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Between the Devil and Deep Red Sea
09/28/2008
Scripture: Exodus 13:18; Exodus 14:2-31
Track 9 of 14 in the Moses: A Man of Selfless Dedication series
Running time: 1 hour, 02 minutes, 06 seconds.


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Mike Nobis Speaker: Mike Nobis
Sunday School Teacher, Former Elder at Madison Park Christian Church. Mike is President of JK Creative Printers & Mailing in Quincy, IL. He is married to Pam and has three children, Tom, Tyler and Jennifer. Mike has three grandchildren: Ryne, Ivy and Alicia.

View all sermons by this speaker.


Between the Devil and the Deep Red Sea

Americans are a strange bunch of people. We have all sorts of phrases we use to describe things that are really weird. A person learning English has a hard job trying to master our language. We have words that describe several different things. If we use the word, “rock” for example, it can mean several things depending on how it is used in a sentence.

Look at the rock on her finger
I like to rock
That rocks
Don’t throw that rock
The storm rocked the house

The same can be true when we try to describe a predicament we find ourselves in.

Being in a pinch
in a jam
in a pickle
between a rock and a hard place
up a wall
up a tree
in a corner
a catch-22

We all from time to time find ourselves in tough spots, or predicaments. Sometimes we experience them due to no fault of our own but I bet most of the time predicaments are self inflicted. Some of us might not be directly involved but we do feel the affect of other people’s predicament. Our lesson today is about a tough predicament the nation of Israel finds itself in. I think that is neat to say, the nation of Israel. Up until this point, they were just slaves; they were not their own; they belonged to someone else. Now they are free thanks to God. What is funny in a way; the first predicament they find themselves in requires a miracle to get out of.

How many of you found yourself in a predicament that was spelled with a capital P? Did you ever wonder if you were going to make it out alive or in one piece? Have you ever found yourself in a spot when you thought there was no hope? How many of you are still here and alive today?

I know that sounds stupid but think about it; we are still alive no matter how bad things are. No matter how bad things get, we always come out on the other end to live another day. Many times, the next day is different and when dealing with God, the next day is usually better and you are better because of the experience. Sometimes God uses these experiences to get our attention. It was no different with Israel. These free slaves had never known what freedom was like. Their lifestyle was totally Egyptian to the core. God needed to teach his people a new lifestyle but before he would do that, he had to get their attention.

The 10th plague did what it was meant to do, to break the back of Pharaoh, to break him so hard that he let the Israelites go. Because the nation had obeyed what God commanded Moses and was packed and ready, they left the next day a free nation. Where were they to go? What was next on the agenda? God raised up a great pillar of smoke by day and fire by night to lead the people. When the pillar moved, the people followed. When it stopped, the nation stopped. God did the leading and the people had faith that God and Moses knew what they were doing.

Exodus 13:18 So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea. The Israelites went up out of Egypt armed for battle.

I can’t imagine what that sight was like. It was always there, God always had a presence and the sight and sound of the pillar had to be awesome. You and I have never experienced anything like that, but the Israelites in the wilderness never experienced a moment without it. The pillar was their guide. Where and when God wanted to people to move, the pillar moved and directed them. How easy that had to be to know God’s will. They could just see the pillar and they knew if they were going in the right direction.

When you are following another car to get you to a place you have never been, how can you tell the car in front of you is lost? What are some of the signs? How does it make you feel when the guide is more lost than the followers?

What happens when God leads you into a dead end? Has that ever happened before?
If you look at Bible maps of the Exodus, you will discover that almost everyone is different. The area around the Red Sea today is much different than it was during the time of the Exodus. In fact, the Red Sea today has receded farther to the south than it was back in the days of Moses. Above the Red Sea area was an area called the Sea of Reeds, often times called the Reed Sea. It is hard to place exactly where this event took place but by reading the scriptures, we can get a good idea what was going on.

Sometimes God leads us to places that often cause us to question what God is doing. Because we are short-sided people, God’s larger plan is hard for us to understand. Our era is also one where we expect things to happen instantly. Having to wait, especially if it is a long time without any expectation of the end is something we have trouble accepting. It is especially hard when it is God we are waiting on because we normally need him now when times are desperate.
God directed Israel to Succoth. It was here the nation made their first camp. They didn’t stay there long and quickly moved down to Etham. The farther away they could get from Egypt and Pharaoh, the better. But God throws in an unexpected move.

Exodus 14:2-4 Tell the Israelites to turn back and encamp near Pi Hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea. They are to encamp by the sea, directly opposite Baal Zephon. Pharaoh will think, ‘The Israelites are wandering around the land in confusion, hemmed in by the desert.’ And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them. But I will gain glory for myself through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD.” So the Israelites did this.

Now that sounds fairly simple to us and most of us would blow right past this passage and really not understand what God is telling Moses. The Israelites had moved down south away from Pharaoh; now God is directing them to retrace their steps and go back to a place that is not a good place to be camping. In fact, the location God sends them is a perfect geographical cul-de-sac; a dead end street. There was no protection there, they were trapped and boxed in with no way of escape.

Moses was no dummy and he knew the desert very well after living in it for over 40 years while in Midian. He knew the trade routes and he knew this area very well since he was lived near this area while he was the grandson of Pharaoh. Where is Moses’ rebuttal to God for moving the nation backward and in such a dangerous spot?

Moses knows by now God has a better plan. The trap wasn’t for Israel; the trap was set for Pharaoh. Israel was the bait. Israel needed to learn and to take confidence in the fact that God wanted to fight their battles for them. All they had to do was to obey and remain faithful; trust in His leading. When Israel did that, they always came out the victor. When they forgot or refused to accept God’s help or ways, they paid a dear price for their stubbornness.

Is God any different today? Do you think about how much God wants to fight your battles only if we would let him? How does God do this? Has he fought any battles for you that you are aware of?

Exodus 14:5-8 When the king of Egypt was told that the people had fled, Pharaoh and his officials changed their minds about them and said, “What have we done? We have let the Israelites go and have lost their services!” So he had his chariot made ready and took his army with him. He took six hundred of the best chariots, along with all the other chariots of Egypt, with officers over all of them. The LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, so that he pursued the Israelites, who were marching out boldly.

Suddenly the scene changes; before Israel realized it, they were trapped. Not only were they trapped, they also had an army bearing down on them. Up to this point the Israelites were boldly moving around still basking in the light of the victory God had over Pharaoh. They followed their new found guide, the pillar right into a bad situation. The mood very quickly changed from celebration to frighten.

Exodus 14:10 As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the LORD.

What are you like when you are frightened? Have you ever been frightened before. What is it like and what thoughts go through your mind. It is amazing how fast I can run when I am frightened.

This is the first time in history that this new nation cried out to God in masse. A few moments ago they were walking around as though there were no cares in the world. They strutted about like peacocks, with an arrogant swagger. All of a sudden it all changed and they began to cry out. Scripture doesn’t tell us what they cried to God but it does tell us what they said to Moses.

People handle predicaments differently but what normally happens when relief doesn’t come immediately? People look for someone to blame.

Exodus 14:11-1 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? 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!”

Is it better to be in safety as slaves than to be free in danger?

All of us find ourselves in predicaments. But what happens when we stay in one too long?
We begin to question the very roots of our faith or the things we believe in. We will look around for someone to blame and it usually starts with someone in leadership. When you are terrified, what is the last bit of advice you want to hear at that moment?

Exodus 14:13-14 Moses 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. The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

When we are frightened, what advice can we learn from what Moses said to the Israelites? 1) Don’t be afraid, 2) Stand firm, and 3) watch God work

What is the main reason many Christians don’t see God work in their lives? Many of us don’t shut up enough for God to work on our behalf. The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.”
The problem is with many people, when they find themselves in a predicament, they have to tell everyone they know their problems. God doesn’t need to be informed. He knows already the situation we are in. We just need to be silent and wait for Him to do his thing. Our basic human instinct is to panic. First, we are afraid. Second, we run. Third, we fight and fourth we tell everyone. The Lord’s counsel is just the opposite. The Lord just taps his foot, waiting for us to wait.

What is remarkable, the Israelites did exactly what Moses instructed them to do and God came through again. God did 4 mighty miracles on behalf of Israel.

First, He told Moses to go forward

Exodus 14:15 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on.

What is the normal thing to do when faced with an obstacle in front of you? We stop.
In front of the nation was a vast body of water. There was no place to go so they felt trapped. When we view our situation from our own perspective, we see obstacles but from God’s point of view, all obstacles can be removed.

Second, he moved the cloud from ahead of them to behind them.

Exodus 14:19 Then the angel of God, who had been traveling in front of Israel’s army, withdrew and went behind them. The pillar of cloud also moved from in front and stood behind them. The pillar of cloud also moved from in front and stood behind them, coming between the armies of Egypt and Israel. Throughout the night the cloud brought darkness to the one side and light to the other side; so neither went near the other all night long.

The pillar did two things; what were they? Why did it do this? What was the purpose? It prohibited the Egyptians from moving in on the Israelites and it kept the Israelites from seeing the army behind them and quaking with fear.

Third, God opened a path through the sea.

Exodus 14:21-22 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 a wall of water on their right and on their left.

Today, at the spot where most believe this event took place, the water there is 84’ deep and spans about 12 miles. During the time of Moses, we are not sure exactly how deep or wide the water was. We know from scripture that God divided the water and used the East wind to dry the land so the people could cross. The crossing was all completed in one night before the fourth watch of the night (4:00 AM).

Fourth, God brought confusion to the Egyptians

Exodus 14:23-25 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 made the wheels of their chariots come off 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.”

If you were one of the Egyptian soldiers, how long would it take you to realize that this whole thing was a trap? What would you do once you realized this? Why did God confuse the Egyptians?

Exodus 14:26-31 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea so that the waters may flow back over the Egyptians and their chariots and horsemen.” Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at daybreak the sea went back to its place. The Egyptians were fleeing toward£ it, and the LORD swept them into the sea. The water flowed back and covered the chariots and horsemen—the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed the Israelites into the sea. Not one of them survived. But 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 Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the shore. And when the Israelites saw the great power the LORD displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the LORD and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant.

I want to close with this final question, which was more important, coming to the Red Sea or crossing it? I believe that both are equally important. Without predicaments in our lives, miracles of the Red Sea can’t take place. God uses difficult times to show us just how powerful he is if we allow him to fight our battles for us. We must always remember, a predicament in God’s hands is a highway to the Promised Land.