Thursday, May 19, 2016

A Proper Response to Grace

(This was a message delivered in the mid-week prayer service of Higher Rock Christian Church.)

READ: Exodus 15:1-21

God had just saved Israel from death & reenslavement by drowning Pharaoh and his army in the Red Sea. This was the climax of the Exodus event. The ten plagues in Egypt humbled the Egyptians and urged them to recognize Yahweh as the true God (Exo. 7:5). But the drowning of Pharaoh was the decisive blow to Israel's oppressors. In one terrifying display of power, God accomplished both the deliverance of Israel and the extermination of the Egyptian army. After this, Egypt was no longer a threat to Israel.

In light of this great deliverance, Moses led the people in a song of thanks to the LORD. The Song of Moses has two parts. Verses 1-12 are about God's triumph over Pharaoh at the Red Sea, and Verses 13-18 anticipate God leading Israel into Canaan.

This is the first record we have of God's people singing to Him with one heart and one voice. Since then, singing has been a way of life for God's people. Through singing, we come together in one Lord, one faith, one love, and one purpose: to glorify & delight in God our Savior.

From the Song of Moses, we learn that


Humility is having a realistically modest view of oneself, first in relation to God, and secondly, in relation to others. Thankfulness is a natural response toward a person who helps us. Humility and thankfulness are essential to our relationship God. Both are rooted in our being God's creatures, whom He has blessed with life, health, food, shelter, and so much more. And since the Fall, man has even more reason to be humble and thankful before God – humble because man is not only lowly, but also vile and rebellious; thankful because God tirelessly offers salvation to all men.

Humility and thankfulness are essentially about worship. They come from recognizing God for who He is and all the good He has done for us (1 Tim. 1:17). Conversely, the Bible says that pride and thanklessness are more than just character flaws. They are actually a form of idolatry (Rom. 1:21).

Meanwhile, hope in the biblical sense means much more than an “I hope so”. It refers to a sure expectation of future things that is founded on the promises of God.

Now we can dig into our text. The Song of Moses reminds us how we should respond to God's grace, but it also points us to some very humbling truths about our deeply idolatrous hearts.

Grace Demands Praise as a Proper Response

Note: Verse 1, “I will sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously”!

Moses and the people witnessed the greatest display of God's power since Sodom and Gomorrah. Just as they thought they were free from Egypt, a large dust cloud arose in the distance. Israel soon realized that it was Pharaoh's army – all his horses, chariots and troops – rushing after them with murderous intent. The people desperately looked for an escape route, but they were trapped against the Red Sea.

And then, we read in Exodus 14:21,

Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the LORD drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided. And the people of Israel went into the midst of the sea on the dry ground, the waters being a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.
Imagine how terrifying and awe-inspiring that must have been!

If I had been Pharaoh, I would have called off the chase right then and there! There was the LORD in a pillar of cloud and fire, and He had just parted the Red Sea! But Pharaoh was consumed by his anger and pride, and he led his entire army into the corridor, determined to catch up to the Israelites.

But the LORD caused confusion and panic among the army, and as they were trying to escape, the LORD released the waters. The walls collapsed on them, and they drowned to the last man.

How could Israel respond appropriately to this great act of deliverance and judgment? There was no recourse but to praise Him!

We should have the same response today. When God's people behold His glory and grace, praise is the only fitting response! We, of all God's creatures, were made to behold & be captivated by God's glory. Dolphins don't stop to ponder the beauty of coral reefs. Apes don't sit around waiting for the stars to come out. Man has a distinct, God-given capacity to appreciate divine glory and to respond with praise & adoration. That innate knowledge has been warped and suppressed by sin, as Romans 1 tells us. But it comes alive again in a redeemed, born again believer.
Praise Him for His mighty deeds; praise Him according to His excellent greatness!(Psalm 150:2)
Seek glory, and be quick to praise!

Take time to enjoy some wilderness. When was the last time you really listened to the heavens declaring the glory of God? (Psa. 19:1) In the city, we're surrounded all the time by artificial things. We need to go & experience places that remind us that we live in a world we didn't make and could never have made by our meager knowledge and power.

More importantly, take time to plunge into the depths of God's Word! This is the first step to beholding the glory of God – not the glory of His divine essence, but the glory of His character & works. Behold the Lord Jesus Christ. Study the examples of the men of Scripture, men whose lives and ministries best reflect the heart of God Himself. Focus your mind and open your heart as you read God's Word, and you won't get too far before you find a passage that takes your breathe away, or grips your soul with the absolute holiness of God. Then praise will flow naturally from you.

Grace Should Remind Us of Our Unworthiness

Note: Verse 8, “At the blast of your nostrils the waters piled up; the floods stood up in a heap; the deeps congealed in the heart of the sea.”

In the OT, the sea is often used as a symbol for chaos & danger. Remember Noah's time, when the LORD judged the world by flooding it. Also recall Jonah being thrown into the sea because he disobeyed God. Or how about the Leviathan, the great sea serpent who is the symbolical embodiment of evil, as described in the book of Job?

On the other hand, God is also worshiped for His sovereign control of the forces of chaos and destruction.

The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the Lord, over many waters. … The Lord sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord sits enthroned as king forever. (Psa. 29:3,10)
Passing through the Red Sea must have been an unnerving experience for the Israelites. Imagine passing through a narrow corridor in the sea, with a wall of water on either side, help up by who knows what, and you know that if those walls suddenly give way you'll be immediately crushed by the sheer weight of water that will come crashing down on you. This was as close as anyone could come to literally walking through the “valley of the shadow of death”.

Notice that just like in the Passover, both the Hebrews and the Egyptians faced the same judgment, except the Hebrews were delivered and the Egyptians were not.

This was yet another of God's to His people that they were saved by grace alone. They were no better than the Egyptians, the Philistines, the Edomites, or the Moabites. But God sovereignly chose to save them and be faithful to them.

Now just as then, grace stands in contrast to our sin and the judgment we deserve. Therefore, we should always bear in mind that we are sinners, undeserving of God's grace. This will help us stay humble and enjoy God's blessings more fully.

But some might think that this approach is too negative. Why should we remind ourselves of our sins and the punishment we deserve, instead of happier things? Isn't this too morbid and depressing?

However, the reality is that we are sinners, and that's what makes God's grace so great! Show me a person who isn't mindful of his sins, and I'll show you a person who feels entitled to God's blessings and cannot appreciate grace. So, be quick to confess your sins to God, and thank Him for undeserved mercies!

Grace Should Produce a Thankful Spirit

Note: Verse 2, “this is my God, and I will praise him, my father's God, and I will exalt him.”

When Moses led Israel in singing these lines, he certainly intended to teach them that this was the kind of attitude they should always have toward God from now on. “I will praise him,” meant much more than “I will praise Him today,” or “I will praise Him for the next week,” or “I will praise Him for as long as I'm happy and comfortable.” No. It meant “I will praise Him forever, come what may!”

Sadly, though, Israel's thankfulness was only superficial. It wasn't long before they were complaining again (
Psa. 106:6-13). Aren't we just like Israel in this regard: our thankfulness is pathetically small and fickle! Psalm 106:12-13 is just as true of us now as it was of the Israelites back then: “Then they believed his words; they sang his praise. But they soon forgot his works; they did not wait for his counsel.”

We fall far, far short of the Bible's standards for thankfulness. This is unacceptable, and the fact that other people are also failing in thankfulness to the LORD does not make our own failure acceptable! James and Joel Beeke remind us,
The subject of thankfulness highlights a common sore spot in prayer. … We are so prone to count our one or two troubles and so quick to dwell upon that one unkind word more than upon another hundred kind words for which we should be so deeply thankful. ... True thankfulness realizes that anything short of hell is grace. True thankfulness serves as a corrective lens—a lens through which we see God’s grace in all things. Have you ever seen a severely sick person who is deeply thankful for the care he receives? ... Or a dying person who is deeply thankful that he still has time to speak to his family? Such a person has learned something of the art of thankfulness. … Is not our God a wonderful God? When you look back in your life, do you see that His mercy really does endure forever? Looking around you, do you observe that His mercy is surrounding you on every side? Does this not make your sin the more terrible and repulsive? How often are we guilty of not thanking the Lord, of ignoring and insulting Him?
Continually check yourself against Ephesians 4:20, which tells us that we should be “giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Offer short prayers of thanksgiving throughout the day. Pause regularly throughout the day to take stock of your blessings, appreciate God for His goodness, and expressing that appreciation in prayer.

Grace Teaches Us to Be Hopeful

Note: Verse 13, “You have led in your steadfast love the people whom you have redeemed; you have guided them by your strength to your holy abode.”

Moses used the past tense even though the conquest of Canaan was still a future prospect. Why? Because God had proven that He kept His promises. So as far as Moses was concerned, the conquest of Canaan was a done deal.

Reading about the Promised Land reminds us Christians of our eternal home. Just as Moses and Israel lived for the day when they would settle in Canaan, with the LORD dwelling in their midst, we should live for the day when we will dwell forever in the LORD's presence in His earthly kingdom.

I suspect that many Christians think that “not living for the things of this world” is just about being content with what you have. But do you know that you can be completely content and still be worldly? Worldly people aren't just those whose lives are full of vices & avarice. Worldly people are also those whose hopes & joys are tied to this world.

Do you want to know if you're worldly? Don't ask yourself if you're wasteful, selfish, greedy, or materialistic. That would only scratch the surface. Rather, ask yourself, is your hope & joy anchored in present things, or in the future promises of God?

Be a person who is driven by future hope!


The Song of Moses teaches us that the LORD's grace should make us a humble, thankful, and hopeful people. It reminds us of the fact that we were made to behold God's glory and respond in heartfelt adoration and thanksgiving. And if we take a step back, and look at it within its larger context, we also find a rebuke for our fickle gratitude and meager praise. The Song of Moses challenges us to reflect on God's mercies, to grieve over our own spiritual lethargy, and to look forward to the day when we will dwell forever in the presence of our Lord.

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