Exodus 14:1-31 ~ 20110313 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
03/13 Exodus 14:1-31 God Alone Saves
God's purpose in the exodus is that he be known. God shows up to make himself known. He sets out to get glory for himself. God says 'I will be known. I will be feared. I will be admired. I will act in such a way as to inspire awe and holy respect. I will get fame and honor and renown. I will not be slighted. I will be treated as weighty. I will be seen for who I am. I will get glory'.This is God's purpose in the world.
Even when God's leading does not seem to make sense, we can be confident that he is at work for his glory and for our good. Even when he leads us into a corner with no way out and then incites our enemy to rise up against us, we must trust that his ways are perfect. He is acting for our good and for his glory.
In this passage, we will see the primary way God gets glory for himself. Our God is a God who saves. Here we are given such a clear picture of God our Savior – he alone saves his people.
Tracing Israel's Faith
Last time we looked at the progression of Pharaoh and the Egyptians as they were brought to recognize YHWH (or Jehovah - the LORD), God of the Hebrews. God said 'the Egyptians shall know that I am YHWH', and Pharaoh said 'who is YHWH that I should obey his voice. I do not know YHWH'. After only the second plague, Pharaoh was asking Moses to 'plead with YHWH for me'. By chapter 14, the Egyptians were crying out 'let us flee ...YHWH fights for them against the Egyptians'. Let's look at how the faith of God's people progressed as he revealed himself to them.
In chapter 1, we are introduced to some Hebrew midwives who feared God. Because they feared God, they disobeyed the Pharaoh's orders, and God dealt well with them. By the end of chapter 2, the people are groaning because of their slavery and crying out for help. The text doesn't tell us that they addressed their cry for help to anyone, but we are told that 'their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant … God saw the people of Israel – and God knew'. God revealed himself to Moses in the wilderness in chapter 3, and called him into relationship with himself, sent him to bring the people out of Egypt and into his service. Moses is reluctant but eventually surrenders and goes and tells the people everything that God had told him.
But after Pharaoh rejects the initial demand of the LORD to release his slaves, and instead increases their workload to the impossible, the people run to Pharaoh and cry out to him for help. When Pharaoh refuses to listen to their plea, they curse Moses in the name of the LORD for stirring things up (5:21). In chapter 6, God gives Moses the good news of his promises to preach to his people, but, it says 'they did not listen to Moses, because of their broken spirit and harsh slavery' (6:9). From this point on, God steps in and acts on behalf of his people. He unleashes his mighty acts of judgment against Egypt, and he makes a distinction between Egypt and his people, exempting his people from the full force of the blows. He claims to do it:
God is working so that his people will know who he is. Not only is he working so that the Egyptians know that he is YHWH, but even his own people need to be taught his nature and character. God gives his people favor with the Egyptians so they are given whatever they need for preparation for their journey. God gave his people instructions for a feast that was to shelter them from his wrath and point them to Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. The people here respond by bowing their heads in worship and obeying what the LORD had commanded (12:27-28). The Egyptians were brought to acknowledge YHWH and flee from him. The Hebrews worship and obey YHWH. Now they are following the visible manifestation of God as he leads them with cloud and with fire. Let's see how they fare:
Faithless People and their Faithful God
Notice how faithless God's chosen people are. They set their eyes on their circumstances and they fear. To their credit, this time they cry out to the LORD instead of Pharaoh, but then they start complaining. They accuse him of leading them to the wilderness to die. They act as if their rescue from slavery was a horrible thing. They say 'I told you so' - we told you to leave us alone to serve our old slave-master. And they look back to the good old days slaving over bricks and mortar in Egypt. You took us away from all we had ever known. It would have been better for us to stay. Better to have our children killed. Better to be beaten. Better to be crushed under the oppressive slave-master. Better to be afflicted with heavy burdens, oppressed by the cruel taskmasters. Better to be ruthlessly made to work as slaves. The bitter life of hard service in Egypt was better than this. They have the pillar of fire and cloud right in front of them, and they say slavery in Egypt was better! They have no faith in God's promises. All they can see is the bad part of what they can see, and that most certainly means death. They leave God out of the equation, focus on their circumstances, and are consumed with fear and speak against God's deliverance.
Can you believe this? After God's ten mighty acts of power over Egypt and all their gods, leaving the land and the people ruined and devastated, after God clearly established his supremacy over all things, humiliated Pharaoh and emasculated his gods, after he has demonstrated his compassion and care for his people, making a distinction, fighting on their behalf, after Pharaoh had consistently demonstrated that he was a cruel and pitiless slave-master, God's people still want to return to Egypt? This makes no sense. They cannot see beyond their immediate circumstances, they cannot trust in the promises of their faithful God, they turn everything upside down and make God and his chosen deliverer out to be cruel and their slavery to a godless tyrant out to be paradise. This is incomprehensibly stupid! Can you believe it?
I can. I can, because this is what I do every day. This is where I live. This is the battle I fight. Will I trust God who has proven himself faithful and wise and awesome and loving? Will I believe that he has good in store for me? Or do I think that God is keeping some good thing away from me? Do I fondle in my heart the fleeting pleasures of sin that I know only bring me back into bondage and will never satisfy but instead create greater emptiness and craving? I have tasted the sweetness of intimacy with God. I have seen evidence of his relentless love. And my heart is still prone to wander. Prone to doubt. Prone to disbelieve. This is who we are. This is the battle we fight. What should we do? We cry out with the Apostle “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Rom.7:24).
But praise God he does not give us what we deserve. Praise God it does not depend on me! Praise God that salvation is by grace alone! Praise God that, as Paul says:
God would have been just to say 'you liked Egypt so much? Back to Egypt you go!' Praise God his faithfulness is not based on our fickleness but on his own reputation. God will remain true to himself.
Call to Stop Fearing and Stand Firm
This is an amazing call to worship. First we are told to stop being afraid. In verse 10, when the Egyptian military was drawing near, it says the people feared greatly. They had an awesome respect for the skill and power and deadly force of the Egyptian army. By now, they should have had an even greater awesome fear and respect for their God, who decimated the Egyptians with blow after blow of his strong right hand. This massive horde of former slaves were no military match for the special forces of Egypt, but they should have seen that Pharaoh's puny army was no match for the sovereign power of their Creator God. Jesus said:
We are told to stand firm. Stand still. Stand your ground. Paul told the Galatian believers to stand firm in their blood-bought freedom.
In the passage on spiritual warfare in Ephesians 6, we are told repeatedly to stand firm.
Peter warns against the adversary and tells us to resist, firm in faith.
We are not to be afraid. We are to stand firm – not in our own strength, but strong in the Lord and the strength of his might, firm in the faith – the belief that he loves us and is fighting for us, that he himself will by grace restore, confirm, strengthen and establish us. Stand firm in the true grace of God – standing, not on our rights or what we have earned, but standing firmly on the word of a God who gives good gifts to sinners at great cost to himself.
Call to Be a Spectator
Have you ever thought about your salvation this way? We are spectators in our salvation. We are utterly incapable of even helping God out in our salvation. God works alone in salvation. We watch. We are the ones being fought over. We do not do the fighting. We do not do the work. He will work for you today. The LORD will accomplish your salvation.
God is the one who saves. Subject, verb, object. God is the subject of the sentence. We are the object of his salvation. We are the recipient. God performs the action. We are described as 'dead in the trespasses and sins' (Eph.2:1); 'slaves of sin' (Rom.6:17); 'foolish, disobedient, led astray, salves to various passions and pleasures' (Tit.3:3). We are told to stand still and watch, because if we start scurrying around trying to help God out, we will only raise a dust cloud that will obscure his glory. We can contribute nothing of worth to our salvation. We are even told to repent of our righteous deeds:
The author of Hebrews tells us that the elementary doctrine of Christ, the foundation that everything else stands on starts with repentance from dead works.
If you are attempting to play a part in your salvation, if you are trying to help God out, STOP! Stop stirring up dust! Stop creating more dead works that you will have to repent of! Salvation belongs to the LORD (Ps.3:8; Jonah 2:9; Rev.7:10; 19:1) Take your place as a spectator to God's salvation. Stop and look. Watch. 'See the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you'
Hear what God is saying to you. You are loved. You are wanted. You are being fought over. Do you know how good it is to have someone who will fight for you? In college, I was being accused of something I did not do. I was being threatened with legal action. I was scared. Then I was called in to the office of the president of the college. He looked me in the eye across his big desk and asked me if I had done what I was being accused of. He believed I was innocent. He said 'Rodney, if you get any more harassing phone calls, you let me know. I will go to bat for you.'
Triumph Over their Enemies
They were looking at the situation all wrong. God had said he would harden the hearts of the Egyptians and cause them to pursue his people. God had promised to get glory over the Egyptians. If the Egyptian army had not shown up, if they were left alone in the desert, then the people should have wailed and cried out because God had not kept his word. Had the Egyptian army not come after them, they could be sure they would see them again. But because the Egyptians pursued them, as God had promised they would, they will never be seen again. God's people will be free. Decisively free. Finally free. Free forever.
The LORD saved Israel that day. They saw. They were spectators. They saw their enemies dead on the seashore. They saw the great power that the LORD used against the Egyptians. They did not lift a finger against their enemies. The LORD saved them by himself!
Salvation by Grace Alone Resulting in Faith
Here we see the response of the people to the great salvation that the LORD accomplished for them. They saw, they feared, and they believed. This is a beautiful example of salvation by grace alone. Grace is God's goodness given to undeserving sinners.
God's people were complaining against God, wishing for a return to slavery when God intervened on their behalf. They were totally undeserving. God saved them anyway. That is salvation by grace alone. God's salvation by grace resulted in their faith. They responded to God's grace with fear and belief. His people were beginning in the path of wisdom. They were beginning to fear the LORD. They were beginning to see how awesome he is and it rightly terrified them. And they saw that he is on their side, fighting for them, and they began to trust him. They began to believe. God's gracious salvation resulted in faith. God fought for them when they were ready to defect. God won back the hearts of his people.
Jesus is Salvation
The Hebrew word translated salvation is [ hewvy] yeshuah. This is linked to the Greek name [Ihsouv ] Iesous given in the New Testament. It comes into the English as Jesus