SERMON TITLE: Finding Jesus
TEXT: Exodus 14:5-31 (ESV)
SPEAKER: Josh Hanson
It’s good to be with all of you this weekend at Gateway Church. And one thing I want you to know is that God loves you and I love you too.
And we’re in week 2 of our Finding Jesus series — where I’m covering an entire book of the Bible in one sermon — which isn’t easy — by the way. Last year, we looked at the Old Testament Major Prophets and — this year — we’re looking at the first five books of the Bible — which are also called the Pentateuch — the books written by Moses.
And one of my goals — in doing this series — is I want you to be familiar with all of the Bible.
I want you to be able to see how the whole Bible tells one story.
I want you to know how to find Jesus — no matter where you are in the Bible.
Now maybe you’re new to Gateway — or you’re sort of checking out Christianity — or it’s been awhile but you’re back in church — well one of the big obstacles about the Christian faith — and I hear this often — is something like — “I don’t know how to read the Bible. I don’t even know where to begin.” And this series is meant to help all of us understand how to read and understand the Bible better.
And the idea of Finding Jesus, comes from a story found near the end of the gospel of Luke. After Jesus was killed on the cross, he appears to two men who had great hopes for him — but his death ruined their hopes and dreams. And though they’re talking to him — they think Jesus is still dead — somehow — Jesus hides who he is from them — so they have no idea that they’re talking to Jesus. But in this conversation Jesus gives them — and us — a hint as to how we’re to read and understand the whole Bible.
“And he (Jesus) said to them, "What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?" And they stood still, looking sad. 18 Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, "Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?" 19 And he said to them, "What things?" And they said to him, "Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. 22 Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, 23 and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see." 25 And he (Jesus) said to them, "O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?" 27 And (verse 27 is key because this is why we’re doing this series — this is how we know that the whole Bible is telling one story — watch what Jesus does here...and...) beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” (Luke 24:17-27 ESV)
That’s why we’re doing this series — where I help you find Jesus in all of the Bible — Jesus tells us that the whole Bible is about him. He even began with the writings of Moses — the books we’re looking at in this series.
And here’s what we’re going to do today. I’m going to introduce you to a book of the Bible that may or may not be familiar to you. I’ll begin by giving you an overview of the book — and then we’ll focus in on one section which I’ll use to show you how to find Jesus — how to find the one story the whole Bible is telling — the story of Jesus.
So let’s turn to our book for today.
ANNOUNCE THE TEXT
If you have your Bible please turn with me to the book of Exodus. We’ll be looking at chapter 14 today — but I’ll be narrating a lot of the story leading up to our chapter — but go ahead and find Exodus chapter 14 for now.
And, if you’re a guest with us, something we like to do at Gateway is let you ask questions that we answer on our podcast. So if you have a question, you can text it in to the number printed on the bottom of the sermon notes sheet or you can submit it on the Gateway app.
OVERVIEW OF EXODUS
Now to set up the book of Exodus, I need to remind you how Genesis — our book from last week — ends. Last week, we looked at the story of a young man named Joseph. And Genesis ends with Joseph being second in command of Egypt. Joseph — and you’ll need to go and listen to last week’s sermon to understand all that he went through — or better yet — go and read Genesis for yourself — but through a series of circumstances — Joseph finds himself in a position where he’s able to rescue his family and the nation of Egypt from a devastating famine.
And our book — Exodus — picks up 400 years later.
We’re still in the land of Egypt.
But the current Pharaoh doesn’t know anything about Joseph.
In fact, the new leadership of Egypt feels threatened by the descendants of Joseph’s family — the Israelites — who have greatly increased in size.
So the king of Egypt decides the best way to subdue the Israelites is to force them into slavery.
And eventually Pharaoh makes a decree that all Hebrew boys must be killed at birth.
God’s people are enslaved. They’re being threatened by a wicked enemy. They’re even being killed. And they desperately need to be rescued.
Now the Hebrew women resist Pharaoh’s orders, and one woman — seeing no other way to save her newborn son — puts him in a basket and sends him afloat down the Nile river. Last week — we learned that God reigns — even when things are bad and evil seems to be running rampant — God is in control. And he can use the most difficult circumstances in our life — things other people mean for evil — to be used for his glory and our good. So this mother — who’s reached a point beyond hopelessness and despair — sends her baby down river to die.
But God had other plans for her baby boy. Pharaoh’s daughter discovers the abandoned child. The daughter of the man who wants this boy killed — finds him — and rescues him. And — as God would have it — she asks the boy’s mother to care for him until he’s done nursing. So the Hebrew boy is raised in the house of Pharaoh — and he’s given the name Moses.
Now as Moses grows up — he’s aware of his Hebrew roots. And — one day — he sees an Egyptian beating up an Israelite slave — and Moses comes to the slave’s rescue and — in the process — ends up killing the Egyptian. And this doesn’t sit well with Pharaoh — as you can imagine — but it doesn’t sit well with the Hebrew slaves either — “What — are you here to rescue us? ‘Mr. I’ve been living the good life in Pharaoh’s palace’ all this time.”
So Moses flees from Egypt in fear for his life and winds up in a town called Midian. And there he meets a man named Jethro and eventually he marries Jethro’s daughter and Moses begins a new life as a shepherd. Now I’m not 100% certain — but I think — that Moses thinks — he’s successfully run from his problems — that he’s saved his own neck — and 40 years go by.
But — something else we learned last week — is that God is faithful. And he’s concerned for his people — the Israelites — who are suffering as slaves. So God appears to Moses in the form of a burning bush — a bush on fire that doesn’t burn up — and God speaks to Moses telling him of his plan. “Moses. I’m going to use you to rescue my people out of slavery — I’m going to rescue the Israelites and you’re going to lead them to the Promised Land.” God tells Moses to go back to Egypt.
Now Moses doesn’t really like the idea of going back to the place where he’s wanted dead — so he puts up some resistance — he gives God some excuses as to why he’s the wrong guy for the job. I mean — don’t you know that sometimes God needs us to keep him informed of things — especially when he tells us to do something we feel we’re unqualified to do — that’s when he definitely needs us to give him an update, right? So Moses tells God about his lack of eloquence — apparently he’s not great at public speaking — and some other excuses — and Moses refuses to go back to Egypt.
And God’s a bit — how do I say this — angry. And he tells Moses to go back to Egypt anyway. And this whole section ends with Moses asking God — and this is my paraphrasing — “So what’s your name? Because if I’m going to do this — walking to my death and all — I’d at least like to know who’s sending me to the grave.” And God tells him, “My name is I AM WHO I AM.” (Exodus 3:14)
So Moses — along with his brother Aaron — returns to Egypt. And he confronts Pharaoh. He demands the release of the Hebrew slaves. Moses performs a miracle — to show that God is with him and that Pharaoh needs to listen up — he turns his staff into a snake — but Pharaoh is unimpressed and only increases the workload for the Hebrew slaves.
God responds by inflicting a series of plagues on Egypt — 10 of them in fact. The Nile River turns into blood, frogs cover Egypt, the dust of the ground is turned into gnats, swarms of flies infest the houses of Pharaoh and his officials. God strikes Egypt’s livestock with disease, he creates festering boils on humans and animals, God sends hail that destroys the crops, livestock, and people who refuse to shelter. God sends a swarm of locusts and then covers Egypt with “a darkness that can be felt.” (Exodus 10:21)
Now before each plague, Moses demands the release of the Israelites and — after the plagues — we read that God “hardens” Pharaoh’s heart so that he refuses Moses’ request. (See Exodus 4:21; 7:22) Which all leads to the tenth and final plague — the death of all the firstborn sons in Egypt.
And just before this final plague, Moses instructs the Hebrew people to cover their doorposts with the blood of a sacrificial lamb as a sign for God to protect their homes from this plague of judgment and death — we’ll look more at sacrifices and how they point us to Jesus next week — but for now — know that after the final plague — Pharaoh relents and releases the Israelites.
And something we see throughout the Bible is the Israelite people remembering this day — this day of rescue — a day that becomes known as the Passover — when they remember God’s judgment “passing over” their homes.
So they leave Egypt. And they’re guided by a pillar of cloud during the day and by fire at night — the cloud and fire are the presence of God. So they’ve just been rescued — but it doesn’t take long for everyone to have a change of heart.
Pharaoh decides it was a bad idea to let his slave labor go and begins to chase them down. The people — trapped between Pharaoh’s army and the Red Sea — complain that all Moses has accomplished it taking them out of Egypt to die in the wilderness — “this isn’t a rescue mission — this is a death march.”
And yet — who do you think is the faithful One in this story? God is — God is always faithful. And he parts the sea so the people can cross on dry land. Pharaoh tries to keep up the chase and follows them — but the waters close back — drowning Pharaoh and his army.
Now the people have just experienced a second miraculous rescue — and they decide — “Hey! Moses is our guy again.” And they sing a song — not “for he’s a jolly good fellow” — they sing a song praising God for being great, and powerful, and a loving warrior. But these people are fickle. Their optimism is brief. And they quickly start to worry about food and water. They’re back to the whole “this is a death march” idea again. How quickly they doubt God’s faithfulness — aren’t you glad that we’re not like them — the pastor asks rhetorically.
And God responds to these doubt-filled people by sending them bread from heaven to eat. He gives them water to drink in the desert. He even gives them power to defeat enemies they run in to.
So — to recap.
God rescues them out of their slavery in Egypt.
He provides them a way to escape his plague of judgment and death.
He parts the Red Sea.
He provides them with food and water.
He gives them victory over their enemies.
And then — after rescuing them — then God gives them the 10 commandments.
And this is important — we’ll look at the 10 commandments later in this series — but for now I want you to notice something that’s often misunderstood about the Christian faith — and that’s this. Often people think of Christianity as “If you do all of these things — if you obey these rules — clean up your act — start behaving the right way — then God will start taking care of you.” But the Exodus story tells us something completely different.
Here we’ve seen that God rescues people first. Then he tells us how to live. God rescues first — then he gives commands. So what does this mean? Well it means that the problem most people have with Christianity — that it’s a religion of rules — isn’t quite accurate. Christianity is first and foremost a religion of rescue — and those who are rescued by God desire to live in a way that pleases the One who’s rescued them.
The fact that God rescues first and then gives us his commands addresses something else that most people dislike about Christians — and that’s that we’re judgmental. Did you know — if you’re a Christian — did you know that we’re not supposed to judge non-Christians by Christian standards? Be grieved by their decisions. Warn them of their sin. But we’re not to judge unbelievers based on the commands God has given to his people — we’re to leave their judgment to God.
But for those who have been rescued by God — for people who say they’re a Christian — well — and this may surprise you — we are to judge fellow believers based on God’s expectations of his people. And this is often where we miss the mark. Often Christians are known for judging unbelievers but rarely do we hold each other accountable for the expectations God has for his people.
So that was bonus material for anyone listening who thinks Christians are too judgmental. You’re both right and wrong. We’re too judgmental of non-Christians and not judgmental enough of fellow believers — in the sense — that we often don’t hold each other to God’s expectations of his people.
Now after the 10 Commandments, there are a few other stories in the book of Exodus but mainly we find expectations that God has for his people. How are they supposed to live? What does it mean to be God’s people? And so on. But now I want us to look at our text — I’ve narrated most of the book — but let’s take a closer look at our passage so we know how this book points us to Jesus.
RE-ANNOUNCE AND READ THE TEXT
Here are the words found in Exodus chapter 14. Beginning in verse 5.
“When the king of Egypt was told that the people had fled, the mind of Pharaoh and his servants was changed toward the people, and they said, "What is this we have done, that we have let Israel go from serving us?" (As I said earlier — Pharaoh starts having second thoughts about releasing all of his slaves.) 6 So he made ready his chariot and took his army with him, 7 and took six hundred chosen chariots and all the other chariots of Egypt with officers over all of them. 8 And the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he pursued the people of Israel while the people of Israel were going out defiantly. 9 The Egyptians pursued them, all Pharaoh's horses and chariots and his horsemen and his army, and overtook them encamped at the sea, by Pi-hahiroth, in front of Baal-zephon. 10 When Pharaoh drew near, the people of Israel lifted up their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians were marching after them, and they feared greatly. And the people of Israel cried out to the Lord. 11 They said to Moses, "Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us in bringing us out of Egypt? 12 Is not this what we said to you in Egypt: 'Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians'? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness." (Now that’s some incredible faith and trust in God, right? I’m kidding folks. Remember — who’s faithful? God is faithful. And who is God faithful to? Unfaithful people. Even though they’ve witnessed the 10 plagues and have been rescued out of slavery — these people are still unfaithful.) 13 And Moses said to the people, "Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. (Who’s going to make their salvation happen? God — not them — God’s doing the saving here.) For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. 14 The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent." (“God will fight for you. You — well — you just keep your mouth shut.” Some of us can learn a lot from this one verse.) 15 The Lord said to Moses, "Why do you cry to me? Tell the people of Israel to go forward. 16 Lift up your staff, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, that the people of Israel may go through the sea on dry ground. 17 And I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they shall go in after them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, his chariots, and his horsemen. (Remember — God responds to sin in two ways: 1) Justice — which is what the Egyptians are about to experience and 2) Grace — which is what the Israelites are experiencing as God rescues them.) 18 And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I have gotten glory over Pharaoh, his chariots, and his horsemen." 19 Then the angel of God who was going before the host of Israel moved and went behind them, and the pillar of cloud moved from before them and stood behind them, 20 coming between the host of Egypt and the host of Israel. And there was the cloud and the darkness. And it lit up the night without one coming near the other all night. 21 Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the Lord drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided. 22 And the people of Israel went into the midst of the sea on dry ground, the waters being a wall to them on their right hand and on their left. 23 The Egyptians pursued and went in after them into the midst of the sea, all Pharaoh's horses, his chariots, and his horsemen. 24 And in the morning watch the Lord in the pillar of fire and of cloud looked down on the Egyptian forces and threw the Egyptian forces into a panic, 25 clogging their chariot wheels so that they drove heavily. And the Egyptians said, "Let us flee from before Israel, for the Lord fights for them against the Egyptians." 26 Then the Lord said to Moses, "Stretch out your hand over the sea, that the water may come back upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots, and upon their horsemen." 27 So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to its normal course when the morning appeared. And as the Egyptians fled into it, the Lord threw the Egyptians into the midst of the sea. 28 The waters returned and covered the chariots and the horsemen; of all the host of Pharaoh that had followed them into the sea, not one of them remained. 29 But the people of Israel walked on dry ground through the sea, the waters being a wall to them on their right hand and on their left. 30 Thus the Lord saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. 31 Israel saw the great power that the Lord used against the Egyptians, so the people feared the Lord, and they believed in the Lord and in his servant Moses.” (Exodus 14:5-31 ESV)
THE GOD WHO RESCUES
We live in — meaning we’re surrounded by a culture — a worldview — that tells us the way you get out of a difficult situation is by “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps.” What we’re told — and maybe you’ve never thought of it this way before — but what we’re told is that when you find yourself in a mess — you must work your way out of it — you must save yourself. And if you need help from anyone else — even God — well then — you’re weak.
Now — to be sure — there are times when “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps” is good advice.
For instance, if you get yourself into financial debt — the right thing to do is to work yourself out of it — stop spending so much — start paying the bills.
If you go to the dentist and they tell you to start flossing — or else things are going to go bad for you — well it’s time to start flossing.
Or take middle school boys as an example. Something happens to the male body in middle school where suddenly deodorant becomes mandatory — and sometimes it doesn’t even help — you know what I’m talking about. And society needs that middle school boy — don’t we — we need him to “pick himself up by his bootstraps” and start regularly — and abundantly — applying deodorant.
But here’s the problem — and I’m not talking about middle school boy B.O. any longer — the problem with our culture’s advice of “picking yourself up by your bootstraps” is that it’s applied universally. Meaning we’re told that this is the way you get out of any hardship — any bad situation — you must be your own savior — always. And the problem — and you know this — the problem is that there are some situations we can’t save ourselves out of. The biggest of which — and this is church so this shouldn’t surprise you — but our biggest problem is sin.
What do I mean by sin? Defining sin is pretty simple. Either you’re living for God — doing things that honor him — and you know they honor him because you’ve studied up on the Bible — and know that anything other than living for God’s glory — is sin. And sin is something we can’t save ourselves from.
Just like the Israelites in Egypt — we’re slaves — not to a Pharaoh — we’re slaves to sin. And we — just like the slaves in Egypt needed to be rescued from their situation — we need to be rescued from our enslavement to sin. This is how the apostle Paul describes our relationship with sin. He writes, “But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification. 20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:17-23 ESV)
And how were we changed? How did you — if you believe in Jesus — how did you move from being a slave of sin to being set free from sin? The answer: You were rescued by God. And do you want to hear something amazing? The same One who rescues us from our slavery to sin is the One who rescued the Israelites out of their slavery in Egypt.
FINDING JESUS IN EXODUS
Here’s what Jude — the brother of Jesus — says. “Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe.” (Jude 1:5 ESV)
How do we find Jesus in the book of Exodus? Well there are many ways — but the way we’re looking at today is by finding the One who rescues — the One who saves. And there is only One rescuer.
Jesus rescued the Hebrew slaves out of Egypt — that’s what Jude tells us.
He parted the Red Sea and brought judgment on Pharaoh and his army.
In Exodus, Jesus is the One rescuing God’s people out of their slavery and leads them into the Promised Land.
But the rescue in Exodus is only a foreshadow of the better rescue story to come — Jesus rescuing his people from their slavery to sin.
You see Jesus came to this earth to die on a cross — so that — through faith in him — his people would be set free from sin.
Set free for righteousness.
Set free to follow him as he leads us through this wilderness of a world and into the eternal Promised Land.
Jesus is our Rescuer — our Savior. In fact — his name means — God rescues.
And just like the Hebrew slaves — I mean there was nothing they could do to earn their freedom — this was not a “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” kind of situation — so to we — and all people — because everyone is a slave to sin — we cannot save ourselves. We need to be rescued. We need a Savior. We need someone to come and set us free.
Now I know — for some — this can sound too good to be true — because you’re exhausted by the whole “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps” mentality. Or maybe you’re someone who knows that God’s rescued you from your sin and yet you struggle because you feel that you don’t deserve it. And — you know what — you’re right. No one deserves it. God didn’t rescue the Israelites because they deserved it or because they were good people or had some kind of unbelievable — unwavering — faith in him — you heard their story. God doesn’t rescue people who deserve it — he rescues people he loves.
And once rescued, God wants his people to show others what it means to live a rescued life. A life of resting in what Jesus has accomplished for us. God shows us — again and again in the Bible — that as Paul said — we’ve been set free from our slavery to sin to now live for God. And that means — we’re to obey our Rescuer. Trusting him and his word to us — that the way he wants us to live — the way he’s commanded us to live — is best.
So for us — if you believe in Jesus — here’s my question: Are we living like people who’ve been set free from sin? Are we living according to the truth that our chains of bondage have been broken and we’re now on the path — in following Jesus — that leads to our eternal home — the eternal Promised Land? Are you living as someone who’s been rescued? In a moment I’m going to pray that we will live as rescued people.
And if you’re here — and you’re not sure what you believe — but the one thing you do know is that you want to be rescued — here’s good news for you: Jesus is still in the rescuing business. So I’m going to pray for you — that Jesus would rescue you today — not because you deserve it — but because he loves you. Let’s pray.
Heavenly Father, thank you for sending Jesus to be our Rescuer. Thank you for how the Exodus story points us to Jesus and to our story. So often we want to be the hero of our story — we don’t want to be the grumblers in the wilderness — the slaves who are under a wicked master — the unfaithful people who fail again and again to trust the One who loves them. But we’re not the hero of our story — Jesus is. And that’s great news for all of us.
So Father — for those of us who have been set free from our sin — set free to live for you — I ask you to help us to live a rescued life. Give us a desire to know how to live in a way that brings you glory.
And Jesus for anyone here desiring to be rescued — I ask that you would do the rescuing work that only you can do. Save them. Break the chains that bind them down. Set them free to live for you. Give them the gift of faith — the gift of assurance that you love them. Jesus we pray all of this in your name. Amen.
BENEDICTION (PRAY FOR: want to live the rescued life)
May you go living the rescued life — knowing that Jesus has set you free.
God loves you. I love you. You are sent.