III. The Deliverance of Israel (Exodus 12:1–15:21)

12:1-2 Exodus 12 describes the greatest of Israel’s annual festivals: Passover. By faithfully putting this ritual into practice, the Israelites would be protected by God from the plague on the firstborn and delivered from Egyptian bondage. Then, every year afterwards, they were to celebrate the Passover to remember how God had saved them. The month in which Passover was to be held would be the first month of the Jewish calendar year (12:2). It includes portions of our months March and April. In Canaan the month was called Abib; in Babylonia it was called Nisan.

14:5-9 Pharaoh acted just as the Lord predicted. When he learned of the seemingly erratic actions of the Israelites, he asked, What have we done? We have released Israel from serving us (14:5). Then he took six hundred . . . chariots, sped after the people in hot pursuit, and caught up with them . . . by the sea (14:6-9).

14:10 When the Israelites caught sight of their pursuers, they were terrified and cried out to the Lord for help. Clearly, they thought themselves in a no-win situation. And true, they seemed to be caught between a rock and a hard place—between the sea and the Egyptian army. But what they were failing to grasp was that God was sovereignly directing the whole encounter. God, in fact, had orchestrated an apparent disaster. And he often does similar things in our lives today. Sometimes he will place his people in a dilemma, so that he can be glorified as he teaches us more about himself and accomplishes his purposes in our lives.

14:11-12 Out of the Israelites’ fear rose some fussing. The hero who had delivered them from slavery quickly became an object of their scorn. They asked, Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? (14:11). In other words, they felt they’d been better off living as slaves than to die in the wilderness (14:12).

14:13-14 Just as the people started to panic—caught between death by drowning and death by Egyptian will—Moses declared, Don’t be afraid. Stand firm and see the Lord’s salvation. . . . The Lord will fight for you, and you must be quiet (14:13-14). Though their fear made them want to run, the Lord told them to “stand firm.” You too can choose not to fear by fulfilling your obligation as one under the protection of God—by acting in spite of your fear.

Notice that God didn’t give Israel a plan of attack. He told them to “see [his] salvation” because “[he would] fight for [them].” Their eyes were on the Egyptians and the sea, which means they were looking in the wrong places. They needed to shift their attention away from their fears in order to recognize that the Lord would indeed fight on their behalf. This is a reminder that when you’re boxed in by a dilemma, you must trust in the Lord. Look with the eyes of faith to see him working through your circumstances.

14:15-20 God called Moses to stretch his staff . . . over the sea and divide it so that the people could walk through the sea on dry ground (14:16). Meanwhile God would harden the hearts of the Egyptians (14:15; see commentary on 4:21; 9:8-12) so that they would chase the Israelites into the sea. Once again, God’s plan was to bring himself glory through the actions of those who’d initially set themselves against him (14:17-18). While the Israelites prepared to march toward the sea, the angel of God—who had been leading them with the pillar of cloud—now stood behind them as a guardian, preventing the Egyptians from overtaking them (14:19-20).

14:21-22 Moses did as God commanded, the Lord drove the sea back, and the Israelites went through . . . on dry ground (14:21-22). God, then, worked two miracles. Not only did he split the sea in half, but he also dried the ground so they could walk through without getting all muddy. This was a surprise level of provision they never would have expected, even given the dramatic escape route provided. It suggests that we too should look for the lavish, unexpected miracles that often accompany the bigger, more obvious ways that God works to help us as we face crises. Thanking him for such things gives him the glory that he deserves.

14:23-25 Moses had told the Israelites, “The Lord will fight for you” (14:14). And they were about to see him in action. As the Egyptians set out in pursuit, God threw them into confusion and caused their chariot wheels to swerve (14:23-25). Pharaoh’s forces, having just survived the plagues, immediately realized what was happening: The Lord is fighting for [the Israelites]. And they knew what they should do in response: Let’s get away from Israel, they said (14:25).

14:26-28 Finally, the Lord was ready to deliver the knockout punch. He again told Moses to stretch out [his] hand over the sea (14:26). And as the Egyptians tried to escape, the Lord caused the sea to flow back into its normal position (14:27). The water . . . covered the chariots and horsemen and the entire army. . . . Not even one of them survived (14:28). The Egyptian king who had defied the God of creation had his army wiped out by God’s creation.

14:29-31 Israel, however, walked to safety at the other side of the sea (14:29). When they saw the great power that the Lord used against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord (14:31). Likewise, when you receive deliverance from a crisis, you should remember that the correct response to it is to fear the Lord. Take him and his work on your behalf seriously. Give him the praise he’s due and submit to his agenda.

15:1-5 In a response of praise for this miraculous exodus, Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the Lord. They said, God is highly exalted because of his triumph over Pharaoh’s army, casting the horse and its rider into the sea (15:1). They had seen for themselves that the God of their fathers—of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—had come to save his people (15:2). The elite troops of Egypt were no match for their God: the Lord is a warrior (15:3-4).

15:6-10 Scripture often speaks of God accomplishing actions with his right hand as a way of referring to his mighty power. Like a boxer with a devastating right hook, the Lord shattered the enemy (15:6). The song’s poetic imagery emphasizes God’s great majesty. His burning wrath reduced the opposition to stubble (15:7), and the mere breath of his nostrils transformed the sea into a weapon of mass destruction (15:8, 10).

15:11-12 The song asks, Who is like you among the gods? The answer is obvious. The Lord is one of a kind. He alone is glorious in holiness and to be revered with praises (15:11). The Egyptian “gods” had proven powerless to stop him because they were imaginary.

15:13-18 The final verses of the song look to the future. God will lead the people whom he has just redeemed (15:13). The enemies who stand in their way will be filled with anguish and terror and dread when they hear how the mighty Egyptians fared under his actions on Israel’s behalf (15:14-16). The Lord will plant Israel securely like a mighty tree in the land prepared for them (15:17). All they needed to do was follow their King—who will reign forever (15:18).

15:19-21 Once again, God’s miraculous deliverance of Israel is emphasized (15:19). It’s little wonder why the exodus is still celebrated by Israel and is so frequently mentioned in the pages of the Old Testament. The song continues: Moses’s sister Miriam (the first woman to be identified in Scripture as a prophetess) sang to the women of Israel (15:20-21). Interestingly, Micah 6:4 speaks of Miriam along with her brothers Moses and Aaron as playing a role in the deliverance of the people. This is a reminder that even in the early biblical witness, women were not marginalized but were critically involved in the kingdom program of God. Thus, the church must celebrate and encourage the ministry of women.

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