Last week, in our Old Testament Study, we looked at Consecration and Redemption of the Firstborn in Exodus 13 and how it points to Christ as explained in the New Testament. This week, we will continue in Exodus 13 as we examine Israel’s crossing of the Red Sea and how that points ahead to our salvation and baptism.
Reminder of the Strong Hand of God
Let us start off with a reminder of the explanation God gave for the statue of consecrating and redeeming the firstborn.
13 Every firstborn of a donkey you shall redeem with a lamb, or if you will not redeem it you shall break its neck. Every firstborn of man among your sons you shall redeem.14 And when in time to come your son asks you, ‘What does this mean?’ you shall say to him, ‘By a strong hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, from the house of slavery. 15 For when Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, the Lord killed all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both the firstborn of man and the firstborn of animals. Therefore I sacrifice to the Lord all the males that first open the womb, but all the firstborn of my sons I redeem.’16 It shall be as a mark on your hand or frontlets between your eyes, for by a strong hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt.”
This isn’t the first time we see this declaration. The same was provided as an explanation for the feast of unleavened bread and the Passover. What follows next is a return to the historical narrative from the legal prescriptions of remembrance of the exodus. All of Israel has left the service of Pharoah, with Egypt’s plunder and a hope of being taken to the lands promised to Abraham, the Land of the Canaanites, the Land flowing with milk and honey. Let us take a moment to remind ourselves of this covenant made between God and Abram.
1 When Abram was ninety-nine years old the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless, 2 that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly.” 3 Then Abram fell on his face. And God said to him, 4 “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. 5 No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. 6 I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you.7 And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. 8 And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.” 9 And God said to Abraham, “As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations. 10 This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised.
This is the covenant of Abraham, of the circumcision. God promised the land of Canaan as an everlasting possession. The children of Israel feared Pharoah, and to say they were reticent to have Moses promise them that God had sent him to them to lead them to the Promised Land would be a huge under statement. Slavery is all these people knew. No doubt that is why God has made it plain to them that the Passover, the unleavened bread, and the consecration of the firstborn are a testimony to what the Lord God has done for Israel, bringing them out of the House of Slavery (Egypt). What we will see here, though, that their soil is indeed rocky (Parable of the Sower). Let’s continue in the historical narrative of Exodus 13.
17 When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near. For God said, “Lest the people change their minds when they see war and return to Egypt.” 18 But God led the people around by the way of the wilderness toward the Red Sea. And the people of Israel went up out of the land of Egypt equipped for battle. 19 Moses took the bones of Joseph with him, for Joseph had made the sons of Israel solemnly swear, saying, “God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones with you from here.” 20 And they moved on from Succoth and encamped at Etham, on the edge of the wilderness. 21 And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. 22 The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people.
God knows our hearts. He sees the quality of the soil and knows that they are not yet ready to endure the sight of the Philistines. So the Lord leads them by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night into the wilderness. While He is leading the people miraculously, and mightily, their faith is yet very weak. Let’s continue reading into the next chapter.
14 Then the Lord said to Moses, 2 “Tell the people of Israel to turn back and encamp in front of Pi-hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, in front of Baal-zephon; you shall encamp facing it, by the sea. 3 For Pharaoh will say of the people of Israel, ‘They are wandering in the land; the wilderness has shut them in.’ 4 And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, and the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord.” And they did so.
5 When the king of Egypt was told that the people had fled, the mind of Pharaoh and his servants was changed toward the people, and they said, “What is this we have done, that we have let Israel go from serving us?” 6 So he made ready his chariot and took his army with him, 7 and took six hundred chosen chariots and all the other chariots of Egypt with officers over all of them. 8 And the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he pursued the people of Israel while the people of Israel were going out defiantly. 9 The Egyptians pursued them, all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots and his horsemen and his army, and overtook them encamped at the sea, by Pi-hahiroth, in front of Baal-zephon.
Where these places point on the modern map I cannot say with certainty. It is interesting here that the Lord chooses the location for Israel’s encounter with Pharaoh’s men. God chose a location facing Baal Zephon, undoubtedly a significant Egyptian site to one of their gods. Notice the Lord tells Moses what Pharaoh will say and that he will interpret Israel’s movement as chaotic and aimless, that the wilderness will shut them in. Ancient Egyptians idenfitified deities over various lands, so Pharaoh may have thought that while the God of Israel had defeated all of the primary gods of Egypt, that their god (or demon) of the wilderness had ensnared Israel. However it might have played out in Pharaoh’s unbelieving heart/mind, the Lord God indeed hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and he sought out the destruction of Israel. I often wonder how much time must have passed between the death of all of the firstborn of Egypt to the time when Pharaoh took to the chase. The Bible does not say. It was long enough to amass quite a chariot army and give chase.
10 When Pharaoh drew near, the people of Israel lifted up their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians were marching after them, and they feared greatly. And the people of Israel cried out to the Lord. 11 They said to Moses, “Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us in bringing us out of Egypt? 12 Is not this what we said to you in Egypt: ‘Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.”13 And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. 14 The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”
Rocky soil, weak faith. They cry out to the Lord and they turn on Moses, even pull out a “we told you to leave us alone”. Had God broken His promise? No. Despite all that the Lord had done for them, and let’s not forget that the pillar of fire and smoke is still present, when they saw the army of the Pharaoh, they are overcome with fear and are shaken in their faith in God.
15 The Lord said to Moses, “Why do you cry to me? Tell the people of Israel to go forward.16 Lift up your staff, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, that the people of Israel may go through the sea on dry ground. 17 And I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they shall go in after them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, his chariots, and his horsemen. 18 And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I have gotten glory over Pharaoh, his chariots, and his horsemen.”
19 Then the angel of God who was going before the host of Israel moved and went behind them, and the pillar of cloud moved from before them and stood behind them, 20 coming between the host of Egypt and the host of Israel. And there was the cloud and the darkness. And it lit up the night without one coming near the other all night.
21 Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the Lord drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided. 22 Andthe people of Israel went into the midst of the sea on dry ground, the waters being a wall to them on their right hand and on their left. 23 The Egyptians pursued and went in after them into the midst of the sea, all Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots, and his horsemen.24 And in the morning watch the Lord in the pillar of fire and of cloud looked down on the Egyptian forces and threw the Egyptian forces into a panic, 25 clogging their chariot wheels so that they drove heavily. And the Egyptians said, “Let us flee from before Israel, for the Lord fights for them against the Egyptians.”
Wow. I’d like to draw your attention to something, in verse 18, and the Egyptians shall know… I found it interesting here that it doesn’t read “and all of Israel shall know”. I mean, it is Israel, who is has suddenly lost their faith. Interesting. Also backing up a bit to verse 17 where we see that God hardens the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will chase Israel through the Red Sea so that God will get glory over Pharaoh. This mighty hand of God moves for His glory, Soli Deo Gloria. The parting of the waters will both make a way of escape for Israel AND serve to bring Glory to God so that Egypt will know that the God of Israel is the Lord. Let’s continue before jumping to the New Testament.
Exodus 14:26-31 (ESV)
26 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea, that the water may come back upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots, and upon their horsemen.” 27 So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to its normal course when the morning appeared. And as the Egyptians fled into it, the Lord threw the Egyptians into the midst of the sea. 28 The waters returned and covered the chariots and the horsemen; of all the host of Pharaoh that had followed them into the sea, not one of them remained. 29 But the people of Israel walked on dry ground through the sea, the waters being a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.
30 Thus the Lord saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. 31 Israel saw the great power that the Lord used against the Egyptians, so the people feared the Lord, and they believed in the Lord and in his servant Moses.
The victory belongs to the Lord. He utterly destroyed the Egyptian army that had gone after Israel. With a mighty Hand, the Lord brought Israel out of Egypt, the house of slavery.
Alive and Free in Christ
The Passover points to Christ who presented Himself as our Passover Lamb, slain to redeem all of mankind to God, out of the kingdom of darkness, the house of slavery to sin. The crossing of the Red Sea points to our Baptism into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Let’s take a look at a portion of Paul’s letter to the Colossians.
1 For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, 2 that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 4 I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments. 5 For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ.
6 Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, 7 rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. 8 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. 9 For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.11 In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.
Amen. Notice some of the familiar wording used, we have the reference to the circumcision (the sign of God’s covenant with Abraham), only this is a better circumcision. Having been buried in Him in baptism. As Israel crossed through the Red Sea, Egypt chased after, and God slowed the wheels of the chariots as they pursued. God nailed the record of debt, of slavery to sin, to the cross. Much like how God brought the waters crashing down upon the armies of Egypt so that they would not follow Israel out of the sea. Also notice how Paul closes this thought… that God disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame by triumphing over them in Christ. The open shame experienced by Egypt was only a shadow of the open shame of the Kingdom of darkness in the triumph of Christ at the cross. This is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, that by a strong hand the Lord brought us out of the Kingdom of Darkness, from the house of slavery to sin. The next time you take communion, remember what God has done for you, and know that He alone is the Lord.
We will continue studying the Exodus and how it points to the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. I do hope you will join us again next week. if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to share.
Romans 16:25-27 (ESV) 25 Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages 26 but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— 27 to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.
May the Grace of God be with you today and always,
In Christ Jesus,