14th March, 1999

  Trusting God in tough circumstances
  Exodus 14:5-31

In Tuesday's The Daily Telegraph a feature written by Troy Lennon dismissed the Exodus of Israel and the life of Moses as myths. He contends there is no archaeological evidence for the fact that the Hebrew people were ever slaves in Egypt. He believes Moses was just a made-up hero to help unite dispirit tribes in Canaan. This of course, strikes at the very foundation of Israel's history, nationhood and religion. If Moses did not exist and the Exodus is a myth, then the very heart of Jewish law, history and religion is untrue.

Troy Lennon quotes one German theologian but no archaeologist or historian. Although his article angered many Jews, it also deeply concerns Christians. For without Moses and the Exodus there would have been no nation of Israel, and so no Bible. And without a great leader to guide and encourage them, the escaping slaves would not have united to survive the desert and force their way into another country. If Moses never existed, then some real person much like Moses, would have been required. Someone took the leadership of the Hebrew slaves and persuaded the Pharaoh to let the Hebrews leave.

Why is there not more evidence for Hebrews being among Pharaoh's slaves? Why no reference to Moses in the papers of Egypt? Why no reference to the Exodus? Great brick cities have been identified as where the Hebrews laboured, but why can we not prove the bricks were made by Israelite slaves? These questions have answers to those who know their history.

It is unscientific to conclude lack of evidence from Egypt implies the Bible story is baseless. What it shows is how little we know of that country's history, and how small an amount of ancient writing actually survives. They had no reason to record it. The Hebrews did. There is no ground for arguing Moses did not exist. Many famous leaders in early history are known only through documents handed down in tradition. Most historians treat them as having existed. The sceptical attitudes have changed, giving value to what traditions say, evidence or not. The records of the Hebrews indicate that their escape from Egypt was fundamental to their becoming a nation. Exodus is the most important historical record they possess. Their escape was described as a rescue by God from tight circumstances.

Some people will tell you of being in a tight corner when God rescued them. It seems so difficult to believe, but the facts were that they were desperately short of money, when God rescued them, when money arrived from a lost relative, or a forgotten insurance policy, or a loan repaid they had thought would never be repaid. Other people have been running late for a major appointment, when every car-parking space was taken, except one immediately outside the front door of the place they were to visit. Another person wanted to purchase a house but at the last moment they were gazumped and as they had sold their existing house they had no where to live. They were in a tight corner. But God directed them to another house, better, cheaper and available!

The history of the Anzacs on Galipoli ended with the Anzacs trapped in a tight corner on a barren strip of coast. The men prayed they might make a safe withdrawal without a major attack from the Turks. Silently, at night, under cover of cloud, between Christmas Day and New Years Eve 1915, 90,000 allies were safely and secretly rescued without the loss of a single life.

Or could there have been a tighter corner than at Dunkirk? If the Allied troops had been captured on that French beach then the War would have been over. Britain would have been invaded. The German forces surrounded Dunkirk in vast numbers. German ships lay in the English Channel. German planes filled the skies. Hitler believed his Luffwaffe would make escape impossible for the British forces. It was the end.

But Winston Churchill, only two weeks in office, called out every boat Britain had: the navy, tugs, ferries, yachts, minesweepers, fishing boats, pleasure craft, even rowboats. 1000 craft ferried over 350,000 soldiers from the beach in the greatest military rescue in history. Finally, only the 4000 British rearguard that was left was rescued. From May 26th to June 4th, 1940, a miracle of God's rescue occurred. The question we ask is "Can we trust God in tight circumstances?" The Jews always point to the way God rescued them, when as a nation they were in the tightest of corners.

God had called Moses through a burning bush to go down to Pharaoh and tell him to release all of his Hebrew slaves. Pharaoh refused, so Moses announced that God would send plagues upon Egypt to soften Pharaoh's heart. Each time Pharaoh came to release the slaves who had been building his great cities in the north, the thought of losing his slave labour, changed his mind. Eventually Pharaoh released the slaves after 10 terrible plagues. The slaves left the city of Ramases in Goshen in the delta area of the Nile after 430 years. With them came a large number of other people, other slaves, and some Egyptians who had seen the miracles of the plagues. The slaves however, could not take the northern coastal route due to the strong fortifications of the Egyptians and other forts of the Canaanites. Neither country would let 600,000 people plus animals just go by. The Hebrews were an undisciplined band of slaves who could not stand the ordeal of fighting all the way to Canaan. MAP

Later, after 40 years journeying through the wilderness, they would be a hardened, disciplined, desperate army. The cities of Cannan would fall before their onslaught. v5-8 Meanwhile, God led them in a roundabout way through the desert towards the Red Sea. That name "Yam Suth" translated as the "The Red Sea" is more accurately "The Reed Sea". The reeds were the papyri growing in the swamps of the Delta in water 10 to 15 feet deep. (PHOTO)

The Israelites were in a tight corner: the Mediterranean Sea on the left, reed-filled swamps on the right, heavily armed forts of the Egyptians and the Canaanites ahead of them, the rapidly advancing armies of Pharaoh behind them, and desert all around them. They were in a corner! There was no way out. But! God comes to us when we need Him. God is a God of tight corners and tough circumstances. God was leading them. But God was leading them away from the coast, from the roads, and straight towards the marshes and swamps that lay between the head of the Gulf of Suez, the Mediterranean Sea and the Sinai desert! In front of them the papyrus swamps stretched for miles. The Reed Sea, an impassable barrier! Pharaoh knew they were hopelessly trapped. V9 He sent soldiers, horsemen and 600 chariots to re-capture them and bring them back. v10-16 10"As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. "They were terrified and cried out to the LORD. 11They said to Moses, "Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die?

What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? 12Didn't we say to you in Egypt, 'Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians'? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!" 13Moses answered the people, "Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. 14The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still." 15Then the LORD said to Moses, "Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on. 16Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground." V17-20

A strong East wind blew, and forced the shallow water back. V21-22 Travellers have seen the water in the shallow sea of reeds forced back, with one reporting the waters blown seven miles back. But there is more than that here. It speaks of the water being parted not just blown back. It happened at the crucial time when they were in a corner and Moses had prayed! Hollywood invented a system to hold back the water as if by huge glass walls, through which you drive in coaches then you visit Universal Studios! The Scriptures speak more sensibly of sweeping back of shallow water by the East wind.

v23-25 The people crossed through the Reed Sea, travelling all night. The Egyptians pursued them and went after them into the sea with all their horses, chariots and drivers. But the wheels of their chariots get bogged. The lightly armed Hebrews crossed. The Egyptians said, "The Lord is fighting for the Israelites against us. Let's get out here."

The horses pulled the heavy chariots until their axles broke. V26-31 The wind died and the waters closed in and covered the chariots, the drivers, and the soldiers. Egyptian bodies washed upon the shore. The Hebrews, safe on the other side broke into songs of victory led by Miriam, sister of Moses: 15:1 "I will sing to the Lord, for He is highly exalted: The horse and its rider He has hurled into the sea."

Ahead of them lay the Sinai desert, the home of Moses for forty years. But Moses knew the desert like the back of his hand. God spoke to him here. He had led his family herds and flocks through the desert to waterholes and oases. They were safe. God's grace was sufficient to save the people. God rescued them in such a tight corner.

Can God help us out in tight circumstances today? Can God help you in a tight corner, in the same way as He helped the Israelites facing the Reed Sea, Australian soldiers on Anzac Cove and Allied Armies at Dunkirk? They all trusted God.

Yes! If you refuse to be overwhelmed by fear. If you go forward in faith trusting God. "Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today." 14:13 You must trust God. Refuse to fear. Instead go forward in faith into the impassable. God will open a way to those who trust Him. Our God is the God of the impossible; of the impassable. Our God can be trusted in tough circumstances!

Rev Dr Gordon Moyes


Send an e-mail to Gordon Moyes - gkmoyes@wesleymission.org.au

Send this article to a friend!

Return to sermons home page