The Red Sea: Trusting in God’s Deliverance (1)

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Hebrews 11:29

INTRODUCTION: Our message series is called Growing in Faith, and we have been studying Hebrews 11 together over the past several months. We have learned that Hebrews 11 is the most exhaustive chapter on faith that you will find in the whole Bible. Beginning with God’s act of creation, Hebrews 11 moves chronologically forward through the Old Testament, looking at various examples of faith as demonstrated by various Old Testament persons. So far in our study we have looked at Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph and Moses.

The passage we will be looking at this week and next presents three more examples of faith. The first two are examples of faith as demonstrated by the people of Israel: first in the crossing of the Red Sea under Moses’ leadership, and then in the battle of Jericho under Joshua’s leadership. The third example is that of a woman who lived in Jericho, a prostitute named Rahab. And yet all three of these examples present one common theme of faith: that of trusting in God’s deliverance. And so, this is yet another way that we can demonstrate true Biblical faith in our lives: when things are out of our control, we show our faith by trusting in God’s deliverance.

We only have time this morning to look at the first of these three examples, the crossing of the Red Sea, but we will read all three verses together as we begin (Read Hebrews 11:29-31 and pray)

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One of the great themes of the whole Bible is that God is our Deliverer. God is the one who delivers his people from harm. He rescues us from danger; he frees us from captivity; he saves us from our sin. Listen to just a few of the verses from Scripture which speak of God as our great Deliverer.

Psalm 3:8 “From the Lord comes deliverance.”

Psalm 32:7 “You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.”

Psalm 34:7 “The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them.”

Psalm 34:17-19 “The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. 18 The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. 19 A righteous man may have many troubles, but the LORD delivers him from them all.”

Psalm 91:15 “He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.”

Jeremiah 15:11 “”Surely I will deliver you for a good purpose.”

Matthew 6:13 (from the Lord’s Prayer, where Jesus instructed us to pray): “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”

This is indeed one of the most precious aspects of Biblical faith – that we can trust God to deliver us in our time of need. So, this week and next we are going to look at the three examples of trusting in God’s deliverance that we find here in Hebrews 11:29-31.

I. The Red Sea: When you are trapped by circumstances, trust in God’s deliverance (29)

Today we will look at the crossing of the Red Sea. The particular lesson of faith we learn from the crossing of the Red Sea is this: When you are trapped by circumstances, trust in God’s deliverance. Let’s look at verse 29 which says: “By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land.” (Hebrews 11:29) How did the people of Israel cross the Red Sea? By faith – not by natural ability or engineering genius or sheer luck, but by faith, by trusting in God’s deliverance.

The Israelites knew what it was like to be trapped and to see no way out. When Israel left Egypt, the quickest and most direct route from Egypt to Canaan would have been along the rim of the Mediterranean Sea and then straight up into Canaan, the Promised Land. However, the Bible tells us that God did not lead them that way, and with good reason. That was Philistine territory. The Philistines were a warring people, and God knew that if the Israelites faced war right away, they would change their minds and head right back to Egypt. So instead, God led them around by the desert road toward the Red Sea.

The Red Sea is also called the Sea of Reeds, and we are not sure of the exact location where the Israelites crossed, but it clearly took place at a point where there was plenty of water. I get a kick out of some of the Bible commentaries where the writers obviously have a problem with miracles, and they try to make the case that the place where the Israelites crossed was very shallow, perhaps only a few inches deep. Not only is that not the way the Bible describes it, but then you have to deal with a completely different miracle. How did God drown the entire Egyptian army in just a couple inches of water? You can’t have it both ways!

Anyways, according to Exodus 14, God intentionally led the Israelites right to the edge of the sea where they made camp and waited. Meanwhile back in Egypt, Pharaoh looks around, realizes that he has lost his entire slave labor force, and decides to come after the Israelites himself in the desert. So, he makes ready his chariot and calls out the army. He takes six hundred of his best chariots along with all the other chariots in Egypt, and the whole army, horses and horsemen, officers, chariots and troops pursue the Israelites and catch up with them at the Red Sea.

Now imagine for a moment that you are one of the Israelites in this situation. You look up and see Pharaoh and his entire army approaching. You are definitely trapped. You can’t go forward – the sea is in the way. You can’t go back the way you came – Pharaoh and his army block your retreat. Humanly speaking, there is no way out of this one.

So, what do you do? When you are trapped by circumstances, trust in God’s deliverance.

   A. God can make a way where there is no way
      – Exodus 14:13-21

First of all, understand that God can make a way where there is no way. We read in Exodus 14 that when the Israelites first looked up and saw Pharaoh and his army bearing down on them, they were terrified. But Moses encouraged them with these words: “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. 14 The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (Exodus 14:13-14)

Now, there is a lot of good advice in there for us when we find ourselves trapped by circumstances. Don’t be afraid. Stand firm. Look for God’s deliverance. Trust God to fight for you. And be still. Be still and know that he is God. Know that God can make a way where there is no way.

And that is exactly what God did for the Israelites. God told Moses: “Raise 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.” (Exodus 14:16) And God performed one of the great miracles of the Old Testament. “Moses stretched out his hand over the sea and … the waters were divided.” (Exodus 14:21) God who can make a way in the wilderness made a passageway in the waters, a safe highway for the Israelites through the heart of the Red Sea.

Both the book of Exodus in the Old Testament and the book of Hebrews in the New Testament stress the fact that the Israelites crossed over the Red Sea on dry ground. The Israelites did not have to swim or wade across. They didn’t even get their feet wet! God pushed the waters back, and the Israelites crossed over on dry ground. Now that is a miracle.

God has not changed. God still performs miracles today. And God can make a way today even where there is no way. That’s good news when you are trapped by your circumstances.

Do you ever feel that way? Do you ever feel trapped – that there is no way out of your situation? You know, you study your situation from every angle, you run every possible scenario, you check and double-check your figures, and as far as you can see, there is just no solution. You can’t go forward, and you can’t go back. So, what do you do?

When you are trapped by circumstances, trust in God’s deliverance. God will make a way for you. We sang this truth in one of our songs this morning:

“God will make a way, where there seems to be no way.
He works in ways we cannot see; he will make a way for me.

He will be your guide, hold you closely to his side.
With love and strength for each new day, he will make a way,
He will make a way.” (Don Moen)

Remember, faith is being sure of what you hope for and certain of what you do not see. You may not see the way out. There may be no way to see. It doesn’t matter. Because God can make a way where there is no way.

   B. The way God opens up for you will still require faith
      – Exodus 14:22; Isaiah 43:2-3

Now, it’s important to understand that the way God opens up for you will still require faith on your part. Notice God did not just pick the Israelites up and deposit them safely on the other side of the Red Sea. Exodus 14:22 tells us that “the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and [a wall of water] on their left.” (Exodus 14:22)

God created a passageway for them through the Red Sea, but they still had to walk that passage by faith. It must have taken tremendous faith for them to step onto the dry bed of the Red Sea with those walls of water towering above them on the right and on the left. Only God was holding those great walls of water back, and if he chose to let go at anytime, there was nothing anyone could do to stop him.

When you are trapped by circumstances, God will make a way for you. But that way will still require faith on your part. Sometimes the way God opens up for you involves making hard decisions or taking great risks in order to do that which is right. Sometimes it requires confession of sin, not only to God but to the person you sinned against. Sometimes it means letting go of some things that you hold dear in life. God never promises you an easy way, but he does promise to make a way if you will follow him in faith.

And most important of all, when you do follow God, God promises to go with you. You never walk the path of faith alone. When you go with God, God promises to walk with you every step of the way. God says this in Isaiah 43: “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you…. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned…. For I am the LORD, your God … your Savior, [that is, your Deliverer].” (Isaiah 43:2-3)

The way God opens up for you will still require faith, but take heart, when you pass through the waters, God will be with you all the way.

   C. Know the difference between faith and presumption
      – Exodus 14:23-28

1) God can make a way where there is no way. 2) The way God opens up for you will still require faith. 3) And then a third lesson we learn from Hebrews 11:29 is the difference between faith and presumption. It’s important to know the difference between faith and presumption. Back to Hebrews 11:29 we read: “By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned.” (Hebrews 11:29)

The Israelites and the Egyptians both entered the same passage between the same walls of water. The Israelites made it safely across, but the Egyptians drowned in their attempt. (Exodus 14:23-28) What was the difference? The Israelites walked by faith; the Egyptians acted in presumption.

The Israelites were God’s covenant people. They were responding in faith to God’s word. God told them to pass through the waters. The Egyptians had no interest in God, no relationship with God, no word from God. They acted in presumption, and the great walls of water came crashing down on them.

So, how do you know if you are responding in faith or acting in presumption?

I would ask you first of all, do you know God? Do you know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior? That is the very first step of faith in the Christian life – trusting Jesus Christ as God’s Son who died on the cross to save you from your sins.

Secondly, are you seeking God? Are you seeking God’s will in your life as revealed in his word and by the Holy Spirit? Are you seeking to be obedient to that which God has revealed in Holy Scripture? Are you truly seeking God first and not your own desires? If so, then you are responding in faith, and God will be with you as you follow him.

But if you are not trusting Christ, if you are not seeking God first in your life, then you are not living in faith. You are outside of God’s protection. Anyone who dares to live life without God is acting in presumption, and you never know when the walls are going to come crashing down.

So, which one are you this morning? Are you living in faith or in presumption? You might look like a Christian on the outside. You might even come to church regularly. You know, the Egyptians looked just like the Israelites when they entered the Red Sea. But the Egyptians did not have true faith in God.

If you do not know Christ, let me encourage you to put your faith in him today. God loves you! He sent his Son to die for you! Put your faith in Christ, and God will change your life forever. And when you reach the end of your days here on earth and you walk through that great passageway of death, as we all must do some day, when you pass through the waters, God will be with you. He will bring you safely to the other side.

CONCLUSION: All of us need God’s deliverance, certainly from sin, but at many other times in our lives as well. We all face times when we are trapped by our circumstances and we don’t see any way out. That’s when we need to remember that God is our strong deliverer.

What lesson of faith do we learn from the crossing of the Red Sea? When you are trapped by circumstances, trust in God’s deliverance. God can make a way where there is no way. The way God opens up for you may still require faith. And be sure you are responding in faith rather than acting in presumption.

What has you trapped today? What holds you captive? Do you long for freedom? God is your deliverer, and he will deliver you as you put your faith in him.

Remember Moses’ words to the Israelites: “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. 14 The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (Exodus 14:13-14)

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PART II OF MESSAGE NEXT WEEK:

II. Jericho: When you face insurmountable obstacles, trust in God’s deliverance (30)

III. Rahab: When you have a sinful past, trust in God’s deliverance (31)

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© Ray Fowler

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