Exodus 14: Crossing the Red Sea
Posted by adventbiblestudy on April 6, 2012
Exodus 14:4 NLTse And once again I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will chase after you. I have planned this in order to display my glory through Pharaoh and his whole army. After this the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD!” So the Israelites camped there as they were told.
This entire event was done to glorify God. The motive was not to destroy Egypt, or to glorify Moses. God had planned this event to teach a lesson, to draw attention to Himself. To show His power, and to reveal His glory through the symbols employed in this acted parable.
Pharaoh went through months of anguish, followed with brief shadows of a false victory. Curse after curse fell upon Egypt. The first few were easily explained as quirks of nature, or magical spells his own priests and magicians could perform. As the plagues increased, Pharaoh’s own advisors pleaded with him to recognize the Hebrew God as the one true God able to deliver His people from bondage. To Pharaoh this was the equivalent of recognizing a god greater than himself.
Long ago the common people of Egypt sold their cattle, working animals, land, and finally their souls to the kingdom of Egypt in exchange for food. Generations later they still paid the high taxes imposed so many years before. It was still a devastating loss when their crops and cattle were destroyed by the plagues of locusts, hail and fire. The severity of the plagues increased as they followed one after another. No amount of human wisdom could explain them. The people cried and pleaded with Pharaoh to free the Hebrew slaves.
First his advisors, now his people turned away from Pharaoh. He paced the royal halls looking for support. His anger alienated him from his subjects, including his family. Pharaoh reasoned with himself. “Doesn’t anyone understand? No, they could never understand, because no one had lost as much as me. This is not a battle I can trust to anyone. It is a battle between gods. I have my integrity, reputation, and my destiny to defend. No one is capable of restoring Egypt but me.”
News of death in the city quickly spread. Guards drew lots to see who would deliver the news to Pharaoh. It had been weeks since he had seen his own son, now he was informed the first born male in every household was dying of some mysterious disease, or curse. Pharaoh rushed across the palace, bursting into his son’s room. He was too late. His wife knelt along side the bed, her face covering the dead body of their son. Weeping she turned to her husband, “you just would not listen. You never listen. Now can you see what your pride has done?”
It was too much for Pharaoh. He blamed God for stealing the time he should have spent with his son before he cursed God for his death. He also blamed God for the loss of his wife’s love. He knew it was gone now. Their son was the only thing holding the fragile marriage together. It was too much, even for Pharaoh. A hatred for the Hebrews burned like a flame inside of him. He called his guard, ordering every Hebrew to be banished from his kingdom.
Exodus 14:10-14 NLTse As Pharaoh approached, the people of Israel looked up and panicked when they saw the Egyptians overtaking them. They cried out to the LORD, (11) and they said to Moses, “Why did you bring us out here to die in the wilderness? Weren’t there enough graves for us in Egypt? What have you done to us? Why did you make us leave Egypt? (12) Didn’t we tell you this would happen while we were still in Egypt? We said, ‘Leave us alone! Let us be slaves to the Egyptians. It’s better to be a slave in Egypt than a corpse in the wilderness!'” (13) But Moses told the people, “Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the LORD rescue you today. The Egyptians you see today will never be seen again. (14) The LORD himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.”
It did not take long for Pharaoh to change his mind again. This happened often over the past weeks. With a total lack of counsel his mind constantly wandered from one extreme to another. One evening Pharaoh swore to never see another Hebrew face again. The next morning he decided to carry them back by force. He assembled his army to carry out the task.
Memories of the final days in Egypt still lingered on the minds of the Hebrews. Some of them wondered how the blood from a lamb on the door posts saved their first born sons, and the first born cattle kept outside. They wondered what the Passover lamb represented. Was it an invitation from God? Was the presence of His Spirit the unseen force that saved the lives of their loved ones?
Great joy filled their hearts as the Hebrews left Egypt. They felt like they were now in God’s hands and nothing could harm them. As the miles passed, the heat of the sun began to weaken their spirits. A cloud formed overhead and a cool breeze comforted them. When the sun set, a pillar of fire rising up hundreds of feet into the night sky would guide their way and protecting them through the night. No one could deny the presence of God.
After witnessing a dozen or so miracles in Egypt, Israel soon forgot everything. Even with the presence of the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night, they failed to see God’s care and concern for them. The looked for a deliverer, but failed to accept Moses, because he did not fit the image, or the standards they had been taught to expect. After God turned the water to blood, brought plagues of locust, frogs, lice, flies, hail, fire, and removed all of them in an instant, they could not put away their earthly desires for the deliverer they expected. What was holding them in Egypt? The Egyptian army, or their beliefs?
After leaving Egypt they fully expected to die in the wilderness. Did they lack a will to live, or the will to change? Their beliefs were stronger than God’s miracles. Their beliefs were stronger and more important than life itself.
Their fear provided a vivid symbol of Egypt when they asked if there were enough graves for them in the land of bondage. The grave is a place where people forget God. In the grave they do not proclaim His glory. The wicked will go down to the grave. This is the fate of all the nations who ignore God. For the dead do not remember you. Who can praise you from the grave? Can those in the grave declare your unfailing love? Can they proclaim your faithfulness in the place of destruction? Psalms 9:17, 6:5, 88:11
God had planned this event to reveal His glory because Israel wanted no part in proclaiming God’s grace. Instead they questioned why they had been taken from the grave. God delivers them and the first sign of danger they ask, what have you done to us? Was it God who gave them fear, or their lack of faith?
For four hundred years they cried to God for deliverance and when He delivered them, they asked, “why did you make us leave Egypt?” Did God force them to leave? No, God simply answered their prayers. Not in the manner they had prayed for, but through a series of events that glorified Him in His greatness.
With all of Israel gathered along the shores of the Red Sea, and the Egyptian army at their backs, God combined the cloud and the fire to reveal His glory. The pillar of fire leading them, now appeared behind them, then shaded itself behind the thick cloud. Those in front could see the waters of the Red Sea. It took time for news to travel to the front of the procession. By that time the actual threat had been well exaggerated. Fear gripped many of the Hebrews. People began yelling, screaming, pleading, and praying. Many yelled out accusations about Moses. Young men gathered their familles, holding them close while trying to offer comfort in the midst of turmoil.
Exodus 14:15-16 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the people to get moving! (16) Pick up your staff and raise your hand over the sea. Divide the water so the Israelites can walk through the middle of the sea on dry ground.
Suddenly the cloud grew thicker. A wind rose in front of them. Light from the pillar of fire began to break up over the cloud, as if bent by an unseen hand. The waters of the Red Sea reflected its colors, then began churning. Moses lifted up his staff over the waters. It appeared as if the wind and light split the waters. A wide opening emerged with a wall of water on each side. Sprays of water continued to shot over from one wall to the other as if moved by the unseen wind. Inside the walls all was calm. The ground that minutes earlier was covered under feet of water was now dry. Moses gave the command to cross to safety. The Hebrews raised up a shout and entered between the walls of water crossing upon a bridge the likes of which was never seen until that day.
Exodus 14:23-28 Then the Egyptians–all of Pharaoh’s horses, chariots, and charioteers–chased them into the middle of the sea. (24) But just before dawn the LORD looked down on the Egyptian army from the pillar of fire and cloud, and he threw their forces into total confusion. (25) He twisted their chariot wheels, making their chariots difficult to drive. “Let’s get out of here–away from these Israelites!” the Egyptians shouted. “The LORD is fighting for them against Egypt!” (26) When all the Israelites had reached the other side, the LORD said to Moses, “Raise your hand over the sea again. Then the waters will rush back and cover the Egyptians and their chariots and charioteers.” (27) So as the sun began to rise, Moses raised his hand over the sea, and the water rushed back into its usual place. The Egyptians tried to escape, but the LORD swept them into the sea. (28) Then the waters returned and covered all the chariots and charioteers–the entire army of Pharaoh. Of all the Egyptians who had chased the Israelites into the sea, not a single one survived.
The Hebrews barely noticed the sun had set. The bending light from the pillar of fire lite the pathway across the sea in a brilliant light proclaiming God’s glory and the care He has for His people. Pharaoh and the Egyptian army also gazed upon God’s light, but viewed it as a consuming fire. In his stubbornness Pharaoh ordered his army to stand their ground against the pillar of fire. Fear gripped their hearts as the intense light and heat danced in front of them. Those in the front prayed to their gods, fearing their lives would end in a second. In Pharaoh’s mind, the strength of his army kept the pillar of fire at bay.
It took all night for the Hebrews to cross the Red Sea. During the darkest hour, just before the sun was about to rise, the pillar of fire withdrew. Pharaoh ordered his army to advance. They pursued the Hebrews into the midst of the Red Sea. What was dry ground minutes ago now became soft mud, many feet deep. The chariot wheels hit rocks buried just below the surface. “Let’s get out of here–away from these Israelites!” the Egyptians shouted. “The LORD is fighting for them against Egypt!” As they struggled to turn around in retreat, the chariots and horses sunk deeper into the mud. Many of them jumped from their chariots to escape, only to find themselves waist deep, trapped in the mud.
As the first light of the sun began to appear over the horizon, all the Israelites had reached the other side. The LORD said to Moses, “Raise your hand over the sea again. Then the waters will rush back and cover the Egyptians and their chariots and charioteers.” The light from the pillar of fire no longer lit the pathway across the Red Sea. Darkness filled the once bright path. As Israel stood on the opposite shore looking back, all they could see was darkness, and hear the screams of pain, agony, and confusion.
As the sun broke over the horizon splashes of red and blue flashed across the surface of the water. Red clouds filled the morning sky, giving way to a golden yellow glow on the tops of the majestic structures floating in the heavens. The colors mixed, a green glow hovered above the clouds, blending gracefully into the deep blue morning sky. The opposite horizon loomed in awesome purple as if waiting for the light of the sun.
Moses stood up and once again raised his hands over the sea as God had commanded him. In an instant the tall walls of water crashed together like the sound of thunder. The water heaved up, reaching into the heavens and spilled back down, the water dispersing out over the shore in a mighty wave, stopping just short of Moses’ feet. Israel looked on in awe, knowing every Egyptian foolish enough to pursue them lay dead at the bottom of the sea.
That is how the LORD rescued Israel from the hand of the Egyptians that day. And the Israelites saw the bodies of the Egyptians washed up on the seashore. When the people of Israel saw the mighty power that the LORD had unleashed against the Egyptians, they were filled with awe before him. They put their faith in the LORD and in his servant Moses. (Exodus 14:30-31)
1 Corinthians 10:1-4 NLTse (1) I don’t want you to forget, dear brothers and sisters, about our ancestors in the wilderness long ago. All of them were guided by a cloud that moved ahead of them, and all of them walked through the sea on dry ground. (2) In the cloud and in the sea, all of them were baptized as followers of Moses. (3) All of them ate the same spiritual food, (4) and all of them drank the same spiritual water. For they drank from the spiritual rock that traveled with them, and that rock was Christ.