By Sam E. Stone
For the past two months we have studied God’s covenant relationship with Abraham and his descendants. We have seen the Lord’s protection surrounding Joseph and his family as well. God’s chosen people ended up in Egypt after Jacob and his entire family moved there to escape a famine in Canaan. Time passed.
The book of Exodus begins with an ominous note: “Then a new king, who did not know about Joseph, came to power in Egypt” (1:8). He saw the Jews as a potential threat and took oppressive measures to control their growth. Moses was born at this time. God selected him to lead his people out of Egyptian bondage and prepare them to enter the promised land. With the 10th plague sent by the Lord upon the Egyptians, the pharaoh finally allowed the Israelites to leave. But he changed his mind soon after they were gone and sent his army after them! That army was completely destroyed—drowned in the Red Sea. This is where today’s lesson text begins.
God’s people are a singing people, and now they have a new message. I will sing to the Lord, for he is highly exalted. No so-called god can compare to him (v. 11). The divine name Yahweh occurs 10 times in the song. The horse and its rider he has hurled into the sea. Pharaoh sent some 600 chariots to pursue the Israelites (Exodus 14:5-7), but even that number could not keep God from delivering them. After the Israelites passed through the sea on dry ground, the Egyptians came thundering after them. God disabled the wheels of their chariots (Exodus 14:25) and brought the water back over them.
This miraculous event is compared to the separation shown today in baptism (1 Corinthians 10:1, 2). In a sense the Israelites were “baptized into Moses.” They committed themselves to follow his leadership, just as Christians commit to follow the absolute leadership of Christ when they are baptized (Matthew 28:18-20). The children of Israel often failed to live up to their commitment, just as Christians also stumble and fall.
To the Lord alone belongs all praise and honor for what he has done. The best of Pharaoh’s officers were no match for God! C. F. Keil observed, “As the fact of Israel’s deliverance from the power of its oppressors is of everlasting importance to the church of the Lord in its conflict with the ungodly powers of the world . . . so Moses’ song at the Red Sea furnishes the church of the Lord with the materials for its songs of praise in all the great conflicts which it has to sustain, during its onward course, with the powers of the world.”
At this point, Miriam sang God’s praise. She is spoken of both as the prophetess and as Aaron’s sister. (Aaron is Moses’ brother.) Miriam is mentioned elsewhere in Scripture as a prophetess (Numbers 12:1, 2). A prophet is simply one who delivers a message that he or she has received from God.
The song affirms, The Lord will reign for ever and ever. Pharaoh himself led the Egyptian army and he was among those who died when the sea covered them all. The Israelites, however, walked through the sea on dry ground.
Miriam’s song repeats the first lines of the hymn sung by Moses and the Israelites earlier (v. 1). Some Bible students suggest that Miriam led the women in singing an antiphonal response to the words sung by Moses and the men. They also played tambourines and danced.
As the children of Israel traveled further into the desert, they had trouble locating water. When they did find some (at Marah), they could not drink it because it was so bitter. This led to another time of complaining. (The first time was reported in Exodus 14:10-12 when the Egyptian army pursued them.) God once more graciously provided what they needed. He had Moses throw a piece of wood into the water and it miraculously became sweet (compare 2 Kings 4:40, 41). The Lord made a decree and a law for them. The people were commanded to listen carefully to his voice and do right. If they would do this, God promised to be their protector and healer.
Sam E. Stone is the former editor of Christian Standard. He continues his writing and speaking ministry from his home in Cincinnati, Ohio.