We’re gonna start with some common ground. Isn’t it true that sometimes you get what you want, but you don’t want what you get when you get it? Let me give you some examples. I’ve been wanting to grow my hair long, and this is the reason I’m wearing a hat. But I can’t go… See more
We’re gonna start with some common ground. Isn’t it true that sometimes you get what you want, but you don’t want what you get when you get it? Let me give you some examples. I’ve been wanting to grow my hair long, and this is the reason I’m wearing a hat. But I can’t go to a barber to shape it up and make it look good. And so I got what I wanted. But now that I got it, I don’t really want it.
Isn’t it true that if you’re a teen listening or you’re in middle school, you would love to not have to go to school except now you’re locked at home with your parents, so you’ve got what you want, but you didn’t want what you got when you got it. See, this is the idea. You’re working from home. You would have loved to work from home, but now you’re longing for the morning commute again. You wanted maybe a bigger house, but you don’t really want the bigger bills. And this is just what happens. We want something until we we don’t. And this is true in lots of areas. It’s true in relationships. We could talk about boyfriends and girlfriends. You wanted it and then you got it and then you no longer wanted it. It’s too for a job. It was your dream job and you wanted it so badly. You prayed so much for it. You got it. And then you realize this is a nightmare of a dream job, an opportunity. And I can go on and on and on and on and on. Each of these times you got what you want, but you didn’t want what she got when when you got it. And the reason, the things that the main reason that things become things you don’t want is often because we don’t know what’s involved in getting what we want. This is just the truth. We want to get in shape, but we don’t know what’s necessarily involved in getting in shape. We want to be married, but we don’t know what’s involved in getting married. We want a new car. We don’t know what’s involved in getting a new car.
We want to be our own boss, but we don’t want we don’t know what’s involved in being our own boss. And so if you’re tracking with me, you’ve been following. I want to just do a little bit of review. This is a clarification. Sometimes you get what you want, but you don’t want what you get when you get it.
The reason you no longer want what you want is because you didn’t know what was involved in getting what you wanted.
We’re clear. I know it’s kind of silly, but actually we’re talking about all comes to a head in the story of the Book of Exodus because for decades, actually for hundreds of years, the Israelites were crying out to God because they wanted to be free. What’s remarkable about this story is that the moment they got what they wanted, the moment they got their freedom, they no longer wanted it. And it was because they didn’t know what it took to be free.
And the reason this passage, the one we’re going to study this morning, is so important is because their cry, their cry for freedom, what they wanted is also what we want.
We all want to be free.
We teach and preach from the subject all the time. We know that God offers us freedom from ourself and freedom from our sin and freedom from our past, freedom from having to keep up with the Joneses. Freedom from our past. We know that we are free to redefine ourselves and improve our family through chasing the gospel of Jesus. We are offered new dreams and new purpose — a new illustration in Christ. Our shackles are released and we have before us just such a wide expanse of freedom. We all want to be free. That’s why the passage that we’re gonna read this morning is so important. And that’s why there’s so many passages, scriptures that are famous about freedom. These passages become the Christian mantra, passages like John, Chapter 8, verse 36, “So if the Son seta you free, you will be free indeed.” Or how about Galatians Chapter 5, verse 1, it says, “For freedom, Christ has set you free.”
We all want to be free. But just like the thought that we started this discussion with, the question we have to ask is, do we know what it takes to be free? Do we know what’s involved? Do we know what it means to truly be free from the Bible?
You can turn with me to Exodus Chapter 13. We’re going to follow their story and learn as much as we can. And I want to catch you up on where we are in the discussion in the Book of Exodus. We said at the forefront that the Book of Exodus is about God drawing us out in order to draw us in, that God is trying to draw us out of something, to bring us closer to his presence. And so we had the Israelites enslaved in Egypt for about 400 years. And then God raised up a man named Moses, called them away from from his prestige and gave him a brand new identity to be the redeemer of the people of Israel. And last we saw God move powerfully through Moses his life and did some just absolutely amazing things. He manipulated nature to show that really there was only one king. Pharaoh thought he was king, but God was king. Pharaoh thought he was God, but God was God and man, this is where we are right after that. This is where we catch our story after these amazing plagues happen. There are ten of them. The last one ends with the people of Egypt losing their first born son. We pick up the story in Exodus, chapter 13, verse 17 on their way out of Egypt. This is what it says, “When Pharaoh let the people go.”
Free. But as we will see in just a second. The Israelites experienced challenges they never anticipated because being free is not all that easy.
They got what they wanted, but they didn’t know what was involved in getting what they wanted. And so they no longer wanted it. Let’s read the story together.
“When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them out on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God, ‘said if they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.’ So God led the people around by the desert road towards the Red Sea. The Israelites went up out of Egypt ready for battle.”
Right away when they’re released. They head down a desert road. They wanted to go to the Philistine country. But God didn’t let them go that way. We’ll talk about that in a little bit. But instead, they go to a desert road. The journey is torturous. The banks of the Nile are fertile. There’s trees and plants that grow. The temperature is somewhat moderate. But instead of going through the wonderful banks of the Nile, they had to go through the desert.
Have I ever walked through a desert? Cassandra and I went to Las Vegas a couple of years ago. Cassandra’s family lives in L.A. and so it’s not uncommon for them to take a weekend trip down to Vegas to watch a show or whatever. And so we join them on one of those trips where we actually want to go see Cirque de Soleil. Las Vegas is a desert. We went outside when we got there. And the best way I could describe the heat would be if I told you were in a sauna and while you were in a sauna, you were having to stand behind exhaust pipes of a car. That’s what it felt like. It was the worst experience of my life. I’m not even kidding. Maybe I’m kidding. I don’t know. It was like 100 degrees. And then it was like someone breathed their hot breath on you all day long.
So you have to make a decision, right? You were like, it’s 100 degrees and a hair dryer blowing on me. So I have to decide, am I going to walk from my car directly to the place and walk on the strip? Or am I going to walk between, like going from hotel to hotel to hotel or casino to casino to casino. And so this is the fight I was in. It’s either be in the broiler or go in the smoke filled casino. Those are my two choices. My wife has asthma and we still chose to go through the smoke filled casino because it was blazing.
So could you even imagine? You leave the fertile area, you leave the moderate temperature on the banks of the Nile, and freedom means you have to walk through a desert. Their feet are burning up. Not only that, but it says they came out with military garb. These people had been slaves for 400 years. They have no idea how to fight. So the Bible says that God led them in an indirect way.
Imagine this. They come out ready for battle and at least they think they’re ready for battle. And God goes, no, you won’t. You’re not going to fight. Because if you fought, then you would end up quitting. And so here’s what freedom means. Remember, they were set free. And so here’s what freedom means. Freedom means that you’re free to walk through a hot desert wearing military equipment, ready for a battle that God thinks you’re not ready for.
That’s what freedom is. And here’s what it makes me think. We all want to be free, but what I’ve learned is that freedom from your past doesn’t mean you’re immediately in paradise. Maybe that’s maybe that’s because biblical freedom often takes you in an unclear direction. You can imagine the Israelites thinking we are free. You know, we’re free, but somehow we’re still struggling. Look, I’m ready for war.
God, you know, I’m ready to put on a battle. I’m ready to take the land. I’m ready for paradise.
But God’s response is so clear to them. If you go that way, you’re going to quit. You don’t know what it means to be free. And I bring you to this point. I bring up this point because when we became Christians, we leave our past. But man, isn’t there still the struggle of our past.
It’s not like we become Christians and all of a sudden all the struggles we ever have are all gone away. There’s still a desert road before us and we’re not ready to take on all the battles that it’s going to take to get to paradise. Now, we got to fight right away. And so here what we see is God leads his people along the longer way, not because he’s holding out on them, but because he knows he still needs to bring them through some stages of preparation in order for that to get to the place that he wanted them to go. And so if you’re still waiting on God for something, if you’re still wondering, “you know, wow, why am I not in the place I ought to be? I thought when I became a Christian, I was set free.” Maybe it’s because just because you’re free from your past doesn’t mean you’re in paradise. There’s still some preparation that has to happen. There’s still some times of refining. There’s still sometimes a sanctification. There’s still some times of shaping that God needs to do with your heart in order to get you to the place that he wants you to be.
“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Tell the Israelites to turn back and a camp near Pi Ha hiroth between Migdal and the sea. They are to encamp by the sea directly opposite to Baal Zephon.’ Pharaoh will think ‘the Israelites are wandering around the land in confusion, hemmed in by the desert because they’re going the long way.'”
So this is slavery right there. Slavery in Egypt. You see all that green? That’s the wonderfulness. This is where they should have gone, just due east. And then they could have moved towards the land that they were headed to go. But instead of bringing him this way, God brings them down here.
And this is where the Red Sea crossing ultimately happens and the wandering happens. So, again, they should have gone directly west or directly east. But instead, God brings them due south.
“‘And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart and he will pursue them. But I will gain glory for myself through Pharaoh and his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord.’ So the Israelites did this. When the King of Egypt was told that the people had fled, Pharaoh and his officials changed their mind about them and said, ‘What have we done? We have let the Israelites go and have lost their services.'”
Pharaoh sees that the people are encamping in this really strange spot in the desert, and he’s lost over a million labourers.
“So, he had his chariots made ready and took his army with him. He took six hundred of his best chariots, along with all the other chariots of Egypt’s, with officials over all of them. The Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh, king of Egypt. So he pursued the Israelites who were marching out boldly.”
Pharaoh realizes that all the people have fled. He changes his mind, God hardens his heart, and so he decides to go out and get them. And this is the most powerful force in the known world. This would be like you going out to fight the U.S. Army. These are just freed slaves. They have no idea how to be in war. And God didn’t even think that they were good enough to fight the Philistines. They would have been like fighting in a new team compared to the Egyptians, which would have been like LeBron’s Lakers. That’s the comparison. But this is too much of a fight for them. This is like F16’s and drones, and all they got is a bunch of cap guns.
Verse 9: “The Egyptians – all Pharaoh’s horse and chariots, horsemen and troops – pursued the Israelites and overtook them as they encamped by the sea near Pi Hahiroth, opposite Baal Zephon.”
When the Bible says that the Egyptians overtook them, it means that they gained all the ground back. It means the Grim Reaper is at your doorstep. The sound must have been like the sound of a train coming at them with billows of smoke in the background. And so here’s just a quick review. What you have is the people of Israel whose backed backs are against the sea. They have nowhere to go.
The sea and the desert, they’re in the wilderness. And what they see before them is hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of horsemen who are coming their way. Where are the Israelites supposed to go? Where are they gonna go? They have never been trained in war. They’re dressed for war, but it’s more like a Halloween costume. They’ve never been in war. Are they going to swim across the Red Sea? Where are they going to go? They’re hemmed in.
And so the next sentence makes perfect sense. “As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and they cried out to the Lord. They 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?'”
They got what they wanted, but they didn’t want what they got when they got it. The same people who are trying to go out are now trying to get back in.
And here’s the other thing I think about, and it makes me think that just because you’re free from your past doesn’t mean you’re free from the attacks of your past.
This is just the truth. Freedom. Freedom in Christ. Number one still means that that you have to deal with some struggle. You’re not immediately in paradise. And also, freedom in Christ doesn’t mean that you’re free from being attacked by your past life. There still comes a time in the process of being led out of your life of sin and rebellion and into the perfect plan and the purposes of God for your life. There still comes a time when you want progress and you want to change and you want to overcome and you want something new and you think, man, I’m on the right road and there’s visions and their dreams.
And there still comes a time when you look up and you see your past rushing at you, trying to devour you, trying to destroy you. You look left and you look right and there’s nowhere else to go. And it looks like you are about to face imminent doom. You see the lust of your eyes coming and crushing in on you.
You see, I thought I left that. But it’s coming back and attacking. You see the rage of your youth or the lies of your tongue or the pain of your circumstance. And you look up and they are just coming back. The addictions are still coming back. See, freedom doesn’t mean that your past gets to stay away forever.
It doesn’t mean that you’re free from the consequences of your past.
And look at the Israelites phrasing is similar to our phrasing. “I don’t think I can do this anymore. I don’t think I can move forward. This is too much to follow, God. It’s too much to follow Him. I didn’t know things were going to be like this. I didn’t know it was going to be so hard. I didn’t know that being free meant Egypt was still going to attack me. I didn’t know being free meant that my sin was still going to constantly attack me. I didn’t know that being free meant that I was going to be attacked by my past consistently.”
And in this season, when stress is so high and fear is so present, I know that there is a great temptation for all of us to see the attacks of our past and just want to give in and want to give up. This is exactly the position the Israelites found themselves in and they wanted to be free, but they didn’t know what was involved and being free. Freedom meant walking in the desert waiting for a battle they couldn’t fight. Backed up against a sea with the greatest adversary of their life crushing in on them.
That doesn’t sound like the freedom we talk about. But that’s the way that freedom starts. They’re crying for freedom for so long. I bet you they had a different picture in mind first. Well, didn’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 again. Sometimes you get what you want, but you don’t want what you get and you get it. If you’ve been on your faith journey for any amount of time, you’ve felt this before, you have felt this before.
“Maybe my life would be better without God. Maybe my life would be better without being set free. Maybe I’d just go back to my old life and maybe it’d be better off without God’s intervention constantly in my life, without him being the physician of my life. If I could just be a slave to my past, maybe that would better.”
That’s what they’re talking. That’s what they’re saying to Moses. But really, they’re talking to God. And the question they’re asking is simply this, “Would I actually be better off without God?”
And you felt this. You know this feeling. All of us have experienced this.
A couple of nights ago, I had to take my daughter to the emergency room. It’s nothing serious. She dislocated her elbow. But at the time, I was so frustrated. I was so upset. I was so angry. There were times, even in my own discouragement that I thought, “God, you love me and you’re not taking care of my daughter like you love me. You’re not taking care of me the way I thought you were supposed to take care of me.” And it was just for a blip for a second. But it made me very clear that is an experience that all of us go through.
I mean, how about the countless families who are mourning for their loved ones right now? Don’t you think some of them deal with this heart? “Wouldn’t it be better, Lord, if you just left us alone? Wouldn’t it be better, wouldn’t we do better if you just left us alone, because I thought when I left my son, I thought when I chose to follow you, I thought when I left that all behind, I didn’t expect there would be so many challenges to being free.”
The attacks, the doubt, the need, the needing to constantly have your soul refined. I think I’d be better off without you telling me what to do in these situations.
I just think I’d be better off. Look. we all have been there before. And maybe that’s where you are today. You’re free, but your freedom doesn’t look like what you thought it was going to be. You’re free.
You’ve been saved from your sin. But, man, there’s still a lot of doubts here, still backed up against a sea. You still see your past attacking you. You’re still not in paradise. You see all these things. And I want to encourage you the same way that I believe God encouraged them. The Israelites. It’s like a movie. And things could go either way at this time, right. They could die or they could be set free. But God is about to do something amazing. It’s the most popular miracle in the history of mankind. It’s the most amazing thing that has ever happened in all of human history. At least one of the most amazing things that has ever happened in verse 13. I love this. Moses is going to give a little pep talk before the miracle happens.
“Moses answers 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.'”
Verse 14: “The Lord will fight for you. You need only be still.”
Be still, God is going to fight for you. It’s powerful. It’s encouraging. You’re in a hot desert. God is going to fight for you. You’re struggling. God is going to fight for you. You’re overwhelmed. God is going to fight for your doubting. God is going to fight for you. God is going to fight for you. Just be still.
This is amazingly powerful. The only problem is that it’s actually incomplete. I preached this text about a year ago. It was the first time I ever noticed this. But but if you keep reading, God has an addition to this idea that you need only be still. Right, Moses says God is going to fight for you. You need only be still.
Verse 15: “Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on.'”
To move on.
So, here’s what we have here, right? You have two different discussions. Moses saying, look, God is going to fight for you. God is going to bring you to the freedom that you ultimately hoped for. God is going to take you away from the from the sins of your youth. God is going to set you free. God is going to move significantly. You just need to be still. And then God says to Moses, no, no, no, no, no. You’re saying what’s right, but it’s incomplete. You’ll also need to tell the people to move on.
Move on, but they’re not ready.
We’ll tell them to get prepared, but they’re in a desert. We’ll tell them to cool themselves. Well, they’re being attacked. Tell them to trust in me. But they’re doubting. Teach them to be overcomers. And what I’ve learned is that biblical freedom requires us to be still and take responsibility.
Both things at the same time. Be still and take responsibility if you want to learn to be free. The way that God orchestrates our freedom. You need to learn to be surrendered and also active.
You need to learn to go, OK? “God, I don’t have a job right now. I need to be totally surrender to the fact that you will take care of me, but also be active in finding a new job or or filing for unemployment or whatever.”
Does that make sense? You’re surrendered and you’re active. You need to be meek, meaning cautious, prepared. But you also need to be bold. You need to be courageous. You need to be calm. You need to be totally content and also driven. The promise for freedom is freedom. And God has never been, “Look, you just wait and be still and God will take care of you no matter what happens in life.”
No, no, no. The promise of freedom in Christ is that you are still and your active. That’s what we find in this passage. Both of what Moses said with God, “Be still. God will fight for you.” Yes, that’s true. “Move on.” Take responsibility. That’s also true. God will fight the battles of your past. But you need to keep on pressing forward towards his promises and verse 19, it makes it so clear.
I love this, “The angel of the Lord who had been traveling in front of Israel’s army, withdrew and went behind.” Did you see that? He was travelling in front and then he went behind. “The pillar of the cloud, also moved from in front and stood behind them, coming between the armies of Egypt and Israel.”
This is what fledgling freedom begins to look like. God fights the battles of your past while you move towards his promises. That’s what it looks like. God can fight that stuff. You’ve got to keep moving forward. Be still and move on. Both are true. God is gonna fight for them. God is going to literally split the sea in just a moment. But they also need to learn to take heart, get prepared and be actively responsible for the thing that God has placed before them.
Moses turns to God and says, God, do something about this. And God then turns to Moses and says, I did do something about it. I chose you. And so verse 16 is the climax, “Raise your staff. Stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the waters so the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground.”
Verse 17: “I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them. And I will gain glory through Pharaoh and all his army, through his chariots and his horsemen. The Egyptians will know that I am the Lord when I gain glory through Pharaoh, his chariots and his horsemen. Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the Lord drove the sea back with a strong East wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground with the wall of water on the right and on their left.
The Egyptians pursued them, and all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots and horsemen followed them into the sea. During the last watch of the night the Lord looked down from the pillar of fire and cloud at the Egyptian army and threw it into confusion. He jammed the wheels of their chariots so that they had difficulty driving. And the Egyptians said, “Let’s get away from the Israelites. The Lord is fighting for them against Egypt.”
Isn’t it crazy in the same story that started with God’s army trying to get away from their enemy? Now the people of God’s enemies are trying to get away from God’s people.
“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Stretch out your hand over the seas so the waters may flow back over the Egyptians and the chariots and the horsemen.’ Moses stretched out his hand over the sea. And at daybreak, the sea went back into its place. The Egyptians were fleeing towards it, and the Lord swept them into the sea. The waters flowed back and covered the chariots and the horsemen. The entire army of Pharaoh that had followed the Israelites into the sea. Not one of them survived.”
We’ve been pulling a lot of practical points from this story, but honestly, the whole point of is is God’s glory. I’ve talked about several different topics, but the point is that God gains glory for himself at the end. Look, we want to be free. And God is working to pursue our freedoms so that he can gain glory for himself.
God is working to restore men and women to him because he wants glory for himself. And if we trust in him, if we trust the process, if we trust that we need to be still but also keep moving forward, I think we can see him move in ways that we’ve never seen before. Again, we want to find freedom, but we must realize that paradise doesn’t happen immediately.
We want to find freedom. But we have to realize that there are some doubts in the midst of us pursuing true freedom. There are some battles that we have to fight.
And there are some times in our life when it looks like there is nowhere to go. We’re backed up against the sea. And there’s a desert before us and our enemy is approaching. We realize really our only option for freedom in God is to learn to be still in the areas we need to be still in. And also to keep moving forward in the areas that we have some responsibility. It’s not an either or. It’s both.
And God will fight for you. But you also need to learn to take responsibility for those fights in your life as well. And what God offers is a real freedom. It’s not a freedom of the world that the world offers, which is a kind of a fraudulent freedom. It’s a true freedom. And I just want to tell you, I believe that God has something in store in the midst of all of this, that our cry for freedom is a great cry. But we have to know what’s involved, because when we get it, we have to realize it’s not as easy as the world makes it seem. We can get out of our comfort zone. We can pursue faith.
And I believe that we find God moving in a significant way when we leave the shores that seem so comfortable and enter into the middle of seas so we can see miracles.
The story wraps up like this: “the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground with a wall of water on their right and on their left. That day, the Lord saved Israel from the hands of the Egyptians, and the Israelites saw the Egyptians laying dead on the shore. When the Israelites saw the mighty hand of the Lord displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord and put their trust in him, and in Moses, his servant.”
Today, you might be fighting some battles, you might be on the losing end of some skirmishes, but I want to close by reminding you that God has already won the war.
The guy has already won the war for our freedom. One day we will have paradise in heaven. We were never promised paradise here, but one way we’ll get it, if we just keep moving forward and keep trusting in him. What I learned from this text is so simple, but I believe it could change our life if we understand it.
The best illustration of this idea of contentment, but also being driven, is Jesus. When he was in the garden wondering what was next and looking at his life and going, “wow, God, I am going to be crushed soon.” He got on his knees and he prayed. He prayed for contentment.
He prayed that God would change his heart. He asked for something. But he also allowed himself to be surrendered in God, changing his heart. And then when he got up and God said, “now you’re still going to have to go through with this, Son.” He got up so motivated, so driven, so ready to do whatever it took.
The man who claimed freedom the most out of any other man who’s ever lived is Jesus Christ. And we see it especially in the cross of Christ.
In a moment, we’re going to take communion. We take a piece of bread and a bit of juice that represents Jesus’s body and the blood poured out for us. We take it as a reminder that we, too, can have the freedom given to us by Christ if we will follow the illustration and the example given to us by our Lord and Savior.