Text: Hebrews 11:29 — By faith the people crossed the Red Sea as if on dry land, but the Egyptians, when they attempted to do the same, were drowned.
God has always been and still is in the habit of saving people who put their faith in Him.
Why did Israel need God’s salvation? Exodus 14:5-9
What did Israel do to earn God’s salvation? Exodus 14:10-14
How did Israel experience God’s salvation? Exodus 14:15-28
- Just like it was for Israel, God is ready and willing to save us from slavery and certain death.
- Just like it was for Israel, God has already provided a way of salvation for us.
- Just like it was for Israel, all we have to do is “go forward” in faith.
Conclusion: God is able and willing to deliver us from slavery to sin and death; He has already provided the way of salvation through the sacrifice of His Son on the cross of Calvary for our sins; all we have to do is move forward with Christ by faith, trusting Him to be our sacrifice for sin and inviting Jesus to take up residence in our lives and do what only He can do…make us into new people.
Now let me close with this obvious question. Have you been saved by Jesus?
Opening: If this is your first time visiting with us here at River Ridge Church, let me catch you up on where we’re at in our study. In the weeks leading up to our launch service this morning, we have been looking at Hebrews chapter eleven. In fact, this is the ninth message in our preaching series that we’re calling Unstoppable Faith. Faith, we’re told, is the choice to cling to what is promised by God and hoped for by us, because we know with certainty that it will come to pass, even though for now we may not see it. This chapter is filled with examples of people who demonstrated faith in God like Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, his wife Sarah, their son Isaac and grandson Jacob. Last week we mentioned the parents of Moses who by faith hid their son when he was a newborn and refused to put him to death. Then they put him in a waterproof basket and set him among the reeds of the Nile river and trusted that God would protect him. God did, and Moses grew to become the leader of the Israelites. This brings us to our text for this message taken from verse 29 of Hebrews 11. It says, “By faith the people crossed the Red Sea as if on dry land, but the Egyptians, when they attempted to do the same, were drowned.” If you’re not connecting with the story associated with this verse, it has to do with the famous scene in the Old Testament where Moses, after leading the Israelites out of Egypt, comes to the Red Sea on the way to the Promised Land. With Pharaoh and the Egyptian army bearing down on him, he holds up his hand and watches as the waters parts, and God’s people are able to pass through on dry ground. If this miracle didn’t take place, the people of God would have been in deep trouble. But it did happen and God saved the Israelites from being utterly wiped out. Now in a few minutes, I’ll take you through the story in a little more detail, but for now, I want to introduce “big idea” of this message and here it is: God has always been and still is in the habit of saving people who put their faith in Him. As far as the Christian faith goes, the word “saved” kind of gets a bad rap. You may have heard preachers on TV mention salvation and even wondered what they were talking about. In a movie from the 1980s called Fletch Lives, Chevy Chase does the best imitation of a southern evangelist when he accidently appears on the stage of an old fashioned revival while fleeing from some men who were trying to hurt him. He puts on some glasses and a weird looking jacket and then pretends to be a part of the show. He asks his audience, “Tell me brothers and sisters, are you saved?” I’ve always thought that was pretty funny, but today I can’t help but think that if people understood what the word meant, they wouldn’t necessarily feel compelled to make fun of being “saved.” So let me give you a simple definition of the word as it is used in the context of the Bible. To be saved is to be rescued from destruction. If you were drowning and I jumped in and pulled you out before you died, I would have “saved” you from death. That’s what the word means most every time you find it in the Scriptures. Now, of course, we know that it has other uses as well that are not associated with the Bible. A relief pitcher in baseball can “save” a victory for a starting pitcher by coming in and getting the last few outs. There’s a least one more use that I’m sure you’re familiar with. I read a story on-line this week about a discussion that Jesus was having with Satan regarding who was better on the computer. Every time Satan insisted that he was better at it, Jesus would just smile. This only angered the evil one all the more. Their one-sided conversation went on like this for awhile, until finally, God the Father said, “Alright. Let’s settle this once and for all with a contest. I’ll give you each two hours to demonstrate your ability with a computer. Then I’ll judge who is more knowledgeable. Now ready, set, go.” Both Satan and Jesus sat down at their respective keyboards and went to town. They did spreadsheets, wrote reports, generated emails with attachments and everything else that came to mind. Then, suddenly, with just two minutes to go before their time was up, a bolt of lightning struck and the power went out. When it came back on, they restarted their computers and that’s when Satan began to curse every and anything. “It’s gone! It’s gone! It’s all gone,” he shouted. “I lost everything when the power went out.” Jesus, on the other hand, prepared to present His work. Satan glared at Him with anger and then cried out, “Foul! He cheated. There’s no way He could have produced all that in one minute.” The Father shrugged His shoulders and said, “He didn’t have to.” “And why not?” asked Satan. “You already know the answer,” said the Father, “Jesus saves!”
Well, for the next twenty-five minutes or so, I would like to talk about “salvation” with you from the story of Moses and the Red Sea. It’s found in Exodus chapter fourteen, and if you brought a Bible, you might want to open it and follow along. If you don’t have a Bible and would like one, we’d be happy to order one with your name on it. Just mention it to me and I’ll take it from there.
Let me set the stage for this miracle by providing some more background: God had promised a man named Abraham that if he would leave his people in a place called Haran and travel a great distance, God would give him a land of his own (the Promised Land), multiply his descendants until they couldn’t be numbered and bless the whole world through him. Abraham obeyed and eventually found himself in the land of the Canaanites. But during his lifetime and those of the next three generations, they lived only as ‘sojourners’ in tents, not actually owning any of the land. But still they clung to God’s promise. Eventually because of a famine, they traveled to Egypt and settled in a place called Goshen. There God made sure to provide for His people through Joseph, the great grand-son of Abraham, who, according to the sovereign plan of God had come to power there so that he was able to provide them with food. Over several centuries, the Jews continued to live in Egypt and multiplied as new kings came and went. One of those knew nothing about Joseph and any previous arrangements made with the Jews, and out of fear that they might side with an invading army and fight against the Egyptians, decided to enslave them and force them to bear heavy burdens. At the same time, God, who had not forgotten His promise to Abraham, raised up Moses and his brother Aaron to speak to Pharaoh about allowing them to leave. Of course, the king refused. Why would he willingly free hundreds of thousands of slaves at great cost to himself and his people? So God set about to convince Pharaoh to let His people go by bringing ten plagues to the Egyptians, none of which affected the Israelites. These included turning the water of the Nile to blood, plagues of frogs, gnats and flies, the death of their livestock, boils that broke out on both man and beast, hail that destroyed their crops, locusts and utter darkness. The last one was the death of every firstborn male in Egypt. Only those that were protected by the blood of a sacrificial lamb placed above and on the sides of their doors was passed over by the angel of death. This last one broke Pharaoh so that he told the Israelites to leave taking everything with them. Moses led them out following the angel of the Lord on their way to the Red Sea. Pharaoh, however, had second thoughts, and decided to pursue the Israelites to kill them all. As his army bore down on God’s people, they realized the danger they were in and panicked. They said to Moses, “Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness?” That’s when God moved His angel from in front of Israel to behind them. Pharaoh and his armies were shrouded in darkness, while Moses and the people of God were bathed in light. Then God told Moses to stretch out his hand over the sea, and He would divide the waters so that they could pass through on dry land. Moses obeyed and the Israelites crossed the Red Sea on foot, But when the Egyptians pursued, God allowed the sea to return to its normal course and everyone of them drowned.
Whew! That was a long story. Thanks for listening. Now I’d like to help all of us make better sense of it by addressing three questions that will allow us wrap our minds around God’s saving act for Israel.
Why did Israel need God’s salvation? (Exodus 14:5-9). Moses and his fellow Jews were not well-trained, battled hardened soldiers. They were recently released slaves who were better at making bricks and building things than they were at war. They didn’t have a clue how to defend themselves. And they certainly didn’t have the kind of weapons needed to face the greatest army on earth. The simple truth was that they were helpless against their enemy. If God didn’t save them, they were doomed to destruction. Listen to more of what the Jews said to Moses when they realized their peril. “What have you done to us in bringing us out of Egypt? Is not this what we said to you …? ‘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.” Listen … these were not the words of a confident people. Each of them knew that death was knocking at their door and they were powerless to do anything about it. If God didn’t intervene, they were goners. That’s why they needed Him to do something.
What did Israel do to earn God’s salvation? (Exodus 14:10-14). We know that the Lord, through his servant Moses, performed a miracle and the sea divided itself, so that the people could pass through on dry ground. But did He require anything of them before He would save them? No, He did not. All we’re told is that the Israelites prayed out of their desperation (as did Moses), then God instructed them to fear not, stand firm and see the salvation of the Lord. He didn’t invite their participation in it at all. In fact, God told them to do nothing! Their sole responsibility was to watch as He mercifully and graciously provided them with a way of escape. And that’s all they did. When it came to saving the Israelites from sure and certain death, God did all the heavy lifting. They just stood by and watched.
How did Israel experience God’s salvation? (Exodus 14:15-28) The write of Hebrews tells us how. “By faith, the people crossed the Red Sea as if on dry land.” There’s the secret, right there. They trusted God, so that when He said to Moses, “Tell the people of Israel to go forward,” that’s exactly what they did. Verse twenty-two says, “…the people 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.” Imagine what that must have been like with a wall of water on both sides, perhaps with fish gazing out at them, yet they passed through without getting wet. Now the writer of Hebrews also points out that Pharaoh and his army attempted to do the same, but it didn’t go so well for them. Exodus 14:27-28, 30 tell us what happened to them. “Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and it returned to its normal course when the morning appeared. And as the Egyptians fled into it, the Lord threw them into the midst of the sea. 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.” “Thus the Lord saved Israel that day.” Why were the Egyptians destroyed while the Israelites were saved? Egypt had their own gods. They wanted nothing to do with the only true God, the God of the Jews. They put no faith in him and as a result they were not saved.
Applications: Every sermon has to answer three questions from the passage presented. (1) What? (2) So what? and (3) Now what? We just covered the first two by telling you the story of Moses, the Israelites and the Red Sea (What?). And then we attempted to gain some better understanding of the story by identifying what God would wants us to learn about Him and ourselves as we read it (So What?). Finally we can address the last question. Now what? What are we to do as a result of what we’ve learned from the Bible? Here are three takeaways for us to consider:
- Just like it was for Israel, God is ready and willing to save us from slavery and certain death. In the New Testament, we’re told that all people live as slaves to the fear of death (Hebrews 2:14-15 — …through Jesus’ death He destroyed the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and delivered all those who through the fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery). It’s a terrible thing to go through life terrified of our eventual demise, especially when it’s unnecessary. Through Christ we can be set free of this fear because we now know that He has overcome sin and death and, through faith in Him, we can too.
- Just like it was for Israel, God has already provided a way of salvation for us. God sacrificed Jesus in our place on the cross. Our Lord willingly shed His blood (which is another way of saying …gave His life) to pay the penalty for our sins and offenses. And guess what? Like Israel, who did nothing to earn their salvation, we didn’t earn it either. God has done all the work by first sending Jesus into our world as a baby born in a manger and then directing Him to the cross to die as our substitute.
- Just like it was for Israel, all we have to do is “go forward” in faith. The Bible says, “For by grace we have been saved through faith, and not of ourselves, it is the gift of God, not as a result of human effort that no man should boast” Ephesians 2:8-9. The only thing God requires of anyone to be saved is to place his faith and trust in Christ. There’s nothing we can offer God to cover the debt of our sin and deliver us from death. That price was paid by Jesus and all we can do is respond with personal faith to follow Him as Savior and Lord.
Conclusion: So, by way of summary: God is able and willing to deliver us from slavery to sin and death; He has already provided the way of salvation through the sacrifice of His Son on the cross of Calvary for our sins; all we have to do is move forward with Christ by faith, trusting Him to be our sacrifice for sin and inviting Jesus to take up residence in our lives and do what only He can do…make us into new people. Now let me close with this obvious question. Have you been saved by Jesus? Have you placed your trust in Him? In the shedding of His blood, our Lord provided the only way for us to be saved from the penalty and power of sin and to be reconciled to our Heavenly Father. He alone is the way, the truth and the life. Some time ago, I read this story about a man named Dr. Felix Ruh, a Jewish doctor in Paris who was Louis Pasteur’s coworker in the demonstration of what used to be called the germ theory. The physician’s granddaughter had died of black diphtheria, and Dr. Ruh, vowing he would find out what had killed her, locked himself in his laboratory for days. He emerged with a fierce determination to prove, with his colleague, Louis Pasteur, that the germ theory was more than a theory. The medical association had disapproved of Pasteur and had succeeded in getting him exiled, but he did not go far from Paris. He hid in the forest and erected a laboratory in which to continue his forbidden research. Twenty beautiful horses were led out into the forest to the improvised laboratory. Scientists, doctors, and nurses came to watch the experiment. Ruh opened a steel vault and took out a large pail filled with black diphtheria germs, which he had cultured carefully for months. There were enough germs in that pail to kill everyone in France. The scientist went to each horse and swabbed its nostrils, tongue, throat, and eyes with the deadly germs. Every horse except one developed a terrific fever and died. Most of the doctors and scientists wearied of the experiment and did not remain for what they thought would be the death of the remaining horse. For several more days this final horse lingered, lying pathetically on the ground. While Ruh, Pasteur, and several others were sleeping on cots in the stables, an orderly on duty had been instructed to awaken them should there be any change in the animal’s temperature during the night. About two o’clock in the morning the temperature showed a half-degree decrease, and the orderly awakened Dr. Ruh. By morning the thermometer had dropped two more degrees. By night the fever was entirely gone, and the horse was able to stand, eat, and drink. Then Dr. Ruh took a sledgehammer and struck that beautiful horse a deathblow between the eyes. The scientist drew all the blood from the veins of this animal that had developed the black diphtheria but had overcome it. He then traveled as fast as they could to the municipal hospital in Paris. Ruh and Pasteur forced their way past the superintendent and the guards and went into the ward where three hundred babies lay, segregated to die from black diphtheria. With the blood of the horse, they forcibly inoculated every one of the babies. All but three lived and recovered completely. How did it happen? They were saved by the blood of an overcomer. God has always provided a way of salvation for His people. He did it for the Israelites when it looked like they would be destroyed and most importantly, He does it for us. Today we’ve learned that Jesus is our Savior. He has conquered sin and death and now offers salvation to each of us. Today, you can accept it by faith.