Building a People of God With Unusual Characters: Moses Part III: Are These Really the People of God?

Building a People of God With Unusual Characters  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  30:24
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God’s People Setting Out From Egypt

We last left Moses at the head of a great company of Israelites, who are finally departing Egypt after more than 400 years of service to the Egyptian Pharaoh, and years of salvation from famine in Canaan as God preserved and grew his people for this day.
They did not leave empty-handed, for they impressed their masters to share the wealth of gold and silver and clothing in payment for their years of slavery. Clothing was an incredibly important commodity in those days, when all thread was made from the fibers of beaten flax, or the wool of sheep or the hair of goats or camels without the advantage of industrial looms, or any mechanical looms, nor even the aid of a spinning wheel to twist the fibers into thread. When all thread was made by hand, and all cloth was made on small personal looms at home, it was time consuming and expensive.
As they left, they weren’t welcome anymore, after the 10 plagues had decimated crops and herds and left every family bereft of their first-born child. In chapter 12 the record says they were driven out of Egypt. That doesn’t mean they left in limousines or buses. It’s more like slave-masters using the whip—a little note in the Bible that reflects the slave relationship they had lived under for so many years. The Israelites marched out boldly, and what was 72 persons 430 years before was now well over a million.
Since they were going to go to Canaan, the land of promise, they could have taken a direct route, but that wasn’t in God’s plan for a couple reasons.
>>>The first reason is that God made a promise to Moses when Moses tried to get to get out of his call from God. Moses said, “Who am I to go tell Pharaoh to set the people free?” God answered with a promise so that he would know that God had called him to be his prophet and leader when he sent him back to Egypt to free his people; we read in Exodus 3:12:
Exodus 3:12 CSB
12 He answered, “I will certainly be with you, and this will be the sign to you that I am the one who sent you: when you bring the people out of Egypt, you will all worship God at this mountain.”
That confirmation event that Moses received from God’s own words needed its fulfillment with the people of Israel coming to Sinai to worship Yahweh God. And the mountain of God was not on the direct route to Egypt, but instead in the wilderness well south of that route.
>>>Now, we read in Exodus 13:17 the second reason they didn’t take the direct route is that God is . . .

Providing An Avoidance to War

That May Upset the Exodus
Exodus 13:17 CSB
17 When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them along the road to the land of the Philistines, even though it was nearby; for God said, “The people will change their minds and return to Egypt if they face war.”
God knew these people would soon forget any of those amazing miracles that broke the yoke of slavery, and so God was still forming for them the story that would define them and describe them and give them an identity as God’s chosen people. Their first identity was that they were the clans of Jacob’s sons, brought to Egypt by the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob so their brother Joseph could provide food for them in the worst drought of the ancient world in those ancient Bible times.
Now, these people were escaped slaves, albeit a whole nation of them, reluctantly set free by a Pharaoh whose stubbornness was still and issue.
The role that the Israelites had for Pharaoh was more than just as shepherds, brickmakers and laborers. As the large group of loyalists on the eastern border between Egypt and the rest of the world, the Israelites had been trained to fight to defend Egypt.
>>>5 times between chapter 6 and 12, God says he will bring his Military Divisions out of Egypt. And that very practical reality of being warriors was. . .

Preparing God’s People for Their Long March

Because leaving the security of Pharaoh’s Egypt meant facing every foe that wanted to keep their lands intact.
Exodus 13:18 CSB
18 So he led the people around toward the Red Sea along the road of the wilderness. And the Israelites left the land of Egypt in battle formation.
These Israelites knew how to fight in the Egyptian style of warfare, which was a good thing, for you didn’t get anywhere in the ancient world without either successfully defending your ground or successfully defeating your rivals.
>>>We also read that on the long march out of Egypt, they were. . .

Protecting the Promise Made to Joseph

And that was the promise the sons of Israel were made to swear to not leave Joseph’s embalmed body in Egypt, but transfer his remains to the same place where his father, stepmom, grandfather and great-grandfather were buried. He had lived most of his life in Egypt, but Canaan and the land of promise would always be home.
Exodus 13:19 CSB
19 Moses took the bones of Joseph with him, because Joseph had made the Israelites swear a solemn oath, saying, “God will certainly come to your aid; then you must take my bones with you from this place.”
God had certainly come to their aid, and brought them out of Egypt through the plagues that forcing the Egyptians to let them go, and now God needed his people to know that they were not going out into the wild world on their own.
>>>So as they went, God was. . .

Proving Presence in A Pillar of Cloud and of Fire

Exodus 13:21–22 CSB
21 The Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to lead them on their way during the day and in a pillar of fire to give them light at night, so that they could travel day or night. 22 The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night never left its place in front of the people.
This was no magic trick; this was God’s power for his people. And we will see this sign used to protect them at the edge of the Red Sea.
>>>That’s when Moses was told of . . .

God’s Plan to Receive Glory at Egypt’s Expense

Exodus 14:1 CSB
1 Then the Lord spoke to Moses:
Exodus 14:3 CSB
3 Pharaoh will say of the Israelites: They are wandering around the land in confusion; the wilderness has boxed them in.
>>>What’s happening here is that. . .

God Will Use Pharaoh’s Stubbornness for His Own Glory

Exodus 14:4 CSB
4 I will harden Pharaoh’s heart so that he will pursue them. Then I will receive glory by means of Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord.” So the Israelites did this.
So off the people went, and from the scouts Pharaoh had along the way, the report comes back of their apparent confusion,
>>>And now,

Pharaoh Has Second Thoughts

about letting the Israelites go.
Exodus 14:5 CSB
5 When the king of Egypt was told that the people had fled, Pharaoh and his officials changed their minds about the people and said, “What have we done? We have released Israel from serving us.”
The loss of service to Egypt was not just a loss of brickmakers but a loss of border protection that was pretty important for Egypt.
>>>So, as . . .

God Was Working His Plan

the king of Egypt fell right into his place in God’s plan
Exodus 14:8 CSB
8 The Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he pursued the Israelites, who were going out defiantly.
That word defiantly is a reminder that the plagues and power God had shown had given the military ranks of Israel a confidence that that could handle anything.
>>>That is, until. . .

Things Looked Like Disaster for Israel

Exodus 14:9 CSB
9 The Egyptians—all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots, his horsemen, and his army—chased after them and caught up with them as they camped by the sea beside Pi-hahiroth, in front of Baal-zephon.
All it really took for the people to quake in their sandals was seeing the armies and chariots of Pharaoh coming up on one side when the Red Sea was a dangerous barrier for them on the other.
>>>That’s when we hear. . .

The People’s First Complaint Against Moses

I used the theme, in my title, “Is this really God’s people?” Because from the time they left Egypt, the Israelites were just chock full of complaints about their situation. God had proved his power as the will of Pharaoh to keep them in slavery was broken by the plagues, and even his own household had suffered death and decimation.
But now, the Israelites were trapped. And their complaints got louder. And they would continue as the people went out toward Canaan.
>>>I can imagine Moses asking God, “Are these really the people of God?” because they just didn’t seem to understand that God was fighting for them.

First, They Are Afraid

Exodus 14:10 CSB
10 As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up and there were the Egyptians coming after them! The Israelites were terrified and cried out to the Lord for help.

Then They Complain

Exodus 14:11 CSB
11 They said to Moses, “Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt?

Then They Use a “Told You So”

and even say they wish they were slaves still.
Exodus 14:12 CSB
12 Isn’t this what we told you in Egypt: Leave us alone so that we may serve the Egyptians? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.”
But through all of this, Moses was gaining more and more trust in God, and was able to promise the people that. . .

God Will Bring Salvation

Exodus 14:13 CSB
13 But Moses said to the people, “Don’t be afraid. Stand firm and see the Lord’s salvation that he will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians you see today, you will never see again.
Exodus 14:14 CSB
14 The Lord will fight for you, and you must be quiet.”
That’s when . . .

God Presses Moses to Make Them Move

Exodus 14:15 CSB
15 The Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to break camp.
So we come to what Moses needs to do and what God will keep doing.

Moses, Here’s Your Job: Hold Your Staff Over the Sea

Exodus 14:16 CSB
16 As for you, lift up your staff, stretch out your hand over the sea, and divide it so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground.

Here’s God’s Job: Press Egypt Into the Sea

Exodus 14:17 CSB
17 As for me, I am going to harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them, and I will receive glory by means of Pharaoh, all his army, and his chariots and horsemen.

Then Egypt Will Know YHWH Doesn’t Mess Around

Exodus 14:18 CSB
18 The Egyptians will know that I am the Lord when I receive glory through Pharaoh, his chariots, and his horsemen.”

Moses Obeys, the Lord Blows, the Sea Divides

Exodus 14:21 CSB
21 Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea. The Lord drove the sea back with a powerful east wind all that night and turned the sea into dry land. So the waters were divided,

So Israel Marches Through

Exodus 14:22 CSB
22 and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with the waters like a wall to them on their right and their left.

God’s Deliverance From Pharaoh’s Army

The Chariots and Horsemen Enter the Sea

Exodus 14:23 CSB
23 The Egyptians set out in pursuit—all Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots, and his horsemen—and went into the sea after them.

God Causes Confusion

Exodus 14:24 CSB
24 During the morning watch, the Lord looked down at the Egyptian forces from the pillar of fire and cloud, and threw the Egyptian forces into confusion.

Egypt Wants to Retreat

Exodus 14:25 CSB
25 He caused their chariot wheels to swerve and made them drive with difficulty. “Let’s get away from Israel,” the Egyptians said, “because the Lord is fighting for them against Egypt!”

Time to Drop the Water Walls

Exodus 14:26 CSB
26 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea so that the water may come back on the Egyptians, on their chariots and horsemen.”

God Uses Moses As the Symbol of His Presence

Exodus 14:27 CSB
27 So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at daybreak the sea returned to its normal depth. While the Egyptians were trying to escape from it, the Lord threw them into the sea.

Pharaoh’s Army is Destroyed

Exodus 14:28 CSB
28 The water came back and covered the chariots and horsemen, plus the entire army of Pharaoh that had gone after them into the sea. Not even one of them survived.

Israel’s Story of Escape Includes This Miracle From God

Exodus 14:30 CSB
30 That day the Lord saved Israel from the power of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore.
Exodus 14:31 CSB
31 When Israel saw the great power that the Lord used against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord and believed in him and in his servant Moses.
The problem with miracles is that when the problems are gone, the miracle nature of God’s work is too easily forgotten.
So the people, displeased with their dis-ease, becomes a crowd of complainers. No matter what God did for them, no matter how many times God answered their complaints, they still weren’t happy.
That’s why I think that Moses really wondered: Are these really the people of God?
The miracle at the Red Sea is so important to their story of being that it shows up in scripture over and over.
It’s in Psalm 66, 78, 99, Psalm 105, 106, 114 and 136.
Here’s an example from Psalm 78:11-16
Psalm 78:11–16 CSB
11 They forgot what he had done, the wondrous works he had shown them. 12 He worked wonders in the sight of their ancestors in the land of Egypt, the territory of Zoan. 13 He split the sea and brought them across; the water stood firm like a wall. 14 He led them with a cloud by day and with a fiery light throughout the night. 15 He split rocks in the wilderness and gave them drink as abundant as the depths. 16 He brought streams out of the stone and made water flow down like rivers.
Because here’s the kicker:
Psalm 78:17 CSB
17 But they continued to sin against him, rebelling in the desert against the Most High.

Setting Out Toward Sinai

Into the Wilderness of Shur

Exodus 15:22 CSB
22 Then Moses led Israel on from the Red Sea, and they went out to the Wilderness of Shur. They journeyed for three days in the wilderness without finding water.
So when they finally came to the waters of Marah, it was poison, or bitter water, like some of the alkali ponds with the bones of a steer beside them in the old westerns.
>>>That’s when we come to

The People’s Second Complaint: We Can’t Drink This Stuff!

Exodus 15:24 CSB
24 The people grumbled to Moses, “What are we going to drink?”

God Can Make Bitter Water Good

Exodus 15:25 CSB
25 So he cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a tree. When he threw it into the water, the water became drinkable. The Lord made a statute and ordinance for them at Marah, and he tested them there.
Exodus 15:27 CSB
27 Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs and seventy date palms, and they camped there by the water.

The People’s Third Complaint: We’re Going to Starve!

Exodus 16:3 CSB
3 The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in the land of Egypt, when we sat by pots of meat and ate all the bread we wanted. Instead, you brought us into this wilderness to make this whole assembly die of hunger!”

God’s Answer Is His Abundance

Exodus 16:4 CSB
4 Then the Lord said to Moses, “I am going to rain bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. This way I will test them to see whether or not they will follow my instructions.
Exodus 16:6–7 CSB
6 So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, “This evening you will know that it was the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, 7 and in the morning you will see the Lord’s glory because he has heard your complaints about him. For who are we that you complain about us?”

Even In Their Complaints, God Hears and Answers

Exodus 16:11–12 CSB
11 The Lord spoke to Moses, 12 “I have heard the complaints of the Israelites. Tell them: At twilight you will eat meat, and in the morning you will eat bread until you are full. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God.”

The Quail and the Manna

Exodus 16:13–14 CSB
13 So at evening quail came and covered the camp. In the morning there was a layer of dew all around the camp. 14 When the layer of dew evaporated, there were fine flakes on the desert surface, as fine as frost on the ground.

What Is This Stuff?

Exodus 16:15–16 CSB
15 When the Israelites saw it, they asked one another, “What is it?” because they didn’t know what it was. Moses told them, “It is the bread the Lord has given you to eat. 16 This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Gather as much of it as each person needs to eat. You may take two quarts per individual, according to the number of people each of you has in his tent.’ ”
>>>They set out again, and between the oasis and Sinai,

In the Wilderness, Another Complaint

Exodus 17:3 CSB
3 But the people thirsted there for water and grumbled against Moses. They said, “Why did you ever bring us up from Egypt to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?”

God Gives Testimony of Himself to the Elders

Exodus 17:5 CSB
5 The Lord answered Moses, “Go on ahead of the people and take some of the elders of Israel with you. Take the staff you struck the Nile with in your hand and go.
Exodus 17:6 CSB
6 I am going to stand there in front of you on the rock at Horeb; when you hit the rock, water will come out of it and the people will drink.” Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel.

How Do You Know the People of God?

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