Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the LORD drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. (Exodus 14:21 NIV) It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. (Galatians 5:1 NIV)
God does great miracles and wonders. He does this through very earthly means in time and space and with “all people that on earth do dwell”. That’s why its so easy to explain and describe things “as if God was not there” – in a secular and so-called scientific and physical way. Obviously God can do things immediately – without props – and ex nihilo (out of nothing), but we have great difficulty in realising and noticing that, never mind recording and penning it down for prosperity. Most of the time however he works through his creation as useful tools and instruments.
How many attempts have been made to illustrate plausibly the wonderful escape of Israel from the clutches of Pharao? I’m not going to try to mention even but a few. Let’s stick to the account as today’s watchword from Herrenhut. Here the one living God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – lets us know: “Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the LORD drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land.”
There you see Moses stretching out his arms as he would be doing time and again in times of trouble and when the living God wanted to save and bless his special, elected and called people, whom he dearly loved, but who were still – or was it not because of their special standing with God?! – under great pressure, in trouble and hard times all the way. Moses lifts his arms over the Rea Sea – as he would do over the battlefield, where Israel was combating the Moabites – and as a pastor even lifts his hands up above the congregation of the faithful believers towards the end of the divine service and sending them out into the world with the mighty and effective mission mandate of the Holy and most Blessed Trinity: “The Lord bless and keep you + The Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious unto you + The Lord lift up his countenance upon you + give you peace”
Well, Israel is between a rock and a hard place. The Red Sea is before them and the charging hordes of Pharao are catching up mighty fast from behind. And here is Moses standing hands in the air – not as a sign of giving up, not pulling out his hair either – but rather stretches them out over the deep and roaring seas as if he was inviting us all to give attention: “Just you watch this!” The Lord is going to do great miracles and wonders.
It is as if he is pointing us to him, who can help and calming down the gathered church and congregation, the people of God, placing on them as a blanket and protective balm of divine goodness, mercy and care – the peace of God, which passes all understanding. This peace that calm the chaotic and uncontrollable seas. This peace that can stop the Egyptians in their track. This peace that can protect, keep and guide the Israelites out of greatest danger through the most desolate and forlorn desert right into the promised land. This peace that holds and protects us even in and through the most troubled waters and dire straits, which bears us home even through the most tortuous suffering and temporal death and dying. Well, here the Israelites were not going to die. Here they were to escape, go free and walk tall right through the dry sea-bed. This was written for our benefit. So that we too would realize God’s miracles and wonders. His creative powers by which he like at the very beginning bids the chaos floods to recede and make way for dry land and hospitable abode for men and beast, so he here too bids the waters to make way so that the Israelite people – young and old, men and women, healthy and ill – can pass through unhindered and make their escape from captivity. God made use of the blowing winds by which he can beat up a storm in no time. The stormy blasts do his bidding. Here they don’t wreck havoc and don’t leave a trail of destruction. No, here they practically lay out the red carpet for the Israelites, that they can walk with dry feet across the sea and pass into the safe haven of the lands ahead – into the divine sanctuary God has prepared in the wilderness + for them and their salvation.
And God set them free. That’s his great work of salvation at the beginning of Israel’s history. It’s the pattern of liberation he follows with each of his loved ones, when he rescues us from the clutches of sin, shackles of death and the tortuous prison and slavery of the devil and leads us into the land of the living, where righteousness and holiness abound. He did that with us also – there in Holy Baptism. The chaos floods are domesticated by God’s grace, mercy and favour. They are used to wash us of all sin and iniquity and we are carried through to the other side – the good and pleasant side of God’s people, where peace, justice and freedom reign. Yes, this does happen through suffering and letting go, through death and dying. The old Adam in us drowns for sure – daily – yet the new creation – Christ in us – lives and reigns and brings us to the promised land of everlasting salvation and eternal blessedness – where God’s people live in perfect freedom. Amen.
He’s Risen, He’s Risen by: C. Ferdinand Walther
He’s risen, he’s risen, Christ Jesus, the Lord;
Death’s prison he opened, incarnate, true Word.
Break forth, hosts of heaven, in jubilant song
While earth, sea, and mountain the praises prolong.
The foe was triumphant when on Calvary
The Lord of creation was nailed to the tree.
In Satan’s domain his hosts shouted and jeered,
For Jesus was slain, whom the evil ones feared.
But short was their triumph, the Savior arose,
And death, hell, and Satan he vanquished, his foes;
The conquering Lord lifts his banner on high.
He lives, yes, he lives, and will nevermore die.
Oh, where is your sting, death? We fear you no more;
Christ rose, and now open is fair Eden’s door.
For all our transgressions his blood does atone;
Redeemed and forgiven, we now are his own.
Then sing your hosannas and raise your glad voice;
Proclaim the blest tidings that all may rejoice.
Laud, honor, and praise to the Lamb that was slain;
In glory he reigns, yes, and ever shall reign.
Hymn # 138 from Lutheran Worship Author: C. Ferdinand Walther Tune: Walther 1st Published in: 1890