Greeting taken from The Song of Miriam & Moses in Exodus 15
“Who is like you, O Lord, majestic in holiness and awesome in splendor?
We will sing to the Lord, for God has triumphed gloriously.”
Almighty God, you are merciful and kind. You are a God of justice and love. As we receive your Word today, may it in echo in our hearts and minds, may we be reminded of it often; so that we are strengthened and encouraged to live lives that reflect your love for us. In Christ’s name. Amen.
Moment of Silence welcoming Christ into our midst
Call to Worship from Exodus 15
O Lord, majestic in holiness, who is like you?
In the greatness of your majesty
you overthrew your adversaries.
O Lord, awesome in splendor, who is like you?
Your right hand, O Lord, glorious in power,
shattered the enemy.
O Lord, worker of wonders, who is like you?
Sing to the Lord, my strength and my might,
you are my salvation!
Scripture Exodus 14:19-31 (NIV)
This is the Word of God for the People of God.
Thanks be to God. Amen.
Morning Message If God is For Us, Who Can Be Against Us?
As with any miracle story, there is a tendency to want to explain it. In part, maybe we’re hoping that it might become more understandable if we can grasp something about how it might have happened.
“The crossing of the Red Sea on dry land” story is one such miracle. It has been analyzed and poured over for hundreds of years. Everyone wants to make it logical, to make it fit more easily into the world they already know.
The wind blew from the east, the Bible says. Some say this means that the Israelites crossed where the sea was the shallowest. Or that they did not cross the main body of water, but probably a smaller branch of the Red Sea. Either way, they must have crossed where the water was shallow enough to wade through. Right?
Well, here’s the thing: The Bible clearly states that the Israelites crossed on dry land. Verse 21, “The Lord opened up a path through the water with a strong east wind……...turning the seabed into dry land.” Also, keep in mind that the water was deep enough to cover the chariots. That there was enough water, when God let it all loose, to destroy an entire Egyptian army, one of the superpowers of the day.
Another argument against what we read here in Exodus has long been that it never even happened. Because no evidence of this miracle has been found in Egyptian historical records. But what has also been discovered about the Egyptians is that it was a common practice of the Pharaohs to NOT record their defeats. That they went as far as to take existing records and delete names of traitors and political adversaries. Any Pharaoh would have been especially anxious not to record that his great army had just been destroyed chasing a band of runaway slaves.
There’s one more problem with trying to make a miracle like this logical: We miss the miraculous, and thus we miss the main point, the key point that perhaps helps us understand how this applies to our own lives. And that is that here we have God’s chosen people with no apparent way of escape.
No OBVIOUS way of escape, we should say, because with God NOTHING is impossible, and the Bible says God opened up a DRY path across the sea.
Yes, sometimes we find ourselves caught in a problem and can see no way out.
But we are not to panic, because God can open up a way. At the very core of this miracle is that these people, on their own, were sunk (literally), but with the help of God, freedom was a possibility.
Luke 1:37, “For no word from God will ever fail.”
Jeremiah 32:27, “I am the LORD, the God of all humankind. Is anything too hard for me?”
I believe there are two important lessons to be learned here, two pieces of good news to be had: First, that God is with us when we face insurmountable barriers, and second, that Moses stretched out his hand.
First, God is with us when we face insurmountable barriers to hope, or the daily impossibilities of living in this world. Our text begins in verse 19 with the angel, which looked like a pillar of cloud, and moves from the front of the pack to the back. Verse 20 says that it was to provide a buffer between the Israelites and the pursing Egyptians.
I believe that, of course, but my own personal experience with God is that maybe, too, the angel was there to push. Sometimes leading doesn’t achieve the desired results. Sometimes you’ve got to get behind and push. I don’t know which is worse, an army running after you or an angelic tornado pushing at your back. No wonder verse 31 tells us that when all this is said and done that day, the people feared the Lord.
The point is that either/or, regardless of why, God is with us when we face insurmountable barriers. God is with us when we can feel that hand pushing at our back, and when we can’t. God is with us when it seems that every step is through deep and clinging mud, or when are able we dance across on dry ground.
Second lesson, second only to the power and presence of God, in the midst of this journey through the wilderness: Moses stretched out his hand.
I bet some of you are thinking, so what? But hear it again: in verse 21, “Then Moses stretched out his hand.” Moses stretched out his hand, even with an angelic tornado, even with walls of water on either side, even with a dry seabed under the feet. God commanded it in verse 16, “Tell the people to get moving. Pick up your staff and raise your hand over the sea.”
Moses listened to God, because effort was required. Moses had to stretch out his hands. And the people had to get moving. Obviously, God could have picked them all up and swooped them across the sea without parting the waters in the first place. But God rarely says, “Sit back, I’ve got this. You don’t have to do a thing. “ It takes effort and thus, faith on the part of God’s people, too.
Go back to the beginning of this story: Moses on the mountain talking to a bush that burned, and he hears a voice saying, “I will save my people. You go.” I’ll save/you go: God works through the effort of God’s people.
The question you have to ask yourself is what are you willing to stretch out so that God can work with you and through you? Stretch out your hand, sure, but stretch out your resources? Stretch out your security? Stretch out your worldview, your belief that only people who look like you and sound like you and believe like you can be followers of God?
What are you willing to stretch out so that God can bless your effort with transformation? A transformation that just might be your own instead of those other people you may think need transformed.
I wonder if Moses knew what was going to happen when he stretched out his hand. It’s hard to tell; the text isn’t clear. But he did it. And God made a way where there was no way. Because Moses trusted enough to stretch out. The result was no doubt more than he had ever imagined, which is often what happens when we stretch out, when we take a risk for God.
We might even become conquerors. Romans 8:37 says, “We are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”
In the book of Revelation, in the Letters to the Seven Churches, each one ends with a specific phrase: “to everyone who conquers…” Maybe here we can understand better what conquering means. In those letters, the conqueror isn’t the one who vanquishes the foe, whoever the foe might be. But rather the one who holds on to faith to the end; the one who holds on to faith through trial. The one who holds on to faith through suffering; and the one who holds on to faith until the light begins to shine once more. It isn’t about who is defeated, it’s about the one who endures.
Will we find ourselves in seemingly impossible situations? Will we, at times, find ourselves searching for a viable way out? Yes, most certainly this side of glory. Struggling in this life cannot be denied. That there will be suffering is also a hard truth.
But humility in the face of victory is something worth cultivating in the real world in which we live. Such humility embraces the truth that we are all still wandering through the wilderness.
So, yes, as we walk this journey together, we will run into impossible situations. We will come to an insurmountable impasse from time to time. And, we will have to work together, to do our part, to stretch out our hands, using the wisdom and gifts God has given each of us to get over, to get through, or to get past them all.
But we can, and we should, indeed we must, ask for God to go with us; to push us from behind if he has to.
That is our focus here: a recognition that in the difficult times, and in the comfortable ones, God is with us. God goes before and God follows behind.
So, like the people of God on the shores of the Red Sea, let’s rejoice that God is with us. That when there seemed to be no way, God makes a way. When there seems to be no hope, God is our hope.
Let’s rejoice that God continues to be our hope, the hope we live out in our own moving forward, even when lying down and giving up seems like the logical thing to do.
Because with God nothing is impossible.
And if God is for us, no one can stand against us.
Prayer of Confession Book of Worship 485
O God, source of all that makes life possible,
Giver of all that makes life good
We gather to give you our thanks,
Yet we confess that we have often failed to live our thankfulness.
What we have we take for granted,
And we grumble about what we lack.
We have squandered your bounty,
With little more thought of those who will come after us.
We are more troubled by the few who have more
Than by the many who have less.
Forgive us, O God.
In this hour of worship, accept our thanksgiving;
And teach us to make gratitude and sharing our way of life;
Through the grace of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Words of Assurance Book of Worship 478b
The Lord is merciful and gracious,
Endlessly patient, loving, and true,
Showing mercy to thousands,
Forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin, and granting pardon. Amen.
Loving God, you are a mighty God of promise and hope. You part troubled waters so that we, your children, can cross safely to dry land and abundant life. You made the way for salvation through Jesus Christ, and promised we would never be alone.
Forgive us for the times when we take our eyes off You and slip into unbelief, and strengthen us to keep our eyes fixed on Christ and the truth of Your Word.
In thankfulness we lift up our praises to you this day. For our daily needs, we give you thanks. For the love of family and friends, we give you thanks,
For a supportive church family, we give you thanks.
For your providence even in the most difficult times, we give you thanks.
And for our salvation in Christ, and a life worth the living, we give you all thanks, honor, and praise.
Your Word reminds us to bring our requests boldly to your throne, Gracious God. Today, we place those mentioned by name in your strong and loving hands, and ask for your healing and blessing on them. For them, and for all who are in sick and in pain, for those who mourn the loss of loved ones, and for those who fear tomorrow, we pray for your peace and comfort.
Help us find peace and comfort, too. May we find rest in You and trust all the issues of our lives into Your hands, in Jesus’ name we pray. AMEN.
The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive
us our trespasses, as we forgive those that trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.
Benediction based on Numbers 6:24-26
From UM Discipleship website, “Remember, we are in the wilderness. The people standing on the shore, amazed at what God had accomplished, were not done with their journey. They had only just begun. We are on a journey too, making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. And we have only just begun.”
The Lord bless you and keep you;
The Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
The Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.
Peace be with you.