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Wednesday in the Word

Second Baptist Church

July 5, 2017

Exodus  14:1-30

  1. We must look at this passage from two perspectives. We must see the natural and the supernatural as well as the physical and the spiritual. We must see how the supernatural can happen in the natural, and we must see the spiritual pictures and foreshadows. On the surface, by just reading the text, we see the natural being impacted by the supernatural. This is one aspect of the text. God, in his supernatural power, intercedes on the natural problems of the Israelites. Without a shadow of doubt, God will come and rescue his people with supernatural methods, but we must not miss the deeper spiritual message in the text. The spiritual message was not known at the time, but for those who are in Christ the spiritual message is tremendously important. What we will see throughout this Exodus narrative is the foreshadowing of Christ in the various rituals and circumstances of the Hebrew people. We have already seen how the Passover celebration was a picture of Christ. Today we will see how the crossing of the Red Sea is a symbol of our Baptism into Christ.

  2. Verses 1-4. As we shared last week, the Hebrews were guided by a Pillar of Fire by night and a cloud by day. With the pillar to guide the Israelites, one may wonder why it was necessary for God to speak to Moses concerning the leading of the people. There is a very good reason, I believe. Moses was to bring about a “change of course” for the Israelites, one that would greatly perplex the people without an explanation. The Israelites were instructed to “turn back” and to camp near Pi Hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea. Had the pillar of cloud moved in this direction without any word from God, the people may have been inclined to question it. God's instructions were required to assure the Israelites that the new course which the pillar would set were correct, even though perplexing. First, the Israelites were going to “turn back,” that is, to reverse their direction. Why in the world would they possibly retrace their steps backwards? Instead of fleeing from Pharaoh, it might look as though they were making it easy for him to catch up with them. Second, the course which they were about to take would be one that would place them in a very dangerous position. Through Moses, God ordered a change of direction which to many Israelites must have seemed strange and indeed risky. It didn't take a military genius to figure out that what the Israelites were doing was to put themselves in a very vulnerable position, trapped, between natural barriers. Were Pharaoh to pursue them, they would be in a bunch of trouble. God explained through Moses that this change of course was indeed intended to encourage Pharaoh's pursuit. Pharaoh, God knew, would think that the Israelites were miserably lost or misguided. Pharaoh's attack would result in his defeat, to the glory of God (v.4). All of this was so that God would gain glory. God's people are placed in a vulnerable position and the enemy is given an advantage, so it seems. Beloved oftentimes, God will position you in a place of temporary vulnerability and your enemy in a place of temporary advantage to work a powerful miracle. This is how it seems from the natural eye, but the spiritual perspective shows Pharaoh marching to his death. This is a picture of Jesus betrayal and death on a cross. It appeared that the enemy had gotten the upper hand.

  3. Verses 5-9. Pharaoh was still mad and upset that he lost his labor force. God would use that anger to bring about Pharaoh’s downfall. Pharaoh was ready for any sign of hope that he might recover the slave labor which he had released. Shortly after the Israelites had departed, Pharaoh and his officials had second thoughts about the wisdom of releasing this valuable economic resource--slave labor (v.5). Pharaoh mustered his entire division of chariots and went after them in hot pursuit, six hundred chariots in all (v.6). Pharaoh's decision was not only hard-hearted, it was hard headed. Six hundred chariots (with 2, or at the most 3 men per chariot) would hardly seem to be a match for 600,000 men. You would think that he would have learned his lesson, but when you are persistent to do wrong, there is very little that can stop you. The change of course of the Israelites seemed to be playing right into Pharaoh's hands. He overtook the Israelites at Pi Hahiroth.

  4. Verses 10-14. Israel was in trouble now because to the east was the sea, to the south and west were the mountains, and the north was blocked by Pharaoh's armies. They had nowhere to go. They were sandwiched in and they only thing that could save them was a miracle. The Israelites were shaken by the sight of the rapidly approaching chariots of Pharaoh and his men. They were terrified (v.10). At first, the people cried out to the Lord (v.10), but as the troops drew nearer and as Israel’s hopes of escape faded, their fear turned to bitter regret, focused toward Moses. Were there not enough graves in Egypt? Had they not told Moses to leave them alone, and not to meddle with Pharaoh? What had Moses done to them now? They would have been better off to have stayed on as slaves in Egypt. Such is the reasoning of fear and unbelief. Moses was much more calm, at least initially. Confident that God would deliver them from the Egyptians, Moses sought to reassure the Israelites of God’s protection, and of the defeat of the Egyptians. They were told to “fear not.” They need not fight, but only to stand firm and observe God's victory over the Egyptians. They would never see these Egyptians again. From what God had revealed to Moses, he was confident of the defeat and destruction of the Egyptian army, now hotly pursuing them. What Moses was apparently not aware of was how and when this victory would occur. As the Egyptians drew closer, Moses probably expected to see them wiped out before the eyes of all, perhaps by some plague. Instead, they only got closer--much too close for comfort. At some point, Moses began crying out to God, not unlike the Israelites had done before him (compare 14:10 with 14:15). The man who had begun “cool and calm” had begun to lose his grip.

  5. Verses 15-20. Moses cries out to God. Without informing us of the exact manifestations of Moses’ fears, the text does give us a record of God's mild rebuke to Moses in verse 15: “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on.” Not only do we know from God's words to Moses that he had cried out to Him, but there is a very clear inference that Moses was wrong in doing so. Why was it wrong for Moses to cry to God for help? I suspect that the pillar was moving and the people had stopped even though the pillar had not stopped. In spite of Moses’ lack of faith, God graciously responds to his cry for help. He specifically instructed Moses to raise his staff and stretch out his hand over the sea, so as to divide the water, making it possible for the Israelites to pass through on dry ground (14:16). The Egyptians, God informed Moses, would enter the sea behind them, due to their hearts being hardened, but this was to result in their destruction and God's glory (v.17). The nation of Egypt will know for certain that God alone is Lord through this event (v.18). God did more than just speak. The angel of the Lord, manifested in the pillar of cloud and/or fire, moved from in front of the Israelites to become their rear guard. He stood between the Israelites and the Egyptians. Throughout that night the pillar brought darkness to the Egyptians and light for the Israelites, thus enabling the Israelites to see as they passed through the sea, and perhaps preventing the Egyptians from seeing the sea as they followed after them (v.20).

  6. Verses 21~31. Moses did as he was instructed, stretching forth his hand over the sea. This brought about a “strong east wind” which drove back the sea all night long, even turning the seabed to dry ground (v.21). It must have taken a certain amount of faith on the part of the Israelites to enter into the sea. They, unlike the Egyptians, had the benefit of the light provided by the cloud. Thus, they were able to clearly see the water of the sea piled up like walls on both sides of them (cf. 14:22). What faith the Israelites lacked was compensated for by the fact that the Egyptians were right behind them. When confronted with the choice between the sea and the Egyptians, the sea would have been the less dangerous choice. God's motivations are a wonder to behold! In the morning watch, which is known to be from 2 a.m. till dawn, God looked down from the pillar of fire and brought confusion to the Egyptian troops (v.24). This was brought about by causing the wheels of their chariots either to fall off, to swerve, or to sink into the sands, which may now be wet. The poetic description of Psalm 77:16-19 seems to inform us that the occasion for the confusion was a thunderstorm. Assuming that the Egyptians did not know they were entering the sea, can you imagine the horror of the charioteers when the first bolt of lightning revealed the seas towering above them? Too late, the Egyptians recognized that God was fighting for the Israelites and against them. They sought to retreat, returning to the shore from which they had entered the sea. Instead, they plunged, headlong, into the waters (cf. v.27) as they returned to their place. At daybreak, God instructed Moses to once again lift his staff over the sea, but this time to bring the waters of the Red Sea thundering down upon the Egyptians. The sea closed in on the Egyptians, so that every one of them was drowned (v.28). In marked contrast, the Israelites passed through the sea on dry ground, safely reaching the other side (v.29). The Red Sea thus became the instrument of Israel's deliverance and the Egyptians’ destruction. The Israelites witnessed the power of God and came to a deeper appreciation of Moses as the leader God had appointed, and through whom God's power was manifested in a mighty way (v.31).

  7. This story also speaks of our Spiritual Baptism. l Corinthians 10:2. When God told the people to turn back, it was a picture of our repentant hearts that must be turned before we can be born again. Once the heart has been turned, we are led to have our old lives of sin washed and our new lives to begin. Pharaoh's army was a picture of our old bondage that needs to die in the waters of Christ so that we will be brought forth unshackled from sin.

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