AN EXPOSITION OF
The background for this story takes place within a dramatic setting. After 450 years of servitude, the Hebrews have been led out of Egypt by Moses. Their journey has brought the emerging people to a place where they are encamped next to the Red Sea. Surrounded by desert mountains, the people know that Pharaoh’s army is pressing down upon them. They are boxed in with no way of escape. “And they were sore afraid.” (Ex. 14:10)
Panic seized the people and they cried out unto Moses saying, “Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness? Wherefore hast thou dealt thus with us, to carry us forth out of Egypt?”
When people are in a state of emotional revolt in their soul, they do not think rationally. Moses did not bring Israel out into the desert to be destroyed having risked so much to deliver them.
Nevertheless, the people expressed their “we told you so” moment.
12 Is not this the word that we did tell thee in Egypt, saying, Let us alone, that we may serve the Egyptians? For it had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness.
Such language is foolish. It was not better to serve the Egyptians. It is better to be free, and to die standing, than to perish on their knees in humiliation and servitude. To calm the fears of the people, and to silence their emotional and irrational language, Moses addressed the concerns of the people.
13 ¶ And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will shew to you today: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen today, ye shall see them again no more forever.
The first command Moses gave to the people was to fear not. Time and again, the people of God are told not to fear. In Exodus 20:20 we read that “Moses said unto the people, Fear not: for God is come to prove you, and that his fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not.” The prophet Isaiah was told to tell his generation not to be afraid. “Fear thou not; for I [am] with thee: be not dismayed; for I [am] thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” (Isa. 41:10) The psalmist said, “I sought the LORD, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.” (Psalm 34:4)
Prior to the Fall, there was no need to fear anything, or anyone, but God. Because of the Fall, the heart is full of fear. Individuals have a fear of the future, fear of failure, fear of rejection, and fear of war. Sometimes, people die of fear and stress. However, those who trust in the LORD do not need to be unduly apprehensive. “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (2 Tim. 1:7)
The second command Moses gave to the people was to “stand still.” That is an amazing imperative given the circumstances. People feel compelled to do something. Standing still is not a viable option for most people. And yet, sometimes, it is what God wants His people to do. “Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 46:10)
There was a good reason for the first two imperatives. If the people stopped being afraid, if the people simply stood still for a moment, they would witness “the salvation of the LORD.” What a fantastic message that is. When believed, the fear takes wings and flies away. The heart becomes bold and brave. There is a spirit of amazing anticipation of what God is going to do. And best of all, some spiritual truths are learned.
First, salvation is not only by faith, but also by power. The Hebrew people were going to be saved from the Egyptians by the power of God. By way of personal application, spiritually, the people of God are going to be saved from Satan and sin by the power of God. In the life of the Christian, sin is no longer to have dominion over the soul. “Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him.” (Rom. 6:9)
As a good leader, Moses practiced what he preached to others. He was not afraid. And, Moses was standing still knowing that only God could handle this situation. Moses also believed God would deliver His people based upon all the past experiences with the LORD.
For Moses, the past was a prelude to the future. So, in a time of stress Moses manifested faith in the LORD, and invited others to join him in this journey in grace.
With renewed confidence in his voice, Moses plainly promised the people that the LORD would act on their behalf against the approaching Egyptian army.
14 The LORD shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.
With a bit of strong, but diplomatic language, Moses told the complaining, fearful, whining, irrational people to hush.
The Divine Instruction to Moses
Once the people had voiced their concerns to Moses, and he had managed to tell them to be strategically patient, Moses spoke to the LORD about the situation.
15 ¶ And the LORD said unto Moses, Wherefore criest thou unto me? Speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward:
It is at this point that the policy of strategic patience came to an end.
First, Moses was to stop praying. There is a time for prayer, and there is a time to stop praying.
Second, Moses was to speak to the children of Israel, and tell them it was time to march. What Moses did not tell them was that their march was to be through the body of water that stood before them, the Red Sea. Had Moses told the people that, they would know he had gone crazy in the hot desert sun. All Moses was to tell the people was to “go forward.” In like manner, every Christian is to go forward in helpless and hopeless situations.
“Onward, Christian soldiers,
marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus going on before.
Christ, the royal Master,
leads against the foe;
Forward into battle see His banners go!”
While the people prepared to march, and to go forward, Moses was to lead the way. Then, once he arrived at the edge of the water of the Red Sea, Moses was to do something incredible, by Divine design.
16 But lift thou up thy rod, and stretch out thine hand over the sea, and divide it: and the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea.
This was an amazing command. Moses was to lift up the rod that had been with him since the day he first talked to God at the burning bush. At the burning bush, the rod, or staff, had been transformed into a snake, and back again. (Ex. 4)The rod was later used to produce water from a rock. (Ex. 17:5-7) The rod was used at the parting of the Red Sea. (Ex. 14:16) The rod in Scripture represents power. God was the source of Moses’ power. As long as Moses had his rod, he had a symbolic representation of the power of God. Moses kept that staff until the day of his death.
According to the Jewish Midrash, the staff was passed down from generation to generation. It remained in the possession of the Judean kings until the First Temple was destroyed. In 1 Samuel 17:40, it is said, concerning King David: “And he took his staff in his hand.”
According to Midrashic tradition, this is a reference to Moses’ special staff. It is unknown what became of the staff after the Temple was destroyed in 586 BC by the Babylonians, and the Jews were exiled from their land.
Every Christian today finds comfort in knowing something about the Lord’s rod, as per Psalm 23. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” The power of God sustains the believer in every great ordeal.
The manifold purposes for the miracle God would perform through Moses in parting the Red Sea are given.
17 And I, behold, I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians, and they shall follow them: and I will get me honour upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host, upon his chariots, and upon his horsemen.
18 And the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I have gotten me honour [glory] upon Pharaoh, upon his chariots, and upon his horsemen.
In mercy and in judgment, God will be glorified.
In showing mercy to the Israelites, God would be honored and esteemed.
In bestowing judgment upon Pharaoh and the Egyptians, God would also be honored.
In all things, the LORD will be honored.
So, the stage was set for the final confrontation between the Egyptians and the Exodus Generation.
The Israelites were on the move forward. Moses knew exactly what he was to do once everyone reached the Red Sea. The army of Pharaoh was fast approaching. It was at this point that something wonderful took place.
What happened next could be seen only in part, which reminds Christians once more that there are spiritual realities unseen to us, but known to God. Sometimes these unseen realities are revealed.
The Bible says that the Angel of God, a reference to the Lord Jesus as a theophany, moved from leading the children of Israel, to the rear of the encampment. And the pillar of cloud, which day by day guided the children of Israel, suddenly moved to the rear of that vast body of Israelites.
19 ¶And the angel of God, which went before the camp of Israel, removed and went behind them; and the pillar of the cloud went from before their face, and stood behind them:
20 And it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel; and it was a cloud and darkness to them, but it gave light by night to these: so that the one came not near the other all the night.
What did all of this mean?
First, it meant that the LORD was standing between His people, and the enemies of His people.
Second, it meant that the LORD was standing to protect His people from any and every form of harm.
Third, it meant that the LORD had not brought the Israelites out into the desert to die, but to live and to serve Him, forever.
Fourth, it meant that God gives light to some, and plunges others into darkness, according to His sovereign will. God hardens whom He wills. He loves whom He will. God will show mercy to whom He will. And He will righteously destroy whom He will.