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:
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.