Travelling Toward The Promised Land

Bible Book: Exodus  14 : 1-31
Subject: Prayer and Works; Salvation; Deliverance; Commitment; Consistency

The people of Israel had been miraculously set free from the bondage of Egypt, and now they were just getting started toward Canaan, the Promised Land. At this very early stage of their trek toward Canaan, a tremendously important event occurs--and in that event there are some powerful lessons for you and me. First, let's consider...

I. Israel's Plight

No sooner had their journey toward Canaan gotten underway, than all of a sudden it looked as their freedom and victory were to be short-lived. Let's read about it, beginning with verse 5-7, "And it was told the king of Egypt that the people fled: and the heart of Pharaoh and of his servants was turned against the people, and they said, Why have we done this, that we have let Israel go from serving us? And he made ready his chariot, and took his people with him: And he took six hundred chosen chariots, and all the chariots of Egypt, and captains over everyone of them."

Verse 8 begins with the statement, "And the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt...." That statement often troubles people--but think of it like this: If clay and wax are exposed to the bright sun, they respond differently because of their makeup. The wax melts, but the clay hardens. Some people are like the wax; they have an open, willing spirit, and when exposed to the bright light of God's revelation they melt--that is, they are pliable and say, "Lord, please shape me according to your will." However, some other folks are like the clay; because of a rebellious, unholy attitude, when they are exposed to the bright light of God's revelation they become even harder. So, God graciously caused his truth to shine forth, but Pharoah's response was to reject that revelation and thus his heart was hardened.

Now let's look at verse 8 in its entirety, and continue reading through verse 12, "And the Lord hardened the heart of Pharoah king of Egypt, and he pursued after the children of Israel: and the children of Israel went out with an high hand. But the Egyptians pursued after them, all the horses and chariots of Pharaoh, and his horsemen, and his army, and overtook them encamping by the sea, beside Pihahiroth, before Baalzephon. And when Pharaoh drew night, the children of Israel lifted up their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians marched after them; and they were sore afraid: and the children of Israel cried out unto the Lord. And they said unto Moses, Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness? wherefore hast thou dealt thus with us, to carry us forth out of Egypt? Is not this the word that we did tell thee in Egypt, saying, let us alone, that we may serve the Egyptians? For it had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness."

So, the Israelites were brought to the jarring, sobering realization that the journey to Canaan was not going to be easy--it was going to marked by trouble, conflict, and crisis.

If you are a born-again believer - that is, if you have repented of your sins and by faith have surrendered your life to the Lord Jesus Christ--you're going to find out, if you haven't already, that the same thing is true in the Christian life as you make your way toward the heavenly Canaan. Satan knows that now that you're saved, he no longer can affect your eternal destiny--so now he tries to trip you up in your Christian growth. He hurls his fiery darts of temptation and tries to get you to fall back into your old ways of disobedience and sin, so that you'll be miserable and ineffective.

Also, when you face extreme difficulties in life, Satan tries to get you to give in to defeat and despair - just as the children of Israel did at first when they learned that Pharaoh was pursuing them. They felt hemmed in and hopeless. Pharaoh was coming up fast behind them. They were encompassed by rugged mountains on one side and by vast marshlands on the other, and in front of them was a seemingly impassable barrier, the Red Sea. They felt that there was no way out of their dilemma.

You may be at such a point in your life, even as I speak. You may be dealing with some heavy burden that's just about to "do you in." You may be facing some troubling situation that seems hopeless. You may feel that you've come to the end of the line. Well, don't cave in. Don't give up. Don't throw in the towel--because, from this experience of the Israelites at the Red Sea, we are reminded of the availability of...

II. God's Deliverance

Look with me at verses 13-14, "And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will show to you today: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen today, ye shall see them again no more forever. The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace."

Satan is nowhere near a match for God. Whatever he hurls in your direction as a believer, God is able to repel it. Psalm 34:7 says, "The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them."

That promise doesn't mean that God always removes his children from danger, or that he always intervenes in life and death situations--but it does mean that, if we meet his conditions, he always delivers us from defeat. I've often used the illustration of Stephen, about whom we read in the book of Acts. He was young, in the prime of life, with seemingly a bright future, and was a wonderful servant  of God--yet, for some reason that is beyond us, God allowed him to be stoned to death by a vicious mob. But even as he was being cruelly stoned to death, Stephen was victorious--for he went down with all flags flying. In Acts 7:55-59 we read, "But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.

Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, And cast him out of the city and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul. And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep."

Stephen went down with a vision of heaven in his soul, the compassionate, forgiving spirit of Jesus in his heart, and with a legacy that will continue to inspire and bless others til the end of time. So, even though he met a horrible death, God delivered him from defeat.

But at other times, God has chosen to intervene and remove his children from harm, such as in the case of Paul and Silas when they were in prison. In Acts 10:26 we read, "And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone's bands were loosed."

Or, there is the example of the three Hebrew young men who were cast into a fiery furnace. We read in Daniel 3:24-25, "Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astonished, and rose up in haste, and spake, and said unto his counselors, Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire?

They answered and said unto the king, True, O king. He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God."

Still another example is that of Daniel in the lions' den. In Daniel 6:22 we read, "My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions' mouths, that they have not hurt me: forasmuch as before him innocency was found in me: and also before thee, O king, have I done no hurt."

There is great mystery as to why God delivers some from critical illnesses or other crisis situations, and yet does not intervene in other cases. When we get to heaven, either we'll understand it, or else it won't matter. But in the meantime, all we can do, and all we need to do, is simply to surrender to his will and call upon him. If we'll do that, one way or the other our God will deliver us--either by delivering us from defeat in the midst of harm, or by delivering us from harm itself.

But God's deliverance doesn't come automatically; it comes when man meets...

III. God's Condition

From the experience of Moses and the children of Israel, we can see that God's condition for delivering us, when we're facing a crisis, is for us to link our prayers with action.

Indeed, there is a point when we need to stop praying and get to work. Look at Exodus 14:15, "And the Lord said unto Moses, Wherefore criest thou unto me? speak unto the children of Israel that they go forward."

Seek thou thy God alone by prayer,

And thou shalt doubt - perchance despair; But seek him also by endeavor,

And thou shalt find him gracious ever.

The renowned lay evangelist of another generation, D. L. Moody, was on a ship which suddenly caught fire. He, along with some other men, immediately formed a bucket brigade and began dousing the flames with water. As Moody passed bucket after bucket, some pious, sanctimonious soul rushed up to him and said, "Oh, Mr. Moody, come join us in prayer that the ship may be saved!" To which Moody replied, "Friend, for the time being I'll do my praying with a bucket in my hand!"

Prayer and work are like two oars of a boat. If you use only the oar of prayer, you go in circles--and the same thing if you use only the oar of work. But if you use both of those oars, you move forward.

And that's the direction in which God intends that we move. In Ephesians 6 we are told of the armor which God instructs believers to use in resisting Satan and fighting the good fight. Notice that mention is made of "the breastplate of righteousness" and "the shield of faith." Both of those major pieces of armament are made to protect the front of the soldier, clearly implying that the Lord does not intend for his Christian soldiers to face any direction but forward.

That's also the direction in which he intends us to go collectively, as a church - forward. Listen to the words of Jesus in Matthew 16:18: "And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." That language makes it clear that God's church is not to be passive. Rather, we are to take the initiative, we are to be aggressive, in reaching people for Christ. In other words, God intends for his church to go forward.

After urging Moses to link his prayers with action and to move forward, the Lord then went on to specify exactly what action Moses was to take, and Moses obeyed.

If you and I, as believers, will ask his guidance in our times of crisis, God will also help us to understand what actions we need to take. In Proverbs 3:5-6 we read: "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths."

In Moses' unique situation, God instructed him to take some very unusual action. Look with me at Exodus 14:21-22, "And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided. And the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea upon the dry ground: and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left."

The record goes on to tell us of how the Egyptians pursued them--and again, we read of how God instructed Moses to act: Moses was told to stretch out his hand over the sea, and Moses did so. Then we read in Exodus 14:28 and 31, "And the waters returned, and covered the chariots, and the horsemen, and all the host of Pharaoh that came into the sea after them; there remained not so much as one of them....And Israel saw that great work which the Lord did upon the Egyptians: and the people feared the Lord, and believed the Lord, and his servant Moses.

Annie Johnson Flint, in one of her poems, raised a question that I want to ask each member of this congregation this morning,

Have you come to the Red Sea place in your life, Where in spite of all you can do,

There is no way out, there is no way back, There is no other way but through?

Then wait on the Lord with a trust serene Till the night of your fear is gone;

He will send the wind, He will heap the floods, When He says to your soul "Go on."

The tossing billows may rear their crests, Their foam at your feet may break,

But over their bed you shall walk dryshod In the path that your Lord will make.

Following that great experience, Moses and the Israelites -in their relief, their gratitude, and their exuberance - sang a song of victory. Here is an excerpt from it - Exodus 15:2, "The Lord is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation: he is my God, and I will prepare him an habitation; my father's God, and I will exalt him."

God loves you, and he wants to give you victory in your daily life. He wants to be your strength and your song, and your salvation. But in order for that to happen, you have to do the same thing that Moses and the Israelites did: you have to prepare him an habitation--and that habitation must be your heart.

For those of us who are already saved, that means that we need to face up to the sins that crept into our lives and contaminated our hearts--and we need to ask God's forgiveness and make a new start in living for him and serving him.

If you're not already a Christian, he wants to save you--and he will, if you respond in repentance and faith. In Romans 9:9-13 we read, "That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved."

If you've never done so, the wisest thing you could possibly do this morning would be to let this little chorus be your sincere prayer,

Into my heart, into my heart, Come into my heart, Lord Jesus; Come in today, come in to stay, Come into my heart, Lord Jesus.