Sermon for Lent Midweek 4, March 17, AD 2021

Exodus 14:10-15:1

When God saves there are always winners and losers. We sing every week to God in the Sanctus, “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Sabaoth.” Sabaoth means hosts, armies, massive groups of soldiers. Our Lord is a Man of War, as the Song of Moses says. When God saves his people from evil, He truly does defeat evil. Those who oppose God, who oppress God’s people, will be on the receiving end of God’s mighty right hand.
           
This may be difficult to wrap our brains around since we often think of God as love, and love as niceness. Surely God wants everyone to be saved, but this does not mean He tolerates evil. We do not have a nice, tame God, but one who keeps His promises to His people, and is able to do so in His power. Pharoah and his ancestors had enslaved the Israelites in Egypt. God had promised a land to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and that their descendants would be numerous. God was going to keep that promise.
           
In the way of God’s promise was Pharoah. Pharoah did not respect God, He did not remember the work of Joseph many years before. He feared the Israelites and put them to work as slaves. He even attempted genocide to keep their numbers down, first demanding that the midwives kill every boy born and, when they would not, having his own people kill Israelite boys. The devil loves to work by killing God’s people.
           
Yet God preserved one boy, Moses, who grew up in Pharoah’s palace, and later lived in exile for forty years before being sent back by the Lord to free God’s people. The people were uneasy about this, but Moses trusted the Lord. Through Moses, the Lord brought plagues on Egypt, and instead of realizing who the True God is, Pharoah’s heart grew harder and harder. Only after the death of Pharoah’s firstborn son would he let God’s people go. God’s might was brought down hard on Pharoah for rebelling against God, and he paid the penalty.
           
God showed his might in rescuing His people from the Egyptians, but when they arrived at the Red Sea, they quickly forgot. Pharoah only hardened his heart more and pursued them. Immediately the Israelites complained that Moses had only brought them in the wilderness to die. Let us note their example so we learn not to be like them. It is always easy to say we will follow God when things are good and easy, when we are in church. Yet when tribulation comes how quickly we often forget Him. May our Lord protect us from this temptation. Ask God to remind you often of His true word and almighty hand, and you will never lack comfort.
           
As Moses responded to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” Fear not and see the salvation of the Lord. That very word for “salvation” is “Yeshua” – the name of Jesus. At the Red Sea it was Jesus who fought for His people, just as He fights for us. Moses says to us, Fear not, stand firm, and see Jesus. He will fight for you!
           
The Lord had Moses lift up his staff to part the waters of the Red Sea, then brought an east wind to part them. God could have parted them without Moses, but had Moses lift his staff so the Israelites and we would know that this was not some natural coincidence. It was our Lord who parted the seas for them, and our Lord who then hardened the hearts of Pharoah and his men so they would make chase. The Lord was in control the entire time.
           
The angel of God in the cloud, the one called Lord before, is the Son of God. He stands between Pharoah and the people of Israel so they can cross. After they had passed through the water, God instructed Moses to stretch his hand over the sea again so when the Egyptians pursued, they would be drowned. The cloud was removed, and the Egyptians hurried into the sea, being hardened by our Lord into doing so. There they were utterly defeated, their mighty chariots stuck in the mud and the Lord threw them into the midst of the sea, drowning every single one.
           
Thus “Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore.” There were winners and losers. Those who trusted God won, and those who opposed God were destroyed. When the Israelites saw the Egyptian bodies floating on the sea, the broken chariots gathering on the shore, they knew that had been delivered. It was not just one battle but would have continuing effect. Their lives of slavery were over. Through the water their enemy had been defeated and God had saved them with a mighty arm.
           
Our Lord made this peculiar and unprecedented path through the water in order to save his people. While God used natural means of wind and water so the Israelites could pass and the Egyptians be destroyed, what happened was certainly not just a natural occurrence. This mighty work of salvation became the defining moment in the Old Testament – how God would always refer to Himself, as the one who had saved this people, made them, through the water of the Red Sea, delivering them from slavery.
           
So also our Lord used water to make us a peculiar and unprecedented path. The water of baptism, which delivers us from evil – slavery to the devil, the world, and our sinful flesh – and brings us into the freedom of Christ’s kingdom. This is again not a natural occurrence, not just plain water. It is water combined with the Word – the Word of God which declares what Christ has done. For as Moses raised his wooden rod and parted the waters, our Lord was raised on his wooden cross and parted God’s wrath from us. He created this rite of baptism and He gives it the power to do such things. His bloody death which paid for our sins and satisfied God’s wrath makes the water into a path of salvation for us. He has drowned our enemies in the flood, and we rise anew with him into the resurrection life on the other side.
           
So in our lives, baptism, of which the parting of the Red Sea was a mere shadow, is a work of Christ that brings us great comfort – especially at the times when we are stuck against the sea with mountains on both sides and enemies pursuing. Do not then be faithless, as the Israelites were. For as St. Paul tells us many did go through the sea, but most were overthrown by their lack of faith in the wilderness. We must not only have baptism to cling to it’s promises every day by repenting of our sins and seeking Christ. Then we can remember:
As the God’s people were freed from the Egyptians, Christ has brought us this far, has always been faithful, and always keeps us in his care.

As Moses lifted his rod above the sea we can be sure that Jesus was lifted up to satisfy God’s wrath, that no matter how the devil may bring up our sins and the wrath of God, we can lift up the Holy Cross of Christ in our hearts and use it to our defense.

As a wind blew parting the sea, we can be sure that the Holy Spirt promised to us was given in baptism, and has given us a new heart and faith in Christ, daily making us holy before God.

As Jesus, the Angel of God, stood between His people and the Egyptians, so Our Lord is ever watchful of us, leading us out of temptation to sin and delivering us from evil, as we pray in the Lord’s prayer.

As the Egyptians were drowned in the Red Sea and their bodies seen on the shore, we can be sure that our Lord is mighty and cannot be defeated. When we cling to Him we are trusting in the only one who can truly provide for every single need, for the devil and all his allies have been completely conquered in the cross and resurrection of Jesus.
           
The devil and our old self lie dead on the other shore. This is the meaning of our baptism. For Our mighty Lord of Sabaoth has defeated all his enemies, and brought us into His Kingdom. Our slavery to sin and death is over, and now we live free to follow his will and serve God and neighbor both now and after we reach the other shore in the final promised land on the other side of our resurrection from the dead. Amen.

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