Study #10 “The Rush to Self-Destruction” Hebrews 11:29
by Bob Burridge ©2022
Churches that stand firmly upon what God says in his written word are not well liked by the rest of the world. They’re tolerated by some, but outright hated and attacked by many. Churches are under attack if they are against killing unborn children by abortion, or if they call it sinful to be a homosexual, or transgendered, or an illegal drug user. The world is offended when they hear us teach that there’s only one way to salvation, just one God, and that without a sincere faith in Christ we’re all destined to an eternity of torments in hell.
Some in the world call God’s people bigots, while they focus on racial differences and promote a confused genderism. Churches faithful to what the Bible says are considered the enemy. Some churches have been forced to be closed for not going along with current political views and practices. God’s people have often been a favorite target of the world’s attacks. Some of the most vicious hatreds in history have been directed against those who believe what God’s has said.
In the days of Moses, Egypt’s Pharaoh grew to hate the Jews when Moses asked him to set God’s people free. God sent a horrible judgment on those in Egypt not doing the Passover sacrifice showing faith in God. At midnight death moved over Egypt, taking the life of the first-born child in each unbelieving family. Exodus 12:30 says, “there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was not a house where someone was not dead.”
Earlier that day Pharaoh stood defiant and stubborn, glorying in his own power. But that night Pharaoh couldn’t deny that there was one far greater. The God of Moses could strike dead the firstborn in every home in moments. His heart was gripped with terror and fear.
Pharaoh not only agreed to let God’s people go. He demanded that they leave his country. Exodus 12:31 says of Pharaoh, “Then he summoned Moses and Aaron by night and said, ‘Up, go out from among my people, both you and the people of Israel; and go, serve the LORD, as you have said.’ ” The Egyptians feared that if Israel stayed, “we shall all be dead.” (verse 33)
Israel left clinging to the promises of God. Earlier, God promised that Israel would leave with the treasures of Egypt! In Exodus 3:21-22 God told them to ask the Egyptians for their silver, gold, and clothing: He said, “And I will give this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians; and when you go, you shall not go empty, but each woman shall ask of her neighbor, and any woman who lives in her house, for silver and gold jewelry, and for clothing. You shall put them on your sons and on your daughters. So you shall plunder the Egyptians.” God moved the Egyptians to gave them what they asked for.
Hundreds of years before, God told Jacob not to be afraid to go to Egypt. Not only would they be brought back one day to Canaan, but God would make them a great nation (Genesis 46:3). These clear promises of God were the foundation of Israel’s faith.
God appeared as a pillar of fire at night and of cloud by day and lead them out. He brought them to a place where they would camp alongside the Red Sea.
While they were journeying, Pharaoh’s heart became hard again. He realized that he had not only lost his contest with Moses, he also lost his population of slave labor. So he readied his chariots and horses and sent Egypt’s powerful army to recapture the people he had just sent away.
When the people of God saw the army coming after them, they became afraid. Moses reminded them of God’s promise in Exodus 14:13-14, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” When it seemed that God’s people were trapped and doomed the pillar of cloud moved between Israel and the attacking army holding back Pharaoh’s fierce revenge.
Then, God told Moses to hold his hand out over the sea. The LORD sent a strong east wind that blew throughout the night. It heaped the waters up into towering walls on each side with a path of dry land connecting the shores! That night Israel passed through the sea between the walls of water.
It was faith in God that gave them the courage to walk on that riverbed. If the walls of water should collapse while they were crossing, they would all be horribly drowned. What if the strange wind stopped? All they had to go on was the Word of God.
God calls his people to trust and do exactly what He tells them to do. Already, in our studies of Heb 11, we have seen faith in action in the lives of: Able, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, and now in all Israel. But the faith seen there is of one specific kind: It’s an obedient, humble trust in the promises God has made.
Once Israel had passed through the river, God withdrew the pillar. Egypt indulged its foolish obsession and its army pursued Israel right into the sea!
Hebrews 11:29, draws a sharp contrast for us.
“By faith the people crossed the Red Sea as on dry land, but the Egyptians, when they attempted to do the same, were drowned.”
Israel passed through in faith, trusting in God’s promise. Egypt had no such promise. The army entered the sea trusting in themselves, and perhaps in their false gods.
“Faith” is not simply trusting that things will work out in a certain way. Both Israel and the Egyptians believed they would reach the other shore. But that’s not what a true Biblical faith is. Faith is when we confidently trust what God has said, and we act on it.
The Egyptians trusted in themselves, in their chariots and horses. In Psalm 33:17 God gives a sober reminder, “The war horse is a false hope for salvation, and by its great might it cannot rescue.” Psalm 20:7 reminds us, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.”
Egypt arrogantly presumed that if Israel made it across the Red Sea, they could too. Its army charged ahead into the path between the walls of water. But those walls were held up by the power of the God of Israel whom they were defying. God hadn’t promised to give safe passage for Egypt to pursue Israel.
The Lord told Moses to stretch out his hand over the sea once more. This time the walls of water broke down on the Egyptians. They were drowned, every one of them. They recognized all too late that they entered where they shouldn’t have gone.
Exodus 14:31, “Israel saw the great power that the LORD used against the Egyptians, so the people feared the LORD, and they believed in the LORD and in his servant Moses.”
Faith begets faith. When we take God at his word and act confidently on what he promises, our faith becomes even stronger!
God’s Covenant Promise assures us of two things.
1. There is that unquenchable hope for the people of God. God calls his people to live confidently by the principles he’s revealed.
He promises inward blessing and spiritual fruit when we obey. Do you want to be characterized by, “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control;” as it says in Galatians 5:22-23. Then trust that these blessings only come by taking God at his word. We need to do things God’s way when we deal with sin, come to worship, deal with out neighbors, our finances, do our daily work, and try to satisfy our desires and cravings.
He doesn’t ask us to step down between the walls of water through the Red Sea. But there is a path he calls us to follow. He says here’s where you should go, here’s how you should live.
God’s way may not always look like an inviting path to us by often confused minds. We can be tempted to lie, ignore our neighbor’s needs, try to satisfy our cravings immorally, labor unnecessarily on God’s Sabbath day, or not share the Gospel when we have an opportunity.
God says this isn’t the way. He tells us the way to go, and promises to deliver us through our challenging and tempting moments. Sometimes that right path might seem like going between the challenging walls of water in the Red Sea. But Psalm 23:4 reminds us of God’s promises, “Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me.” (KJV)
2. There is inescapable terror for those who dare to be the enemies of God. They find God’s way of life hinders their liberty to sin. So they reject God’s truth and may even try to silence Christ’s church that teaches it. But when they do they foolishly strike at the hand of the Almighty God who sustains them and all things!
Back in 1993 we had a very friendly pet cat we named “Hobbes”. I made him a little “2-story condo” out of plywood, 2-by-2s, and chicken-wire. In there he had a food and water dish, his sand box, a warm rug to curl up in on his little loft. He generally seemed very secure and happy in there. One night I was putting him away into his “cat-condo” as I have often done. But this time he was having one of his “weird” moments as cats often do. Who knows what goes through their little cat brains sometimes. I reached in to fill his food dish and he started to bite and scratch at me! I wasn’t about to get my hand maimed while trying to do him a favor, so I decided his food could wait. It’s not smart to attack the hand that feeds you, that provides all your life’s nourishment and comfort.
Pharaoh’s army wasn’t much smarter than our cat! He charged into the midst of God’s sea while attacking God’s people!
At Christmas time we turn our thoughts to the Birth of our Savior. We remember the attempt on the life of Jesus at his birth. When Herod heard that one called “the King of the Jews” was born, he wanted him found and killed. Herod had paid for his own title “King of the Jews” with costly political favors. So he coldly ordered all Bethlehem’s children under 2-years old to be killed!
If it wan’t true that this baby was sent by God to be the Promised Messiah, King of the Jews, then why should he try to kill him, and all the babies of Bethlehem? It would just enrage and alienate the Jews he was trying to control. If this was the Messiah God sent, how stupid to attempt to murder him! Did he really think he could frustrate the plan of God? But like the Egyptian Pharaoh, he didn’t believe in the God of Israel. It was Herod, not Jesus, who within the year, was dead! The unbeliever in his fallen nature is obsessed to oppose the progress of God’s Kingdom.
Why did Egypt risk its army to charge in between the walls of water held up by Israel’s God? Had they already forgotten all the plagues? the Passover? the death of their first-born? Had they forgotten the miraculous pillar of fire and cloud that held them back? Had they ignored the power that had divided the Red Sea for Israel?
They were driven by a blind rage that makes unbelievers charge into what was obviously danger. They hated the message of God. They hated the people who lived by it.
God’s coming judgment hangs over our world again.
But they are arrogantly and ignorantly marching into the Red Sea! They angrily try to silence and subjugate the Church of God, and to promote what God forbids. The walls of destruction loom up on each side ready to collapse in God’s judgment — but they press on. Each individual at the end of his life will discover that what he opposed was true. And a day will come, no one knows when, when a final judgment of our world will come.
When we see wickedness, immorality, instability, and hatred of God’s word building up in the world around us, and when the church of God becomes the target of hatred and contempt follow the path God lays out for us through the Sea of oppression. He always provides the way to escape, that we will bear up through it.
When the wicked pursue us while we are trusting and obeying God, they do so to their own condemnation and destruction.
Keep marching in the path God has laid out for us in his word. Leave the enemies of God to the vengeance of the God they defy. He won’t let them succeed as they imagine. They will fall by the weight of their moral corruption and hatred of God.
God’s Covenant Promise assures us of these two things. There’s an inescapable terror for those who dare to be God’s enemies. There’s an unquenchable hope for the people redeemed by God grace by the work of the Savior.
Note: Bible quotations are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.
Hebrews 11 index: “Faith and What Flows From It“