Sermon 35: Ex 14:21 to 15:21 “Israel is free, enemy is swallowed”

Transitions Series

Instead of summarizing, I’m posting the manuscript of my sermon notes. This is a time efficiency/effectiveness thing:

Dear people seeking God’s order in a sometimes chaotic world,

Today’s reading is the account of where the first round of the start of Israel’s wilderness journey ends. it describes a transition moment in a transition journey

Last week I mentioned that the bones of Joseph being taken along ended one bigger story. In today’s reading Miriam, Moses’ sister, leads a celebration song-and-dance with all the women, which brings us back to the beginning, to when a King, who did not know about Joseph, became threatened by the flourishing of his slave people, and ordered their male babies thrown into the running waters of the Nile river.

Miriam was part of the group of women who defied Pharaoh’s death order, Pharaoh’s anti-creation command, and were used by God to save Moses.

Now the women are leading a celebration, after Pharaoh has been run over by the water and Israel has new freedom and life.

Ancient writing worked its telling of events that way.

Echoing something from before, or having a group of people come together again and lead the action again, is a sign an episode is over.

(contextual parallel? – “there and back again” in Chronicles of Narnia & Abram and Isaac Beersheba)

We, together, are seeking a way to get more fully into God’s creation and salvation blessing, and know that just like Israel, when we get there, we will likely find it new and strange, just like those who first came to this continent found it all new and strange.

To me the most fascinating thing about Pharaoh’s end, is — once you understand the way the ancient Hebrews told the story – how you see that his fight against God and God’s creation forces of blessing and life created chaos in creation itself, and, in the end, the ironic chaos of water crashing down on him, of his war machines failing him. In a way it was creation itself, at God’s design, pronouncing final judgment.

But also, how it is a boomeranging or a reversing of the order to throw the male Hebrew babies in the water to drown.

Think about this: the Egyptian army that drowned, were all men.

(interesting side note: girls camp, forbidden to let the young girls know horses had died… soldiers was ok)

This biblical account is not just about Pharaoh, it is about Egypt as a universal type of people, people who willfully defy the just and fair order God built into creation, who defy God himself by acting like gods, and believing they have the power to overcome God.

In this account, God finally takes their resistance to him and his ways, takes their blind determination, takes their self-assured power, and has creation itself close over it. In fact, swallow it, just as earlier we read of the plague of locusts being blown out to sea and swallowed by it. Just as God tried to wash the earth of anti-creation filth in a flood.

All that happens is clearly at God’s direction, by God’s design. God is in charge. Think of how often he tells Moses what is coming…

And why does God do this all? — So that he may be known…

Known to Israel, known to Egypt, known to all the world. Known as the Creator. Known as just judge. Known as liberator and redeemer. …

Well, it works. He becomes known. Some of the Egyptians, in their final moments, know God. They finally see and say that the God of Israel is too powerful for them.

The actual events that finally complete Israel’s freedom (or new birth out of the water of travail) and ensure the final end of Egypt’s powers, are a clear echo of creation events.

Where have we read before of the separation of waters?

Where have we read before of dry land appearing out of chaos?

In the account of creation!

So in saving Israel, God re-creates.

God repeats patterns of the original creation.

First, creation is disrupted as in the plagues, where a portion of creation is allowed to run wild to demonstrate God’s greater power.

Remember, Pharaoh, in all his power, could not find a magician strong enough to undo the plagues, only to recreate them, to add to the chaos. He could not bring order.

The disruptions to creation in todays account are the cloud or pillar of God’s presence and protection, and the wind that parts the waters, making dry land and safety appear.

Now, what later comes at Pentecost that could be an echo back to what what we just read?

A mighty wind

Pillars of fire!

And those things mark a new start for Israelites and people from all nations who believe in Jesus!

Here, in what we read today, creation is reorganized for a time to create a safe re-birth canal for Israel, and then, when Moses obediently raises his hand and staff like he did to start the reordering, creation returns chaotically, with a churning of water, to normal, and God’s enemy is swallowed.

And new Freedom for Israel is born.

It’s beautiful in its sense of natural justice coming at God’s direction.

And as we contemplate the sadness of soldier bodies on the beach it is worthwhile to contemplate to what degree we ourselves fight God’s creation order.

To wonder, how am I like Pharaoh?

Do I ignore God? Do I think I often know better than God?

Do I resist his call to soften my heart?

To let my heart be softened by submitting to God’s loving strength? By letting his Spirit work on and in and through me?

This same God that we resist by our very Pharaoh-like human nature, eventually came to us as one of us in Jesus Christ. The word of God, the Creation force made flesh. And Jesus died to demonstrate God’s power even over death itself. And to demonstrate God’s love. And to disarm his required justice. He did it for the sake of those who will believe in Jesus’s being a willing sacrifice for them, to save them from their hard hearts.

This same Jesus has opened a most amazing way through the chaos of this world, a way into the serenity and peace of the presence of God. No matter what is happening. No matter who is after you.

Are you moving toward that God? Are you moving in the direction he is calling you to? The direction he is indicating by his fiery pillar and mighty wind?

If we can imagine ourselves standing in the path of dry land, between the walls of water, somewhere between the power of Egypt beginning to struggle to keep its wheels turning, and the nation of God’s people, damaged, being birthed by God out of the contracting, womb-like oppression of Pharaoh.

If we can imagine walking into the unknown, which God has promised will be a place of blessing in full relationship with him, what choice would we make? Which direction would we walk?

And, as the extreme chaos settles into calm waters again, and God’s creation forces of blessing and life and order and flourishing are restored, as the re-creation action is completed, there was evening, and there was morning, a new day.

Amen

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