Grasping God’s Purpose: “A Choice Vessel”- Exodus 14

Walking through Colonial Williamsburg, I was struck by the simplicity of the vessels that our forefathers used to care for their needs. The days of molded plastic and cheaply machined glass have certainly made a change in the quality and stylishness of even our simplest drinking cups! One thought was particularly clear, it wasn’t the BEAUTY of the vessel that made it valuable, it was the USABILITY of the vessel. The most beautifully carved bucket was only worth having if it was water tight. In the same way, though God wants to use me as a vessel that will bring honor to Him, it is only possible if I make choices that open up His use of me. What choices can I make that will open myself to being used by Him?  Key Principle: To become a vessel God can use, I must understand and then live the choices that God will be honored by. Some of our problem stems from a lack of knowledge, but most of it stems from simple willful disobedience. Exodus 14 offers at least Ten Choices that I can make to become a useable vessel to God! Each of the ten must be grasped, but are only effective when put into ACTION:

The Ten Choices of a Vessel fit for Use

  1. Choose to recognize that God has the right to use me to reach others even by taking me through difficult and trying times. (14:1-4).

Exodus 14:1 Now the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Tell the sons of Israel to turn back and camp before Pi-hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea; you shall camp in front of Baal-zephon, opposite it, by the sea. 3 “For Pharaoh will say of the sons of Israel, ‘They are wandering aimlessly in the land; the wilderness has shut them in.’ 4 “Thus I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will chase after them; and I will be honored through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD.” And they did so.

God’s plan for Israel was not going to be an easy one, but that was the one Moses was to obey, announce and lead. Moses was in the difficult predicament of sharing unpopular truth. Believers should get used to it – truth is often inconvenient, but always helpful! I liked this:

Have you ever found yourself in a predicament? We have a lot of word pictures in the English language to describe being in a predicament. We hear phrases such as “you sure have painted yourself into a corner,” of being “caught between a rock and a hard place,” being “up against the wall” or “in a pickle. ” A least one person has defined a predicament as being , “A lawyer who specializes in suing doctors for medical malpractice finding himself in need of major surgery.” [Charles Swindoll. Moses: A Man of Selfless Devotion. Nashville: Word Publishing, 1999). p. 211.]

The events of our lives are not random, God has crafted a time and place for us. We forget that when things go wrong. More often than not, we wonder if we have deserved some spanking when things don’t go our way. In the face of stern difficulty, we even convince ourselves that the reason we are going through trouble is something we have done. It seldom occurs to us that the wilderness and the Sea of Reeds is part of the call of God for us. God has a plan for the troubles!

In the text, note that God had several reasons for the journey direction of Moses. First, God wanted to lure in Pharaoh. Sometimes God uses our lives to pull in the lives of godless men. It is exciting when that purpose is to soften their hearts to see His love and goodness – but that wasn’t the case here. God used the testimony of the people of God, and Moses their leader, to bring a hardness into him that would set him up for judgment. As uncomfortable as that could have been for any of us – our lives are about recognizing God’s right to use us for HIS PURPOSES.

The ultimate end point of God’s plan was what it always is: to expose WHO He is to man and to the Heavenly host. That is His big plan, and we have the opportunity to be used of Him today to do it! For this reason, Paul reminded the Corinthians:

2 Corinthians 2:14 “But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. 15 For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; 16 to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life. And who is adequate for these things? 17 For we are not like many, peddling the word of God, but as from sincerity, but as from God, we speak in Christ in the sight of God.”

Do you believe that God has the unreserved right to use your life for any purpose that will fit His plan – even if that use doesn’t fit YOUR plan? Moses had to believe that, or he would have been utterly ineffective as God’s leader and spokesman – and so will we.

  1. Choose to remember that power is not often where it appears to be in a fallen world. God allowed Pharaoh to feel a sense of control and power that was not there! (14:5-9).

Exodus 14:5 When the king of Egypt was told that the people had fled, Pharaoh and his servants had a change of heart toward the people, and they said, “What is this we have done, that we have let Israel go from serving us?” 6 So he made his chariot ready and took his people with him; 7 and he took six hundred select chariots, and all the other chariots of Egypt with officers over all of them. 8 The LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and he chased after the sons of Israel as the sons of Israel were going out boldly. 9 Then the Egyptians chased after them with all the horses and chariots of Pharaoh, his horsemen and his army, and they overtook them camping by the sea, beside Pi-hahiroth, in front of Baal-zephon.

The human view was a powerful Pharaoh and a puny Moses – an organized army and a hapless camp of clueless slaves. That IS the human view – but it is NOT the truth! God was there. His power moved men, and soon would move seas, mountains and monuments. God can and will shake the foundations when it suits His purposes! Towering countries will be brought low for His purposes. Famous men and women will be swept aside by the tide of HIS STORY. Power is not where it appears to be!

  1. Choose to accept sometimes even friends and even God’s people won’t understand what God is doing in your life – and why! (14:10). Rather, expect that people will look for someone to blame when they are hurt and cannot understand their pain. Accept the fact that they are wrong in what they are saying, but deal with them patiently! (14:11-12).

Exodus 14:10 As Pharaoh drew near, the sons of Israel looked, and behold, the Egyptians were marching after them, and they became very frightened; so the sons of Israel cried out to the LORD. 11 “Then they said to Moses, “Is it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you dealt with us in this way, bringing us out of Egypt? 12 “Is this not the word that we spoke to you in Egypt, saying, ‘Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.”

When we face insurmountable odds, it is so easy to lose our perspective over the situation. Too often when we are confronted with an impossible situation, rather than meet it head on, we want to take the easy way out. We say, “I don’t want to face this, I don’t want to have to fight so I’ll just go back to Egypt and resume my life as a slave.”

It may be that this very day, someone hearing these words is thinking… If God doesn’t take this pressure off, I am going back to my old life. It may seem like it at this moment, but a full slave is much worse off than a hungry free man. Freedom to walk with God brings possibilities. Slavery to sin brings death – God’s Word could not be more clear! The people in the narrative didn’t have all that we have, so don’t be too hard on them!

  1. Choose to walk obediently while leaving the running of the universe to God. If God’s purpose is to use us as a testimony, we don’t have to fix everything. God will do what God needs done if we give His Word as instructed (14:13-15).

Exodus 14:13 But Moses said to the people, “Do not fear! Stand by and see the salvation of the LORD which He will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you have seen today, you will never see them again forever. 14 “The LORD will fight for you while you keep silent.” 15 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to Me? Tell the sons of Israel to go forward.

God’s instructions through Moses are four-fold – all emphasizing the passive role of men and active role of God:

  • “Do Not Fear”.
  • “Stand by”.
  • “See”.
  • “Keep silent” .
  1. Choose to courageously face that God’s purposes are bigger than we can grasp, and He will, no doubt, call you to do things well beyond your ability. (14:16-18).

Exodus 14:16 “As for you, lift up your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, and the sons of Israel shall go through the midst of the sea on dry land. 17 “As for Me, behold, I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them; and I will be honored through Pharaoh and all his army, through his chariots and his horsemen. 18 “Then the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD, when I am honored through Pharaoh, through his chariots and his horsemen.”

Pastor John Hamby wrote: “Nine year old Joey was asked by his mother what he had learned in Sunday School that day. ‘Well, Mom, our teacher told us how God sent Moses behind the enemy lines on a rescue mission to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. When he got to the Red Sea, he had his engineers build a pontoon bridge, and all the people walked across safely. He used his walkie-talkie to radio headquarters and call in an air strike. They sent in bombers to blow up the bridge and all the Israelites were saved.’ ‘Now, Joey, is that REALLY what your teacher taught you?’ his mother asked. ‘Well, no, Mom, but if I told it the way the teacher did, you’d never believe it!’”

  1. Choose to accept that God owes you no complete explanation of how He intends to work. God defends His work In ways that may look like they make no sense to you or the people around you! (14:19). Mature vessels will learn to see God’s hand in what is happening and learn to discern some of the purposes! (14:20). God works well beyond our list of possibilities! (14;21-22)

Exodus 14:19 “The angel of God, who had been going before the camp of Israel, moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud moved from before them and stood behind them.” 20 “So it came between the camp of Egypt and the camp of Israel; and there was the cloud along with the darkness, yet it gave light at night. Thus the one did not come near the other all night. 21 “Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the LORD swept the sea back by a strong east wind all night and turned the sea into dry land, so the waters were divided. 22 The sons of Israel went through the midst of the sea on the dry land, and the waters were like a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.

  1. Remember life without God is more difficult than it appears. Choose to warn yourself often that they we follow God to be used of God. People who think they can participate in the power of God without the purposes of God  are badly mistaken (14:23-25).

Exodus 14:23 “Then the Egyptians took up the pursuit, and all Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots and his horsemen went in after them into the midst of the sea. 24 At the morning watch, the LORD looked down on the army of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and cloud and brought the army of the Egyptians into confusion. 25 He caused their chariot wheels to swerve, and He made them drive with difficulty; so the Egyptians said, “Let us flee from Israel, for the LORD is fighting for them against the Egyptians.”

It may be that you have developed a rather materialistic lifestyle. Like Moses, and the children of Israel you have rubbed shoulders with folks in Egypt most of your life. You work with Egyptians. Think like Egyptians. Read Egyptian newspapers. Listen to Egyptian music. Do commercial battles with Egyptian entrepreneurs. You’re in the competitive world of the Egyptians, so its only natural that you react like them.” [Charles Swindoll. Moses: A Man of Selfless Devotion. Nashville: Word Publishing, 1999). p. 223.]

  1. Choose to accept that God is a righteous judge. It is our privilege to be used by God’s hand to show His power to the world (14:26-29).

Exodus 14:26 “Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea so that the waters may come back over the Egyptians, over their chariots and their horsemen.” 27 So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to its normal state at daybreak, while the Egyptians were fleeing right into it; then the LORD overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea. 28 The waters returned and covered the chariots and the horsemen, even Pharaoh’s entire army that had gone into the sea after them; not even one of them remained. 29 But the sons of Israel walked on dry land through the midst of the sea, and the waters were like a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.

  1. Choose to identify God’s hand of blessing on your life. When God acts and His people see Him clearly, they see the world for what it is (14:30).We need to rehears the blessings twice what we say about our dislikes and troubles, because they are more easily forgotten!

Exodus 14:30 Thus the LORD saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore.

  1. Choose to accept the truth that the troubles are worth it all, for God will show Himself and be praised! (14:31).

Exodus 14: 31 When Israel saw the great power which the LORD had used against the Egyptians, the people feared the LORD, and they believed in the LORD and in His servant Moses.

Your future may seem impossible, and the problems impassable – but God is working a plan. You are where you are because God has something He can teach you. “Often God seems to place His children in positions of profound difficulty, leading them into a wedge from which there is no escape, designing a situation that no human judgment would have permitted had it been previously consulted. The very cloud directs them there. You…, may be involved in a situation like this at this very hour. It does seem perplexing and mysterious to the last degree, but it is perfectly right. The issue will more than justify Him who has brought you there. It is a platform for the display of His almighty grace and power. Not only will He deliver you, but in doing so He will give you a lesson that you will never forget …..” [F.B. Meyer. The Life of Moses: The Servant of God. (Lynnwood, Washington: Emerald Books, 1996.0 p. 80]

To become a vessel God can use, I must understand and live the choices that God will be honored by.

The Message offers this note to close from 2 Timothy 2:20ff

In a well-furnished kitchen there are not only crystal goblets and silver platters, but waste cans and compost buckets—some containers used to serve fine meals, others to take out the garbage. Become the kind of container God can use to present any and every kind of gift to his guests for their blessing. Run away from infantile indulgence. Run after mature righteousness—faith, love, peace—joining those who are in honest and serious prayer before God. Refuse to get involved in inane discussions; they always end up in fights. God’s servant must not be argumentative, but a gentle listener and a teacher who keeps cool, working firmly but patiently with those who refuse to obey. You never know how or when God might sober them up with a change of heart and a turning to the truth, enabling them to escape the Devil’s trap, where they are caught and held captive, forced to run his errands.