The Gracious Violence of God
Perhaps you’ve had a pastor or “Bible teacher” ask you these questions. If not, consider yourself blessed.
“The Lord is a man of war; the Lord is his name.” (Exodus 15:3)
What is your Goliath?
What in your life seems so gigantic, you might never defeat it?
Where is your Jericho?
Where is the area in your life that you need to see the walls crumble?
Who is your Pharaoh?
Who is trying to chase you down and take away your freedom?
Perhaps you’ve had a pastor or “Bible teacher” ask you these questions. If not, consider yourself blessed. I hate these questions. And the reason I hate them is that they assume all of my spiritual problems have to do with someone not named “ME.”
Some may read the story of Pharaoh pursuing Moses and the children of Israel, with Pharaoh’s army drowning in the Red Sea, as an illustration for how there are things in life trying to take away our freedom. And if you just believe enough, muster enough faith, God will make a way through the raging sea that blocks your escape.
But I don’t read it that way at all.
First of all—yes—I read it as a historical narrative, retelling an actual event.
But all of these stories are pointing to something else—Someone else.
Jesus says that “something else” is salvation and that “Someone else” is Him.
The crossing of the Red Sea is a story about God faithfully saving His people. It’s also a story about God saving you. And not just about God saving you any old way. It’s about Jesus saving you violently through water.
We’ve all heard the old saying, “I’m my own worst enemy.” Well, that’s true—you are—and so am I.
I’m my own Goliath of sin. I build my own Jericho walls desperately trying to keep God from getting too close to me. And my heart is its own Pharaoh, demanding I stay in bondage to sin and death. But God slays the giant of my sin. He reduces all my walls to rubble. He drowns me and my “army-of-self” to ensure my freedom.
“The Lord is a man of war”—and what a merciful war it is! He kills us to save us. We die to live. We lose our lives to find them in Him.
Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:1-2, “I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea…”
The Red Sea speaks of Baptism in the same way the Flood does. God brings people through it. Deliverers them to Himself through it. But make no mistake—it’s violent. Evil is washed away. It’s a drowning. A death. And it’s not the death of who we might think is our worst enemy. It’s the death of the worst people we know—US.
Baptism is how God kills and makes alive. Peter says, Baptism, like the Flood, “now saves you” (1 Peter 3:21). It’s the death of the old and beginning of the new creation. It’s a gracious violence that destroys the enemy of sin and self and unites us with Jesus Christ.
What is my Goliath? It’s in my own sin.
Where is my Jericho? It’s in my self-sufficiency.
Who is my Pharaoh? He’s in my wicked heart.
But praise God for being a man of war! He has conquered me. And I can now join Moses in singing: “I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea.” (Exodus 15:1)