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The God of Dead Ends (Exodus 14)

November 29, 2015 Speaker: Bryce Morgan Series: Misc. Messages

Topic: Exodus Passage: Exodus 14:1–14:31

The God of Dead-Ends
Exodus 14:1-31
(One Mission: Through Many Tribulations)
November 29, 2015

 

I. The Reality of Dead-Ends

I don’t know if this is true with the place that you grew up, but there are certain neighborhoods in Phoenix where it seems like no road is a through street. If you don’t know where you’re going, every turn seems to lead to a dead end.

Have you found yourself at a dead end recently? I don't mean a stifled street, but a situation in which you feel like you have nowhere else to go; a situation in which you feel trapped.

Have you found yourself at a dead end recently? Are you at a dead end this morning? In terms of hope? In terms of a relationship? In terms of a job? In terms of a dream? In terms of a sinful habit? In terms of your finances, or your faith?

So what do you do at a dead end? Turn around and go back? Give up? Or is there another option?

Turn with me this morning to the second book of the Bible, Exodus, chapter 14; and let’s see what God teaches us about dead-ends.

 

II. Review: From Abraham to Egypt

In terms of the context of this chapter, I think it would be good to talk about God’s promise to Abraham. This was the promise through which God was going to reverse the curse that resulted from Adam and Eve’s disobedience. Not only would God bless Abraham with many descendants and bring him to a land of blessing, but through this man, He was going to bless all the families of the earth.

But fast forward back to the days of Exodus 14, and we find the many descendants of Abraham enslaved and suffering in Egypt. From a human perspective, God’s promises to Abraham seemed in jeopardy. The offspring of Abraham were not in the land given to them by God, but in slavery in Egypt. Would the curse be reversed?

So in Exodus, we see God faithful to His word. The mysterious God of their ancestor Abraham, who was probably a fading memory for the people of Israel was now working through Moses to secure their freedom. So after God brought multiple judgments upon Egypt, Pharaoh relented and let the people of Abraham go.

And so as we begin chapter 14, this is where we find them, escaping through the desert of Eastern Egypt. Now, in many of the popular versions of these events, it seems as if this whole story is really about God not liking slavery. But even though it’s fair to say that God is a God of liberation, we’re going to see that there is more behind these events than just social emancipation.


III. Our Dead-Ends in Light of God’s Promises

Listen as we begin in 14:1 and let’s see what God teaches us here about our dead ends in light of His promises.

 

A. Our Dead-Ends are God’s Design (14:1-9)

Then the Lord said to Moses, 2 “Tell the people of Israel to turn back and encamp in front of Pi-hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, in front of Baal-zephon; you shall encamp facing it, by the sea. 3 For Pharaoh will say of the people of Israel, ‘They are wandering in the land; the wilderness has shut them in.’ 4 And I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and he will pursue them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, and the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord.” And they did so. 5 When the king of Egypt was told that the people had fled, the mind of Pharaoh and his servants was changed toward the people, and they said, “What is this we have done, that we have let Israel go from serving us?” 6 So he made ready his chariot and took his army with him, 7 and took six hundred chosen chariots and all the other chariots of Egypt with officers over all of them. 8 And the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he pursued the people of Israel while the people of Israel were going out defiantly. 9 The Egyptians pursued them, all Pharaoh's horses and chariots and his horsemen and his army, and overtook them encamped at the sea, by Pi-hahiroth, in front of Baal-zephon.

Do you see the dead end here? The people end up encamped right up against the sea. And because they are there, they become sitting ducks for Pharaoh and his army. They are trapped.

But did you notice how they got there? God directed them to that spot! OK, then did God make a tactical error? No, he purposely gave them their course correction and led them into what was, for all intents and purposes, a dead end. Why?

Verses 3 and 4 tell us why? Because God knew that Pharaoh would hear about their course correction and think they were confused and trapped. And when Pharaoh would come after these easy targets, then God would accomplish His goal of destroying Pharaoh and his army and thus be glorified as the One mightier than the mightiest empire on earth.

You see this dead-end was God’s design. It was no fluke; no accident. It wasn’t just bad luck or a tactical error. God had a plan for this dead-end. He was going to be glorified through it.

And as we see here, God was going to make it happen. He would harden Pharaoh’s heart to the degree that this man would be insensitive to any reason or prudence or restraint. This doesn’t mean that Pharaoh became God’s puppet. No, verses 5-7 tell us that Pharaoh chose to go after the Israelites. But nevertheless, God is working behind the scenes to accomplish His sovereign purposes.

This morning, God’s word wants to assure you that if you are a follower of Jesus Christ, through the forgiveness of His cross, for those who trust Him, our dead-ends are God’s design.
God has not made an error in leading you. And if you belong to Him, then there is no mistake that you can make that God has not allowed as a part of His purposes in your life. He will be glorified, in some way, through your dead-end. He is King over all the pieces and players in your life.

Have you thought about it this way? The Israelites certainly weren’t thinking about their dead-end this way. Look at the next few verses.

 

B. Our Dead-Ends are Despair-inspiring When We Forget God (14:10-12)

When Pharaoh drew near, the people of Israel lifted up their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians were marching after them, and they feared greatly. And the people of Israel cried out to the Lord. 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 in bringing us out of Egypt? 12 Is not this what we said to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.”

Now for some, the assessment of the Israelites would have been pretty accurate. They are backed up against the sea and are surrounded by the armies of Egypt. Bad move, right? From their point of view, taking everything into consideration, it would have been better to suffer as slaves than be mercilessly executed as enemy combatants.

But they were forgetting something, weren’t they? They were forgetting something critical. They stood where they stood, the whole nation, carrying the most valuable treasures of the Egyptians, they stood in that spot because God had brought them there. It was God who loosened the clenched fist of Pharaoh. It was God, who through His unmistakable wonders, brought the most powerful civilization in the world to its knees.

So why would God go through all of that only to bring them out to die in the desert?

The truth is that our dead-ends are despair-inspiring when we forget God. If we cannot see God in the midst of our dead-ends, if we forget what He’s done in our lives, how He’s led us, then we will think wrong-headed things about our current struggles: “Oh it would have been better if I had only [fill in the blank]…now I’m trapped!”

But if you believe that God has gotten a hold of your life through Jesus Christ, and that God has worked in various ways to guide you and sustain you, then why would God abandon you now? Why would God bring you all the way from the darkness into the light, all the way from slavery to freedom, only to let you die at this dead-end?

We must not forget God in our dead-ends. But look at how Moses reminds them of this.

 

C. Our Dead Ends Should Remind Us God Alone is Savior (14:13-20)

And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. 14 The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”

The Lord said to Moses, “Why do you cry to me? Tell the people of Israel to go forward. 16 Lift up your staff, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, that the people of Israel may go through the sea on dry ground. 17 And I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they shall go in after them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, his chariots, and his horsemen. 18 And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I have gotten glory over Pharaoh, his chariots, and his horsemen.”

Then the angel of God who was going before the host of Israel moved and went behind them, and the pillar of cloud moved from before them and stood behind them, 20 coming between the host of Egypt and the host of Israel. And there was the cloud and the darkness. And it lit up the night without one coming near the other all night.

Notice that Moses here does not say, “OK, if we give this some time, I know we can figure something out. Maybe we can tie some of this loot together and make some kind of barge…”

No! He reminds them that God and God alone is their Savior. God is the one who liberated them from slavery. He saved their backs from the whips of Pharaoh. Will He not save them now? Moses confidently says “yes”! If they will quit their grumbling and let their faith be expressed through confident silence, then they will see God’s power at work.

You see, this dead-end was just another reminder to them that God was their Savior. It might have been easy for them, once liberated from their bondage and now leaving with the spoils of Egypt, it might have been easy to forget that God was the one who saved them. And that’s exactly what we see God doing here. Reminding them of that crucial fact.

If you have found or do find yourself at a dead-end, then please see that God wants to use it to remind you that He and He alone is your savior. He uses these moments where we come to the end of our resources and wisdom to proclaim to us, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord…”

Do you hear God saying that to you this morning? Are you ready to trust Him in this dead-end? I love what God tells Moses in verse 15. “Why are you crying out to me?” The text doesn't tell us this explicitly, but it appears that as Moses was pointing the people to God, he was also praying for God to act.

But God says, “What are you doing? Step out! You know what I’ve told you. Now, go do it! Don’t act all spiritual Moses by simply praying. Pray and then obey!”

When we run into those dead-ends, those situations where we feel like we have nowhere left to go, we need to pray (absolutely!); but after we pray, we need to step out in faith and walk right toward that dead-end in faith. Not trusting in ourselves, but in Jesus Christ, our only Savior. Our savior from the consequences of our sin, and our savior from all of the hurts, and fears, and doubts this life throws at us.

Our dead-ends should remind us God alone is Savior.

 

D. Our Dead Ends Can Reveal God's Power and Inspire Our Faith (14:21-31)

So look at what happens; verse 21…

Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the Lord drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided. 22 And the people of Israel went into the midst of the sea on dry ground, the waters being a wall to them on their right hand and on their left. 23 The Egyptians pursued and went in after them into the midst of the sea, all Pharaoh's horses, his chariots, and his horsemen. 24 And in the morning watch, the Lord in the pillar of fire and of cloud looked down on the Egyptian forces and threw the Egyptian forces into a panic, 25 clogging their chariot wheels so that they drove heavily. And the Egyptians said, “Let us flee from before Israel, for the Lord fights for them against the Egyptians.” 26 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea, that the water may come back upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots, and upon their horsemen.” 27 So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to its normal course when the morning appeared. And as the Egyptians fled into it, the Lord threw the Egyptians into the midst of the sea. 28 The waters returned and covered the chariots and the horsemen; of all the host of Pharaoh that had followed them into the sea, not one of them remained. 29 But the people of Israel walked on dry ground through the sea, the waters being a wall to them on their right hand and on their left. 30 Thus the Lord saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. 31 Israel saw the great power that the Lord used against the Egyptians, so the people feared the Lord, and they believed in the Lord and in his servant Moses.

Do you see what happened here? Do you see what God is showing us? This dead-end was not really a dead-end after all. God brought them to the sea, not in order to bring them to a dead-end. No, He brought them to an opportunity, an opportunity for them to witness God’s power in action.

You see, our dead-ends can reveal God's power and inspire our faith. As we step out into what seems to be a dead-end, God wants to reveal His incredible power.

When we step out and stay committed to God’s work or to a relationship, even though it seems like a dead-end, how might God reveal His power?

When we step out to share our faith with a person who seems to be at a dead-end, how might God reveal His power?

When we step out to give, even though our schedule or finances seems to be at a dead-end, how might God reveal His power?

And based on what we see here, the way God reveals His power is not always what we expect. We could have an idea about how God might work, but He may do something very different.

You see, for those who trust in Jesus Christ, there are no real dead-ends. Remember what Paul wrote: And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

And when God does this surprising and stunning kind of work, how will you respond? The Israelites had two responses here: they “feared” God and they “believed” in Him. Fear and faith. We could say that they honored God as God.

In 1986 Fortune magazine called 35-year-old Michael Franzese one of the most powerful Mafia bosses in the country. As part of the La Cosa Nostra, Franzese had grown up in a world of corruption and violence. But after being thrown in prison for a gas tax scam, Franseze says this about being locked up in solitary with only a Bible:

“I spent 35 months and 13 days in prison, and 29 months and seven days were in that 6-by-8 hole 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Just me and God. I didn’t come to God easily. I challenged God. I didn’t believe. But only God knows how many times I read my Bible. I came out of there believing that the Bible is God’s Word and Jesus my risen Savior.”

An interviewer went on to ask, “So that prison cell was good for you?” Franseze replied, “God saved my life in that cell.” What appeared like a clear dead-end, actually led to life.

Is God using your dead-ends as opportunities to inspire faith in you? I should say, are you aware of what He wants to do and is doing?

For the followers of Jesus, the cross was the ultimate dead-end. This man for whom they had given up everything, this man in whom they invested all of their hopes, this man was now dead, branded a criminal by dying a criminal’s death.

But they should have known that God would not have brought them all that way simply to abandon them. When Jesus pushed back the waters of death and made a way for us, God was revealing His power and glory, just like He had done in Egypt 1500 years earlier.

Have you been inspired to believe in light of the resurrection of Jesus? Death is the dead-end that all of us must come to grips with; But in Jesus, even death is not a real dead-end.

 

IV. Beyond the Sea

This morning, we also need to think about what happens beyond the sea? What happens when God brings us through to the other side of what appeared to be a dead-end? What happens with our newly inspired faith?

For the Israelites, the descendants of Abraham, their path through the waters led them to another covenant with God. But this one was different than the one God had made with their father Abraham. It was not only a call to trust, but a call to action; to live out the faith that God was inspiring in them through such a radical redemption.

On the other side of our so-called “dead-ends”, God calls us to obedience and service as His people. Having rescued us and revealed His power, He wants to use us to bring the same deliverance to others. Are you ready to live and speak in such a way this week the God who is over every dead-end, the God who can bring hope to your hopeless, are you ready to live and speak in such a way that He is made known? I pray we would be.