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                     of Almelund, Minnesota

 

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God in the “Red Sea Situations”

Pastor Marla Amborn

Immanuel Lutheran Church

September 30, 2018

Exodus 14:5-7, 10-14, 21-29

 

Moses stood on the shoreline looking out across the waters. Before him stretched the Red Sea, a beautiful but formidable barrier. Behind him stood a multitude of Israelites, terrified and worried, pursued by an army of Egyptians—the most powerful military force in the known world.

 

In what seemed like a hopeless situation, God intervened. He held back the Egyptians with a wall of fire and parted the sea, allowing the Israelites to pass through on solid ground. Once safely through, God allowed the Egyptians pursue His people, only to close the waters back in on the Egyptians, destroying the Egyptian army and rescuing the Israelites from their oppressors.

 

The Exodus was the defining story for the Israelite people. It defines their relationship with the God brought them out of Egypt, out of slavery, into the Promised Land. It is central to their identity as God’s Chosen People. The Exodus is celebrated even today each year at Passover as this story is retold, over a sacred meal. It reminds the Jewish people of God’s care and providence.

 

As Christians living thousands of years later, what significance does this event have for our lives?

 

The Exodus story is a dramatic example of the lengths God is willing to go to in caring for his people. It shows a God who is more powerful than any foe. It shows a God who will stop at nothing to bring his people from slavery to freedom. It shows a God who can be depended upon to get us through our “Red Sea Situations.” Let’s consider this this more closely.

 

1. The Exodus shows a God who is more powerful than any foe.

Egypt had been a place of safety and refuge for God’s people. You may remember the story of Abraham’s great grandson, Joseph, who was sold into slavery in Egypt. When Pharaoh learned that Joseph could interpret dreams, Joseph became Pharaoh’s #1 guy. Pharaoh entrusted Joseph with the responsibility of overseeing the stockpiling and distribution of food during the famine. Joseph was able to save his family and many others from starvation.

 

But then a new Pharaoh came to power who didn’t know Joseph. This Pharaoh was intimidated by the numbers of Israelites living in his country. He was so worried that they might overpower him, that he enslaved them. Conditions continued to worsen to the point where God decided to intervene.

 

Although Egypt was the most powerful nation on earth, Pharaoh’s army was no match for God. God’s saving work would not be stopped by Pharaoh’s best chariots. Nor would God’s saving work be cut off by the waters of the Red Sea. God who created heaven and earth and everything in it, is Lord of all. God is more powerful than the most mighty foe that humans or nature could present. God has ultimate power and God uses his power on behalf of his people.

 

2. The Exodus story shows a God who will stop at nothing to bring his people from slavery to freedom.

 

As God freed the Israelites from slavery, God has freed us from slavery to sin through giving his own Son to die in our place.

 

This morning we witnessed the baptism of Jaxx Flodquist. Baptism is the ultimate water crossing. Through the waters of baptism we are delivered from slavery to sin and death. Through baptism we are joined with Jesus’ death and resurrection. We are freed from our sin, forgiven by the blood of Jesus Christ. We are named and claimed as God’s own, forever.

 

In baptism we are given a new identity – “Beloved Child of God.” In baptism the Holy Spirit begins to work in our hearts and souls and lives, bringing us to faith. In baptism God prepares a place for us to be with him in eternity.

 

You matter to God. The God of the universe loves you. The God of the universe will stop at nothing to free you from slavery to sin and bring you to be with him in life eternal.

 

You have a place in God’s family. As a beloved child of God, you can depend that God will be there for you in this life and the next.

 

3. The Exodus story shows a God who can be depended upon to get us through our “Red Sea Situations.”

God’s love for us is not limited to providing for our eternal salvation. God also cares about what is happening in our lives today.

 

What “Red Sea Situation” do you face? Are you struggling with a health issue for yourself or a loved one? Are you facing financial challenges? Or problems at work? Or the problem of being out of work or finding meaning in your work? Are you struggling at school – needing to do better academically, or just not quite able to fit in?

 

God will walk with you through whatever Rea Sea Situation you might be facing. Does that mean he will make everything wonderful? If the Israelites’ story is any indication, probably not. 

You’ll notice God didn’t spare his people all suffering. Leaving the life they had known and venturing out on a journey into the unknown was hard for the Israelites. Walking in the wilderness for 40 years was not easy. They grumbled and complained along the way. At times they wished that still had the “comforts” they knew back in Egypt. They may have been slaves, they may have been forced to do hard labor, but at least it was familiar. At least they knew what to expect. At least they had a roof over their heads and they knew where their next meal was coming from.

 

The wilderness was challenging because they didn’t know what to expect. They were stretched way beyond their comfort zones. In the wilderness they had to learn to trust in God. It was a journey of faith. It was a journey of learning to know that they could depend on God to provide for them.

 

Our Journeys of Faith

All of us are on faith journeys of our own. God uses the circumstances of our lives to build trust in him. If we never faced any adversity how would we know that God can be trusted to carry us through it? If we were never stretched beyond our comfort zones how would we know all that God can do in and through us?

 

When you find yourself facing a Red Sea Situation, you could sit there in fear and trembling, paralyzed by the armies behind you or daunted by the Red Sea in front of you. Or you could call upon the God of the Universe to help you through it. God has a way of parting those waters and creating paths forward in places we never thought possible.

 

Story

Hanging in the US National Gallery of Art in Washington DC is a series of four paintings by Thomas Cole called “The Voyage of Life.” Each painting depicts a stage of life.

 

The first painting called “Childhood.” It shows a mountain with a dark cave at its base and a river flowing out of the cave. A beautiful timber boat glides out of the cave into a world of lush vegetation, flowers in bloom and there’s a peaceful, gentle surface on the water. Inside the boat is a laughing baby with a Guardian Angel standing right behind. The painting depicts childhood as a time of wonder and joy.

 

The second painting is called “Youth.” We see the same boat now travelled further downstream. The baby has grown into a teenage boy. He stands in the rear, confidently steering the boat towards a majestic white castle off in the distance. The riverbanks are still lush and green and the Guardian Angel stands on those banks, watching the young man boldly chart his course. The painting shows youth as a time of dreaming and absolute self-confidence.  It portrays the sense that “nothing can hold me back.”

 

When we look at the third painting, “Manhood” the scene has changed dramatically. The teenage boy has become a man. The river has become a raging torrent, and the sky has become dark and threatening. The castle of dreams is nowhere to be seen and the boat’s rudder has broken. Up ahead lie treacherous rocks, with white water crashing all around them. The man in the boat is caught up by forces he can’t control. With the rudder broken he cannot steer his boat. All he can do is look up to the sky and pray. Meanwhile the Guardian Angel sits hidden in the clouds. Cole is picturing adulthood as a time when the joy and wonder of childhood have been tamed by the difficult and tragic experiences of life. The confidence and boldness of youth have been swept away by the harsh realities of life.

 

The final painting is called “Old Age.” The battered and weathered boat has finally reached the ocean. The dark clouds remain but the water is still. The boat’s occupant is now an old man, and his gaze is fixed firmly on the clouds out there in front of him, clouds pierced by the glorious light of heaven. The scene depicts angels coming to and fro. For the first time in his life, the man sees the Guardian Angel that has accompanied him on his journey. It comes, takes him by the hand and prepares him for his journey into the heavens.

 

Conclusion

God is with us through all the stages of our life’s journey. God’s Spirit accompanies us. As depicted in this series of paintings, God is present with us, guiding us, protecting us, watching over us and loving us every step along the way of our life’s journey. We may not always notice God’s presence, but if we seek it, we will find it. If we come to God in prayer, God will answer our prayers. Not always with the answer that we want, but always with the answer that God knows is best for us.

 

God led the Israelites out of Egypt, across the Red Sea, and through the wilderness for 40 years. What a long journey! This wasn’t the most efficient path they could have taken to the Promised Land. But there was a purpose in the journey. The purpose was to help teach God’s people that they could trust God. The purpose was to prepare them to live as God’s people. The purpose was to make them realize that God is faithful. God is bigger than whatever problems might come their way. God is on their side and God can be trusted if we put our trust in him.

 

Each one of us is at a different place in our faith/life journey. But whatever point we are at, whether we recognize it or not, God is with us. God is there for us. God is just a prayer away.

 

 

As you face your own Red Sea Situations, know that when you call upon the name of the Lord, God will hear you and will bring you through the waters safely to the other side. And ultimately bring you home to him. May the peace of the Lord be with you. Amen!