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Scripture reading: Exodus 14; Exodus 15
Showdown on the Seashore (14:1-10)
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 souls to freedom. But to find liberty in another land, they had to travel according to the LORD’s command, bringing Israel to a seemingly precarious place encamped by the Red Sea (14:2).
In his grief, Pharaoh thrust the children of Israel out of the land. Yet, the LORD hardened the proud king’s heart (14:3-4), and Moses learned his conflict with Pharaoh was not yet ended. Spies of the king followed the movement of Israel and saw the multitude encamped by the sea. News of the encampment was sent to Pharaoh, who then set his army in array to pursue and overtake Moses and the people (14:5-7).
Having witnessed how God brought Pharaoh and Egypt to her knees, the people had departed “with an high hand” and were bold, triumphant, and rejoicing in their freedom (14:8). Yet, the celebration soon ended when Israel saw a great cloud of dust formed by the approach of six hundred chariots and soldiers. When Pharoah and his army drew near 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).
Celebrations turned to Protestations (14:11-12)
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)
Could you take a moment and consider the fickle nature of sinners?
Though Israel departed Egypt “with an high hand” (14:8), their delight was suddenly turned to moaning and despair. The people complained with a sentiment they would express on many occasions in the future and said: “For it had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness” (14:12).
Moses’ Undaunted Faith (14:13-18)
Disappointed but unshaken by the people’s murmuring and the approach of Pharaoh’s army, Moses challenged 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). Then, Moses assured them, “The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace” (14:14).
Moses cried to the LORD, Who questioned him, saying, “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 him: “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 surely pursue the people into the midst of the sea (14:17), and Egypt would know the LORD when the king and his army are drowned in the sea (14:18).
The Provision and Providence of God (14:19-31)
The cloud that guided Israel out of Egypt moved rearward and became a barrier of darkness between the people and Pharaoh’s army (14:19-20). Then, Israel passed through the midst of the waters of the sea on dry ground (14:21-22). When the Egyptians pursued Israel into the midst of the Red Sea, the LORD brought the waters down and drowned them. “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).
A Celebratory Song of Deliverance (15:1-21)
Standing triumphantly on the far shores of the Red Sea, Moses and the children of Israel broke into a song of praise and rejoicing (15:1-19). Moses led the song, and the men sang the refrain (15:1), while his sister Miriam “took a timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances” (15:20) and singing the chorus (15:21).
Moses’ song celebrated and memorialized the great victory the LORD gave Israel over Pharaoh and Egypt. The news of Israel’s triumphant crossing of the Red Sea preceded them and struck fear and awe in the hearts of the enemies they faced in the wilderness and the Promised Land (15:14-16). What a grand celebration, and indeed one that should have continued for days and weeks; however, such was not the case.
A Crisis of Faith (15:22-25)
Israel was only three days journey into the wilderness when the people “found no water” (15:22) and “murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink?” (15:24). Sadly, whispering and grumbling became a sinful pattern that haunted Israel’s journey for forty years, and became a great sorrow to Moses and the LORD. Finally, Moses “cried unto the Lord; and the Lord shewed him a tree, which when he had cast into the waters, the waters were made sweet” (15:25).
Why did the LORD test Israel? (15:25)
The LORD “made for them a statute and an ordinance, and there he proved them” (15:25). To “prove” is to test and thereby reveal what manner of people Israel was. So they witnessed a great demonstration of God’s power and deliverance at the Red Sea, only to be found complaining and murmuring three days later.
What was the “statute” and the “ordinance” God wanted Israel to learn? (15:26)
If Israel would “diligently hearken to the voice of the Lord… [and] do that which is right in his sight, and wilt give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes,” the LORD promised, “I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I am the Lord that healeth thee” (15:26).
Questions to consider:
1) How did Pharaoh respond when he heard Israel was encamped by the waters of the Red Sea? (Exodus 14:5-8)
2) How did Israel respond when they saw Pharaoh and his chariots approaching? (Exodus 14:10-12)
3) How did Moses and Israel celebrate their victory over Egypt? (Exodus 15:1-21)
4) Three days after their victory over Egypt, how did the LORD test Israel, and what spiritual lesson did He want the people to learn? (Exodus 15:22-27).
Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith
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