St. John's & Zion Lutheran Churches

Tell The People To Move On

New Year’s Eve Sermon
Exodus 14:13-15

Text: Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. 14 The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.”
15 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on.”

Get over it! That’s what we are told when we’re holding on to something that should be let go. It might be a hurt or a defeat. We’re are told to not hold on to the past at the expense of looking to the future. This time of year is a good time for us to remember this. We are quickly drawing to the end of one year and the beginning of another. There are many summaries of the past year in newspapers and magazines. We find year-end reviews on the different shows on television. On New Year’s Eve, it is good for us to spend a few moments looking at the past, but then we need to move on. As the old saying goes, “Time waits for no man.” This evening as we have come together, let us heed our God’s words when he tells us, “TELL THE PEOPLE TO MOVE ON.” 1. Realize That The Past Is Gone. 2. Look To The Future With Confidence In The Lord’s Help.

A bit of background will help us better understand the circumstances in which our text happened. God had sent the tenth plague, the Passover, upon the Egyptians. They begged the Israelites to leave their country. After they were gone for a few days, Pharaoh changed his mind about letting the Israelites go. He chased after them with his army. When he and his army caught up to the Israelites, they had come to the Red Sea. When the Israelites saw the approaching army, they were terrified. They seemed to be caught between Pharaoh’s army on the one hand and the Red Sea on the other. It looked like they were trapped. They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!” (Exodus 14:11&12) It seems impossible that they were speaking in this manner. They were in slavery in Egypt. Yet, they felt it would have been better to be a live slave, rather than a dead free man.

Moses’ answer to the people’s cry is verses thirteen and fourteen of our text. “Moses answered the people, ‘Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.’” Moses was reassuring the people that the Lord was there for them. He would protect them. He would deliver them from the hand of the Egyptians, as he had brought them out of the land of Egypt. Don’t worry about the past coming back to get you. As Moses told them, “The Egyptians you see today you will never see again.”

The same is true of this past year. The things of the year coming to a close are over and done with. Close the door on them. God has helped you through them to this point. As you think back over the past year, do you remember things that seemed so large and important, that now you realize really weren’t that big of a deal once you got through it? Were there setbacks, hardships, heartaches? I’m sure there were for each of us in one form or fashion. God has helped you through it. Indeed, we can say with Samuel, when he set up a stone monument, “Thus far has the Lord helped us.” (1 Samuel 7:12) The past is over and done with.

This is also true of our sins that we have committed over the past year. If you let your mind wander over this past year, I’m sure that there are many things that we have done or said or even thought that we are not proud of. Perhaps we said something to someone that hurt them. We knew, as soon as it came out of our mouths, that it was wrong and hurtful. But, you can’t take back words once they are spoken. They are out there, causing damage. Perhaps, we cheated someone out of something. At the time, it didn’t seem that important. Now, however, we think about it often. Each of us has so many sins that we have committed over the past year. How horribly frightening it would be to enter this new year, with all of the sins of the past year still clinging to us, not to mention the sins of all the years before that. We know that we have sinned. We know that we deserve God’s wrath and punishment forever in hell because of them.

But, as the Lord told the people of Israel, so he tells us today, “Tell the people to move on.” There’s no way that we could move on, if God hadn’t intervened in human history by sending his Son to be our Savior. That baby born in Bethlehem’s stall was, and is, the world’s Savior. He came to be our Substitute. He lived for us, by following his Father’s will to the letter. He died for us, suffering the punishment for our sins. He even endured the torments of hell for us. Then, assuring us that all of our sins had been paid for and that death’s icy grip had been broken, he rose again on Easter.

All of those sins that plague our conscience have all been forgiven. When the sins of our past come back to torment us, we can quiet that conscience with the reminder that Jesus paid for those sins, too. God has completely forgiven them. We are told in Psalm 103:11&12, “As high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” God forgave you. You can forgive yourself. God, because he has forgiven us, tells us to move on.

We also have this privilege in dealing with other people in our lives. We can forgive them and, then, move on. The story is told of time when Robert E. Lee visited a Kentucky lady after the Civil War. She took him outside and showed him the remains of a grand old tree whose limbs and branches had been destroyed by Union army artillery fire. Bitter about its fate, she expected Lee to condemn the North or at least sympathize with her loss. After a brief silence Lee said, “Cut it down, my dear Madam, and forget it.” Life is full of wrongs. Many are unintentional or even imagined. If we let the wrongs of others govern our hearts, we only have ourselves to blame. We enjoy the beauty of God’s forgiveness in Christ through faith. Enjoy also the peace of being forgiving to others. As God told the Israelites, ‘Tell my people to move on.’

Also, as you look into the new year, are there things that frighten or concern you? Those are the things that we know about. Who knows what other things are there that we don’t even know about? The prospect of a new year may been challenging or even frightening. Yet, we cannot stay in the past. As we said earlier, time waits for no man. How can we hope to face the uncertainties of the upcoming year?

We do so with the knowledge that our God, who has been with us in the past, will be with us in the future. Go back to the Israelites on the shore of the Red Sea. After God told them to “move on,” he showed his almighty power in dividing the waters of the Red Sea. The nation of Israel walked through it on dry land. Then, when the Egyptians pursued them into the Red Sea, the Lord brought the sea back together again. The army that the Israelites had so dreaded was drowned in the waters of the Red Sea. God showed his people that they could trust in him. He promised to deliver them. As they stood on the opposite shore of the Red Sea, they saw, first hand, that God could do what he promised he would do.

This is also true of all of those difficulties that lay in our future. God has promised us, in the book of Hebrews, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5) He promises to always be with us. In Psalm 50:15, God says, “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me.” There God gives us a blank check, telling us that whatever our trouble might be, he will deliver us. Lest we doubt what God says, we are reminded in Numbers 23:19, “God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind.” When we reach the end of this new year, if the world should still be here at that time, we will again see how the Lord has helped us through all of the difficulties that might lie ahead of us. Surely, when we reach heaven’s shores, we will see how the Lord has blessed us. It was this confidence that moved David to write in Psalm 23:14, “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” Armed with these promises from God, we need not fear, when the Lord urges us ‘Tell my people to move on.’

So, here we are at a crossroads in life. The end of one year is quickly coming. The beginning of another soon will be here. How wonderful it is that we have a God who has shown his love to us so clearly. Just one week ago, we celebrated the birth of our Savior. That is the greatest evidence of God’s love. We also know that the same God who has been with us in the past will be with us in the future. Armed with God’s promise and his presence, we gladly follow our Lord, when he tells us, “Tell my people to move on.” Amen.