What an amazing passage we have before us today. It provides a kaleidoscope of images—the divine messenger, a pillar of fire and cloud, alternating light and darkness, a strong east wind, the sea clef in two, walls of water standing up and lying down, a dry sea canyon pathway, bogged-down Egyptians chariots, a lonely human hand twice stretched out, and a shore strewn with dead bodies and survivors who fear the LORD.
Pharaoh and his army are in hot pursuit; the Israelites are boxed in by the desert and Red Sea, they are terrified, and blame Moses for their helpless and hopeless situation. Exodus 14:13-14—
Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.”
The stage is set for the divine victory over the forces of chaos, but Yahweh is ticked-off with Moses in Exodus 14:15-16—
Then the LORD said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on. Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground.
Can prayer ever be out of place? If God had promised to bring Israel out of Egypt and to give them the land of Canaan, then Moses and Israel had best stop their crying. Moses may have been scolded for conveying the people’s cry to God.
I can imagine Moses’ cry went something like this, “LORD?! LORD, what are we going to do? When Pharaoh hits us, we’re going flattened like pancakes under chariot wheels.”
The reply comes back, “Why don’t you just all just cross over this Sea?”
“Oh, LORD, you must be joking! You don’t mean that! There is no ferry, boats, rafts, surf boards—nothing! Now LORD, you know we can’t do that!—No one’s walked on water yet!”
Meanwhile to the tune of Rossini’s “William Tell Overture,” the army of Pharaoh is thundering out past Etham, down the costal plain to Pi Hahiroth. The galloping of the horses raises a cloud of sand and dust as high as Mt. Saint Helen! Up in the lead chariot Pharaoh is yelling at his driver, “Is this all you can get out of this wreck—crack the whip!”
At such times faith calls for action, not crying out to the LORD. A leader must lead, not complain. He is to take action—to tell the people to MOVE ON—FORWARD—to step out in faith.
“W-where am I going, LORD?” “You’re going to a MASS BAPTISM.” “But what about the Sea?” “What have you got in your hand, Moses?”
Moses slaps his forehead, snaps his fingers and his eyes light up as someone pulled the switch.
“THE STAFF! I have the staff!” “Why good grief, great goodness . . .” “Careful there Moses. No cussin!” “I had forgotten all about it!”
We do know what God said to Moses next. Exodus 14:17-19—
I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them. And I will gain glory through Pharaoh and all his army, through his chariots and his horsemen. The
Egyptians will know that I am the LORD when I gain glory through Pharaoh, his chariots and his horsemen.”
It is God who is first to take decisive action. Exodus 14:19-20—
Then the angel of God, who had been traveling in front of Israel’s army, withdrew and went behind them. The pillar of cloud also moved from in front and stood behind them, coming between the armies of Egypt and Israel. Throughout the night the cloud brought darkness to the one side and light to the other; so neither went near the other all night long.
THE ANGEL OF GOD who was in the FIERY CLOUD became the rear guard of the Israelites. What was light for Israel became darkness for the Egyptians. The double nature of the glory of God in salvation and judgment, which later appears so frequently in Scripture, could not have been more graphically depicted. Symbolically, everyone who belongs to Satan’s dominion is in darkness and those who belong to God’s kingdom are in light. The Israelites were no longer children of the night, but children of the day. And Pharaoh and his army were unable to penetrate the supernatural night.
This double aspect of the Fiery Cloud is 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 a guilty world. The self-same blood purges the believer’s conscience and gives him light, casts darkness on the earth and consummates its guilt.
The very mission of the Son of God, which strips the world of its cloak, and leaves the world wholly without excuse, clothes the Church with a robe of righteousness, and it fills her mouth with ceaseless praise. The very same Lamb who will terrify, by His absolute wrath, all tribes and classes of earth, will Shepherd His blood-brought flock through the valley of the shadow of death into the house of the LORD to dwell forever.
Events continue in and through a human agent, Moses, and a natural entity, a strong east wind. Exodus 14:21-22—
Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the LORD drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left.
Again, the forces of nature are on God’s side. The agencies that create the path through the sea are threefold—divine, human, and the forces of nature—working in harmony with one another. As been the case through out the Book of Exodus, God does not work alone. God works through the instrumentality of both human and nonhuman powers to accomplish His purpose.
The effect is AN ACT OF CREATION. Dry land appears in the midst of chaos, just as in Genesis 1:9-10—
And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so. God called the dry ground “land”, and the gathered waters he called “seas”. And God saw that it was good.
God again is taking up His efforts of returning creation to a point where His mission can once again be taken up of life-giving, life-preserving, and life-blessing.
What happens in nature creates new possibilities FOR GOD within the historical sphere. The work of God as Creator effects the redemption of a people. The activities of God as Creator and Redeemer are here integrated. The result is not simply historical redemption but a new creation.
This creative act prompts a twofold human response. On the one hand, under cover of darkness, the people of Israel walk through the sea on dry ground. In Exodus 14:29, the Hebrew word for WENT is also WALK. The people of Israel are thus not passive; it is an act of faith to walk through such a sea canyon—with walls of water on both sides. I think I would have ran!
The sea opened as Israel moved forward, so that every fresh step they needed to be cast upon God. Such is the path along which the redeemed of the LORD move, under His guiding Light. So it was then, such is the true path of faith now!
But faith is not hereby made into a work; it is the appropriation of a gift created quite apart from Israel’s own doing. On the other hand, the Egyptians follow Israel’s lead into the new created possibilities, with chariots and all. But God’s creative activity makes for possibilities of judgment as well as redemption— so it will be in the Tribulation Period.
The character of human response shapes the nature of the participation in those new realities. The Egyptians anti-creation purposes to subvert the just order of God’s world and terminate life and blessing place them in diametric opposition to what God has newly brought into being.
But, even more, God has entered into the willfulness of their bent on evil, driving their hard hearts relentlessly to their final ruin. As the light dawns on Israel, the night falls on the Egyptians. God cuts off the Egyptians’ participation in the new creation. Exodus 14:23-25—
The Egyptians pursued them, and all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots and horsemen followed them into the sea. During the last watch of the night the LORD looked down from the pillar of fire and cloud at the Egyptian army and threw it into confusion. He made the wheels of their chariots come off so that they had difficulty driving. And the Egyptians said, “Let’s get away from the Israelites! The LORD is fighting for them against Egypt.”
Do you wonder what was going on in the minds of Pharaoh and the Egyptians? They might have been thinking, “we are chasing the Israelites because we want to.” The fact is that God is forcing the Egyptians to do thing that is in their hearts and there will be no retreat!
THE LORD LOOKED DOWN is never just a matter of “seeing” but a demonstration of some wrath or mercy. God enters into the battle. The LORD has begun His fight against Egypt as Moses promised in Exodus 14:14.
This LOOK must have unleashed such a spectacular display of thunder, lightning, rain, and earthquake that the boldest and most arrogant of Egypt’s charioteers were struck with terror. So we understand from Psalm 77:16-20—
The waters saw you, O God, the waters saw you and writhed; the very depths were convulsed. The clouds poured down water, the skies resounded with thunder; your arrows flashed back and forth. Your thunder was heard in the whirlwind, your lightning lit up the world; the earth trembled and quaked. Your path led through the sea, your way through the mighty waters, though your footprints were not seen. You led your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.
The dry land is turned into a quagmire. The chariot wheels came off. The brightest and best of the Egyptian military become bogged down. Terror-stricken, they suddenly realize that they are in over their heads, that a power is at work on behalf of the Israelites that will turn back their efforts.
They voice a public confession regarding Israel’s God—‘YAHWEH IS FIGHTING FOR THEM AGAINST EGYPT.” How ironic! In the end times, Satan will oppose God’s people only to discover that God is fighting for them. The Antichrist and his forces will be destroyed as was Pharaoh and the Egyptians.
The opening of the sea is the closing down of the forces that oppose God’s people. Exodus 14:26-28—
Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea so that the waters may flow back over the Egyptians and their chariots and horsemen.” Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at daybreak the sea went back to its place. The Egyptians were fleeing towards it, and the LORD swept them into the sea. The water flowed back and covered the chariots and horsemen—the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed the Israelites into the sea. Not one of them survived. But the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left.
Moses stretches forth his hand over the sea and like the walls of Jericho; the walls of water come tumbling down on the Egyptians. The dry ground disappears. The Egyptians take flight right into returning waves. They drown in the midst of a chaos of their own making. Not one remained alive. As morning breaks, the sea is calm and the shore is covered with Egyptian dead. Chaos has been overcome!
But Israel walked through the sea on dry ground and was safely standing on the opposite shore. God is the Victor! Israel is free! The created order is once again established.
This is a MIRACLE of the first magnitude! There is no natural way to explain what happened. It is impossible to explain it naturally! Exodus 14:30-31 simply state—
That day the LORD saved Israel from the hands of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the
Egyptians lying dead on the shore. And when the Israelites saw the great power the LORD displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the LORD and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant.
THAT DAY THE LORD SAVED ISRAEL—there is another day coming like this one according to Romans 11:26—
And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: “The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob.
The Hebrew literally reads ISRAEL SAW EGYPT LYING DEAD ON THE SHORE. Egypt is seen as one corpse—it is dead as a national power over Israel.
This chapter shows Israel triumphant on the shore of the Red Sea, and the dead bodies of Pharaoh’s army washed upon shore. The fears of the Israelites and the boasting of Egyptians have both proved to be groundless. Yahweh’s glorious work had annihilated both the one and the other. The same waters that formed walls for God’s redeemed, formed a grave for Pharaoh. Thus, it is ever—those who walk by faith find the path to walk in, while all others perish.
Those who attempt to imitate faith’s actions will be confounded and perish. Blessed are they who are enabled, however, feebly, to walk by faith and find life. They are moving onward along a path of unspeakable blessedness—a path which, though it may be marked by failure and infirmity, is nevertheless begun, continued, and ended in God.
Dead bodies cover the shores—the evidence of God’s victory is complete and visible! A strange mixture of fear and trust grip the hearts of the Israelites when they see the great work that God had done.
Moses, the one who serves as an instrument of God’s word and action is trusted as one who truly represents the God in whose Name he speaks. But it is God alone who is revered and worshiped and to whom Israel’s doxologies are sung in Chapter 15. Yahweh receives the glory!
PUT THEIR TRUST IN HIM is a noteworthy expression because they had all believed in Him already according to Hebrews 11:29—
By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned.
By faith, they had kept the Passover by sprinkling of blood and by faith they forsook Egypt. But their former trust was poor and wavering compared with that which filled their hearts now. So the disciples followed Jesus because they believed on Him. Yet we are told in John 2:11, with His first miracle of turning water to wine at Cana of Galilee—
He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him.
Faith needs to be edified by successive experiences. From each new crisis of the spiritual life the heart obtains new power—seeking to go from strength to strength.
There is much deep spiritual instruction for the Christian here. We dare not turn from this fruitful chapter of Exodus without looking at 1 Corinthians 10:1-4—
For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.
The apostle Paul goes on to say, “Now these things occurred as examples”—TYPES. Just as Christian baptism identifies the believer with Christ, so Israel’s baptism identified the people with Moses.
Christ redeems His people from sin and death, while God through Moses delivered the Israelites from the oppression in Egypt and the destructive waters of the Red Sea.
Israel was delivered from Egypt by the blood of the lamb just as Christians are delivered from the powers of evil by the Cross. God opened the sea to let the Israelites through, thus separating them from the slavery in Egypt; in like manner, the resurrection of Christ has separated the Christian from the bondage of the world, the flesh and the Devil.
The Jews ate manna, and Christians feed on Christ, the Bread of Life, as they partake of the Word. Israel drank water supernaturally provided, and Christians drink the living water of salvation—the refreshing water of the Spirit.
Note that the Israelites were saved before they took their first step on the dry ground between the walls of water. They were already redeemed by the blood of the Passover lambs. Their baptism is a perfect type for NT baptism. Israelites and Christians alike must believe in the blood of the Lamb and be redeemed before being baptized. Baptism follows Faith and Redemption.
The experiences of being UNDER THE CLOUD and PASSING THROUGH THE SEA both related to the identification of the Israelites as a people now separated from Egypt and under God’s protection. As the RED SEA symbolized the end of Israel’s slavery and its beginning as a new nation, so baptism for the Christian means a separation from sin and consecration to God.
Baptism pictures the death of the sinner, who served Pharaoh—the god of this world—and of the redeemed believer who emerges out of the sea to worship and serve God as portrayed in Chapter 15 of Exodus.
Baptism joins the people of faith together in oneness—they all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink. They all partook of the Giver of spiritual life!
The cloud and the sea were to them what the Cross and Empty Tomb of Christ are to us. The CLOUD secured them from their enemies; the sea separated them from Egypt. The CROSS, in like manner, shields us from all that could be against us, and we stand at heaven’s side of the empty tomb of Jesus. Here we commence our desert journey—here we begin to taste the heavenly Manna, and drink of the streams which emanate from “that spiritual Rock,” while, as a pilgrim people, we make our way onward to that land of rest of which God has promised to us.
There is a difference between crossing the RED SEA and the JORDAN. Both are types of the death and resurrection of Christ. The crossing of the RED SEA separates from EGYPT while the crossing of JORDAN introduces into the Promised Land. The believers are not merely separated from this present evil world by the Cross of Christ, but they are raised to new life with Christ according to Ephesians 2:46—
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.
In the OT, the miracle of the Red Sea holds the same place the Resurrection holds in the NT. It is standard of measurement of the supreme demonstration of God’s power. Little wonder, then, that each generation of infidels has directed special attacks against this miracle. But to the Christian, miracles occasion no difficulty. The great difference between faith and unbelief is that one BRINGS IN God, the other SHUTS Him OUT. With God all things are possible. Bring in God and supernatural displays of power are to be expected.
Typically, the crossing of the Red Sea foreshadows Christ making a way through death for His people. The Red Sea is the figure of death—the boundary-line of Satan’s power. Moses is plainly the type of Christ, who raises his staff, which is the symbol of all power and authority, which Jesus claimed after His death and resurrection.
The Red Sea destroyed the power of Pharaoh (Satan) over God’s people. Hebrews 2:14 explains—
Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil.
The effect of Moses lifting up his staff and stretching forth his hand is blessed to behold in Exodus 14:22—
And the Israelites went/walked through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left.
Not only had that which symbolized death to the Israelites, had no power, but it was now a defense for them! This very sea, which at first they so much feared became the means of their deliverance from the Egyptians; and instead of proving their enemy, became their friend. Therefore, if death overtakes the believer before the Lord’s return, it only serves to bring him into the presence of Christ.
It is the believer passes over on dry ground, but the unbeliever meets certain destruction.
In Exodus 14:13, Moses said, “See the deliverance the LORD will bring you today.” Do you see it?
EVANGELICALLY, the crossing of the Red Sea tells of the completeness of our salvation. It is the sequel to the Passover night and both are needed to give us a full view of what Christ accomplished for us. In Hebrews 9:27, we read—
Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment.
For the believer this order is reversed, as it was with His Substitute. It was during the three awful hours of darkness, while He hung on the Cross, that the Lord Jesus endured the “judgment” of God against our sins. Having passed through the waters of God’s wrath, He then yielded up His Spirit.
On the Passover night, we see Israel sheltered by the blood from the judgment of God—the Destroyer. Here at the Red Sea, we behold them brought safely through the place of death. The order is reversed for the unbeliever—“after death, the judgment for him.”
DOCTRINALLY, the passage through the Red Sea sets forth the believer’s union with Christ in His death and resurrection. Paul declares in Galatians 2:20—
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
As Israel passed through the Red Sea, and emerged safely on the far side, we also experience life with Christ by faith. The deliverance of Israel from the Red Sea illustrates the absolute sufficiency of our God to deliver us from death.
DISPENSATIONALLY, the passing of Israel through the Red Sea may also foreshadow the yet future deliverance and restoration of the nation of Israel.
The SEA is a well-known figure for the GENTILE NATIONS in the OT. Among the Gentiles, the seed of Abraham have long been scattered, and to the eye of sense it has seemed that they would be utterly swallowed up. But marvelously God has preserved the Jews all through the centuries.
The SEA has not consumed them. For the most part, the Jews still dwell as scattered people. But we live in the time when Yahweh is fulfilling His promises and Israel is being brought safely out of the SEA of the Gentiles into their own land.
Who would have believed ten years ago that Russian Jews would be allowed to return by the millions to the Promised Land? With each passing day, the Exodus from the Sea continues!
Moses words ring out to us, “See the deliverance of Yahweh today!”