Thinking of the ocean, many images come to mind: varying colors that depend on weather and location; breakers on the rocks at the base of a lighthouse; children playing on a sandy beach; cruise ships ferrying a small town’s worth of people from place to place. But there are less pleasant images also: The Perfect Storm (10/31/1991), Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans, the Great Tsunami (12/24/2004) and smaller ones in September on American Samoa, speculation about rising sea levels resulting from climate change.
Now consider your emotional response to these contrasting sets of images: everything is fine when we are on the sea while it is “behaving” or beside the sea at a safe distance. When we are in it, especially if it is turbulent or angry, our response is much different. We immediately recognize its incredible power, its immensity and our tiny frailness, our utter helplessness in the face of its overwhelming force.
God is the one who asked Job the rhetorical question:
“who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb, when I made clouds its garment and thick darkness its swaddling band, and prescribed limits for it and set bars and doors, and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed’?” Job 38:8-11
Yet to a few hundred thousand people traveling on foot, the sea shut them in effectively, closing an impenetrable door to their progress, setting them up for utter destruction by the Egyptian army. Or so they each thought. But something happened to change their minds – God worked through the leader he had appointed to guide his people. In fact, he worked through the faith of Moses to encourage faith in the Israelites and cause the faith of the Egyptians to end in disaster. The remarkable thing is that God received the glory in this entire scenario, showing his sovereign power and authority over the sea, the Israelites and the Egyptians.
A. faith of Israelites
convinced God would indeed save His people – see vv. 13-14
faith confirmed by God’s summary description of what he was about to do – vv. 16-18
instructions indicating Moses’ part in the means of God’s provision
as required to do before when God was poised to do something miraculous, “lift up your rod, stretch out your hand”
knew his rod, his hand could never accomplish what was needed
had faith that the result of his obedience would be what God promised
as before, his faith encouraged the faith of the Israelites
demonstrated his faith to his brothers
first by holding up his rod as directed
then by leading the Israelites across the path of deliverance
severely faltering faith
sufficient to take them away from home on a field trip
not adequate to enable them to persevere through conflict – see vv. 11-12
still walking more by sight than by faith
could not yet trust God “sight unseen” to provide for their deliverance
they could trust some when the path was plain
they would follow God’s appointed leader
trusted they wouldn’t:
sink out of sight into the mud
be overwhelmed by the walls of water on each side
Don’t be too hard on them! Remember what they actually did – see verse 22
walked out into the Red Sea, walls of water on each side (same word to refer to Jericho)
did so in an orderly fashion – no pushing, shoving, trampling
risked EVERYTHING to follow Moses who was following God
B. faith of Egyptians
like the Israelites they had faith, but in different objects
skill – trained army
equipment – horses, chariots, weapons
If they didn’t trust in their own gods, what then? Trust in the one God who had humiliated their gods, the God who persisted in blessing the people they despised and were intent on destroying? They just couldn’t bring themselves to do that.
was a strong faith, one that impelled to action
just like Israelites, they risked EVERYTHING to follow their leader into the sea between the same walls of water where God’s people had passed safely.
C. God over all
So what was the difference? One group of people walked into the sea and came out the other side unscathed. The other group of people walked into the same sea and were destroyed in it.
Remember what God told Moses? “The people of Israel shall go through the sea on dry ground.” “I will get glory over Pharaoh…”
Despite how it may have appeared to the people involved in this event God was in complete and sovereign control over it all. He had determined the course of action – his people would be delivered, the Egyptian army would be destroyed. Only faith in the right object, the God who was sovereignly ruling the affairs of men, would result in deliverance. The Israelites placed their confidence in the right object and God saved them; the Egyptians trusted in false gods and were destroyed.
Israelites and Egyptians both had faith, both moving forward. Church and world both have faith, both moving forward. Different object of faith resulted in different outcome – deliverance or destruction. In both outcomes God will be glorified – his grace and mercy in the deliverance of his people, his justice in the destruction of his enemies.
What is the object of your faith?
I’m a pretty good person. I’ve never ….
a god of your own making?
My god is a god of love. My god would never send anyone to hell. My god ….
the belief (or hope) that this life is all there is?
He who dies with the most toys wins. Life stinks and then you die.
Remember the words of Paul the apostle in Acts 17:30-31 :
“The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”
Is the object of your faith leading you to deliverance or destruction?
Only one object of faith has the power to deliver from sin and the wrath to come ( 1 Thess. 1:9-10 ) – the Lord Jesus Himself.
For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.
I trust you can sing our closing hymn today with honesty and confidence, that your faith truly has found its resting place in the Everliving One who died for you. If Jesus is not the object of your faith today, turn from your idols to the true God, to serve him and wait for his Son from heaven.