“Stop Trying and Start Trusting”

Exodus 14:1-29


            Try to picture this. The National Youth Gathering youth and leaders, about 25 people in all, are flying on Southwest to New Orleans. As the Boeing 737 starts taxing down the runway, the youth start flapping their arms like a bird. The flight attendants come along and are like “What in the world are you doing?” They say, “Our pastor told us we needed to help get this plane off the ground.” They say, “Um, you really don’t have to do that.” The youth are like “Ya huh! Our pastor told us to. This is going to help!” The flight attendants are like, “Trust me, but you can sit back and relax. The plane will take off without your help.” “No! We’ve got to help the pilot get this plane off the ground.” After a while, their arms become tired until they just can’t flap anymore. How smart is that? To go along with our theme today, It’s time to stop trying and start trusting.

            Our sermon series on the book of Exodus is called “Let My People Go!” That’s a phrase that appears seven times in Exodus. Today in Exodus 14, finally, after a series of plagues, Pharaoh has let God’s people go.

            But after they leave, it dawns on Pharaoh that by allowing the Israelites go, he has no more workers. He’s just destroyed Egypt’s economy. The only logical thing for him to do is to go after them and bring them back! So, you have the ancient world’s most powerful army chasing after a bunch of Israelites. What does God teach us through these exciting events in Exodus 14? Stop trying and start trusting.

            Exodus 14 starts out saying, “Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Tell the Israelites to turn back and encamp near Pi Hahiroth, between Migdol and the see. They are to encamp by the sea, directly opposite Baal Zephon’” (14:1-2).

            Hold on a second! This has to be one of the most alarming commands in the Bible! The Israelites have left Egypt, they are headed to the Promised Land, and not long after they started God is telling them to turn back? Freedom is out of Egypt and now God is telling His people to turn back to Egypt? Why does God do that? … Because He wants Israel to stop trying and start trusting.

            You’ve been there, where the Israelites are. Not in that same spot but you’ve been there with your back up against the wall, with your dreams crushed, with your heart broken in your hand. We say something like, “God, it was going so good! What’s the deal? Why do I have to turn back?

            Who knows, you might be elected as the president of Russia. You might discover a way to e-mail pizza and become a billionaire. Pigs might fly when the Cubs don’t win the World Series. A kangaroo might swim. Men might surrender control of the TV remote. It’s not likely, but all this is possible. What isn’t possible though … a problem-free life.

            And sometimes, God is behind the problem. Sometimes God is the One who brings us to the end of our rope where we are stuck and trapped, just like the Israelites, with no way out. Why does God do that? God says in Exodus 14:4, “But I will gain glory for myself.” You see, God knows exactly what He’s doing. He’s orchestrating our lives so that when we are delivered, He gets the glory and we don’t.

            Pharaoh saw Moses and the Israelites pinned in by the wilderness. Lost and confused, stuck and trapped. Exodus 14:7 says, “Pharaoh took six hundred of the best chariots, along with all the other chariots of Egypt, with officers over all of them.

            Pharaoh’s chariots were like nuclear bombs in ancient Europe. They were awesome! This is a picture of one of Pharaoh’s high quality chariots in the British Museum today. I’d love to go for a ride on that thing! Now imagine, there were 600 of these. The Egyptian chariots are mobile strike forces for shooting arrows!

            Pharaoh had 600 of these bad boy choice chariots. How many did the Israelites have? None. Zero. Zippo! Israel’s back is against the Red Sea. They are facing certain destruction and there is absolutely nothing they can do about it.

            Can you just imagine Moses asking God, “Why is this happening?” God’s answer … “So the people stop trying and start trusting.”

            Jesus knows all about this kind of dilemma. Jesus knows all about dead ends. The path to the cross led him before Caiaphas, the high priest. It led him before Pilate, who sent Him to Herod, who sent Jesus back to Pilate. Christ’s path then led him before soldiers who whipped Him, mocked Him, and spit on Him. The path ended at a dead end called Calvary. Jesus knows. Jesus knows all about dead ends. They can be a deadly dilemma.

            Moses says, “Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the LORD rescue you today. The Egyptians you see today will never be seen again. The LORD himself will fight for you. Just stay calm” (Ex. 14:13-14 NLT). Just stay calm. It means that we can stop flapping our arms. We can stop helping God. We can sit back and let God be God, let God do all the heavy lifting. How so? “The LORD himself will fight for you.”

            I want you to imagine two cooking bowls sitting on the kitchen counter. One contains fresh water, the other contains battery acid. Take an apple and cut it in half. Put half in the bowl of clean water. Place the other half in the bowl of battery acid. Leave each of them sit for about five minutes. After the time is up, pull them out. Which one will you eat?

            It seems obvious right. Think about it this way … your mind is the apple. God’s Word is the good water. Problems are the battery acid. If you marinate your mind in your problems … they will eventually corrode and corrupt your thoughts. But marinate your mind in God’s Word and God will preserve and refresh your mind. And what is God’s Word for us today? “Just stay calm.”

            But we have a hard time with that. We have a hard time because … what if. What if I lose my job? What if my wife’s cancer returns? What if my boyfriend dumps me? What if one of my children is in an accident and is paralyzed, or worse yet, is killed? What if? God’s decree calls us to replace “what if” with His Word … “Just stay calm.”

            The calmness, the deliverance … it’s one of the greatest scenes in the Bible. If this scene is in your heart, it’s like having the key notes of the music scale. It’s amazing that, with just a few notes, all kinds of music can be played. So few notes, but you have to have the notes.

            Here’s the notes! Moses goes to the water and lifts up his staff. The Red Sea parts. The Israelites walk through on dry ground. Pharaoh and his army follow. The Red Sea comes crashing down on them. And here is the song … no more bricks, no more whips, and no more of Pharaoh’s bag of tricks!

            And when did all this happen? “In the morning, Moses raised his hand over the sea, and the water rushed back into its usual place. The Egyptians tried to escape, but the LORD swept them into the sea” (Ex. 14:27). When did God finally save His people from their long night in Egypt? In the morning. When does Psalm 46 say God delivers? “In the morning” (46:5). When did Jesus rise again? In the morning. When does God deliver us from the long nights of life? In the morning. According to Lamentations 3:23, God’s mercies are new every morning. And what is the last name the Bible gives Jesus? The bright Morning Star. Psalm 30:5 says, “Weeping endures for a night, but joy comes in the morning.”

            Feeling stuck? Trapped? Pinned against the wall? Are you afraid that the depression will never lift? That the yelling will never stop? That the emptiness will never leave? Are you wondering, “Will this gray sky ever brighten? This load ever lighten?” Do you feel predestined for pain asking, “Will I ever get out

            Exodus 14 announces that the battle belongs to the Lord. And get this…. God has never lost a battle! God has never lost a single battle. Not with Pharaoh, not with sin, not with Satan, and not with death. The outcome is inevitable. The victory is assured. The last chapter has already been written.

            It’s time to stop trying and start trusting. The plane will take off without our help. God has it all under control. So we can stop flapping our arms. Moses puts it this way, “Just stay calm.” Amen.

            The peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord, now and forever. Amen.


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