2014-10-19 – Rev. Dr. Ryan Sato – First Baptist Church Edmonton
“Our Deliverer is Coming…Rejoice & Tremble!”
“All of a sudden, they heard the rumbling of horses….Behind them, in the distance, they spotted Pharaoh and his armies chasing them…”
When was the last time you were “delivered?”
When was the last time you heard the “rumbling of horses”, thundering in the distance…and it wasn’t the sound of the cavalry, coming to rescue you from doom….it was doom…or it felt like doom…moving towards you…seeking to undo you…seeking to hurt or destroy you…
When was the last time you were delivered? Have you been delivered…lately?
Dwelling in the world of deliverance might be helpful as we enter into the final chapters of today’s Exodus story…
Now back to the scene of rumbling horses, rattling chariots, wooden tomtoms & wardrums…
Imagine 70 year old Moses, standing at the edge of the sea of reeds (a sea that might have been 20 km wide)…
He has men and women and children weeping and murmuring….and the vocal extroverts in the crowd cry out: “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us out to die in the wilderness?” [you fool!]
And Moses….shaking in his sandals…gets a revelation from God on how to respond…
(for he couldn’t have done this in his own strength?)
“Do not be afraid, stand firm, and see the deliverance that the Lord will accomplish for you today.”
And you would think he would need to be yelling this at the top of his lungs right?
The scene is filled with chaos!
Imagine 30,000. Think of commonwealth stadium, filled ½ full…all exiting at the same time….crossing a sea that’s 20 km wide.
And once the final EE fan with his big foamie “we’re #1” finger gets to the other side…we look back at the raging enemy of 10,000 Egyptian soldiers with spears and chariots, caught in the middle of the dry sea bed with dust churning and damp seaweed and fish and eels rumbling and swirling about…and the 30-story high wall of water begins to give way…
And the look of horror and surprise that comes across the faces of the Egyptians soldiers takes your breath away and dries out the roof of your mouth…and there’s nothing you can say….all you can do is stand in awe and amazement as you see thousands and thousands of muscle-bound, armour clad men – – arms flailing, gasping, choking and screaming as the waters pummel them into the dark, crashing, sea. It’s chaos. It’s grisly.
And as we fall to our knees….exhausted….horrified….at differing levels of relief and disbelief…we feel like it’s a dream.
And yet we’re vividly brought back to the intensity of our reality when the water-logged, bloated bodies of the Egyptian soldiers begin lapping up on the edge of the shore line.
Deliverance ain’t always pretty is it?
When I asked you about your most vivid (or recent) memories of deliverance, how messy or unnerving was it?
We sometime use the term “deliver” when we talk about the way of how we all first entered this big, bad world of ours…as babes from the womb. Wasn’t a clean delivery was it? Blood. Body fluids. Mucous. Wailing and weeping. Swollen eyes, pointed, mis-shaped heads.
Deliverance ain’t always pretty.
For the children of Israel, this deliverance at the Sea of Reeds was like a birth.
And just like the flood narrative, the people of God were saved through water…and a new chapter begins. And it’s not without it’s mess, blood and hardship.
And if you read on in this story, in chapter 15, you might get swayed in the midst of Miriam’s Victory Song that all is well… she sings “the horse and rider fell into the sea.”
But lest we forget…this victory has come at a great cost. And though it might be tempting to build a case for a “see I told you, bad God of the OT” caricature, it’s important for us to try to simply live in the messiness of the text.
For as we live in the messiness of the text, it probably feels more like real life does it not?
Because the good news of the Exodus story is that God is with us…and God is for us…but the messy part of the news is that in the midst of seeking to be delivered from the world that threatens us and presses in on us…it gets pretty hard to separate the good guys from the bad guys. And though the story plays out well for the Israelites in this part of the story…it’s not long before the Israelites have fallen out of sorts with YHWH, and rather than the ground drying up and standing firm for them as they scamper across a river bed, the ground in the wilderness turns to quicksand and opens up and swallows up a congregation of 100 of them (Numbers 16).
So, yes, God is with us. But the problem is that this is not a God that we get to make in our own image.
Our Deliverer comes…and that should make us rejoice…but at the same time, it ought to keep us humble…and even make us tremble. Not because God is on a rampage, ready to make us pay and suffer whenever we make a wrong move.
But we tremble because the world truly is a dangerous place to be…and has been since humanity rebelled and chose the way of violence, chaos and oppression since the beginning of time. And since God’s ways our higher than ours….we’re never fully sure how the story of humanity is going to play out.
But the hope of the First Testament…and the good news of the Second Testament is that God does keep on putting his bow in the sky…God is not against us, God is for us.
But that doesn’t mean that people don’t perish along the way.
– the cancer doesn’t always heal
– prayers for peace don’t bring lasting peace
– the tsunami crashes in upon the mainland
– the freedom fighter doesn’t see her day of emancipation
– the marriage doesn’t make it after all…
It’s not such a neat and tidy world where the good guys, the religious faithful, win and the bad, god-haters lose.
But the hope and promise of the GodStory is that God IS the lead protagonist in the narrative…
And as we join God in God’s restorative work in the world, we join the active struggle against the forces of darkness, death, sin and evil.
We seek to free ourselves from Empire…from those things that imprison us and keep our souls in chains to the toil of Pharaoh.
And we do our darndest to hang on to one another as we run for our lives across the caked up seabed, barely clinging to the promise…
“Do not be afraid! See the deliverance that the LORD will accomplish for you today.”
And in our better moments, we stop complaining…and we find ourselves joining the songs of Moses and his sister Miriam…
“Who is like you, O LORD, among the gods?
Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in splendor, doing wonders?
In your steadfast love lead us,
In your steadfast love guide us,
In your steadfast love strengthen us.”