There are several embattled texts in the Bible. The creation account in Genesis. The plagues earlier in Exodus. And Exodus 14: the crossing of the Red Sea.
In 2010, Carl Drews published a paper theorizing how this crossing could be explained in naturalistic ways. He states that a better understanding is that it was the shallow, 6 inch Reed Sea and that a wind event of 65 mph that could make the crossing possible. But he really tells us how he views the word of God when he comments on his study like this:
“Faith and science can be compatible if you are willing to consider other interpretations of the text, other ideas of how this could have happened.”
R.C. Sproul tells of a story that involves a Sunday School teacher who espoused this understanding and sought to teach it to the children. When the kid got home that afternoon, he was eager to tell his parents of the amazing way that could miraculously drown all the Egyptian army in 6 inches of water.
In the last 50yrs, there has been an increased fervor in modern society and academics to speak of the Bible in different terms. “This account is historical fact and story”, they say. “It is an artificial and theologically influenced literary construct.” “It was not a miraculous revelation, but a brilliant product of the human imagination.” (A history of ancient Israel and Judah, 1986 and The Bible Unearthed, 2001)
Now I guess I just have less faith in the brilliance of the human imagination to produce such a thing as the Bible. Because the Bible consists of 66 books written over the span of about 1600 years by over 40 authors in 3 languages and across 3 continents. Yet it has one cohesive theme and focus. Today we will see how God continues to do what He has always done: that is, to glorify Himself in the salvation of His people.
God will glorify himself through the saving of His people
This is the major theme of the whole Bible, and God makes it the focus of our text today. He isn’t satisfied with sharing the glory. In fact, this entire account shows that God wanted to be remembered as the God who did it all. There was not one aspect of this account that has Moses or the Israelites actually doing the saving. Yes, they obeyed the commands of God to raise hands or walk on the dry ground, but God does the actual work of saving at every turn.
The Lord is setting the scene and hardening Pharaoh’s heart (v1–18)
Specifically in verses 1–4, the Lord even tells Moses what is coming. God sets a trap for Egypt, but not any trap. I don’t know how this concept lands on you. The reason why we can feel like this was risky, is that there is a problem with setting traps: the bait is either in danger or used as expendable.
The difference here? Israel was never in any actual risk. God is the only being strong and capable enough to set a trap and there never be any actual risk involved for the bait. He doesn’t play fast and lose with our lives. Even when our view may be terribly frightening, God is in control.
In verses 5–9, we see a lot of reasons to be afraid, if God sets a trap like we do, unable to control all possible outcomes.
So the fear and dismay in verses 10–12 is understandable, but misplaced.
John Mackay said it this way: “They are more aware of what Pharaoh is liable to do to them than they are of the promises God has given to them.”
Does this describe your moment today? How are you misplacing your fear and living in worry, doubt, or despair of your present circumstance? The words of Moses are for you today as well:
“And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent’ ” (Exodus 14:13–14).
You have only to be silent.
When God is set on saving His people, no one can change the plan. When God sent His Son, Jesus, to be born a man of a virgin, live the perfect life that we couldn’t, and die the death that we deserve bearing the full wrath of God towards sin, God secured His people.
Then Moses originally asked for three days to worship God, but God planned to save His people completely in that time. And when Jesus rose from the grave on the third day, God redeemed the people that He secured.
Tim Chester said: “I’m responsible for my sin, [but] I am not responsible for achieving my forgiveness — I must leave that to God too, and be still.”
We need not despair of our sin when we serve the kind of God that He is. God will glorify Himself through the saving of His people. He keeps us safe in the face of death itself.
The Lord gives strength to His people
God was establishing a Kingdom that would never fail. He has been creating for Himself and our good in Him, a Kingdom that lasts forever.
“And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a Kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the Kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these Kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever” (Daniel 2:44).
You and I are a part of this Kingdom if you stand in Christ today. And our entrance is conditional upon our silent obedience, our turning from sin and believing the promise of God.
God revealing His plan to Moses and Israel in verses 15–18 is a lot like how we know His plan today. God has called us to humbly obey and follow His lead.
He’s given us instructions to follow as a demonstration of our believing His promise of salvation.
And He has even told us what is coming.
The world will continue in sin.
God will protect His people.
Jesus is coming back for His Church.
All who are in Christ will be with God in a restored creation forever where sin and its effects will never be seen or known again
Oh and this blessed text, the answer to verse 13 is seen in verses 19–20.
“Then the angel of God who was going before the host of Israel moved and went behind them, and the pillar of cloud moved from before them and stood behind them, coming between the host of Egypt and the host of Israel. And there was the cloud and the darkness. And it lit up the night without one coming near the other all night” (Exodus 14:19–20).
This reference to this messenger of God here is best understood as a pre-incarnate theophany or simply put: this is the Son of God. There was someone in that cloud and pillar. He protected the Israelites here so powerfully, that an army couldn’t manage to get through Him and reach their intended target. All night.
Now the fun begins. If you weren’t already at the edge of your seat, you will be now. God parts the Red Sea. Walls of water on both sides, but dry ground below. Not sure if you’ve noticed or not. The sea ground is typically wet, even at low tide. There isn’t a little bit of water that the Israelites are walking through as some try to claim of the text.
Nope, dry. God “made the sea dry land”. There is creation level power at work here. We are supposed to remember the hand of God at Creation. He divided the water and brought forth dry ground in Genesis 1. And so here, God demonstrates His creation might by dividing the waters to bring forth dry ground.
I can’t honestly think of why any Egyptian would follow into this scene: walls of water to either side. It had to be blind rage from sinful hardening of hearts because reason would say, “Nope, hard pass. I’m not going into that.”
God was at work. A couple things started to happen. As the dawn grew, God caused panic and physical difficulties for the Egyptians.
Then they came to their senses: “Clogging their chariot wheels so that they drove heavily. And the Egyptians said, ‘Let us flee from before Israel, for the Lord fights for them against the Egyptians’” (Exodus 14:25).
But it was too late.
In verses 26–30, we see the defeat of the Egyptians by the hand of God. The walls fell and the enemy was defeated.
Verse 30 summarizes this whole chapter: “Thus the Lord saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore.”
What a glorious day this was! And how glorious is the day that we celebrate each Sunday in our gathering! When Jesus rose from the grave, He brought us through to the other side, and we now can look at the shoreline and see sin utterly defeated and lifeless.
Next time, we’ll see the greater nature of this story, one that involves us each and every day.