The LORD said to Moses, "Why do you cry to me? Tell the people of Israel to go forward. Lift up your staff, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, that the people of Israel may go through the sea on dry ground. And I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they shall go in after them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, his chariots, and his horsemen. And the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I have gotten glory over Pharaoh, his chariots, and his horsemen."
Then the angel of God who was going before the host of Israel moved and went behind them, and the pillar of cloud moved from before them and stood behind them, coming between the host of Egypt and the host of Israel. And there was the cloud and the darkness. And it lit up the night without one coming near the other all night. Then 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 dry ground, the waters being a wall to them on their right hand and on their left. The Egyptians pursued and went in after them into the midst of the sea, all Pharaoh's horses, his chariots, and his horsemen. And in the morning watch the LORD in the pillar of fire and of cloud looked down on the Egyptian forces and threw the Egyptian forces into a panic, clogging their chariot wheels so that they drove heavily. And the Egyptians said, "Let us flee from before Israel, for the LORD fights for them against the Egyptians."
Then the LORD said to Moses, "Stretch out your hand over the sea, that the water may come back upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots, and upon their horsemen." So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to its normal course when the morning appeared. And as the Egyptians fled into it, the LORD threwthe Egyptians into the midst of the sea. The waters returned and covered the chariots and the horsemen; of all the host of Pharaoh that had followed them into the sea, not one of them remained. But the people of Israel walked on dry ground through the sea, the waters being a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.
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. (ESV)
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Satan, I Defy You
Thursday of Pentecost 24
12 November 2015
Martin Luther counsels the Christian, who is suffering temptation, to make use of his baptism as a powerful weapon against Satan's wiles. "I am baptized into Christ. You, Satan, have no power over me. I am protected by the sign of my God. I am sealed by the holy Trinity: 'in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.' Your ugly accusations are only true for those who do not have a God. Your vile indictment of my weakness and depravity counts not where the cleansing water has washed away my filth. Your wicked charges against me have been thrown out of court by my Father because I have put on the righteousness of His Son by being immersed into the baptism of His death. Your plunging cavalry which contends against God's people have been swallowed up in the sea of the laver. I have passed through on dry ground." Luther was not unique, nor was he the first to counsel the tempted this way. Long before, Gregory Nazianzus encouraged his hearers to stand fast against the temptations of the devil in this fashion.
One theory suggests that Satan fell and was cast out of heaven because he despised God's plan to take on human flesh to save fallen humanity. Like the old Ford Motor Company commercial, our enemy thought he had "a better idea." What a prideful ignorance! This rebellion attempted to improve upon the wisdom of God, manifesting itself in the weakness of human flesh and in the willingness of God to suffer and die. Christ has borne our flesh that our flesh might receive the divine gifts of fellowship with Him and eternal joy in His presence. He has become one of us that we might become like Him. We are right, then, to mock our enemy who was cast down by desiring to become the Christ. We ourselves have become Christ-like by putting Him on in our baptisms (Gal 3:27
). Greater honor is owed to us for that reason alone. We are more worthy of worship (although we are worthy of none), than Satan is, who himself desires that we worship him. How degrading then, that we so easily bow down to him; we who have been loved so completely by God that He has become one of us, who have been elevated by our baptism to the status of the royal priesthood.
Our purification in baptism is complete not because of us, but because of Christ and His promise to us given at the font. Such a lavish washing away of sin is given to us there! If it is God's gift to us, then there is no time when it will not be available to us, there will be no time when it is not our possession. If we fall into the clutches of Satan after receiving our Lord's mercy in baptism, that baptism does not become invalid. Therefore we may return to its promises through contrition and repentance. If we were once cleansed by our God in the font, what further purification would we need?
"If after baptism the persecutor and tempter of the light assails you, you have the means to conquer him. For he assailed even the Word of God through the veil of His humanity; the hidden Light that was manifested in His manhood (Mt 4:1-11
). Do not fear the battle. Defend yourself with the water of baptism. Defend yourself with the Spirit, by which all the fiery darts of the wicked one shall be quenched (Eph 6:16
). Baptism is spirit, but that Spirit which broke the mountains into pieces (1Ki 19:11
). Baptism is water, which quenches fire. If the tempter assail you by your want, as he dared to assail Christ, and asks that stones should be made bread, do not be ignorant of his designs (2Co 2:11
). Teach him what he has not learned. Defend yourself with the Word of life, who is the Bread sent down from heaven that gives life to the world (Jn 6:33
). If he plots against you tempting you with pride, as he did Christ when he led Him up to the pinnacle of the temple and said to Him, 'Throw yourself down as proof of Your divinity' (Mt 4:6
), do not be puffed up. If you are overcome by this, he will not stop here. For he is insatiable, he grasps at everything. He fawns upon you with attractive pretenses, but he ends in evil. This is the manner of his fighting.
"Yes, the robber is skilled with Scripture. On the one hand he said: 'It is written about the bread' and on the other that 'It is written concerning the angels.' It is written, he quoted, '"He will command his angels concerning you," and "On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone"' (Mt 4:6
). O vile sophist! How could you suppress the words that follow, for I know it well, even if you pass by it in silence? 'You will tread on the lion and the adder; the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot (Ps 91:13
), because you are protected by the Trinity. If he wrestles against you to a fall through greed, showing you all the kingdoms in a moment, as though they belong to him, and demands your worship, despise him as a beggar. Say to him relying on the seal of baptism, "I am myself the image of God; I have not yet been cast down from the heavenly glory, as you were through your pride. I have put on Christ. I have been transformed into Christ by baptism. Worship me." Well do I know that he will depart, defeated and put to shame by this; as he did from Christ the first Light, so he will from those who are illumined by Christ. Such blessings does the font bestow on those who receive it; such is the rich feast which it provides for those who hunger.
"Let us then be baptized that we may win the victory. Let us partake of the cleansing waters, more purifying than hyssop, purer than the blood of the Levitical law, more sacred than the ashes of the heifer sprinkling the unclean (Heb 10:4), and providing a temporary cleansing of the body, but not a complete taking away of sin; for if once cleansed, why should they need further purification?"
Gregory Nazianzus, Theological Oration, 40.10-11
Almighty and eternal God, according to Your strict judgment You condemned the unbelieving world through the flood, yet according to Your great mercy You preserved believing Noah and his family, eight souls in all. You drowned hard-hearted Pharoah and all his host in the Red Sea, yet led Your people Israel through the water on dry ground, foreshadowing this washing of Your Holy Baptism. Through the Baptism in the Jordan of Your beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, You sanctified and instituted all waters to be a blessed flood and a lavish washing away of sin. Grant that we be kept safe and secure in the holy ark of the Christian Church, being separated from the multitude of unbelievers and serving Your name at all times with a fervent spirit and a joyful hope, so that, with all believers in Your promise, we would be declared worthy of eternal life; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
For all those who are struggling with marital difficulties, that the Lord who joins us in marriage might see us through to the preservation of His gift to us
For all pregnant women and their unborn children, that they would be kept safe and secure until the new life can be given in holy baptism
For Albert Collver, that the Lord would send His holy angels to watch over him as he travels throughout the world serving the church in foreign fields
Art: Dürer, Albrecht The Adoration of the Trinity (1515)
© Scott R. Murray, 2015