up ladder on backs of others; ones who promote public policy and personal agenda with resources belonging to others… may be given “cover” of being for greater good yet same principles apply

B. intervention v.3

devising divine disaster

therefore… in direct response to unabated evil desires and behavior God will act, in his time and way – must remember, God does indeed have limits to what he will tolerate

unlike those whom he will judge, God gives fair warning – what Micah promises was imminent but not immediately present

perps had adequate time to turn from evil and demonstrate commitment to righteousness before judgment actually arrived

keep in mind – “devising” used to show some time would elapse, not God needed time to make his plan

inescapable humbling

what God intends to achieve will take place without fail – if evildoers tried to use warning as opportunity to escape, God would still accomplish his purpose

ancient custom: conqueror put foot on neck of conquered to clearly demonstrate who was in position of true authority – read Josh. 10:24-25

in judgment God brings on them, he would demonstrate his authority, they would be humbled, would know who did it

iow, they would justly be on receiving end of same treatment they had inflicted unjustly on others

stripped of illicit gains

for those who pride themselves on power, possessions, losing all they had gained a huge blow to pride – can be so devastating as to remove all hope

in this case God did not intend material possessions to be returned to original owners – they had their own sins to repent of

further issue: getting all their stuff back can encourage trust in material things rather than God, not something God wants

an unwelcome effect of Israel becoming independent political state w/territory in 1948: greatly renewed confidence in land promises, etc. rather than One in whom promises have already been fulfilled

not to say God withholds blessings from those who seek to please him – he does bless his children… in ways intended to promote holiness, not happiness

the one who pursues holiness will experience lasting joy and happiness; the one who pursues happiness will be constantly disappointed… in this life and the next

C. conclusion v.4-5

object of ridicule

“take up a proverb” = “sing a taunt song” – God using them as object lesson for others, humbling in process, ridiculed

“how the mighty have fallen” – you thought you were such a big deal, look at you now and what God has done to you

need to be careful not to stop there, simple tit for tat – acknowledge greater principle: God will not be disregarded forever, will not allow evil to run wild with no restraint

lost heritage

they gloated when others lost their property to evil plots and practices – others will rejoice when they experience similar losses of property and standing

evildoers and neighbors needed to remember: neither were owners of those things; belonged to the Lord, they were stewards

obligation to use land, possessions, inheritance ultimately for glory of God and not personal gain – still true worldwide today

no hope of recovery

an even worse sentence on evildoers than expected – would lose all gained illicitly; ok, good, forfeiting is simple justice

would also lose right to inheritance – no one would assign land to them; as if they were “excommunicated” from community

“the dreadful harvest of their sins would one day appear. Their proud self-confidence would be taken from them, their authority would be gone, their crooked accomplices would turn against them and laugh at them, and their vast holdings would be snatched from their hands. They would see everything they lived for and sinned to acquire be taken over by the enemy and wasted. Many of them would go into exile and die away from the land they had coveted and stolen from innocent people.” Wiersbe

D. response

pray

first, that God would keep us from similar sins – make sure we are pursuing God and godliness, not goodies that attract

“robber barons” aren’t the only people who commit these sins. Parents rob their children of time and companionship by working at several jobs so they can make more money to buy more “fun.” People rob God of tithes and offerings that are rightfully His just so they can enjoy “the good life” (Mal. 3:7–12). People forget Matthew 6:33 and put everything else ahead of the kingdom of God.” Ibid

when see what appears to be this kind of sinful behavior, God would grant wisdom and discernment so we see accurately

God would supply courage to respond in way pleasing to him, not according to personal desire to be agent of justice

intervene

not every situation is ours to fix personally… for variety of reasons; some situations are indeed ours to address

if we can act so as to halt or reverse wrongdoing, we should – not responsibility of civil government alone to hinder evil

if know evil is taking place, something we can do, and we don’t do anything, God not pleased – see Lev. 5:1

e.g., if know elected official misusing power / authority, can at least not vote for them again, vote for better candidate

lament

“Woe” at beginning can be cry of anguish, grief, sorrow over evil being practiced – we can respond in similar way

media coverage being what it is, can easily become insensitive to plight of others – “oh well, way it is in fallen world”

may be true but… doesn’t have to be that way in all situations; and when it is, should bother us, since both God and neighbor are being sinned against

encourage others

to complain properly – to right person with right attitude/motivation in right way about right issue, not complaint for own sake

encourage those experience hardship/injustice to do same, assure them we will join with them in pursuing remedy

Above all must be continually mindful – all we have whether little or much comes from hand of Heavenly Father. Is given in trust, to use wisely in his service and for his glory.

 

The Great Work of the Lord

Exodus 14:15-31

Strong tendency for many generations now – strive to explain what we see in ways that do not require factoring in God. Doing so gives encouragement that man can perhaps control or at least manipulate things around us. What used to be called “acts of God”… now “natural disasters”. Weather patterns and events predictable enough because follow natural laws – program those into computer, let it generate 5-day forecast. Ok, so accuracy is little off, just need to tweak program a little. And what’s with naming winter storms and hurricanes, treating as if living things? Perhaps spawned by Mother Earth, with right incentive or persuasion can be convinced to be someone else’s problem.

Even Bible itself not exempt from those attempts – both how Bible came to exist and what it contains. First five books not written by one individual, really was four over long period of time with different writing styles. Genesis 1-10 not history but mythology; Flood not worldwide thing but explanation for how Mediterranean was formed.

“How did Moses cross the Red Sea? How did he get across? Did he swim? Did he sail? Did he fly? Did he jump? Did he run? How did he get across?” Oh, Moses and children of Israel walked across Reed Sea! Wasn’t very deep, not big deal. One of those hot scirocco winds could have dried things out enough. Maybe only small contingent of Jews anyway – Moses and Aaron and Miriam, Caleb and Joshua and a few others.

There you have it – easy explanation for that story in Exodus. But… a lot of issues with that idea, not least the last verse of text: “Thus Israel saw the great work which the LORD had done in Egypt“. God was at work in his world then, God is at work in his world today. God grant us eyes to see and recognize his hand, ears to hear his voice and follow him.

A. God instructs v.15-18

be ready to move

so… leaving Egypt looked to be really hard, this… is impossible – tell children of Israel to go forward! Seriously?

have already been times for Israelites, will be many more when God gives instruction and will look impossible to follow it

God expects his people to move forward when he says “Go” regardless of how it looks – if wait until way forward is clear, then walking by sight and not faith

God intended his people to show their faith in him – Moses with rod and hand, people by moving forward, then God would open up way to other side

holds true today – God makes clear we are to move in particular direction, toward specific goal, does not at first show the way

a way will open up

God quickly gives rest of story – “lift up your rod, stretch out your hand” – after, not before, Moses did so, God would work

a way only God can provide – through midst of sea on dry ground – God announces what he will do, sets conditions that eliminate all other explanations than work of God

through midst of the sea – not around, but through it; in many ways like putting head in lion’s mouth – sea chaotic unruly monster to be feared, not entered into

by dividing the Sea, God showed his power and authority; by walking into the Sea, people showed their confidence was really God doing it and… wouldn’t let go with them in middle

on dry ground – think about brothers and sisters in Texas: rain stopped, water subsiding, how long before ground dries out?

Israelites couldn’t wait that long, Pharaoh is right behind; God didn’t require it, the way he made was immediately usable

God’s way not always easy, is often surrounded by great danger – God’s child following God’s way will be absolutely safe

Egyptians will learn, too

Egyptians especially feared sea, not always sure whether sea or sun the most powerful god – under normal circumstances would never walk or ride into sea

another work of God – harden Egyptians hearts, confirm their resolve to pursue evil so nothing else mattered, would dissuade

Egyptians learned first-hand, millions more by hearing account, that is true God more powerful than sea god… or any other one

Pharaoh’s boast – Ex. 5:2 And Pharaoh said, “Who is the LORD, that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I do not know the LORD, nor will I let Israel go.”

Pharaoh about to find out… first-hand – would meet his maker face-to-face, understand truth clearly and held to account

Yahweh will gain honor

God not out to prove a point – one thing more important than any other to Yahweh… not us, not Israelites, is his own glory

Isa. 42:8 “I am the LORD, that is My name; And My glory I will not give to another, Nor My praise to carved images.”

Yahweh will not share his position, authority, power, glory with any other God – “you shall have no other gods before me”

in fact, day is coming when “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth,and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Phil. 2:10-11

B. God protects v.19-22

Angel of God

no big deal made of what is described here – simple statement of fact that Angel who went ahead moved and went behind

prompts important question – who was this Angel of God? an angelic messenger on special assignment? or is this reference to God the Son, present in visible way?

1 Cor. 10:1-4 “Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea,all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea,all ate the same spiritual food,and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.”

Sunday School song – My Lord knows the way through the wilderness, All I have to do is follow; Strength for today is mine all way, And all I need for tomorrow.

pillar of cloud and fire

a light that gave comfort and protection to Israelites, cloud that hindered movement by Egyptians, prevented from seeing what God was doing on the other side

clear example of God precisely supplying what his people needed in every circumstance

divided sea and dry land

God can intervene directly in the workings of his creation, can also work through means – does so frequently, here east wind

as he promised, exactly as he promised made a dry path through midst of the sea, wall of water on both sides of dry path

there’s the path, nice and dry, millions of gallons of water piled up on each side – no help at all until people exercised faith and actually walked across

C. God hinders v.23-25

Egyptians pursue

just like Israelites feared, Pharaoh and all his forces followed – path good enough for Israelites was good enough for Egyptians

were so intent on doing evil had little or no regard for very real danger on both sides… and on they went until all were in midst of sea – Pharaoh, chariots, horsemen

Yahweh looked through the pillar

God looked on Egyptians… through pillar of fire and cloud – looked through Son of God, Christ himself, at Egyptians and once again… saw no blood

did not see blood of sacrifice applied to Egyptians, therefore they would pay full penalty for their sins… themselves

Yahweh troubled the Egyptians

slowed them down, clogged their wheels, really got their attention – understood, finally, was Yahweh making all happen

had a choice, actually three options: keep on truckin’, surrender… in this case to God, try to make a run for it – chose the last

Yahweh fights for his people

Egyptians were right, the Lord did fight for his people – he just as surely fights against their enemies, and still does

doesn’t simply keep enemies from winning, he brings about defeat – does it in such a way that he, Yahweh gets the glory

D. God overthrows v.26-31

a wall to his people

God used water of Red Sea to provide wall of safety for his people on either side, pillar of cloud and fire behind

way of deliverance open before them… right through middle of apparent danger – God brought safely through as promised

a coffin to the Egyptians

same water, put to different use by sovereign all-powerful God – used to overcome and entomb Egyptians who rebelled against God repeatedly

had numerous opportunities to repent, submit to Yahweh’s authority – instead, went own way… even when had acknowledged “Yahweh fights for his people”

the people

saw – great work YHWH had done, understood what had happened (they had been preserved, Egyptians not), knew without doubt who had done it

feared – were in awe of God and what he had done, showed YHWH proper reverence, worshiped him… proper response to God making himself and power known

believed – follow-on response to fear and worship: faith and obedience… confidence in God and his promises, obedience to his commands as delivered through his servant

was right thing to do, even though only temporary; don’t point fingers, people of God do same today as then

God still doing great works on behalf of his people – fighting for them against their enemies and his. God grant us eyes to see and understand; desire to praise and worship him for his greatness; words to teach our children how to recognize God at work. God give us ability to see Lord Jesus on all pages of Scripture and on pages of our lives, desire to hear his voice and follow his leading, trusting him in all circumstances.

 

See the Salvation of the Lord

Exodus 14:1-14

Some folks absolutely love the rush of a rollercoaster, others hyperventilate at thought of ever getting near one… especially if bigger than one at Santa’s Village. Many have similar attitude toward rollercoaster we call life – live for adventure, anticipating the unknown, relishing suprises… or… have days planned in 5-minute blocks, organize sock drawer alphabetically by color, borderline meltdown at thought of interruption or change of plans. Then the rest of us, somewhere in middle, liking order and routine but going with the flow when it’s different.

Regardless of where you are on spectrum, most everyone can relate to children of Israel in our text. Have just had wonderful experience, God obviously at work, doing best to follow his leading. May wonder at some of details, follow anyway… right into what looks like hopeless, maybe even dangerous dead end. Series of setbacks, trail of events that make little or no sense, things lead to things that are not good things.

Then you wonder – did I hear God right? miss a turn? do something that made God upset? Perhaps question your salvation, or even God’s goodness. Were you wrong to trust God, what did you do to deserve this kind of circumstance? Is where children of Israel when got to Pi Hahiroth, realized where they were… between Pharaoh and deep blue sea, or Red Sea in this case.

Moses details change of plans/direction God ordered for his people. Then gives inside look at what was happening back in Egypt at Pharaoh’s court. Couldn’t leave out the Israelite response to predicament, concludes this section with morale boosting declaration from God.

A. puzzling change of plans v.1-4

clear sailing

on top of the world – God had delivered from Egyptian taskmasters w/o fight, no lives lost among children of Israel

headed for border, Promised Land here we come – just few days, month at most and be settling in to new digs

have to wonder: did they think it all through? not that many hotels in Canaan, Airbnb not invented, what would locals say

that doesn’t cover all other details of setting up schools, stores, church, government… essential to functioning society

abrupt change of direction

yes, destination is east, you need to turn right – can get there from here, still need to go around

had already given part of reason: Ex. 13:17 “God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, “Lest perhaps the people change their minds when they see war, and return to Egypt.”

later experience proved God right… and wouldn’t take war to do it – didn’t like God’s choice of food for menu… left out “fish, cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic” (Num 11:5)

God knew they needed time and training to be ready for life in Canaan – needed especially to learn how to worship

God’s greater purpose

people might have been finished with Pharaoh, God was not – still had more to show people of Egypt from Pharaoh on down

God intended to use children of Israel as means to entice Pharaoh, give him incentive to follow evil desire to destroy them

Pharaoh would misinterpret their change of direction – no idea was what God had told them to do, thought they were lost and headed into trap for his convenience

ultimately God would use what seemed like certain disaster to clearly demonstrate his power – that Egyptians… and rest of world would know clearly who was true God

not only time God worked in this way – may be what God is up to in your circumstances… setting stage for demonstration of his power and grace

yes, God said “s0 the Egyptians will know” – don’t forget, others were watching… all Israelites; and many more would hear

remember Rahab, 40 years in future: Josh. 2:10 “we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt”

B. false confidence v.5-9

heart turned against God’s people

meanwhile, back at Pharaoh’s palace, truth of what has happened just now dawning on him: major portion of labor force walked off job and out of country

too overcome with grief over loss of firstborn to register what was happening? listening but not hearing what advisors said?

did soon realize what had really occurred, from their perspective how foolish choice was, even knew who was “responsible”

“What in the world have we done? For we have released the people of Israel from serving us!” – still did not acknowledge Yahweh’s part in circumstances

refusing to connect dots between huge loss of life and personal disobedience against God – only a stupid spell

pursued revenge on God’s people

once again, Pharaoh and advisors on same page – standing together against people of God and ultimately against Yahweh

is really the result of heart turning away from all that was good and right that harnessed up horses – looking at situation only from human perspective

group of people caused embarrassment to Pharaoh, would become international incident, no way he could allow

shows beyond doubt just how hopeless mankind’s situation is apart from God’s grace – Pharaoh’s heart like certain kind of steel: more you pound it, harder it gets

only way for human heart to be softened – gracious moving of Spirit of God to change from stone to flesh

further hardened by God

once again (9:12, 10:20, 10:27, 11:10, 14:8) told God hardened Pharaoh’s heart – not something we like to consider

is plainly taught in God’s word the Bible – Pharaoh an enemy of God, himself fueled enmity against God hardening own heart and God contributed to hardening

might seem unjust of God to do so – yet Pharaoh freely chose path he took, God helped him along by giving what he desired

important point: possible for sinner to reach point of no return – point where God will no longer overcome self-fueled enmity

should be warning to those who put off hearing/responding to Gospel – God may at some point close door of opportunity

trusting in military might

Pharaoh and staff woke up to what had happened, immediate response… mobilize the military – sounds like nearly all available personnel and equipment told to move out

would seem reasonable option – sure, huge number of people out there under Moses’ direction… but have not single weapon

have no military training, no offensive or defensive equipment, no time to make anything – iow, might be many… but were sitting ducks

has all appearance of Pharaoh pursuing own agenda to teach Israelites lesson, round them up and drive back to forced labor

yet… what did we just read? God in complete control of all taking place, including Pharaoh’s military maneuvers

C. living slaves, not dead free men v.10-12

saw circumstances and feared

confidence of Israelites that bordered on arrogance suddenly evaporated – got to campsite, looked around, saw Pharaoh

looked ahead, saw box canyon narrowing down to Red Sea – no bridge, no tunnel, no boats, no hope – were all gonna die

from Pharaoh’s vantage point, no way he could lose – his far superior force completely blocking only apparent way of escape

given apparent situation, past history of Pharaoh and brutality, looking only at what was visible… terror was justified

cried out accusations

before you shake head, wonder what was wrong with Israelites, remember where they were and where you are

enslaved for generations, totally new circumstances vs. free for generations, sitting in same pew in same place – you and I might not have done any better

did cry out to the Lord, not told what they said! could have been cry for help to Yahweh, but not friendly toward Moses

had no legitimate basis for accusation against Moses – allowed fear rather than faith to influence their actions and speech

put present gratification before future glory

basically said would rather live as slaves than die as a free people – still living in moment only, not seeing big picture

these the same people who had cried out and God “heard their cry because of their taskmasters” (Ex. 3:7) – want to go back

didn’t realize how much work, how much danger, maybe even pain and suffering would come with freedom from slavery

still true for Christian today – freedom from slavery to sin not a cakewalk… comes with incredible blessings both this life and next but is hard and dangerous and at times painful

Israelites like so many who want reward now, immediately, w/o waiting or working for it – present pleasures of sin more appealing than promise of future glories with Christ

D. wait for it v.13-14

don’t be afraid

one of dozens of times God tells people “don’t be afraid” – look around, pillar of cloud and fire still present, no worries

don’t try to hurry it

God is working his plan according to his schedule – will never be late, will never lack resources, will never be surprised

God has good reasons for his timeline, we have no way of knowing – may still not know after is all over and done

don’t miss it

need to be watching, alert to see God at work – you just be quiet and watch, see what Yahweh will do for his people

we need to have spiritual armor on, need to stand firm / resist Evil One – don’t forget is God who fights for his people

Keep eyes fixed on God, he has attention fixed on you. He will fight for you, has good purpose for you even when looks most discouraging. Don’t ever forget this: our greatest enemies have already been defeated – Christ had victory over sin at the Cross, victory over death at empty tomb. Satan no longer has any basis for accusation

read Rom. 8:31-39

 

7. Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?

Matthew 8:26 But He said to them, “Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?” Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.

Read: Matthew 8:18-27; Mark 4:35-41; Luke 8:22-25

Setting:

after Sermon on the Mount, intense period of healing and teaching

accompanied by his disciples in the boat… and accompanying boats – see Mark 4:36 and Matt. 8:23

mature men, seasoned sailors; Sea of Galilee 1/3 larger than Sebago, only half as deep, comparable volume; would have recognized signs of bad weather

resting in boat; preparing to broaden ministry on “the other side”

area of Decapolis – other side many ways: geographically, religiously, culturally, ethnically

northwest vs east
Judaism vs Caesarism (emperor worship) plus influence from Canaanite/Greek/Roman idol worship
Jewish vs Greco-Roman
Jew vs Gentile

growing from local ministry to cross-cultural, provincial to international – significantly ramping up threat to Satan… see Matt. 8:28; Mark 5:2; Luke 8:27

Person(s) being questioned:

some, but probably not all, of the Twelve – the ones with him in that boat – the rest in smaller boats (fishing boat vs. skiff)

ancient fishing boat from the 1st century AD, discovered in 1986 on the north-west shore of the Sea of Galilee – 27 feet long, 7.5 feet wide, maximum preserved height of 4.3 feet; shallow drafted with a flat bottom; four staggered rowers, also a mast” (wikipedia)

Question behind the question:

Why are you not following My example? If Jesus was not fearful, what possible reason could they have for fear?

Why do you think I don’t care? (Mark 4:38)

You have a little faith, why are you not exercising it?

Expected response:

mumble, mumble, red face, hanging head, “sorry, Master”

notice: Jesus asked question before he calmed the storm – now not the time for questions, do something!!

Jesus acted purposely in other order… disciples preoccupied with what he did, not who he was

was effective strategy – notice emphasis of their question: “who can this be”

Jesus’ point:

who you are with is way more important than where you are

disciples should have known by then who he was (see John 3:2), known he couldn’t die until he chose, they were safe with him… even if the boat sank!

emotions need to stay within boundaries that are set by what we know

Christian should act based on knowledge of truth and confidence in source of truth

Modern Application:

one of more common exhortations in Bible – do not be afraid (and related, e.g. “let not your heart be troubled”)

phobias, anxiety/panic disorders get that way when circumstances take priority in thinking over truth

be proactive, training mind when no immediate encouragement to fear – fill mind with God’s truth, meditate on it, focus on it… so are prepared when fear comes

you have only a little faith? Use It!! exercise what you have, pray for more, do all in God’s strength

The Lord Went Before Them

Exodus 13:17-22

We live in crazy mixed-up world with at least a few crazy and a lot of mixed-up people. Seems like many people, at least vocal ones, want to be in charge, everything to come to them on their terms, think they can call shots better than anyone else. Definitely don’t need anyone to show what to do, where to go, how to get there. Even quiet ones struggle with idea of playing “follow the leader”, especially when leader makes choices they don’t understand or sanction. Common mindset: I’ll go along until I disagree… or something offends me.

Not anything new, wasn’t even new in Moses’ day. And didn’t need taste of freedom to bring it out. Even before God made life tough for Egyptians, children of Israel had pretty clear idea of how they thought things ought to work. When Moses’ and Aaron’s interview with Pharaoh turned out badly for brick-making trade, union leaders got all over Moses and Aaron. Went so far as to curse Moses and Aaron for obeying God (Ex. 5:21)!

Yet… in face of ungratefulness and criticism and complaining and disobedience, what was one constant? God, leading his people, according to his perfect plan. Every step they took, every stop they made, everything the children of Israel experienced was precisely and purposely designed by God for their good and his glory. Repeat. Same is true for God’s people in all places and times, not only Jewish people 35 centuries ago. Here’s another thing: their understanding of God’s plan, their agreement with God’s plan had absolutely no effect on rightness of his plan. Likewise still true. Besides, not always good for us to know answers to all our questions, and… don’t always ask right questions. Is immeasurably more valuable to know God than to know answers. Want to know God? Spend time with him in his word and with his people… the more the better.

Lesson here for Israelites and for us: God will lead his people by day and night all the way home. God graciously provides for his people; God is always present with his people; God promised his people an enduring and eternal home.

A. God will lead v.17-18 (God provides)

not this way

several considerations God had in mind – was not one of default choices on Google maps that God used: shortest time, shortest distance, no tolls

shortest, most direct route along Mediterranean coast – road Midianite traders carried Joseph to Egypt, same one brothers used, later all the family – even group size of Moses’ could easily do in < 1 month

400 years later, things much different – Philistines even in small numbers making trouble for Isaac (Gen. 26), not impressed when 1 or 2 million people arrived on doorstep looking for housing

equally important: crucial trade route linking Northern Africa with riches of Mesopotamia and East – well defended by Egyptian garrisons

sure, Pharaoh said “let ’em go” but… how quickly did news travel? what if changed his mind? oases w/water and pasture guarded as well as road

that way

God intentionally “led the people around” the long way “by way of the wilderness” – nearest, shortest route did not serve God’s purpose

God had given clear sign of his intentions to Moses: Ex. 3:12“I will certainly be with you. And this shall be a sign to you that I have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.”

in order for God to keep that promise, Israelites’ road trip had to include worship at Sinai (south)… for about a year, while God clarified some things with them, like… how to love God, how to love neighbor

had other things in mind, too – more next week, but briefly: Ex. 14:4 “I will gain honor over Pharaoh and over all his army, that the Egyptians may know that I am the LORD.”

God not done impressing on Egyptians who He was, not finished bringing glory to himself in deliverance of his people

because

stated reason here: God’s people not adequately prepared for what would encounter on coastal route… and at the end of it

still not ready for what awaited in Canaan more than year later: see Num. 14:3-4“Why has the LORD brought us to this land to fall by the sword, that our wives and children should become victims? Would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?”So they said to one another, “Let us select a leader and return to Egypt.”

people repeatedly charged God with bringing into wilderness to die, even before crossed Red Sea – his purpose in leading long way to keep them alive, from dying in slavery

but… isn’t God sovereign? his purpose to take from Egypt to Canaan? sounds like God describing Israelites as free agents!

“Spurgeon was once asked how he could reconcile the apparent contradiction between these two truths. He replied: “I never have to reconcile friends. Divine sovereignty and human responsibility have never had a falling out with each other. I do not need to reconcile what God has joined together.” He confessed: “Where these two truths meet I do not know, nor do I want to know. They do not puzzle me, since I have given up my mind to believing them both.”

God was sovereignly leading them along path he chose; at same time Israelites responsible individuals choosing some of time to obey God, other times not so much

God graciously accommodated what he knew their human weaknesses / limitations to be – at same time, gave opportunity for faith to grow

B. by day and night v.20-22 (God is present)

the LORD went ahead

not only implied, “God led them” – explicitly stated: ” the LORD went before them”… and expected them to follow him

should have been no question whether God knew what he was doing… was God, after all, who has known all things always

Israelites had clear visible reminder – there was God, at front of line, going first – could not rightly say “you don’t understand”

pillar of cloud

had just experienced God’s awesome power – ten successive acts of judgment carried out on Pharaoh and his people

had also experienced God’s grace and mercy – instructions before final judgment on firstborn, merciful preservation that night as angel of death passed over their firstborn

yet was much Israelites didn’t know about their God from personal experience – knew stories passed down from fathers, but…

here day after day got to see… from wherever they were in camp or on the road, theirs was not distant God, did not hide himself from them

keep in mind, too, what they would learn later about cloud: Ex. 40:34-35 “Then the cloud covered the tabernacle of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.And Moses was not able to enter the tabernacle of meeting, because the cloud rested above it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.”

pillar of fire

talk about an amazing night light – like the cloud, visible manifestation of presence of God providing light for his people

another plain evidence that Yahweh not like gods of Egyptians – this God present around the clock, making darkness light

whether in camp or traveling, knew God was not just near, was immediately present with them to carry out his purpose

again, another compassionate accommodation – the desert… in summer… in the sun… could be deadly for travelers – much more comfortable and safe to travel at night… with a light to lead the way

continually

obviously omnipresent God always there with his people – like us, not always easy to sense God’s presence, have confidence he’s there

God made visibly plain to them – to build faith / confidence – he was continually present… no wondering where he was, if/when would be back, what to do meanwhile

and… was one pillar whether cloud or fire or darkness (Ex. 14:20) showing presence of one true God with his people

C. all the way home v.19 (God promised)

confidence in God

Joseph 3 centuries before had way more confidence in God than his countrymen – Israelites accused God through Moses of taking them to die in wilderness (Ex. 14:11-12)

Joseph had absolute certainty God not going to uproot his people from Egypt only to abandon them when he tired of them

when God came to deliver, Israelites would not go back to Egypt, would certainly reach land God promised to Abraham

“God will surely visit you” and God will without fail lead to promised destination – Joseph not relying on Moses or people but God to accomplish this

commitment to example

Joseph put confidence into action – showed his commitment to God, seriousness of his faith by funeral arrangements: Gen. 50:25-26 – embalmed, put in coffin, not buried

big decision, should have encouraged descendants to trust in God, not lose hope, continue to believe God would deliver

Remember – all this occurred to be example to us, recorded to be instruction to us. So if God has delivered us out of prison house of sin, where are we? Living in wilderness on way to Promised Land, Heaven (Canaan just a down-payment on that). So as God chooses our path, leads us through wilderness, what should we keep in mind?

Every step we take, every stop we make, everything we experience is precisely and purposely designed by God for our good and his glory.

Without fail or interruption, God provides for specific individual needs of his children – he never gives us experience greater than his resources

At every step we take, every stop we make, in everything we experience God is with us… day and night, continually

We cannot rightly say “Lord, you just don’t understand” – just like pillar of God’s presence went before Israelites, so Son of God has gone before us, the forerunner, our sympathetic High Priest

don’t forget – his way led him to the Cross, to the grave, to Father’s right hand… from where he sent Holy Spirit to be ever-present helper and guide

His way must be our way – no shortcuts to Promised Land. Must go by way of Sinai where learn our total inability, by way of the Cross where learn of God’s total provision. Must spend time in wilderness learning obedience, being equipped by God, used by God to bring about his good purpose.