Exodus 14-15: My God Can Beat Up Your god

A few years ago, Jesse Ventura, a former professional wrestler became the governor of Minnesota. A few years ago while driving through the state I noticed a bumper sticker on a car that read, “My Governor Can Beat up Your Governor.” It didn’t take me long to realize that this was one of those blanket statements that happened to be true all the time.  Those of you from California might protest, but I saw this bumper sticker before “Arnold” was governor of your state. 

 

One theme that we are going to see throughout the text of the rest of the Bible is this completion among various cultures for the supremacy of their God. The polytheists of the Biblical times typically believed that the nations with the strongest gods would prevail.  If a god was powerful, then the nation that served him/her would be powerful.  If the god they served was weak, then the nation that served him/her was necessarily weak.  As was mentioned previously, that when he announced that he wanted to take the people out to worship YHWH, Pharaoh claimed to know nothing of him.  One wonders if the pharaoh had this reaction simply because he did not respect the God of a nation that was so weak in his eyes.  Whatever his opinion of the God of the Bible before this Moses came along, after today’s reading, he would take a much different perspective on his great power.

 

After the exodus, the people of Israel fled into the wilderness on their flight from Egypt.  As they departed the land they were given articles of gold and silver by the Egyptian people.  After the immediate shock of Passover night and all the death that was left behind had passed, pharaoh began to wonder what he had allowed to happen with the departure of two million slaves from his nation.  Even with the blow of what had happened with the firstborn of Egypt, hard-hearted pharaoh would not allow them to go without one more fight.

 

The great king mobilized a large army to go and get the Hebrew people.  Finally pharaoh and his army reached the nation as they camped by the sea.  While it may be very likely that the sea the Israelites crossed was the Red Sea, there has been much discussion in scholarly circles and there has not been a consensus that this is, in fact, the case.   Conservative scholar Walt Kaiser writes this about the sea in question:

 

 “Thus God led Israel around by the “desert road” or the “way of the wilderness” toward the “Red Sea” or, better, “Sea of Reeds”.  Kenneth Kitchen associates this body of water with Lake Menzaleh or Lake Ballah. Kitchen does not that Yam Suph (NIV mg.) may also be connected with the Gulf of Suez.  Israel camped on the west coast of the Sinai Peninsula by Yam Suph on their salt waters of the Gulf of Aqabah (Deut. 1:1; 1 Kings 9:26, et. al.,).  Thus nothing prevents our linking Yam Suph with the Red sea. ( The Red Sea of that day did not include the Gulf of Suez modern extension of the Red Sea.)

 

Once the Hebrew people saw the Egyptian army closing in on them they were struck with terror and assumed that they would be destroyed by the wrath of pharaoh.  It is too easy to become overly critical of the Hebrew people at this point; we must remember that they had been abused by the Egyptians for generations as far as their minds could see.  The family of Jacob entered Egypt as seventy and they had grown to become a nation of two million mentally and physically abused people.  They had suffered under the cruel task masters of the Egyptians for hundreds of years and they had all experienced the fury of their overlords.  In this moment they cried out to Moses and said, “Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians?  It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!’” (Exodus 14:12).  The reality was that God was in the process of building up his peoples’ faith change the way they conceptualize his power over the obstacles that they would face.  Moses gave them words of advice here that would be wise for all of us to observe when we find ourselves in times of trouble, fear and doubt:

 

“Do not be afraid.  Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today.  The Egyptians you see today you will never see again.  The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still” (Exodus 14:13b). 

 

When things seem out of control and over our head, sometimes the best thing that we can do is to be still, carry our burden to God and allow him work these things out according to his perfect plan.  There was no way that the Hebrew people could have defended themselves against this incredibly well-trained army that pharaoh brought with him.  Yet, with God the Hebrew people did not need the United States military Special Forces; they only needed a special God.  Pharaoh thought that he was a god and thought that he worshipped a more powerful god than YHWH and this belief may have given him courage to go after Israel, yet this belief would be quickly dismantled in the following events.

 

God had Moses lift his staff over the sea and the water began to part with a strong east wind.  The people crossed on dry ground.  Following this the Egyptians followed the Israelites into the sea and God created great disruptions in this well organized military’s ranks with the breakdown of equipment and other issues.  Finally when God gave the command, Moses again lifted up his staff and the waters rushed over Israel’s tormentors.  It was the intention of pharaoh to capture this people group and send them back under his yoke of slavery.  There surely would have been an attack on the Hebrew people themselves and many would have been killed.  God, on this day, would spare the Hebrew people this terrible fate and defeated their enemies with a power and swift intervention into their lives.  With this God proved that he would be with them and that in YHWH, they had a God who was the true God and the only God worthy of their worship. This would be a lesson that their posterity would learn over and over agin until the southern kingdom of Judah would be sent into exile in Babylonia around 586 BC.  After that event, the Hebrew people never again really struggled with polytheism.  But that event will not take place for nearly a thousand years after the exile. 

 

So where would you rate your trust level in God.  When you have stressful events, how easy is it for you to take a deep breath, say a prayer and then leave your troubles in God’s capable hands?  Have you ever experienced the liberation of this great promise from our Lord, “come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and ou will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-29; NIV).  Trust him with your life today – he has the power to carry out all that he has promised — He is faithful.

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3 Responses to “Exodus 14-15: My God Can Beat Up Your god”

  1. Derek Taylor Says:

    I think you ask a very important question- how easy is it for us to trust God when stressful events occur? I sometimes get caught in a mindset where I need to trust God for the “big” things. I have been realizing that I need to trust God for the “small”, everyday things so that I won’t flinch or second guess God when the “big” things happen.

  2. Derek Taylor Says:

    Bruce,
    What is the significance or symbolism behind Moses throwing a log into the bitter waters of Marah?

  3. Bruce Smith Says:

    I’ve been thinking a lot about that since we have begun this study. First we got into Job and what was that book about? A man who was tested for a reason that was unknown to him. Then we go to the patriarchs and over and over again they were tested. Abraham figured he’d help God keep his promise by fathering Ishmael. When Isaac found himself in a difficult spot, he did what his dad did and said that his wife was his sister. What can we say about Jacob? He spent most of his life failing the tests of faith that God had given him. Consider the sons of Jacob who weren’t born of Rachael; after their blessing had been given and their futures were secured by God, they were sure that Joseph was going to put them all to death. It was like the promises of God went in one ear and out the other. I feel that we are susceptible to the same sorts of temptations.

    Yet, there is a point of hope in all of this which is so important that we must not fail to grasp it. With these men, with the exception of Jacob’s sons (because we do not have their complete stories), they did better and better as time went on. God starts with us as we are and he shapes us and molds us so that over time, through the process of sanctification, we become more and more like Jesus as our lives go on. Yet, in Abraham’s case the older he became the more difficult the tests were and the more successful he was in trusting God through them (most notably, the call to sacrifice Isaac).

    You raise another interesting point about small and big matters of faith. I think that you are right on the money. Scripture is clear about the benefits of being faithful in the smaller things. When we are faithful in them, more will be given. I was once told that John Wooden, the legendary coach of UCLA Bruins men’s basketball team, would start his new players off on the first day of practice with a demonstration how to properly tie their shoes and other tasks of everyday life. He preached to them that if they were going to do the bigger things well, it would begin with doing the little things well. The Bruins went on to win something like 10 championships in 12 years.

    I believe that if we concentrate on trusting God in those smaller events of life, and sometimes this will be difficult, we will be more than ready to pass through the greater trials of this world with a sense of God’s direction, guidance and care.

    Derek, it is great to hear from you and I really appreciate the discussion.

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