This month, our series journeys through the story of Moses and the Israelites in Egypt. Through this story, we will explore several elements of creation.
When Moses was tending Jethro’s flock in the wilderness, the fire of divine inspiration moved him to free God’s people from oppression and slavery in Egypt. When Moses was delivering God’s message, death seemed to be the only motivator in the release of those who were enslaved.
In the immediate aftermath of their escape, the Israelites were confronted with further images of God’s power in the wind, sky, and sea.
19God’s messenger, who had been in front of Israel’s camp, moved and went behind them. The column of cloud moved from the front and took its place behind them. 20It stood between Egypt’s camp and Israel’s camp. The cloud remained there, and when darkness fell it lit up the night. They didn’t come near each other all night.
21Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea. The Lord pushed the sea back by a strong east wind all night, turning the sea into dry land. The waters were split into two. 22The Israelites walked into the sea on dry ground. The waters formed a wall for them on their right hand and on their left. 23The Egyptians chased them and went into the sea after them, all of Pharaoh’s horses, chariots, and cavalry. 24As morning approached, the Lord looked down on the Egyptian camp from the column of lightning and cloud and threw the Egyptian camp into a panic. 25The Lord jammed their chariot wheels so that they wouldn’t turn easily. The Egyptians said, “Let’s get away from the Israelites, because the Lord is fighting for them against Egypt!”
26Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea so that the water comes back and covers the Egyptians, their chariots, and their cavalry.” 27So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea. At daybreak, the sea returned to its normal depth. The Egyptians were driving toward it, and the Lord tossed the Egyptians into the sea. 28The waters returned and covered the chariots and the cavalry, Pharaoh’s entire army that had followed them into the sea. Not one of them remained. 29The Israelites, however, walked on dry ground through the sea. The waters formed a wall for them on their right hand and on their left.
30The Lord rescued Israel from the Egyptians that day. Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. 31Israel saw the amazing power of the Lord against the Egyptians. The people were in awe of the Lord, and they believed in the Lord and in his servant Moses.
Consider these questions:
- In these weeks, we have explored several illustrations of God’s power. In your mind, what is power? How is it used?
- Consider the scriptural instruction to focus on divine things over earthly things. Does this change your perception or understanding of power?
- How does humanity’s use of power differ from God’s use of power?
POST-SERMON UPDATE ON 9/19
Audio from the sermon can be heard below, and video can be found by clicking this link (will open in a new tab).
Sunday’s message explored the story of the parting of the Red Sea and the awesome illustrations of God’s power. We are reminded that God’s message – indeed, God’s Word – continues to have power today. In reading stories in which God seems to exercise this awesome power in different ways than we experience God’s power today, it can seem difficult to relate; it can seem difficult to connect ourselves to these incredible stories. So we took time this past Sunday to seek out ways to understand this narrative in a personal way, and even to insert ourselves into parts of the text.
And here, I must offer an apology. In illustrating particular communities for whom this story about release from slavery and oppression has particular meaning, I listed off several groups: women; LGBTQ persons; racial minorities; victims of human trafficking; persons of low socio-economic status; stay-at-home parents; being Christian or not be Christian enough. In doing so, I left out two very important groups who were represented in our Worship space that day: persons who are differently-abled and persons who suffer from mental illness. Please accept my profound apology. While it was not my intent for the listing of persons who have experienced oppression to be exhaustive, I understand that it is important to name these groups in particular. And while it was not my intent to be hurtful, I understand that (also quoting from this sermon) “accidentally hurtful doesn’t mean less hurtful.”
Consider these questions:
- When you read this ancient story about the Israelites fleeing through the Red Sea, with which character(s) in the story do you most closely identify?
- Understanding that many of us have experienced some kind of oppression or have been looked down on in some way (either through the groups listed above or others), how have you experienced this and how have you responded?
- Understanding that most of us have taken on the role of oppressor in some way (even unintentionally), how did you feel when you realized what had happened and how did you react/respond?