Crossing the Sea

Exodus  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  25:44
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The Chief End of God....

Let’s start off with the easy question… at least for Presbyterians…
The chief end of man is to glorify God and/by enjoying him forever.
Now try something a little more controversial:
The chief end of God is what is it that motivates God to do the things he does?
Love for mankind and creation. O that is something that God does for sure.
But is that God’s chief end… God’s ultimate aim?
Is his ultimate aim to make rebel mankind holy; to save sinners from their sins; to save the world through the life, death and resurrection of his glorious Son?
All those things and more are certainly important to God.
But what is the chief end, the ultimate aim of God?
The trouble with thinking that the chief end of God is to bring maximum happiness (and even maximum holiness) to human beings is that too many people perish…
If God’s ultimate aim is to save sinners… how do we explain Pharaoh’s demise?
God fails an awful lot!
Perhaps God’s just not as powerful as he sometimes makes out.
Or… alternatively… if he is all-powerful, then perhaps he’s not quite as good as he makes out?
Sure, he “does what he can” to save rebel human beings… but in the end there are many, many men and women who defy him, thumb their noses at him, perhaps even make Him angry.
Perhaps not here but in some churches, particularly as they read the OT they become convinced that God is even vindictive so in the end, God’s gets frustrated with people and just destroys them.
I hope that that’s not so here… but let me ask you a curly question:
Do you think God is supremely happy…
or maybe he actually is a bit frustrated, particularly over the way this little blue planet has unfolded over the last few thousand years?
If God’s main aim is to save as many rebellious human beings as he can, now with over 8 billion people (as of last week) the vast majority refuse to acknowledge, confess, love and trust in the love and mercy of God shown in Christ at Calvary.
Some people say that there are as many people alive on the planet today as there has been people who have existed since the time of Adam all combined.
So God must now be very frustrated if the thing that motivates him is the holiness and happiness of human beings.
He gave his one and only Son at Calvary to save the world… and the vast majority of people in the world could care less!
But what if God has a different aim, something that is at a deeper level than saving humanity; something that guides his actions, something that when understood might help us understand why God does the things he does.
Something that perhaps his people might learn to appreciate and delight in God with a joy born of understanding rather than confusion.
What if God does the things he does for a greater good, in fact the greatest good that is possible.
What about this:

The chief end of God is to glorify God and enjoy himself forever.

What if God is devoted to having his own Name glorified by the whole creation… and He has made the world incapable of tarnishing his great and holy name?
If God’s aim in making the cosmos is to glorify his own character; to show forth the wonderful perfections of God… then the things that happen, good, bad and downright ugly, we can look at in a different light.
I don’t deny God is angered by human sin.
The way humanity largely ignores Him, and the way we mistreat each other and abuse this wonderful planet are things that God is utterly opposed to and he longs for better.
But what about on a macro, big picture level?
As God looks over the sweep of human history, from the first day of creation up to today… do you think he’s pleased and happy?
Or frustrated and angry?
What makes us frustrated and angry is when we can’t do the things we really want to do.
We want better for ourselves, or someone we love… or for our country… but despite our best efforts we sometimes fail and we feel frustrated and angry.
But the Bible says Ps 135:6 “The Lord does whatever pleases him, in the heavens and on the earth, in the seas and all their depths.”
What can frustrate him? He does whatever pleases him.
If he wants to do something he does it; if he doesn’t he lets it go.
Is 46:9-10 “9 Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. 10 I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.
God is not frustrated or angered by the sweep of human history.
He does as he pleases, only as he pleases and always as he pleases.
No one can thwart his purposes.
He is the Sovereign Lord of Creation.
And in Ex 14, among many other places, God tells us why he’s doing what he’s doing!
I think if we’d never read through the book of Exodus before today, Ex 14 would be a surprising development.
God and Pharaoh have gone head to head for months… and the result has been Pharaoh and Egypt soundly defeated and humbled. Egypt is a devastated mess.
I look at pictures of the Ukraine, still at war with their adversary, and wonder where on earth will come the resources and manpower and will to rebuild this war ravaged country.
But I imagine after those 10 plagues/blows from God on Egypt, that the Egyptians may well be suffering a worse fate.
But when we left Pharaoh in Ex 12, Pharaoh has admitted defeat.
And thanks to God’s sovereignty, Egypt has loaded up the Israelites with clothes, gold and silver and expelled them from their country.
We may well imagine Pharaoh and Egypt burying their firstborn and grieving their losses and seeing the end of the Israelites like we see the end of the pandemic: Good riddance! And don’t come back!

God’s Glory in Saving His People

But we find one surprising development after another.
With regard to the Israelites God does the unexpected!
Look at Ex 13:17… God leads the Israelites, not to the northeast towards the Promised Land because he knows they will face fierce opposition from Egypt and the Philistines... so he leads them south.
OK. That makes sense. God’s caring for his people. He doesn’t want them to face battle and lose heart.
Then, in v19, we read that Moses takes Joseph’s mummifies remains with him.
Well, we read in Genesis that this was something that Joseph reminded his children of before he died.
When God comes to your aid to lead you out of Egypt and take you to the land of promise, take my bones with you.
That’s an act of pure faith in the reliableness of the promises of God!
Good. Like that.
When God’s people live and die relying on God’s promises as their chief guide to ultimate joy and happiness; that’s true faith.
v20-22 God is now moving with his people and guiding them.
Go God. Thank you Lord. You’re awesome God.
It’s so wonderful now that we’re leaving that wretched life of slavery behind to have your awesome presence with us, guiding us, protecting us, watching over us.

God’s Glory in Punishing Pharaoh

Now cue the dark music…
Ex 14:1-2 “1 Then the Lord said to Moses, 2 “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.”
God has done something that seems incredibly foolish… at least from a military standpoint.
He’s jammed his people in between a vast desert and the sea.
Sure, they can rest a while if everything is peaceful, but if someone pursues them they are trapped.
So why did God do that?
Ex 14:3-4 “3 Pharaoh will think, ‘The Israelites are wandering around the land in confusion, hemmed in by the desert.’ 4 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.”
We can imagine God taking delight in rescuing his people.
But what about this Pharaoh/king who opposes God’s plan and oppresses and murders God’s people?
Is God frustrated and angry?
Pharaoh has spent his lifetime ignoring God, believing he himself is God, who does as he pleases.
Pharaoh has tarnished God’s good name and refuses to bow and worship God.
But God is still going to honour his holy name through Pharaoh.
He has made 10 offers to Pharaoh to do what is right.
Pharaoh has refused.
The apostle Paul understands what is going on.
Rom 9:17 “17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.””
Then a couple of verses later he writes in Rom 9:22-23
Romans 9:22–23 (NIV84)
22 What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? 23 What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory—
God has shown great patience with Pharaoh… an object of God’s holy wrath
v23 To make known the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy.
God will glorify his holy name, make known an aspect of his holy character that would have otherwise been unknown, or only known academically, manifest to his people that they may worship him for not allowing rebellion and oppression and murder to go unpunished.
So if we just glance through Ex 14. v5-9. Like the Terminator, Pharaoh rises from the ashes of Egypt, realises his workforce has now gone, mobilises his technologically superior army and pursue Israel.
Ex 14:10-13 “10 As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the Lord. 11
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? 12 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!”
13 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.”
Do you know that in Gal 5:1 Paul uses very similar words to a church that was working hard to be good enough for God.
Gal 5:1 “1 It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”
What are you facing that might terrify you? Maybe something that may take your life?
There’s nothing wrong with doing what you can to stay safe.
Visit a doctor; do the tests; move out of harms way.
But sooner or later we are all going to reach the point of facing what Job calls the king of terrors.
Reading your Bible and praying more and trying to get God on side to save you won’t work.
Do not be afraid, stand firm and know for sure that Jesus himself has fought this battle for you… on your behalf.
He died and rose again… and he promises to take those who shelter under the blood of the Passover Lamb that he sacrificed to pay the price for our sins, that they only need to stand firm in faith.
Amazingly, v15 God tells Moses to stop praying and get to work!
Raise you staff! Divide the waters
Exodus 14:17–18 (NIV84)
17 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. 18 The Egyptians will know that I am the Lord when I gain glory through Pharaoh, his chariots and his horsemen.
There it is again! I will gain glory through Pharaoh and his army. The Egyptians will know that I am the Lord with I gain glory through Pharaoh and his army.
This incident is so well known that almost the whole world knows how it pans out!
God positions himself between Egypt and Israel. Egypt in darkness and Israel in the light.
Moses raised his staff, God sent a strong wind and the waters of the sea formed a wall each side.
Israel went through on dry land.
The Egyptian army thought that if that worked for the Israelites, they could follow.
But God threw the Egyptian army into confusion. Their chariots got stuck in the mud.
Finally the Egyptian army realises God is fighting for them against Egypt, v25.
Then Moses stretched out his arm again and the waters flowed back over Pharaoh’s army and NOT ONE OF THEM SURVIVED!
Then we get the summary in Ex 14:29-31
Exodus 14:29–31 NIV84
29 But the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left. 30 That day the Lord saved Israel from the hands of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the shore. 31 And when the Israelites saw the great power the Lord displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant.
Human beings are moral creatures that God has given the ability to make choices that really count.
I hope that your desire to know God and live in ways that honour him mean you open his word, even for a few minutes, most days. You make a priority of going to a mid-week small group Bible study because you desire to know and love and honour the Name of the One who rescued you from slavery.
But Pharaoh arguably had even greater revelation of God.
Time and again Moses would confront Pharaoh: This is what the Lord, the God of the Hebrews says, “Let my people go so they may worship me… or I will change the water into blood so everything dies; send swarms of frogs, gnats, flies, plagues, boils, hail, locusts, darkness.
Pharaoh replied, “I do not know the Lord and I will not let them go”
Bang, wham, blow after blow after blow.
God was going to show his justice and make his power known so he was long suffering with Pharaoh.
But do not be deceived, God cannot be mocked.
Those that refuse his mercy do not tarnish his name;
they provide a way for God to display his holy righteous justice and bring out an aspect of his character that complements his wonderful grace and mercy and love…
but would otherwise remain a mystery.
Pharaoh cannot gloat that he made God miserable!
God does not delight in the death of anyone;

Our Joy to delight in the love and mercy and justice of God

So what are you thinking this morning?
Was God unfair in destroying Egypt and Pharaoh’s army?
Can you see that God patiently endured Pharaoh’s rebelliousness; gave him chance after chance; but if sinners don’t repent it is to God’s glory that he destroy them?
God is no idolator!
He will not love supremely the very tarnished glory of Pharaoh at the expense of His own pure and untarnished glory!
If you turn over they page to Ex 15 you will see that Israel weren’t offended that God had shown pure justice to Pharaoh!
Not that they revelled in Pharaoh’s destruction.
They worshipped the God who had shown forth his glorious character in ways previously unseen.
Ex 15:1-3 “1 Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the Lord: “I will sing to the Lord, for he is highly exalted. The horse and its rider he has hurled into the sea. 2 The Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him. 3 The Lord is a warrior; the Lord is his name.”
Ex 15:9-14 “9 “The enemy boasted, ‘I will pursue, I will overtake them. I will divide the spoils; I will gorge myself on them. I will draw my sword and my hand will destroy them.’ 10 But you blew with your breath, and the sea covered them. They sank like lead in the mighty waters. 11 “Who among the gods is like you, O Lord? Who is like you— majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders? 12 You stretched out your right hand and the earth swallowed them. 13 “In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed. In your strength you will guide them to your holy dwelling. 14 The nations will hear and tremble”
May we also rejoice at the amazing patience, power, mercy, grace and divine justice of our God!
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