Who is it that has saved us? We look to Christ “Who hath wrought and done it, calling the generations from the beginning? I the Lord, the first, and with the last; I am he” (Isa. 41:4). Who is it that calms our fears and comforts us in tragedy? It is he who has said, “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness” (Isa. 41:10).
Can we claim this assurance for ourselves? Do we know the blessedness that comes when we are “poor in spirit” (Matt. 5:3), and the comfort that comes to those who mourn for their sins (Matt. 5:4)? Our cups are filled only when we realize that they are empty, and we pray: “But I am poor and needy; yet the Lord thinketh upon me: thou art my help and my deliverer; make no tarrying, O my God” (Psa. 40:17). Our claim is, “Salvation belongeth unto the Lord: thy blessing is upon thy people” (Psa. 3:8); and our song is, “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth” (Psa. 121:1-2).
Today’s passage calls us to “Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will show to you today: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen today, ye shall see them again no more forever” (Ex. 14:13). Can we do anything less than to be sill before God, to know Him who is our salvation? Our key verse reads, “Thus the Lord saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the sea shore” (14:30). The Israelites had seen the salvation of their Lord. The word of the Lord had been fulfilled. First that Pharaoh would not let the people go: “And Moses and Aaron did all these wonders before Pharaoh: and the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, so that he would not let the children of Israel go out of his land” (Ex. 11:10). And second, that the people were delivered and Egypt judged, and the memorial of God’s salvation established: “It is the sacrifice of the Lord’s passover, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt, when he smote the Egyptians, and delivered our houses. And the people bowed the head and worshipped” (Ex. 12:27).
The children of Israel, after being in Egypt 430 years, began their journey; and “God led the people about, through the way of the wilderness of the Red Sea: and the children of Israel went up harnessed out of the land of Egypt.” God had them go around about way to the land of Canaan; for they would have otherwise faced the war-hungry Philistines, and they were not prepared for such a battle.
The promise of deliverance could never be fully forgotten by the people of God; for there was the ever present body of Joseph. The children would grow up hearing about this promise that was given through the mouth of Joseph: “I die: and God will surely visit you, and bring you out of this land unto the land which he sware to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. And Joseph took an oath of the children of Israel, saying, God will surely visit you, and ye shall carry up my bones from hence” (Gen. 50:24-25). Therefore Moses “took the bones of Joseph with him: for he had straitly sworn the children of Israel, saying, God will surely visit you; and ye shall carry up my bones away hence with you.” When we forget that the Lord is very much in our presence, we will not remember the precious promises of our Lord. Keeping our eyes upon Jesus and remembering his word will keep our hearts ready to obey his word.
Israel journeys from Succoth to camp in Etham, by the edge of the wilderness. Their journey was marked by the presence of the Lord who “went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night.” The Lord himself directs their march across a wilderness without signposts or roads. Their safe conduct is in the hands of their Deliverer. We see here the glorious majesty of God directing his people on the path he wishes them to take, to a place which he has prepared for them. The sign which is seen as a cloud by day and a fire by night is of divine origin, supernatural in its nature, and inextinguishable in its purpose.
The wilderness journey witnessed the mercy of Jehovah, being feed with manna as well as his Spirit. As the prophet was moved to record: “Yet thou in thy manifold mercies forsookest them not in the wilderness: the pillar of the cloud departed not from them by day, to lead them in the way; neither the pillar of fire by night, to shew them light, and the way wherein they should go. Thou gavest also thy good spirit to instruct them, and withheldest not thy manna from their mouth, and gavest them water for their thirst” (Neh. 9:19-20).
Discussion: How did God reveal His mercy toward His people?
The Lord tells Moses to speak to the children of Israel to camp by the sea. This move was for the purpose of making Pharaoh believe that the Israelites were “entangled in the land, the wilderness hath shut them in.” Thinking that the people had lost their way, Pharaoh would bring his army to attach Israel. The Lord would harden Pharaoh’s heart and so, with his army, follow after the people. Both the Pharaoh and his army would honor the Lord, and, as God said, “that the Egyptians may know that I am the Lord.” So it happened; Egypt awakened from that which the Lord had done, having killed their first born, and they said, “Why have we done this, that we have let Israel go from serving us?” The hand of the Lord was with his people and upon Egypt. Mercy and Judgment would come that the people may know that the Lord is the Sovereign God.
The king of Egypt made ready his chariot, taking 600 chosen chariots, “and all the chariots of Egypt.” The Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh, “and he pursued after the children of Israel.” It was a great sight as the armies of Egypt drew near to the children of Israel. Twelve tribes, large cities making up the nation of Israel, looking at the mighty of army of Pharaoh, and ”they were sore afraid.” Moses had spoken to the people and still they were afraid and cried out: “there are no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness? … For it had been better for us to serve the Egyptians.” Even we who claim Christ as Savior and King forget his deliverance and begin to look to self when the enemy approaches. Shall the pew be the grave yard of Christians or shall they look to the Lord and follow the King of kings to see the gates of hell trampled on the way to victory?
Shut out by the sea on one side and by the mountains on the other, the children of Israel could see no chance of escape. Moses led them out of Egypt expressing a strong faith in the Lord and his promises. They now needed to see this faith again. When we face new tragedies in our lives we must look to the Christ, author of our faith, that we might not despair but hope in him who has called us to be his own.
Discussion: Why did the Lord harden the heart of Pharaoh?
Moses answers the people’s fear by turning their eyes upon their Deliverer, saying, “Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will show to you today: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen today, ye shall see them again no more forever. The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.” God is the Lord of his people’s salvation. To stand still is to realize that God alone will preserve and protect his people, that “Salvation belongeth unto the Lord: thy blessing is upon thy people.” (Psa. 3:8); and that “He only is my rock and my salvation; he is my defense; I shall not be greatly moved” (Psa. 62:2).
Again the Lord tells Moses exactly what he will do, and what the outcome will be: 1) Moses is to stretch out his “hand over the sea, and divide it,” 2) “the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea,” 3) the Lord “will harden the hearts of the Egyptians, and they shall follow them,” and 4) the Lord will receive honor from Pharaoh and his army. The angel of God is now moved from before Israel to intervene between the Egyptian armies and the Israelites. The protection of the Lord is seen in the cloud and fire. Light will be given to Israel and darkness to the Egyptians, so that one would not be able to come near to the other. Time was given to the nation Israel to reach the other side of the sea.
Moses stretched out his hand and “the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east win all that night,” the children of Israel crossed on dry land between wall of water. The Egyptians followed the Israelites through the sea walls, the Lord taking the wheels off the chariots, telling Moses to stretch forth his hand over the sea, and “And the waters returned, and covered the chariots, and the horsemen, and all the host of Pharaoh that came into the sea after them.”
The Lord saved Israel, and they saw “the great work which the Lord did upon the Egyptians: and the people feared the Lord, and believed the Lord, and his servant Moses.”—“For here the obedience of the people is praised on no other grounds but because they ‘believed the Lord,’ and together with Him, ‘His servant Moses’” (Calvin). May we also believe the Lord as he lead us through the Scriptures, our rule of faith and practice. And may we lift up his servants, who faithfully preach His Word.
Discussion: What does the Lord promise He will do for His people?
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