PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

Exodus 13:17-14:12; The Mysterious Purposes and Presence of God

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20110227_exodus13_17-14_12.mp3

02/27 Exodus 13:17-14:12 The Mysterious Purposes of God and his Presence with Us

Introduction

Throughout the narrative of the mighty acts of God against the Egyptians and for the deliverance of his people, God declares well in advance what he will do, and then at the proper time he does it. God said to Moses

Exodus 3:10 Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.”

Even after all Moses’ excuse-making, God sent Moses. God said:

Exodus 12:12 …on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the LORD.

And he did just that. God said:

Exodus 4:22 … Israel is my firstborn son, 23 and I say to you, “Let my son go that he may serve me.” If you refuse to let him go, behold, I will kill your firstborn son.”’

And that is exactly what God did. God has his good and wise purposes for every single thing he does. God declares in Isaiah:

Isaiah 55:8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. 9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

We might say, from our perspective, ‘there is a method to his madness’. We can stand back with Paul in amazement and say:

Romans 11:33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

But we often don’t see it that way at the outset. God is in control. We believe that. But often we look at our circumstances and feel in our hearts (although we would never articulate in our out-loud voice) God, that’s not inscrutable; that’s just stupid. That so doesn’t make any sense. I know your promise that you work all things together for good to those who love you (Rom.8:28), but how can this possibly work out for anyone’s good? I really think you messed up this time.

The Lord answers out of the whirlwind:

Job 38:2 “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?

Job 40:2 “Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty? He who argues with God, let him answer it.”

Job 40:8 Will you even put me in the wrong? Will you condemn me that you may be in the right?

1 Corinthians 1:19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”

Psalm 2:4 He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. 5 Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury,…

Isaiah 46:9 … for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, 10 declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’

In spite of what it looks like from our perspective, God is wise, his ways are perfect, he is always in complete control and he does all that he pleases (Ps.115:3) If we get a grasp on this, it will give us a rock solid unshakeable confidence to follow him everywhere he leads, even if that is right into the lion’s den and right into the fiery furnace. Or in Israel’s case right in between a rock and a hard place or out of the frying pan and into the fire.

The Text

13:17 When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near. For God said, “Lest the people change their minds when they see war and return to Egypt.” 18 But God led the people around by the way of the wilderness toward the Red Sea. And the people of Israel went up out of the land of Egypt equipped for battle. 19 Moses took the bones of Joseph with him, for Joseph had made the sons of Israel solemnly swear, saying, “God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones with you from here.” 20 And they moved on from Succoth and encamped at Etham, on the edge of the wilderness. 21 And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. 22 The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people.

14:1 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.

The Promise

It is interesting that one of the things the Israelites took with them when the left Egypt was the remains of Joseph. It says:

13:19 Moses took the bones of Joseph with him, for Joseph had made the sons of Israel solemnly swear, saying, “God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones with you from here.”

The book of Genesis closes with this oath, Joseph being embalmed and placed in a coffin in Egypt. Now, four centuries later, the descendants of Joseph’s siblings were keeping their word. What a witness to the faithfulness of God! God will surely visit you. God will keep his promises. Joseph surely knew of the promise God made to his great grandfather Abraham

Genesis 15:12 As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell on Abram. And behold, dreadful and great darkness fell upon him. 13 Then the LORD said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. 14 But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. 15 As for yourself, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age. 16 And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”

God had promised the land to Abraham and his descendants. Jacob was counting on this and he made his sons swear to bury him with Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah and his wife Leah. Jacob and Joseph were proclaiming their faith in the promises of God

Hebrews 11:22 By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave directions concerning his bones.

The people made good on their word to Joseph in Joshua 24. Imagine the testimony to this generation of God’s faithfulness. God will surely visit you. God has visited us. Now we carry the 400 year old mummified remains of our ancestor who hoped in God and believed that God would give him his inheritance. They carried a testimony to the faithfulness of a God who visits his people.

God Leads

God is leading his people. We see that in verse 17 and 18.

13:17 … God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near. For God said, “Lest the people change their minds when they see war and return to Egypt.” 18 But God led the people around by the way of the wilderness toward the Red Sea.

God was leading his people. He even reveals why he led them in the way that he led them. There was a direct route from Egypt to the promised land following the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. It was called by the Egyptians ‘the Horus Way’. There were 23 Egyptian military outposts along this road (biblearchaeology.org 8/19/08 Gary Byers). Had the Israelites traveled this way, they would have met armed resistance that they were entirely unprepared for. What is interesting is that the way the Lord did lead them was not a way that would avoid war altogether. As we will see, God led them right into full-on confrontation with the special forces of Egypt. The reason God gives for the route he chose was ‘lest the people change their minds… and return to Egypt. The difference between the direct and indirect routes was not an effort to avoid confrontation, but with the purpose of removing the avenue of escape from God’s deliverance back into slavery. God knew the weakness of his people and their inclination when things get tense to run back to their old slave-master. So God leads them in a way that cuts off their back door of escape from his will. God literally corners his people in a place where there is no way out but to surrender to him and trust him as he carries out their supernatural deliverance. God is demonstrating his intimate knowledge of the weakness of his people, and he is demonstrating his tender care for them even in his choice of their route out of Egypt.

Even Enemies

Not only is God leading his people to exactly where they need to be for their own good, he is even working in the hearts of their enemies so that they play their part in the plan perfectly. The erratic path in which God was leading his people was designed to cause the Egyptians to think ‘they are wandering in the land; the wilderness has shut them in’. In chapter 14 verse 4, God says ‘I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them’; and in verse 5 it says that ‘the mind of Pharaoh and his servants was changed toward the people’; and verse 8 says ‘the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he pursued the people of Israel. Again in verse 17 we will see God say ‘I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they shall go in after them’. God is working even in the hearts of the enemies of his people, not to do harm to his people, but ultimately to do them good. This is awesome! God is wielding the weapons of Hell according to his own purposes to bring good to his people and glory to his name. He says in Isaiah:

Isaiah 54:16 Behold, I have created the smith who blows the fire of coals and produces a weapon for its purpose. I have also created the ravager to destroy; 17 no weapon that is fashioned against you shall succeed, and you shall confute every tongue that rises against you in judgment. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD and their vindication from me, declares the LORD.”

Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians that a messenger of Satan was given him to harass him to keep him humble. (2Cor.12:7; cf. 1Sam.16:14; 1Ki.22:23, et.al.). If God is sovereignly wielding even the weapons of Hell for our own good, then what could possibly harm us? As Paul says:

Romans 8:35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? …37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

What great confidence we have! If God is for us, who can be against us? (Rom.8:31)

The Presence

God in his providence was leading his people in the perfect way for their good. He was even at work in their enemies to incite them to fight against them, but this too was for the ultimate good of his people. Let’s look at how he led them in chapter 13, verses 21-22.

13:21 And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. 22 The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people.

YHWH went before them! Physically, visibly, God’s presence with his people, going ahead of his people, leading his people.

Psalm 23:1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. 3 He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

God’s own presence, shepherding his people, guiding his people, sheltering his people, protecting his people, lighting their path. God is spirit, invisible, but he manifests himself or makes himself known with visible symbols. ‘Our God is a consuming fire’ (Deut.4:24; Is.33:14; Heb.12:29). God is holy and pure and will consume sin and purify us. Listen to these descriptions from the Psalms:

Psalm 18:8 Smoke went up from his nostrils, and devouring fire from his mouth; glowing coals flamed forth from him. 9 He bowed the heavens and came down; thick darkness was under his feet. 10 He rode on a cherub and flew; he came swiftly on the wings of the wind. 11 He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him, thick clouds dark with water. 12 Out of the brightness before him hailstones and coals of fire broke through his clouds.

Psalm 97:2 Clouds and thick darkness are all around him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne. 3 Fire goes before him and burns up his adversaries all around. 4 His lightnings light up the world; the earth sees and trembles.

Paul describes God this way in 1 Timothy:

1 Timothy 6:15 …––he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords,16 who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.

Something Better

God manifested his presence with his people in a column of fire and cloud. That must have been amazing! Do you ever wish God would manifest himself in some visible form for you to follow? Wouldn’t that make the Christian life so much easier? Friends, we have something better! After listing the faithful men and women from the Old Testament, the author of Hebrews concludes:

Hebrews 11:39 And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.

Better than a visible manifestation of God to follow? Yes! Jesus spoke of:

John 14:17 the Spirit of truth, … You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.

John 14:23 Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.

We enjoy the new covenant promises of God’s Spirit not only with us but in us! In fact, Jesus said that he and the Father would come and make their home with us! God the Father, Son and Spirit have taken up residence in us!

Romans 8:9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

Better than an outward symbol, we have the inward reality! The living God, the triune One has come to live in us!

2 Corinthians 13:5 … Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?––…

2 Corinthians 6:16 … For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

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February 27, 2011 - Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , ,

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