Exodus 14  •  24 min. read  •  grade level: 5
Listen from:
(Exodus 14)
There is a very striking comment in the New Testament upon this passage in Israel's history. I will read it. " By faith they passed through the Red Sea as by dry land: which the Egyptians assaying to do were drowned " (Heb. 11:2929By faith they passed through the Red sea as by dry land: which the Egyptians assaying to do were drowned. (Hebrews 11:29)). It is the striking contrast, beloved friends, between the pathway of faith, and the pathway of nature, the pathway of the man of the world, in plain language.
Now if you ponder this bit of Israel's history, you will see that there is beautiful evidence of the energy of faith, although it was mixed up with a great deal of fear and trembling. God's Word always describes things exactly as they are, even in a figure like this, and you will find in this 14th chapter what absolutely answers to your own experience. What we have in figure here just illustrates what you know in your own soul's history—what all of us have known, I believe.
We learn, through these figures and types, that which God has for the blessing of our souls now in connection with the Lord Jesus Christ. You must understand that to-day everything is taken out of type, and all is found in a Person in Glory. Nevertheless the types are all designed by God to teach us precious and wondrous truths. As I said previously, there are four outstanding types of the Lord Jesus in Israel's history. First, the slaying of the lamb; secondly, the passage through the Red Sea; thirdly, the brazen serpent; and lastly, the passage through the Jordan. They are four figures of Christ's death, and they all teach totally different truths.
God is holy, hates sin perfectly, and cannot put up with it in anybody, not even when it was laid on His own blessed Son, who bore it vicariously on the cross. It must be judged. But the lesson of the Red Sea differs greatly from that of the blood upon the lintel. In that case it does not go beyond the truth that God, as a judge, is kept out. If, through grace, you have been led to trust in the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, the very holiness and the righteousness of God, make it absolutely impossible for Him to judge you. I may be quite clear as to that, and know my sins are forgiven, but still encounter real soul-difficulties. What about Satan's power? Although Israel was perfectly safe as far as God was concerned, they were by no means assured as far as Pharaoh was concerned (chap. 14). It was a question as to whether those people really belonged to God or to Pharaoh. The Red Sea settled that point.
I was greatly struck lately with a remarkable scripture in Isaiah, where it speaks of Israel in a day to come, when God will again deliver them. " For ye shall not go out with haste, nor go by flight: for the Lord will go before you; and the God of Israel will be your rereward " (Isa. 52:1212For ye shall not go out with haste, nor go by flight: for the Lord will go before you; and the God of Israel will be your rereward. (Isaiah 52:12)). That is what they did in Ex. 12 They were like a lot of timid frightened creatures, flying from an angry foe. Being " thrust out of Egypt" (12:39), they went out with haste, and " it was told the king of Egypt that the people fled " (14:5). They were not moving out at a stately pace. They went out for what I may call dear life. They fled for refuge, fearing the pursuing foe. By-and-by it will not be in haste, for they will have learned then, that it is not a question between themselves and Pharaoh, but a question between God and Pharaoh as to whom they belong.
Perhaps some one is saying-I thought I was converted, but now I don't think I can be, for I get into a great state of fear and doubt at times. You will find great comfort in the way in which the truth is brought out in this chapter. The moment a believer is under the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, he is sheltered. And the same blood that shelters him sets him apart to God. Hence you belong to God, spirit, soul, and body. You are not your own, for you are bought with a price (1 Cor. 6:19, 2019What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? 20For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's. (1 Corinthians 6:19‑20)). You belong to the Lord, but you are still in the world, and God would lead you out, as He led Israel out of Egypt. " He led them forth by the right way " (Psa. 107:77And he led them forth by the right way, that they might go to a city of habitation. (Psalm 107:7)). " It came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God led them not through the way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, Lest peradventure the people repent when they see war, and they return to Egypt: but God led the people about, through the way of the wilderness of the Red Sea. And the children of Israel went up by five in a rank out of the land of Egypt " (13:17, 18).
They might have got up to the land in eleven days' journey or thereabout (Deut. 1:22(There are eleven days' journey from Horeb by the way of mount Seir unto Kadesh-barnea.) (Deuteronomy 1:2)). But why were they not led that way? They were not yet fit for war, and the Lord said, If they meet the Philistines on the road, and see war, they will return to Egypt, so He led them round by the way of the wilderness. They had never seen war, nor did they see it till they had seen God's power. I will tell you what they did see. They saw " the salvation of the Lord." He loves to teach you first, what the triumph of Christ is, how completely and absolutely the enemy's power has been broken. You have to learn this, that you cannot deliver yourself. Weakness marks us, and weakness was confessed by them as " they went up by five in a rank " (13:18, margin). Do you know how -forty years afterward-they went into Canaan? It was " marshaled by five" there too (Josh. 1:14; 4:1214Your wives, your little ones, and your cattle, shall remain in the land which Moses gave you on this side Jordan; but ye shall pass before your brethren armed, all the mighty men of valor, and help them; (Joshua 1:14)
12And the children of Reuben, and the children of Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh, passed over armed before the children of Israel, as Moses spake unto them: (Joshua 4:12)
What is the meaning of five? In Scripture five is the numeral that is always connected with weakness, e.g., " Five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many?" (John 6:99There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many? (John 6:9)). What good were five? I do not doubt that five is the expression of weakness. And what God has to teach us is, that in ourselves we are the expression of utter weakness. We have no strength either in the commencement or end of our journeyings, but we do not learn that all in a day. When they are going to get into the heavenly land, they got in by fives. You have no strength either to get out of Egypt or to go into Canaan. God must be our strength, and is so when we are consciously weak. " When I am weak, then am I strong " (2 Cor. 12:1010Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong. (2 Corinthians 12:10)).
This statement as to the five comes up first when they were to go through the Red Sea, with crystal walls on either side-their lateral defense from the foe. When they come to Jordan, what do I find? The " five in a rank " is maintained, though, as you know, there was not a drop of water within thirty miles of them (Josh. 3:1616That the waters which came down from above stood and rose up upon an heap very far from the city Adam, that is beside Zaretan: and those that came down toward the sea of the plain, even the salt sea, failed, and were cut off: and the people passed over right against Jericho. (Joshua 3:16)). As they went through the Red Sea the waters were a wall on the right hand and on the left. Who could go in there? Nothing but faith. Nature might attempt it, and did, but only to meet judgment. It is a very serious thing to try, in the power of nature, the path of faith.
But we read that Pharaoh "made ready, his chariot, and took his people with him: and he took six hundred chosen chariots, and all the chariots of Egypt, and captains over every one of them,... and he pursued after the children of Israel " (14:6-8). The whole power of the enemy is in exercise to hinder their escape, but every single bit of that power was broken by God in the moment of the deliverance of His beloved people. God led them on, and " brought them forth also with silver and gold; and there was not one feeble person among their tribes" (Psa. 105:3737He brought them forth also with silver and gold: and there was not one feeble person among their tribes. (Psalm 105:37)). How secure they were! " The Lord went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night: he took not away the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people " (13:21, 22). Have you not too heard Him say " Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world" (Matt. 28:2020Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. (Matthew 28:20)). Oh, beloved, He led His people then, and He leads His people now, if only they will let Him.
God first brings them down to the edge of the sea (chap. 14:1, 2). He must teach us, as a practical thing, our own weakness. You ask, What is the meaning of the figure of the Red Sea? It is the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ for us, and our sins. I never shall be clear of the enemy until I know a risen Christ. Many a believer goes all his days saying, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" (Rom. 7:2424O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? (Romans 7:24)). You will never be delivered till you get your eye upon a risen Christ, and know that in His death and resurrection you are connected with Him. That is, that what is true of Christ is now true for you. By grace I am united to Christ. In figure I learn that the death and resurrection of Christ was for me. If He died, I died. If He is risen, I am risen. I must accept death, as the judgment of God upon man. But what liberty, what blessing for your soul, when you see all this true of yourself in Christ's death and resurrection.
We do not learn that all in a minute, but if we do learn it we can truly say, Oh, happy man that I am, for I have learned through grace, what the love of the Lord is, and what the victory which He has gained for me. Rom. 7 is the experience of many a person, who is really a believer, and hence a child of God, but it is the experience of an undelivered soul. The delivered soul says, " I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord." " Who shall deliver me? " is the piteous query of the undelivered, and no doubt there is many a person who is going through that experience. I quite admit it is experimental. You must know it in your own soul. And you are not delivered till you are delivered. Do you understand that? When are you delivered? When you give up trying to deliver yourself. Take Jonah as an illustration. There he was in the belly of the great fish. When did he get delivered? When he had given up all hope of delivering himself, then deliverance came. Read Jonah 2. He was in great misery. He prays (ver. 1); he cries (ver. 2); he promises, " I will look again toward thy holy temple" (ver. 4); he moralizes (ver. 8); he sacrifices, he vows (ver. 9); but he is in the belly of the great fish still. At length he says, " Salvation is of the Lord," and immediately he is out on the dry land (ver. 10).
That is the way Israel went through the Red Sea, on dry land. Dry land is where Christ is. Christ in resurrection, Christ in acceptance, and life, and glory before God. Christ the Victor. That is dry land for a Christian to-day. I am in Christ. I am not in Adam. That is what I understand by " dry land." Every hindrance is gone, and all the power of the enemy is broken.
" And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, that they turn and encamp before Pi-hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, and against Baal-Zephon: before it shall ye encamp by the sea. For Pharaoh will say of the children of Israel, They are entangled in the land, the wilderness hath shut them in " (14:1-3). Pi-hahiroth is part of God's ways with us, to teach us the utter uselessness of the flesh. A young convert often says, " Now I am going to do good, and I shall be a different person, and I shall live a different life." There is a great deal of self-confidence about us until we learn we can do nothing, and that God must do everything. It is a very remarkable thing that the meaning of the word Pi-hahiroth is " The gate of liberty." When you have the sense, I have not one bit of strength to deliver myself, it will be all right with you. So was it here. Pharaoh's servants told him that the people fled; he thereupon made ready his chariots, and went after them with a high hand (vers. 5-8). So the devil is determined to follow and overtake you. He is not going to let you be the devoted servant of the Lord Jesus, if he can help it.
We read in verse 9 that Pharaoh overtook them: " And when Pharaoh drew nigh, the children of Israel lifted up their eyes, and, behold, the Egyptians marched after them; and they were sore afraid " (ver. 10). The condition of Israel much resembles the doubts and fears that have gone through our souls, and their next words show that their hearts and ours are exactly alike. Do you know that you have a heart that could actually take you back into the world, even supposing you are converted? " And they said unto Moses, Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness? wherefore hast thou dealt thus with us, to carry us forth out of Egypt? Is not this the word we did tell thee in Egypt, saying, Let us alone that we may serve the Egyptians? For it had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness " (vers. 11, 12). When they were on the road to Canaan, what unbelieving language! Could we so speak? Did your heart never say in hours of pressure and temptation, After all it is a pity I professed Christ? If so, my friend, you will yet be sorry that you indulged in such unbelief.
I think God let Israel pass by Pi-hahiroth that they might learn how He can open "a gate of liberty," and that they might taste the triumph of His deliverance. God, and God only, could deliver them. That was the point (ver. 13). Moses' answer is splendid. He was a dear man, a character I love with all my heart. You go and read the history of that man. I hear that once he lost his temper, and only once. But still, as a servant, he was a beautiful servant. He was the mouthpiece of God, and it is a wonderful thing if you can be the mouthpiece of God to poor trembling souls. Hear what he says: " Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will show to you to-day; for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to-day, ye shall see them again no more forever. The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace " (vers. 13, 14). They were to see God's salvation that day. This is the first time, save one, that you get the word " salvation " in Scripture. The first time you get it is in Gen. 49:1818I have waited for thy salvation, O Lord. (Genesis 49:18), " I have waited for thy salvation, O Lord." There it is waited for, here it is sent. What is God's salvation? The blood of the Lamb has met all His claims, His power has crushed the power of the enemy absolutely, and His people are brought to Himself, just to enjoy Him.
" Stand still," was the word heard that day. " The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace." You get into your soul the wonderful fact that Christ has gone into death, and tasted death as the judgment of God upon man, on the cross. He has gone into death, and, beloved, He has come up out of it, and there He is alive before God, and by faith now walking in His footsteps, you go through on dry ground into resurrection scenes. There is no death or judgment for you. It was all exhausted by God's beloved Son.
But to know this you must "go forward" as Israel was bidden to do (ver. 15). They obey, the " pillar of fire " forming their rearguard, for " the angel of God, which went before the camp of Israel, removed and went behind them; and the pillar of the cloud went from before their face, and stood behind them: and it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel; and it was a cloud and darkness to them, but it gave light by night to these; so that the one came not near the other all the night" (vers. 19, 20). As they started the light was before them, and the light drew them on. But what is the next thing? They have a backward look for a moment, and they find that between themselves and the foe, God has put Himself. He seemed to say-Come on, Pharaoh, you may touch them if you can, you may put your hand upon them if you can. And were they safe? Indeed were they. They were safe under the shelter of the blood, but now they are to learn that they are saved. I am safe when under the shelter of the blood of the Lamb, I am saved when the power of the enemy is broken, and I learn that I am before God in all the value of the work of His beloved Son.
The angel going behind them was most gracious. If the light had been in the front the rear would have been in terror. Fancy six hundred thousand of them, and only five abreast. The first five would be saying, We are all right, but the last five are not very safe. But God comes in between the last five and the enemy, and oh, how safe were all, as the light of God beamed over their heads. The electric light of our day is dim to the light God's host had that night. Everybody saw the pathway perfectly plain. That is clear.
Young Christian, this is your God, the God that loves you. That is the kind of Savior who has come to take up your case, and to carry you out of this world right into glory. Do you think there is any chance of Satan getting you? No, no! See what follows. " 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. 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" (vers. 21, 22). Their way is opened. What lay before them? I see them marching forward, and what is it to? Apparently to certain death. Another step, and they go into these black dark waters of death. They accept death, and find it to be life and liberty. You must accept death. The waters of the Red Sea, or Marah, or Jordan, all tell one truth. There is only one way for my soul getting to God, and that is through death. I have to accept the death of the blessed Lord Jesus Christ for me.
What a wonderful sight, as they step out now; they hear the word " Go forward," and lift their foot to put it down on what seemed impossible to bear them-water. It is the acceptance of the sentence of death. Now for us the wonderful truth is that Christ has gone into death, and utterly annulled it. " Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage " (Heb. 2:14, 1514Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; 15And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. (Hebrews 2:14‑15)).
And now you ask me, How can I apply this truth to myself? Well, they were to go in, every one of them. There was not one of them that had not got the sense, I will have to go into that sea. But when they came to the spot, what was it? " Dry ground." The step was taken in the energy of faith, for we read,
" By faith they passed through the Red Sea as by dry land; which the Egyptians assaying to do, were drowned" (Heb. 11:2929By faith they passed through the Red sea as by dry land: which the Egyptians assaying to do were drowned. (Hebrews 11:29)). The latter clause of that verse is very striking. You will find there are people who seek to occupy the place of the children of God. We live in a day of great imitation. All unreal souls should remember that every Egyptian was drowned in that sea. It is only faith that can tread that pathway, and faith went into the midst of the sea upon dry ground. I doubt not Pharaoh thought, I shall now get at them. His great object was to overtake and to destroy, God's to deliver and save, and how safe they were as they went through these immense walls-crystal walls-reared by God. Just so we taste the wonderful love that let His Son pass through death and judgment for us. And now He is risen, and we are risen in Him.
I do not doubt that the truth unfolded in type in this chapter finds its New Testament answer in Rom. 6 and 7. " Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God in Christ Jesus" (6:11). It is our privilege to reckon that which the Lord Jesus passed through as ours. It is all ours. His death and resurrection were ours, and His victory over every enemy was for us.
In our chapter the way God checks, and overcomes the enemy, is very interesting. Pharaoh gets a solemn warning as the lynch-pins of his wheels all fly out, and receives an unexpected check by the taking off of his chariot wheels. The effect is electric. " 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, 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" (vers. 24, 25). The tables are completely turned. It is not God's people fleeing now, but their enemies who fly. The former are on resurrection ground really, while death and judgment overwhelm all their foes, for " the Lord overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea. 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" (vers. 26-28).
Some of our learned infidel friends would fain believe, and try and persuade us to think that Pharaoh was not there personally. The 136th Psalm clears away that fog of infidelity, for it says the Lord "overthrew Pharaoh and his host in the Red Sea; for his mercy endureth forever " (ver. 15). Let all doubters look at that lovely little commentary, or summary of God's ways in mercy with Israel. It is all God, you see. I believe that proud king came to his end there. I love to think how completely Satan has been overthrown, because Pharaoh is the type of Satan. God's thought is to bring His people out of this world. If you are a worldly Christian, do you think you will have the enjoyment of the Lord? No! you may have the sense that God will never judge you, but you are not clear of Satan, and you will have doubts and fears, because you have never cleared out of Satan's territory-the world.
What God wants is that you should give up the world. There were two men that gave up Egypt in this chapter, Moses and Pharaoh. Moses gave up Egypt voluntarily, " By faith he forsook Egypt " (Heb. 11:24-2724By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter; 25Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; 26Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward. 27By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible. (Hebrews 11:24‑27)). Pharaoh gave it up because he could not help it. He came under God's judgment, like many another sinner who has had to give up the world by death cutting him off from it, and having nothing for eternity, he has lost all-his own soul included. Where are you and I in this matter? Are our hearts clear of the world, and set on Christ, and on the things of Christ? That is where they ought to be.
The next thing we read here is, " Thus the Lord SAVED Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the sea-shore. And Israel saw the great work which the Lord did upon the Egyptians, and the people feared the Lord, and believed the Lord, and his servant Moses " (vers. 30, 31). Salvation is a very big word in Scripture. When I am "saved" I am clear of the enemy, and I am out of this scene in spirit and heart.I am a delivered man, in resurrection surroundings. When Israel looked, and saw all their enemies dead, they doubtless said, There is no road back to Egypt. The road was closed in. And my dear fellow-Christian, if you fancy you have found a road back, you are a very wretched man. You are not really back, you can never belong to it again, and you must come under God's judgment-governmentally. You are a person to be pitied. Oh, learn what it is to be with Christ on the sunny banks of resurrection.
Of the Christian it is said, " And ye are complete in him, who is the head of all principality and power " (Col. 2:1010And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power: (Colossians 2:10)). It is a fine thing for the Christian to see this, up far above the angels there sits a Man, and I am in Him, and He is the delight of the Father's heart. He is in a sphere of heavenly joy and blessedness, and I am complete in Him. It is only faith that touches that sphere. He has died, and He has risen, but He has died and risen for me, and now He has taken, as Man, this new place before God, and that is my place.
Oh, how freely must Israel have breathed that morning! How prepared, too, were they to sing a song that morning, when they saw all their enemies dead on the sea-shore. God loves us to sing. A Christian is looked upon as a person who sings. And we may well sing. They saw that morning every enemy gone, and deep, rich, solid peace filled their souls. Now where were they? In the wilderness. What had they there? Two things. They had God, and the sand. There was not even water or bread. They were to learn God, in that wilderness. And that is what we have to do. We have to learn the grace, the love, and the sustaining help of the Lord, while withal we have to learn what we are ourselves. They began with God, and God was everything to them. So is He to us if we will only let Him be what He is.
Come sing, my soul, and praise the Lord,
Who hath redeemed thee by His blood;
Delivered thee from chains that bound,
And brought thee to redemption ground.
Redemption ground, the ground of peace!
Redemption ground, oh, wondrous grace
Here let our praise to God abound,
Who saves us on redemption ground!
Oh, joyous hour when God to me
A vision gave of Calvary:
My bonds were loosed, my soul unbound;
I sang upon redemption ground.