New Song 

Exodus 15:1
“Then Moses and the children of Israel sang this song to the Lord, and spoke, saying: . . .”

After experiencing the work of the Lord, Moses led Israel in a song of praise. This song is a beautiful example of worship. Moses begins by giving God praise for the thing He has done, moves on to worship, for who God is, and ends by looking at the road ahead, in light of what God has accomplished in the past. He begins,

“I will sing to the Lord,
For He has triumphed gloriously!
The horse and its rider
He has thrown into the sea!”

The victory wrought by the Lord seemed impossible. Israel was a band of construction workers traveling with their families, while the Egyptians were men of war. Their soldiers wore iron clad armor and rode in chariots in pursuit of Israel. Things looked bleak until God stepped in.

Exodus 15:4-5

“Pharaoh’s chariots and his army He has cast into the sea;
His chosen captains also are drowned in the Red Sea.
The depths have covered them;
They sank to the bottom like a stone”

The armor, worn by the soldiers, was designed to instill fear in Israel. This same armor was the reason they drowned in the sea. God turned an impossible situation into a great victory for His people; causing the heart of Moses to burst forth in praise.

Exodus 15:11

“Who is like You, O Lord, among the gods?
Who is like You, glorious in holiness,
Fearful in praises, doing wonders?”

After seeing the work of God, Moses reflected on all he had seen, and realized no one could be compared to the Lord. His actions toward man confirmed that He stood above all the false gods, who are merely the creations of man’s imagination. God chose, redeemed, and delivered Israel from the armies of Egypt, all because of His greatness. Israel must realize that while they are fickle and will sway with their emotions, God is the unchanging One, who will always keep His covenant.

Exodus 15:16

“Fear and dread will fall on them;
By the greatness of Your arm
They will be as still as a stone,
Till Your people pass over, O Lord,
Till the people pass over
Whom You have purchased.”

As Moses looked at the road ahead, he was confident that no matter what obstacle they faced, they would overcome, because God was with them. He saw the enemies, encountered as their journey continued, filled with fear, at the God who parts seas. He saw the inheritance promised to Israel realized, all because of the power of God.

We spend too much time looking at our problems, and too little time looking up at our God. If He truly is the sea-parting God Moses knew Him to be, what obstacle in our lives is too great for Him to overcome? Let’s spend more time looking back at His faithfulness, and up at His person, as we move into what our future holds.

Pastor Jim

Underdog 

2 Chronicles 32:1
“After these deeds of faithfulness, Sennacherib king of Assyria came and entered Judah; he encamped against the fortified cities, thinking to win them over to himself.”

I find it interesting, and somewhat disturbing, that after reading of the faithfulness of Hezekiah, we find him facing what will prove to be the fight of his life. The Assyrian army, with its seemingly innumerable forces, marched against Jerusalem, surrounded the city, and began to threaten the people. These were not idle threats. The Assyrian army had not only defeated all of Judah’s neighbors, but had also conquered other cities within Judah itself. No force had been strong enough to withstand Assyria, and it would seem ludicrous to think the tiny city of Jerusalem and its inhabitants would have even the remotest of chances. Nonetheless, we read of Assyria’s defeat and Hezekiah’s exaltation. Two things grab my attention.

First, I am struck by he fact that Hezekiah and Judah had to face this battle in the first place. The chapters leading up to this event speak of the great faithfulness of the king, and of widespread revival. After the king made a personal and public commitment to the Lord, he began a work that would lead many others back to God. This work became so extensive that revival broke out throughout Judah and even spread into Israel. People who had fallen from the Lord, were returning to him, and righteousness once again began to be the defining characteristic of Judah. It would seem that a person who devotes themselves to the Lord, would be free of the kind of attack Hezekiah is undergoing. Instead, we find him facing the largest army ever to step into Israel’s borders. Our commitment to Christ will not eliminate battles, but it will give us the tools that guarantee victory.

The second thing that stands out to me, is the way in which Judah succeeded in battle. In a bold a defining statement Hezekiah declared,

2 Chronicles 32:8 “‘With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the Lord our God, to help us and to fight our battles.’ And the people were strengthened by the words of Hezekiah king of Judah.”

Victory was found by clinginging to the Word of God, in the midst of attack and confusion. Hezekiah realized that the only way to find real success was not to fight Assyria by natural means, but with spiritual ones. Man to man, sword to sword, or army to army,  Judah had no chance of victory, but choosing to cling to, rely upon, and follow after YHWH would ensure victory. They proved their allegiance to the Lord by gathering together, looking into the Word, and praying accordingly. In the midst of national, or our own personal battle,s we will find success when we choose to cling to the Lord in prayer.

Pastor Jim

 

Fear Factor 

Judges 7:3
“Now therefore, proclaim in the hearing of the people, saying, ‘Whoever is fearful and afraid, let him turn and depart at once from Mount Gilead. ’ And twenty-two thousand of the people returned, and ten thousand remained.”

God is selecting a team for a specific task. They will be led into hand-to-hand combat against a Midianite army too vast to number. As the people gather for the selection process, the first cut is made. Twenty-two thousand men are sent packing for one simple reason – fear! Gideon may have asked for a show of hands, or for those who were afraid, to take a step backwards. Whatever the case, his army was immediately reduced by 70% and the reason for their departure was fear. They were afraid to be a part of the work of God.

After a second selection process, Gideon’s army was reduced again. Now there are only three hundred men left standing on the eve of battle. Here, just hours before they will step into the fight of their lives, something else very interesting transpires. After giving the battle plan to Gideon, God declares in Judges 7:10-11,

“’But if you are afraid to go down, go down to the camp with Purah your servant, and you shall hear what they say; and afterward your hands shall be strengthened to go down against the camp.’ Then he went down with Purah his servant to the outpost of the armed men who were in the camp.”

Did you catch that? After sending ALL those who were afraid packing God says, “If you are afraid go and listen to the talk in the enemies camp.” If all those who were afraid went home, then we should read that Gideon and his servant had no fear, but as the story continues they, filled with fear, sneak into the enemies camp, as the Lord instructed.

I think this passage sheds light on the connection between fear and faith. I have often heard, fear and faith are mutually exclusive. A person cannot be afraid and exercise faith at the same time. I have not found that to be true. I have found, at the times I had to exercise the most faith, I have also been filled with great amounts of fear. Faith is trusting in the Lord, despite the fears which unsettle the soul. Those who allowed fear to win the battle, went home that day, never realizing the power of God. Those who put faith over fear, saw one of the greatest victories in all of Israel’s history.

Pastor Jim