AS WE STEP OUT IN FAITH THE POWERFUL SALVATION OF THE LORD GLORIFIES HIS NAME
The crossing of the Red Sea is one of those classic bible stories that is foundational for the Christian faith. God directs His people into desperate circumstances where no way out is humanly visible. Caught between the deep waters of the Red Sea and the oncoming pursuit of the Egyptian army, the people of God must look to God in faith for deliverance.
Lizz Wright: God Specializes
Have you any rivers
That seem uncrossable?
And have you any mountain
That you cannot tunnel through?
In things thought impossible
And He will do what no other
No other power but holy power can do
Ryken: All good stories have a climax, but the book of Exodus is such a great adventure that it has not one, but three.
– The first climax is Israel crossing the Red Sea in chapter 14;
– the second is God giving his Law at Mount Sinai in chapters 19 and following;
and the third is the glory of the Lord filling the tabernacle at the end of chapter 40.
John Mackay: The Exodus, the going out of the Israelites from Egypt, is now complete. Their departure from the land on the night of the Passover and their passage through the Red Sea have to be thought of as two parts of the one event in the same way as the crucifixion and the resurrection are both required to constitute the gospel message. The escape from Egypt delivered the Lord’s people from the oppression of the demonic forces that were distorting God’s creation order for their own ends. The earthly embodiment of these forces in the army of Pharaoh has now been divinely destroyed with an overwhelming display of sovereign power. “The Egyptians you see today you will never see again” (14:13).
By going through the waters the people were all united into the bond of the covenant as mediated by Moses. “Our forefathers were all under the cloud and … they all passed through the sea. They were all baptised into Moses in the cloud and in the sea” (1 Cor. 10:1–2). Through Moses the Lord had done extraordinary things on their behalf, and so they were from that time forward under obligation to acknowledge Moses’ leadership and obey his instructions.
Standing on the other side of the sea, the people might have thought that all their difficulties were now over, but having been brought by divine power into a new relationship with God, they now have to learn how to live in terms of the covenant bond God has forged between himself and them. They are moving to the land of promise, but their slowness to learn means that they will be delayed along the road. Salvation does not ordinarily lead straight to glory: there is still on earth a preparatory process that the Lord leads his people through to make them ready for their full enjoyment of the inheritance.
I. (:15-16) GET MOVING – STEP OUT IN FAITH TO ACCOMPLISH GOD’S MISSION
A. (:15) Mobilize God’s People
1. Time to Stop Praying for Guidance
“Then the LORD said to Moses,
‘Why are you crying out to Me?’”
You have the guidance you need; any additional time spent crying out to the Lord would be a delaying tactic; you need to exercise faith and move out
Ryken: Probably the best way to understand this is to recognize that as Israel’s prophet, Moses represented the people before God. He was their mediator in the covenant. The rebuke that God gave him, therefore, was really meant for all Israel. The hour of their salvation had come. This was no time for crying and complaining; it was time to move on. When Charles Spurgeon preached on this verse, he said, “Far be it from me ever to say a word in disparagement of the holy, happy, heavenly exercise of prayer. But, beloved, there are times when prayer is not enough—when prayer itself is out of season.… When we have prayed over a matter to a certain degree, it then becomes sinful to tarry any longer; our plain duty is to carry our desires into action, and having asked God’s guidance, and having received divine power from on high, to go at once to our duty without any longer deliberation or delay.”
2. Time for Action = Go Forward!
“Tell the sons of Israel to go forward.”
Douglas Stuart: In saying “Tell the Israelites to move on,” God was asking for a breaking of camp, rounding up of animals, packing of belongings, an orderly departure by ranks. All this would take many hours, and, indeed, the remainder of that day and almost the entire evening were used in the process of getting the Israelites out of their encampment and into and across the sea (vv. 19–22).
Ian Paisley: God’s Marching Orders
To Go Back Is Destruction
Never be tempted to go back when God commands, “Go forward”. To turn back is disobedience to God’s commandment and certain destruction. If Israel had turned back they, and not the Egyptians, would have been destroyed.
It Is the Only Way of Escape
Israel was shut up to going forward, on the right hand and on the left high mountains, behind them their bloodthirsty enemies and before them the Red Sea. God’s way seemed impossible but it was possible, for God promised to part the sea. What God promises He will surely perform. Escape is certain if we go forward.
If You Would Have God with You
God is only with us when we go His way. To disobey God is to depart from God. In God’s path alone is God’s presence.
Go forward! Keep going forward! Keep on going forward!
Wade Horton: Victory is won by going forward. “Go forward!” God will take care of the enemy.
B. (:16) Make a Way Where There Seems to be No Way
1. Divide the Sea to Make a Way to Move Forward
“And as for you, lift up your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea
and divide it,”
Douglas Stuart: Again the staff of God plays an important role in a miracle, symbolizing God’s power and presence and reminding all concerned that it was not Moses but God who performed the supernatural. Again as well, the language of stretching out the hand refers to using the staff. As the staff had affected the Nile in first plague, turning water to blood (esp. 7:17–20), and in the second, producing frogs from the Nile (8:1–15), now it would affect an even greater body of water, the Red Sea, causing it to divide.
2. Direct God’s People to Walk by Faith to Overcome the Greatest Obstacle
“and the sons of Israel shall go through the midst of the sea
on dry land.”
Bruce Hurt: This passage reminds me of Don Moen’s famous song “God Will Make a Way” (of course in this case God will make a way Israel could see)….
Oh, God will make a way
Where there seems to be no way
He works in ways we cannot see
He will make a way for me
He will be my guide
Hold me closely to His side
With love and strength for each new day
He will make a way, He will make a way
By a roadway in the wilderness, He’ll lead me
And rivers in the desert will I see
Heaven and Earth will fade but His word will still remain
And He will do something new today
Adrian Rogers: Do you know what God did to that dead-end? He turned it into an eight-lane super highway, and, dry-shod, they went through the Red Sea. God knows the way through the wilderness. Have you any that seem to be uncrossable? Have you any mountains you cannot tunnel through? God specializes in things that seem to be impossible. He knows a thousand ways to make a way for you. “I am the Lord thy God. Is there anything too hard for Me?” (Jeremiah 32:27) And, that so-called impossibility is God’s opportunity to display His glory and His might, if you are living in the Spirit, and if you have your eye on that pillar of cloud and that pillar of fire.
II. (:17-18) PRIORITIZE GOD’S HONOR – LOOK FOR GOD TO GLORIFY HIMSELF
A. (:17a) Strategy = Hardening Hearts – Leads to Foolish Presumption
1. Harden Hearts – cf. 14:4
“And as for Me, behold, I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians”
2. Foolish Presumption
“so that they will go in after them;”
B. (:17b-18) Showdown = Seeking Honor
“and I will be honored through Pharaoh and all his army, through his chariots and his horsemen. Then the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD, when I am honored through Pharaoh, through his chariots and his horsemen.”
John Currid: The second half of the verse is dominated by four instances of the preposition beth being used to convey instrumentality. It literally reads, ‘I will be glorified [kābēd] by Pharaoh, by his army, by his chariots and by his cavalry.’ This is a statement of the ultimate purpose and significance of the Red Sea incident.
David Guzik: God was not finished answering Pharaoh’s question from Exodus 5:2, when Pharaoh asked “Who is the LORD, that I should obey His voice to let Israel go?” God used the miracle of the parting of the Red Sea to speak to Egypt as much as He used it to speak to Israel. This is an aspect of the spiritual life rarely reflected upon, yet Ephesians 3:10–11 tell us that God uses His people to teach angelic beings. When God delivers us from a temptation or crisis, it is as much a testimony to our invisible adversaries as it is to us. God uses each victory in our life to tell our unseen enemies of His power and ability to work in and through frail humanity.
III. (:19-20) MAINTAIN SEPARATION BETWEEN GOD’S PEOPLE AND THE WORLD
A. (:19-20a) God Maintains the Separation
1. Function of the Angel of God
“And the angel of God, who had been going before the camp of Israel, moved and went behind them;”
2. Function of the Pillar of Cloud
“and the pillar of cloud moved from before them
and stood behind them.
So it came between the camp of Egypt and the camp of Israel;
and there was the cloud along with the darkness,
yet it gave light at night.”
C H McIntosh: The pillar of the cloud. “It was a cloud and darkness” to the Egyptians, but “it gave light by night” to Israel. How like the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ! Truly that cross has a double aspect, likewise. It forms the foundation of the believer’s peace; and, at the same time, seals the condemnation of the guilty world. The self-same blood which purges the believer’s conscience and gives him perfect peace, stains this earth and consummates its guilt. The very mission of the Son of God which strips the world of its cloak, and leaves it wholly without excuse, clothes the Church with a fair mantle of righteousness, and fills her mouth with ceaseless praise. The very same Lamb who will terrify, by His unmitigated wrath, all tribes and classes of earth, will lead, by His gentle hand, His blood-bought flock, through the green pastures, and beside the still waters forever.
Douglas Stuart: In these verses God shows himself a protector of his people through the pillar, not merely a guide to them. That God should lead his people through the wilderness is important; that he should protect them from harm on the way is equally as important. Once the Israelites could see the Egyptian chariots approaching them, it was only a matter of minutes until they would be overtaken. Something therefore had to prevent the Egyptians from surrounding and re-enslaving the Israelites, to allow God’s people the many hours they needed to break camp, form ranks, and cross the Red Sea.
B. (:20b) Separation Provides Protection
“Thus the one did not come near the other all night.”
Wiersbe: The pillar moved between the Israelites and the Egyptians, indicating that God had become a wall of protection between His people and their enemies. The pillar gave light to Israel but darkness to the enemy, for the faithless people of Egypt couldn’t understand the ways of God.
IV. (:21-29) CROSS OVER IN SAFETY VS DESTRUCTION — PARTING OF THE SEA WITH TWO VERY DIFFERENT OUTCOMES
A. (:21-22) Safety for Israel
1. (:21a) Role of Moses
“Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea;”
2. (:21b) Role of the Lord
“and the LORD swept the sea back by a strong east wind all night,
and turned the sea into dry land, so the waters were divided.”
Youngblood: miracles issue from God and occur in accordance with His timing as He controls the forces of nature to accomplish His will.
3. (:22a) Role of God’s People
“And the sons of Israel went through the midst of the sea
on the dry land,”
4. (:22b) Role of the Walled Up Waters
“and the waters were like a wall to them
on their right hand and on their left.”
John Davis: How wide an area was provided for the crossing is not given in the text of Exodus. It might well be that this was a considerable passageway in view of the fact that many Israelites had to cross.
B. (:23-28) Destruction for Egyptians
1. (:23-25) Transition from Pursuit to Panic
a. (:23) Pursuit – False Confidence
“Then the Egyptians took up the pursuit, and all Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots and his horsemen went in after them into the midst of the sea.”
Douglas Stuart: (:23-25) — Four difficulties thwarted the Egyptian army’s attempt to capture the Israelites: they pursued into the sea, they suffered from God’s direct debilitation of their minds, they had trouble with chariot wheels (possibly a synecdoche for any number of chariot failures), and they suffered a sense of defeatism.
b. (:24-25a) Perplexity – Unexplained Difficulties
“And it came about at the morning watch, that the LORD looked down on the army of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and cloud and brought the army of the Egyptians into confusion. And He caused their chariot wheels to swerve, and He made them drive with difficulty;”
c. (:25b) Panic – True Realization – but too late
“so the Egyptians said, ‘Let us flee from Israel, for the LORD is fighting for them against the Egyptians.’”
2. (:26-28) Total Destruction
a. (:26-27) Role of Moses
“Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Stretch out your hand over the sea so that the waters may come back over the Egyptians, over their chariots and their horsemen.’
So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to its normal state at daybreak, while the Egyptians were fleeing right into it;”
b. (:28) Role of the Lord
“then the LORD overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea. And the waters returned and covered the chariots and the horsemen, even Pharaoh’s entire army that had gone into the sea after them; not even one of them remained.”
Gispen: Verse 28 gives the impression that Pharaoh himself did not follow the Israelites into the sea.
Ryken: This was all part of God’s strategy. He lured the Egyptians into chasing Moses across the desert, and when they finally caught up, it was right at the spot where God planned for them to meet their watery doom. There were no survivors (cf. Ps. 106:11). A rushing wave swept over them, and the next thing anyone knew, their bodies were washing up on the seashore. And God was glorified! Some may think it was harsh for God to drown an entire army, but it was right and just. Pharaoh and his soldiers were cruel men, bent on destroying God’s people. Was it not right for God to punish evil men for killing innocent children? It was especially appropriate for them to die by drowning because they had once tried to drown the children of Israel in the Nile. What happened to them at the Red Sea was divine retribution. These men deserved to be punished for their sins. And God is glorified when he judges people for their sins because this displays his divine attribute of justice.
God was also judging Egypt’s gods, and this too was for his glory. It is ironic that the Egyptians were defeated at daybreak because that is when their sun god was supposedly rising in the east. But Ra could not save them. Nor could Pharaoh save them, even though he too was revered as a god. According to one ancient Egyptian inscription, “He whom the king has loved will be a revered one, but there is no tomb for a rebel against his majesty, and his corpse is cast into the water.” This inscription was a threat to drown Pharaoh’s enemies, but in the end the Egyptians were the ones who were lost at sea! And God did this for the praise of his justice.
C. (:29) Safety for Israel
1. Successful Outcome
“But the sons of Israel walked on dry land through the midst of the sea,”
2. Supernatural Miracle
“and the waters were like a wall to them
on their right hand and on their left.”
V. (:30-31) SEE AND BELIEVE
A. (:30a) Historical Fact of Deliverance
“Thus the LORD saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians,”
B. (:30b-31) Spiritual Lessons Associated with Seeing and Believing
1. (:30b) Sight of the Dead Egyptians
“and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore.”
2. (:31a) Sight of the Miraculous Power of the Lord
“And when Israel saw the great power which the LORD had used
against the Egyptians,”
3. (:31b) Spiritual Lessons
a. Fearing the Lord
“the people feared the LORD,”
Walter Kaiser Jr.: The fear of the Lord (v. 31) was the signal of a responsive attitude of submission and love equivalent to putting one’s whole trust in him.
Oswalt: The event gave them good and sufficient reasons to believe the trustworthiness and the goodness of God, something they would not have believed without that experience.
b. Believing in the Lord and in His Appointed Leader
“and they believed in the LORD and in His servant Moses.”
Douglas Stuart: What was important for Israel was not merely that they were safe and the Egyptians were not; what mattered was that faith saves, and God had shown them how faith in him could pay off to their lasting benefit.
James Butler: The Red Sea miracle for the Israelites had a great effect upon them. Our text points out several of the effects. Like the resurrection of Christ is to the Christ believer, so the Red Sea miracle was a capstone of doctrine for the Israelites.
First—The Perception of the Miracle
“Israel saw that great work which the LORD did upon the Egyptians.”
Second—The Piety From the Miracles
“The people feared God.”
Third—The Persuasion From the Miracle
“And believed the LORD and his servant Moses.”
Wiersbe: They were now constituted as a nation with Moses as their leader. Through this “baptism,” the people of Israel were identified with Moses, just as in water baptism God’s people today are identified with Jesus Christ. The miracle of the Exodus became a part of Israel’s confession of faith when they brought their gifts to the Lord (Deut. 26:1-11).
John Hannah: The people often fluctuated between trust and complaining, between belief and unbelief (4:31; 5:21; 14:10-12, 31; 15:24; 16:2-4; 17:2-3).