Welcome everyone to week three of our summer series, which I think has already been a lot of fun.  One of the things we do here at MRC in the summer is we really like to dive into a Bible study which is something that is always fun for me on a personal level.  We have worked through different books of the Bible over the years and I’m really excited about this year because it’s our first trip into the Old Testament for one of these Summer Bible Studies!  Yep, we are going Old School!  So, all summer long we are going to jump into the Old Testament with you.  This will give us a chance to look at some incredible stories that many of us probably have heard before, but I have to wonder if we have been able to see the lessons and the application from these stories for our lives today.  You see, that’s what matters to us here at MRC and we are praying that through this series we start to see that connection from Scripture to our own personal lives because there are so many big moments, and lessons for us to apply to our lives today.  It’s interesting because so many of us grew up hearing these stories at some level, and for those of us who grew up in church we may have heard some of these stories, and we can kind of just pass them off as interesting moments in scripture without taking the time to see just how much they still apply to our lives today.  I think sometimes we can get caught up in just how crazy the stories are and not realize that we can learn and apply things for our lives today from these crazy moments that happened so long ago.  And the stories can be pretty intense right?  I mean we see stories of floods, and arks…giants, and lots of battles.  I mean guys were marrying multiple wives, God seems angry all the time, and so much of it seems bloody, intense, and frankly barbaric…and it is, but there is so much there for us if we can slow down and look at these stories and ask ourselves, what we can learn from these crazy, barbaric, and sometimes even beautiful moments, and all of it is found in the Old Testament and that is what we are up to all summer long.  So I want you to think this way, anytime we read Scripture we need to have a mindset, that there is something for us to learn in each of story or verse we read, that we can apply to our lives today.

Last week Ken introduced us to Moses, and we will be studying Moses for a couple of weeks here.  I loved his lesson and thought he did a great job of helping us see just how under qualified Moses felt to fulfill this calling!  I think for so many of us we can read these stories and not feel the challenges, the pain, and the tensions inside them.  We grow up thinking wow it would be so cool to be Moses leading the people…but it was tough!  He had to wrestle with the same feelings, insecurities, and tensions that we feel in everyday life…not to mention the whole standing up before Pharaoh thing, then the whole wandering around the Wilderness thing for the rest of his life and then never actually getting to step foot in the Promised Land!  It’s interesting isn’t it?  We prop up these heroes in our faith and can kind of sanitize or romanticize the stories, so we don’t feel them, and we don’t realize they felt just as inadequate and afraid as we can!  They questioned how qualified they were to do God’s will!  And I think it’s very important to understand that the thing Moses was called to do was not easy.  His life was really difficult, frankly I would step back and ask you to process this…He fully experienced God, but it was a hard life for Moses…just because God called him, and just because he stepped into that calling doesn’t mean life was easy for him and I think this is something that you and I could probably say about our own lives couldn’t we?  I mean life just isn’t all that easy…and I think that really is something we can relate to and also something that leads us into today’s discussion.

I think Ken made it clear last week that we are going to have a bit of a challenge covering all the Old Testament in just a few Sunday morning services this summer.  So while Ken left us with Moses stepping into this calling and heading with his brother to save Israel I’m going to jump ahead a bit, to the point where Pharaoh finally decides to let the Israelites go.  Which is another awesome story that we are kind of skipping over but it’s very intentional.  I was really praying about where I wanted to go with today’s talk, and I was thinking about how tough life can be.  I was thinking about Moses and the challenge he had leading people and standing in God’s calling for his life.  And I felt really drawn to a specific moment in Exodus 14…it’s a word of encouragement that I find and come back to from time to time in my own walk found in these two verses where Moses tells the people don’t be afraid, stand firm, be still, and let God do what God does…

Exodus 14:13 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.” NIV

So this is a powerful statement that comes at one of the most incredible moments of the entire Bible if you ask me…and I just couldn’t stop thinking about this particular moment where the children of Israel find themselves in a really difficult spot with their backs against the wall with the Egyptian army about to wipe them out…and Moses says don’t be afraid, stand firm, be still, and let God lead and I believe that when we see this, it can be a real encouragement and source of strength and focus for all of us today, because we walk through so many challenges and tough moments in this life too…now maybe we don’t have the Egyptians army on our heels wanting to wipe us out, but we deal with a lot of adversity in our lives.   It also isn’t lost on me that it’s Father’s Day, a day to celebrate our dad’s…men who often lead, fight hard to stay the course for their families and can have moments where they wonder if they should keep fighting and leading in their own lives too…so this just felt like something we needed to hear and talk about today.

So we pick up this story where Pharaoh finally let’s go of the Israelites and agrees to release them after a grueling stretch of time debating Moses and arguing that the Egyptian God’s were stronger than God.  God through Moses pushes Pharaoh and the Egyptians with a series of brutal plagues yet Pharaoh stays stubborn toward God, and finally the last plague, killing the first born of all the Egyptians including Pharaoh’s own son…it’s been a grueling battle, and it has crushed Pharaoh.  So, yet another bloody, and intense moment in our Old Testament but finally Pharaoh let’s them go and it’s interesting because as God leads them out of Egypt, He doesn’t lead them directly to the Promise Land and they start following God through this pillar of fire at night and the cloud by day and eventually as they wander around Pharaoh changes his mind…it actually says God again hardens his heart and Pharaoh is so angry that he sends his army to wipe out the children of Israel…so let’s pick up the story at the end of Exodus 13 where we see God literally leading them here…

Exodus 13:20 After leaving Succoth they camped at Etham on the edge of the desert. 21 By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. 22 Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.  NIV

So let’s just say that these people are literally seeing God in a very tangible way.  Between all the incredible things that took place in Egypt to now having God leading them with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, absolutely amazing!  Then we get into chapter 14…

14 Then the Lord said to Moses, 2 “Tell the Israelites to turn back and encamp near Pi Hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea. They are to encamp 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.  NIV

So God is clearly pulling all the strings here.  Remember Moses doesn’t have an I phone with Google Maps to do the navigating through the wilderness and frankly they don’t need it…God is leading them and brings them to a place where they are somewhat pinned between the desert and the sea.  I find it interesting that God is also the one motivating the Egyptians to pursue them, because God wants everyone know that He is the Lord…and they do, or at least will…and this is where our story really heats up.

Exodus 14:5 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. 10 As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the Lord. NIV

So, the Egyptians change their minds and chase the Israelites down…and when they catch them, and the Israelites see them, they are terrified…that is probably and understand statement now check out how they respond.  Remember they are watching God move in ways that most will never see.  They have witnessed the plagues; they have been led directly by God through the pillar of fire or cloud…yet how do they respond as this army approaches?

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!” NIV

So the Israelites are literally stuck, their backs are against the wall.  Death is now on their doorstep and there is nowhere to hide.  They turn to Moses and immediately questions why in the world they were even trying, why make any waves, we should have stayed enslaved…and let’s check it out because our two verses are next, then we will finish the story and come back to them.

Exodus 14:13 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.”

Moses words are so powerful…and we will come back to them, but I love this.  Stand firm.  Be still.  Watch the Lord move for you!  And then we see God handle it…so let’s finish the story and come back to this word from Moses that I want you to really lean in on this week.

15 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.” 19 Then the angel of God, who had been traveling 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 side; so neither went near the other all night long. 21 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. 23 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 made the wheels of their chariots come off 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.” 26 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 toward 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. 31 And when the Israelites saw the great power the Lord displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant.  NIV

This is such an amazing moment, and one I know I grew up hearing a lot and can just visualize this entire seen taking place.  Just a wow moment here, where the children of Israel clearly know God is on their side, and just how powerful He is…can you imagine walking through that sea on dry land looking up at the walls of water on either side?  Just amazing…but in all of the highlights and ways God moves in this story I want to take us back to those two verses where Moses encourages them to stand firm…

Exodus 14:13 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.”

I couldn’t get this out of my mind…maybe it’s because it’s Father’s Day and I know the challenges of raising children and leading inside and outside of the home.  But whether you are an adult or teenager, whether you are a dad or mom, husband, or wife or single…I think each and every one of us finds ourselves at different times in life where we feel like our backs are up against the wall.  We can feel stuck, or like life is just too hard much like the children of Israel here stuck between an angry army, a desert, and the sea.  It’s in these moments where we can struggle and question everything right down to our faith in God even when God continues to prove his love and goodness to us time and time again.  It’s hard to see that when we feel stuck…and this is when we need to remember and rally around these words from Moses.

Exodus 14:13 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.”

Do you see it?  Moses tells us that when our backs are up against the wall there are a few things we must do.  We don’t need to be afraid, we need to do two things, stand firm and be still.  I really like that phrasing “stand firm “in the Message version it reads this way…

Exodus 14:13 Moses spoke to the people: “Don’t be afraid. Stand firm and watch God do his work of salvation for you today. MSG

The second thing we need to do is be still and let God handle it…

Exodus 14:14 The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” NIV

So let’s personalize this for a moment today.  When you are walking through challenges that seem beyond you how do you respond?  Do you become so afraid that you begin to question God?  If you do just know that I think that is how most of us respond, it’s ok to feel emotions and struggle in the moment…but we also need to listen to Moses’ words here and apply them right to our own lives.  We must take heart and be strong!  We must stand firm and be still and allow the Lord to do what only he can do in our lives.  Allow him to do the saving for us.

So dad, I know the whisper you hear in your heart to just give up.  I know the hurt you feel when your teenage daughter pushes away from you and towards that boyfriend or when you feel like you just aren’t getting it done as a dad.  I know how hard it can be as your bills pile up and your job doesn’t get any easier.  I know the temptation to want to quit, and that little voice that I think all men hear that it isn’t worth it and that feeling of just wanting to check out.  Dad, keep fighting.  Listen to these words of Moses, stand firm and when there is nothing else you can do be still and allow God to do what only He can do in your life and for your family and home.  You matter, stand firm, be still and allow God to do what only He can do in your life.

Mom when the kids are going crazy, and you begin to think that your husband just seems to just not get anything about you, I know you hear a whisper to just quite…that it just isn’t worth it…I want you to hear Moses’ words today…stand firm, and be still and allow God to do what only God can do in your life and in your family and home.  Mom, you matter.  Stand firm, be still and allow God to do what only He can do in your life.

To you teenagers and young adults who are walking through a lot of crazy stuff right now…with an enemy who continues to whisper to you that you are less, and you start to believe the lie that you don’t matter, that you should not be loved, that you might as well try drugs, or start cutting, or hurt yourself in some way because you think and there is no reason to engage life in a positive way…and you are not seeing the truth about how much you matter.  I want you to listen to Moses words and hear them in your heart today stand firm, be still, and allow God to do what only God can do in your life…you matter.

To each and every one of you sitting here today that go home to a tough life, that get up everyday and look around and hurts and challenges and just only see a tough life, to everyone here who feels stuck and like their backs are against the wall in life…listen to Moses words today.

Exodus 14:13 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.” NIV

When your back is against the wall when life seems to be too much.  When you wonder if any of what you do is worth it.  Keep coming back to Moses words.  Stand firm.  Be still…and allow the Lord to lead you through this difficult season that you are in.

So as we begin to land the plane on today’s talk I want to ask you a few questions.

  1. Are you walking through a tough time in your life?  If you are in a difficult spot right now, how are you responding to it?  I know it’s tough but think about how you respond and ask yourself a really important question.  What are you turning to?  Stand firm.  Be still.

If you are walking through a difficult time and find yourself stuck right now with your back against the wall…bring that to Your Heavenly Father.  It is time to lay that at the Lord’s feet today.

  1. When you look at your life, in what ways do you see the need to “stand firm” in your own life?  Is it possible?  How can you do this?
  1. When you look at your life, in what ways do you need to “be still” and let God lead?  Do you rush to fix it?  Can you slow down?  How can you do that?  If you need some help in this area, I would highly recommend spending some time, slowly working through the book of Psalms.

All through our Bibles we clearly see that life is going to be hard.  You may not have realized it, but it was really difficult for the great heroes of our faith, and it’s not going to be any different for you and I…and my prayer is that from this day forward as you walk through the tough times, instead of wanting to check out when things look bleak and you feel like your back is against the wall, you will remember Moses’ words…hold them close to your hearts and allow God to continue to move in your life.  Stay the course.  Keep on going.  Life is hard.  You may not know you are making a difference at all, but you are.  Your family needs you.  Your friends need you.  Your community needs you.  So as life crashes in, and you look around and can’t see your way through it all, please focus on these words today.

Stand firm, be still, and allow God to do what only He can do in your life.