I hope that you have been blessed by “The Wandering Church” sermon series so far. At the conclusion of our study last week the children of Israel were camped at Pi-Hahiroth, on a large sandy beach adjacent to the Red Sea. Egyptian scouts at a nearby military watchtower had spotted them and reported their location to those back home. You see, the LORD had intentionally led Israel to this remote place in order to entice Pharaoh and his army to follow.
The message today deals with one of the most spectacular miracles contained in the entire Word of God. It is simply titled “Crossing the Red Sea”. In Exodus 14 we read the account of this astonishing event and how God rescued Moses and the Hebrew children from the cruel hand of Pharaoh. This story serves as the culmination of God’s deliverance of His people from Egypt.
As I studied this chapter and prepared to preach this week, 7 specific points came to the forefront. These will serve as the outline of our discourse today. Each of these individual points contains a keyword that begins with the letter “P”, and hopefully together they will help us to remember the details of this amazing occurrence.
I. THE EGYPTIANS PURSUE (v5-9)
The sadness and heavy grief that Pharaoh had experienced as a result of the Passover had turned into intense anger and bitterness. He realized that the children of Israel had fled and showed no intention of returning to Egypt. Furthermore, he saw that the workforce was greatly diminished without all of the Hebrew slaves present. Therefore, Pharaoh readied 600 select chariots, along with all of the other chariots, and set out in pursuit of Moses and his followers. He had received a report of their location near the sea.
Though Israel had a few days head-start, it did not take long for Pharaoh’s army to catch up seeing that they were riding horses while the children of God were on foot. Hypothetically speaking, if the children of Israel walked an average of 3 mph for 10 hours a day, in a week they would have traveled the 210 distance from Succoth to Pi-Hahiroth on the bank of the Red Sea. A swifter Egyptian army could have easily traveled 10 mph in their chariots for 7 hours a day allowing for ample time to rest their horses and still covered the same distance in only three days. Thus, Pharaoh’s army overtook Israel on the beach near Pi-Hahiroth.
II. THE HEBREWS PANIC (v10-12)
When the Hebrews saw the Egyptian chariots approaching, they were understandably terrified. Moses had led them into a vulnerable position with seemingly no escape. They were surrounded by mountains on three sides and the Red Sea on the other. Thinking that their death was all but certain, the children of Israel began to panic and to cry out, “Why did you bring us out of Egypt only to die in the wilderness? We would have been better off living as slaves!”
Though you may have never been in their exact position, perhaps you have made a similar expression - something like “Lord, I was better off before you got involved in my life!” It is always easier to live in slavery than to bear the responsibility of freedom. For this reason, many once-professing Christians revert back to their old sinful lifestyles. Living in the freedom of Jesus Christ can be extremely dangerous, difficult, and demanding. At times, slavery to sin seems more appealing than the liberty of righteousness. After all, slaves don’t have to love, forgive, accept, or even care about others. But don’t be deceived - it is better to die free than to live enslaved!
III. THE ANGEL PROTECTS (v19-20)
The pillar of fire and cloud that had gone ahead of Israel and led them up to this point shifted its position to behind them. In other words, it moved in between them and the closing Egyptian army. This cloud effectively created a protective barrier between the two camps, so that neither came near to the other throughout the entire night. The angel of God was present in the cloud and held the forces of Pharaoh back so that LORD’s children would have plenty of time to escape.
God temporarily kept the Egyptians at bay thereby providing Israel an opportunity to act. But what if they hadn’t done so? What might of happened had had they remained on the beach frozen in fear? And what about us today? This is our opportunity as God’s church to do what He has called us to do. This is our time to act with uncompromising and unrelenting faith. We Christians can’t continue to sit idly by waiting to move...
IV. THE WATERS PART (v13-18,21)
In the midst of the chaos, Moses reassured the people that God would fight for them and deliver them from the hand of Pharaoh. Then the LORD told Moses to lift up his staff and stretch his hands out over the sea, and it would be divided. Acting with amazing faith, Moses did exactly as he’d been instructed. God sent a strong east wind which swept back the sea and turned the seafloor into dry land. The waters remained parted all night long, providing several hours for the children of Israel to cross.
V. THE CHILDREN PASS (v22)
The distance across the Red Sea from Pi-Hahiroth to Baal Zephon is approximately 8 miles. If the children of Israel crossed the sea there, as I believe they did, they could have easily made it in a single night just as the Bible says. The ground below them was dry and easy to walk upon, and the parted water stood like walls on their right and left. At the normal walking speed we discussed earlier, the entire group could have passed through the divided sea in about 3-4 hours.
Imagine for a moment what these people saw and felt as they walked through the Red Sea that night. It must have been surreal - almost dreamlike. With raging waters heaped up on both sides threatening to come crashing down at any moment, it must have been a bit scary crossing through the sea. I can envision the smells, the sounds, and the emotions that were present as they passed. What an incredible scene it must have been!
VI. THE ARMY PERISHES (v23-28)
Blocked by the angel of God in the cloud, the Egyptian army initially waited on the shore as Israel fled across the sea. But at some point during the night the cloud lifted and Pharaoh led his chariots forward into the sea as well, chasing after Moses and the people. By morning light Israel had safely reached the other side, while the Egyptians were still some distance behind in the middle of the Red Sea. God threw the army into confusion and caused their chariot wheels to swerve, which prompted them to call for retreat… but it was too late.
God told Moses to stretch his hands out over the sea again, and at daybreak he did so. The waters came crashing in from both sides and the sea returned to normal. The entire Egyptian army was swept away - drowned in the depths of the Red Sea. Bible historians and scholars still debate as to whether Pharaoh died with the rest of his army or somehow survived, but either way the children of Israel were finally free from their bondage.
VII. THE LORD PREVAILS (v29-31)
The LORD saved His people from the hand of their oppressors. It had been almost 400 years coming, but God finally kept His promise to deliver the descendants of Jacob. When the people saw what God had done and began to consider His great power, they were in awe of Him. As such, they feared and revered the LORD and showed increased respect for Moses. This helped to solidify his place as leader during the events that would follow. God had prevailed over His enemies by achieving an overwhelming victory!
Perhaps you have heard the popular saying, “If God leads you to it, He will also lead you through it.” There is no greater story to demonstrate the truth of this statement than that of the Red Sea Crossing. God led them into a seemingly impossible situation, and then made a way for them to escape. Perhaps you feel trapped by the circumstances of your life today. Maybe you are caught between a rock and a hard place - between the mountains, the army, and the sea - and your situation appears hopeless. Could it be that your desperation has led you here this morning?
We serve a God who has the power to part the seas. This means that He can and will deliver His people from the hand of the enemy. With every temptation, and in every snare, the LORD has promised to provide a way of escape. Sometimes the road to freedom is difficult and we may still have to carry the scars of our past decisions, but in Christ there is a way out. Don’t stand helplessly cowering on the banks of this life any longer. Give your burdens to the Lord today and allow Him to lead you through the parted sea to a beautiful shore waiting on the other side.