Then Moses and the people of Israel sang this song to the LORD, saying,
“I will sing to the LORD, for He has triumphed gloriously;
the horse and his rider He has thrown into the sea.
The LORD is my strength and my song,
and He has become my salvation;
this is my God, and I will praise Him,
my father’s God, and I will exalt Him.
The LORD is a man of war;
the LORD is His name.
Pharaoh’s chariots and his host He cast into the sea,
and his chosen officers were sunk in the Red Sea.
The floods covered them;
they went down into the depths like a stone.
Your right hand, O LORD, glorious in power,
Your right hand, O LORD, shatters the enemy.
In the greatness of Your majesty You overthrow Your adversaries;
You send out Your fury; it consumes them like stubble.
At the blast of Your nostrils the waters piled up;
the floods stood up in a heap;
the deeps congealed in the heart of the sea.
The enemy said, ‘I will pursue, I will overtake,
I will divide the spoil, my desire shall have its fill of them.
I will draw my sword; my hand shall destroy them.’
You blew with Your wind; the sea covered them;
they sank like lead in the mighty waters.
Who is like You, O LORD, among the gods?
Who is like You, majestic in holiness,
awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?
You stretched out Your right hand;
the earth swallowed them.
You have led in Your steadfast love the people whom You have redeemed;
You have guided them by Your strength to Your holy abode.
The peoples have heard; they tremble;
pangs have seized the inhabitants of Philistia.
Now are the chiefs of Edom dismayed;
trembling seizes the leaders of Moab;
all the inhabitants of Canaan have melted away.
Terror and dread fall upon them;
because of the greatness of Your arm, they are still as a stone,
till Your people, O LORD, pass by,
till the people pass by whom You have purchased.
You will bring them in and plant them on Your own mountain,
the place, O LORD, which You have made for Your abode,
the sanctuary, O Lord, which Your hands have established.
The LORD will reign forever and ever.”
For when the horses of Pharaoh with his chariots and his horsemen went into the sea, the LORD brought back the waters of the sea upon them, but the people of Israel walked on dry ground in the midst of the sea. Then Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women went out after her with tambourines and dancing. And Miriam sang to them:
“Sing to the LORD, for He has triumphed gloriously;
the horse and his rider He has thrown into the sea.”
More and more often in recent days, it seems, believers are feeling overwhelmed by the weight of darkness in a sin-stricken world. We cry out to God to hear us, but He seems silent. Evil appears to grow around us and even inside us. How do we know He hears us?
The Scripture for today is Exodus 15:1-21; we’ll get there eventually, but for now, let’s start at a place that may at first seem to be unrelated: Psalm 77. Here is the complete text.
To the Choirmaster: according to Jeduthun. A Psalm of Asaph:
I cry aloud to God,
aloud to God, and He will hear me.
2 In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord;
in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying;
my soul refuses to be comforted.
3 When I remember God, I moan;
when I meditate, my spirit faints. Selah
4 You hold my eyelids open;
I am so troubled that I cannot speak.
5 I consider the days of old,
the years long ago.
6 I said, “Let me remember my song in the night;
let me meditate in my heart.”
Then my spirit made a diligent search:
7 “Will the Lord spurn forever,
and never again be favorable?
8 Has His steadfast love forever ceased?
Are His promises at an end for all time?
9 Has God forgotten to be gracious?
Has He in anger shut up His compassion?” Selah
10 Then I said, “I will appeal to this,
to the years of the right hand of the Most High.”
11 I will remember the deeds of the LORD;
yes, I will remember Your wonders of old.
12 I will ponder all Your work,
and meditate on Your mighty deeds.
13 Your way, O God, is holy.
What god is great like our God?
14 You are the God who works wonders;
You have made known Your might among the peoples.
15 You with Your arm redeemed Your people,
the children of Jacob and Joseph.
16 When the waters saw You, O God,
when the waters saw You, they were afraid;
indeed, the deep trembled.
17 The clouds poured out water;
the skies gave forth thunder;
Your arrows flashed on every side.
18 The crash of Your thunder was in the whirlwind;
Your lightnings lighted up the world;
the earth trembled and shook.
19 Your way was through the sea,
Your path through the great waters;
yet Your footprints were unseen.
20 You led Your people like a flock
by the hand of Moses and Aaron.
The psalmist, like us, cries to God and knows that God will hear him, but he feels that He is silent in response – “I cry aloud to God, aloud to God, and He will hear me…Has His steadfast love forever ceased? …Has God forgotten to be gracious?” (verses 1, 8, 9) The psalmist’s recourse is to rehearse the mighty acts of God and, in particular, the Exodus: “You with Your arm redeemed Your people.” (verse 15 and following. Verses 16-20 are a poetic depiction of the passage of the people of Israel through the Red Sea.) The psalmist looks back to God’s saving work in the past for assurance that God will not abandon him in the present. He sees that as God saved His people from Pharoah and the Egyptians in the crossing of the Red Sea, He will save the psalmist himself.
We may not often consider it this way, but as Christians, the Exodus of Israel out of Egypt is our own history too. Firstly, we have been grafted into God’s people (Romans 11), and so the whole story of the people of Israel in the Old Testament is also our story. But there is something even more central to us as Christians: the Exodus itself, and the crossing of the Red Sea in particular, foreshadows the second and greater Exodus that is our salvation in Christ. Passover prefigures Christ’s death on the cross. In the crossing of the Red Sea, the waves of God’s wrath overwhelm Jesus Himself, and we ourselves pass through safely to the other side. Viewed another way, Christ has conquered the ancient enemies of death and sin and, as a new Moses, has led the people of God out of their former captivity.
In fact, the Apostle Paul goes so far as to say that Christ was Himself present to the people of Israel in the Exodus: “For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ” (1 Corinthians 10:1-4). As passing through the Red Sea was a kind of baptism for the people of Israel, our new baptism as Christians is in the death of Christ: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 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 6:3-4). We have been baptized into Christ, and we share in the victory that He won for us.
When Moses sings the song of the victory of God, he is also singing the song of God’s ultimate and complete victory: “Your right hand, O LORD, glorious in power, Your right hand, O LORD, shatters the enemy.” When we feel discouraged and think, “Will the Lord spurn forever, and never again be favorable?” (Psalm 77:7), we must recall that we have been baptized into Christ. He has the victory! Like the people of Israel, though we may feel that God has “taken us away to die in the wilderness,” whether that wilderness is the darkness of evil in the world or sin in our lives, though we may feel that our backs are to the sea and all our enemies pursue us, we must look back to the saving work of Christ, and His commitment to his people, whom He passed through the waters of the wrath of God to save.
At the end of his song, referring to “the people whom You have purchased” (Exodus 15:16), Moses says, “You will bring them in and plant them on Your own mountain, the place, O LORD, which You have made for your abode, the sanctuary, O LORD, which Your hands have established. The LORD will reign forever and ever” (Exodus 15:17-18). We have here in the early days of God’s people a foretaste of the eventual and complete Kingdom of God, more completely revealed by the Apostle John:
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God.” (Revelation 20:1-3)
Whatever our circumstances now, this is our story – Christ has already won the victory, and we have a home already in the new city of God, where He will reign forever and ever.