Series on Exodus, II The Community of God's People, D The Strategy of the Community, Text: 13:13-14:31, Title: The Way Out


Introduction


Our text begins in the end of Chapter 13 with an account of the consecration of the first born both man and beast to the Lord. The animals are to be sacrificed or redeemed, and the firstborn son to be redeemed by sacrifice. So stringent is this regulation that the animals not redeemed are to be put to death. They may not keep them. The point of this is that the people are sanctified, set aside, made holy. They belong to God alone. it is a point of ownership. Perhaps we do not realize how important this is. In human society ownership is an enormously powerful motivator. For example we see many forms of government competing in the world, from free capitalist societies to increasingly socialist and communistic economies. What is the driving force behind all of these political structures? Ownership! None of them acknowledge the fact that God owns everything. Freedom of course is preferable because it allows individuals to acknowledge God's ownership, but we need to see that in Israel from the beginning it is God's ownership which is paramount. This can be a dangerous position to be in. If you really belong to God then He can and does rule your life not just openly through his law, but secretly through His providential government. In this study we see how God deals with Israel as their covenantal owner. There are three things he does. first they are placed in plight, then they are protected in place, and finally they prevail in perplexity.


I Placed in Plight


It is clear that the Lord cannot make their way easy. Look at 13:17 and 18, When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, “If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea. The Israelites went up out of Egypt armed for battle. If God makes their way easy, fear will cause them to return so He takes them by the desert route. At the beginning of Chapter 14 they are placed in an impossible situation, but the reason is given in verses 1-4, Then the LORD said to Moses, “Tell the Israelites, Turn back and encamp near Pi Hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea. They are to encamp by the sea, directly opposite Baal Zephon. Pharaoh will think, ‘The Israelites are wandering around the land in confusion, hemmed in by the desert.’ And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them. But I will gain glory for myself through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD.” So the Israelites did this. Clearly if they are not put in this situation the hand of God will not be revealed in such a marvelous way in delivering them. The perversity of the human heart is amply illustrated in the fact that even though God has brought them to this place, they are still terrified and they still want to go back, but the possibility is no longer open to them. They are hemmed in and cornered in verses 5-9. Now in all the circumstances of our lives we shall certainly discover that God hems us in. In adversity we usually want God to do a removing job when He wants to do an improving job. To realize the worth of the anchor, we need to feel the storm. J.I.Packer writes, “Grace is God drawing sinners closer and closer to him. How does God in grace prosecute this purpose? Not by shielding us from assault by the world, the flesh, and the devil, nor by protecting us from burdensome and frustrating circumstance, not yet by shielding us from troubles created by our own temperament and psychology, but rather by exposing us to all these things, so as to overwhelm us with a sense of our own inadequacy, and to drive us to cling to him more closely. The reason why the Bible spends so much of its time reiterating that God is a strong rock, a firm defense, and a sure refuge and help for the weak is that God spends so much of his time showing us that we are weak, and dare not trust ourselves to find or follow the right road. When we walk along a clear road feeling fine, and someone takes our arm to help us, likely we would impatiently shake him off; but when we are caught in rough country in the dark, with a storm brewing and our strength spent, and someone takes our arm to help us, we would thankfully lean on him. And God wants us to feel that our way through life is rough and perplexing, so that we may learn to lean on him thankfully. Therefore he takes steps to drive us out of self-confidence to trust in himself, to -- in the classic scriptural phrase for the secret of the godly man's life -- "wait on the Lord." It is not promised here that we will be delivered in a remarkable way in this life. Rather the analogy to be drawn is between Israel being brought out of Egypt and into the promised land and we as Christians being brought out of sin into eternal life in Christ. It is a mistake, though people often do it, to look at a passage like this and see in it some certainty of temporal deliverance. We are delivered in Christ to an eternal inheritance, but not without trials as we read in I Peter 1:3-5, Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade-kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.


II Protected in Place


The second experience of the Israelites is to be protected in this place of jeopardy. Notice Chapter 13:22, Neither the pillar of cloud  by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.  And as we read further on we see the protection continuing as Israel is trapped in 14:19 and 20, 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,  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. In 1994 terrible storms swept through the south. In Alabama during their Palm Sunday morning worship a church was hit by a tornado. 17 people lost their lives. Six of them were children engaged in a Palm Sunday program. What do you think those people would say about being protected in place. Don't get me wrong. I have been in spots where i prayed that God would surround me with his presence and protect me, probably you have too. But the point is we have no guarantee that this will take place in a temporal sense. The Christian experience which answers to this is being sealed by the Holy Spirit for eternal life. In Ephesians 4:30 Paul warns us not to grieve the Holy Spirit by whom we are sealed unto the day of redemption, and in II Corinthians 1:22,23 the apostle Paul says, Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us and put his spirit in our hearts as a deposit guaranteeing what is to come. Remember we began by pointing out ownership. God protects what he owns, but he protects it in his way because he owns it. If you turn to hymn 629 at the bottom on the left you will see the name of the author, Joseph Scriven. Never heard of him? neither had I. Joe Scriven was a missionary from Ireland to Canada, working among the Iroquois Indians in the 1850’s. He was joined by his fiance who was also from Ireland. Just before the wedding, she was killed in an ice accident. Joe buried her with his own hands, and a broken heart. A year later, in a letter to his mother, he reflected, "What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear! What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer! Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere? We should never be discouraged. Take it to the Lord in prayer." Joe was on the road to triumph, even though there were times when the road was rough. Less than 20 years later having lost a son and then lost their home in a fire, at the urging of DL Moody the Spafford family made plans to a move from Chicago to France. Horatio Spafford planned the trip for his wife and four daughters to be as trouble-free as possible. To transport them from America to France, he booked passage on a huge ship, and made sure they had Christians with whom to fellowship in route. He planned to join them a few weeks later. In spite of much careful preparation, Mr. Spafford's plans suddenly dissolved when the ship carrying his loved ones was rammed by another vessel and sank, carrying his four beloved daughters to the bottom. Anyone who has ever had their plans disrupted by the hand of God can understand Spafford's plight. If you turn to hymn 691 you will read the words of Horatio Spafford, "It Is Well With My Soul"--words he penned as his ship passed over the watery grave of his four daughters! You may have heard these stories before, but I retell them to make a point. The point is that generations of believers have been blessed and God glorified because the loved ones of these stalwart Christians were not spared.


III Prevailing in Perplexity


We have reflected much on the purpose of our trials and on the spiritual value and blessing they can bring, but we must not be deceived into thinking that this is the primary purpose of them. The primary purpose is to glorify God in the deliverance, whether in life or death. THE MOST EXCITING part of the story is the deliverance of the people. It’s exciting enough to make a movie with Charlton Heston. God tells us why it happened this way. He says in verse 18, The Egyptians will know that I am the Lord when I gain glory through Pharaoh, his chariots and his horsemen. Focus on this declaration for a moment. God is going to gain glory through Israel, and ultimately through the redeemer who comes from Israel, Jesus Christ our Savior. but God also gains glory through the defeat of his enemies. Notice first of all, that when the Egyptians follow Israel into the sea on the dry passageway that God sends them into confusion, then he causes the wheels of their chariots to fall off, then he commands Moses to stretch out his his hand over the waters so that they will close in on the Egyptians. This is a pretty gory scene. A monumental overwhelming deliverance from certain death for Israel and God’s judgment on the pagan idols of Egypt and their worshipers. Many years ago we visited universal studios theme park in LA. I am pleased to tell you that we crossed the Red Sea on dry ground. Actually the set they used in the movie the Ten Commandments is a metal channel across a small lake. As you ride on the tour they pump the water in, and then they pump it out and you cross over and then the water comes back in. Of course it looked better in the movie. But, to me, it was a kind of parable of the timid anemic kind of faith that characterizes 21st century Christianity. We want the universal studio’s version of crossing the Red Sea when we should cultivate a bold, hardy, stouthearted and courageous faith that understands that deliverance and judgment go together. Twentieth century liberalism emphasized the love of God to the exclusion of his anger and justice. This is not the faith of the Bible. Jesus said “Father forgive them for they know not what they do” on the cross. He also said ”Father into thy hands i commit my spirit” which is from a Psalm of deliverance, Psalm 31 where the speaker also says that the lying lips of those who have arrogantly accused the righteous should be put to shame and lie silent in the grave. It is unfair to say that this is merely an Old Testament sentiment that has been superseded by forgiveness in the New Testament. The book of Revelation rehearses judgment scenes reminiscent of the Red Sea and the drowning of the Egyptians. One may readily forgive injustices done and yet pray for justice to be done. A God glorifying faith does both. The focus is on the integrity of God. if we lose sight of this we cannot rise above the tragedies of this life.


Conclusion


We may not always find injustice dealt with according to our timetable. This too is reflected in the Psalms. We are protected but in an eternal sense. We are sealed for our heavenly home. We will see justice done, but perhaps not now. The Exodus typifies our true deliverance and unless we focus on our future hope in Christ we will not be sustained in this life.