By Simon ManchesterSunday 17 Jun 2018Christian Growth with Simon ManchesterFaithReading Time: 19 minutes
We are following the Exodus journey as most of you know on the Sunday mornings, so we come back to it again this morning. The remarkable thing about this journey, the Exodus journey as you read it you learn about God. Get to the end or even the middle of the Exodus journey and you find yourself not so much saying ‘well that was a difficult journey’ although it was, ‘or the Israelites were pretty hopeless’ although they were, you find yourself saying as you study the Exodus journey, ‘now I know more about what God is like, now I know more about his greatness and his goodness’.
We come this morning to the crossing of the Red Sea and it is so famous and well known that I feel as though I hardly need to give an introduction or even set the scene but just to remind you that the Israelites have been let out of Egypt and their first major crisis is to find themselves with the Red Sea in front of them and the pursuing Egyptian army behind them.
It describes the event; it describes the miracle (the crossing of the Red Sea). Incidentally, this miracle is too big for some scholars. They can’t believe that God could do this – it’s too big a miracle for them because their God is too small. I hope you who believe in the God of the heavens and the earth believe that God did find it a straightforward thing to part the Red Sea.\
Exodus 15 is a Song of Praise and a Song of Celebration. I want to borrow three words from the Song, and they are in verse 2 which I think will help us to get a handle on this message. The words in verse 2 are that God is our Strength, our Song and our Salvation. I think if you read Exodus 14 & 15 and you just say to yourself ‘well that took place a long time ago, wasn’t it interesting?’ or you say ‘that was a big event for the Jews, pretty irrelevant to me’ or you say ‘that was something I saw in a Charlton Heston B-Grade movie once’, you really have missed the point.
You’ve grasped the crossing of the Red Sea if you get to the point of saying ‘that God who did that, he is my strength, he is my song, and he is my salvation. So let’s think about it under those three headings, and you can see it’s not my fault that we have 3 points all beginning with “S”. The Bible did it for us!
The Lord is my Strength
How do we see God’s strength? We see it in two ways at the crossing of the Red Sea. Overthrowing and saving – overthrowing the Egyptians and saving the Israelites. The Egyptians, of course, deserve to be overturned – don’t get sentimental at this point. The Egyptians have completely ignored everything that God has been teaching them over a very long time. He has steadfastly taught them through 10 plagues not to trust their gods but to trust him. And here are the Egyptians having wholly ignored what he said and they are now attacking God’s people, so it’s no wonder that God is eventually going to bring them to the logical conclusion of their foolishness.
Now the Israelites don’t deserve to be saved or rescued, but God has formed a covenant with them, and because he has formed a contract with them they are not going to perish. He’s going to look after them. And the two strengths are also seen in the Song. You see in verse 3 of chapter 15 “The Lord is a warrior” – he’s a warrior, he’s a fighter, he’s a commander. We might even say he’s an aggressor. When he needs to be an aggressor, he’s an aggressor. And in verse 13 he leads his people in his unfailing love – we might say he’s a shepherd. The two sides of his strength in the Song are seen in that he is a warrior (verse 3) and he is a shepherd (verse 13). He fights and he shepherds.
If it is a shock to you that God is a fighter, then look at verse 14 of chapter 14. There are the people at the edge of the Red Sea terrified and this wonderful and famous comment of Moses, “Don’t 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”.
And the Israelites needed him to fight for them because the Egyptian Army was way too big for them. And you read, if you read chapter 14, a number of descriptions about the many chariots, the many chariots, the many chariots that Pharaoh had brought to pursue the Israelites. So they needed God’s fighting.
And then if you look at chapter 14 verse 25, right in the middle of the Red Sea as the Egyptians are struggling and suffering, they recognise God is fighting, and they say in chapter 14 verse 25 – “The Lord is fighting” – the Lord who we have heard about – the Lord who we have seen at work in Egypt – the Lord is now we see fighting for them against us. And the reason that he fights (chapter 15 verse 3) is he is a fighter.
Now it doesn’t mean God is a boxer, it doesn’t mean God is a bully, and it doesn’t mean God is a pugilist who goes around full time professionally picking on people. What it means is that God fights like a lover. Just like a parent will fight if necessary to protect – God fights to protect.
I think this bird is still in the grounds of the church at the moment, but certainly, during the week there was one of those long-legged plover birds pacing the car park fighting off the cars and the people who came anywhere near this tiny little chick. I think it’s somewhere in the grounds – you may see it afterwards, but there it was a long-legged skinny bird fighting anybody and everybody and shepherding this tiny little bird because it had taken on the role of being an aggressor and a shepherd.
Now it’s essential to realise that this is true of God. If you’ve got sentimental views of God and you forget that he’s a fighter, you will probably get just a little bit too woolly and cozy. The major fighter in the Old Testament is not the people of Israel or the nations. The major fighter in the Bible is God. When they were entering the Promised Land, the major fighter was God, and it was his fight to get his people into the Promised Land where there were people (nations) who were rejecting him although they had information about him, and were pursuing and stuck with their idols. God fought to bring his people into the land of Canaan to establish a nation who would be a light to all the nations for their benefit and his glory.
When you rush forward in the Scriptures, and you get to the cross of Calvary you find there – what is Jesus doing at the cross of Calvary? Well, he’s dying, but he’s fighting. We read in our Colossians 2 passage that there at the cross Jesus is disarming evil. He’s disarming the principalities and the powers. He’s taking all their weapons out of their hands. He’s overturning the enemy on the cross.
And then, of course, you get to the end of the Bible in Revelation especially, and you discover that the final overthrow – what will God be doing? Christ will come, says the Bible, and he will make war (Revelation 19:11). “He will come, and he will fight. He will overthrow enemies, and he will establish his people”.
Now very important, it’s a physical fight in the Old Testament. Settling a land where God will be honoured. But it’s a spiritual fight, and it’s not a physical fight, it’s a spiritual fight in the New Testament bringing the gospel to people. To fight the good fight as a Christian is to fight with the weapons of prayer and truth and love.
But don’t miss the point – the big theme which runs through this which is as soon as you come into a covenant relationship with God, he is going to fight for your salvation. So once you say “yes” to Jesus, you cannot expect him at that point to settle down and be sentimental about your dangers. And sometimes, of course, that will be uncomfortable for us because he is getting us out of our sins and he fights for our protection and our security against our sins.
But there are other times of course where he fights for us against our enemies, and we find ourselves in the most beautiful and remarkable place of providence or protection.
Now there are times of course whether you’ll wonder whether there is anyone looking after you and you’ll feel as though you are unprotected and unprovided for, be absolutely certain that God who sees everything, every detail and runs the cosmos – once he has committed himself to you and you to him, he is fighting for you. He’s fighting against your dangers, and he’s fighting for your salvation.
Israel says “He is my strength, he fought for us, he drowned our enemies, he saved us and he’s a fighter for all his people to the end.
Now the other side of the strength is the shepherding. It’s not the word used in chapter 15 verse 13, but it does say “in the unfailing love you will lead”. You need strength to lead, and you need strength to shepherd, and you need strength to get someone out of Egypt and through the Red Sea and into the Promised Land – there needs to be some strength. You can’t do it effectively if you are weak.
This is seen true when we go back to chapter 13 verse 17, and we will read something that was not read to us before. “When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country” (that would be direct north) “though that was shorter”. It’s estimated they could have got to the Promised Land in two weeks if they had gone just straight north. “For God said, if they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt. So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea. The Israelites went up out of Egypt” – literally in formation.
“And Moses took the bones of Joseph” (verse 19) “because Joseph had made the sons of Israel swear an oath and said ‘God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up with you from this place’ “.
What a wonderful thing, 400 years before Joseph had said ‘God will come, he will rescue you, this is so certain that I want to make sure you take my bones with you into the Promised Land’. And as God led them (verse 21), he led them by cloud in the day and fire in the night. God went before them.
So here is God in his absolute wisdom you see recognising that if they were to go straight north (he knows what they are like) and face battle, they would run probably back to Egypt. And so he does something completely different. He takes them South East towards the Red Sea which will be equally difficult for them, but that’s where they will see that he is able and that’s where they will trust him, and it worked because at the end of chapter 14 verse 31 – it says after the crossing of the Red Sea “they trusted the Lord”.
And they could trust him of course to know the best way to go – they couldn’t work that out. They could trust him to keep his promises although they’d been a very long time coming – he’d not forgotten them. And they could trust him to lead very clearly cloud by day and fire by night for 40 years he led them like that – cloud by day and fire by night.
So belonging to God, you see, meant belonging to his strength. He would fight and therefore they would escape and he would shepherd and therefore they would arrive.
Now friends, do you see therefore the importance of belonging to Jesus Christ because there’s nobody in the universe who can fight like Jesus Christ and there’s no-one in the universe who can shepherd like Jesus Christ. If you fall into the trap of turning your back on Jesus Christ as so many of our fellow citizens do, and think that there is no fight and there is no future, and we are just in the present for fun, you just have underestimated the stakes. The stakes are so big.
If you honestly think that in the fight the cosmic spiritual fight and the matter of life and death that you can do without Jesus Christ, you are utterly deluded. He’s the only one who can fight and remove your enemies. He’s the only one who can shepherd and bring you safely home. And of course, as he does shepherd and fight for you, he will occasionally take you in ways that you wouldn’t have necessarily chosen and maybe in the short term don’t even understand.
John Newton once wrote to his friend William Wilberforce when William Wilberforce was very sick. He wrote him a letter where he argued to William Wilberforce that his sickness was a blessing. Not being stupid but he was saying it could be a blessing. This is the way he put it:
“It’s in mercy that the Lord by sickness or other trials is sometimes pleased to call us into a corner and to speak to us alone. Sickness often keeps us (listen to this) out of arms’ way or preserves us from some danger we should otherwise have met with in our path or from some snare which the enemy was spreading for our feet. We shall never know while in this dark world what greater evils have been prevented by a seasonable indisposition which keeps us safely housed till the danger was past”.
Can you believe it? Can you believe there could come a day, there will come a day, where God may explain to us exactly why we went certain and strange paths because he was protecting us from certain things that we couldn’t see or cope with and did it all for our good. The strength of God, you see, to fight our enemies and to shepherd for our welfare.
Then let’s think secondly – The Lord our Song – chapter 14 leads to chapter 14 – it’s not irrelevant that you have the rescue in chapter 14 and then the Song in chapter 15. You are not meant to read chapter 14 and say ‘that was interesting and chapter 15 was boring’. The Son interprets the miracle. When you get to chapter 14 you suddenly find that the Song is explaining who did this and why. It says in chapter 15 verse 11 “who among the gods is like you, O Lord? Who is like you – majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, and working wonders?”
And the Song of chapter 15 is full of who God is, what he has done and what he is about to do – it explains the miracle. It’s all because of God. And don’t miss the fact – those of you who like thinking about theological things – that the language of the Song has got lots of creation-sounding words in it. There’s lots of creation in the Song. You would expect it to just be talking about God the Saviour, but actually it says things like chapter 15 verse 10 “God-breathed”. Verse 11 “He worked wonders” and verse 17 “He made a new dwelling place”.
And the reason it talks in this sort of creation language is because God was creating something as he rescued them from the Red Sea – he was creating a nation. He was creating a nation called Israel.
And as soon as the Red Sea had been crossed it was as if God had literally put a line in the sand and said those who crossed are my nation and those who didn’t, are not.
These are the people who have been saved and they will be my nation. They will live in the land of Canaan eventually and they will be a witness to the other nations, they will be a light to the other nations.
Now of course when Jesus came, they left the land. He told them to leave the land. “Go into all the world” he said. “You are no longer a nation with a little border around you-you are now going to be a scattered international nation – God’s people in all the nations.” That’s why when the Press occasionally quote some part of the Old Testament and some of the Civil Laws of the Old Testament and say “why are the Christians not keeping these laws?” it’s because they have completely misunderstood those laws had to do with Israel, the nation. And they are still instructive and they still help us and they still teach us things but they are just not compulsory.
But the nation of Israel was formed at the Red Sea in a sense and gathered at Mt Sinai as we’ll see in a week or two. But when Jesus came, they left the land and they became a scattered international nation.
Well when they get through the Red Sea they spontaneously sing. They can’t help themselves. It’s not as though all their problems have been solved. They don’t suddenly have homes or shops or food or drink but they spontaneously sing because they have been rescued and they don’t have to be told to sing.
It’s the same with Christians who get a good grasp on their salvation. Maybe it comes to you the first time and your voice goes up in some kind of joyful gratitude – can’t believe it – it this really possible that Christ would come and die for me – that I could be forgiven – that I could be in God’s family – your voice goes up in gratitude and sometimes it comes freshly to you. You think of what you have escaped from and what you’re appreciating and what you are moving towards and it just washes over you again and your song really does rise up with great meaning.
And then of course on the last day we find ourselves as believers safely sailing through the judgment and moving joyfully into glory, we will sing very greatly – I promise it – we will sing and we will keep singing and it will go forever and it will never get dull and it will never get stale because the goal, you see, of rescue is praise and the goal of salvation is worship and the goal of chapter 14 is chapter 15 – the Lord is the Song.
We’ve just had in the Southern Cross this issue – the Southern Cross is the Magazine for the Anglican Churches across Sydney and they have done a poll on the favourite hymns and the favourite songs. You can have a look at it.
I think the favourite hymn across the Anglican Churches is “When I Survey”. I think the second was “Amazing Grace” and the third was “And Can It Be”.
The favourite song across the Churches is the Stuart Townend is “In Christ Alone” and the second one was “Never Alone” – wonderful song by Philip Percival.
But you know that’s possible for you and for me to sing songs and forget God. You know we’ve got the song but we just forgot him. But here in Exodus 15 it’s the opposite – they say ‘you are the Song – you’ve become our Song – we can’t stop singing you – praising you – being grateful for you’.
So friends I don’t have the secret for good singing or I think we do reasonably well although I sometimes wonder what would happen if you got a camera and just zoomed it around the building and sort of stopped in front of certain people and had it up on the big screen for us to look at. I think that would be excruciating sometimes. So just remember there’s a secret camera that’s going to come on your face when you are singing for everybody else to look at!
I don’t know the secret of good singing but I do think it’s got something to do with a fresh grasp of who God is and a fresh grasp of what he has done for us and a fresh grasp of what he is doing and what he will do and when it washes over us again, we send up our praise – he is our Song.
Third and last point this morning – The Lord is our Salvation. The Lord is our Strength, The Lord is our Song and The Lord is our Salvation. They don’t say Moses is our salvation or the miracle was our salvation – they say ‘you are our salvation – you are the saviour’.
And I want to finish this morning or nearly finish by reminding you that as we come to the New Testament, we discover that the Red Sea rescue was just a dress rehearsal for Calvary. I know that if you use your eyes and you look in your mind at the Red Sea and then you look at Calvary, you’ll think Red Sea was huge and Calvary was little but in actual fact Red Sea was little and Calvary was huge. It’s very important to get this.
I know it looks as though the Red Sea, especially if you have seen the movie, was big scale, hundreds of chariots, thousands of people, billions of litres of water but Calvary is massive, absolutely massive. What’s taking place (don’t be fooled by a man in your mind being crucified), what’s taking place at Calvary is sin is being dealt with, death is being dealt with and reversed, the devil is being defeated, principalities and powers are being disarmed, millions and millions and millions of people are being given the opportunity to be led into salvation forever. It is an absolutely massive victory that takes place at Calvary. It makes Red Sea look like a little toy model.
And when you get to Luke chapter 9 (I don’t know if you know this) but when Jesus is on the Mount of Transfiguration, that’s the time where he went very brilliant bright, which I think was a preview for the disciples of what he would look like in glory to encourage a few of them.
When he was on the Mount of Transfiguration and being made brilliantly bright for a very short time, we read in Luke 9 that he and Moses and Elijah were speaking together and the text says literally in chapter 9 verse 31: “and they spoke with him about his exodus”. That’s the word in the Greek – they spoke with him about his exodus. They didn’t talk with him about the Red Sea Exodus; they spoke with him about his coming exodus.
And his coming exodus would of course be the occasion where he would open up, not just a small sea, but open up the river of death and where he would bring people out of sin and out of death and out of judgment and into a new life and a new future which would just be unbelievable. That’s what captivated their mind.
Now the Red Sea has come and gone. If you are still a person today however and you want to know what it means to escape your sin and to arrive in Life (capital ‘L’) you need Jesus Christ. He must be your salvation; he must be your Saviour. You have to come to the point of saying to him ‘be my Saviour’ be my salvation’.
Paul warns us in 1 Corinthians 10 that many people went across the Red Sea and joined Moses but they did not trust God. And there are many people of course who join churches and they know Ministers and they drink coffee and they sing hymns and they hear talks and they never get around to trusting the Saviour. And that’s why Christianity, according to this Exodus text, is a my, my, my religion – my Strength, my Song and my Salvation.
I was reading a book of Tozer’s through the week and it’s a new book called “Living as a Christian” and he puts this so wonderfully. I will just read you the quote – he says:
“Everyone imagines themself vastly important in the cosmic scheme but a wink of God’s eye and everyone living, the important, the anonymous and the unheard of will go the way of all the earth. Not one of the now so important things will matter. All who live on the earth now will shortly stand in awful silence and see the record of their lives. God will not see our diplomas, our bank accounts or the colour of our skin but beings made in the image of God, having sinned, having redemption made available and whether we are saved or not”.
My Strength, my Song and my Salvation – it’s absolutely crucial that that’s the way you talk to God. And I don’t know what is in front of you this week – I don’t know what you are facing – I don’t know what surprises will come – but what a very, very wonderful thing to be able to say “I go into this week – God is my Strength, absolutely sufficient to fight the enemies and shepherd me on, God is my Song – he deserves the praise and he is my Salvation.
Well let’s thank him – let’s bow our heads –
Our Father, we thank you for revealing yourself in these pages and in these events. We thank you for showing yourself to be very gracious and very great – perfectly capable of fighting enemies and shepherding people. We thank you for the extraordinary gift of salvation which you have given us in the Lord Jesus by which we are able to escape so much danger and by which we are able to receive so much blessing.
We pray our Father, again that you would help us this week as we live to trust you as our Strength, to praise you as our Song and to rejoice in the Salvation which you bring to us in the Lord Jesus.
We again pray for needy ones, loved ones, struggling people that they might find in you strength, song and salvation as well.
We ask it in Jesus’ Name – Amen