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Have you ever been on the Universal Studios tour? If you have, then you have seen the secret of how Cecil B. DeMille parted the Red Sea. Have you ever wondered how God did it?
These past couple of weeks watching the effects of hurricane Katrina, you get a bit of an idea of what a strong wind can do with a body of water. Did you know that in hurricanes, most of the fatalities are from drowning? I guess the Egyptian army found that out long before there was Doppler radar.

Up to now, Pharaoh had been in charge.
Moses had been sent to Pharaoh to persuade him to let the Hebrews go. It was up to Pharaoh to give a thumbs up or a thumbs down to the idea.
God told Moses that he would not have to do all the persuading just on his own. God gave him a stick of wood and told him to use that as well.
Sure, face down Pharaoh with a wooden staff. Oh yes, and he had his brother Aaron too.
This was Pharaoh's realm as far as the eye could see and well beyond it.
Pharaoh was the law and . . .
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. The waters were divided, and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground. Exodus 14:21-22

Have you ever been on the Universal Studios tour? If you have, then you have seen the secret of how Cecil B. DeMille parted the Red Sea. Have you ever wondered how God did it?
These past couple of weeks watching the effects of hurricane Katrina, you get a bit of an idea of what a strong wind can do with a body of water. Did you know that in hurricanes, most of the fatalities are from drowning? I guess the Egyptian army found that out long before there was Doppler radar.

Up to now, Pharaoh had been in charge.
Moses had been sent to Pharaoh to persuade him to let the Hebrews go. It was up to Pharaoh to give a thumbs up or a thumbs down to the idea.
God told Moses that he would not have to do all the persuading just on his own. God gave him a stick of wood and told him to use that as well.
Sure, face down Pharaoh with a wooden staff. Oh yes, and he had his brother Aaron too.
This was Pharaoh's realm as far as the eye could see and well beyond it.
Pharaoh was the law and what Pharaoh said went. Or stayed still.
In Egypt, one thing was clear: Pharaoh was in charge.

In fact, Pharaoh had been in charge as long as anyone could remember.
Did these Hebrew slaves remember someone called Abraham, or Isaac or Jacob? Probably, and they had heard of Joseph too no doubt. Joseph had been number two man around here, but that was hundreds of years ago. And as good as being number two man was, Pharaoh had always been number one!

Pharaoh said "work", and you worked.
Pharaoh said "eat" and you ate.
Pharaoh said "starve" and you starved.
Pharaoh said "die" and you said "good-bye."

Pharaoh was in charge and of that there was no doubt. It wasn't something that ordinary folks in Egypt even considered, anymore than they might wonder if the sun would come up.

Louis XIV of France is quoted as saying, "L'etat?, c'est moi!" The state?...I am the state!
In Egypt, Pharaoh might as well say, "I am God."
Except he hadn't counted on or met the One who simply said "I am."
But he was about to.

It wasn't Moses and his wooden stick that changed Pharaoh's mind.
It was the Lord God Almighty who did it.

And now the entire Hebrew nation is on the march out of Egypt and out of slavery.
They had no idea where they were going, but they wanted out and they were getting out.
So Moses brings them to the edge of the water. No way across, and apparently, no convenient way around.
Besides, the next thing they know, Pharaoh's army is bearing down on them.

They had been led by a cloud and a pillar of fire.
But now they look off into the distance wondering if the cloud has moved.
But its not the same cloud. It's a cloud of dust on the horizon.
And it keeps getting bigger as it gets closer.

Then they hear a rumble in the distance.
Out of the cloud of dust comes an army, moving fast.
Coming right at them.
Pharaoh!
They thought they had said good-bye to Pharaoh.
Here they are. Trapped.
The water stretches out in front of them, the desert on either side. And Pharaoh's army comes thundering up upon them from the rear.

What does Moses do?
I can imagine what Moses might have wanted to do, but he could never outrun horses and chariots.
But God speaks to him.
"Take that stick I gave you Moses."
"I can't fight an army with one stick, Lord"
"Stand where you can be seen and stretch it out over the water."
So he does.
And a powerful wind starts to blow.
It blows until it pushes the water right to the side.
It is such a powerful wind that it even dries out the ground.

I was born and grew up in southern Alberta, as you know.
In winter we had a phenomenon called the Chinook wind.
In the dead of winter, in below zero temperatures, snow deep on the ground, you would see the Chinook wind coming by a familiar arch on the horizon. The warm dry wind sucked the moisture from the sky leaving it blue and cloudless.
The chinook wind comes over the Rockies, its moisture spent and as it races down the eastern slopes it picks up heat from compression and hits the foothills and prairies as a strong warm and dry wind.
In almost no time at all, water is running in the streets and within a day or two, streets are dry and where kids had been ice skating a day or two earlier, people are out roller-blading. Its that dramatic.

God causes a wind a wind to blow that comes across the desert and probably has next to no humidity in it at all. Within hours it sucks the moisture right out of the mud and the Hebrews cross on dry land. At least on a dry crust where the water had been only hours earlier.

They reach the far shore.
Pharaoh's army are in hot pursuit and closing fast.

God says to Moses, "take that stick and hold it out again."
Moses does.
This time the wind stops blowing and the water that had been driven hard away came rushing back in a reversing tsunami.
We all know, at least living on the coast we should know, that at first a tsunami causes the water to recede, just it did for Moses.
But then it comes rushing back into place and like a wave in a bathtub, overflows far beyond where it had been with explosive power.

Too bad for Pharaoh.
Too bad for Pharaoh's army.
They just happened to be right in the path of millions of tons of rushing water.
You saw on TV the power of water driven by high winds.
Imagine a bunch of men and horses and chariots caught in the path of that kind of awesome power.

You can maybe imagine it. Just like we saw on CNN.
Horses and men and chariots and wheels and spears and helmets and shields all tumbling over and over. Tons of water spilling over them, driving them under, burying them in silt and mud and weeds.
Probably for days you could see the debris floating to shore...what there was that could float.
Bodies of men and horses washing ashore for days, the vultures and the carrion birds feasting on the carcasses.

And the Hebrews totally blown away by the Spirit because of what they had seen.
Then Miriam starts a tune and the rest pick it up.

I will sing unto the Lord
For He has triumphed gloriously
The horse and rider thrown into the sea.

And I bet they sang their lungs and their hearts out. All night long, campfires for as far as you can see and no one sleeping.
Kids running and playing, dogs barking. People laughing and dancing and singing until the sun comes up the next day and they are finally too tired to do anything but sleep. Even then the old men who don't need as much sleep and the kids who cannot sleep sit around the smoking fires, talking about what they had just seen.

Oh Pharaoh...
Where are you Pharaoh?

Pharaoh says "work", but nobody's going to work. Not today. This is God's show. They are spectators.
Pharaoh says "starve" but nobody's going to starve. God has food for them they could never imagine.
Pharaoh says "die" and everyone just laughs and says, "good-bye".

Good bye Pharaoh.
Good bye Egypt.
Good bye slavery.
From now on the only bricks they would make would be their own for their own houses when the time came.

Good for them, but so what?
A great story. More than a story, a memory.
A memory that was so powerful that it was the central story of a nation for almost four thousand years, right up to now.

But that is their memory, right?
What has it to do with us?
You know what it has to do with us.
Pharaoh was in charge, sure.
But he was only in charge as long as God said he could be in charge and the moment God said, "that's enough", Pharaoh was just a memory.

All kinds of things and people seem to be in charge. Sometimes we even think we are.
Only as long as God says and not one minute longer.
Because the One who is really in charge is not the king who says "I am the state."
It is God who says, "I am".

That's who we need to pay attention to.
And that is who is on our side.
Not just our side alone, but on our side for sure.
You feel trapped by circumstances or people or your own limitations?
Think about Moses.
All he had was a stick and his brother Aaron and he convinced Pharaoh to set free an entire nation.
What could God do with you and me and all the rest of us, sticks or no sticks?
I'll tell you what God could do.
God can do whatever it takes.
Anytime
Anywhere.

Good bye Pharaoh.
Hello promised land.


Preached  September 11, 2005
Dr. Harold McNabb
West Shore Presbyterian Church
Victoria, British Columbia
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