Covenant Words
Covenant Words

Episode · 4 months ago

The Divine Initiative

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Exodus 14:15-31 

Stu Sherard

You know, right here in the very beginning of redeptive history, we see clearly that the theology of the exodus, in a nutshell, is this. Look there at verse thirty. The Lord Saves his people. It's his divine initiatives and he often uses improbable means to accomplish that salvation. That's our main point here this morning. From this text. The Lord Saves his people. That's a familiar text to most of us. I'm sure it has to do with the Israel lights crossing the Red Sea. After four hundred and thirty years as slaves to the Egyptians, the Israelites exodus out of Egypt. It began with great expectation. There's great joy involved, excitement. The people were now on their way to the Promised Land and God was leading him. It's interesting he was leading them not by the shortest way of the Mediterranean Sea, along the coast road toward Canaan. That was a rude which would have led them into direct conflict with mighty armies and enemies. Instead, God took them a different way. It was a longer way into the desert, but that way had its own challenges because, if you'll know it, in the first fourteen verses of Chapter Fourteen, we find that the Lord, he actually moves them in the southeastward direction and he plants them precisely in a situation where, from a military perspective, they're utterly himmed in. You know, if you've had been one of Moses lieutenants, you might have questioned his, I think, leadership abilities at this point and said, you know, excuse me, sir, in case you haven't noticed, we're sitting ducks here. There's a body of water to our back. The watch tires of Egypt are in front of us. You know, if the Egyptian army follows US and overtakes us, as they most assuredly will, we have absolutely no place to go. And suddenly, in that dangerous setting, all of the joy and all of the expectancy starts to unravel. And what are these people do? Well, they resort to form, much like we do when things go south. They once again they began to grumble, to cry out to the Lord and they begin to come plane against Moses. Now that tight squeeze, I think that the...

Israelites find themselves in here. It reminds me of a similar situation at the British and the French armies found themselves in at the beginning of World War Two. On the twenty seven of May, one thousand nine hundred and forty over four hundred thousand troops of the British Expeditionary Force and the French army. They were trapped with their backs to the English Channel, surrounded on three sides by German Panzer divisions lots of other infantry ground troops. Winston Churchill, the King's first minister, speaking to the House of Commons, he called the situation a colossal military disaster, saying that the whole root and corps and brain of the British army had been stranded at Dunkirk the day before. On the twenty sixth of May, a national day of prayer was declared for the deliverance of the British and French French troops. Throughout the United Kingdom. King George the six attended a special service at Westminster Abbey, and churches across the United Kingdom cried out the God on behalf of these trap soldiers. Then, on the twenty seventh of May, Churchill ordered Operation Dynamo into effect. Several warships made the crossing of the Channel Multiple Times under enemy fire, rescuing troops from Dunkirk harbor to safety in England. Nevertheless, many thousands of troops, they were still stranded on the longest beach in Europe, on the beaches of Dunkirk, and they were unable to be reached by these deep draft warships of the British Navy, and so a search was made all around the United Kingdom. You know the story. Seven hundred civilian vessels with shallow draft were enlisted, small fishing boats, lifeboats, river boats, pleasure boats, paddle steamers, private sail of boats and yachts. Seven hundred of them with civilian crews, made the crossing back and forth under strafing fire from the Lufwa overhead. These little ships of Dunkirk, as they came to be called, maze, helped to rescue in the end, three hundred and thirty one thousand two hundred and twenty six allied soldiers from the German advance which, for reasons that are unknown even to this day, Hitler in expected, inexplicably halted just short of Dune Kirk,...

...even in the face of almost no allied resistance, and Churchill, speaking to parliament on the last day of the evacuation, June the fourth, gave his now famous we will fight on the beaches speech, in the course of which he declared the Dun Kirk operation a miracle of deliverance, a miracle of deliverance. And it's too, a situation, not all unlike this one, that we turn our attention this morning. I mean, look at the action in the second half of exodus fourteen. So just look there with me. Here we have the Israelites, he israelites to were trapped and their backs to the seat, with the equivalent of Panzer divisions, these elite chariot troops of Fayroh bearing down on them. And I would say, from the vantage point of these fleeing Israelites, this whole situation, it must have seemed like a terrible, terrible tactical blunder on God's part for putting him there. Remember, it was God. If you go back in Chapter Fourteen and verses one and two, God had told him to turn around and head back to camp between mid doll in the sea. Then the Lord said to Moses, tell the people of Israel to turn back and in camp in front of pie ha ha Heer Roth between mid doll in the sea, in front of Bows Fun you shall encamp facing it by the sea in now. Other words, it was God who did this. He was the one who put his people in this situation. To them it was a class of colossal military disaster, to use Churchill's phrase. But, as God made clear to Moses here, however strange it may have seemed at the time, however terrifying, to watch the Egyptians take up their positions before the terrified Israelites, even in this impossible situation, God's strategy was being worked out. This was God's strategy, this was God's operation, Operation Dynamo. And so exodus fourteen, verse fifteen, to the end of the chapter, I think teaches us about the nature of God's salvation, the way in which the Lord fights for his people, the way he delivers and saves and and rescues them and triumphs on their behalf. He gives them victory, and this exodus of God's people from Egypt, it becomes the singular...

...type, the model, the paradigm in the rest of Scripture for salvation, for God's saving works. So that's a supreme deliverance that God provides. The deliverers from our sin by the cross of his son, the Lord Jesus Christ is itself littlely called Jesus Exodus by Dr Luke over in the Luke nine. Moses and Elijah, if you recall, were with Jesus on the mountain and they were talking about Jesus departure, his exodus back to heaven, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. So when we look at this passage today, when we study this passage, we're not simply considering a remarkable historical account of escape from danger against all odds, much like the account of the deliverance of these armies at Dunkirk. No word being confronted in this passage with the wonders of the Gospel of God's saving grace itself. Dear ones, here's the good news that God loves the fight for his people, to save them even in an improbable circumstances. I think that's what we have here. God loves to fight for Covenant, old PC and to save you in improbable circumstances, and he's going to continue to fight for you in two thousand and two. You can count on it. And so I want to highlight four things about God's salvation from this passage and the first learning we see there in verses fifteen through eighteen. I've entitled it the Glory God pursues. Verses Fifteen through eighteen. Looked there now. Moses had been speaking to the terrified people on behalf of God. He's already told them in verses thirteen and fourteen that the Lord was going to save them. Fear not, stand firm and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today, for the Egyptians whom you see today you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you only have to be silent. But then look at Verse Fifteen. Not only has Moses been speaking to the people on God's behalf, it seems he's also been prayed to God on the people's behalf. And of course that was his job. Remember, Moses was the mediator, he was the go between, God's appointed savior of his people. He innercedes on their behalf, alf he gives him press expression to their cries for deliverance. That's...

...what he's supposed to do, or so it seems. But I this is interesting. Apparently God has had enough of Moses prayers. He's and he says, why do you cry to me? Tell the people of Israel to go forward. Now. If I would have been Moses, I would have been sorely tempted to say, at this point, okay, God, is there something here I'm missing? I think it's evident why we're crying out. You know, if you haven't noticed, for pretty much boxed in here, surrounded by the greatest army in the world and the one side and on the sea on the other, things aren't looking too good. But apparently God has had enough of Moses prayer and he says enough already, Moses, stop praying. I've told you what I'm going to do. I'm going to fight for you. I've given you that promise. So what are you waiting for? Getting mood? Saddle up now. That's maybe not what we expected God to say, but I think what's happening here, dare I say it, God clearly isn't pleased with prayer when prayer becomes an excuse for inact tivity. And isn't that what's happening here? Here's Moses. The people had the promises, God had told them what to do, versus thirteen and fourteen. Nevertheless, Moses delays, he drags his feet, giving voice instead to the fearful cries of the poop people. Now I have found that sometimes it's easy to let ourselves off the hook from doing our daily duty as Christians, so long as we tell ourselves we're still praying about it. Now, I want to be careful here. Prayer is good, praying about it, you know. In fact, prayers is vital. We need to pray, but I don't think God is pleased with prayers when they're used as an excuse for disobedience in activity, particularly when he's already told us what he's going to do. You know, God says here there's to be no waiting here. I've told you I'm going to fight for you. Moses, tell the people to pack up and move out, go forward. You know, I can't help but think what see us. Lewis Warns Christians about in his book the screw tape letters. Lewis warns us to be aware that one of the main s strategies of the devil...

...is to have us live in the future and not simply do our duty in the present moment. So God says enough, already, be silent, Moses, get the people on their feet, your people. Your Business Right now is faith and your duty is to go forward. And of course that command is itself somewhat problematic. Moses is OK Lord which weighs forward? Is it toward the Egyptians, or is it forward into the sea? The problem is there's nowhere to go. God's command requires them to do the impossible here, which, by the way, I think is always the case with the Commands of the Gospel. Think about that. The Gospel says to US repent, believe. We can't do that. These commands are just as impossible as God's commands given here to Moses. They're spoken to deaf ears, spoken to hearts of stone. Those whom God calls to faith and repentance are dead in trespasses and sins. The command of God requires the very thing that we have no power to perform. Now that's interesting. Why would God do that? Why tell the Israelites to shut up, to pack up and move out, when there's nowhere to go? Why called dead, lifeless centers to turn from sin when it's sin that enslaves them in the first place? Why require faith when faith is unattainable? Well, let's read on and next couple of verses tell us why God does that. Look at verses sixteen through eighteen. Lift up your staff, stretch out your hand over the sea and divided, that the people of Israel may go through the sea on dry land, dry ground, and I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they shall go in after them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his hosts, his chariots and his horsemen, and the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord when I have gotten glory over Pharaoh, his chariots and his horsemen. What's God's agenda and calling Israel to impossible action? I think these verses tell us it's to get glory for himself. What he makes a way out for them and triumphs over their enemies. That's why he does it, to get glory me. Now I think we can think of many other biblical examples of...

...that. I think of familiar one that perhaps comes to mind is you might be thinking of a Zekiel preaching to the dry bones over in Ezekiel thirty seven. You know the story. You learned it in Vacation Bible School. Israel is in exile in Babylon God commands Ezekiel to preach to this pile of dry bones in this valley. It's a ridiculous command, seem crazy, but as Ezekiel obeys, he preaches and low and behold, the bones get connected, they get flesh on the bones and breath, they rise up and they live. And at the very end of the chapter, God says to Ezekiel that these bones, they're a metaphor for the whole house of Israel, whose bones are all dried up and their hope is lost in Babylon. And God says to Ezekiel, and Chapter Thirty Seven, verses twelve through fourteen, therefore prophesy and say to them, say to Israel, thus says the Lord God. Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, oh my people, and I will bring you into the land of Israel, and you shall know that I am the Lord, and I will put my spirit within you and you shall live and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the Lord. I have spoken and I will do it, declares the Lord. See, that's precisely the same thing God says here to Fayh and his charioteers and his horsemen into Israel later on. You know, God has Saint Augustine famously put it, commands what he wills and gives what he commands. He commands what he wills. It may be impossible for us to comply, but God gives grace, he gives what he commands. The Gospel requires what we cannot provide. It calls for faith and for for repentance, but gives what God requires. And God does that so that all the glory for our salvation, from first to last, may rest on him. Maybe to him and dear ones, I would say that's always God's agenda. He's always pursuing his glory. God saves Israel from Bondage and Babylon. He says Israel here for his own glory. He judges Egypt, here for his own glory. He saves you and me for his own glory. He does everything he does for his own glory, for from...

...him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. You know we have small groups that Rencon Mountain and our life group at at our church. Some time ago we did his study of Jonathan Edwards. He's a great pastor during the early seventeen hundreds of America. God mightily used this man and his sermons during the great revival of the seventeen hundreds in America, it was called the great awakening. When he was the pastor of the First Congregational Church of Northampton, it was the it was the second largest congregation in the colonies and during his time as pastor there he was invited in one thousand seven hundred and twenty nine to give the commencement address at Harvard great honor and Edwards preached a sermon, a famous sermon at Harvard and the second only at the probably his most famous. Centers in the hand of an angry God, and this is the title that sermon. God glorified in Man's dependence. The sermon stressed that, I think this same point here, salvation is, from start to finish, the work of God, and it is that so God do will receive all the glory. So you and I cannot boast God. Our text is reminding us as radically God centered, and that's a good thing, because the radical God's centeredness of God is really the only way for us to avoid the radical self centeredness to which our hearts and naturally incline. What is the chief end of man? The sorder catechism says to glorify God and enjoy him forever. God saves us so that we might make much of him, not make much of us. He saved Israel so that they might make much of him, not make much of themselves. So I think that's the first thing here in this wonderful text, the glory God pursues. Then there's a second thing that we see it, I think, in just two verses, versus Nineteen and twenty, the division that God creates. The Angel of the Lord Joh Weigh himself, appearing here in this pillar of cloud and fire, now moves from leading the way ahead of the people of Israel to take up a position behind them. He's between them and the Egyptians. Now Look at Verses Nineteen and twenty. Complicated language in some regard. There's some translation difficulties here, but I think here is the main idea. There's a division between the people of God and the Egyptians and it's designed...

...to preserve and protect the Israelites from the Egyptians. In now, other words, no Egyptians could get near the Israelites and I think on the other hand, no Israelites could accidentally stray into the Egyptian encampment, and this provided the Israelites with all the time they needed together the things to pack up to escape into the sea. The cloud of God's presence keeps the Egyptians on one side and dreadful darkness, while on the other side the pillar of fire gives the Israelites the security of light, supernatural floodlights, so to speak, to brighten the darkness. And I think here's the application of that. You know, the New Testament repeatedly uses that imagery of light and darkness. I don't maybe even drawing from this very moment in Israel's history as a way to describe the responsibilities and the implications of belonging to the people whom God saves. Those whom he saves, he makes the dwells securely in the light of his presence. First John One, versus five through seven. This is the message we have heard from him, and proclaim to you that God is light and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light. We have fellowship with one another. In the blood of Jesus, his son, cleanses us from all sin. Dear ones, to belong to the Covenant Community, the Church, covenant O pc, through faith in Jesus, the people whom God saves, means to live in the light of the protective presence of God. There's no way to live in darkness and belong to the Israel of God either. Were Egyptians, so to speak, still in darkness, ultimately facing his wrath and displeasure. Are were members of the community that God saves by grace, and we live in that light. So God makes the separation between the Church and the world. Now I think the points clear. You can't live in both camps. You know, we slip up, we sin, we slip up at times, but you can't belong to God's people and live like an Egyptian. You can't serve two masters. It says. The division that God creates what other's the third thing to notice, I think, moving along here, versus twenty one through twenty nine, and that is the mediator God honors. Back in Verse Sixteen, God had told Moses to...

...lift up his lift up his staff to stretch out his hand and divide the sea so that Israel might escape. And now, in verses Twenty One, and following Moses, obeys that instruction. The Sea piles up versus twenty one and twenty two, creating this wall of water on either side with a clear path through his middle, in order for the Israelites to make their at their escape. And here's Fayoh. He gives chase, his heart hardens, filled with malice, he won't let the Israelites Go. He gives chase, it says, just as morning breaks, and it's just then that the lord throws them into confusion. Verses Twenty three through twenty five, the wheels of the chariots, it says. They're mired down in the mud and sand. Now I want to just pause here, maybe go down a rabbit trail and and just make an old soldiers observation. You know, these divided waters of the sea should have given Fay roll and his army commander's pause. They should have known better and to do what they did. You know, being familiar with exodus, you know that it wasn't as if this was the first time Yahwai had acted dramatically on Israel's behalf against the Egyptians. You think of the ten plagues. These were experienced battle hardness soldiers. These were Fayre's Panzer divisions, and I guarantee you that there were many Egyptian charioteers, noncommission officers. They were muttering under their breath as they entered the sea bed. The old man is losing it. This is all wrong. I've a very bad feeling about this. This cannot end well. But Pharaoh's army obeyed him. They gave chase into the sea, looking, I'm sure, with concern at these two walls of water that were piling up on each side of them, with their chariots sinking down deeper into the mud and sand. Verse Twenty Five and the Egyptians said, let us flee from before. Israel, for the Lord, fights for them against the Egyptians. Another words, come on, boss, that's get out of here while we still can. But they didn't get out. They stayed. Once more, Moses is commanded to lift up his staff over the waters. Verses Twenty Six through twenty eight, Pharaoh and his vaunted army are destroyed. No one, it says, there remained. Moses was...

...the obedient mediator by his actions, but it was the Lord's doing. You See, the Lord had bound together the salvation he would bring about to the obedience of his servant Moses, so that as Moses obeyed, the people were saved. It's extraordinary, but it is of course a picture, a very good picture, of how God the Lis to save centers everywhere by means of the greater than Moses, his son, the Lord Jesus Christ. You know, Moses is often compared and contrasted in the Bible to Christ. I think First Hebrews, three verses one through six, that comes to mind. I think that's one good example. There Christ is counted worthy of more glory than Moses, says. There he's the mediator of a Better Covenant Than Moses. Christ's salvation is perfect and complete. Jesus didn't lift up a staff. Instead, he was himself lifted up, nailed to a cross, there to win, deliver it salvation for us. There at the Cross, God's victory over death and judgment was secured. are of people were ransom from every tribe and language and nation. Their God acted and believing that we're saved, and so just as this passage focuses our eyes on the obedience of Moses? I think so. Also, the Gospel to which this passage points us, directs our gaze to the obedience of Jesus Christ, the mediator, whom God honors as he acts and gives us faith we are saved so quickly. Now let's look at this fourth thing in this text and versus, the last two verses, versus thirty and thirty, one, the Salvation God provides. Look there, those are important verses. You know, a couple of things stand out here for me. Maybe you see something else. First, did you catch the emphasis there in's Verse Thirty on the Divine Initiative? Thus the Lord saved Israel that day I mentioned earlier. This is the theology of the exodus in a nutshell. Here are the cliff notes on the book of Exodus. The Lord saved Israel, and he saves her completely, totally, to the uttermost. Now just look around the scene. There her enemies lay dead behind her, the promised land lay before her. Egypt, the powerful nation that had sought to drown the baby boys of Israel, had seen her vaunted army drowned instead.

Now the situation was impossible. Much like Dunker, Israel had no hope of securing for herself and escape from the attack of these powerful Egyptian Panzer troops. Israel was doomed. Yet God ordered his own Operation Dynamo. He made a way, he saved Israel. It was unlikely, improbable, unlooked for. Even God saved Israel through the flood to safety. How unlikely is but you think about it, isn't that how we might also describe the cross? Unlikely, improbable, unlooked for, that God would use a cross, a Roman torture machine, and they're impale. His son, utterly rejected by everyone, this wretched, broken, unknown, denied, hated, mocked figure, the savior of the world, that he would use the wounds of Christ to be the deliverer of everyone who came to him seeking mercy. Come on, not very likely. It's extraordinary, but that is precisely what happened. It's the divine initiative God using improbable means to accomplish mighty salvation. God has made away. He's made away by the wounds of his son, the how improbable is that? Well, the divine initiative makes it absolutely certain. So that's one thing. And then, secondly, in these concluding verses, I want you to notice the response here of the people. You know as exodus fourteen announces God's commitment to his own glory, his commitment to separating out for himself a people to sink from the world, his commitment to doing so by means of a mediator. Notice how the people respond there, in Verse Thirty One, Israel saw the great power that the Lord used against the Egyptians. So the people feared the Lord and they believed in the Lord and in the Servant Moses. And what that says to me, I think what instance say to you this second morning of the New Year is that seeing the salvation of the Lord should provoke a response. You can't be the same, surely, when you see this, when you see the this crucified man of Calvary, how can you be in change? It calls for a response. And what should...

...that response be? As we you look ahead to I'm sure you know the many uncertainties as you're going to surely continue to face this year, two thousand and twenty two and years to come. Well, respond like the Israelites. Fear in the Lord, believe in the Lord and in his servant, the Greater Than Moses, the Lord Jesus Christ, the only one who can rescue you, the only one who can be your deliverer, the only one who can save you. It's to tremble before him, recognizing his majesty, his sovereignty, recognizing that if he does not ask act to rescue you, you will not be rescued. It's the tremble and reverend all, cast yourself completely, all your hopes, all your confidence, all your trust, all your faith on the Lord Jesus Christ. That's the response, I think, to which Jesus is calling all of us today as we sort of look into this murky future. So time to stop to January, two thousand and twenty two. What are marching orders as we move into the future? Two Thousand and twenty two, the glory God pursues. God is radically God's center and recognizing that, recognizing that can free us from the endlessly repeating loop of narcissism and self obsession to which our hearts instinctively incline. Get Out of the Savior Business, turn to Christ, the only one who can finish the deal. The division God creates. We are God's beloved people, to belong to the people of God is to live in the light, not to walk in darkness. You can't serve two masters. So in two thousand and twenty two walk in the light the mediator God honors. God has appointed Jesus Christ, his own son, by whose obedience and blood he has made a way, he's made a safe path for our deliverance. Lean into that this coming year. Walk that path. You'll be eternally safe if you do. And finally, the salvation that God provides. Salvation is God's gift of sheer grace to us. receive it, move out in holy fear and joyful faith, and I would pray that he would make a soul in every heart. This morning let's pray.

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