If not for the Lord Jesus Christ, who is alone your Savior and Redeemer, you would remain trapped in Egypt, held in bondage by a tyrant Pharaoh. Whether you know it or not, you were conceived and born in sin — a slave to sin — fast bound in Satan’s chains, death brooding darkly over you. From the start, sin and death have been your torment night and day, the inheritance you received from your parents, grandparents, and all your ancestors, all the way back to Adam and Eve. Left to yourself, you fall deeper and deeper into their bondage, until life itself becomes a living hell.
It is because of your sin that you are mortal, that you are dead and dying. And that consequence of sin is something you cannot simply ignore or deny, much less escape. Day by day, the older you get, your body is wearing out, slowing down, falling apart, and returning to the dust of the ground. And yet, despite all that, your sin feels quite comfortable. You would be happy to remain in the Egypt of your sin, if only that Pharaoh, death, would get off your back. As it is, when the Lord lays the Cross upon your body and life in the wilderness, you long to return to Egypt, to the lusts of your flesh, and to the bondage and consequences of your sin. You remember only its comforts and none of its tyranny, although it is your sin that enslaves you and kills you in body and soul.
The Law cannot save you from this prison house of sin and death. But when you hear what God would have you do, your instinct is that, if you would only try harder, if you could only do better, then perhaps you could set yourself free. With Moses, though, you still wander in the wilderness.
The Law of God is good and wise, it is His good and gracious will, and it points you to the good Land that God has promised, so that you are able to see it from afar. But you shall not enter that Land by or with the Law. For even great and faithful Moses dies outside of Canaan. And so does the Law of God accuse you of your sins and condemn you to death. It cannot bring you into life.
It is, instead, the new and greater Joshua who leads you and brings you into the Kingdom of God. It is He who has fulfilled and satisfied the Law for you and thereby released you from its death-grip. And all of this He has accomplished, for you and for all, by His own Cross and Resurrection.
This “Joshua,” Christ Jesus the Lord, Yahweh in the flesh, the incarnate God, He is the true and perfect Passover. He is the Lamb of God who takes upon Himself and takes away your sins, who is sacrificed in your place, whose Blood covers and protects you from death and the devil. He is the firstborn Son who is slain, that you should be set free from Egypt and Pharaoh’s bitter yoke.
So, too, He is the Crossing of the Red Sea out of that cruel bondage. As His arms are lifted up for you upon the Cross, the waters are parted, that you might pass with Him through death into life. Pharaoh and his army are drowned in those waters, but you live in them because Christ has entered into those deep waters, has suffered their torrent and assault, and has overcome them for you.
And He is with you now as you journey through the wilderness. He is your Pillar of Cloud by day, and He is your Pillar of Fire by night. He is the manifest presence of God here with you, powerful to save you and sustain you in the desert. His Word and Holy Spirit guide and guard you. They go ahead of you, and they surround you on all sides, a solid wall between you and all your enemies.
The Lord Jesus also feeds you on the way, not only from His hand but with Himself, His Flesh and Blood. He who is the true Manna from heaven, the Bread of Life — the Living Bread who gives you Life — He feeds and nourishes you on the pilgrims’ way. You may grow tired of Him, you may grumble and complain against Him, but He remains your Daily Bread, today and every day.
He is the Rock that follows you, and from His riven side flow rivers of Living Water, His Word and Holy Spirit, His cleansing and quenching Blood. These gifts that come freely from Him are what sustain you on the journey. These gifts are what keep you alive, although you continue to sin and repeatedly fall into sin with every step. Your sins would kill you, but Jesus redeems you. His death has conquered death, and His Life is your life indeed in body and soul, now and forever.
By the Gospel of His Cross and Resurrection, He is and remains your Sabbath Rest along the way, even in the wilderness. For at the new and better Mountain of His Holy Cross, He has established the New Covenant of forgiveness and life in His own Blood, shed for you, poured out for you, given for you to drink. He is the Bull who is sacrificed as a Whole Burnt Offering, for Atonement, Thanksgiving, and Fellowship with God. His Blood is offered to His Father, and His Blood now anoints you in body and soul, that you should belong to His Body and Bride, His Holy Church.
His Body is your Tabernacle in the wilderness and the true Temple of God in heaven and on earth, for He is indeed Immanuel, God with us. His Flesh and Blood — conceived and born of St. Mary, crucified and risen from the dead, now given and poured out for you to eat and to drink here at His Altar — these are your Dwelling Place, your Sanctuary in the world, where you abide with God and He with you. For Christ Jesus is your merciful and great High Priest, who has given Himself to atone for all your sins, who is risen from the dead and ever lives to make intercession for you.
Just so, He is also the true Joshua who leads you through the waters of the Jordan — through the waters of your Holy Baptism, as through the waters of His own Baptism in the Jordan River — out of the wilderness of sin and death into the Promised Land of milk and honey and every good thing.
Not only do you see it from afar, as you do for now by faith, but so shall you enter into that Good Land with the Lord Jesus Christ, in both your body and your soul, in and with His Body, crucified for your transgressions, risen from the dead for your justification, and ascended to the Right Hand of the Father as the Pledge and Promise of your own Ascension. When your Baptism is finally completed in death, and you then tread the verge of Jordan, then you shall follow Him who is the true Ark of the Covenant into that Good Land which God has sworn to give you by His own Name, by His Word and Holy Spirit. Then you shall enter, body and soul, the great Wedding Feast of the Lamb in His Kingdom forever, as surely as you share in that Feast here at His Altar here and now.
For the time being, here in the wilderness, you do grow weary and faint. You are overwhelmed by drowsiness and overcome by sleep. Your sin hinders and entangles you. Though you struggle against it, day after day you stumble and fall into various vices and shameful sins, into false beliefs and temptations to despair. The angel of death is always stalking you, while Satan prowls around doing his best to devour you. Left to your own devices, you would most certainly be done for.
But see here, Yahweh Sabaoth is with you, not to punish but to save. The Lord of hosts, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, He is your God, and He has become your Champion. He is with you in the Flesh of Jesus Christ, and He remains a very present Help at all times and in all places. He has called you out of Egypt, and He has sealed you with His Blood, that you might be His own, and live under Him in His Kingdom, and serve Him in everlasting righteousness and holiness.
This Man, the Son of Mary, Jesus Christ, He is the one true God in flesh and blood like your own. He is the beloved and well-pleasing Son of God the Father, by whom and for whom all things in heaven and on earth exist. He is the Chosen One — anointed in His Body by the Father with the Holy Spirit to be the Christ, your Savior — chosen and anointed to suffer and die in His Body, that you might live in His Body. For He is the Glory of God incarnate, in the flesh. He is the Word-made-Flesh who tabernacles with you, who dwells with you in love. And He is powerful to save.
Day after day, this is what He does, He saves you from yourself. He saves you from your sins and their enslavement of your body and soul. He saves you from the power of death and from your fear of death. He saves you from that cruel taskmaster, the devil, from all his works and all his ways.
Your Savior, Christ Jesus, is by your side upon the plain with His good Gifts and Spirit, that you should behold the Light of the Revelation of the Glory of God in His Face, which shines upon you in the Ministry of His Holy Gospel. By His Word and the preaching of it, by His forgiveness of your sins, and by His Holy Sacraments, you are set free. He speaks to you in peace from His Holy and Life-giving Cross, and in His Resurrection from the dead He breathes His Holy Spirit into your heart, mind, body, and soul through the Gospel. Therefore, Satan, sin, and death cannot harm you. For the Son of God has set you free in His own great Exodus, and in Him you are free indeed.
It is by His Holy Baptism that He has brought you out of Egypt in and with Himself, and so shall He also bring you into Canaan, clothed in the beautiful white robes of His glorious righteousness.
You have heard how it was manifested in Moses and Elijah as they shared in the Glory of Christ. So shall you share the Glory of Christ in both body and soul forever and ever, because His Blood, that of the perfect Lamb, covers and protects you from death. And His Body is your true Spiritual Food, by which your body and soul are transfigured to be like Him in your resurrection from the dead on the last day, when you shall live forevermore with Christ and with His whole Church in Glory forever. For with Moses and Elijah, with Peter, James, and John, and with all the company of heaven, with those who go before and those who follow after, your place is with Christ Jesus.
In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.