I was having a conversation with a friend last week about the glory of God and the message of the Gospel. He said something intriguing to me, especially given the “camp” that I hail from and generally hang around. Namely, if all we tell people is about the glory of God, then we aren’t telling them the whole story.
When asked what he meant, he explained, “The truth that God does is good and great and all-powerful and holy, and that he does everything for his Glory is absolutely right, and should be proclaimed. That I fall short of that is also true. But if we leave people there, we’ve failed to tell the whole story. We also need to tell them that God loves them, and has saved them, and that, in Jesus, they have absolutely everything that they need.”
In other words, when we say that God’s saving of us is about his glory, don’t forget the “us.” God saved me! God saved you! He did it for his glory, and he did it for our joy.
I was reminded of this conversation while reading the account of God saving his people by splitting the Red Sea. This story of great power is found in Exodus 14. By way of reminder, the people of God have just been rescued from Pharoah as a result of God’s great exhibition of power through ten disastrous plagues. They are marching away from Egypt. And, as they do, God gives Moses a heads-up: the trouble isn’t over yet.
“Moses, before it gets better, it is going to get a little worse. I am going to harden Pharaoh’s heart again. I am going to make him chase y’all down. And here is the reason I am going to do this – I will get glory in this. By conquering Pharaoh, and all his army, they, and all the nations that hear about it, will know that I am the LORD.”
I find it very interesting that God gives Moses this heads up. He tells him before the trouble, that trouble is coming. But he also essentially let’s Moses know that they don’t need to fret about it, because God is going to get glory by bringing the Egyptians for the purpose of routing them.
This kind of reminds me how God’s other mediator with his people – his Son Jesus – used to talk when he was here. He promised that we would have trouble in this world. He gave us a heads up. But when he did, he also said things like, “Don’t fear, for I have overcome the world!” And, don’t worry, for “I will never leave you or forsake you.” But I digress…
Well, as you know, the Israelites had trouble believing God on this one, despite all the signs they had already seen. They “feared greatly,” and they “cried out to the LORD.” (14:10) And then they proceeded to complain that God had ever brought them out of Egypt, only to be slaughtered by an enraged Egyptian ruler.
Moses, a mediator like the Great Mediator to come, proclaimed to them,
“Whoa there. Wait a minute. Remember, God gave us a heads up this was going to happen! Don’t worry. Fear not! Stand firm! See the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you today! The LORD is going to fight for you. He’s got this. He will wage the battle. All you have to do is be silent and wait.” (14:13-14)
Then, the angel of the LORD and the pillar of cloud move from before God’s people, to behind them, separating them from the Egyptians. And Moses lifts up his hands, and the sea is driven back, split down the middle to make way for the people. The winds blow all night long, allowing the great procession of God’s people walk between two massive walls of water – on dry land! – escaping their enemies.
And when the morning comes, Moses lifts his hands once more, and the seas crash in, destroying Pharaoh and all his great army.
To what end?
God gets great and deserved glory as it is he and he alone who has defeated the Egyptians. All the nations shall thus know of the God of Israel.
And, that glory is all wrapped up in and connected to the salvation of people. Listen to what Moses concludes:
Thus the LORD saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. 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. (14:30-31)
The LORD is glorious, in part, because the LORD saves his people!
What promise this story holds for us, as children of the new covenant. The GOD of the Red Sea crossing is our Father. He exhibits his great power on our behalf every day, so that we would fear him (and not people or our circumstances), and believe in him. And even better is that we live in an a new covenant age when our belief does not rest in some merely human servant like Moses, but the greater Servant that Moses prophesied would come (Deut. 18:15) – Jesus Christ, God’s Son!
In Christ, we have been delivered from our enemies. In Christ, we need not fear. In Christ, we may rejoice in the glory of God as our strength, and our song, and our salvation, who in his steadfast love has redeemed us, and will guide us safely to his holy abode!