Sometimes God will lead you on a confusing road, and you’ll end up trapped in between Pharaoh’s army and an enormous sea. Find out the 3 dangers we’re all susceptible to when we face difficult situations like this.
Title: “Stand Firm” (Exodus 13:17-14:31)
Morning. My name is David Sorn. Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church.
Thanks to Kendra (from our church) for filling in for our Worship Pastor Zach Foty, who is leading worship at a large camp in Idaho this weekend.
Quick, name me more than one city in Idaho.
Tough, huh? ☺
Before we get started this morning, let me say a few words about our Haiti trip as well.
This is an amazing trip!
Especially if you haven’t been on a lot of missions trips
It’s incredibly well-rounded trip.
Such a good balance of helping people in need, sharing your faith, playing with kids, and more.
We’ve sent a total of over 75 people to Haiti the past number of years, and would love to have you go.
But don’t hear me incorrectly either.
I think sometimes this can get misconstrued as: “We’re asking you to go because it will be a fun time and a cool experience for you!”
While that may be true, we’re asking you to go because Jesus commands us to go.
Matthew 28 tells us that we are to go therefore and make disciples of ALL nations.
And so our church wants to get better and better at sending people out into the mission field.
In 3-4 months, we’re going to be putting out applications for our early summer 2018 trip to Rwanda.
And we need a TON of help putting on the mission there.
We think God wants to use us to reach a whole lot of people for Christ in Africa in 2018.
The same is true in Haiti.
We need people to go…not just to have fun…but to hear the call from Jesus…and GO.
Will you go?
The harvest is ripe.
God wants to send workers
I pray you go.
THE CONFUSING PATH
We are in the middle of a series called “Rescue,” where we are going chapter by chapter through the Book of Exodus in the Old Testament.
Exodus is the story of how God rescues the Israelite slaves from the yoke of Pharaoh and the Egyptians.
So far we’ve seen God rain down 10 plagues on the Egyptians, and after the last plague, the death of the firstborn, Pharaoh has finally given in and said the Israelites could leave.
We’re told that the Israelites leave that very night..
And that the Egyptians practically throw their silver and gold at the Israelites, just to get them to leave.
And now, as we rejoin the story, we’re going to see God lead the Israelites on a curious path out of Egypt.
(Exodus 13:17 – 14:2) – NIV
17 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.” 18 So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea. The Israelites went up out of Egypt ready for battle.
19 Moses took the bones of Joseph with him because Joseph had made the Israelites swear an oath. He had said, “God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up with you from this place.”
20 After leaving Sukkoth they camped at Etham on the edge of the desert. 21 By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. 22 Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.
Then the Lord said to Moses, 2 “Tell the Israelites to turn back and encamp near Pi Hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea. They are to encamp by the sea, directly opposite Baal Zephon.
Now, I realize you’re probably not familiar with a lot of these places that are listed.
No worries, most scholars aren’t completely sure either…as towns obviously change names over time, and settlements come and settlements go.
One thing is clear though to every scholar, and that is, God’s people are zig zagging all over the map.
They are not walking on a straight path towards the Promised Land
In verse 2, God just told them to “turn back” and then also “encamp by the sea.”
So God’s leading them on a confusing path they don’t understand, and they even appear to be lost….
And yet, it’s not because God doesn’t know what He’s doing.
He didn’t want them to face war on the shorter, more direct, road
And if they just would have gone straight to the promised land, they never would have gotten to see the miracle at the sea
Do you ever feel like this though?
Anyone wondering what in the world God is doing in their life right now??
I heard someone say once, “Never resent the long road in your life. It’s almost always God’s mercy on your life”
When you have no idea why you’re in this place in your life, trust me, God does.
And He has you there for a reason.
If it feels like you’ve been zig zagging all over the map, there is a purpose in God’s zigs and His zags.
Even if you think his zigs and zags only serve to make your life worse.
For example, look how things “SEEM” to be getting even worse for the Israelites
As we rejoin the passage, God is still talking to Moses… He says:
(Exodus 14:3-9) – NIV
3 Pharaoh will think, ‘The Israelites are wandering around the land in confusion, hemmed in by the desert.’ 4 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.
5 When the king of Egypt was told that the people had fled, Pharaoh and his officials changed their minds about them and said, “What have we done? We have let the Israelites go and have lost their services!”6 So he had his chariot made ready and took his army with him. 7 He took six hundred of the best chariots, along with all the other chariots of Egypt, with officers over all of them. 8 The Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, so that he pursued the Israelites, who were marching out boldly. 9 The Egyptians—all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots, horsemen and troops—pursued the Israelites and overtook them as they camped by the sea near Pi Hahiroth, opposite Baal Zephon.
Things are looking down, the Israelites (who’ve never been out of Egypt) are lost on their first trip out of town…and Google Maps doesn’t seem to be working.
To make matters worse, Pharaoh’s heart has been hardened again, and he goes racing out after the Israelites…with an entire army!
This may seem like an odd decision by Pharaoh, but it’s not really.
Out of fear, after the death of the first born, he lets the Israelites go.
But now, realizing he’s lost his entire workforce, and their economy is going to be devastated, the Egyptians chase out after the Israelites
THE DANGERS IN THE MIDDLE
And can you imagine this scene if you’re an Israelite?
You’re already lost, which is a frustrating experience.
By the way, anyone remember getting lost?
You can’t even really get lost nowadays with a smartphone.
We have to think back in time for examples ☺
One of my most vivid memories of being lost was when my family was on vacation in Washington DC when I was 12.
And my parents missed a turn, and started arguing about where we were.
Meanwhile, nerdy David was in the back seat, and I had my map and highlighter out (as I always kept track of where we were)
And I kept saying, “Ummm (voice cracking), we should’ve taken exit #6”
But nobody listened.
To this day, I know I was right.
But the Israelites were clearly frustrated that they didn’t seem to be going in the right direction, even though the Cloud and the Fire were guiding them.
Pretend you’re there among them: As you’re sitting around, grumbling to your friend, saying, “I thought Moses used to live out here. How does this guy not know where we are? At least I got this cool gold bling from my Egyptian Master…
Then your friend says: “WAIT…what is that!?!? A duststorm? Another Plague?!? Oh no….OH NOOOO!! It’s Pharaoh and His army!!!”
Can you even imagine what that would have felt like?
You’re totally trapped, right?
Pharaoh and his army on one side, the Sea on the other side.
You’re trapped in the middle.
And this passage is such a good illustration for life.
There are 3 dangers that the Israelites faced here, and I want to walk through each them with you because…
They are the same 3 dangers that many of us face when we’re trapped in the middle of a difficult situation.
Write these down.
3 Dangers of a Difficult Situation
Danger #1: Run Back to Slavery
Danger #2: Run Ahead to Fix it Ourselves
Danger #3: Shrink in Fear
These are the 3 Danger the Israelites are going to face.
We are at the Climax of the book of Exodus (because we’re talking about THE Exodus…out of Egypt)… it’s sort of the halfway point of the book.
And interestingly enough, this passage really encapsulates both the themes of the first half of the book and the second half…all in one passage.
DANGER #1: GO BACK TO SLAVERY
Let’s take a look at the first Danger…to run back to slavery.
(Exodus 14:10-12) – NIV
10 As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the Lord. 11 They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? 12 Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!”
Think about this.
They had lived under the brutal oppression of slavery their whole life, and God has finally set them free, and already, they’re ready to go back!
And this isn’t going to be the last time they clamor to go back, we’re going to see this a lot in the coming weeks.
But when you reach a point in your life of crisis or difficulty, running back to slavery (to how you used to live without Christ…in slavery to sin…) is always a danger…a temptation.
Maybe your marriage is falling apart right now.
And you’re not sure if it’s going to survive…you feel hemmed in on each side…
And it feels like there’s no way you could cross the sea…no way this thing will work out.
And so the temptation is…to just give in.
You even start thinking, “What would it be like if I just walked away? I know I vowed in front of God…but what if I just forgot about that?”
Your mind even starts thinking about what it would be like to be single again…
Instead of changing diapers every night, you could be going out again at night..
Maybe you could even download an app, and start swiping your way to some excitement.
The danger to go back to slavery is real in our lives.
It’s powerful and it’s cunning…and it’s ridiculous.
As Exodus continues the people start saying things like, “You guys remember how good the meat was in Egypt? Remember the fish? So good!”
Sure, maybe for a second…BUT YOU WERE SLAVES!
So how do you avoid the danger of running back? What does God’s Word say?
(Exodus 14:13-14) – NIV
13 Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. 14 The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”
When your life gets hard, trust me, you will absolutely feel tempted to give in, and just walk back to slavery saying, “Pharaoh, just take me back. This is Christian thing is way TOO HARD!”
But God says, in your time of trial, don’t walk away. Don’t run back. STAND FIRM. STAND firm.
That’s God’s Word to you today.
The Lord will fight for you…you only need to be still.
Look at the example here of how God will fight for you if you stand firm and call out…
A few verses later, as the sea gets ready to part, this happens:
(Exodus 14:19-20) - NIV
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.
God is fighting for them!!
If you wait, and you don’t run back to how you used to live…
If you stand firm and call out to Him to help you…to protect you from that tempting pull to go back…HE WILL FIGHT FOR YOU!
DANGER #2: DOING IT YOURSELF
There is a second Danger though when you find yourself in a difficult spot in life.
The first was to cop out, give in, and go back to how you used to live.
“Who needs this God thing? The old way was better.”
The second is to try and solve the situation yourself.
We do this in a lot of areas, but one area I see this a lot is with finances:
Maybe you’re here today and you’re really worried about money
It feels like you’re trapped in a difficult spot.
Part of you wants to just give up on God, but part of you…BECAUSE you’re not sure God can fix it…thinks it might just be better to fix this yourself.
And you’ve been off to the races…constantly worrying about how it’s going to work…yet always trying, in your own strength, to make it work.
I think this particular danger of “running ahead” is especially difficult to withstand for those in the first half of their life.
We want to go out and fix it and make it right, and we think we CAN!
And it takes time, and wisdom, and quite frankly, years of learning through failure, to figure out that we can’t actually fix most things ourselves…like we once believed at 20 or even 30.
To stand firm, and wait, is a difficult thing for a young person
But this is a lesson that Moses has already learned
We did a message on this in the Spring called “Drop your Bucket,” where we talked about how Moses learned how futile it was to try and save the Israelites in his own power.
On the one hand, it’s ridiculous to walk over to Pharaoh and say you want to become a slave again.
But it’s equally as ridiculous to pick up a bucket and try scoop out your own path through the sea.
And yet, when we’re scared, when life is hard, we fall for both of those dangers…often.
But what does God’s Word say??
Stand Firm. Wait! Stand firm.
Don’t run back to slavery, and don’t run ahead to try and fix it yourself.
Stand firm. The Lord will fight for you!
DANGER #3: SHRINKING IN FEAR
And there’s even a third Danger when your life is difficult.
We often want to run back, run ahead, or, thirdly, sometimes we want to just shrink down in fear.
Sometimes when life gets hard, one of our biggest temptations is just to say, “It’s over. I’m depressed. There is no hope”
For example, maybe your health has been in a really difficult spot.
Or you have a family member who’s really struggling with their health.
In those situations, some are tempted to just walk away from God, some are tempted to try and fix it themselves, while others, many, shrink in fear.
The grand faith they once had now seems miniscule in the face of giant difficulty.
And yet, take comfort my friend, the Israelites are no different from you.
And they just witnessed the 10 plagues…with their own eyes!
Their Egyptian slave masters were just handing them piles of gold.
And already they’ve lost faith.
I think we sometimes have this false belief that if God was to get us out of whatever “tough spot” we’re currently in, we’d trust Him forever.
If He was to heal you of this pain, help you have a baby, help you find a spouse, then you’d always trust Him.
I wish that was the case with us, but I find that rarely to be true.
And the examples of Scripture seem to confirm that.
The Israelites just saw this incredible miracle of Passover, and already they’re convinced God can’t save them anymore
This is why I find that it’s so important to take your faith walk seriously every year, every month, every day.
I’ve watched way too many people (even in their 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s) stop trusting in God…because they assumed that their past experiences of their faith would CARRY them through.
And they won’t.
This is a DAILY relationship.
Just like you can’t have a really good honeymoon and assume that’s going to carry your marriage all the way through
An essential part of our daily relationship w/ God, is remembering just how amazing, how strong, how powerful our God really is!
You need to choose if you’re going to spend your time thinking about the size of your problem or thinking about the size of your God!
Looking to the size of your problem won’t help you.
Your problem will just grow with every second you keep thinking about it
And plus, staring at Pharaoh’s approaching army and freaking about it, isn’t going to make them go away.
Looking to yourself isn’t going to help you. You’ll either think of yourself as too big (like the world tells you)…
OR, you’ll shrink in fear when you truly realize your size compared to the size of your problem.
But look to your God!
Pharaoh is NOT a problem for God.
Moses knew this.
He’s seen this 10 times already.
Pharaoh is nothing to God.
It’s like an army of ants marching upon his people.
Moses KNOWS how big God is in proportion to Pharaoh’s army.
That’s why he can say, “Don’t shrink in fear. Don’t fall down. Get up! STAND FIRM.”
The Lord will fight for you.
This is the answer to all three of the dangers.
Don’t run back
Don’t run ahead
Don’t fall down
God is going to do what He needs to do.
Stand, wait, and trust.
STAND FIRM SO YOU CAN WALK THROUGH
And when you stand firm, He will move.
(Exodus 14:15-17) – NIV
15 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on. 16 Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground. 17 I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them. And I will gain glory through Pharaoh and all his army, through his chariots and his horsemen.
And we’re told that the Israelites cross safely to the other side, God then moves the cloud, allowing the Egyptians chase in after them, but the waters collapse upon the Egyptians and they drown.
When you stand firm…and you keep trusting in God…He will move.
Maybe not in the way you were expecting, but He will move.
My guess is that when Moses said “Stand firm…the Lord will fight for you” a lot of the Israelites just assumed that God was going to just strike down Egyptians w/ some sort of plague or perhaps give the Israelites a miraculous victory in battle.
But when Moses turned around and said, “No, He’s actually going to part the sea,” I imagine most of them said, “He’s going to what now??”
There’s a principle here: You might not be able to predict what God will do, but if you stand firm, He will do what He needs to do.
He’ll do what is right and what is best.
And by the way, if you can stand firm, and you can wait until God starts making a way, you better move when He opens up that sea.
Look at God’s response after they’re told to stand firm and they do…
(Exodus 14:15) – NIV
15 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on.
In other words, you’ve stood firm, now it’s time to believe and when this wall of water finishes going up, if you believe, you better start walking this out.
When God makes a way, we’ve got to walk through it.
We stand firm, so we can walk through.
That’s the principle of Exodus 14
And it’s similar to how you can become a Christian in the first place.
God has driven back the waters of judgment for you…by having Jesus die on the cross for you.
But friend, YOU still need to do one thing.
Walk through the Sea!
In faith, you need to say, “I believe that Jesus died in my place, and walk forward…and accept that gift”
If you truly believe something in faith, you will always walk forward.
If you’re ready to turn your life over to Jesus for the first time, turn it over to Him today.
And for the rest of you that have been following God for a little while.
Remember: God has been leading you this whole time. This whole time!
He delivered you by the blood of the lamb, He’s been leading you (maybe through the wilderness at times…maybe with some zigs & zags)…
But He’s been leading you…by the cloud and the fire…
Don’t doubt Him now.
I know the army looks enormous and deadly.
I know the Sea looks impossible to cross.
But don’t give in to those 3 dangers. Stand firm.
Seek Him…Call out to Him..
He will answer.
He will make a way.
Stand firm, and then walk through.
Let me pray.
Copyright David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
You may use this material all you like! We only ask that you do not charge a fee and that you quote the source.