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Part Three: "It's Either Too Much or Too Little Water;" For God's Glory and Our Growth—Exodus 14-15

In this study we're going to look again at probably the most famous Old Testament story—the crossing of the Red Sea.

It is helpful trto remember this principle: "Israel's history foreshadows in type and example our story as present day believers." Therefore, the positive purpose of Israel's history is to inspire us. Romans 15:4—For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

The warning from Israel's history is, "Do not be like them!" 1 Corinthians 10:1—For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. 2] They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. 3] They all ate the same spiritual food 4] and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. 5] Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered over the desert. 6] Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did.

 

So as we study their story, we can simultaneously be warned and gain hope.

Turn to the beginning of Exodus. Let's review the spiral of events that Moses and the Israelites have gone through and how these events might give us hope and a warning.

The people of Israel are given the encouragement from Pharaoh to leave Egypt.

In Exodus 14, we see the Israelites streaming out of Egypt on their way to becoming the people of God, a new nation

  • Leaving their slavery in Egypt behind
  • Having been set free in what can only be called a miraculous way
  • Being directed by a miracle, following a visible pillar of cloud by day that becomes a glowing fire by night.

It would be easy for them to conclude that because of their new freedom, life will forever be much better for them. But rather than their joyful deliverance giving them a long carefree ride, life immediately becomes much more challenging.

 

Exodus 14:10-12—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!"

Now, five days after leaving, they are camped in a cul-de-sac. There are mountains on both sides, and the Red Sea in front of them. The only way they can leave that cul-de-sac is to go back the way they have come. Just about this time they see an enraged Pharaoh coming with his chariots. Pharaoh has changed his mind.

One author suggests that after the first awful shock and panic of the loss of his firstborn son to the 10th plague, his pain and sorrow turns to bitter hatred, and he realizes what he has lost. Ex. 14:5—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!" So Pharaoh assembles his armies and begins pursuit, intending to round up his former slaves and punish them. They would now have a slavery worse than they had had before.

Pharaoh has all the weapons of war; the slaves have none. Israel has no obvious way out of its predicament. Behind lies slavery and a compromise. Ahead is impossible and a catastrophe.

At the first sign of trouble the people begin to complain. One author says, "There is a certain bogus security in being a prisoner and a slave. Life within the walls of a prison is probably somewhat predictable. But now even that wispy security was gone. God's special people couldn't simply live by their wits any longer. So shortly after the miracle of Passover, the people who were being called out by God found themselves facing a life-threatening crisis." What good can the escape be if they are going to be killed or recaptured?

It's heart attack time! They're scared to death!—v. 10 (read).

 


(The following material was written by Rick Warren of Saddleback Church and has been adapted by Robert C. Stone for use at Hillcrest Chapel. Permission to reproduce the material between the horizontal lines does not extend beyond this publication.)
Rick Warren says: "Fear typically does four things to us." (Note: Not everyone who fears has all of these, or to this extent, but many of these elements do show up—Bob Stone.)
  1. Fear tends to make us skeptical—v. 11. It causes us to doubt, to ask questions. You can hear the sarcasm in their voices: "Moses! What are you doing? Did you bring us out here just to let us die?"

    People are often skeptical because they're afraid, ridiculing the things they're afraid of. So if you tend to doubt things, to be cynical, skeptical or sarcastic, (often) the root of that is fear.

     

  2. Fear (can) cause us to be selfish. We can focus only on ourselves, on our own needs (v. 11—"What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt?").

    Remember the self-confidence book Looking out for Number One that came out a few years ago? Ironically, the title is a statement of fear. The idea is, "I've got to make sure I get what is due in life. I'm afraid that somebody might cheat me out of it."

    When we're afraid, we tend to blame other people. (Again, "What have you done to us, Moses?" Passing the buck is an expression of fear: accusing others and excusing ourselves.

  3. Fear causes us to be stubborn. v. 12—They said, "Didn't we say to you in Egypt, 'Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians?'"

    I've seen it so many times. Fear causes us to resist change, anything new. "Don't try anything new! That might threaten me. Don't upset the status quo! Don't rock the boat!"

    Sometimes in marriage counseling you hear one or both of the parties say: "You're so obstinate/stubborn/bullheaded!" "You never change." "You never admit you're wrong." "You're always against everything." Often the other mate is not just being obstinate and stubborn and bullheaded; he or she is also afraid.

     

  4. Fear causes us to be short sighted. v. 12b—"It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!" Fear causes us to want to live in the past. We try to live our past situations over again—go backwards; retreat; turn around and go back to Egypt. "Let's forget this whole idea."

    Little did they know what lay ahead—the Promised Land! Everything they wanted out of life was ahead of them, but they were too short-sighted because of fear, and wanted to go back!"

    I can just hear the Israelites saying, "Remember the good old days..." What good old days? There were no good old days in Egypt. They were beaten, mistreated, maligned, forced into servitude, oppressed, under constant pain and abuse.

     

    So the fact is, they preferred slavery to uncertainty.

    They said, "We don't like what it was—it was painful—but at least it was a known quantity." Many people today are afraid of freedom. When you're a slave, all the decisions are made for you. You have no responsibility.

    Here's a fact of human behavior I've learned: We hang on to our hang-ups. Even though they're painful, and they hurt, there is a payoff: we know what they're like. I've had people say to me in so many words, "I'd rather keep my self- defeating behavior than risk the fear of change, because it's unknown." They say, "Let's go back to Egypt. I know it was painful. I know I didn't like it. But let's go back there because at least we know it's a sure thing."

    Where are we short-sighted due to fear? What habit or hangup are we holding on to saying, "At least I know what it's like?" ("I know I need to change; to let go of that habit/that relationship. I know I need to change the way I think there or act here, but change is scary and I've always been that way.")

     


    Back to Exodus 14. Notice Moses' reaction to all of this. When the Israelites come to him and say, "We're afraid," His faith is revealed. He's calm. He's not defensive or uptight, but recognizes that the root behind those complaints is simply fear. He doesn't take it personally, because he understands that the people aren't really complaining against him; they are simply saying, "We're terrified!"


    So when this happens, how do we change?

    How do we begin to take risks in our faith? How do we continue to grow in faith? The Israelites did five things to face their fears, and they are great steps for us today.

    1. Let go
    2. Look up
    3. Launch out
    4. Lift up
    5. Lighten up
    6. Let go of your fear!

     

    Exodus 14:13-14—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."

     

    Let Go of Your Fear.

    Look at what Moses said in v. 13—he answered the people, "Do not be afraid." In other words, "let go of your fear." The Bible says 365 times, "Fear not." That's one admonition for every day of the year! Moses is telling the people, "Cast all your care on God."

     

    If you are saying, "Lord, this is too heavy a burden. I can't handle it. I'm too afraid," let go of your fear. How, you ask? There's only one way you will ever let go of a fear. Recognize and remind yourself that God is in control. Then you can relax a little bit.

    Let's get some perspective on this. Look back at 14:1-2—Then the Lord said to Moses, "Tell the Israelites to turn back and encamp near Pi Hahiroth between Migdol and the sea. They are to encamp by the sea..." So, who told the children of Israel to camp in the cul-de-sac? God told them, not Moses. God led them there. God put them in an impossible situation with mountains on two sides and an ocean behind and the Egyptians coming. God did.

     

    Sometimes God sets us up for a miracle by pushing us. When we're saying, "I don't know how I'm ever going to get out of this problem! This is a total mess. There is no way it can work out," we have a Red Sea on our hands. In these situations, we are to remind ourselves that God will lead us to a solution and to the safest place. If God leads us into an absolute dead end in life, we've been set up for a miracle. If He has allowed all kinds of problems in our lives, we should recognize we are ready for something exciting to happen—if we will follow His solutions. Why does God lead us into impossible situations?

    1. For God's glory. vv. 3-4—Pharaoh will think the Israelites are wandering around in the land of 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." Here God even told them in advance, "You guys are going to have all kinds of problems, and here's what Pharaoh's going to do. But I allowed this situation so I can prove My power and strength and I can get the glory."

    Principle: If we have no problems, we have no miracles. Without problems, there's no need for faith in our life.

    1. For our own growth. This was a test of faith for the Israelites.

      Are you facing a personal Red Sea today? Congratulations! God can do something significant in your life. Let go of fear, because you know if you're really trying to live for the Lord, God has allowed these things. Nothing can happen in our lives without the heavenly Father's permission. If we are children of God, He's watching out for us. He is in control; therefore I don't need to be afraid of an impossible situation, because I'm probably right in the middle of the will of God. He could be setting me up for a miracle.

     

    So we need to let go of our fear.

    This story contains a second solution to fear and the Red Seas in our life:

    Look Up— to God

    v. 13b—...Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today... Over and over again in the Bible God says, "Stand still! Watch Me do it! Be still! Be quiet! Watch Me! Keep your eyes on Me! Look up!"

    Why does He say, "Stand still"? Because fear always causes us to run. Our natural reaction to it is: "I've got to get out of here! I'm leaving. I can't handle the pressure. It's too much. I'm going to leave my wife, my job, my kids. I'm going to quit. I'm going to leave the situation." And we run. But God says, "Stand still." We can't see God act unless we're standing still; we certainly can't when we're running. He says, "Look up. Relax. Calm down."

    The irony at this point in Israel's story is that there is nowhere to run anyway. There is no alternative but to stand still. Of course, if they had been like you or me, they would probably have started running in circles. Oddly enough, the Israelites looked every direction—

     

    east and saw mountains,
    west and saw more ountains,
    north and saw the ocean,
    south and saw the Egyptians.

    They looked everywhere but up!

    Instead of looking out, we are to look up. Instead of looking out at our problems, we should look up at the Source of all wisdom. When we begin to look up, we begin to loosen up. We start relaxing. We start being more calm. When we begin to look up at God's resources, we see our problem is minor by comparison.

    Can you imagine the situation in Exodus 14? Moses and the children of Israel are camped in this cul-de-sac of impossibility, and one of them says, "Moses, they're coming." A few minutes later another one comes; "Moses! They're getting closer." Finally someone comes up and shakes him and says, "Moses! Do something!"

    God often waits until the last second to answer. Why? It is so frustrating sometimes, and we wonder why He didn't answer a day, a week, a month ago. Simply put, it's a test of faith. God wants to know how long we can wait. Often He'll wait right until the last second and then the waters will part.

    Launch Out/Get Moving—v. 15

    In our last study, I told you this is one of my favorite verses in the Old Testament. Essentially, the message is "quit whining, complaining and praying, and get moving." There comes a time when we should stop crying out to God and get moving in the direction we know we should go, or He will point it out to us.

    The facts are:

    • There is a time to pray, and there is a time to act.
    • There is a time to fast and believe and expect, and there is a time to move.
    • There is a time to sit and wait and stand firm in expectation, and there is a time to go for it and make the investment of time and ministry—of action.

     

    Exodus 14:15-16—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.

    In other words, launch out in faith..get it in gear...move!

    For Israel, it's the moment of truth... they are to go for it, lay it on the line. God says to take the plunge (literally, in this instance). Faith is an active, not a passive, verb. It's an action. It's moving, stepping out. "If you want to walk on water, you have to get out of the boat!"

    Everyone studying this text has a fear. Many of you have dozens, even hundreds of fears. According to biology, genetically you as a human being have only two innate fears. You are born with the fear of falling and the fear of loud noises. Every other fear you have is learned, one you have chosen to pick up because it is not one of the two you were born with. The good news is, since these fears are learned, they can be unlearned.

    Unlearn them!

    The secret of eliminating fear in your life is to move against it. Ask any psychologist. More importantly, the Bible teaches it: move against your fear. Do the very thing you fear. God in effect says to Moses, "Move on! Go for it. Take the risk. Step out and watch your fear vanish before your eyes. Watch the waters part as you walk through on dry land."

     


    Faith is more than just believing.

    Most likely, not long ago you took an out-and-out step of faith. You went to the doctor and he said, "What you need is...." He took a piece of paper and scratched something on it that no way could you figure out. (They do that intentionally, I'm sure!) Then by faith you walked into a pharmacy and gave the pharmacist that piece of paper. By faith, you let him put white powder into little capsules and write on it, "Take this three times a day..." You took it home and took it, in faith.

    Everyone has faith in something. Put it in God.

     


    Verse 16 says, —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." God usually takes you through your problems, not around them. If He took you around it, it wouldn't require as much faith. But He'll take you right through the middle of it.

     

    Exodus 14:21-22—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.

    How would you like to be these people, walking through this Red Sea, a wall of water on either side? You get about halfway through and realize it's just as far to the other side as it is back. You're thinking, "At any moment this could fall in on me."

    Every step was a step of faith. Every step was a risk. That's the way God works in your life, and there's no way you can get around it. You can't live without taking risks. Yes, you can exist, but you can't live. God wants us to live by faith. We constantly work to take the risk out of our society. God says, "That's part of living so you'll trust Me."

    What we want God to do for us, He waits to do through us, so we can be part of the miracle. Therefore, may God deliver us from that kind of cautiousness or complacency! May He keep us from being unwilling to take faith risks He puts before us. May He keep us on the cutting edge of life!

    Two steps remain: steps to optimize our growth and potential when we need to go through a difficult time. Notice what happens as the children of Israel see their victory assured.

    Lift Up Praise to God—Chapter 15:1-21

     

    Exodus 15:1-21—Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the LORD:

    "I will sing to the LORD, for he is highly exalted. The horse and its rider he has hurled into the sea.
    2 The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise him, my father's God, and I will exalt him.
    3 The LORD is a warrior; the LORD is his name.
    4 Pharaoh's chariots and his army he has hurled into the sea. The best of Pharaoh's officers are drowned in the Red Sea. 5 The deep waters have covered them; they sank to the depths like a stone.
    6 "Your right hand, O LORD, was majestic in power. Your right hand, O LORD, shattered the enemy.
    7 In the greatness of your majesty you threw down those who opposed you. You unleashed your burning anger; it consumed them like stubble.
    8 By the blast of your nostrils the waters piled up. The surging waters stood firm like a wall; the deep waters congealed in the heart of the sea.
    9 "The enemy boasted, 'I will pursue, I will overtake them. I will divide the spoils; I will gorge myself on them. I will draw my sword and my hand will destroy them.'
    10 But you blew with your breath, and the sea covered them. They sank like lead in the mighty waters.
    11 "Who among the gods is like you, O LORD? Who is like you— majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?
    12 You stretched out your right hand and the earth swallowed them.
    13 "In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed. In your strength you will guide them to your holy dwelling.
    14 The nations will hear and tremble; anguish will grip the people of Philistia. 15 The chiefs of Edom will be terrified, the leaders of Moab will be seized with trembling, the people of Canaan will melt away; 16 terror and dread will fall upon them. By the power of your arm they will be as still as a stone— until your people pass by, O LORD, until the people you bought pass by.
      17 You will bring them in and plant them on the mountain of your inheritance— the place, O LORD, you made for your dwelling, the sanctuary, O Lord, your hands established.
    18 The LORD will reign for ever and ever."
    19 When Pharaoh's horses, chariots and horsemen went into the sea, the LORD brought the waters of the sea back over them, but the Israelites walked through the sea on dry ground.
    20 Then Miriam the prophetess, Aaron's sister, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women followed her, with tambourines and dancing. 21 Miriam sang to them: "Sing to the LORD, for he is highly exalted. The horse and its rider he has hurled into the sea."

    This chapter gives us a clue to keeping our faith maturing. On the other side of victory, the mature and growing follower of God takes the time to worship and recall the victory. Moses and Miriam, who led the Israelites in worship on the other side of the Red Sea, show us how crucial is worship if we are to be ready for the faith challenges ahead.

    I encourage you to study this song and the other attributed to Moses in Deut. 32 and Rev. 15:2b-4. If we look only at Exodus 15, however, there are a number of principles to be gleaned from this song.

     

    1. Authentic worship is a song sung to the Lord—v. 1.
    2. Authentic worship describes and applies God's attributes—vv. 2-10,11-13. Note: Worship describes His strength, song and salvation—v. 2.
    3. Authentic worship repairs and prepares us—v. 13.
    4. Authentic worship reports God's victory (vv.14-16) and transports the victor into God's presence—v. 17.
    5. Authentic worship includes His promises and my prayer—v. 11.

    Lighten Up (Quit Your Grumbling) and Pray—15:22-27.

     

    Exodus 15:22-27—22 Then Moses led Israel from the Red Sea and they went into the Desert of Shur. For three days they traveled in the desert without finding water. 23 When they came to Marah, they could not drink its water because it was bitter. (That is why the place is called Marah.) 24 So the people grumbled against Moses, saying, "What are we to drink?" 25 Then Moses cried out to the LORD, and the LORD showed him a piece of wood. He threw it into the water, and the water became sweet. There the LORD made a decree and a law for them, and there he tested them. 26 He said, "If you listen carefully to the voice of the LORD your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the LORD, who heals you." 27 Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs and seventy palm trees, and they camped there near the water.

    As soon as the children of Israel enjoy a time of worship and celebration, they are tested again with bitter water—vv. 22,25. Their track record hasn't been too impressive; they tend to grumble and complain—v. 24. As Moses has led them in worship, he now leads them in prayer. They should be dialing down the grumbling, lightening up, and praying. After all, think about what they have just seen God do in answer to prayer and a staff held over some water. Why can't they see that this water will respond to God as the sea did? Whatever they need water to do (divide in the middle or become drinkable) is certainly not too difficult for God.

    All the way through the Exodus, God uses wood as a means to provide the water His people need. Here it's a piece of wood; later it will be Moses' staff. Ultimately, however, the wood will be on a tree used by God to provide the Water of Life—a cross for our salvation.

    We see the principle again here that whatever we receive from God is tested—v. 25. God is testing their faith (v. 25), preparing them for obedience (v. 26b ), and giving them a promise—v. 26b. It's the same for us. God is testing our faith, preparing us for obedience, and wants to give us a promise. Are you ready for the test?

     


    Review/Summary

    Five Steps to Facing Our Fears and Growing in Faith

     

    • Let Go of Your Fear. Remember that God is in control, and He leads you into impossible situations for His glory and for your growth. If you are saying, "Lord, this is too heavy a burden. I can't handle it. I'm too afraid," let go of your fear.
    • Look Up to God for Help. Look to God and say, "I don't understand it all. I'm going to stop looking at the problem and start looking at the solution. You may wait until the very last second, but I'm going to trust You and look to You."
    • Launch Out/Get Moving. If you are going to go for it, you need to make the move. Move against the fear and do the very thing you are most afraid of, and watch the waters part.
    • Lift Up Praise to God. This is a clue to keeping your faith maturing. On the other side of victory, the mature and growing follower of God takes the time to worship and recall the victory in worship.
    • Lighten Up (Quit Your Grumbling) and Pray. God is testing our faith, preparing us for obedience, and wants to give us a promise.