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Apr 16 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

April 15, 2018 – Exodus Chapter 14

Stand Still and Watch

When word reached the king of Egypt that the Israelites had fled, Pharaoh and his officials changed their minds. “What have we done, letting all those Israelite slaves get away?” they asked. So Pharaoh harnessed his chariot and called up his troops. He took with him 600 of Egypt’s best chariots, along with the rest of the chariots of Egypt, each with its commander. . . . The Egyptians caught up with the people of Israel as they were camped beside the shore near Pi-hahiroth, across from Baal-zephon.
As Pharaoh approached, the people of Israel looked up and panicked when they saw the Egyptians overtaking them. The cried out to the LORD, and they said to Moses, “Why did you bring us out here to die in the wilderness? Weren’t there enough graves for us in Egypt? . . .”
But Moses told the people, “Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the LORD rescue you today. The Egyptians you see today will never be seen again. The LORD himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.”
 Exodus 14:5-14

Intro: Years ago I bought a book about getting to know God

The “Introduction” was inspiring and promising
– but the author quickly shifted from relational knowing to theological knowing
• his message as I understood it: we can know a lot of things about God
– later, another book was published
• this author’s impression of the first book was the same as mine
• however, he concluded we really cannot know God in the relational way we desire
• his message as I understood it: we can know a lot of things that we can do for God

If you desire God, many religious experts tell us to learn more and do more
– are you reading your Bible enough? studying your Bible enough? is your doctrine sound?
• praying enough? going to church enough? volunteering? (are you helping in the nursery?)
◦ are you tithing? supporting missions and other religious organizations?
◦ are sold out enough? (100% isn’t enough, you must be a fictitious 110% sold out)
• the implicit promise: learn and do all this and you will be rewarded with an intimate knowledge of God
◦ but that never happens – there’s always one more thing to learn or to do
◦ this is the reason thousands of evangelicals are disenchanted, burned out
– what you seldom hear, from the experts is Be still and know that I am God
• or Just stand still and watch the LORD rescue you today
• we do hear this, however, from Moses in this climactic moment of Exodus

Let’s run through the story

• 1-4, God led Israel into a trap
his intention: trick Pharaoh into pursuing Israel
his purpose: display glory and let Egypt “know” he is Yahweh
• 5-9, The Egyptians changed their minds about letting Israel leave
◦ the army was mobilized and chased after Israel
◦ note that the Egyptian army had “tanks” (chariots)
◦ an enemy with chariots was an Israelite phobia
• 10-14, The people saw the Egyptians and panicked
◦ they began whining to Moses
◦ Moses reassured them that Yahweh would defend them
• 15-30, God told Moses and the people to get moving
◦ he repeats his again intention and purpose
◦ God’s angel was present in column of cloud and fire, moving strategically
◦ Yahweh opened a path through which Israel escaped and in which the Egyptian army drowned
• 31, the effect that seeing this had on Israel – “fear” and “trust”

– that’s our bird’s-eye-view – now we’ll move in for closer look

The most dramatic moment is also the most instructive

Verse 10 contains a two-step statement: “the people of Israel lifted their eyes and behold
– to lift one’s eyes is the same thing as to look
• so the “behold” is for us – it changes the reader’s (or hearer’s) point of view
◦ we are taken into the story, where we are now seeing it through Israel’s eyes
• with our backs to the sea, we see Egypt’s army charging toward us
◦ of course we panic!
– what does Moses do for Israel?
• he redirects their sight
◦ the Hebrew word for “see” appears three times in verse 13
see the LORD rescue you – the army you see today – never be seen again
• there’s a similar scene in 2 Kings, but with a different twist

Elisha, the prophet and seer, was in a small village surrounded by Aramean soldiers sent there to seize him and carry him off to their king. When Elisha’s servant saw them, he panicked and cried to Elisha, “What will we do now?” Elisha reassured him saying, “Don’t be afraid! There are more on our side than on theirs!” Then Elisha prayed, “O LORD, open his eyes and let him see!” The LORD opened the young man’s eyes, and when he looked up, he saw that the hillside around Elisha was filled with horses and chariots of fire (2 Ki. 6:15-18)

Watching is an active mode of seeing

When you watch, you do not merely observe the world around you
– rather, you are looking for something to happen
• Israel’s situation was peculiar, because they did not know:
◦ what was going to happen
◦ how it would happen
◦ when it would happen
– Jesus put his disciples in a similar, peculiar situation

Be dressed and ready for service and keep your lamps burning as though you were waiting for your master to return . . . . Then you will be ready to open the door and let him in the moment he arrives and knocks. . . . He may come in the middle of the night or just before dawn. But whenever he comes, he will reward the servants who are ready (Lk. 12:35-38)

• I don’t know what God might do, how he will step in, or when
◦ but if I am watching for his hand to move in my world, I will see it
• I have to admit, this is not the usual way I go through my day

The essence of contemplative prayer is redirecting our sight

We find this message in Paul’s explanation to the Corinthians:

So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever. [And further on,] For we live by believing and not by seeing (2 Cor. 4:18; 5:7)

– looking at the invisible sounds odd, but it’s what believers do

It was by faith that Moses left the land of Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger. He kept right on going because he kept his eyes on the one who is invisible (Heb. 11:27)

• what this means, is we restrain our normal busyness
◦ our busy running around here and there
◦ our busy thoughts, buzzing with anxiety in our brains
• we stand still, we watch, and we wait, and we listen
◦ and as we do, we may discern something
◦ a slight movement, a quiet whisper, a gentle impulse
– contemplative prayer is about seeing, and also about being
• we’re not pushing ourselves to another place or another time
◦ we are being still and fully present in this place and this moment
• perhaps if we begin with just one activity each day
(e.g., brushing our teeth, starting our car engine)
◦ becoming fully present to that activity
◦ we just might start to see differently

The world is like a window
– if for me the material world is all that exists, then I won’t see through it
• I will only see my own reflection and the reflection o the world
• for faith, however, there is light on other side of window
◦ a light on the other side of this world
◦ and that is why we are able to see through it
– we see the world, but we know there are mysteries hidden in it
• every once in awhile, we glimpse one of those mysteries
• I think that most times,
◦ our bodies know we’ve seen a mystery before our conscious mind is aware of it
◦ and if we’re not looking, we may never be aware of it

A meditation from the Gospel of John this last week

You probably know this wonderful story in John 21
– Jesus takes Peter aside in order to reconcile this erratic disciple to himself
• Peter and several other disciples had been fishing, unsuccessfully
◦ then Jesus showed up on the shore, gave them instructions, and their net was filled with fish
◦ John says that when Peter dragged the net to shore

There were 153 large fish, and yet the net hadn’t torn (Jn. 21:11)

• what is the point of this footnote?
◦ were their nets normally too flimsy for such a haul?
– maybe John had begun to see differently
• he had learned from Jesus that mystery lies just below surface of literal reality
◦ perhaps he saw a revelation of what was coming for him and the other apostles
◦ when their nets would be filled with people — hundreds of them! thousands of them!
• there would be lots of work, much travel, many hardships, and persecution
◦ yet for all of that their nets would not be torn
◦ he and Peter and the others would not be overwhelmed, give out, or fail

What John saw was still only a net filled with large fish
– but maybe he also saw through that literal net to a mystery
• the mystery of the grace of God that was still to come

The Hebrew word for seeing occurs two more times in this chapter

Moses told them to watch the LORD rescue them
– notice what happened when they saw God’s hand move

That is how the LORD rescued Israel from the hand of the Egyptians that day. And the Israelites saw the bodies of the Egyptians washed up on the seashore. When the people of Israel saw the mighty power that the LORD had unleashed against the Egyptians, the were filled with awe before him. They put their faith in the LORD and in his servant Moses Exodus 14:30-31

• they now saw the Egyptians differently and what they saw brought them to faith
• faith improves our sight, and seeing builds our faith
– “filled with awe” translates the Heb for “fear” (the same word that occurs in vv. 10 & 13)
• when it is used of God, it suggests reverence
◦ “faith” may better be translated “trust”
◦ at least faith always has this affect, it always produces this behavior
• do you see what happened when Israel just stood still and saw?
◦ their fear was tamed
◦ their panic turned to wonder and their anxiety turned to reverence

Conclusion: One morning this past week, I asked God to give me some encouragement that day

I felt like God said, “What kind of encouragement?”
– so I said, “Let me know that I helped someone”
• towards the end of the afternoon, I remembered the prayer
◦ I had to smile and thank God, because he did as I asked
(a person I had been with told me that I had “really helped” him)
◦ if I had not asked and looked for it, I would have missed it
– there’s always more than meets the eye
• and looking makes the difference
• but we have to look through different eyes
◦ eyes that are not so anxious or earth-bound
◦ eyes of reverence and trust

If we start to see differently, we will begin to think differently
– we will feel differently, and we will act differently
• perhaps we won’t see a homeless person or a poor student
◦ as problems to be solved, but as persons to be loved
• some of us this morning may think all we need is a little tweaking
◦ a few small adjustments in our thoughts, emotions, behavior
◦ others of us, however, want a complete overhaul
– at any rate, the difference doesn’t usually come in one epiphany
• but through a combination of ongoing grace and discipline

As for God’s grace, it is like the air around you;
It is always already there
And there’s always more of it than you will ever need


Leave a comment
  1. Jo Lee / Apr 18 2018

    On many occasions, Pastor Chuck, my soul, prone to wander and distrust, and turn away from the God I want to love, has sought to turn back to Him, as a result of reading your Reflexions. I look forward to each one every week. Thank you so much for making them available.

  2. Chuck Smith, Jr. / Apr 24 2018

    Jo, encouragement is reciprocal, a give and take we share with each other. Turning away happens often enough. Turning back is always the next victory and step forward, overcoming whatever had sucked the life out of us. We help each other to remember and to muster the courage to come home–again.

    If this turning and turning again were not a common Christian experience, why would Robert Robinson have described it so well in the eighteenth century and why would the church been singing it for the last 300 plus years? Of course I recognize the hymn!

    “Come Thou Fount”

    Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
    Prone to leave the God I love;
    Here’s my heart, O take and seal it;
    Seal it for Thy courts above.

  3. Jo Lee / May 18 2018

    Thank you Pastor. This happens to be one of my favorite hymns, because I can relate to the words.

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