Exodus 14:10-31 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!" 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." 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. 18 The Egyptians will know that I am the LORD when I gain glory through Pharaoh, his chariots and his horsemen." 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 made the wheels of their chariots come off 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 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 great power the LORD displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the LORD and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant.
In South Euclid, Ohio, a 62-year-old man from that community was found guilty of picking on a neighbor who has two adopted ethnic, developmentally challenged children, a husband with dementia and a paralyzed son. The man would shine a spotlight at the neighbor’s house at three in the morning and disturb the family’s sleep, play loud music to disturb his neighbors, he spat on the mother while she was holding her children, and publicly shouted a racial epithet to describe the mom. He also regularly threw dog feces at the son’s car.
As punishment, the judge ordered the man to spend 15 days in jail, 7 months on probation, do 100 hours of community service, and take management classes. All well and good. But this is the creative punishment I love!
The judge also made the man stand outside on a Sunday for 5 hours with a sign that reads: “I AM A BULLY! I pick on children that are disabled, and I am intolerant of those who are different than myself. My actions do not reflect an appreciation for the diverse South Euclid community that I live in.”
The judge was the family’s protector. With such a public shaming she made sure people in the community would know you can’t mess with that family or others like it. This news story became very widespread in Ohio and the rest of the U.S. The 62-year-old man received his righteous judgment for terrorizing the family for more than a decade.
God was the Israelites’ protector. He made sure the Egyptians would never mess with His children of Israel again. God brought His righteous judgment upon the Egyptian for all the centuries of slavery they had put upon His Children. And the other heathen peoples in Canaan didn’t want to mess with the Israelites when they heard about the great Exodus (Joshua 2:9).
The first half of the verses of our sermon text is devoted to the reaction of the Israelites being trapped. But the entire second half is devoted to God’s judgment upon the Egyptians. Verse 18 sums it up wonderfully when the Lord says, “The Egyptians will know that I am the LORD when I gain glory through Pharaoh, his chariots and his horsemen.”
Pharaoh kicked the Israelites out of Egypt after a series of ten devastating plagues. The Israelites then traveled south and camped along the shore of the Red Sea. Meanwhile, the full significance of losing Egypt’s precious slave labor force had dawned on Pharaoh and he exclaimed to his officials, “What have we done” (Exodus 14:5)?
So Pharaoh advanced with his army of 600 two-person chariots (the armored tanks of those days), in addition to his cavalry and infantry. They quickly overtook the Israelites, who appeared trapped and confused. The army must have thought, “This should be an easy victory.”
When the Israelites saw the advancing army coming to bring them back dead or alive – preferably dead for many of them – they complained with cowardice: “It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!”
Think of how many times we have worried … and whined … and complained in our cowardice and fear. We have become worried about losing our house when we’ve lost our job. We’ve complained about the raw deal we are getting by being diagnosed with cancer. We’ve given in to the little “pet” sins that plague our daily existence. We’ve cowered at the pressure the LGBT community is putting on Christian businesses and churches. We’ve been frozen in fear by what ISIS and other Muslim groups are doing to Christians around the world.
When we worry, whine, and complain, we are just like the Israelites who were terrified of the well-armed host of Pharaoh approaching swiftly. We are forgetting the Lord. We are neglecting what we have seen Him do and we are dismissing what He has promised to do.
We see the dangerous situation before us. The damaging circumstances are always on our minds. In weakness, we keep our eyes focused on our problems instead of lifting up our eyes to the Lord, who promises to help us by being our rock, fortress, and deliverer (Psalm 18:2).
When we get scared, aren’t we in effect saying that the Lord either cannot help or that He will not help? If He cannot help, then He is not nearly as powerful as He says He is. If He will not help, He is neither as merciful nor as faithful as He says He is. Either way, we give the Lord an enormous slap in the face by doubting Him and His promises.
But the Lord was compassionate with Israel in its unbelief born of terror. He did not flare up in anger over their rebellion, but spoke these reassuring words: “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. The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.”
Thus the Lord mounted the greatest rescue of the Old Testament! After the Israelites were saved, Moses sang of the rescue and his sister, Miriam, added the refrain: “Sing to the Lord, for he is highly exalted. The horse and its rider he has hurled into the sea” (Exodus 15:21). The entire Old Testament echoes this song, and this saving event. Years later King David observed that “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God” (Psalm 20:7). The prophets repeatedly called attention this miraculous crossing of the sea. The exodus from Egypt was the great saving event of the Old Testament.
This is what happened: First, the angel of the Lord (the pre-incarnate Son of God) moved between the Egyptians and the Israelites as a great pillar of cloud and fire with which he had been leading Israel. Thus he kept the Egyptian army at bay.
Then, obeying the Lord’s command, Moses stretched out his hand over the Red Sea. The Lord caused a mighty east wind to blow all night. Try to image this: the wind created walls of water on the right and left and blew the sea bottom dry. Bible scholars estimate that the space of the dry land must have been at least one-half mile wide, if not more, in order to get 2 million Israelites across during the night! The walls of water are estimated to have been around 1,000 feet high! The psalmist put it vividly: “The sea looked and fled” (Psalm 114:3).
In the morning, after the Israelites were safely on the other side of the Red Sea, the Lord looked down from the pillar of fire and cloud and allowed the Egyptians to pursue. The way through the sea was still open, so the Egyptians continued their chase. But when they were in the middle of the sea, the Lord threw their army into confusion, the chariots had difficulty maneuvering, and the Egyptians cried out, “Let's get away from the Israelites! The LORD is fighting for them against Egypt.”
The Lord commanded Moses to stretch out his hand over the sea once more. When Moses did so, the Lord caused the waters to rush together again, and they buried Pharaoh’s army so that not one of them survived. As the Israelites saw the drowned bodies and the broken chariots of their enemies wash upon the shore, they knew the Lord’s promise had come true: “The Egyptians you see today you will never see again” (v13) As the corpses lay on the sand, the elderly, the women, and children back in Egypt would hear of what happened, for the Lord’s words were correct: “The Egyptians will know that I am the LORD” (v18).
A boy was sitting on a park bench with one hand resting on an open Bible. He was loudly exclaiming his praise to God. “Hallelujah! God is great!” he yelled. An atheist man, who felt very enlightened by his lack of faith and his abundance of knowledge from community college courses, was intrigued by the boy’s exuberance. He sat down next to the boy and asked him why he was so excited.
The boy replied, “Don’t you have any idea what God is able to do? I just read that God opened up the waves of the Red Sea and led the whole nation of Israel right through the middle.” The enlightened man laughed lightly, sat down next to the boy, and began to try to open his eyes to the “realities” behind the miracles of the Bible. “That can all be very easily explained. Modern scholarship has shown that the Red Sea in that area was only 10-inches deep at that time. It was no problem for the Israelites to wade across.”
The boy was stumped. His eyes wandered from the man back to the Bible lying open in his lap. The man, content that he had enlightened a poor, naive child in the finer points of scientific insight, turned to go. He had barely taken two steps when the boy began to rejoice and praise louder than before. “Now what?” the atheist asked.
“Wow!” Exclaimed the boy happily, “God is greater than I thought! Not only did He lead the whole nation of Israel through the Red Sea, He topped it off by drowning the whole Egyptian army in 10 inches of water!”
The Lord’s judgment upon the Egyptians was salvation for the Israelites. This miraculous rescue – not in ten inches of water, but through 1,000 foot walls of water – was seen by millions of people. It was a miracle that was visually impressive. It was a miracle that saved approximately two million people.
But the Lord has given us an even greater miracle than what happened at the Red Sea. This miracle happened upon a mountain – Mt. Calvary. There the incarnate Son of God powerfully swept away our mighty enemies with His precious blood flowing from the Roman cross. Jesus released us from our slavery to sin. The Pharaoh of hell, the devil himself, has been crushed. His chariots and army have been scattered by the pierced hands of the Lord. The death that constantly pursues us, Jesus has chased away with His glorious resurrection.
Though the Exodus from Egypt is the greatest miracle of the Old Testament, the miracle on Mt. Calvary is the greatest miracle of all time. Jesus did not just save a few million people, but the entire world. With His suffering and death, Jesus didn’t just provide us with a rescue from earthly death but has saved us from eternal death.
Just like with the 62-year-old in Euclid or the ancient Egyptians or Satan, God’s judgment upon those who oppose Him bring freedom and protection for His children.
Because the Lord has defeated our greatest enemies of sin, death, and the devil, now we don’t need to be afraid of any earthly enemies. Yes, the persecutions by Muslims is very real. Yes, the pressures of the LGBT community are felt by Christians constantly. Yes, cancer steals your health. Dementia robs you of your loved ones. Temptations constantly plague and torment you.
But none of these enemies can really harm you. There is no reason to be scared. There is no basis for worry. There are no grounds for complaint. God has already demonstrated at the Red Sea and at Mt. Calvary that He can lure the enemies in … and then crush them at the right time.
No matter what, your enemies cannot stand. Remember the Lord’s words: “Now the Egyptians know.” Amen.