Wednesday, November 13, 2013

A Part in Bringing the Enemy Down; Seeing the Dead on the Seashore -- Exodus 14:26-31

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea so that the waters may come back over the Egyptians, over their chariots and their horsemen.”  So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to its normal state at daybreak, while the Egyptians were fleeing right into (or in respect to) it; then the Lord overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea.  And the waters returned and covered the chariots and the horsemen, even Pharaoh’s entire army that had gone into the sea after them; not even one of them remained.  But the sons of Israel walked on dry land through the midst of the sea, and the waters were like a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.  Thus the Lord saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore.  And when Israel saw the great power which the Lord had used against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord, and they believed in the Lord and in His servant Moses.
Earlier that morning, God looked down and made ‘chariot driving’ difficult for the Egyptians (see verse 25 in this same chapter).  In fact, it became so difficult that they started to turn around in desperation, fleeing for their lives, and abandoning their pursuit of the Israelites.  But physical salvation was not to be found that day.

The Children of Israel had crossed the Red Sea, the Egyptians were retreating, Moses had safely ended up on the other side and now God tells him to stretch out his hand over the sea behind him and by so doing have the waters return to their original state, the consequence of which would be the destruction of the Egyptians.

Coincidently, I had just been reading the personal account of George W. Bush with respect to his announcing America’s attack on Afghanistan on Sunday, October 7,2001.  “On my orders,” he said, “the United States military has begun strikes against Al Qaeda terrorist training camps and military installations of the Talban regime in Afghanistan.”  He goes on to write, “I felt the gravity of the decision.  I knew the war would bring death and sorrow.”  And in light of that, I wonder how Moses must have felt.  What has he really thinking at that point?  I know what I would have said.  “God, you accomplished salvation for your people.  We are safe and sound across the Red Sea.  Must we destroy our enemies in such a final and irreversible manner?”  Yet God, the God that saved them, said, “Stretch out your hand.”  And Moses did.

I wonder also if there is a lesson here with respect to our own role in destroying the Enemy.  I do not intend here to solve the age-old dilemma between Christian doves and hawks when it comes to war, although I do have my own personal thoughts on the matter.  But I do want to point out that in this particular case, if there is a lesson to be learned, it is this:  First, make sure that the enemy you are helping to fight is God’s Enemy, not just yours.  Make sure he/she is an enemy that is acting against what God stands for, openly defying His Holiness and authority.  And secondly, make sure that the action you are taking is clearly God’s undeniable orders to you to act in a certain way.  “Moses, stretch out your hand.”  But even though Moses played a key part in what took place, there is no room for any doubt in the fact that it was God who did the saving.

The Bible says that not one Egyptian, not one chariot, not one horse, survived.  God calls every man to forgiveness, righteousness, and ultimately, salvation.  In fact, He gives us many chances.  Pharaoh and his cabinet had at least ten and they rejected each one.  So, when it was time to act in a final manner, God did just that.

There is a sentence in the middle of the passage above (vs. 29) that is a repeat to a great extent of verse 22 earlier.  It speaks of how the sons of Israel walked through the Red Sea on dry land.  When I read these repetitive accounts in Scripture, I often wonder if there is a real purpose.  I ask myself that even though this is a God-inspired text, written in this case by Moses many years later, whether or not he could have benefitted from a skilled editor.  But in each such case, I land on the side of the argument that says God also inspired the repetition and He has a purpose for it.  If this entire account of a true event had some prophetic parallelism (and I believe it does) to what God’s Children will experience individually throughout history and collectively on the day of Christ’s return, then this particular piece of repetition is clearly intended to reinforce that believers will be treated differently (“But the sons of Israel…”) and that we will have safe passage, protected on all sides, and be safely escorted to eternity with God.  What a day that will be for each of us.

The Bible says, “Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore.”  Not a pleasant sight at all even if these corpses had belonged up to that moment in time to the perpetrators from which the children of Israel were fleeing for their lives.  Those of us who truly value life still find it somewhat disturbing when our enemies are eliminated especially through gruesome deaths.  In light of the recent typhoon in the Philippines that killed thousands, one of our national paper’s yesterday reminded us of the hundredth anniversary of a fatal storm in the Great Lakes and published a picture of dead bodies washed ashore near Goderich, Ontario on the eastern coast of Lake Huron in November 1913.  It caught me by surprise.  We are more used to it these days with the reports from natural disasters and wars coming to us live on television.  But I have to think that there was still some element of shock for the Children of Israel in seeing their enemies lying dead on the seashore.  Perhaps there is coming a day when we will see those that have rejected God dead.  I do not look forward to it at all.  But I also cannot ignore it for my God is indeed a holy God, a righteous God, a God Who gives us many chances to accept His free gift of salvation.  But a time comes when we have rejected once too often.
Clearly, the Israelites recognized that God did the saving that day.  There was no human way possible to explain it otherwise.  Whether it was a miracle or not is not the issue.  The fact is that it was accomplished only by the mighty power of God and His interference with nature.  He delivered on His promises that His people would be set free from their bondage in Egypt and from the Egyptians themselves.  Our job as readers thousands of years later is to focus on that great power of His to save, a power that is ever the same even today.  And as we do, the natural human outcome that we display cannot but be anything different than how the Children of Israel felt after their experience.  The Bible says, “they saw His great power, they feared the Lord (I believe with reverence), and they had great honor and esteem for His chosen servant.”

As you focus on this short passage of Scripture ask yourself, “Have I seen this great and mighty power and evidence of God’s presence in my life?  In the world?”  And if you have, then ask yourself, “Have I reacted in the way I really should?  Do I have the adoration and commitment to God and His servant, His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, that I should have?  Have I accepted God’s free gift of salvation through His Son, Jesus?” 

Friends, it is never too late.  God’s angel is before you and your enemies have been kept at bay until now.   But ultimately you get to choose if you are in the group of God’s creations that were represented by the Children of Israel or in the group represented by the Egyptians.  It is my prayer you make the right choice.

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