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The Egyptians have expelled the people of Israel out of the land because of the mighty plagues that God struck against Egypt. The Israelites have plundered the Egyptians for the Egyptians gave the Israelites their gold and silver jewelry, as well as their clothing (12:35-36). Thus, the exodus has begun.
Trusting God’s Wisdom (13:17-18)
But there is something interesting that God wants us to know about this exodus. Look at Exodus 13:17. God did not lead the people of Israel by the land of the Philistines. This would have been the faster way and the most direct way. There was a major highway that would have led the people from Egypt to Canaan by going this way. But there is a reason why God did not take them along this road. “Lest the people change their minds when they see war and return to Egypt.” This is why God led them toward the Red Sea rather than to this major highway.
This sets up to be a teaching point that God wants Israel to learn. The best way is God’s way, not ours. Sometimes God takes us in what appears to be the roundabout way or way that does not see logical to us. But this is why we depend on the wisdom of God. God knows what he is doing even though we may not understand at all. God did not want the people to fall into fear by going through the land of the Philistines and be exposed to having to go to war with them. So God is at work in the life of Israel, working all things together for good for them. What it means to be God’s people is that we trust in his wisdom.
Trusting God’s Promise (13:19)
Not only this, the text wants us to know a little bit of history in verse 19. Moses took Joseph’s bones with him because Joseph had made the sons of Israel make an oath regarding his remains, which is recorded in Genesis 50:25. Joseph knew that God was going to come to them and bring them back to the land promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Though it would be hundreds of years later, Joseph trusted in God’s promise. He did not know when the promise would be fulfilled. All that he knew was that God said he would do it and Joseph believed completely in that promise. This is also a picture of what it means to be God’s people. Trust in God’s promise. Know that his promises will occur, even if fulfillment is outside of our lifetime.
Trusting God’s Direction (13:20-22)
Then we learn about God’s leadership and direction. The Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way. At night the Lord went before them in a pillar of fire to give them light. Whether day or night, the pillar never departed from before the people. The people could see that God was always with his people. Being God’s people means that God’s presence is with them and he does not leave them. These pillars of cloud and fire were also pictures of God’s protection (cf. Psalm 105:38). God spread a cloud for a covering. God is with his people, protecting his people, and leading his people.
Trusting God’s Salvation (14:1-31)
We need to see all of these points to appreciate the message of Exodus 14. Chapter 14 opens with the Lord telling Moses to turn back and camp in a particular place next to the sea. The reason is so that Pharaoh will think that the Israelites were lost in the wilderness and will pursue them. Notice that this is how God is hardening Pharaoh’s heart yet one more time. God is going to make it look like they are lost because they did not take the major highway out of Egypt but rather went in circles south toward the Red Sea. This will cause Pharaoh to come after Israel one more time. But God has a purpose: “I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, and the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord” (14:4). This is exactly what happens in verses 5-9. Pharaoh gets his army ready and pursues Israel and overtook them where they were encamped next to the sea.
When the people saw the Egyptians marching after them, they feared greatly and cried out to the Lord (14:10). But then notice what the people say in verses 11-12.
They said to Moses, “Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us in bringing us out of Egypt? Is not this what we said to you in Egypt: ‘Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.” (Exodus 14:11–12 ESV)
First, they say to Moses that he brought them out here to die. Some kind of rescue this is! What have you done to us! Second, notice what Israel had said to Moses when he came to deliver them. “Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians.” They did not want to be delivered in the first place. They were content to remain as slaves in Egypt. Now remember what chapter 13 revealed. Trust God’s wisdom, trust God’s promises, and trust God’s direction and protection. The first moment that trouble comes, the people complain and say that Moses has brought them out here to die. Do we ever do this? Do we encounter difficulties in life and cry out that God is messing us up and we want him to leave us alone? We just want God to leave us alone because we think God is wrecking our lives. This is because we do not trust God’s wisdom, God’s promises, or God’s direction. So we turn our backs on God. Let’s notice what Moses and God do.
First, Moses tells the people to not fear, stand firm, and watch for the salvation of the Lord which he will work today. You will never see the Egyptians again after today. The Lord will fight for you and you only need to be silent (14:13-14). Isn’t this amazing? God does the fighting. You just need to be still and not be afraid. You have to do nothing. Just watch God fight for us. Just be still and watch God do his work. Second, notice God’s response in 14:15-18. He says to not cry to him but to go forward. Lift up your staff and stretch it over the sea so that it divides and walk on dry ground. Then the pillar of cloud moved from before them to the rear, standing between the people of Israel and the armies of Egypt. Verse 20 indicates that Israel had light through the night while Egypt had darkness. Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea and then the Lord drove back the sea with a strong east wind so that the waters were divided. The people of Israel went in the midst of the sea on dry ground, the waters being a wall to them on the right and the left. Then the Egyptians began to follow in after them but God clogged their wheels and threw them into a panic. Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea and sea returned to its normal course when the morning came, covering all of Pharaoh’s army in the sea and none remained. “Thus the Lord saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore” (14:30). God’s enemies were destroyed at the exodus through Moses. The exodus was not merely deliverance from slavery but an event that forms Israel, giving them their new beginning.
The Song of Moses (15:1-21)
God’s salvation leads the people to sing. Moses and the people broke into song to the Lord. Read this song in Exodus 15. Please notice that the song has nothing to do with themselves. The song has nothing about what they did but what God has done. It is the song of victory that God gave them.
New Covenant Implications
We have spent each lesson considering what God was showing us regarding the redemption and salvation that would come when Christ arrives. The book of Exodus is the book of redemption, depicting for us how God saves. The first picture given to us is clear. God’s people trust God’s wisdom, trust God’s promises, and trust God’s direction even when circumstances look terrible. God deserves our trust because God has shown to us his wisdom, kept his promises, and provided direction and protection. We must not panic or give up when difficulties come. Trust in the Lord and watch him work.
Second, all of this scene is a picture of our salvation in Christ Jesus. Turn to 1 Corinthians 10:1-5.
1 For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3 and all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness. (1 Corinthians 10:1–5 ESV)
What we see in Israel’s salvation is paralleled to our salvation event. As the Israelites were pursued by Egypt into the place of death and yet Israel emerged alive while the Egyptians perished, so we have gone down into death with Christ and by God’s power emerged alive, while death itself is swallowed up in victory (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:54; Romans 6:1-4). We noted that the exodus was not merely deliverance from slavery but the event that forms the new Israel, giving them a new beginning. This is what Jesus has done. Jesus has not only set us free from sins as the new Moses promised by God, but this event, baptism into Christ’s death, gives us a new beginning as God’s people. It is a whole new life. When the waters came down, it was the final picture of freedom for Israel. The enemy had been destroyed. When the waters come down over us, our enemy of sin has been destroyed.
We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:4 ESV)
Who did this? God did through Jesus Christ, not us (Ephesians 2:1-10). We sit back and watch the victory God accomplished over Satan and over sin through the death and resurrection of Jesus. God has won. We just need to see the victory he accomplished. We just need to enjoy the spoils of war that has been given to us by God (cf. Ephesians 4:8-16). All of this is what the prophets were predicting, particularly the prophet Isaiah (cf. Isaiah 4:5-6; 11:15-16; 35:6-10; 40:3-5; 43:14-19; 48:20-21; 50:20; 51:9-11; 63:11-14). We have time to just look at one of these passages that parallels the exodus to our experience in Christ.
Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the Lord; awake, as in days of old, the generations of long ago. Was it not you who cut Rahab in pieces, who pierced the dragon? Was it not you who dried up the sea, the waters of the great deep, who made the depths of the sea a way for the redeemed to pass over? And the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away. (Isaiah 51:9–11 ESV)
The ransomed will return and come to Zion singing. What will they be singing? They are singing the song of Moses, just like these people in Exodus were singing.
And I saw what appeared to be a sea of glass mingled with fire—and also those who had conquered the beast and its image and the number of its name, standing beside the sea of glass with harps of God in their hands. And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, “Great and amazing are your deeds, O Lord God the Almighty! Just and true are your ways, O King of the nations! Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.” (Revelation 15:2–4 ESV)
God has won the battle and we sing the song of Moses, the song of victory, praising God for what he has done, not what we have done. Notice in the song of Moses in Exodus and the song of Moses in Revelation that praising God is not the discussion of our personal enjoyment of God. Praising God is acknowledging who God is and what he has done. The song is completely God centered, as our songs must be as well. We sing because of what God has done for us. We sing because God has overthrown his enemies. Both records of these songs contain a focus on what God has done, God’s lasting rule, and a recognition of peoples and nations that God must be feared.
Through Christ (new Moses) we as the church (new Israel) gain entrance into heaven (new promised land). In fact, Hebrews 4:1-13 teaches us that Christ has come to complete what Moses could not. Moses nor Joshua gave the people the promised rest. Rather, God spoke of another day.
For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. (Hebrews 4:8–11 ESV)
So we have come through the sea of baptism in our exodus from sin so that we can sing and glorify God who through Jesus has won the battle against sin, death, and Satan. Let us strive to enter the rest and remain steadfast in the Lord. Trust in God’s wisdom, trust in God’s promises, and trust in God’s direction and protection.