The Great Escape
Exodus 13:17-14:31 The Great Escape Summer Hill Church 7 July 2019 1. Coming back to the Escape a. We return to the story of the creation of the nation of Israel, and particularly the escape from Egypt. i. Julianne and Roz have done a wonderful job of setting the scene, and reminding us of what has happened. And Julianne will be reading the Bible from her seat. b. Our story today is very familiar to many, and we will make some comments as we go, and draw some conclusions at the end. c. 3 p’s i. places ii. promises iii. presence 2. Led by God 13:17-22 a. When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. 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 ready for battle. Moses took the bones of Joseph with him because Joseph had made the Israelites swear an oath. He had said, “God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up with you from this place.” After leaving Sukkoth they camped at Etham on the edge of the desert. By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people. b. Place i. How many of us have seen the movie “Prince of Egypt”? ii. Does it make Exodus seem more real? or less real to you? Does it make it a fiction, like the Lion King (1) or a docudrama like “Darkest Hour”? iii. For me, “Darkest Hour” was amazing, and the events around those two weeks of Churchill’s life jumped to dazzling life, but PoE makes it feel less real for me. (1) but Exodus jumps us into the real world. (2) we have places and directions, which ones can you see? (a) Philistine country - a bit of a misnomer - Like Abel Tasman visited Australia (i) Sea of reeds - almost certainly not the Red Sea in Heb. (b) Sukkoth, Etham, way of the Philistines. (i) places that we most likely know where they are, though not everyone agrees of course. (3) and so they left Ramesses in Ex 12:37, and travelled to Sukkoth (4) and camped at Etham, where we really don’t know where it was (i) but ended up camping at Baal Zephon (b) They were at the sea of reeds - which they are about to cross (i) and then head south. Into Sinai. c. Promise i. Gen 50:24–25 (1) it’s word for word what Joseph made the elders of Israel promise in Genesis 50:25 (a) And Joseph made the Israelites swear an oath and said, “God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up from this place.” Genesis 50:25 (2) promises are v important, but here we see that Joseph, the most important official, didn’t see Egypt as his home (a) he wanted to be buried in Palestine. That was what he knew God had promised, that was where he knew his future would be! (3) God’s promise was sure, the land that was given to Abraham, would be theirs again. d. Presence i. And God’s presence was inescapable. (1) there was the pillar of fire by night, and the pillar of cloud through the day (a) which did 2 things for them didn’t it. (i) 1st, it guided them as they walked, and took them on the path that they would go (b) God leads them every step of the way (2) but of course the other thing it does is that it reminds them of God’s presence. This unnatural cloud and fire (a) always there, wherever they go, it is with them. Irrespective of winds and geography. God is with them YHWH is with them ii. the story presses on as we know 3. Pursued by Pharaoh 14:1-9 a. Then the LORD said to Moses, “Tell the Israelites to turn back and encamp near Pi Hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea. They are to encamp by the sea, directly opposite Baal Zephon. Pharaoh will think, ‘The Israelites are wandering around the land in confusion, hemmed in by the desert.’ And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them. But I will gain glory for myself through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD.” So the Israelites did this. When the king of Egypt was told that the people had fled, Pharaoh and his officials changed their minds about them and said, “What have we done? We have let the Israelites go and have lost their services!” So he had his chariot made ready and took his army with him. He took six hundred of the best chariots, along with all the other chariots of Egypt, with officers over all of them. The LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, so that he pursued the Israelites, who were marching out boldly. The Egyptians—all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots, horsemen and troops—pursued the Israelites and overtook them as they camped by the sea near Pi Hahiroth, opposite Baal Zephon. b. the lure i. God’s purpose here is something more than just saving Egypt. (1) can you see what it is? - I will gain glory for myself through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD. ii. God is going to bring glory to himself, and will show the Egyptians just who he is. (1) now there has been a history of this. iii. Ex 3 - God reveals himself to Moses as YHWH (1) then in ch 5 when Moses first goes to Pharaoh - let my people go... (a) Pharaoh said, “Who is the LORD, that I should obey him and let Israel go? I do not know the LORD and I will not let Israel go.” Exodus 5:2 (2) so pharaoh, not unsurprisingly doesn’t know who YHWH is. And refuses to think that this slave-God could be greater than the Egyptian gods (3) and then by chapter 10, realises that the plagues are from God and that his sin of not letting Israel go, is causing them (a) Pharaoh quickly summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “I have sinned against the LORD your God and against you. Now forgive my sin once more and pray to the LORD your God to take this deadly plague away from me.” Exodus 10:16–17 (4) but he keeps hardening his heart until the final plague, on the firstborn, and he says GO! iv. and having let them go, pharaoh’s mind changes again. He didn’t really think the God of Israel was that powerful, but he did know he would lose some extremely valuable slaves. (1) so God turned Israel back towards Egypt to lure pharaoh out in pursuit. c. the pursuit i. And pursue they did. (1) did you see the numbers? 600 chariots - and all the other chariots (a) and all the offices and all the horsemen and troops of Israel (i) they all came in pursuit (2) and it surprises no-one that they caught up. (a) the trained Egyptian soldiers on their horses and the chariots caught a large group of families and livestock. ii. and you need to imagine - it’s like the US army with all their tanks, and APC’s catching up with a family hiking group. The show of force is OVERWHELMING. (1) and so the reaction is pretty understandable 4. Protected by God 14:10-20 a. As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the LORD. 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? 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!” 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. The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Then the LORD said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on. 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. 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. The Egyptians will know that I am the LORD when I gain glory through Pharaoh, his chariots and his horsemen.” 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, 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. b. the change of heart i. we see here that Pharaoh isn’t the only one who can change his mind (1) from the excitement of the passover, the plundering of the Egyptians and the beginning of the journey (a) faced with the might of Egypt - they have second thoughts. Pretty reasonable don’t you think? (2) Did you bring us out to die in the desert! We just want to go back... c. be still i. and Moses’ answer is astonishing. Israel might have had some chance if they fought - possibly 60000 men, but Moses’ reply was almost ridiculous (1) The Lord will fight for you, just be still. (a) just trust him! Don’t run back to where you were before (2) and do you sense the almost exasperation in God’s voice in v15 - why are you crying out to me!? I’ve told you this is all in hand. Just trust me and do what I tell you. d. the angelic barrier i. and he protects them - the angel and the pillar move between the army and the people (1) some people try and give a natural explanation for what happens. The pillar of cloud and fire is volcanic - perhaps the eruption of Santorini in the Med, but that wouldn’t explain this movement of the cloud and fire to between the sides. ii. God acts to protect his people. He keeps them apart from the threat, if they will just keep still and look forward. and move when he tells them to 5. Israel Saved by God 14:21-31 a. and then comes the great saving moment, i. 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, and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left. The Egyptians pursued them, and all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots and horsemen followed them into the sea. 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. He jammed the wheels of their chariots 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.” 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.” 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. 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 But the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left. That day the LORD saved Israel from the hands of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the shore. And when the Israelites saw the mighty hand of the LORD displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the LORD and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant. b. What happens here is both familiar and horrific i. the story has been shown in film, and cartoon like the 10C and the PoE (1) and we see the magnificence of God’s hand in sending a strong wind to part the waters ii. God is using the natural forces to bring about his purposes. (1) 6” deep… iii. but nonetheless, his display of power and love for his people and his defence of them in his purposes is so clearly on display (1) Moses holds out his staff and the waters part, and all Israel goes through. iv. and the pursuit was made more difficult, driving chariots in boggy ground reasonable for walking but not for wheeled vehicles. (1) then, the judgement of God in the destruction of Pharaoh and his armies. v. God is showing his power and glory. Overcoming all the armies of Egypt, the greatest superpower of the time, the God of the slaves. Greater than all the gods of Egypt. (1) and next week, we will hear how Moses and Miriam respond to that. (a) but today we see (i) when the Israelites saw the mighty hand of the LORD displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the LORD and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant. 6. Facing the impossible with God a. Israel were in a pretty difficult position if you look at it with the eyes of the world. Under the sun i. they had numbers, but nothing else that you could see. They seemed disorganised, they were slaves by nature. There was NOTHING that made you think they could resist the armies of Egypt (1) but what they had was God, YHWH was their God, on their side, fighting for them (a) and in that moment of clarity and crisis, Moses says - all you have to do is be still. Don’t give up heart. Don’t lose trust in God. ii. and that’s what God says to us now. Trust me. (1) in the face of the crises of life - trust me - I love you and will deliver you (a) as we face the changing of society, the loss of “traditional values”, God says trust me - I love you and will deliver you. (2) as we mourn the losses we continually face. Even those of security, relationships, health, those we love, he says trust me. I will deliver you. Don’t sin, don’t turn your back on me. iii. True hope is not back in Egypt, back in the ways of the world, but in following me. (1) and the thing is the most impossible thing we face is sin. The slavery that God delivers us from is not an Egyptian slavery, but a slavery to our selves. iv. but the great news is that God is greater than our sin, just as God was greater than the Egyptians. He can, and does, defeat sin for us. If we will just be still. Just put our trust in him. And follow his lead. (1) as he lead Israel through the sea, so he leads us through life to the other side, where sin is finally conquered and overcome in us. (a) where we will live as God fully intended us to. The way we are meant to.