November 17                                                                                                  Lesson 12

Beginning of Freedom

Devotional Reading: Galatians 5:13-21

Background Scripture: Exodus 13:17-22; 14

Exodus 14:13, 14, 21-30

13And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will shew to you to day: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to day, ye shall see them again no more for ever.

14The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.

 

21And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided.

22And the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea upon the dry ground: and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left.

23And the Egyptians pursued, and went in after them to the midst of the sea, even all Pharaoh's horses, his chariots, and his horsemen.

24And it came to pass, that in the morning watch the Lord looked unto the host of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and of the cloud, and troubled the host of the Egyptians,

25And took off their chariot wheels, that they drave them heavily: so that the Egyptians said, Let us flee from the face of Israel; for the Lord fighteth for them against the Egyptians.

26And the Lord said unto Moses, Stretch out thine hand over the sea, that the waters may come again upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots, and upon their horsemen.

27And Moses stretched forth his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to his strength when the morning appeared; and the Egyptians fled against it; and the Lord overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea.

28And the waters returned, and covered the chariots, and the horsemen, and all the host of Pharaoh that came into the sea after them; there remained not so much as one of them.

29But the children of Israel walked upon dry land in the midst of the sea; and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left.

30Thus the Lord saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the sea shore.

Key Verse

Thus the Lord saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians. —Exodus 14:30

Lesson Aims

After participating in this lesson, each student will be able to:

1. Tell how Israel escaped from Egypt by crossing the Red Sea.

2. Compare and contrast the Israelites' deliverance from bondage through crossing the Red Sea with the role of baptismal water in delivering believers from the bondage of sin (1 Corinthians 10:1, 2).

3. Sing a song of praise to God, giving thanks for salvation.

Lesson Outline

Introduction

A. From Despair to Deliverance

B. Lesson Background

I. Terrifying Situation (Exodus 14:13, 14)

A. Watch Closely (v. 13)

B. Do Nothing (v. 14)

The Fight-or-Flight Response

II. Miraculous Intervention (Exodus 14:21-28)

A. Israelites Escape (vv. 21, 22)

B. Egyptians Pursue (v. 23)

C. God Fights (vv. 24, 25)

D. Egyptians Perish (vv. 26-28)

Power from Above

III. Victorious Resolution (Exodus 14:29, 30)

A. Summary of Deliverance (v. 29)

B. Evidence of Freedom (v. 30)

Conclusion

A. Our Great Salvation

B. Prayer

C. Thought to Remember

Introduction
A. From Despair to Deliverance

We were supposed to fly directly across Lake Michigan and down the Wisconsin coast to Chicago's Midway Airport. However, the storm was so strong we had to hug the shoreline of Michigan, flying south, bumping hard every second. I knew we were in trouble when the businessmen who took this flight daily were visibly frightened. It seemed that the plane would break apart any second. Our seat belts hardly held us in place as we bounced around. There was no way to fly out of it.

After more than an hour with teeth chattering and hearts pounding, we emerged into smooth air just south of the airport. The evening sun was setting, and rays were filtering through the storm clouds. We landed safely, and everyone clapped for joy for the "great salvation" we had just experienced. We had moved quickly from despair to deliverance.

Perhaps our emotions were a bit like what the Israelites experienced at the Red Sea. Their exodus has become a figure of the Christian experience of salvation and freedom from sin.

B. Lesson Background

To understand the miraculous nature of the exodus events, one must look back to the very beginnings of the book of Exodus itself. In the first place, young Moses was saved from a death sentence by divine circumstances to be reared in Pharaoh's household (Exodus 2:1-10; Acts 7:20-22). But at age 40, Moses killed an Egyptian overseer and had to flee for his own life. He then spent 40 years as a shepherd before being confronted by God in the burning bush (Exodus 2:11-3:22; Acts 7:23-32). Moses thus became the man to lead God's people out of Egypt (Exodus 3-6).

The miracles of the plagues reached a climax with the death of the firstborn in Egypt (Exodus 7-11). When Pharaoh finally let the people go, God did not lead them by a northern route, the most direct way to Canaan (13:17); rather, He led them toward the south "through the way of the wilderness of the Red sea" (13:18). By the time the Israelites "encamped in Etham, in the edge of the wilderness" (13:20), the people had seen many miracles performed by God through Moses. Thus they should have been confident in the outcome of what was coming next.

When we read Exodus 14:2, we see that God had deliberately led the people into an impossible position (from a human point of view), with their backs to the sea. God placed Israel in this position—with no apparent way to escape the Egyptian army—in order that He might show His glory to the Israelites.

An Israelite countermarch tricked Pharaoh into thinking that the Israelites were confused in their attempt to escape into the wilderness (v. 3). God used this opportunity to "harden Pharaoh's heart" so Pharaoh would chase after the Israelites with his army (vv. 4-6). This he did, with his 600 "chosen" chariots plus many other chariots and horsemen (vv. 7-9). The Israelites reacted with great fear and consternation (v. 10). With sarcasm, "they said unto Moses, Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness?" (v. 11). Time for another miracle!

I. Terrifying Situation

(Exodus 14:13, 14)

A. Watch Closely (v. 13)

13. And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will shew to you to day: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to day, ye shall see them again no more for ever.

Ancient Egypt is a culture obsessed with a religion of death. The pyramids, which are monumental tombs for the Pharaohs, testify to this fact. The pyramids were built long before the time of Moses, and it is against this "religion of death" backdrop that Moses speaks words of encouragement.

The Hebrew word for stand still is a special form that means "to take one's stand within oneself." Thus the phrase stand still is addressed more to the hearer's attitude than to physical posture. In other words, the Israelites are to be calm and confident, not wavering in their trust in God. All they have to do is wait and see the salvation of the Lord.

The word see, used three times, is emphasized in this verse. At the end of the chapter, at the conclusion of the great salvation accomplished by God, the Israelites will see "Egyptians dead upon the sea shore," they will see God's "great work" (Exodus 14:30, 31). Moses addresses the people's fears most appropriately as he predicts that the Egyptians whom ye have seen to day, ye shall see them again no more for ever. Death is about to become a sudden reality for many Egyptians, whose culture is fixated on a religion of death.

B. Do Nothing (v. 14)

14. The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.

The Lord is the "man of war" (Exodus 15:3) who announces His strategy and goals from the beginning (see 6:2-8). The exodus events, wilderness experiences, and conquest of Canaan are and will be God's battle. The Lord has His part in what is about to happen, and the Israelites have theirs: it is to shut up and watch. Unfortunately, the people are beginning to develop the bad habit of running off at the mouth when silence would indicate faith.

II. Miraculous Intervention

(Exodus 14:21-28)

A. Israelites Escape (vv. 21, 22)

21. And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided.

There are two things in Exodus 14:15-20 (not in today's text) that we should note as we move to verse 21. First, verse 16 tells us that Moses is stretching out not just his hand, but the "rod" that has been the visible means of God's power throughout the plagues. This rod has been important from the beginning of this deliverance (see Exodus 4:17). Many times the text recounts that Moses stretches out this rod to do signs and miracles (see Exodus 7:19, 20; 8:5, 16, 17; 9:23; 10:13; 17:9-12). However, Moses eventually uses the rod in a way that displeases God (see Numbers 20:11).

We may wonder why God even bothers to use Moses and his rod to get things done. It seems to be a principle that God prefers to work through the human instrument. God usually finds someone to push His plan forward (example: Isaiah 6:8), but sometimes He doesn't (example: Ezekiel 22:30). Yet even when the human instrument is involved, we know that the signs and miracles ultimately come from God.

This is no less true when God uses natural forces to accomplish a task, with the miracle being in the intensity and timing of those forces. For example, consider how God uses the wind in the verse before us. We experience wind almost daily as a natural, nonmiraculous force of nature that God has put in place for the normal functioning of the world. The miraculous element here is in the intensity and duration of the wind as God causes the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night (compare also Exodus 10:13).

The way the text actually reads should cause healthy skepticism as we consider how Hollywood recreates accounts from the Bible. For example, Cecil B. DeMille's 1956 movie The Ten Commandments is inaccurate in showing the waters parting almost instantly as Charlton Heston, playing the part of Moses, raises his staff. That's not how it happened. God certainly could have done it that way, but He chose a different procedure.

The second thing to note from Exodus 14:15-20 is that the angel of God causes "the pillar of the cloud" to separate the Egyptian army from the Israelites; the result is "a cloud and darkness" to the Egyptians, but a source of light "by night" to the Israelites. This means that the Israelites can witness what is happening all that night while the Egyptians cannot.

22. And the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea upon the dry ground: and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left.

The fact that it is still night as the children of Israel cross the sea upon the dry ground is confirmed by the fact that God does not destroy the Egyptians until "the morning watch" (v. 24, below). Even though it is night, the Israelites have light to see by, as noted previously. Surely they recognize that God is indeed fighting for them (v. 14)! We take for granted that Moses leads the way into the parted waters on dry ground; then the Israelites followed as sheep follow their shepherd (Isaiah 63:11).

As a conjecture, we might consider the possibility that God could have formed the walls of water on their right hand, and on their left by means of a strong jet stream of air that freezes the water as it piles up. As this happens, the seabed may become frozen mud. This theory does not contradict the fact that the text says dry ground. I live in Illinois, and on a cold winter's night I can walk across a field of frozen mud as dry ground since there will be no water on the bottom of my shoes after I cross. My conjecture fits well with the statement that "the depths were congealed in the heart of the sea" (Exodus 15:8).

I realize that this is my imagination at work, but it is plausible. It is also possible that the east wind is not cold and that the wind itself holds up the walls of water on both sides. The problem this theory presents is the great difficulty (if not impossibility) of the Israelites being able to walk through such a strong force of continual wind as they pass between the walls of water.

In any case, it is still a miracle! The mixed emotions of this journey between two walls of water surely include fear, excitement, joy, even helplessness. So the Israelites escape.

B. Egyptians Pursue (v. 23)

23. And the Egyptians pursued, and went in after them to the midst of the sea, even all Pharaoh's horses, his chariots, and his horsemen.

What makes Pharaoh order his chariots and horsemen into the parted waters, clearly a frightening situation if there ever was one? It is God fighting for Israel by hardening the hearts of the Egyptians (Exodus 14:4, 8, 17). They are remorseful for having let Israel go (v. 5). God had halted their pursuit temporarily (vv. 19, 20), but now they resume the chase. Hard hearts tend to throw caution to the wind.

C. God Fights (vv. 24, 25)

24. And it came to pass, that in the morning watch the Lord looked unto the host of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and of the cloud, and troubled the host of the Egyptians,

There are several watches throughout the night, and the morning watch is the one that occurs from 2 to 6 a.m. God's divine presence is manifested by the pillar of fire and of the cloud as it has been before (Exodus 13:21, 22; 14:19). Ancient cultures often depict deity by a brilliant fire in the midst of clouds. It is in such a manifestation that God is presented as observing the Egyptian army and troubling them.

25. And took off their chariot wheels, that they drave them heavily: so that the Egyptians said, Let us flee from the face of Israel; for the Lord fighteth for them against the Egyptians.

Part of the troubling or confusion is accomplished by God's destroying the wheels of the chariots. If the previous conjecture regarding "frozen mud" is correct, it would be nothing for God to thaw the mud so that chariot wheels become mired, with the result that the wheels come off.

The result is panic among the charioteers. Such a result undoubtedly spreads among the rank and file of the Egyptian army, causing great confusion. Even the Egyptians are able to recognize that God is fighting for the Israelites (compare Exodus 14:14; Deuteronomy 1:30; 3:22)! The Egyptians' attempt to turn around and flee from the Israelites, now on the other side of the sea, further adds to the confusion and paralysis.

D. Egyptians Perish (vv. 26-28)

26. And the Lord said unto Moses, Stretch out thine hand over the sea, that the waters may come again upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots, and upon their horsemen.

God can, of course, simply speak the word and cause the waters to come again upon the Egyptians without any participation by Moses. But the people need to see that Moses is the leader that God has chosen, so God works through him to finish off the pursuers.

27. And Moses stretched forth his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to his strength when the morning appeared; and the Egyptians fled against it; and the Lord overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea.

The phrase when the morning appeared again confirms that the crossing takes place at night. The Israelites can see their great deliverance unfolding. The doctrinal points of these events are clearly stated several times throughout the story: the Egyptians know (before they die!) the identity of the one true God (Exodus 14:4, 17, 18), and the Israelites acknowledge God with reverent fear and trust in Him and His servant Moses (14:13, 14, 30, 31).

28. And the waters returned, and covered the chariots, and the horsemen, and all the host of Pharaoh that came into the sea after them; there remained not so much as one of them.

The fact that the returning waters are deep enough to cover the chariots, and the horsemen, and all the host of Pharaoh indicates that the Israelites are not crossing a shallow, marshy lake as some have proposed. Such a theory is disallowed by the fact that the army of Pharaoh at the Red Sea perishes in the manner described here.

Although there may be parts of the army left back in Egypt that did not pursue Israel, the power of Egypt is so weakened that it is no factor in Canaan until the days of the Israelite monarchy, hundreds of years later. The statement there remained not so much as one of them acts as a bookend with verse 13: "For the Egyptians whom ye have seen to day, ye shall see them again no more for ever."

III. Victorious Resolution

(Exodus 14:29, 30)

A. Summary of Deliverance (v. 29)

29. But the children of Israel walked upon dry land in the midst of the sea; and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left.

This is a repeat of verse 22 with slight variation in verbs and word order. It functions as a conclusion for this section of the story that stretches from verse 21 to verse 29.

B. Evidence of Freedom (v. 30)

30. Thus the Lord saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the sea shore.

This is an epilogue to the story. Israel sees "the salvation of the Lord" (v. 13) as evidenced by the Egyptians dead upon the sea shore. The Egyptian charioteers and horsemen are no match for the divine warrior. The "Song of Moses" that follows celebrates this victory over Pharaoh's army (see Exodus 15:1-21). The fact of this deliverance is restated often (see Deuteronomy 11:4; Joshua 2:10; 4:23; 24:6, 7; Judges 11:16; Isaiah 51:10; 63:11-13) and remembered frequently in Israel's hymns (see Psalms 66:6; 77:19, 20; 78:13, 53; 106:7, 9, 22; 114:3, 5; 136:13, 15). The result is that the Israelites fear God and trust not only Him but also Moses (Exodus 14:31, immediately following today's text). Sadly, subsequent events will show how fleeting that fear and trust to be.

Conclusion
A. Our Great Salvation

Hebrews 3 compares and contrasts the faithfulness of Moses as a servant of God with the faithfulness of Jesus as the Son of God. While Israel's deliverance from slavery was great, the Christian's salvation from sin is far greater. The apostle Paul uses the exodus event to warn his readers in Corinth by comparing their status in Christ with Israel's baptism unto Moses (1 Corinthians 10:1, 2). Because of the Israelites' subsequent unfaithfulness, they were condemned to die in the wilderness (v. 5). In spite of our baptism into Christ, we may suffer the same condemnation if we prove to be unfaithful (vv. 6-12).

We must show gratitude for our great salvation in Jesus Christ. We do this by obedience to Christ's law of love. We must not be as the generation that left Egypt after witnessing the miracles of the plagues only to express doubt, fear, and sarcasm as the pursuing army approached (Exodus 14:10-12). "Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come" (1 Corinthians 10:11).

B. Prayer

Our Father, we praise You for the great salvation we have in Christ. May we never take Your grace for granted or cheapen it by shallow discipleship. Help us to keep our eyes on the promised eternal life. Till Jesus comes, amen.

C. Thought to Remember

Expect God's deliverance.