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Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson


February 2022

Exodus 14: 31: Used by God

And when the Israelites saw the mighty hand of the Lord displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant.

“You led your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron” (Ps.77:20).

This 31st verse almost takes your breath away. It sounds quite daring. But then you remember it is the Bible itself saying this. We again see the Divine-human partnership. We also note the principle that God honours those who honour Him (1 Samuel 2:30); and he can raise up a human-being in the eyes of others, so that they follow that person’s lead. What God does is regularly mysterious to us, but it is His own business. The people “put their trust” in Moses, I believe, because they saw what God did as Moses obediently played his part.

But let’s not get too carried away. The court of public opinion is fickle and on more than one occasion this ‘congregation’ would give their leader cause for deep grief (e.g. 32:1). Let all leaders in God’s church take note and take heart. Like David, we must learn to encourage ourselves in the Lord. He is the source of everlasting encouragement – even when the stream of human support dries up.

On good days and bad, it is an enormous privilege to be used by God.

Exodus 14:26-30: He’s the same God, and He’s our God.

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.’ 27 Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at daybreak the sea went back to its place. The Egyptians were fleeing towards it, and the Lord swept them into the sea. 28 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.

29 But the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left. 30 That day the Lord saved Israel from the hands of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the shore.

‘Psalm 77:16-20 indicates that a severe rainstorm accompanied the high winds, and after Israel had crossed, the rain turned Israel’s dry pathway into a muddy road. When the Egyptian soldiers tried to follow, the mud disabled their chariots and impeded their progress, and when the waters returned, all the Egyptian soldiers were drowned. It was indeed a night to be remembered.’ Warren W. Wiersbe: Old Testament commentary, p.168.

In years to come, pious Jews would look back on the Exodus as the supreme demonstration, in their history, of God’s rescuing power. It is referred to many times in the psalms and in the prophetic books.

We should never lose sight of the fact that God is in control of history. He is able to deal decisively with tyrants (murderers, thugs, political bullies). He is the same God forever and ever.

We do not know what His purpose is in this historical moment, but let us not doubt for one minute that He is running the universe and ‘history is His story.’

PRAYER: Lord, you make wars “cease to the ends of the earth.” You break “the bow” and shatter “the spear”; you burn “the shields with fire” (Ps.46:9). We pray you will have mercy on the peoples of Russia and the Ukraine, and bring about a swift and lasting peace. Lord have mercy on your world; Christ have mercy on us all.

Exodus 14:23-25: ‘Somebody bigger than you or I’

The Egyptians pursued them, and all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots and horsemen followed them into the sea. 24 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. 25 He jammed the wheels of their chariots 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.’

‘The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still’ (14).

Alec Motyer explains in his commentary on ‘Exodus’ that in chapters 1-12 God comes down to the Israelites, to redeem them from slavery in Egypt; then in chapters 13-18 He accompanies them on their journey: leading, guiding, providing, protecting. This is something we see in today’s passage. It illustrates the great truth articulated by the apostle Paul in Romans 8:31: “If God is for us, who can be against us?”

Motyer also points out that this was a battle over who owned the Israelites (5). The Egyptians wanted their slaves back. But in truth, they were the Lord’s people, and He would not allow the Egyptians to make off with them.

When I was at secondary school, I was small for my age, and skinny, and looked incredibly young. I was regularly a target for bullying. But if I was out and about with my good friend David Butler, I did not fear anyone. He was big, very tall, and looked much older than his age. In my eyes he was like a fully grown-up man. I knew he would not let anyone intimidate me, and probably no-one would try while I was in his company.

Isn’t it so good to know that we walk through this hostile world with ‘Somebody bigger than you or I’?

Exodus 14:21,22: Workers together with God

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, 22 and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left.

As we often observe, God can make a way where there is no way (or there appears to be no way). He did this at the Red Sea in partnership with Moses. We are ‘workers together with God’(2 Corinthians 6:1), and when Moses did as he was commanded (see 16), God performed the miraculous.

If Moses had just taken it into his head to hold his staff over the sea, it would have been disastrous. But the point is, he played the part he was told to play, and got to partner with God in one of His wonders. It was God who did the supernatural thing, but Moses had his role to play.

When Billy Graham went to Cambridge for a student mission in the mid 1950’s, he was terrified. He was acutely aware that he wasn’t an academic, and he felt insecure. Had he been able to do so without complete loss of face, he would have cancelled the meetings or persuaded some-better qualified man to replace him. ‘I am scared stiff about preaching in Cambridge,’ he told the evangelist Stephen Olford. Interestingly, Stephen counselled him against a philosophical approach, or trying to do something out of his depth. He should remember he was preaching not to students but sinners, and keep things simple.

Graham found that hard to swallow, and in the first few meetings he attempted something somewhat intellectual, and it fell flat, so he resumed his normal approach, and he generated an enthusiasm among the students that some compared to D.L.Moody’s historic visit in 1882.

When we do what God has given us to do, using the gifts He has given us – well, that’s when the miracles happen.

PRAYER: Lord help me to be content to be who you have made me to be, and  do just what you have given me to do.

Exodus 14:19,20: Divine protection

Then the angel of God, who had been travelling in front of Israel’s army, withdrew and went behind them. The pillar of cloud also moved from in front and stood behind them, 20 coming between the armies of Egypt and Israel. Throughout the night the cloud brought darkness to the one side and light to the other; so neither went near the other all night long.

‘The safest place in all the world is in the will of God, and the safest protection in all the world is the name of God.’ Warren W. Wiersbe.

‘Safety comes in our nearness to God, not in our distance from our enemies.’ Dillon Burroughs

God’s protection is very real. The point is repeatedly made in a number of Bible stories. God can protect His own people from any threat, if He chooses to do so.

Of course, as the book of Job shows, God’s people can suffer profoundly in this world. But the devil cannot touch anyone without first going through God. The Lord is in ultimate control, and this understanding should undergird us with a deep sense of security.

‘Hide yourself in God, so when a man wants to find you he will have to go there first.’ Shannon L. Alder.

But it needs to be said that ultimate safety is to be found only in the Cross of Jesus:

‘In Jesus Christ on the Cross there is refuge; there is safety; there is shelter; and all the power of sin upon our track cannot reach us when we have taken shelter under the Cross that atones for our sins.’ A.C. Dixon.

Although in this world we are vulnerable to all manner of suffering, and we all have to die, nevertheless, in Jesus, we are safe from eternal harm.

PRAISE: ‘Through many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come. ‘Tis grace has brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.

Exodus 14:15-18: Get on with it

Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on. 16 Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground. 17 I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them. And I will gain glory through Pharaoh and all his army, through his chariots and his horsemen. 18 The Egyptians will know that I am the Lord when I gain glory through Pharaoh, his chariots and his horsemen.’

While it is good to pray, if God shows you something you need to do, it’s important to get on with it.

As we saw last time, in the words of Tom Hale: ‘…action will sometimes be required on our part, but we must take action only under God’s direction.’ Hale goes on to say, ‘God did direct the Israelites to act. After they had been told to be still (verse 14), God then told them to move on (verse 15). ‘The Applied Old Testament Commentary’, p.229.

God gave Moses something to say (15b), and something to do (16). He didn’t give him that staff as an ornament! We must use what the Lord has put in our hands.

I read this morning that Frank Laubach, an American missionary, said that he had ‘two burning passions. First, to be like Jesus. Second, to respond to God as a violin responds to the bow of the master.’

PRAYER: Lord, when you show me the next step, help me to take it.

Exodus 14:10-14: Have faith in God

As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the Lord. 11 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? 12 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!’

13 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. 14 The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.’

You can no doubt identify with this scenario. Like the Israelites, you are “marching out boldly” (8). You’re going well. Then, without warning, trouble looms, and you crumble before it. You see the Egyptians heading your way, and Pharaoh has his “best chariots” to boot (7).

God’s people spoke out of a mixture of fear, unbelief, sarcasm…yet also faith – they did pray, a desperate prayer, after all (10).

It was Moses – a ‘non-anxious presence’ in the face of the brewing storm – who brought the prophetic word they needed to hear (13,14).

‘This is a powerful message for any believer engaged in any type of struggle or conflict. Most of us react in one of two ways: either we complain and give up like the Israelites did, or we take things into our own hands and fight in our own strength. Both choices are equally wrong. We need simply to stand firm and have faith in God. Yes, action will sometimes be required on our part, but we must take action only under God’s direction.’ Tom Hale: ‘Applied Old Testament Commentary’, p.229.

PRAYER: Lord God, although I see storm clouds gathering, enable me, please, to trust in you, and to wait to hear your instructions.

Exodus 14:1-9: Checkmate!

Then the Lord said to Moses, 2 ‘Tell the Israelites to turn back and camp near Pi Hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea. They are to camp by the sea, directly opposite Baal Zephon. 3 Pharaoh will think, “The Israelites are wandering around the land in confusion, hemmed in by the desert.” 4 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.

5 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!’ 6 So he had his chariot made ready and took his army with him. 7 He took six hundred of the best chariots, along with all the other chariots of Egypt, with officers over all of them. 8 The Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, so that he pursued the Israelites, who were marching out boldly. 9 The Egyptians – all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots, horsemen and troops – pursued the Israelites and overtook them as they camped by the sea near Pi Hahiroth, opposite Baal Zephon.

‘Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you got till it’s gone?’ So says a well-known song. After the Israelites had left Egypt, Pharaoh bitterly regretted the loss of all the free labour (5), so he and his armies went after them. No doubt they thought the people of Israel were trapped, but it was the Egyptians themselves who were walking into a trap.

As we saw yesterday – the Lord knows what He is doing! Pharaoh proposed and God disposed!

Someone observed that making moves against God is like playing a chess grand-master. Even the moves you make against him he will use to defeat you. The greatest example of this is seen at the Cross where the devil and the powers of darkness thought they had put Jesus in ‘check’ – only to find themselves checkmated!

“In a sermon entitled “God’s Providence,” C. H. Spurgeon said, “Napoleon once heard it said, that man proposes and God disposes. ‘Ah,’ said Napoleon, ‘but I propose and dispose too.’ How do you think he proposed and disposed? He proposed to go and take Russia; he proposed to make all Europe his. He proposed to destroy that power, and how did he come back again? How had he disposed it? He came back solitary and alone, his mighty army perished and wasted, having well-nigh eaten and devoured one another through hunger. Man proposes and God disposes.” Jerry Bridges

Exodus 14: 1-4: The right place at the right time

Then the Lord said to Moses, 2 ‘Tell the Israelites to turn back and camp near Pi Hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea. They are to camp by the sea, directly opposite Baal Zephon. 3 Pharaoh will think, “The Israelites are wandering around the land in confusion, hemmed in by the desert.” 4 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.

God knows what He intends to do.

He also knows how to achieve His purposes.

To that end, He will direct His people, and He always knows the best way to get us to where He wants us.

Let’s remember that God’s ultimate intention is to glorify His Name, and the movements of His people can be part of that.

As I look back on my life, I can’t say that my ministry has followed a conventional path, but I have been so aware of the Lord directing various moves from one location to another. There is no better place to pitch your tent than at a ‘camp site’ of the Lord’s choosing (2).

I seem to remember reading an article written by someone who knew the evangelist, Smith Wigglesworth. This person visited him one day, and they went up for a walk on Ilkley Moor. As I recall it, they were sitting on a bench when Smith suddenly excused himself. When he eventually returned he told how he had met a man on the moor and led him to Christ. But he had known beforehand, by God’s Spirit, that there was someone he was to meet. As he said himself: ‘If you seek nothing but the will of God, He will always put you in the right place at the right time.’

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