(“Questions From Israel’s Exodus” series: post #12, last one)
As God brought the walled-up waters of the Red Sea back together to drown the Egyptian army, He also slammed the door shut on the Israelites ever returning to Egypt. Their departure from their enslavement was now complete, and a new day had dawned for their nation. So, if the Israelites were ever going to sing God’s praises, now was the time to do it.
Fortunately, as we might expect from a group of people who had just witnessed a jaw-dropping miracle that saved them, the Israelites were in a praising mood. Exodus 15:1-19 gives us the record of how Moses served as the worship leader for the praise service, and Exodus 15:20-21 gives us the record of how his sister Miriam led the women in an echo time of praise. Exodus 15:1 says of this praise service: “Then Moses and the children of Israel sang this song to the Lord…”
Moses wrote the words for the song (surely with some divine inspiration) very shortly after the Red Sea event. As for the echo time of praise led by Miriam and conducted by all the Israelite women, it involved Miriam singing alone and playing the timbrel while the rest of the women played timbrels and danced. Since the opening words of the Miriam song are virtually identical to the opening words of the Moses song — “Sing to the Lord, For He has triumphed gloriously! The horse and its rider He has thrown into the sea!” — it is reasonable to assume that Miriam repeated the entirety of the Moses song even though scripture only mentions her singing the song’s opening section.
Despite the fact that God had struck Egypt with ten awesome plagues as part of Israel’s exodus, Moses’ song of praise fixates on the parting of the Red Sea and doesn’t even mention any of the plagues. He sings lines such as (all from the N.K.J.V.):
- “Pharaoh’s chariots and his army He has cast into the sea; His chosen captains also are drowned in the Red Sea.” (v.4)
- “The depths have covered them; They sank to the bottom like a stone.” (v.5)
- “And with the blast of Your nostrils The waters were gathered together; The floods stood upright like a heap; The depths congealed in the heart of the sea.” (v.8)
- “You blew with Your wind. The sea covered them. They sank like lead in the mighty waters.” (v.10)
It seems that the miracle at the Red Sea stirred something deep inside the Israelites, something none of the plagues had stirred. The Israelites had heard about the deaths of Egypt’s firstborns as part of the tenth plague, but those deaths hadn’t inspired them nearly as much as them watching those waters of the Red Sea roll over Egypt’s soldiers, chariots, and horses. Perhaps it was the intensely visual aspect of that particular miracle, or perhaps it was just simply the “end game” finality of it, but something about that miracle evoked a time of national praise from the people.
It should be noted, however, that Moses’ song of praise didn’t just look back to God drowning the Egyptians in the Red Sea. It also looked ahead to what God was going to do to the races whom Israel would defeat in conquering the promised land of Canaan. Moses sung:
“The people will hear and be afraid; Sorrow will take hold of the inhabitants of Philistia. Then the chiefs of Edom will be dismayed; The mighty men of Moab, Trembling will take hold of them; All the inhabitants of Canaan will melt away. Fear and dread will fall on them; By the greatness of Your arm They will be as still as a stone, Till Your people pass over, O Lord, Till the people pass over Whom You have purchased. You will bring them in and plant them In the mountain of Your inheritance, In the place, O Lord, which You have made For your own dwelling, The sanctuary, O Lord, which Your hands have established. The Lord shall reign forever and ever.” (Exodus 15:14-18, N.K.J.V.)
Moses looking to the future in this way teaches us an incredibly important lesson about praise. That lesson is: Singing God’s praises for what He has done for us in the past gives us confidence in what He is going to do for us in the future. You see, in Moses’ way of looking at things, it was inconceivable that the God who had just drowned Pharaoh’s army in the Red Sea wouldn’t be able to also defeat the armies of Philistia, Edom, Moab, and any of the other races the Israelites might encounter as part of claiming Canaan. That’s why he scarcely takes the time to mention these future wars — it is as if their outcomes are foregone conclusions — before he starts talking about God planting the Israelites in the land. Again, this is the effect true praise has. It builds within us faith in God’s future accomplishments by using the foundation of His past accomplishments.
It is with this in mind that I want to ask you to do something. As we come to the close of this series, please make a concerted effort to think back upon all the times that God has delivered you in the past. Whatever the deliverance was, if it marked you enough to still be quick to come to your mind, pause to consider it yet again. Then, once you have that memory in place, take the time to thank God for that deliverance. You say, “But Russell, He’s delivered me so many times, thanking Him that way would take hours.” Great! I assure you those hours will be ones well spent. And what you’ll find when you come out of all your praising is that your faith in the future will be reenergized. As a matter of fact, you will be able to look to the future with not only optimism but also EXPECTANCY. Like Moses and those Israelites, you’ll be able to see your Canaan in the waters of your Red Sea, but the lens you’ll have to look through is the lens of praise.