Sun. a.m. AGCC 9/5/99
"DOUBTS & DELIVERANCE"
(New Series: "Dangers In The Desert!")
TEXT: Ex. 13:17-14:31
INTRO:You know you are going to travel over a vast desert, so you hire the finest guide you can find. Now that you have your guide the journey begins.
What are going to be the greatest dangers in the desert?
a. Lack of water?
b. Lack of food?
c. The heat?
d. Getting lost?
e. Wild animals and marauding enemies?
Are these the greatest dangers in the journey? NO! The greatest dangers are:
a. DOUBT about the guide!
b. INGRATITUDE over the provisions
c. REBELLION against the guide
d. IMPATIENCE over the journey
Israel's journey to the promise land held many dangers, but they were NOT from the guide or the provisions God made available, they were from their own hearts where the doubts, ingratitude, rebellion, and impatience developed.
These same dangers exist for us in our journey of faith through this wilderness of life as we travel toward eternity and our promise land.
Israel's initial test and danger was trusting their guide. Would they trust God's guidance by the cloud by day, the fire by night - and through his servant Moses? The initial test of faith has do with trusting our guide, in our spiritual journey this means God!
PROP. SENT: The Bible clearly teaches us that we must learn to trust God's guidance in our life! The biggest dangers in our journey have little to do with what others do, they are the dangers that reside in our own hearts.
I. DIMENSIONS OF DELIVERANCE 13:17-14:4
A. Freedom! 13:17-22
1. After a long period of slavery Israel finally is free from Egypt!
a. They had watched God answer their prayers for deliverance.
b. They had witnessed the hand of God against the Egyptians through the 10 plagues.
2. Their freedom had been bought by faith in God in answer to prayers of deliverance.
a. God still sets sinners free this way!
b. It was a great day when they were set free … it still is today!
3. Their first test in the new journey would be one of trust or faith in God as their guide … this is always the test of new faith!
a. They will struggle with doubt, God can handle this .. it is UNBELIEF He has a hard time with - and there is a difference!
ILLUS:Christ never failed to distinguish between doubt and unbelief. Doubt is can't believe; unbelief is won't believe. Doubt is honesty; unbelief is obstinacy. Doubt is looking for light; unbelief is content with darkness. John Drummond (1851-1897) - Edythe Draper, Draper's Book of Quotations for the Christian World (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1992). Entries 2929-2932.
b. Doubts not dealt with however can turn into unbelief.
4. Notice the difference between God's perspective of Israel and their own: (see 14:17-18)
a. God refuses to take them the shorter route because they would face strong enemies they weren't ready for. (Philistines)
b. However, they leave "armed for battle" (14:18) - they think they are ready for anything!!
c. Most new Christians think they can handle anything that comes their way - they are infused with joy, new found faith, excitement over the journey, etc. but God often knows what is best for us and can direct our lives in paths that we don't always anticipate.
5. They have Joseph's bones with them, a statement of faith by Joseph almost 400 years earlier coming to fruition - he had prophesied 400 years earlier that this day would come for Israel and they were to take his bones with them to the land of promise! (Who says old messages can't minister to us today!?)
6. God gave visible witness of His presence among them, a cloud by day, a fire by night - always there out front of them!
7. Surely there could be no doubts about God in this new journey, everything was wonderful, great, marvelous!
a. They anticipated an uneventful journey filled with promises and power!
b. However, the first danger of the journey was about to hit, the danger of doubts over their guide - God's leading!
B. Frustration! 14:1-4
1. Notice that God speaks to Moses and tells him to take Israel in circles back toward the border of Egypt - almost directing them back into their enemies hands!
a. This was hardly the direction they thought God would take them.
b. Why not the shortest and easiest route? After all they left "armed for battle" - they figured they could handle the Philistines!
2. God knew however that they needed to pass the first test of trust in his leadership or the future battles would be in question.
3. If they can't handle the enemy they already knew, how would they handle the enemies they haven't met yet in the journey?
4. They must have been completely confused over this direction from God, it just didn't make much sense!
a. Here comes the first danger in any journey in the wilderness: will you trust the guide?
b. Failure to trust God here would mean disaster later.
c. It was necessary for them to realize that God was trustworthy, that it was not their talents, skills, or hardiness as soldiers that would make the biggest difference, it was God's power that would make the difference.
ILLUS: Gladys Aylward, missionary to China more than fifty years ago, was forced to flee when the Japanese invaded Yangcheng. But she could not leave her work behind. With only one assistant, she led more than a hundred orphans over the mountains toward Free China.
In their book The Hidden Price of Greatness, Ray Besson and Ranelda Mack Hunsicker tell what happened: "During Gladys's harrowing journey out of war-torn Yangcheng ... she grappled with despair as never before. After passing a sleepless night, she faced the morning with no hope of reaching safety. A 13-year-old girl in the group reminded her of their much-loved story of Moses and the Israelites crossing the Red Sea.
"'But I am not Moses,' Gladys cried in desperation. 'Of course you aren't,' the girl said, 'but Jehovah is still God!'" When Gladys and the orphans made it through, they proved once again that no matter how inadequate we feel, God is still God, and we can trust in him. -- Jonathan G. Yandell. Garden Grove, California. Leadership, Vol. 16, no. 1.
5. Their confusing wandering in circles would lure Pharaoh into thinking that God's people were nuts!
a. Often unbelievers think Christians are crazy when they see them follow the Lord in paths that don't always make much sense to the natural mind!
b. In Pharaoh's arrogance however God was about to make a demonstration of just how trustworthy He is as Israel's guide to the promise land.
c. Note too that God's desire was not just to do more pain to Egypt, in fact, it was to use this final example as a way to SHOW EGYPT TOO that He is God! (see 14:3b)
6. So far so good, Israel follows God's directions though it put them near the border of Egypt again.
a. I wonder how many felt frustrated about not getting on with the journey or this particular direction of it?
b. How many times do we get frustrated with God when our journey doesn't seem to move in the direction we think it should and when we think it should? TRUST HIM!
II. DANGERS OF DOUBT! 14:5-18
A. Fear! 14:5-15a
1. With Egypt pursuing them again, and being trapped between their army and the Red sea - Israel becomes fearful!
a. How many times does this match our experience of faith, we find ourselves trying to follow God and all of sudden we find ourselves in a bind with no apparent way out!
b. Fear may begin to make us question God's love and goodness, even His reality!
2. At such times all those wonderful"counselors" show up that only make your fears worse, not better!
3. Certainly Moses found the "experts" now in the camp! They complained that they should never have come this way.
4. Fear can make doubts turn into rebellion!
a. Be careful not to listen to unhealthy fear when your faith in God is challenged!
b. Nothing good comes from unhealthy fear - fear about God's trustworthiness!
c. Fear can keep you from discovery, discovery of God's power and help.
ILLUS:Listen to these examples of inventions and ideas that some people said "couldn't be done" so they resisted the new.
1. The first successful cast-iron plow, invented in the United States in 1797, was rejected by New Jersey farmers under the theory that cast iron poisoned the land and stimulated the growth of weeds.
2. An eloquent authority in the United States declared that the introduction of the railroad would require the building of many insane asylums, since people would be driven mad with terror at the sight of locomotives rushing across the country.
3. In Germany it was proved by "experts" that if trains went at the frightful speed of 15 miles an hour, blood would spurt from the travelers' noses and passengers would suffocate when going through tunnels.
4. Commodore Vanderbilt dismissed Westinghouse and his new air brakes for trains, stating, "I have no time to waste on fools."
5. Those who loaned Robert Fulton money for his steamboat project stipulated that their names be withheld for fear of ridicule were it known they supported anything so "foolhardy."
6. In 1881, when the New York YWCA announced typing lessons for women, vigorous protests were made on the grounds that the female constitution would break down under the strain.
7. Men insisted that iron ships would not float, that they would damage more easily than wooden ships when grounding, that it would be difficult to preserve the iron bottom from rust, and that iron would deflect the compass.
8. Joshua Coppersmith was arrested in Boston for trying to sell stock in the telephone. "All well-informed people know that it is impossible to transmit the human voice over a wire."
9. The editor of the Springfield Republican refused an invitation to ride in an early automobile, claiming that it was incompatible with the dignity of his position.-- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988), p. 407.
5. Had Israel listened to the voice of the fear mongers among them disaster would surely have taken place!
a. It was natural to have doubts and fear, but it is supernatural to TRUST GOD!
b. God's solution to this threat:
(1. "DON'T BE AFRAID" 14:13
(2. "STAND FIRM" 14:13
(3. "SEE THE DELIVERANCE - TODAY!" 14:13
6. God can be trusted!!!
a. This would be the last they would see of the Egyptians, but only if they didn't give in to their fears and doubts.
b. This was the most dangerous moment for them - will they trust their guide or listen to the voices of discontent among them?
B. Frozen 14:15b-18
1. Fear however was even beginning to get to Moses, even he cries out to God!
a. God advises them all to stop being frozen in fear and to get moving!
b. But where can they go? Egypt on one side, Red sea on the other, they are trapped!
c. You are never trapped when God is with you!! "He always makes a way of escape!" (1 Cor. 10:13)
2. They would not move without faith because there was no where to go, but if they had faith that God would open a way then they could get up and move! SO MOVE!
3. Not only will Israel experience God's glory, but the Egyptians will see it too and know that God is real.
a. God opens up the Red sea creating a dry path for His people to pass through.
b. God holds back the Egyptians until Israel has crossed safely over.
c. When Egypt tries to the follow the path of faith in rebellion against God disaster strikes.
III. DECISIONS DEMONSTRATED 14:19-31
A. Faithless 14:19-28
1. Egypt assumed they could follow the same path as people of faith but without trust in the God of that faith - they found out otherwise!
a. To travel God's paths you must have confidence in Him as your guide!
b. To those who mock God the path of faith only leads to destruction.
2. In Egypt's arrogance and pride they thought they could USE God for their own ends, how wrong they were. (Gal 6:7 "Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows." NIV)
3. Israel discovered the joy of deliverance because she didn't cave in to doubt, Egypt discovered the painful results of rebellion against God … the time of getting what they had sown had finally come!
a. While at first Israel felt confused by the path of God, it is now Egypt that is confused! (see 14:24)
b. Though Israel may have doubted at first, her obedience brought victory, but Egypt's rebellion against God brought them defeat.
ILLUS:The story is told of a farmer in a Midwestern state who had a strong disdain for "religious" things. As he plowed his field on Sunday morning, he would shake his fist at the church people who passed by on their way to worship.
October came and the farmer had his finest crop ever--the best in the entire county. When the harvest was complete, he placed an advertisement in the local paper which belittled the Christians for their faith in God. Near the end of his diatribe he wrote, "Faith in God must not mean much if someone like me can prosper."
The response from the Christians in the community was quiet and polite. In the next edition of the town paper, a small ad appeared. ... It read simply, "God doesn't always settle His accounts in October." -- William E. Brown in Making Sense of Your Faith. Christianity Today, Vol. 33, no. 11.
B. Faith! 14:29-31
1. Without faith Israel would not have found her way through the trial.
2. The lack of faith can destroy the journey, but faith will make it exciting and reveal great things!
a. If the lack of faith in the real world can be detrimental, how much more the lack of faith in the spiritual realm can be harmful!
ILLUS:Everything that can be invented has been invented. - Charles H. Duell, U.S. Patent Office director, 1899
Who the h--- wants to hear actors talk? - H. M. Warner, Warner Bros. Pictures, c. 1927
Sensible and responsible women do not want to vote. - Grover Cleveland, 1905
There is no likelihood man can ever tap the power of the atom. - Robert Millikan, Nobel prize winner in physics, 1923
Heavier than air flying machines are impossible.- Lord Kelvin, president, Royal Society, c. 1895
Ruth [Babe Ruth] made a big mistake when he gave up pitching. - Tris Speaker, 1927
The horse is here to stay, but the automobile is only a novelty. - The Michigan banker who advised Henry Ford's lawyer not to invest in the new motor car company
Gone with the Wind is going to be the biggest flop in Hollywood history. I'm just glad it'll be Clark Gable who's falling flat on his face and not me. - Gary Cooper -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988), p. 408.
b. Faith in the God who guided them gave them their great victory … they had successfully won over the great DANGER IN THE DESERT - to doubt the guide!
3. The Israelites found a new joy, a new power, a new faith - and a healthy fear of God now from this experience … they were ready for the rest of the trip!
4.BUT - there are other DANGERS IN THE DESERT TOO … (future messages!)
CONCLUSION: The journey of faith is full of the struggles of doubt, but also the joys of deliverance. Israel discovered that deliverance came only when they conquered their doubts and fears and trusted in God. The greatest enemy of faith is fear, it leads to doubt which can lead to destruction. The journey through the wilderness can only be peaceful if you trust your guide! DO you trust God for your journey?