Sermon, Sunday September 14, 2014
Pentecost 14A Series: is the Lord with us or not? Week 1: He Fights For Us
Exodus 14: 19-31 19 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, 20 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. 21 Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the LORD drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, 22 and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left. 23 The Egyptians pursued them, and all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots and horsemen followed them into the sea. 24 During the last watch of the night the LORD looked down from the pillar of fire and cloud at the Egyptian army and threw it into confusion. 25 He jammed[a] the wheels of their chariots so that they had difficulty driving. And the Egyptians said, “Let’s get away from the Israelites! The LORD is fighting for them against Egypt.” 26 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea so that the waters may flow back over the Egyptians and their chariots and horsemen.” 27 Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at daybreak the sea went back to its place. The Egyptians were fleeing toward[b] it, and the LORD swept them into the sea. 28 The water flowed back and covered the chariots and horsemen—the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed the Israelites into the sea. Not one of them survived. 29 But the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left. 30 That day the LORD saved Israel from the hands of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the shore. 31 And when the Israelites saw the mighty hand of the LORD displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the LORD and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant.
“Is the Lord with us or not?” it is a question that is naturally asked by faithful Christians in the hurly burly of life. God’s people of old asked this essential question in thirst, hunger, fear for their present and future, doubt about their direction and therefore, doubt about the God who said he was leading them.
Same for us. When we are hungry for meaning in our journey, thirsty for His peace that calms us, or longing for clarity of direction about what is going on for us, it is the most natural thing in the world to simply ask, “God, are you with me and us, or not?” It is a question of faith. It is addressed to God.
When is the last time you asked this question? What prompted it? A conflict? A break up, a loss – loss of job, of face, of confidence, of a loved one, of health? Anxiety about career, despair in the end of something good, worry about what is going to happen next?
God’s people found themselves literally between “the devil and the deep blue sea”. After the Lord’s triumph at that sacred night of Passover that freed them from 400 years of slavery to Egypt and her gods under Pharaoh, and then marching out of the country with victory goods and chattels in hand, they are now so soon after in abject fear.
The cut snake is coming in for the final death bight. Pharaoh is now not content with simply recapturing his troublesome ethic minority slave labour force, he is “over” them. He wants them dead on the desert sand – every last one of them. Somehow this is not unfamiliar to us in these last weeks of media coverage.
God’s people are trapped. When we are unsure, overwhelmed by things going against us, we feel trapped and we feel scared and the question rightly comes.
But something else lurks close by too. We might just want a return to easy street, even if it is slavery to another god. That is what Israel verbalises to Moses.
It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!”(v11 and 12)
This is the old human idolatry of wanting to return to our pre-baptism, pre-call days when life was easier, safer, less risky, more visible and controllable by us, even if under power other gods.
At least we know these gods. Worshipping them comes much more naturally to our idol chasing and making heart! Even though they cannot deliver God’s gifts of identity, hope, freedom and deep peace to live in together, they are us: reliance on the good old days, or the new fad, our own way, our own discoveries, some good feelings to outweigh the bad by any means – even very religious, returning to what is familiar to us – self-preservation, self-orientation, self-preservation at any cost – anything but the walk of faith in our hidden but present God.
Friend, whatever your devil and your deep blue sea at the moment, hear the Lord’s way of being who he has created and called you to be in Jesus Christ in your baptism today…
“Do not be afraid”: God’s first response to our complaint and lack of trust and chasing after the gods of old is compassion, kindness: Grace. Do not fear. Why? Because he fights this battle for authentic faith and following for us. He must love us! “Stand firm”: “Stand up and stand firm – but do not fight”. Why? Because he fights off the evil one, our own evil and the evil we experience in this world for us. We need only to stand firm in his promises and gratefully receive his gifts of healing, forgiveness and inner strength poured out each time we gather in Jesus’ name. We stand firm in the promises watch him fight for us.
“Keep silence and listen”: Stop complaining for a minute. Just stop talking. Stay still. Hear him. Listen to his Word, his voice – the still small voice within and the proclaimed word and gifts without. Listen to him speak. Receive his promise of peace and presence and power to find “exodus”, his “way out” in this situation.
“Walk on through”; Walk in trust between the overwhelming walls of water. Walk on God’s safe ground. That is the ground of Jesus, who did the final exodus journey for us. As he and Moses and Elijah spoke up on that transfiguration mountain, Luke tells us;
31 They spoke about his exodus (his way out), which he was about to bring to fulfilment at Jerusalem. (Luke 9:31)
Jesus the Messiah won the final victory not only over a nation but over Satan and all his minions for us.
“Death has been swallowed up in victory.” 55 “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
And friends, the last response of our Saviour in our devils and deep blue sees? Speak and sing words of praise and thanks; Do that with Miriam and the people of God ever since! God’s mission depends on these. Because he whole goal of God in this event and in the Jesus event is that “the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD” (EXODUS 14:4).
So sing it, speak it, live it….
“I will sing to the LORD, for he is highly exalted. 2 “The LORD is my strength and my defence; he has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him.
Friends, the Lord fights for us.
Don’t be afraid today. Stand firm in his word today Listen and watch for his Word. Walk on through in trust. Speak and sing and live in the victory his forgiveness and love brings. It is for others that we walk.
“…stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain”. (1 Corinthians 15:58)
In the name of Christ. Amen