Crossing the Sea on Dry Ground
Prayer for Understanding
God of wisdom, prepare our hearts and minds to receive your Word. Where it challenges us, lead us by Your Spirit to respond in faithfulness for the sake of Christ who gives us both courage and compassion. Amen.
The story of crossing the red sea is well-known. And I am sure that most of you watched the classic American film, The Ten Commandments made in 1956, having Charlton Heston as Moses. The movie was filmed in Egypt, Mount Sinai, and the Sinai Peninsula. Even though the plot is a little different from the original story in the Bible, it is undeniable that some of the scenes are spectacular, considering when it was made.
But because of the movie, we might have a distorted image or understanding of the Bible. And it can also limit our imagination. So as we study today’s text, let us open our minds to see the famous story with fresh eyes.
Today’s reading starts at Exodus 14:19, but the full story begins back in 13:17, after the 10 plagues and the Passover. The Israelites leave Egypt, following Moses and the pillar of cloud and fire.
Ch 13 V 21 records: “During the day the Lord went in front of them in a pillar of cloud to show them the way, and during the night he went in front of them in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel night and day.”
What a sight! The pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire remained with Israel throughout the whole journey to the Promised Land, the 40-year journey in the wilderness. They represented divine guidance and protection.
Unfortunately, Pharaoh, King of Egypt, has second thoughts about letting them go. V 5, “What have we done? We have let the Israelites go and have lost their services!” Services? What a nice word. It was technically slavery.
So, he pursues them in force, with his world-renowned mighty chariots leading the charge. Suddenly, the Israelites, who have been excitingly taking the road to the Promised Land, find themselves trapped. They are boxed in, with nowhere to turn - with the water of the sea on one side and the armies of Pharaoh on the other.
The Israelites panicked. They complain loudly to Moses, wishing that they had never left Egypt, never been freed from the bondage.
You know, as we look at this fascinating story, we can easily forget that these were real people with real fears and worries, just like you and me. They were weak and vulnerable people.
The only life they knew was life in Egyptian bondage. As awful as that life must have been, living in slavery was what they were familiar with. It must have been terrifying for Israel to leave Egypt and travel the unknown.
We are afraid of stepping out of our comfort zone, wanting to stay in our familiar ways. We tend to blame other people when we are in trouble, just like they blamed Moses for bringing them out of slavery. We easily forget what God has done in our lives, just like they forgot how God just saved them from the 10 plagues.
But God is patient as always, and Moses tries to calm them. He starts by offering words of comfort: “Don’t be afraid!” He tries to reassure them and strengthen their faith: “God is about to rescue you. The LORD will fight for you. Just watch God work.”
This is the context of today’s text. They are in panic, looking back and forth in fear - the gigantic armies of Pharaoh chasing them with the thundering sounds of horses and chariots and the vast water in front.
At that moment, the angel of God, who had been traveling in front of Israel’s army, moved and went behind them. A brief reminder that even though we don’t see it, the angel of God is with us. The pillar of cloud also moved from in front and stood behind them, coming between the armies of Egypt and Israel.
When we try to protect our child or grandchild from danger, we stand between the danger and our child or grandchild. And surely, the pillar of cloud and the angel of God who had been guiding Israel in front were now shielding them from behind, blocking the pursuing Egyptian armies.
The cloud made it dark for the Egyptians, bringing confusion, but gave light to the people of Israel, and so the armies could not come near Israel all night.
Following God’s instruction, Moses stretched out his hand over the sea. And, amazingly, but slowly, the Lord drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night, and the sea started to part. And finally, dry ground emerged. God made a way where it seemed no way.
And as God ordered, the Israelites moved on to the dry land between the walls of water. All night, 2 million people - the old, the sick, women and children, and their cattle, chickens, and lambs crossed the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left.
The armies of Pharaoh followed them, thinking that they would have crossed the sea on dry ground as well. But God threw them into confusion, and the wheels of their chariots came off.
Then the Lord told Moses to stretch out his hands over the sea again. When Moses stretched out his hand a second time, it became an instrument of death. The Red Sea flowed back, swallowing up the mighty armies of Egypt.
That day, the Lord delivered Israel from the hands of the entire army of Pharaoh. V 31 says, “When the Israelites saw the mighty hand of the Lord displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant.”
This is one of the most intriguing and significant stories in the Old Testament. And as a pastor, I can energetically proclaim “Just as God rescued his people from a life-and-death situation at the Red Sea with mighty acts of divine power, so God is with you as you face your challenges, and will deliver you. You have only to trust God, who is your Deliverer.”
IT is true. Like how the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire walked with Israel during their journey in the wilderness, Immanuel God, Jesus Christ walks with us always.
Like how the pillar of cloud shielded Israel against the powerful Egyptian armies, our God protects us from danger both physical and spiritual.
Like how God parted the sea and made a way when Israel was trapped, God makes a way where there seems to be none.
When you go through a troubling situation, when you face the biggest obstacles in your life’s journey, and when you feel trapped, God will open a door and turn the muddy river bottom into dry land. In fact, Paul confesses in 2 Corinthians 4:8, “We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed.”
However, this story serves more than that. If we talk just about God’s redemption of His people from slavery in Egypt, we would be missing the bigger picture in the story of redemption.
The apostle Paul says in 1 Cor 10:1-3, “For I want you to know, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.”
As Baptism represents a death to self a rise into a new life in Christ and a cleansing from sin, Israel was being baptized in the sea.
It symbolized Israel’s death to the old identity of slaves of Egypt and the rise into the new identity as the people of God. A new relationship with the Lord God was created.
The Israelites were going through so-called ‘the baptismal waters’ of the Red Sea before they could receive God’s gracious gifts of the Law and the land of promise.
Furthermore, through Moses, God delivered Israel from Egyptian slavery, and through Christ, God has delivered His children -us- from the domain of darkness, from the power of sin and death.
Crossing the Red Sea prefigures the greater spiritual reality of God’s redemption of His people from slavery to sin through the work of Christ.
Like the Israelites who were in slavery to Egypt, all people are in bondage to sin. We were also in bondage of sin. But by God’s power and grace, we’ve been released from bondage to sin and eternal death, when we accepted Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.
Through the blood of Jesus, the Passover Lamb, we’ve made an exit. All who are in Christ have made an exodus, and we are now sojourning towards the heavenly promised land.
Brothers and sisters, being a Christian – a true Christian – in this culture is getting more and more difficult with each passing year. The pressures are great. The enemy seems to be so strong.
Sometimes it feels like the powerful chariots and horses are chasing us so closely. And we feel like we’re pressed on every side by troubles. Therefore, it is vital that we trust the LORD. We must walk by faith.
The LORD does provide a way for his people. He is ever-present with us. He does give us this day our daily bread. He is faithful to guide us and direct us.
He opens up paths for his people where there seems to be no way. He works in ways we cannot see. He will make a way for you. You have probably experienced this at some point in your walk with Christ. And if you have not, trust me, you will.
The LORD leads each step of our lives, and He is with us to protect us.
Brothers and sisters, as we consider the Exodus event, we must not forget that we too have experienced an exodus in Christ Jesus. Because following after Christ in this world involves an exodus from one kingdom and an entrance into another.
God accomplished a great act of deliverance through Christ’s death and resurrection. Remember the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ who died on the cross to give you a new life. The mystery of God is unveiled.
As Moses and the Israelites sang the song of praise to the Lord in ch 15, let us declare “Who among the gods is like you, O Lord? Who is like you? Majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders? In Your unfailing love, You will lead the people You have redeemed. In Your strength, You will guide them to Your holy dwelling. The Lord will reign forever and ever.” Amen
Let us pray.
Our Great Redeemer, Thank You for delivering us from the bondage of sin through Jesus Christ Your Son. Guide us, as we pilgrim through this challenging journey. We are weak but You are Mighty. Hold us with Your powerful hand. Amen.