God was intentional in the way He led the Israelites out of Egypt. Initially, he took them away from the Philistine country so that they would not have to face battle and "perhaps change their minds and return to Egypt." (Exodus 13:17) He led them by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. He deliberately led them to a place opposite Baal Zephon (The Lord of the North) between Migdol and the sea. He told Moses, "And I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and he will pursue them. But I will gain glory for myself through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord." (Exodus 14:4)
Verse 9 of Chapter 14 tells us, "The Egyptians—all Pharaoh's horses and chariots, horsemen, and troops—pursued the Israelites and overtook them as they camped by the sea near Pi Hahiroth (Mouth of wrath) opposite Baal Zephon." Imagine how the Israelites felt as they looked up and saw the entire Egyptian army marching toward them! They found a scapegoat for their difficulties in Moses and proclaimed, "It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!" (Verse 12)
Moses responded to the people's cry as the Lord instructed: "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 be still." (Verses 13-14) I am reminded of Psalm 46:10-11. "'Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.' The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress." God was introducing Himself to the Egyptians and the Israelites. He was teaching them that there is only one true God. Again, the Lord tells Moses, "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 horsemen." (Verses 17-18)
All through the day, Scripture tells us, the Lord separated the children of Israel from the armies of Pharaoh through the pillar of cloud. All through the night, as Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, the Lord drove it back and prepared a path through the sea. The Israelites walked right through on dry ground. They were pursued by the Egyptian army who became defenseless against the Lord. He threw them into confusion, jammed the wheels of their chariots, and then pushed the waters back into place, drowning all of them. "And when the Israelites saw the mighty hand of the Lord displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord and put their trust in Him and in Moses His servant." (Verse 31)
A song was written by Moses and Miriam to glorify the Lord and to help the Israelites remember the awe and majesty of the one true God. Here are parts of it as written in Exodus 15: "I will sing to the Lord, for He is exalted...the Lord is my strength and my defense; He has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise Him, my father's God, and I will exalt Him...In the greatness of Your majesty You threw down those who opposed You...Who is like You—majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders? You stretched out Your right hand, and the earth swallows Your enemies. In Your unfailing love You will lead the people you have redeemed. In Your strength You will guide them to Your holy dwelling...You will bring them in and plant them on the mountain of Your inheritance—the place, Lord, You made for Your dwelling, the sanctuary, Lord, Your hands established. The Lord reigns for ever and ever."
Indeed, this song that gives glory to the Lord is meant for us as well as the Israelites. The testimony of the Lord's power and love is to encourage us and remind us that we can take the mountain of our inheritance as we stand still and know that He is God! He tells us through the prophet Isaiah, "'...My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please...What I have said, that I will bring about; what I have planned, that I will do.'" (Isaiah 46:10-11) The Lord is with us. He can and will move heaven and earth to accomplish His purposes in us. Let us take encouragement, rejoice, and give glory to the King of kings and Lord of lords.
Joan E. Mathias