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Out of Egypt: Through the Water

March 07, 2018
By Pastor David French

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Out of Egypt: Through the Water
Exodus 14:13–31; Mark 1:9–13

Slavery—bondage—servitude. Brutal taskmasters—heavy burdens—daily despair and hopelessness. This was the land of Egypt for the Israelites. Four hundred years earlier, Egypt was a place of refuge, a place of rescue. It was a place that promised food in the midst of famine, a land that gave the Hebrews a home at a time when things were becoming desperate. But that had all changed. A pharaoh had ascended to the throne who didn’t know or care about the great deeds and works of Joseph. To him, the Hebrew people were a source of cheap labor. Now they were enslaved to carry out the building projects of the pharaoh. Now slavery, bondage, and servitude, brutal taskmasters, and heavy burdens were their lot, and they literally groaned under this reality.

It didn’t matter that the Israelites had willingly journeyed to the land of Egypt and been blessed in this journey with overflowing grain and had been settled in the beautiful land of Goshen. What had once been a good and gracious land became a place of enslavement. What had once been a place a refuge became a place of pain and sorrow. What had once been a place of life became a place of death, a land of exile where their baby boys were thrown into the Nile River.

The people were in need of a leader. They were in need of a savior. They needed a leader to rise from their midst, a leader who would gather them together. One who would remind them of who they were and who their God was … and who they were in relationship to this God. They needed one who would bring them out of this terrible land of slavery and death. They needed someone who could and who would stand up to Pharaoh. The person God sent was Moses.

We could spend time talking about Moses and his abilities, or lack of them. We could talk of his training, his education, or his reluctance. We could consider his temper or his lack of desire to carry out the task. We could speak at great length about all these things; but God prepared Moses for the task and then sent him to rescue His people. One stubborn pharaoh and ten plagues later, Moses and the Israelites finally leave town after four hundred years. Moses and the Israelites are headed back to the land that was promised by God to His people since the days of Abraham.

There are, however, two obstacles between them and their freedom. Two obstacles stand in the way of their return from exile: a large army and a big body of water. Two obstacles with the Israelites right in the middle. Pharaoh and his army are coming up fast from behind and the Red Sea looms large ahead. They are stuck between the proverbial “rock and a hard place,” but God has a plan, a way, a means by which He will save His people.

The Lord tells Moses to raise his staff over the waters of the Red Sea, and miraculously the waters part and the people of Israel pass through the waters on dry ground. As the people pass through the waters, they begin their return from exile and are rescued from the land of slavery and death. And then, to tie up all the loose ends and to deliver a message, the waters collapse on the advancing Egyptian army. Pharaoh and his army are destroyed in the waters. That evil is washed away. In the words of Moses, God says to His people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”

You see, there is life and death in those waters. The same waters that destroy evil pharaoh and his army save the people of God. The Egyptians are drowned and the Israelites walk away saved. The waters that killed also preserved life. And this will not be the last time the Lord uses water to both destroy the enemy and give life to His people. This will not be the last time the Lord uses water to bring His people back from exile.

A land of bondage, a land of slavery to sin and death—slaves of Satan, enemies of God. The enemies—sin, death, and satan—still seek to enslave God’s people. Indeed, these enemies have their successes as we groan under the burden of death. People need, we need to escape the grip of death, but we cannot. And so, we need a Savior, a Deliverer to rise from our midst. A Savior who will gather us up and bring us out of this land of exile. We need a Savior who will reunite and restore us to God. We need One who will stand up to satan and his demonic power. God’s solution was to send His only begotten Son, Jesus.

We could spend a lot of time speaking about Jesus and His abilities. We could speak of His power, of His lineage, of His sacrifice, of His love and mercy, but it’s enough to say that, in Jesus, God became flesh to dwell among us and with His blood rescued us from our land of exile. Remember Jesus went down into the waters of the Jordan to be baptized by John—not to be washed clean of sin.  If that were the case, we would still be eternally condemned. No, Jesus went into the waters of the Jordan as the Lamb of God and came out as our sin-bearer who took upon Himself the sin of the world, a role confirmed by His anointing with the Holy Spirit and the voice of His Father declaring He was pleased with His Son.

You see, as we pray in Luther’s Baptismal Prayer: … Through the Baptism in the Jordan of Your beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, You sanctified and instituted all waters to be a blessed flood and a lavish washing away of sin.

We are brought to the baptismal font, whereby the water and the Word the old Adam within us is drowned as all sin is washed away. In those waters we are born again, a new creation, a forgiven child of God born through those sacramental waters into the promised land of eternal life in our Father’s land. Returned from exile, returned from a land of slavery to sin and death, through the waters into the arms of our loving and merciful God.

In Jesus’s name. Amen.