I want to begin this sermon by giving a shout-out to all those who serve in public security. Those men and women who put their lives on the line to protect our lives and property from harm. Especially those who risk their own safety to come to our rescue when we are in danger. The Bible says that we should give honor to those who deserve it (Romans 13:7). God bless you and keep you in your service to your communities and this nation.
This brings me to the subject of this book. In the early period if the Jewish nation's history they also needed someone to rescue them from danger. The hero of that moment was a man named Moses, and I'd like to describe the rescue plan that he devised when his people, the Israelites, faced their own catastrophe.
I think most of us are familiar with the story of Israel's slavery in Egypt for 400 years, and when God sent Moses to free them. Moses had met with the Pharaoh (king) on several occasions telling him that God wanted him to release the people from their slavery. Even when Moses performed miracles to support his divine calling, the Pharaoh refused to release the people. After a series of disastrous plagues sent by God that did not change the king's mind, Moses informed him that God would send a final judgment on him and his nation. Because of his hard heart an angel would be sent to take the life of every first born of man and beast in the country. The Israelites, however, would be spared this calamity.
Pharaoh Releases the Jews
We know that after the angel of death came over the land killing every first born but sparing the Jews, the king finally let the Israelites go. In Exodus we read how Moses led the Jews out of Egypt into the desert towards the Promised Land. In Exodus 12 we learn that once the Israelites had camped near the Red Sea, the Pharaoh changed his mind about their release and decided to pursue them with his army, eventually pinning the people against the water in what seemed to be an impossible situation. Seeing themselves trapped between drowning in the sea and an angry murderous army, the Jews cried out to Moses in utter despair. Moses' answer to them at this particular moment was the epitome of faith in God and trust in His mighty power.
When seemingly trapped by his enemies, Moses said the following words to the people, words recorded in Exodus 14:13-14:
13 But Moses said to the people, "Do not fear! Stand by and see the salvation of the Lord which He will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you have seen today, you will never see them again forever. 14 The Lord will fight for you while you keep silent."
Of course, we know the familiar ending to their story where Moses parts the sea, and the people walk across to safety on the other side. We read further on that when the Egyptians try to follow, the sea returned to its natural state and all of the army is killed.
We think that this is a great Bible story to tell our children or act out in Bible Class or VBS, but we often fail to see how this episode applies to our daily lives as well.
Our enemies may not be foreign armies pursuing us (although this is not an impossible scenario). Usually our enemies are emotional problems, relationship issues, serious illness or accidents, perhaps even financial woes, addictions, sinful desires and habits etc. These are the types of things that pursue and sometimes trap us into feeling that there is no way out.
When this happens it would do us well to listen to Moses' admonition to his people, because the God he relied on to save him and the people is the same God we rely on today.
When the enemy, whoever or whatever it is, has us pinned down, let's try to follow Moses' rescue plan before we give up.
1. Do Not Be Afraid
Fear is what paralyzes us. The way fear works is that we begin to imagine all the bad things that may happen to us; 10 seconds from now to 10 years from now. We know that sometimes the things we fear most do not happen (not always and not even in the majority of times) but sometimes the things we fear do come true.
In any case, Moses tells us to not be afraid because God will fight for you. His strength, His wisdom, His power is on your side and no matter how it goes, He is in your corner. What we fear most is death, but we know that if it comes to that, God will fight to preserve our souls against Satan's attacks and lead us to eternal life.
Moses' rescue plan also requires you to...
2. Stand Firm
The Israelites were ready to forget all the things God had done for them once they were threatened by the Egyptian army. Moses' admonition to them was not only to get them to remain where they were physically:
- Don't throw yourself into the sea out of despair.
- Don't surrender to the Egyptians out of fear.
- Don't attack the army foolishly.
Moses also wanted them to remain focused emotionally.
When we take our focus off of God and what He has and can do for us, and begin to focus only on the threat, we lose the one defense mechanism that is absolutely necessary in cases like these: our faith. We need to do what we know works with our enemy (whatever that is), but we must also remain connected to God by faith in order to survive. Faith, in threatening circumstances, means that we remain firm in the belief that God will work in, through and for us in order to sustain us during our time of trial; no matter what the outcome. Don't be afraid and stand firm!
3. Be Still
Sometimes we've done all we can do and our backs are still firmly against the wall. In the case of the Israelites, they saw that there was no natural way out, there was nothing that they could accomplish. Moses says to them, be still and observe God at work for you.
Many times we don't allow God to work because we're thrashing about physically and emotionally. We miss the opportunity to witness God's glory because we just won't sit still long enough for it to unfold before us.
The Psalmist writes,
Be still and know that I am God.
- Psalm 46:10
When we are completely defeated and remain still and wait upon the Lord, we are rewarded with a glimpse of His glory working on our behalf. The Lord fights for us but we're often too busy dealing with our fear to notice. However, if we are still, we will see that it is He that provides when all is lost, and witnessing this is a great moment and blessing.
Most of the time we think we can take care of ourselves, and we act as if we don't need God, or perhaps He just provides when we are short and need something. But there comes a time in life when we need rescuing. It could be illness or other grave problems, but when we become like the Israelites we need way more than mere assistance, we need rescue! It's a 9-1-1 situation.
This will happen to everyone, and when it does, remember Moses' Rescue Plan.
1. Don't Let Fear Win
Fear wins when we give in to panic, depression and despair.
2. Don't Run Away
Denial, anger, rejecting God, turning away from faith, from church -- this is just what the enemy wants you to do. Don't do it; stand firm.
3. Do Let Go
Not of your faith and trust. No, let go of your solutions and wait for God's solution to appear; it will! We have a mighty God who loves us and jealously guards our lives and our souls. He who has already given His Son for our salvation will certainly not spare any other resource to save and preserve our souls. Faith is continuing to believe this in good times and bad.
The Israelites saw God's solution to their plight as He spread the waters open to save them from the Egyptian army. Today the Lord offers the solution to all those who face the enemy of sin and condemnation at judgment. All those without Christ are between a rock and a hard place when it comes to the end of their lives and judgment.
You can't get rid of your sins by yourself and you can't stop sinning no matter how hard you try, and all sinners will be judged and condemned. This presents a real emergency for the one who wants to go to heaven and be right with God.
Even though you know you're a sinner and sinners will be condemned, you can't change the past and you can't stop sinning, no matter how hard you try. God solves this dilemma and offers His rescue plan through the waters of baptism.
- In Mark 16:16 Jesus says that, "He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved."
- In Acts 2:38 Peter says, "Repent and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins."
Just as the Israelites were saved from physical death by miraculously going through the waters of the Red Sea, sinners today are saved from eternal spiritual death by going through the waters of baptism where the miracle of forgiveness takes place. This is the way of safety for all those who recognize their precarious position as sinners, confess their faith in Jesus Christ and come through the waters of baptism to a place where sin and condemnation can no longer threaten your life.
If you need to implement Moses' rescue plan to deal with the problems in your life, please go into prayer, standing firm in the faith that God will rescue you.
If, on the other hand, you need Christ's rescue plan to deal with your sins, repent and be baptized in His name so that your sins will be forgiven and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.