THE BAPTISM OF THE RED SEA
Ex 1:11-14, 2:23-24, 3:7-10, 6:6-8
1. NOTHING BUT A BUNCH OF MISERABLE SLAVES.
It’s amazing how God took a bunch of ragtag nomads who roamed the dessert, lived in tents, who ate locusts and wild honey and ended up as miserable slaves. But God took them and made them into a people, one of the most powerful nations on earth in the ancient world.
I am talking about the children of Israel, who under God’s guidance came out of oppressive slavery, and in doing so, became a nation that would end up being a blessing to the entire world! Long before any of that happened they were nomads who roamed the land and ended up as slaves in Egypt and had a miserable time of it.
11. they put slave masters over them to oppress them with forced labor, 12. But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread; so the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites 13. and worked them ruthlessly. 14. They made their lives bitter with harsh labor in brick and mortar and with all kinds of work in the fields; in all their harsh labor the Egyptians worked them ruthlessly. Ex 1:11-14
The ones born in those years were born into slavery under Pharaoh’s mighty hand and all they knew was slavery. They only would have seen other slaves and known the life of a slave. That’s all they were: miserable, wretched slaves!
2. UNTIL THEY HAVE ENOUGH AND CRY OUT!
Increasingly the burden became so wearisome that more and more of them cried out for a deliverer!
The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God. Ex 2:23
Amazingly, God responds! He is not slow to hear nor to respond; but in his great mercy answers the cry of the slaves.
7. The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. 8. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey Ex 3:7-8
Who was their deliverer? Moses. How and where were they delivered? At the Red Sea where God destroyed the army of Pharaoh. And in so doing, not only are they freed from slavery, but they come out the other side no longer as nomads or as freed slaves but as a People, a Tribe, a Clan; namely, the 'People of God'.
7. I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians.
SO the Red Sea becomes so much more to them than just the Red Sea. They walked into it as slaves and come out not only freed from slavery but also as people of God. Who from then on lived not only in community but with a certain set of rules, known as the 'Law of Moses.'
Why am I telling you this? In some ways isn't that our story as well before we met Jesus? This isn’t just their story but our story too! We were slaves to habits, wrong deeds, thoughts and all kinds of sins; with a heavy taskmaster over us who kept us under his yoke:
“Everyone who sins is a slave to sin” Jn 8:34
So we were slaves to sin; just as much a slave as they were; in fact, in some ways a greater slave for while physical slavery is miserable, spiritual slavery is deadly! Our Pharaoh was the Devil himself who kept us under his domain. Just like the Israelites, we also cried out to God who was merciful and sent us our deliverer. Who was Israel’s deliverer? Moses. Who is our deliverer? Jesus. What does Moses do? He leads them out of slavery and eventually into the Promised Land.
Now think about that: Hasn’t Jesus done the same for us? He has become our deliverer and brought us out of spiritual slavery into freedom.
3. BECOMING A BAND OF BROTHERS
Here’s my point: It wasn’t until Moses led them through the Red Sea, where all of Pharaoh’s army drowned, that they not only came into their freedom but also became a brand new tribe. They became the people of God! And the same with Jesus and us! We were enslaved to sin. The devil was a heavy taskmaster – worse even than Pharaoh. He kept us in terrible bondage. We kept doing things we didn’t want to do.
Who better than Paul, who captured our reality in Ro. 7
“When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Ro. 7:21-24
I realize that Rom. 7 describes us even to this day, but not to the degree of abandon and hopelessness that was our reality prior. We were so ruled by sin, such utter slaves to sin, that we felt like wretched slaves. So, who will rescue me from this body of death?
“Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord” Ro. 7:25
Until our deliverer –Jesus –came to us and we entrusted our lives to Him, asking Him to deliver us from our chains, that those wretched chains fell off! We also went into a Red Sea as slaves. Chased by Pharaoh! And we came out of the water, on the other side, freed! But not only freed, but also coming into a brotherhood of others, who also been freed!
So now, we not only live as freed slaves, but as freed slaves who form this amazing band of brothers called the church!
Just like the Red Sea was their baptism, that signaled both their freedom and membership in this brand new tribe, so also our baptism signals that we have been saved out of slavery of sin and have become part of a band of brothers!
They went into the waters as slaves and came out as freed people and we do the same thing with our baptism. We come out of it free from slavery, belonging to this band of brothers of ex-slaves, living under a new set of guidelines, called the New Covenant.
That is why I love the final scene of the video that we showed earlier (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IlqGzvEjMNo ) where the guy is running to take the plunge and come up as a new brother in this band of brothers! Just like Moses insisted that everyone had to go through the Red Sea - baptized in the Red Sea (walk in one end and come out of the other end) - so also Jesus insists on the same.
There was no other way to the other side! You couldn’t walk around it nor built a bridge over it; you have to walk through it! Same with Jesus – he insisted that all his followers, all those in the band of brothers – go through the "Red Sea" we call “the waters of Baptism”.
“Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit” Mth 28:16
How many among us have already done that? Hundreds and hundreds of people have been baptized here over the years. The waters have seldom been stilled; the splash of baptism heard throughout the history of this church into this current day!
Baptism becomes the sign of personal freedom and the membership card of a new kind of brotherhood; the band of brothers we call the 'church'. What Jesus did is absolutely amazing: he invites people to join his brothers with a mission that’s larger than life: to change the world! He went looking for the least promising and made them into superheroes. Most of his followers were young people, who, once baptized, joined his brotherhood of radicalized people, who ended up changing their entire world. And it all started with their baptism!
In Jesus’ mind baptism is the 'Red Sea' of our time. It signals delivery from the empty way of life, delivery from sin, and a commitment to a new way of living within the fellowship of the brotherhood, the Church. And so Jesus began to baptize and soon after his disciples were doing the same. Their baptism became not only the card that said they belonged to the tribe, but also something that they would hang on to in times of doubt and temptation!
Before they became the most powerful tribe and nation in the ancient world, they were only a bunch of slaves as their common identity. In their exodus when they come through and out of the water, they became a cohesive tribe – the people of God. The coming out of the water was their identity card. An anchor that they held on to when faced with doubts, fears and temptations, both in the Wilderness and the Promised Land. In fact, let me emphasize that again:
If you think that the struggles of life will be over as soon as you are baptized, you have another thing coming to you!
If anything: temptations, trials and attacks will only intensify as Satan tests, prods and pushes your buttons.
While he has no choice, but to give you up, once you have publically declared your allegiance to Christ, he will try his best to demoralize and tempt you and get you to turn around and go back to Egypt! Which is why, there were 40 years of wilderness wanderings, between the Red Sea and the Promised Land. Which is also why, as soon as Jesus was baptized, he too, was led into his wilderness to be tempted by the Devil.
“As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Soon, whom I love; with him I am well pleased’. Then Jesus was led the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil” Mth 3:16-4:1
But there was no other way, no turning back! Jesus was a fanatic for baptism; because it is THE signal of our deliverance, not at the Red Sea with Moses’ hands outstretched, but at the Cross with Jesus’ hands outstretched, which is totally different kind of 'red sea' (His blood). We were saved, not from PHARAOH’s, but from the slavery of SIN. And our baptism is our exodus, where we are saying to PHARAOH that we have exited his miserable slavery, for the wide-open freedom of the Promised Land. And baptism is what signals that we have made our way out of slavery and into this new brotherhood.
4. JESUS THE BAPTIST.
Jesus and His disciples came into the land of Judea, and there He remained with them and baptized." John 3:22
That’s why Jesus was such a fanatical baptizer! He baptized everywhere and commanded his 'brothers' to baptize everyone that believed in him. You thought that John was called, the John the Baptist, because he held some kind of record baptizing people; the truth is that Jesus was even more of a baptizer than John was. They should have called him Jesus the Baptist! From the very beginning of his work, Jesus and his disciples were baptizing.
As early as John 3 it says: Jesus and His disciples came into the land of Judea, and there He remained with them and baptized." John 3:22
Jesus and his brothers baptized so many people that Johns' followers became upset: “They came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan—the one you testified about—look, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him. (John 3:26).
John told them that this was supposed to happen. Others took notice as well: “Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that he was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John— although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. (Jn 4:1-2)
Jesus must have baptized his hundreds and his brothers, the disciples, their thousands! Jesus himself was baptized by John so as to lead by example; and in his days all of his brothers – all his disciples - were also baptized. Baptism became the sign of the brotherhood. If you were part of Jesus’ community you were tattooed with baptism. It was like a secret handshake. It was like God’s tattoo that meant you were part of his brotherhood!
In Jesus’ mind, if you weren’t baptized, it was like you still had a foot in Egypt under PHARAOH’S tyranny. It doesn’t mean that those who are baptized will never face temptation or trials; Israel had their share long after their baptism! But this one thing was sure; namely, that they didn’t belong to Pharaoh anymore and that Egypt had no foothold in their lives. Both feet are planted in the Promised Land.
5. BOTH FEET PLANTED IN THE PROMISED LAND.
I love the way the video ends. The guy just dives off the pie, head first, into the water. That’s the kind of commitment it takes: headfirst with no looking back! YOU HAVE TO DO THE SAME!!!! If you are following Jesus and haven’t done that then you need to do that as soon as possible! That’s how you say 'NO' to PHARAOH! That’s how you get rid of PHARAOH chasing you! Again, it doesn’t mean there won't be temptations to go back to. You may well be out of Egypt but Egypt may not be totally out of you!
This is why you have the Holy Spirit to empower you, to guide you, to anoint you for service. To reassure you and provide you with a host of other things, designed to help you get rid of Egypt and keep you marching toward the Promised Land.
But for today, let’s just make sure that you take that plunge and then be as radicalized for Jesus as you can be! “I have decided to follow Jesus”, the call of God is going out to you right now! If you’re not baptized and you know that you should- if that is you, respond to God’s calling. Jump off the pier of indecision and take that plunge!
"I have decided to follow Jesus."
Scott Street MB Church invites you to write your reflections and thoughts about the weekly messages shared by lead Pastor Jurgen Rausch.