Persevering Faith

Explore the Bible Series

March 28, 2010

 

Background Passage: Exodus 13:17-15:21

Lesson Passage: Exodus 13:17-18; 14:9-18, 31

 

Introduction:

 

The story of the Exodus continues in our study this week.  Again, this saga forms the central core of Judaism, and it has impassioned several Christian movements (like the American Civil Rights Movement) as well.  Over the last two weeks we have observed ten terrible plagues God visited on the Egyptians, as judgment for their callous treatment of the Jews; now, we turn our attention to the departure of Israel from the tyranny of their oppressors and God’s final deliverance from slavery.

 

The Jews travelled east from Goshen (the Nile River delta region), but the text claims God prohibited them pilgrims from following a trade route that might lead his people into premature conflict with the Philistines.  As the Hebrews approached a tributary of the Red Sea (the Hebrew reads “Sea of Reeds”), the Egyptian army, inflamed by Pharaoh’s rage, pursued their former slaves.  God’s people were trapped along the shores of the sea, and they turned angrily on their leader, Moses.  The story reveals god’s power to save his people from terrible peril as Jehovah destroyed the Egyptian charioteers.  The record of this enthralling story, no doubt, was intended to teach future generations important lessons about Jehovah.

 

  1. God’s faithfulness to his covenant with Abraham:  In a sense, we should not study Exodus without a decent working understanding of the Book of Genesis, especially as it relates to the story of Abraham.  Centuries before the Exodus, Jehovah made a covenant with the Patriarchs, a covenant that time and circumstances did not alter.  Among the claims of this pledge, God promised to multiply Abraham’s descendants and give his people the land of Canaan. More than four centuries passed while Israel sojourned in Egypt, but the covenant remained intact. In God’s time and way, the children of Israel made their way to fulfillment of that divine oath.
  2. God’s sovereignty over the kings of the earth: Egypt’s military and economic prowess reached its zenith during the “New Monarchy”, in the aftermath of the Hyksos dynasty, just the period addressed in the Book of Exodus.  Moses contended with the most powerful nation in the world, and he only had the resources made available by a horde of former slaves.  Nevertheless, God proved a formidable enemy of the Egyptian cause, and divine providence, according to the Old Testament, delivered Israel from the oppressor’s hand.
  3. God’s providence over the natural world:  As we will see in our lesson, the Israelites found themselves trapped along the shores of a tributary of the Red Sea, without defense or a route of escape.  Jehovah, according to the text, sent a great wind that separated the waters of the sea, and the Hebrews passed through the peril unharmed.  As Pharaoh’s chariots pursued the Israelites, the waters closed in on the vulnerable army of Egypt.  Some scholars have sought naturalistic explanations for this remarkable rout of Pharaoh’s army, but the Book of Exodus claims unequivocally that God was at work, delivering his people by miraculous intervention.
  4. The importance of redemptive history and the fitting response of worship: The Judeo-Christian tradition is grounded in an expansive narrative, a story, in a sense, that continues through the return of Christ, at the end of the age.  Believers must, as an adjunct to appropriate worship, keep in mind this majestic narrative.  If my premise is true, all Christians must be historians, at least as history unveils the providential workings of divine providence.

 

 

Lesson Outline:

 

I.       Israel’s Departure from Egypt (13:17-22)

A.    The threat of the Philistines (v. 17): Normal trade routes would have taken the Hebrews through territory dominated by the Philistines, a sea-faring, aggressive people who inhabited the southeastern corner of the Mediterranean.

B.     God’s leadership of the Hebrews (vv. 18-22): The text asserts that Jehovah led the Israelites toward the Red Sea (modern Gulf of Suez) by means of a pillar of cloud, by day, and a pillar of fire, by night.  Moses insisted on transporting the bodily remains of Jacob for eventual burial in Canaan.

 

II.    Crossing the Red Sea (14:1-31)

A.    The continued hardening of Pharaoh’s heart (vv. 1-4): As the people advanced toward the Sinai Peninsula, God commanded Moses to encamp near the Red Sea.  This position, of course, trapped the people along the shores of the massive body of water, and Pharaoh, sensing an advantage, determined to attack the Hebrews.  God, resolute in his will to assert supremacy over Pharaoh, hardened the monarch’s heart. 

B.     Pharaoh’s planned assault on Israel (vv. 5-9): Egypt’s ruler marshaled all of his forces to subdue the former slaves, and the troops trapped Israel against the shores of the sea.  The chariot corps formed an elite military unit, and Pharaoh committed more than six hundred chariots for this battle.  The Egyptians developed chariot technology during the Hyksos Dynasty, hundreds of years before the Exodus, and the Hebrews had no weaponry to counter this formidable military force. 

C.     Israel’s fear of the Egyptian troops (vv. 10-14): The appearance of the Egyptian forces panicked the Hebrews, and they criticized Moses for leading them into this disastrous circumstance. The great statesman comforted the people by reminding them of the Lord’s power to deliver his people.  He gave them four instructions.

1.      “fear not”: Fear is a normal response to threatening circumstances, but Moses told the people to calm their fears, God was at work.

2.      “stand firm”: For God’s people, courage does not come as a native instinct; rather, it arises from a rock-ribbed confidence in the Lord.

3.      “see the salvation of the Lord”: Hebrew military forces had no hope of successfully resisting the well-trained and well-equipped Egyptian army.  Their only hope was in the intervening hand of Jehovah, the Lord who had clearly promised their deliverance from Egyptian oppression.

4.      “be silent”: The people were to silence their complaints and observe the      mighty hand of God. 

D.     God’s instructions to Moses (vv. 15-20): Jehovah told Moses to lift up his staff over the sea, an action that would instigate the division of the waters.  Then, God instructed Moses to lead the people through the sea, on dry ground, and Pharaoh’s men would meet their doom when they followed the path of the Hebrews. 

E.     God’s deliverance of Israel (vv. 21-31): Moses obeyed God’s instructions, lifting up his rod to divide the sea.  The Jews traversed the sea bed on dry land as the waters walled up on either side, and Pharaoh’s troops followed.  An angel, according to the text, protected the rear of the Hebrews column, and the pillar of cloud sent the Egyptians into a panic. The chariot wheels bogged down in the seabed, and, after the Hebrews were safe, Moses closed the waters on the Egyptians. These remarkable events buoyed the faith of the Israelites, at least for a time.

 

III. Moses’ Hymn of Praise (15:1-21)

A.    Praise for God’s Character (vv. 1-3): Moses and the people praised God for the victory over the Egyptians.  The rest of the hymn focuses on God’s work, but these introductory verses make important assertions about God’s character, character reflected in the Lord’s saving work.

1.      “he has triumphed gloriously”: The horse and rider could not resist the triumphant power of God, and Jehovah won the victory to reveal his own glory and demonstrate his covenant love for Israel.

2.      “the Lord is my strength and my song”: God communicates his attributes to his people; that is, his strength is not merely an abstract theological dogma.  As he sees fit, God unleashes his might for the sake of his people.

3.      “he is my salvation”: In the immediate context, “salvation” refers to deliverance from the oppression and threat of the Egyptians. 

4.      “he is my God… my father’s God”: God’s faithfulness abounds to all generations.  The testimony of the fathers buoys the confidence of future generations.

5.      “the Lord is a man of war”: Pharaoh set himself against the Lord, and he found Jehovah a formidable opponent.

B.                                Praise for God’s Victory Over the Egyptians (vv. 4-12): In soaring poetic language, Moses praised the Lord for the defeat of Pharaoh’s forces.  Verse Nine reflects the arrogance that enflamed the passions of the Lord’s enemies: “I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil… I will draw my sword; my hand shall destroy them.”  But God blasted the waves with his nostrils, and destroyed the charioteers. 

C.                                Praise for the steadfast love of God (vv. 13-19): This portion of the hymn anticipates the conquest of Canaan.  The loving guidance of Jehovah struck terror in the hearts of Philistia, Edom, Moab, and other Canaanite tribes; however, no confederation of nations could resist the purpose of God. God had already established the Promised Land as a sanctuary for his people, and he pledged to plant them in the land.

D.                               A final expression of praise (vv. 20-21): Miriam, the sister of Moses provided a final word of praise.  She danced and played tambourines with the women of Israel, and her song summarized the previous praise offered to Jehovah.