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."
So here I am today, eighty-five years old! I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then.
Does anybody know who said that? Caleb. That’s right, 85 year old Caleb! Makes you wonder if the old man found the fountain of youth!
Even though ours is a youth obsessed culture with most of the attention on the young, the reality is that we are in the midst of an incredible senior surge that will only strengthen as us boomers are added into the mix!
Do you realize that during much of human history only 1 out of 10 lived older than 65. Today its more than 8 out of 10 zoom past that milestone (that’s why they are called zoomers – lol – they keep zooming and zipping along breaking through 80, 90 and increasingly 100).
In 1900, 4% of us were over 65. Today its 14%, by 2020 the number will surge past 17% and by 2040 when the last of the boomers retire it will be a whopping 25%.
600 million people in the world were over 65 years in 2000 and just recently we passed a huge milestone where we now have more seniors then youth.
This is the fastest growing segment of the population, increasing twice as fast as the general population.
Yet you would never guess it if you were to go to most of our churches!
Most churches cater to the young and restless. Everything about the modern church seems to be for those much younger than seniors from the style of music, the length of time left standing, the types of sermons presented (if you can call them sermon anymore) and all the way to resource allocation incl. how the kinds of pastors and workers we hire.
Please don’t get me wrong. We love our youth; we wouldn’t want a church without them; we love their energy, their zest for life and their commitment to the Lord!
But what about the seniors?
I want to say to us that the elderly matter! Every human being regardless of age has in them the divine spark, were created for a reason and have meaning & purpose in life!
So what lies at the basis of why seniors matter in our church?
At the heart of this is the Christian view of aging - or better put, a biblical view of living life; a view of life that focuses on our identity and lies at the heart of how to get the most out of life regardless of age and condition.
A biblical philosophy of living that centers around three key questions:
Who am I? Why am I here? Where am I going?
WHO AM I?
This is the question all of us ask: Who am I? Of course, this is more than name, sin number and vocation!
Two things need to be kept in mind:
1. WHO AM I: My shared identify
This is what you share in terms of your identity with all of us.
No matter who you are, no matter how old or young, you have this going for you:
• you are God’s special creation set up apart from anything else in the natural world (“God created man in his own image, male and female He created them” Gen. 1:27) . Doesn’t matter if you lying in a nursing home bed or are running a marathon. You are a special creation.
• we are created to be part of God’s family (“you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household” Eph 2:19). You are part of God’s family as much as any other believer
• we have a unique and special purpose in this world (“ For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Eph 2:10). We are not taking up time only but have purpose and meaning – which brings me to the second thing to be kept in mind:
2. WHO AM I: My unique identity
If in fact I have been chosen for a unique purpose in life, then I also have a unique identity that no one else has. Just like my fingerprint and DNA are unique to me so is who I am in this world!
What that is only I can figure out! In fact, the purpose of life is to glorify God by figuring that out!
It says in the Scriptures that “God gave some to be…..” (Eph 4:11) and then lists a number of roles; elsewhere gifts or special abilities are listed that you and I need to discover about ourselves
All of it filtered through the unique set of our experiences, inclinations, character traits, temperaments, inherited bends and opportunities in life.
Which means that even if we all shared the same gifts (which we don’t) all of us would have a different divine destiny because we are all so different!
These unique contributions are to be for the glory of God (that he might show you off) and for the benefit of humanity (that others might greatly benefit by who you are –so much so that if you were gone they would miss you like crazy)!
BTW, none of this has to do with vocation or career! This is not about your career or being in the workforce!
You don’t have to be in the workforce to be productive - all you have to be is active in your strengths with the energy level that you have!
You can be retired and make a difference!
That brings me to the second big question of life: Why Am I Here?
WHY AM I HERE?
How many seniors have asked this question: Why am I still here? What hasn’t God taken me yet? I am just in the way and a burden to others an so I’d rather not be here.
The worldview would say those are valid questions and in some countries has led to age-based euthanasia – the killing of the elderly who are seen as having no purpose.
I want to tell you that as long as you have breath you have purpose in life! Even when near death, one of the greatest purposes in life is to die well; to show the young how to pass away with faith, dignity and hope!
But this is not about dying well. This is about living well, well into your senior years!
I love what Win & Charles Arn said:
“Because God has given me love, I am motivated to respond. Because God has endowed me with certain unique gifts and talents, I feel compelled to use them in His service. Because I belong to God, I am called to be obedient to Him and do what He commands. I am called to serve and to be a good steward of my time, talents and resources during my entire life” Catch the Age Wave
Here me when I say that: “In view of God’s mercy, offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship” (Ro. 12:1).
So dear senior, you have a calling on your life as much as our children, youth and those in the prime of life do!
Nothing has changed with God’s purposes for you just because you are older. If anything, the years should have provided you with additional insight and wisdom on how to remain effective even as you get older.
So isn’t age a factor here? Doesn’t retirement mean that someone else does it and God has no longer a purpose for me? I can’t believe that God has placed you on earth to serve him for just 65 years and then spend the rest of your life in a rocking chair? I just can’t see that that is God’s purpose!
Now I know you are not going to have the energy of the youth! I don’t have the energy of the youth either but I can tell you that I feel as though I am only now coming into the years of greatest effectiveness.
As I have honed my skills, deepened my wisdom, added on abilities and made all kinds of experiences, I find that I am entering into my decades of destiny where its coming together for the purposes that God has for my life!
Some of you may have heard of the name Dr. Donald McGavran. He was a great church growth expert and he saw his most productive days well into his retirement. This is what he said:
“We don’t retire as Christians. God never excludes us from His call to reach the world just because our hair is gray – or even if we have serious disabilities that limit the extend of our physical activity”
“Our life doesn’t end when we retire. Our life goes on. We no longer have to work to earn enough money to live on: but we can do all kinds of good things that God wants done….there are so many people we can love! There so much change in the world that we can bring about if only we will recognize that this is our task. This is the reason that we have all the experience that we have had. This is the reason we were born!”
So why am I here? To bring glory to God in every way I can and to serve wherever I can as long as I have breath in me!
So, not only Who Am I and Why Am I Here but also:
3. WHERE AM I GOING?
Pic of mountain climber
And this question of Where Am I Going is key to a biblical philosophy of life since it suggests that far from old age being our curtain call, it is actually the stepping-stone into the next life!
I realize that it doesn’t always work that way – that sometimes the young die – but the natural rhythm of life is that it’s the old who die and that death ushers in the next reality and in many ways brings to close the rehearsal for what we are really meant to be!
In many ways life is like climbing a mountain – the higher we go, the tougher it gets but the better the view!
The older we get, the harder it gets but the more clearly we see that beyond this peak lies an entire eternity of peaks to climb in a mountain range that nothing in this life comes close to!
Sometimes when you are the bottom of the mountain just getting started, you don’t have the advantage of seeing what is just beyond the hill that you are climbing!
As you continue to climb well, going higher and higher up the mountain of time, not only do you gain a perspective of life beyond that few of us have, but you also inspire the rest of us to keep climbing ourselves.
And so we want to say to you: Please finish well; you are what we look up to! We need you to be our heroes; to show us how to age well and how to prepare for the next life in a way that inspires us to do the same.
This is not about dying, nor preparing for death. This is about continuing to live life well even as you get older!
I love Paul’s words in Phil. 1:22-25
“ For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith”
We know you have heaven on your mind and we know that for you its gain but if you go on living well it means fruitful labor. We know that you are torn between the two but by being here on earth it will be for the progress and joy of the faith for the rest of us!
The rest of us – the young and not so young – we know that the Scriptures make it clear that we are to honor you! We are instructed to “not rebuke an older man harshly” (I Tim 5) and to be “submissive to those who are older” (I Pet 5) but we also know that seniors are to “be temperate, worthy of respect, self controlled, and sound in faith, in love, and in endurance”
So while we respect you, honor and love you and want you to have a special place in our church we also need for you to provide us with a great example of a life dedicated to the Lord!
And that brings me a couple of living breathing examples of this!
Zophar was one of Job’s friends. Job, older himself, was looking for guidance among his friends and who better than someone his age or older. In fact, Job, looking to his wiser, older friend said: ”Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long life bring understanding?” (Job 12:14).
Yet, as the story unfolds Zophar is among those who though older do not proof themselves to be wiser. He ends up being the more impetuous and dogmatic of the friends.
It is in fact a far younger man who steps up t the plate much later on – a man by the name of Elihu said:
“I am young in years, and you are old; that is why I was fearful, not daring to tell you what I know. I thought, ‘Age should speak; advanced years should teach wisdom.’ But it is the spirit in a person, the breath of the Almighty, that gives them understanding. It is not only the old who are wise, not only the aged who understand what is right.” (Job 32:6-9)
What that points to is that while the elderly are to be respected for the many years of life lived there is no automatic guarantee for wisdom.
In fact, Elihu is right in that it’s the Spirit of God in us from whom our wisdom comes. An older person who has allowed the Spirit to become dimmed, while still respected, will be very limited in terms of dispensing wisdom!
The point is that combining years of experience with an active, growing relationship with God in our senior years will bring about life-giving wisdom that young and old seek out!
You see it clearly in the life of older people like Joshua. I know that we don’t think of Joshua as an older man. After all, he was the young man that followed old Moses but all young men someday become old men.
So in the years when his head was grey, it says “When Joshua was old and well advanced in years, the Lord said to him, ‘You are old, and there are still very large areas of land to be taken over” (Josh 13:1)
Now you would think that this would be the end of Joshua’s work and that he would fade off into retirement. But far from it! If you read on into the chapter you would find that God gives him clear instructions on how to continue the work of dividing up the land!
His best years were indeed his older years!
And Joshua was not the only one. Another one was Caleb who in his old age still had a hankering to lay claim to his spiritual inheritance.
Look at what he said in Josh 14:10-12:
“Now then, just as the Lord promised, he has kept me alive for forty-five years since the time he said this to Moses, while Israel moved about in the wilderness. So here I am today, eighty-five years old! I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the Lord helping me, I will drive them out just as he said.”
That’s the kind of people you do great exploits with! Those are the kinds of seniors I want to hang out with! Give me the Joshua’s and Caleb’s of our times and we will build churches together and see the kingdom advance!
I want to signal to our seniors in the loudest possible way that you absolutely matter to our church! We not only make room for you nor do we only tolerate you but we welcome you, we celebrate who you are and what you bring to us!
Please inspire us with your service for the Lord!
Here you can find several messages. Feel free to write your thoughts or questions in the comment section.