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Exodus 14:20 - 15:27

Frank Binford Hole


Not only did the Angel of God in the cloud plant Himself between Israel and their foes, but He so ordered it that, while to the Egyptians the cloud presented itself as an impenetrable fog of darkness, to Israel it was a powerful light. Verses 21 and 22 tell us of the dividing of the sea by a strong east wind, so that there was a dry passage across, and there was a wall of water on their right hand and on their left.

Now consider the situation. Behind the very last of the host was the presence of the Almighty like an immensely powerful searchlight—not in their eyes to dazzle them, but so placed that reflected from the glassy walls of water, it must have illumined all their way. All that night Israel walked in the light, and the foe, in spite of their swift chariots, was stumbling in the darkness. All that night too the Angel of God Himself was walking through the sea of death, and the Angel was the representative of Jehovah, as we see, comparing verse 19 of our chapter with Exodus 13: 21.

We may say therefore that not only did Jehovah make the way through the sea, but He went that way Himself, and Israel went through inasmuch as they appropriated the way that He had made. Here then we clearly have the second type of the death of Christ, that is furnished in Israel's history. The first, of course, was found in the lamb sacrificed on the Passover night, but this carries us a step further, since it typifies not only death but resurrection also.

Before we reach this point however we are shown how the Lord acted not only for His people but against their foes. For most of the night they were vainly pushing forward into the cloud of darkness, so that they were well into the midst of the sea. In the morning watch the Lord took off their chariot wheels, which must have reduced them to a crawl. Then once more they realized that the Lord was fighting against them. They would have retreated, but had lost the power to do so with any speed. When the morning appeared Moses once more stretched his hand over the sea, and it resumed in its strength. The mighty walls of water collapsed upon the Egyptians to their total destruction. We can but faintly imagine what an irresistible overthrow it must have been.

The type is a very striking one. In the death of Christ, death itself has become the way of life to the believer. But only to the believer—the one who by faith appropriates the way that has been made. It guarantees the judgment of the unbeliever, for if God did not spare His Son when He became the Sin-bearer, how shall the unbeliever be spared when he has to bear his own sins?

But the Angel of the Lord with Israel did not only go down into the sea passage in the evening: they came up out of it when the morning was come. In their coming out we see a type of resurrection. So, Jesus our Lord was not only delivered for our offences; He was also raised again for our justification. This it is that brings us into peace with God, as we see at the end of Romans 4, and beginning of Romans 5. The believer is as clear of the judgment of his sins as Christ, who once bore them, now is.

When Israel stood on the further bank of the sea and saw all their enemies dead on the shore, their doubts and fears, as to what Pharaoh and the Egyptians might do, were over. As to that, every question was settled to their peace of mind—a peace that was not theirs in Egypt, even though they were sheltered from God's judgment by the blood of the lamb.

God's work is ever marked by thoroughness. Every soul of Israel was triumphantly saved, and every Egyptian was dead on the shore for we read, "there remained not so much as one of them." Has ever an army, before or since, been so completely destroyed? We doubt it; the only possible approach to it being the case of Sennacherib's army, recorded in 2 Kings 19: 35.

"Thus the Lord saved Israel that day." We do not read of Israel being "saved" as long as they were in Egypt, though they had been sheltered from judgment. Egypt typified the world and Pharaoh typified Satan, the god and prince of the world. When clean delivered from these, Israel was said to be saved, and similarly in the New Testament salvation means not only that we have been forgiven and justified, but also delivered from the authority of Satan and from the world-system that he dominates.

In 1 Corinthians 10: 1, 2, this passage through the Red Sea is spoken of as being "baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea." The first record of Christian baptism, as distinguished from John's baptism, is found in Acts 2. There we have Peter saying in connection with it, "Save yourselves from this untoward generation." Again in his first Epistle, Peter writes of baptism as that which, "doth also now save us," likening it to the passage of Noah and his family through the waters of the flood. These passages are by many looked upon as difficult and obscure, but we believe the key to them lies in what we are now pointing out. The prime thought in baptism is, in one word, dissociation—the cutting of the links with the old life, the old world-associations, the old slavery to the power of the of the adversary. God means His people to be delivered in this real and practical way. And when they are thus delivered He pronounces them to be SAVED.

The last verse of the chapter speaks of all this as "that great work which the Lord did." The people saw it and they believed; yet their belief sprang from sight, and hence later on it so easily evaporated. It was not the sort of which the Lord Jesus spoke to Thomas, when He said, "Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed" (John 20: 29). The faith that springs from sight so largely characterized Israel all through their history, and will do so again in the coming day, as we see predicted in Zechariah 12: 10. Ours is the privilege to believe in, and love, the One whom we have not seen.

Exodus 15 opens on the note of triumph. If Exodus 12 is that of shelter from judgment, and chapter 13 that of sanctification to God, and Exodus 14 that of salvation from the foes, Exodus 15 is that of the song of triumph. Redemption by power had been accomplished and song was the natural outcome. This is indeed the first mention of singing in Scripture, for Genesis 31: 27 only mentions songs as something that might have been, but did not take place. This first recorded song has certain clearly defined features which we shall do well to notice.

First of all, the song had one great theme—the glory and might of Jehovah their God, as displayed in His acts of power before their eyes. It begins with Him, "I will sing unto the Lord, for He hath triumphed gloriously." It ends with Him, "The LORD shall reign for ever and ever." Twelve times in all does His sacred Name occur in the song. Moses did not lead the people to sing about themselves, not even of their experiences of wonder and delight in all that they had witnessed. We venture to think that one of the weaknesses in our modern hymnology is the frequency with which we are led to sing about the depth of our feelings and experiences in praise and worship. It is spiritually damaging to tell the Lord in song that we praise Him "in strains of deepest joy," when as a matter of fact our joy is very shallow; and we have never--known that of which we read in 1 Peter 1: 8. Joy of that depth would reduce us to silence for it is "unspeakable." We avoid all extravagance when we celebrate the grace and glory of our Lord, for here it is impossible to exaggerate.

Secondly, though they did not sing about themselves, they did appropriate for themselves that which the Lord had done. They owned Him as their strength and salvation, in verse 2; as their Leader, their Redeemer and their Guide, in verse 13. All this He had proved Himself to be. They thankfully acknowledged Him in these things, and praised Him accordingly, confessing Him to be supreme above all the gods of Egypt that they had known, marked as He is by holiness and by powerful wonders.

Thirdly, that this deliverance was only the beginning, that He had a purpose in it, and that He would certainly carry it to fruition, completing what He had begun. The faith of Moses realized that God would overcome the opposition of Edom and Moab and bring them into Canaan, planting them in the mountain where the Sanctuary was to be established, and that they as a people would have the honour of preparing His habitation.

Moses was so sure that God would not fail of His purpose that at the end of verse 17 he speaks of the Sanctuary as something which His hands had already established. It is a fact that as soon as we view anything from the standpoint of Divine purpose questions of time become relatively insignificant. If God has purposed it, the thing is as good as done. What an establishing fact this is!

We cannot doubt that in this song Moses spoke as a prophet and in an inspired way. It was his song at the beginning of the 40 years in the wilderness, and Deuteronomy 32 records his song at the end of the 40 years just before he died. How different is the second song! The sad deflection of the people had to come into that, though he ends it on a note of victory. In Revelation 15: 3, we read of those who had got the victory over the beast singing, "the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb." Singing the song of Moses, an allusion, we judge, to our chapter rather than Deuteronomy 32; they will glorify the power of God in the victory that had been given to them, whilst the song of the Lamb would indicate that they had gained the victory through weakness and apparent defeat.

Verse 19 of our chapter reiterates the completeness of the overthrow that overtook Pharaoh and his hosts, when the floods that had stood upright as an heap because congealed, were loosed and the watery walls collapsed upon their heads.

In verse 20 Miriam is mentioned as a prophetess. She and the women of Israel had their part in this jubilant praise to the Lord. Thus all Israel was as one in ascribing all the glory to God.

But how great the change of scene when we read the six verses that close the chapter. Israel had been redeemed from the bondage of Egypt and now they take their three days journey into the wilderness, a land without natural resources of water or food. We are told that they carried some food with them out of Egypt, but water quickly became an urgent necessity. The typical significance of this is plain. To the unconverted, who know not God's redemption, the world is the scene of their pleasures and the gratification of their natural desires, and consequently it is anything but a wilderness to them. To us, who have been redeemed, it is a wilderness for it offers nothing to please or feed the new nature that now is ours.

After the three days water was found, but it was bitter and undrinkable. So the name Marah was given to it. This is the third time that the adjective "bitter" has occurred in this narrative. First the Egyptians made the lives of the Israelites bitter with hard bondage. This is recorded in chapter 1: 14. Then in chapter 12: 8, we read of "bitter herbs" with which the Passover lamb was to be eaten. Now they find bitter water in the wilderness. In this type is enforced the bitterness of sin. It enslaves into bitter bondage. If we appropriate the sacrifice of the Lamb of God it is as those who have to realize inwardly the bitterness of the judgment of death, that it entails. In the world, now turned for us into a wilderness, bitterness- still meets us. Water normally would speak of refreshment and life. But the world's water becomes bitterness to us, for its sweetest joys are polluted by sin.

The people were not prepared for this, and forgot the power and goodness of God. They only saw Moses and uttered their murmurings and complaints to him. Moses, however, saw God in this emergency, and cried to Him.

At once the remedy was revealed. The Lord showed him a tree which, when cut down, was cast into the waters and they were made sweet. It was the tree that removed the bitterness and brought in the sweetness.

Here again a type confronts us. In Eden there were two living trees. By man's disobedience the fruit of the tree of knowledge became death to him, and the way to the tree of life was barred. Now we have not a living tree but a tree cut down. It was on a tree cut down that our Lord was crucified, and, as we know, "cursed is everyone that hangeth on a tree" (Gal. 3: 13). But as that chapter in Galatians proceeds to show, by bearing the curse on the tree the blessing is secured for those who believe. It is the "tree" of the cross of Christ that turns bitterness into sweetness.

Let us make up our minds that in our wilderness experiences we must of necessity find much that is bitter to us on a natural basis. But as we take up the cross and follow our Lord we shall find our circumstances are transfigured, and what is bitter to the flesh becomes sweetness to the spirit.

This first wilderness experience was a landmark in Israel's history. They were tested and for the result we have to read verse 26. We meet with that ominous "If." They were not exactly put under the law as yet, but a certain measure of probation was established and God's governmental dealing declared. They should be spared the diseases common in Egypt, if they obeyed. Their obedience was to be practical and not nominal. They were not only to "hearken," and "give ear," and "keep," but also to "do" what was right in the sight of the Lord. He is satisfied with nothing short of reality.

But though bitterness is found in the experiences of the wilderness God in His mercy provides oases in it. It was thus for Israel. Passing on from Marah they came to the oasis of Elim, and here there was an ample supply by which they could rest. God acts similarly in regard to the spiritual needs of His saints. An illustration of this is seen in Acts 9: 31. Under the persecuting hand of Saul of Tarsus the churches had a "Marah" experience. But the grace of God acted in his miraculous conversion, and then for a season the churches reached their "Elim."

And God's ways with us as individuals conform to this pattern. So when we reach our "Marah" let us seek to profit by the experience; and when we are conducted to an "Elim" let us not forget to bless God for it.

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