The Message of Exodus – Chapter 14

The Red Sea Baptism into Christ

 

By I Gordon

 

Exodus Chapter 14 presents us with the final part of Israel’s deliverance from Egypt. It is a story you all know I am sure. Come on, I know you can remember…Israel has left Egypt… Pharaoh gets angry (again)… Pharaoh and the Egyptian army chase IsraelIsrael comes to a dead end in front of the Red Sea… Looks like it is curtains for Israel… and then God steps in!

 

Well in this study we are going to look again at the historical account of Israel’s amazing Red Sea deliverance but with one small difference. The Apostle Paul tells us that this episode is a type of baptism. (1 Cor 10:2,11) In other words it is a death and resurrection type experience and has meaning for us.

 

Preparation

 

Please read the entire chapter. Go on, it will do you good and I did say please. Think about Israel’s reaction once they knew the Egyptian army was coming after them… would you have reacted differently? How else could they have reacted to this trial? Think also about what God commanded them to do… does that still apply to us today? Also think about what the New Testament says concerning our death and resurrection with Christ. Is it something that has happened in the past or is still to happen? Is it simply a fact you are commanded to reckon on or should there be an outworking of this principle in your life?

 

Our Baptism into Christ

 

Just before we begin, let me say a quick word about our death and resurrection with Christ because it relates to this passage, and to the next study in chapter 15. Firstly there is the fact that true believers have been placed ‘in Christ’, and Jesus’ death and resurrection is also our death and resurrection. This truth is presented to us in Romans chapter 6 amongst other places. This is a historical and spiritual fact that we are called to reckon upon. It is not something we do, but something that has been done! Jesus died and rose again, and we enjoy all the benefits. There is also however, a practical outworking of this truth in our lives. Paul expressed this in Philipians 3:10-11 where he wrote that he wanted to

 

‘Know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His suffering, being conformed to His death, in order that I may obtain to the [spiritual] resurrection of the dead.’ 

 

So firstly there is the fact of our death and resurrection with Christ, and secondly there is a practical outworking of it through the difficulties and trials of this life. This study will focus more on the second aspect, where as chapter 15 will be used to explore the benefits of the first aspect. I hope that makes sense and isn’t too back to front for you!

 

Where does God sometimes lead us?

 

Exodus 14:1-3 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Tell the Israelites to turn back and encamp near Pi Hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea. They are to encamp by the sea, directly opposite Baal Zephon.  Pharaoh will think, ‘The Israelites are wandering around the land in confusion, hemmed in by the desert.’

 

This study is going to involve quite a few questions[1] so stay alert! So, first of all, does God lead us into trying situations? What do you think? We know that God will not ever tempt a person to sin (James 1:13), but does he specifically lead us into trying times? I guess one way of answering that would be to ask whether God lead Israel into the trying situation they were soon to face. You can read it in black and white for yourself… God lead them to the very place where they would be cornered by Egypt. If you are shaky concerning God’s character and purpose for your life, that thought may worry you. If that is you, take a few deep breaths and keep reading!

 

Exodus 14:4-6 And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them. But I will gain glory for myself through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD.” So the Israelites did this. When the king of Egypt was told that the people had fled, Pharaoh and his officials changed their minds about them and said, “What have we done? We have let the Israelites go and have lost their services!” So he had his chariot made ready and took his army with him.

 

Why does God sometimes lead us into trying situations? God Himself spells it out in the passage above. He tells Moses the very reason why He will cause Pharaoh and his army to turn on the Israelites and chase them… it is so that God’s name may be exalted[2] above all so-called ‘gods’ and that the glory may be returned to its rightful owner – the Lord God of Israel. So we have a choice in each difficulty we meet. How are we going to face them? Are we going to see them as an opportunity for God to display His character? Are we going to reckon on His grace in the situation, or are we just going to freak out thinking it’s all over? I guess the answer to that question depends on how well you have come to know the Lord God[3]. But just possibly, you may be able to relate to Israel’s reaction in the next section!

 

Are you a dummy spitter?

 

Exodus 14:9-12 The Egyptians—all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots, horsemen and troops—pursued the Israelites and overtook them as they camped by the sea…. As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the LORD. They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt?  Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!”

 

Now, what was Israel’s reaction when Egypt came against them? Was it ‘let’s see how Egypt can cope with our God!’? Or was it ‘God has brought us this far by His grace, and He will deliver us still!’? Mmm, well, no, not exactly! It was that faith inspiring line ‘was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die?’ Oh Israel! Such a picture of the natural heart of man! Can you see yourself in Israel’s reaction? Come on, be honest! I have to confess that I know of circumstances were I have reacted the same. (Not that I would admit it of course!) Israel had seen enough miracles thus far to know that God was on their side. They had seen the mighty plagues and judgements which God had brought against the Egyptians. They had witnessed the death of the firstborn throughout the land of Egypt. They certainly knew enough to stand in faith once again and see this new challenge as another opportunity for God to display His grace… but they didn’t. They chose to focus on the seen and not the unseen. Bad choice! But we do it all the time as well. Let us learn from, and not repeat, Israel’s mistakes. For ‘these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction…’ (1 Cor 10:11).

 

The commands of God in the midst of difficulty

 

Exodus 14:13-18 And Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. “The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.” And the Lord said to Moses, “Why do you cry to Me? Tell the children of Israel to go forward. “But lift up your rod, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it. And the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea.“ And I indeed will harden the hearts of the Egyptians, and they shall follow them. So I will gain honor over Pharaoh and over all his army, his chariots, and his horsemen. “Then the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I have gained honor for Myself over Pharaoh, his chariots, and his horsemen.”

 

So you, like the Israelites here, are in a spot of bother… If that is true then what are the commands given to the people? Three things initially come to mind from the passage above us – firstly, do not be afraid. Secondly, stand still and see the salvation of the Lord. And finally, hold your peace. Now obviously these three commands are interrelated and your ability to be able to do the third (hold your peace) in a trying situation will be in direct proportion to how much you are obeying the first two commands. In fact, for us everything hinges on the second command. Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord is THE command. You can imagine Israel, freaking out with their hearts pounding, starting to run in different directions looking for an escape from the grip of Egyptians. They would have done in the outward what we do in the inward! But the command for them is as valid for us today. Stand still![4] Then it says ‘see the salvation of the Lord’. Now, how does ‘hold your peace’ and ‘do not be afraid’ actually work in reality? Only by looking first at the salvation of the Lord – and that is Jesus. The Lord will indeed save us out of many trials, but there must be a looking to Him in faith first. And that is where peace and a still heart come from.[5]  

 

The last command, to go forward down into the Red Sea, is only given once they have first stood still and looked in faith to the Lord. For us this act of going down into the sea symbolises our death with Jesus, and in the midst of a trial it also symbolises dying to our own ability to control our lives and the outcome of the circumstances. It is placed in God’s hands and we walk by faith. Ok, sometimes it is a crawl by faith, but the need, and the command, is to go forward none the less!

 

Light ahead, darkness behind.

 

Exodus 14:19-22 And the Angel of God, who went before the camp of Israel, moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud went from before them and stood behind them. So it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel. Thus it was a cloud and darkness to the one, and it gave light by night to the other, so that the one did not come near the other all that night. Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea into dry land, and the waters were divided. So the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea on the dry ground, and the waters were a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.

 

Wow! What amazing direction and protection the Angel of the Lord (Jesus) provided. Once they had decided to obey and walk forward, they not only had light in front to guide the way, but thick cloud behind them to keep the enemy at bay![6] Could Egypt have touched the Israelites in this situation? Not likely, unless of course they were stronger than Jesus. And I know who I’d bet on. Israel was perfectly safe and this passage speaks also of our lives who by faith have decided to go forward in the ways of the Lord. Now I don’t want to make things sound all rosy! You can imagine Israel, walking through the Red Sea, looking at the great walls of water on each side with some trepidation (We are but dust after all!). And yet amazement at the same time that God was faithfully protecting them!  

 

Victory at last!

 

Exodus 14:23-31 The Egyptians pursued them, and all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots and horsemen followed them into the sea… Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea so that the waters may flow back over the Egyptians and their chariots and horsemen.”  Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at daybreak the sea went back to its place. The Egyptians were fleeing toward it, and the LORD swept them into the sea. The water flowed back and covered the chariots and horsemen—the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed the Israelites into the sea. Not one of them survived… That day the LORD saved Israel from the hands of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the shore. And when the Israelites saw the great power the LORD displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the LORD and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant.

 

Finally we see the great victory that the Lord God brought about for His people Israel. They had worried and been afraid… yet it had come to nothing, for by faith they had walked step by step through the Red Sea on dry ground. And we see everything that gave them such great anguish (namely angry Egyptians) lying dead on the sea shore. God still delivers today you know. It may not be exactly at the time when we first demand it, but if we, like Israel, place our small, mustard seed of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, then we too will see the action of God on our behalf. But we should never dictate to God of course how He should do this. He is the potter and we are but clay. Sometimes He will deal to the difficulties in our lives, sometimes He will give us the grace to cope with it. What He does is His prerogative. But be assured that He doesn’t fail His people!

 

This passage also of course speaks of what God has done to our ‘old man’ in Christ Jesus. He has died through our baptism into Christ. Just as Israel came up on the other side of the Red Sea and saw what had become of their enemies, so we are called to see what God has done through our death and resurrection with Christ. If you are a believer in Jesus Christ then you too stand on the other side of the Red Sea today… resurrection ground. And that will be the main focus of the next study in chapter 15 – The song of Moses sung today.

 



[1] Mainly because these Exodus studies were first of all given in a mid-week home-group type setting, and the last thing you want to do when leading a study is talk a lot! The idea is to create discussion and there is no better way than to have thought provoking questions. In the event of being all out of thought provoking questions, try dumb ones. Still better than doing all the talking!

 

[2] It is interesting to see the effect that this Red Sea experience would have upon the enemies of Israel. 40 years later, when Israel finally gets into the Promised Land, they find out that even their enemies feared God because of what He did at the Red Sea. The testimony of Rahab declared that ‘when we heard it (about what God did at the Red Sea), our hearts melted and no courage remained in any man any longer because of you; for the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth below.’ (Joshua 2:11) God did bring glory to His name, even amongst the nations. What we may call our death and resurrection experiences are likewise used by the Lord to bring glory and honour to His name.

 

[3]  I had to do a study on 2 Pet 1 the other day and I really enjoyed it. (Although that makes it sound like I didn’t expect to!) Anyway, have a look at verse 2. It says ‘grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.’ Now, I like that! I like the fact that grace and peace can be multiplied. I need them! And the order is spot on… grace comes before peace, because your peace (especially in trying situations) is definitely related to your understanding of grace. And both of these things are proportional to your knowledge of God and the Lord Jesus. As you grow and learn more about the wonderful character of God, peace and grace are multiplied to you, and you will be able to face new difficulties and challenges without ‘freaking out’!
 

[4] This command is the same given in a later time of overwhelming odds and adversity. You may remember it from that great passage in 2 Chron 20 where the prophet came to Jehoshaphat saying “Thus says the Lord to you: ‘Do not be afraid nor dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours, but God’s. ‘Tomorrow go down against them… ‘You will not need to fight in this battle. Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the Lord, who is with you, O Judah and Jerusalem!’ Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them, for the Lord is with you.”

 

You would do well to become familiar with this entire chapter. It is awesome! Being able to ‘stand’ is also the command given in Eph 6 in dealing with spiritual warfare and the attacks of the enemy. The emphasis of that chapter too is standing strong in your salvation and who Jesus is (the armor).

 

[5] Firstly have hope like the Psalmist did. If you are a Christian then you have tremendous hope for the life to come. That is sure. No one can take it away. But you should have the same hope for this life as what is expressed in Psalm 27:13-14 ‘I would have lost heart, unless I had believed That I would see the goodness of the Lord In the land of the living. Wait on the Lord; Be of good courage…’

 

Also commit to memory the following verse (and not just your short term memory either you cheater!) for it combines the three commands we have been looking at – Isaiah 26:3 ‘You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.’

 

[6] A poet and I know it… CHM in his ‘Notes on the book of Exodus’ is very good on this entire chapter and I certainly want to acknowledge this book as having helped me understand the significance of this chapter. Concerning the Angel of the Lord standing between the Israelites and the Egyptians he writes ‘The Lord not only places Himself between us and our sins, but also between us and our circumstances. By doing the former, He gives us peace of conscience; by the latter, He gives us peace of heart. That the two things are perfectly distinct, every experienced Christian knows.’