A Sure Defense in Time of Trouble
2nd Sunday of Lent
by Reverend Adrian Richard Kelly
February 22, 1970
For our learning today we take a backward look into the history of God's chosen people in the middle of the 15th century before Christ. We see them in a historic moment at the beginning of their exodus from the land of Egypt. After the last plague, the Pharaoh had asked the Israelites to leave, but as soon as they had gone, Pharaoh realized what he had done and what it would be like without all those people working for him. He determined that he must overtake them and bring them back again into slavery. So it was that God's people had hardly left Goshen and traveled only as far as the shore of the Red Sea when they saw coming toward them in the distance the well-trained army of Pharaoh. Escape seemed impossible. To the East lay the wide Red Sea, to the north and west were high mountains. The only way open was blocked by the Egyptian army. True, the Israelites numbered more than 2,000,000, but even the large number of those neither too young nor too old to fight was unarmed and certainly no match for the disciplined army of Pharaoh.
That was the situation, the people overcome by fear, that leads to the beginning of our text and we hear Moses saying, "Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will show to you today." Surely many of them must have been ready to say, "Moses, what has gotten into you? Have your senses taken leave of you?" especially when Moses continued and announced, "The Egyptians whom ye have seen today, ye shall see them again no more forever.” The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace." Humanly speaking, the advice of Moses at this time seems out of place. If ever there was a time for action, this seemed to be it, and here is this leader saying that the people should have courage, confidence in the power of God, and should quietly wait for deliver-ance at the hand of the Lord.
We are then told that the Lord directed Moses to have the people go forward toward the Red Sea and He instructed Moses to lift up his rod and stretch out his hands over the sea and divide it so that the Children of Israel could pass through it on dry ground. The remaining verses of this chapter tell how Moses did as the Lord commanded him. The Israelites were permitted by God to cross the Red Sea in this miraculous way. Then, upon the Lord's direction, Moses again stretched forth his hands after they had all made it over to the other side, and the waters closed in on the Egyptian hosts, burying them all in the churning depths. Here in this moment the Lord dealt the enemy terrifying destruction and provided for His people a mighty rescue from disaster.
Certainly, the purpose of this action, at the beginning of the history of God's people, was to provide clear instruction concerning the glory and goodness of their God. God's love for His people is evident in this encounter. But this was recorded in Holy Scripture that all of God's people in all succeeding ages might also learn to know and trust in God's power and love and realize that the Lord is A SURE DEFENSE IN TIME OF TROUBLE.
Let's do a little wishful thinking. Wouldn't it be a wonderful thing if we could all go through our entire life without any fears, anxiety, worry, or sinful care. It would surely be great if we could be spared all manner of unhappiness and misery, especially when we face troubles. We are all well acquainted with how fears of people or things or situations or reverses can tear us apart and break us down physically, mentally, and even spiritually. Such fear is a wrongly directed fear and is contrary to the Word of God. Yet we are inclined to engage in just such faithless fear. As God's people, there is something wrong with us when we do this.
Our problem is illustrated by the actions of the Israelites when under pursuit by Pharaoh and his army. Looking at their situation objectively, from a human point of view, we could say that they were entirely justified in giving way to fear. There simply was no defense which they might make to save themselves. Nor could they look for help from any other quarter. The mistake they made in all this was that they looked at the situation only from a horizontal view. They could not see anything but the onrushing forces of Pharaoh, and the physical obstacles in the way of possible escape. Their failure was to look vertically. They did not "lift up their eyes to heaven, from where comes help." A preceding verse does tell us that they cried to the Lord, but that which immediately follows shows clearly that they did not really put their trust in God. They did not think that He either would or could help them in this catastrophe and so they complained to Moses about the fact that he had led them out of Egypt.
We would say that the actions of these people were totally without defense. After all, they had just seen how the Lord had dealt with Pharaoh and demonstrated His power by bringing down upon Egypt the ten plagues. On top of that, God had directly assured them that He would be with them and lead them safely to the Promised Land. They apparently did not think that God was as good as His Word. Refusal to rely on His promise led them to fear and despair.
It is just this kind of unbelief which lies at the bottom of our problems, these fears and anxieties which trouble us. When we are choked up with dread in the time of danger; when with the pressures which close in on us, we fix our eyes on these temporary conditions; we show that we are failing to set our eyes and minds on our God and the promises He has given to us in His Word.
Perhaps we would like to say that there is a great difference between the situation with Israel and that with us. At that time, the people were given magnificent displays of God's power and received from God definite and certain promises of deliverance. But, we think, it is not that way today. We do not have such clear and sure guarantees for our faith to lay hold of today.
That is not at all the case. Such thinking indicates a foggy understanding of God's Word. Scripture is filled with assurances of God's help for His people in every age. The invitation of Ps. 50 is not restricted, when God says, "Call upon Me in the day of trouble. I will deliver thee and thou shalt glorify Me." Nor is the Lord speaking of one certain person in Ps. 91, but to every godly person when He says, "Because he hath set his love upon Me, therefore will I deliver him; I will set him on high because he hath known My name. He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him." Our service this morning would get too long for our routine if we were to continue on to speak of the many promises of God to us in His Word. Surely if we give way to faithless fears, it is not because God does not promise us His aid, but because we fail to trust His love and promise.
Then let's spell it out; make it very clear. When we give in to misdirected fear or worry, that is sin, the sin of lack of trust in God- When foolish cares overtake us, we are saying in effect: "God, I know that You have made some promises to me--but I don't really believe that You can do what You say You can. Friends, God calls on us today to repent of this sin, as of all others we commit. He calls on us to look to Jesus Christ for pardon for this sin, to find healing in His blood which washes away all our guilty stains. He calls on us to exercise the new power which is ours in Jesus Christ and to hold on with clenched hand to the never-failing promises of His Word.
We want to be aware, too, that there are some who have a sharp feeling of their own unworthiness and so feel that because of their sinfulness they have no right to expect any kind of aid or assistance from God in times of trouble. To those we can only say, "Remember this: it is God Himself who invites us to put all our trust in Him and bids us come to Him for help in time of need. He has opened the way for us to come to Him. The fact that He is willing to hear and answer us is not dependent on our own righteousness, but with the righteousness which God has given to us in Christ Jesus We can, we may, we must, place our whole confidence in Him who calls on us to come to Him.
Our text has one other point for our consideration. Notice that when the people had received and listened to the assurance of Moses that God was on their side and would fight for them, they calmed down and prepared to follow the instructions Moses gave them though their situation seemed hopeless, they were now ready to be patient and wait the Lord's help. This was the type of response God intended.
And that is the point for us. Once we have grasped again the Lord's promises of help, we should have an eager expectation, a joyous anticipation of His help. In any situation, no matter how dark it seems, we can have the certainty that God will provide for us an answer to the problem, a way of escape, even if it should mean His using a miracle, if necessary.
Take careful note, though, that when the Lord gave direction, the people followed. So, if you and I want to see the blessing of God, we must not only trust in God's promises, but we must also be ready to follow the other exact directions His Word gives us. First, it means that we pray to Him for His help. Another way we follow is to cease from sinning of which we may be aware, for we cannot expect God to help if we insist on continuing to disobey Him. That would simply be tempting God. We must rather seek God's kingdom and His righteousness. Then we can be sure of His blessing.
Let me be quick to say that we cannot be certain of everlasting bodily security. Scripture does not assure us that we will forever be spared all pain and suffering. But God does assure us that He will supply all our need according to His riches in Christ Jesus.