The Great Exodus, and a Short-lived Celebration (Exodus 14-15)

Scripture reading: Exodus 14-15

Exodus 14 – Showdown on the Shores of the Red Sea

With the cloud overshadowing Israel by day, and the pillar of fire giving the people light by night, Moses led a nation of more than one million people to freedom. Following the LORD’s instruction, the multitude encamped by the Red Sea (14:2).

In his grief, Pharaoh had sent the children of Israel out of the land; however, the LORD hardened the proud king’s heart (14:3-4), and Moses learned his conflict with Pharaoh was not yet ended. Spies had followed the movement of Israel, and when they saw the encampment by the sea, they sent word to the king who set his army in array to pursue and overtake Moses and the people (14:5-7).

After witnessing how their God had brought Egypt to her knees, the people had departed “with an high hand,” bold, triumphant, rejoicing in their freedom (14:8). Soon, however, the celebration ended when the dust of six hundred chariots, and soldiers was seen approaching in the distance. As Pharoah and his army drew near to Israel’s encampment, “the children of Israel lifted up their eyes, and, behold, the Egyptians marched after them; and they were sore afraid: and…cried out unto the Lord” (14:10).

With the Red Sea before them, and Egypt’s army behind them, the people derided Moses, saying, “Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness? wherefore hast thou dealt thus with us, to carry us forth out of Egypt?” (14:11)

Is it not amazing how fickle people can be? From going out “with an high hand” (14:8), to moaning in despair, the people complained with a sentiment they would express on many occasions in the future: “For it had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness” (14:12).

Moses, unshaken by the murmuring of the people, and the approach of Egypt’s army, encouraged the people saying, “Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will shew to you to day: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to day, ye shall see them again no more for ever” (14:13). Moses assured them, 14The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace” (14:14).

Moses cried out to the LORD, who then questioned him, “Wherefore criest thou unto me? speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward” (14:15). For Moses, the time for prayer was over, and it was time to step out on faith and trust the LORD, who commanded Moses, “lift thou up thy rod, and stretch out thine hand over the sea, and divide it: and the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea” (14:16).

The LORD commanded Moses to be prepared, for when the waters of the sea opened, Pharaoh and his chariots would pursue the people into the midst of the sea (14:17), and all Egypt will know the LORD, when the king and his army are drowned in the sea (14:18).

The cloud that had guided Israel out of Egypt, then moved rearward and became a barrier of darkness between the people and Pharaoh’s army (14:19-20), allowing Israel to pass through the waters of the sea on dry land (14:21-22).  When the Egyptians pursued Israel into the midst of the Red Sea, the LORD brought the waters in upon them, drowning them, and “Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the sea shore… and the people feared the Lord, and believed the Lord, and his servant Moses.” (14:23-31).

Exodus 15 – A Celebration of Deliverance, and A Crisis of Faith

Standing triumphantly on the far shore of the Red Sea, Moses and the children of Israel broke into a song of praise and rejoicing (15:1-19).  While the men were singing the refrain with Moses leading the song (15:1), Miriam, his sister, “took a timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances” (15:20) singing the chorus.

What a great celebration, and surely one that should have continued for days and weeks; however, such was not to be the case. Three days into the wilderness, and the people “found no water” (15:22), and “murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink?” (15:24)

This sinful pattern of murmuring will haunt Israel’s journey through the wilderness for the next forty years, and will be a sorrow not only to Moses, but also to the LORD. Moses cried to the LORD (15:25) and the LORD assured him He would heal the bitter waters, and make them pure (15:26), testing and proving the faith of the people.

What was the lesson Israel was to take from the bitter, poisonous waters?

If Israel would hear and obey the Words of the LORD, and walk in righteousness, hear and heed His commandments, the LORD would spare them from the diseases that afflicted the Egyptians, promising Israel, “I am the Lord that healeth thee” (15:26).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith