Scripture Reading: Exodus 14:1-14 I want to continue to share out of the same scripture setting as last weekalthough I am not continuing with the same thought or theme. But there is a detail in this ancient story of the exodus of Israel from Egypt which absolutely fascinates me.
Before getting to that I want to display this wonderful black and white drawing I have brought this morning. I found it a few years ago in the house of someone who sold antiques. It actually hung on the wall of her house and I was reluctant to ask if it was for sale. However, I was so struck by the work that I could not resist. Her response was that everything in the house was for sale including the kids. The next issue, of course, was the price (of the drawing- not the kids)- which when revealed left me admiring a picture I would never have. But my brother instructed me to remove it from the wall- that it was now my picture to have and enjoy. Any who are even remotely familiar with the Bible will instantly recognise this black and white drawing. I invite you now to view it- but more than merely viewing it I would ask that you absorb its reality. As you do so I would like you to express in a single word (if possible) your sense of the picture. We may all see different things in this same picture; it speaks different realities to each of us. Much of that difference is a matter of where we arewhat our need is, etc.. The word that comes to me when I view the picture begins with a “V” and is expressed in the theme of today’s message which is: A Necessary Vulnerability- or if you prefer- The Vulnerability of Faith. There are a couple of issues to clarify right off the top. First there is the core meaning of the word ‘vulnerable’. That meaning is ‘a point of weakness which makes one highly susceptible to wounding and hurt.’ Vulnerability suggest an easy target- an easy prey. 1 The second issue to clarify is that people who are truly walking and living by the Biblical definition of faith are never really vulnerable at all. In fact there is not a safer and more protected place to be than right in the middle of a full obedience of faith in relation to the word of the Spirit. When I speak of vulnerability I am speaking of it in relation to two realities. The first is that of our feelings. And the truth is- all “faith-walkers” have had moments when they have felt very vulnerable- very exposed. We all know that it is easy to say that feelings are not real. I think we also know that for something that is not real- feelings can be incredibly real. But beyond the realm of feelings- there is the appearance of things. I have no time to deal with this- but when you read through Hebrews chapter 11 it is incredible how vulnerable the lives of these heroes appeared or seemed to be. It is written of Abraham that he went out not knowing where he was going. And to everyone except Abraham the appearance of that is vulnerability. And that is the point of this message. When I speak of the vulnerability of faith I am speaking of obeying the word of the Spirit without explanation of that word- and without any real understanding of the details of where that word is going to take us- and what it is going to look like in its outworking. For this reason people of faith appear to be vulnerable as judged by the wisdom of the age, the values of the culture, and the interpretations of the natural mind. And according to that wisdom and those values and interpretations the faith life is a life without guarantees. All of this has immediate application to where we are right now as a fellowship. If we are governed and motivated by the guarantees of the wisdom of our age, the values of our culture and the interpretations of the natural man we will pull the plug on the project in the field right now. According to the structures of the age the appearance is that- like all those named in Hebrews 11- we are highly vulnerable and more than a little foolish. But the real question- and the final point of this message is- ‘How does God use this very appearance of vulnerability?’ And let me say right off the top that God uses this both in relation to the world looking on, as well as in relation to the lives of those who are walking out the word they have heard. 2 When you read the entire chapter of Exodus 14 it is clear that God deliberately positioned His people in a place of seeming vulnerability. The appearance was that they were confused, they were shut in by the wilderness, they had lost their way, they were an easy target and horribly vulnerable. And not only was that the appearance- that was also the feeling within the people of God. But what we discover is that God exposes His people to the enemy in this fashion in order to expose the enemy- and in that exposure of the enemy He disposes of the enemy. Here it is: EX 14:3 “For Pharaoh will say of the sons of Israel, ‘They are wandering aimlessly in the land; the wilderness has shut them in.’ Here’s the sequence: (1)- Pharaoh is going to look at the place Israel is in. (2)- His conclusion based upon that position is that they are weak, confused and vulnerable. (3)- He is then going to make a decision based upon that appearance of vulnerability. (4)- That decision is going to take his armies into the midst of the sea. (5)- In that place two peoples are going to see and experience the power of God; Egypt will experience the power of God in judgement- Israel will experience the power of God in deliverance and salvation from the now very exposed and very disposed enemy. (6)- And in this God gets glory and honour unto Himself. I hope the lesson is relatively clear. To walk and live by faith is to find ourselves in positions where according to the definitions, values and wisdom of the age there are no guarantees- no assurances. In that place there will be feelings of vulnerability. The appearance will be that we are unprotected and vulnerable; the appearance will be that we are exposed to the very enemy. In that place here is the one and only real guarantee. That very place of seeming exposure and vulnerability becomes the God ordained opportunity for the manifestation of the power of God in which He glorifies Himself in judgement towards the enemy and deliverance towards the “faith-walkers”. 3 Mark it down- we are going to experience both this vulnerability and the display of the miraculous power of God in our vulnerability in this journey of faith to the field next door. Whether it’s Israel coming out of Egypt; whether it’s Daniel among the lions; whether it’s KCF moving into the enlarged ministry mandate God has called us to, it is in risking beyond the assurances of the age- beyond what is possible in our own strength that we witness the supernatural acts of God. And in this both we and the world will know that He alone is God. There is no intention of guilt or condemnation in what I now leave you with to ponder. There is- I hope- a very serious and sobering challenge. Could it be that the reason the church of the west does not see a greater measure of the manifest supernatural power of God is because we are unwilling to follow the word of our faith into that raw vulnerability of life beyond the guarantees, the assurances, the protections and the safeties of the structures and values of the age; the vulnerability of life beyond the limitations of our natural strength of reason and ability to perform? 4