June 8, 2015

June 7, 2015 - Exodus 14:13-14

Theme: God, please give me _____________.
What is your request?

Let us focus our meditation with words from Psalm 89: “O LORD God of hosts, who it mighty like You? The heavens are Yours, the earth also is Yours. The north and the south You have created them. Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne; Mercy and truth go before Your face. Blessed are the people who know the joyful sound! They walk, O LORD, in the light of Your countenance.”

If you could have anything, what would you ask for? If you could play “genie” with God, what would you request? God opens up His entire power to you and says, “What would you like? Ask anything at all, and it’s yours.” What a dilemma, huh? There are so many things that would be nice to have, things that would make life easier. Probably the first thing that comes to mind is money. Think of how many problems would go away with an endless supply of money. But, think of how many new problems would come your way.

How about fame? Wouldn’t it be great to command and captivate people’s attention? Wouldn’t it be awesome to have influence and to be someone that people admire? Not even money can buy that. But, after a while the attention might get annoying. Sometimes being ordinary is a good thing. What about being attractive or wise, two attributes that are highly sought after in the world? Certainly, those gifts would be worth it right? For a time, maybe, but even beauty and knowledge pass away.

What a blessing it would be to receive anything from the Lord, even if it’s hard to choose just one thing. Go back to our theme, “God, please give me ____________. “ What is the first thing that popped into your head? Although there are endless options, your answer ultimately fits into one of three categories. 1) Something for  yourself 2) Something of the world or 3) Something about your salvation.

None of these categories is wrong in and of itself. But, they’re not all equal either. What first comes to your mind when you think about the inexhaustible riches of God reveals where your heart and head are at. It’s not wrong to desire things for yourself or things of the world, but they don’t compare to matters of your salvation. So, what is your focus? Which category did you fall into? It’s something worth thinking about. Now as you think about your own life, compare it to the children of Israel at the time of this account from the Word of our God:

Exodus 14:13-14: And Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. 14 The LORD will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.”

The words of our text come as the children of Israel are on the banks of the Red Sea. On one side is a vast body of water, no bridge, no boats. On the other side is Pharaoh’s army with all the chariots of Egypt. Pharaoh is obviously set on disaster. He wants the children of Israel back as his slaves and he’s beyond upset after 10 plagues from God, including the death of his first-born son.

If you’re among the 2 million men, women, and children in the camp of Israel, what are you thinking at this point? You have no weapons, you’re not an army, you’re encumbered with children and the elderly. You are stuck. If you’re Moses, what are thinking? You’ve patiently borne the word of the Lord before Pharaoh. Finally, you are allowed to take the people and leave and now you’re cornered. Certainly, in this situation, we would feel like everything was about to end. How could any of us say that we’d respond differently than the Israelites did? They 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? 12 Is 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 (Exodus 14:11-12)."

Take yourself to that moment. Put yourself in that situation. What would you ask of God? What would your one request be? God, please give me ____________. Priorities shift a little bit when it comes to matters of life and death. I can talk all we want about the self-interests of my sinful heart. I can drool over all the treasures of the world. But in that moment, nothing is more important than salvation. And that’s exactly why God brought the children of Israel to that point. He wanted them to remember this significant event. He wanted something to happen that they would never forget, that they would tell their children for generations to come. What He showed them in that moment of desperation, was that even after everything in this life passed away, when they literally had nothing, not even hope, they still had salvation.

What more could they ask of God? He gave them the one thing they needed – Salvation from their enemies. And therefore Moses said, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. 14 The LORD will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.”

Ahh, there we have it. When it comes to the most important treasure in the entire world, salvation itself, we need only stand still. Literally, the text reads to “be silent.” It’s almost so foolish that it seems ridiculous. You’re caught in a perilous situation of life and death so you do what? Stand still? Be silent? What a logical contradiction, at least according to our thinking. Take anything else in life, except salvation, and this process makes no sense. You want a good education, a high-paying job, a nice house? You can’t stand still and do nothing. You need to get out in life and earn it. You want a nice family, a comfortable lifestyle, a high-standard of living? You can’t sit back and do nothing, you have to earn it. We’re programmed to think this way about everything in life, because life works like that; except, when it comes to salvation.

Maybe that’s why we would choose so many self-interest things and treasures of the world if God gave us a free gift, because we’re so used to having to earn them. But when you’re caught between an impassible body of water and a fierce army, what do you really want? One thing and one thing only, salvation from the LORD, because as Moses said, “The LORD will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.”

What a display the LORD put on too. We’re told how he sheltered His people by blocking Pharaoh’s army as a pillar of cloud at day and a pillar of fire at night. Waking or sleeping, the LORD had their back. He was the buffer they needed for protection so that nothing could harm them. They only needed to be still. But they couldn’t stay there forever could they? When it was time to go, the LORD said 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 (Exodus 14:15-16).”

That’s the part of the story we remember isn’t it? The miraculous crossing of the Red Sea. We don’t often remember how the Israelites complained, or how the LORD provided a shield while the approximately 2 million member mob made their way slowly across. We like to forget what Israel asked for in that moment. They were the people of Jehovah, the true God! They had all His power at their request. There was nothing He couldn’t accomplish for them. And what did they ask for? To be sent back to Egypt as slaves. They would rather doubt God and forsake the Messianic heritage of their forefathers in order to preserve what little semblance of life they had left. They were self-preservationists to the greatest extent, thinking only of how to keep on living and breathing for the day. What narrow-minded cowards they were. They had anything at their request, and they chose something so worthless.

We probably like to forget that part of the story because we do the same thing, day by day. Ever stop to think about why God allows hard times to come upon you? Could it be for the same purpose as Moses and the Israelites, to show His power and to lead to you to trust Him? We certainly don’t like to apply the same lesson to our lives. Calling yourself out on your cowardliness, rebellion, narrow-mindedness and sin doesn’t come naturally. But Jesus beckons you and me with the same free gift, “Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you find, knock and the door will be opened to you (Matthew 7:7).” “Truly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name, He will give you (John 16:23).” We have at our fingertips, “grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16).” There is nothing too great for our God, to Him belongs all glory and power in heaven and earth.

If that’s true why do we short-change Him so much? Why is our focus so worldly and self-centered? Why is it such a struggle to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33)?” Well, what are you focused on, the body of water in front of you? The enemy behind you? Or are you captivated by the Lord’s power? Are you thinking about preserving your own skin, or do you think of your neighbor first ? Do you have your sights on the things of this world, or are you mindful of the Lord’s spiritual perspective? When you think of all that your Savior offers you, what is that comes to mind first? What is your priority and your focus?

Hear the words of King David, who like you, had many enemies, but none greater than his own sin:

The LORD is my light and my salvation-- whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life-- of whom shall I be afraid? 2 When the wicked advance against me to devour me, it is my enemies and my foes who will stumble and fall. 3 Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then I will be confident. 4 One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple. 5 For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent and set me high upon a rock (Psalm 27:1-5).

The sons of Korah also wrote,
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. 2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, 3 though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. Come and see what the LORD has done, the desolations he has brought on the earth. 9 He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire. 10 He says, "Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth." 11 The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress (Psalm 46:1-3, 8-11).

Instead of thinking about what God could give you, think about what you would like Him to take away. You can do that with our text by replacing the word “Egyptians” with whatever it is you want gone. What would you like to have erased from the earth forever? Poverty? Depression? Hunger? Pollution? Mosquitoes? ISIS? Whatever it is God, can take it away. But these things are all symptoms of much greater problem, just like earthly goals and pleasures are symptoms of much greater gift. The LORD rescued the Israelites from Egypt that day on the banks of the Red Sea, but that wasn’t their salvation.

The real hope is that the LORD doesn’t just take away the symptoms, but the problem itself. The real hope is that the LORD doesn’t just give blessings, but the one thing needed. That’s why there’s no greater gift from God than salvation, because salvation takes away sin. God’s purpose and plan was not that the Israelites could live to see another day, or month, or year; but that they could live for eternity. And that you and I could live for eternity.

If Israel had been destroyed that day, or subjected to captivity for the rest of time, there would no Messiah. No child born in the town Bethlehem to a young virgin woman and her betrothed husband. There would have been no temple and no adolescent within it to be about His Father’s business. There would have been no Prophet that ignited the hearts of the people as He spoke with authority and power. There would have been no blessings for little children nor would they have heard the soft voice saying, “Let them come to Me…” There would have been no revelation to the Samaritan woman of the long-awaited Chosen One of God who “told her everything she ever did.” There would have been no fishermen turned apostles, no inquisitive Zacchaeus, no perplexed Nicodemus. And if the LORD had not saved Israel that day, there would have been no sweat like blood, no crown of thorns, no lonely walk to Golgotha, no cross, no pierced side, and no broken tomb. And you and I would still be dead in our trespasses and sins.    

But on that day, in that moment, despite what they asked for; Israel saw the salvation of their God, the true God, Jehovah. We, too, in our lives, despite what we ask for; have that salvation at our fingertips every day. The greatest, most powerful gift, better than any self-interest or worldly pleasure. We have the salvation of Jesus that is greater than anything. And to have it, you need only be still. You need only be silent, and listen to your God. Hear His Word, and see His salvation. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.     

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