The Deception of Emotion Without Devotion

by Dennis Michelson
(Painesville, Ohio)

Exodus 15 and 16


Introduction: I recently saw a video of an old-fashioned shouting Baptist Church service where several men ran down the aisles, some jumped the pews, and one brother even took a dive into the baptistry! They certainly looked like they were a happy bunch and were able to get in a cardio workout while having their lovely church service.

Of course, such emotional displays are tame by comparison with others who really get caught up in emotional frenzies associated with their style of worship. I have stopped trying to fight the "worship wars" and make everyone see my point of view or adopt my brand of worship. As Dr. Roberson used to say "I don't care how high you jump just so you walk straight when your feet hit the ground."

The text before us emphasizes that singing and shouting are fine but God wants us to walk straight when we leave worship and move into the wilderness. Whenever we mistake our emotion for true devotion then it can quickly lead to deception. The message can be outlined by noting five geographical locations -

1. Red Sea: Singing and Shouting (15:1-22)

My what a time they had! "The Lord is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation: He is my God, and I will prepare him an habitation; my father's God, and I will exalt him" (15:2) Look at 15:16 - ". . .till the people pass over, which thou hast purchased."

We love the songs about heaven but what about the wilderness? The same God who redeemed us and brought us through the Red Sea will also lead, guide, and sustain us on the long journey to heaven. Alas, when the shout dies out, we forget so quickly.

2. Shur: A Dry Place (15:22)

Three days after the gospel singing and there is no water. How often do we equate our lack of water with a lack of God? The same God who solved their problem of "too much water" at the Red Sea is able to provide in a place of "no water."

3. Marah: A Bitter Place (15:23-26)

The hearts of the people were as bitter as the water. They murmured against God and God's man. The Lord will often allow the attack of the mosquito to prepare us for the charge of the elephant. It does not matter if you find yourself with too much water, no water, or bitter water - God is testing you.

Just as he changed the bitter water into sweet water, He can do the same with your heart if you will live with the same confidence and faith you sang about at the Red Sea.

4. Elim: An Abundant Place (15:27)

Again the Lord has demonstrated to His people that He can meet their needs in the most extreme circumstances. He desires to lead us by still waters but we need to learn the great lesson that He alone is the Shepherd.

5. Sin: A Forgetful Place (16:1)

Two months and 15 days after the singing and shouting at the Red Sea they are in a different geographical place but their hearts are back at Marah. They are murmuring and bitter toward God and God's man. Forgetfulness can be fatal!

In 16:4 when God should have rained down brimstone, He rained down bread. Read that verse carefully. It is a test. It is never about the water, or the bread, or the quail - it is about us. Do we really believe all those wonderful things we sing and shout about when our emotions are running high? It always comes back to the question posed in Psalm 78:19 -

CAN GOD FURNISH A TABLE IN THE WILDERNESS?

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