Pharaoh lost control but wouldn’t admit it; enslaved Israel never was in charge of its destiny. However, since the Lord God has control over the Universe, over emperors, over history, and over His people, “The Lord brought the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt” (12:51). Freed after four centuries of enslavement, Israel was fashioned into a divine theocracy, which made them different from every other nation that ever existed. They were in good hands with the Almighty, and in His charge the Exodus became a golden success.
When God removed them from idolatrous Egypt, He started them off with a new calendar that was ecclesiastical, the Unleavened Bread Festival being its star attraction: “Remember this day . . . in the month Abib. . . that you shall keep this service in this month” (13:3-5). God was not going to let Israel forget who He was and who they were.
That meant training—with religious education in the home to enlighten the next generation: “And you shall tell your son in that day, saying, ‘This [Passover] is done because of what the Lord did for me when I came up from Egypt” (13:8). He also directed that everyone’s daily activities be filtered through personal remembrance of the Passover. “It shall be as a sign to you on your hand and as a memorial between your eyes, that the Lord’s law may be in your mouth…” (13:9-10).
And it meant personal sacrifice—such as surrendering their first-born to the Lord to use as He saw fit (13:11-16). Since the first-born boys of Israelite homes had been selectively spared from the Tenth Plague, they belonged to the Lord in a special sense, and so He claimed them for special service to Him. Mary and Joseph observed this regulation with their first boy-baby, Jesus, as you remember from Luke 2:21-24.
Being in charge meant also that the Lord looked ahead. The route for His Exodus would avoid Philistia in favor of a longer route – in order to demonstrate that He was in charge via the miraculous crossing of the Red Sea (13:17-22).
If you are looking for a watershed event in Old Testament times, this is it!
After three days’ travel the Israelites halted at the shoreline of the Red Sea, the precise locale of which is not identifiable; but we are not as interested in geography and geology as we are in theology, for the Exodus is theological first
Idolatrous Pharaoh was going to be taught some practical theology, too, for the Master of the Universe had enclosed the Israelites in His embrace. It wasn’t superior armament or war tactics that bolstered Israel, but God Himself, personally and visibly present, who gave them reassurance and courage: “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you
see today, you shall see again no more
How good of God to bear with their frailties—as He does with
“Fear not, I am with thee;
oh, be not dismayed,
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid….” TLH #427:3
When the stage was set at the shoreline, the Angel of God moved into action, repositioning the Cloud from front to rear of the encampment, thus forming a dark barrier facing the hostiles but giving bright illumination for Israel, keeping the two apart all night (vv. 19-20). Next, since atoms and molecules are God’s servants, they obeyed Him in a windy way, shoving the waters of the Red Sea aside both upstream and downstream so that a broad fording avenue opened up all the way
across the Straits (vv. 21-22)
for His people.
But why be so dramatic? Because drama made Egypt pay attention to God’s reality behind the event: “Then the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I have gained honor for Myself over Pharaoh…” (v. 18).
The Lord took charge!
Just picture it to yourself: “The waters were a wall to them on their right hand and on their left,” as they marched on sea-bed that the Lord had turned to pavement! Two million Israelites walked down into the lake bed, each step taking them deeper into the canyon of water towering over them. Their march into the valley and up the other side went on for hours until everyone had safely reached the far shoreline under God’s protection.
Then the Egyptians, stymied all night by the Lord’s intervening Cloud, made the tactical blunder of chasing after the refugees, now safe on the far shore. As Pharaoh sent his heavy cavalry surging pell-mell down the canyon “into the midst of the sea, …the Lord troubled the army of the Egyptians. And He took off their chariot wheels” (probably by ordering gravity to pull out the cotter pins). In the melee some poor souls caught on: “Let us flee from the face of Israel, for the Lord fights for them…” (v. 25), but it was too late. God ordered that “the sea return to its full depth, while the Egyptians were fleeing into it. So the Lord overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea…. Not so much as one of them remained” (vv. 27-28). What a total, fatal disaster for God’s enemies!
Dear reader, that’s a little preview of the Final Judgment, when it will be too late to reverse course, even while folks realize what’s happening to them. Too late!
It was a powerful lesson for God’s people, too: “Thus Israel saw the great work which the Lord had done in Egypt; so the people feared the Lord, and believed the Lord and His servant Moses” (14:31).
That glorious day for the Lord and for His people deserved a memorial—which comes in chapter 15—with its bright theme of praise to the Lord, “I will sing to the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously….He is my God, and I will praise Him….” and closes with predictions that the Lord will deal with future enemies, too, for “The Lord shall reign forever and ever.”
Finally, being in charge means control over each day’s problems, such as the one that soon troubled the Israelites, who “went three days in the wilderness and found no water” (15:22).
The Lord of nature took charge again, fixing Marah’s bitter waters with a divinely selected tree that was cast “into the waters, and the waters were made sweet.”
That was a test, we are told, to keep this saving formula front and center: “If you diligently heed the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in His sight, give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have brought on the Egyptians. For I am the Lord who heals you” (15:26).
Reminds us of Jesus, who cast Himself into the sea of humanity, making His Kingdom waters sweet to save. The test formula fits us, too—that we ought heed the voice of our Savior-God, who with Word and Spirit delivers us from the moral/spiritual enemies that chase us through the sea of life. We depend on being rescued out of every earthly bondage, for our rescue has been guaranteed by our Savior Himself.
And when the time of our pilgrimage here below is ending, we shall rely on Jesus to bring us safely across the great divide into His eternal rest, where we shall regroup with all the saints who
have already safely arrived on
the far shore.
All together now: “Sing to the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously! . . .
The Lord shall reign forever and ever” (Exodus 15:21,18).