Crossing Over – a Sermon on Exodus 13:10-14, 21-29
So from Joseph last week, we move to Moses delivering the people of Israel from captivity in Egypt. Moses, who is not one of the more likely hero’s of our narrative adventure. Moses didn’t even want to have anything to do with God’s deliverance. After encountering God in that burning bush, Moses tries to come up with every excuse possible to get out of going before Pharaoh on behalf of God.
But Moses does end up speaking on God’s behalf before Pharaoh, and God ends up sending plagues. Moses ends up leading the Israelites out of slavery, guided by a pillar of fire by night and a pillar of cloud by day. And then the Israelites end up on the shore of the Red Sea, and they aren’t quite sure how they’re going to survive this one. The miraculous happens, and I imagine they are as in as much wonder at those parting waters as Jim Carey is as Bruce Almighty sitting in the diner parting his tomato soup.
Reflecting on this deliverance from Egypt, Cameron Howard writes,
This week’s reading from Exodus 14 shows God delivering God’s people, too, but there is nothing quiet about it. Horses’ hooves pound the dirt, the Israelites cry out in fear, the Egyptians scream in panic, the wind howls, and the waters churn in their great vertical walls. Add to that the pyrotechnics of the pillar of fire and cloud, and Exodus 14 describes a big, chaotic mess.
Given this chaos, Moses’ instructions to the terrified Israelites are all the more remarkable: stand, see, keep still: “Do not be afraid, stand firm, and see the deliverance that the LORD will accomplish 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 keep still” (Exodus 14:13-14). As they were being chased down by the most technologically equipped fighting force anywhere around, the Israelites were surely inclined toward fight or flight: resist or run, sure, but keep still? What good will that do?
Their mandate from God here is neither to neither fight nor flee, but to witness: to observe God’s power and might. God will do all the fighting for them. This detail underscores the fact that all the agency in this story belongs to God. This is the LORD’s victory alone. Through this victory, the people of Israel as well as the Egyptians (verse 18) see that the LORD’s glories far surpass any of Pharaoh’s claims either to military prowess or to the status of deity. The contest between God and Pharaoh has been building throughout Exodus 1-13 to this showdown at the sea, and God has won.
God has indeed one the freedom of the Israelites from the oppression of Pharaoh. I can’t imagine what all the Israelites were thinking crossing over on the dry land in between those walls of water. But if they had known the cry of the Psalmist, I imagine they would have been able to say as well, “Even thou I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, though art with me, thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.”
The affirmation is that God will be with us even, even, even when we walk through the valley of death. The affirmation of the Psalmist and of God’s delivery of the Israelites is not, you will not be magically teleported out of the danger or troubles that surround you. But that God is there with you. With us…
Moses reminds the escaping Israelites, “Do not fear”, God says it as well through the prophets, and Jesus says it to the disturbed disciples. Do not fear…
So I want us to take a couple minutes this morning and consider some of the things we might fear or how God has delivered us. Find someone close to you to share with, or you can spend some time in silent reflection.
Conversations with one another, or for silent reflection (4-6 minutes)
How has God shown deliverance to you?
What in your life do you fear right now?
But we don’t spend our entire life in fear hoping to be delivered. And on the other side of the Red Sea, the Isrealites rejoiced.
The prophet Miriam sang, taking a timbrel in her hand, giving thanks to God:
“Sing to the Lord, for he is highly exalted. Both horse and driver he has hurled into the sea.” (Exodus 15:18)
Moses sang too, but I can’t help but wonder what else Moses thought having crossed over under the guidance of God…
(Moses and Aaron skit – Fred and Marsha)
Crossing over – from fear to faith, from captivity to freedom, from death to life, from a paralyzed past to a promised future. Because when we cross over we stand firmly on the promise that God will deliver us to, over and over again. No matter what the cost. That’s the promise we know in Jesus Christ.
And to that we can say, Alleluia, and Amen.
 Cameron Howard, http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=2206, accessed Saturday September 27, 2014