Did you hear about the farmer that decided to buy a chain saw? A logging foreman sold him one that he guaranteed would cut down 15 trees in a single day. A week later, a very unhappy farmer came back to report that the power saw must be faulty—it averaged only 3 trees a day. The foreman grabbed the saw, pulled the cord, and the saw promptly went “Bzzzzzzzz.” “Hey” demanded the startled farmer, “what’s that noise?”
It’s one thing to come to church, but it’s altogether another thing to live by faith.
Do you know you have a saw?
Do you know how it works?
Have you fired it up?
Today, I want to fire up your faith by sharing some important principles of faith.
The Children of Israel had just been released from 430 years of Egyptian bondage, but God did not lead them the easy way to Canaan—which would have been through the land of the Philistines (Ex. 13:17). Instead, God lead them down towards the Red Sea.
Why did God want them to take the long way to Canaan?
When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near. For God said, “Lest the people change their minds when they see war and return to Egypt.”
God took them towards the Red Sea instead of the easy way because, if they had gone towards the land of the Philistines, they would have been in for a war and God knew they weren’t ready for a fight.
They had weapons, but…they only thought they were ready.
Principle #1: God Knows What He’s Doing
There was a man who got lost in the desert. After wandering around for a long time his throat became very dry, about that time he saw a little shack in the distance. He made his way over to the shack and found a water pump with a small jug of water and a note. The note read: “pour all the water into the top of the pump to prime it, if you do this you will get all the water you need”. Now the man had a choice to make, if he trusted the note and poured the water in and it worked he would have all the water he needed. If it didn’t work he would still be thirsty and he might die. Or he could choose to drink the water in the jug and get immediate satisfaction, but it might not be enough and he still might die. After thinking about it the man decided to risk it. He poured the entire jug into the pump and began to work the handle, at first nothing happened and he got a little scared but he kept going and water started coming out. So much water came out he drank all he wanted, took a shower, and filled all the containers he could find. Because he was willing to give up momentary satisfaction, he got all the water he needed. Now the note also said: after you have finished, please refill the jug for the next traveller.” The man refilled the jug and added to the note: “ Please prime the pump, believe me it works”! We have the same choice to make, do we hold on to what we have because we don’t believe there are better things in store for us, and settle for immediate satisfaction? Or do we trust God and give up all that we have to get what God has promised us? I think the choice is obvious. We need to pour in all the water, trust God with everything. Then once we have experienced what God has to offer, the living water, we need to tell other people, “Go ahead prime the pump, believe me it works”! God knows what He’s doing.
We next read that they took the bones of Joseph with them as they left Egypt.
Moses took the bones of Joseph with him, for Joseph had made the sons of Israel solemnly swear, saying, “God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones with you from here.”
Principle #2: Following God to the Future Doesn’t Mean Forgetting the Past
We must take “Joseph’s bones” with us wherever we go.
Sometimes we don’t respect the past like we should.
A little girl called out, “Mommy, you know that vase china cabinet, the one that’s been handed down from generation to generation?” Yes, dear, I know which one you mean, what about it? ”Well, Mommy, I’m sorry, but this generation just dropped it!”
What are the “Joseph’s bones” you need to take with you as you move forward?
-Heritage–Heritage gives us 1) Strength; 2) Purpose; 3) Identity
An investigation into the famed 18th century revival preacher Jonathan Edwards (1703-58) showed that, of the 1,394 known descendants of Jonathan Edwards, 100 became preachers and missionaries, 100 lawyers, 80 public officials, 75 army and navy officers, 65 college professors, 60 physicians, 60 prominent authors, 30 judges, 13 college presidents, 3 United States senators, and one a vice-president of the United States. Another man of that era, Max Jukes, had 310 descendants who died as paupers, 150 criminals, 100 were drunkards, 7 were murderers, and more than half of the women were prostitutes.
What are the “Joseph’s bones” Journey needs to take with us as we move forward?
-Our heritage of loving our community.
-Our heritage of love for God’s word.
-Our heritage of respect for the family.
-Our heritage of love for each other.
-Our heritage of courage in the face of “steps of faith.”
-Our heritage of passionate worship.
-Our heritage of reaching out with the gospel.
Next we read that the Lord went before them in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.
21And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. 22The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people.
Principle #3: God is Always Present
This is what David knew too and what he wrote about in Psalm 139.
7 Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? 8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! 9If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, 10even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.
We just have to look for Him.
Next, we read that the Lord told Moses to turn back towards Egypt and set up camp.
He did this to convince Pharaoh that they were confused and…thus, easier to recapture. It was a set-up.
1Then the LORD said to Moses, 2″Tell the people of Israel to turn back and encamp in front of Pi-hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, in front of Baal-zephon; you shall encamp facing it, by the sea. 3For Pharaoh will say of the people of Israel, ‘They are wandering in the land; the wilderness has shut them in.’ 4And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, and the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD.” And they did so.
Principle #4: Sometimes Retreat is Really Advancement
Retreat is not typically viewed as a good thing. The motto of French Foreign Legion is, “If I falter, push me on. If I stumble, pick me up. If I retreat, shoot me.”
There aren’t too many movies that celebrate armies who retreat. In the first twenty minutes of the movie Saving Private Ryan, I was over- come with tears as I watched those men leave the safety of their boats and advance on the beach at Normandy, undaunted by the German tsunami of bullets, fire, and fear. The heroes of D-Day were heroes not because they retreated, but because they advanced. In war, retreat is almost always the first sign of imminent defeat … but not always.
Douglas MacArthur loved the Philippines. He initially visited the islands during his first assignment out of West Point as a lieutenant with an engineer corps. He was sent back to the Philippines with his wife in 1925, but the New York heiress was not happy on the island MacArthur loved so much. He retreated to the States to try to salvage his marriage, but three years later, the marriage finally ended.
MacArthur then retreated to the Philippines, where he commanded the Army’s Philippine Department until he again returned to the States to be the Army’s Chief of Staff in 1930.
This assignment, in the midst of the Great Depression, was heartbreakingly difficult. He suffered in this post for five years before once again retreating to the Philippines to head a U.S. military mission charged with preparing the islands for full independence in 1946. The next few years were among the happiest in MacArthur’s life. On his way to Manila, he met and fell in love with thirty-seven- year-old Jean Marie Faircloth from Murfreesboro, Tennessee. They had a son and enjoyed their lives in Manila until a threat from the expansionist Japanese empire became too great to ignore.
MacArthur began preparing a resistance force in the Philippines to resist the Japanese. With the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, MacArthur knew the island nation was doomed. Within a month, the Japanese had destroyed his air force, ravaged his army, and the American troops had retreated to the Bataan peninsula, where they struggled to survive. With heartbreak and anger, MacArthur watched the Philippines fall into the hands of the Japanese.
Back in the States, President Roosevelt was concerned for more than just the Philippines. He was concerned for the reputation of America’s most famous general, so he ordered MacArthur to withdraw to Australia. MacArthur didn’t want to leave, but he did. He retreated, but defiantly promised as he departed of the place he so dearly loved, “I shall return.” And for three years, the world watched as MacArthur diligently fought to keep his promise. Then on October of 1944, the world watched as he dramatically waded ashore at Leyte, and in the following months, liberated the rest of the Philippines. Sometimes it’s good to retreat.
McArthur’s retreat ultimately guaranteed victory and new life for the people of the Philippines.
Do you need to retreat?
Pharaoh realized that his entire work force had just walked out of his country and he decided to go after them. He’d forgotten all about the power God displayed through the plagues and pursued the Israelites with all of his horsemen and army.
When the Israelites saw Pharaoh and his army pursuing them they were scared and decided that they wanted to go back to Egypt.
11They said to Moses, “Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us in bringing us out of Egypt? 12Is not this what we said to you in Egypt: ‘Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.”
Principle #5: Captivity is Sometimes Captivating
I’ve heard that—given enough time—prisoners can fall in love with live in the prison. They forget how to live in freedom.
We must resist the call to return to 1) Sin; 2) Legalism; 3) Bondage
Last week, many of you took off the chains of bondage. How many of you have put the chains on again?
Next, Moses realized he needed to talk the people “off the ledge” so that they’d keep moving forward. He reminded them that they were already saved and Pharaoh’s army was already defeated, but neither knew it yet.
13And Moses said to the people, “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. 14 The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”
Often the hardest for us to do is this, because we feel that we just have to tell somebody about the predicament that we are in. But the only one who can do anything about our predicament already knows, He is waiting for us to look to him and be silent. All of these instructions are directed to natural human responses to panic. First, we are afraid. Second, we run. Third, we fight. Fourth, we tell everyone who will listen.
A motivational speaker once said, “If your success was guaranteed, wouldn’t you be willing to endue just about anything? If you had an iron-clad contract stating that if you dig ditches in the rain everyday for 6 months you will have complete financial freedom, wouldn’t you be willing to dig ditches?” The answer is an obvious yes.
Principle #6: We’re not Fighting For Victory but From Victory
Moses says some pretty significant things in these verses.
1) Salvation is already there…they just need to look at it.
2) God will do all of the work.
3) Sometimes we just need to shut-up and listen. The Israelites were too busy talking and not listening.
*I can really relate to that!
Remember what we read last week.
So I will stretch out my hand and strike Egypt with all the wonders that I will do in it; after that he will let you go.
Charlton Heston had to learn how to drive a chariot with four horses for his part in the movie Ben Hur. After many weeks of chariot lessons he told the director, “I think I can drive the chariot all right, but I’m not at all sure I can actually win the race.” The director responded, “You just stay in the race, and I’ll make sure you win.”
Just stay in the race and God will make sure you win.
Next, we see that God was sick of all of the bellyaching.
The Lord has had enough, so he says to Moses:
“Why do you cry to me? Tell the people of Israel to go forward. 16 Lift up your staff, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, that the people of Israel may go through the sea on dry ground. 17And 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 host, his chariots, and his horsemen. 18And the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I have gotten glory over Pharaoh, his chariots, and his horsemen.”
Principle #7: When Times Get Hard, We Can Either Cry or Fly.
There’s no crying in baseball, politics, or Red Sea Crossing.
Buttprints in the Sand
One night, I had a wondrous dream;
One set of footprints there was seen.
The footprints of my precious Lord,
But mine were not along the shore.
But then some stranger prints appeared,
And I asked the Lord, “What have we here?”
“Those prints are large and round and neat,
But, Lord, they are too big for feet.”
“My child,” He said in sombre tones.
“For miles I carried you alone.
I challenged you to walk in faith,
But you refused and made me wait.
You disobeyed, you would not grow,
The walk-of-faith you would not know.
So I got tired and fed up,
And there I dropped you on your butt,
Because in life, there comes a time,
When one must fight, and one must climb,
When one must rise and take a stand,
Or leave their butt prints in the sand.”
As the people moved out, an interesting thing happens.
Then the angel of God who was going before the host of Israel moved and went behind them, and the pillar of cloud moved from before them and stood behind them, coming between the host of Egypt and the host of Israel.
Principle #8: God Protects His Children
The early American Indians had a unique practice of training young braves. On the night of a boy’s thirteenth birthday, after learning hunting, scouting, and fishing skills, he was put to one final test. He was placed in a dense forest to spend the entire night alone. Until then, he had never been away from the security of the family and the tribe. But on this night, he was blindfolded and taken several miles away.
When he took off the blindfold, he was in the middle of a thick woods and he was terrified! Every time a twig snapped, he visualized a wild animal ready to pounce. After what seemed like an eternity, dawn broke and the first rays of sunlight entered the interior of the forest. Looking around, the boy saw flowers, trees, and the outline of the path. Then, to his utter astonishment, he beheld the figure of a man standing just a few feet away, armed with a bow and arrow. It was his father. He had been there all night long.–Originally from Our Daily Bread
God’s protection is real.
His power is also real.
21Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the LORD drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided. 22And the people of Israel went into the midst of the sea on dry ground, the waters being a wall to them on their right hand and on their left. 23The Egyptians pursued and went in after them into the midst of the sea, all Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots, and his horsemen. 24And in the morning watch the LORD in the pillar of fire and of cloud looked down on the Egyptian forces and threw the Egyptian forces into a panic, 25clogging their chariot wheels so that they drove heavily. And the Egyptians said, “Let us flee from before Israel, for the LORD fights for them against the Egyptians.”
26Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea, that the water may come back upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots, and upon their horsemen.” 27 So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to its normal course when the morning appeared. And as the Egyptians fled into it, the LORD threw the Egyptians into the midst of the sea. 28The waters returned and covered the chariots and the horsemen; of all the host of Pharaoh that had followed them into the sea, not one of them remained.
And, it’s best to remember this next principle.
Principle #9: It’s Best to Stay on God’s Good Side!
Why would anyone want to put himself or herself in opposition to God’s power?
Growing up in Florida and spending a lot of time at the beach, I can tell you that waves are very powerful.
We’ve seen the destructive power of waves, but we also see people surfing waves.
I see a huge God-sized wave of opportunity coming our way.
When a huge wave is coming, you have a choice to make.
1) Renounce it. “There is no wave.”
2) Run from it.
3) Resist it. How did that work out for Pharaoh and his army?
4) Ride it.
I want to ride God’s wave, not fight it. What about you?
The final principle of faith is found as we finish this chapter.
It looked like the people of Israel were walking towards a dead end, but it wasn’t a dead end—it was a new beginning.
29But the people of Israel walked on dry ground through the sea, the waters being a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.
30Thus the LORD saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. 31 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 his servant Moses.
This is an amazing event.
According to Exodus 12:37-38 NIV, the Israelites numbered “about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children,” plus many non-Israelites and livestock. Numbers 1:46 gives a more precise total of 603,550. The 600,000, plus wives, children, the elderly, and the “mixed multitude” of non-Israelites would have numbered some 2 million people.
Some attempt to explain away the miraculous aspect of the crossing of the Red Sea. One popular view is that the Israelites crossed in a generally shallow and marshy district which had been cleared of water and made dry by the natural action of a strong wind. The difficulty with this naturalist reasoning is if this were indeed merely shallow water, it is difficult to see how the Egyptians could have been drowned.
How wide an area was provided for the crossing is not given in the text. But here is something to think about. To get two million Israelites through the Red Sea in one night was quite a feat. “If they were to go through the Red Sea double file, that double file line would be eight hundred miles long, and it would take 35 days and night to get through. So, they had to have a space in the Red Sea that was three miles wide, so they could walk 5,000 abreast. By walking five thousand abreast they could get through in one night.” [Fabulous Facts ‘N’ Figures, Theodore H Epp.]
Principle #10: Dead Ends are New Beginnings with God
Do you feel like you’re at a dead end with your job, marriage, health, finances, or faith?
God doesn’t do dead ends.
“Often God seems to place His children in positions of profound difficulty, leading them into a wedge from which there is no escape, designing a situation that no human judgment would have permitted had it been previously consulted. The very cloud directs them there. You…, may be involved in a situation like this at this very hour. It does seem perplexing and mysterious to the last degree, but it is perfectly right. The issue will more than justify Him who has brought you there. It is a platform for the display of His almighty grace and power. Not only will He deliver you, but in doing so He will give you a lesson that you will never forget …..” [F.B. Meyer. The Life of Moses: The Servant of God. (Lynnwood, Washington: Emerald Books, 1996.0 p. 80]
With God, there’s always hope.
I hope that after today’s message you are not like this little boy.
“Nine year old Joey was asked by his mother what he had learned in Sunday School that day. ‘Well, Mom, our teacher told us how God sent Moses behind the enemy lines on a rescue mission to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. When he got to the Red Sea, he had his engineers build a pontoon bridge, and all the people walked across safely. He used his walkie-talkie to radio headquarters and call in an air strike. They sent in bombers to blow up the bridge and all the Israelites were saved.’ ‘Now, Joey, is that REALLY what your teacher taught you?’ his mother asked. ‘Well, no, Mom, but if I told it the way the teacher did, you’d never believe it!’”
We serve a God who can do amazing things.
You can choose to put your faith in Him or not.
It’s your choice, but I choose to put my faith in Him because we’re at the edge of a Sea—and I don’t know about you—but I’m crossing over!