Meditations in Exodus: 47. The End Game
Ex 14:13-14 Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.”
Whenever you are faced with a block of Scripture, it is important to our understanding to see how it is made up. In the remainder of this chapter we see Moses encouraging the people (v.13,14), the Lord declaring His intent (v.15-18), the Lord’s protection of Israel (v.19,20), Israel crossing the sea dry (21,22), the Lord confusing the pursuing Egyptians (v.23-25), Moses releasing the water to destroy the Egyptians (v.26-38) and a final summary (v.29-31). That is the breakdown of what is here.
But before we cover those verses let’s remember that this is the end game, if we may put it like that, of a long play on God’s behalf which He spoke of right at the beginning but it is interesting to note that He had spoken from the beginning about the death of the first born, but never about Pharaoh’s death. It is almost as if the Lord was reticent to declare terminal judgment upon him, almost as if the Lord was keeping the door open to the possibility of Pharaoh eventually relenting. Yet we see that never happened and in fact Pharaoh still has pride bubbling in him so that a simple suggestion from the Lord’s emissary has him charging off after Israel.
So, first of all Moses’ encouragement of his people: “Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (v.13,14) It is a threefold declaration of faith:
- i) “you WILL see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today,”
- ii) “the Egyptians you see today you will never see again,”
iii) “The Lord WILL fight for you.”
And from this there are two consequences:
- i) “do not be afraid”, i.e. you need not be afraid.
- ii) “stand firm” i.e. stay where you are and God will act – “be still”
Second, see the Lord declaring His intent. This comes in three parts. Part 1: a call to get moving: “Then the LORD said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on.” Then Part 2: How to cross the water: “Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground.” Part 3: What He will do with the Egyptians: “I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them. And I will gain glory through Pharaoh and all his army, through his chariots and his horsemen. The Egyptians will know that I am the LORD when I gain glory through Pharaoh, his chariots and his horsemen.” (v.17,18) Note He doesn’t actually say at this point what He will do, only the result.
Third, we see the Lord’s protection of Israel: “Then the angel of God, who had been traveling in front of Israel’s army, withdrew and went behind them. The pillar of cloud also moved from in front and stood behind them, coming between the armies of Egypt and Israel. Throughout the night the cloud brought darkness to the one side and light to the other side; so neither went near the other all night long.” (v.19,20) The pillar of cloud comes between the two groups and thus prevents Pharaoh from reaching the Israelites.
Fourth, we see Israel crossing the sea dry:“Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the LORD drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left.” (v.21,22) Again it is to be something with Moses at its heart, so his staff stretched out over the sea enables the Lord to divide the waters and Israel pass through this miraculous divide.
Fifth, we then see the Lord confusing the pursuing Egyptians: “The Egyptians pursued them, and all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots and horsemen followed them into the sea. During the last watch of the night the LORD looked down from the pillar of fire and cloud at the Egyptian army and threw it into confusion. He made the wheels of their chariots come off so that they had difficulty driving. And the Egyptians said, “Let’s get away from the Israelites! The LORD is fighting for them against Egypt.”(v.23-25) As the Egyptian army follow Israel what may be a combination of mud and rocks perhaps, cause big problems for the chariots and the charioteers soon see the impossibility of the situation and basically cry, “Let’s go back, let’s get out of this!”
Then, sixth, the destruction of the Egyptian army: “Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea so that the waters may flow back over the Egyptians and their chariots and horsemen.” Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at daybreak the sea went back to its place. The Egyptians were fleeing toward it, and the LORD swept them into the sea. The water flowed back and covered the chariots and horsemen–the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed the Israelites into the sea. Not one of them survived.” (v.26-28) Again note it is the combination of the work of Moses (with his staff) and the Lord that brings about the death of Pharaoh and his army.
Finally, seventh, there is a final summary: “But the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left. That day the LORD saved Israel from the hands of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the shore. And when the Israelites saw the great power the LORD displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the LORD and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant.” (v.29-31) Israel saved, the Egyptians destroyed, resulting in a new level of faith in the Lord in Israel.
Just a final point to conclude this part of the story of the Exodus. The judgment was a judgment of God. It was God who destroyed the first born and then it was God who destroyed the Egyptian army and Pharaoh. BUT Moses had a part to play even if it was merely holding his hand out again and again. He was God’s signpost to the watching world that this was an act of God. Everything appeared to hinge on him. Now the Lord delights in using His people and in the New Testament the teaching about “the body of Christ” has you and me as members of this body, members who God uses to achieve things. If we refuse to be used, little will happen. We are to be God’s signposts to the watching world, a means for them to come to belief. May that we so.