In our last study in the book of Exodus we looked at chapter 14 and what we called 'The Red Sea Baptism into Christ'. We saw Israel, led by the Lord, down into the waters of the Red Sea, with the entire Egyptian army in close chase behind. You may remember that the New Testament called this event being 'baptised into Moses.' Israel's journey down into the Red Sea, and their coming out alive on the other side, was a type of our baptism! It was a miraculous victory straight from the hand of the Lord. And worthy of a little bit of praise! In chapter 15 we read of the song sung to praise God during this time. It is an awesome song, giving all glory where it should always lie... with God and God alone! It is a song giving the testimony of those that had seen the salvation of the Lord, and as such, should be applicable to those saved today.
Please read Exodus 15:1-21 and think about the words of this song. How much credit does it give to Israel for what has been achieved? How much of 'self' is there in this song, either mentioning Israel's good or bad deeds? What does it reveal about the character of God and the character of the enemy? Do you know where in scripture this song is sung again?
He turns my mourning into dancing...
How much singing has Israel been doing up until this point? How much praise has found its way up to God? You wouldn't be far wrong if you said just about zip! We've heard some moaning, quite a bit of groaning, (and then some moaning again!) but now, for the first time we see real praise! It is interesting that this is the very first song that is revealed in scripture. Not only that, but it is the first record of anyone singing praise to God!  How appropriate this is for us, for true praise and worship will always follow revelation of what God has done for us in Christ. CHM, in his 'Notes on the book of Exodus' writes 'It was when they emerged from their significant baptism 'in the cloud and in the sea'... that six hundred thousand voices were heard chanting the song of victory... We too must know ourselves as saved, in the power of death and resurrection, before we can ever present clear and intelligent worship.' As Israel sat on the shores of the far side of the Red Sea, the realisation of the extent of God's salvation was there, plain as day, for all to see. And you can't keep praise down for long when the eyes have been opened and are focused upon what God has done! So let's look at the song.
And it's all about Him!
Exodus 15:1-3 Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the LORD: 'I will sing to the LORD, for he is highly exalted. The horse and its rider he has hurled into the sea. The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise him, my father's God, and I will exalt him. The LORD is a warrior; the LORD is his name.
Now the first thing to note about the start of this song is that it is very personal. The Lord is not seen as someone far away or uninterested. He is very real, very active, and very much in control. Not only that, but the Lord is Israel's strength and salvation  . Not just a 'help'. Think about it... how often do you pray asking the Lord to 'help' you do something? That is what most people think. That they are the ones who basically have to struggle on with whatever strength they have, while the Lord supplies a little bit of strength or patience or 'help' for the long hard road. Well, because of what Israel had seen before their very eyes, they had gone beyond just having the Lord as a 'helper'. They had seen that He didn't just help, but that He fully took over! Their song didn't say that the Lord is their helper. No, the Lord is their strength... the Lord is their salvation. Do you have God in His rightful place as the one who, through your consent, can live out His life through you?
Our sins have sunk like lead!
Exodus 15:4-12 'Pharaoh's chariots and his army he has hurled into the sea. The best of Pharaoh's officers are drowned in the Red Sea. The deep waters have covered them; they sank to the depths like a stone. 'Your right hand, O LORD, was majestic in power. Your right hand, O LORD, shattered the enemy. In the greatness of your majesty you threw down those who opposed you. You unleashed your burning anger; it consumed them like stubble... 'The enemy boasted, 'I will pursue, I will overtake them. I will divide the spoils; I will gorge myself on them. I will draw my sword and my hand will destroy them.' But you blew with your breath, and the sea covered them. They sank like lead in the mighty waters. 'Who among the gods is like you, O LORD? Who is like you - majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders? You stretched out your right hand and the earth swallowed them.
The song continues, focusing on what became of the Egyptian army. Obviously they took an unexpected swim in the Red Sea when they tried to cross! The song says that the Lord 'shattered the enemy...they sank like lead in the mighty waters... he hurled them into the sea.' What an awesome picture of what happened to that which stood against us - our sins. The Lord, majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, dealt fully with our past, present and future sin, burying them in the waters of baptism as deep as He did the Egyptians! And it says above that the God 'unleashed His burning anger; it consumed them like stubble.' I don't know about you, but this passage reminds me of what it took to have my sins forgiven. It reminds me of the anger and justice of God that was poured out upon the cross, and consumed the one who unreservedly took my place. 
Look also at the claim of the enemy - 'The enemy boasted, 'I will pursue, I will overtake them. My hand will destroy them.' Likewise, the Christian's enemy, Satan, is full of boasts but his defeat occurred at the cross and any accusations or doubts that he may try to place upon God's people are as empty as Pharaoh's famous last words in this passage. Stand your ground and start praising God again for Jesus ' disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. '
Do you know the victory that was achieved on the cross? If so, believe it to be true for your own life, and keep yourself focused on it  . Your song of praise to God will come from your understanding of what Jesus has done for you. 'Then they believed His words; they sang His praise.' (Psalm 106:12)
If God be for us...
Exodus 15:13-16 'In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed. In your strength you will guide them to your holy dwelling. The nations will hear and tremble; anguish will grip the people of Philistia. The chiefs of Edom will be terrified, the leaders of Moab will be seized with trembling, the people of Canaan will melt away; terror and dread will fall upon them. By the power of your arm they will be as still as a stone - until your people pass by, O LORD, until the people you bought pass by.'
In these verses we see the effect of the Red Sea crossing on Israel's enemy. 'The nations will hear and tremble; anguish will grip the people of Philistia.' Are these words true? Of course they are. When Israel finally got into the Promised Land, Rahab spoke of the fear that came upon the inhabitants of Canaan saying
'I know that the LORD has given this land to you and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you. We have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt...When we heard of it, our hearts melted and everyone's courage failed because of you, for the LORD your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.' (Joshua 2:9-11)
So the words of the song were prophetic of the fear that would come upon the enemy in the Promised Land. How much sadder does that make the fact that through their own fear of the enemy, Israel had to wander aimlessly for another 40 years after this? They where frightened of a shaking terrified enemy! They sang the words of the song, but didn't truly believe it in their hearts. Does this not speak to us as Christians? How many Christians still struggle with God's intentions towards them, let alone that of the enemy? How many Christians fail to enter the 'promised land' and the promises God has for them due to fear of that which has already been defeated? Let us sing the song, believe its words, and live it out.
Notice also what it testifies concerning the Lord- 'In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed. In your strength you will guide them to your holy dwelling.' What an awesome promise this is for us. Not only redemption through the Red Sea, but the promise for continual leading until we arrive home, in Heaven, His holy dwelling.
The 'How Much More' of Salvation
Exodus 15:17-18 You will bring them in and plant them on the mountain of your inheritance - the place, O LORD, you made for your dwelling, the sanctuary, O Lord, your hands established. The LORD will reign for ever and ever.'
Not only did God provide an awesome salvation for them through the Red Sea, but this song makes clear that he will bring them into His inheritance - the land He set apart for them. Israel was to be assured that the miracle of the Red Sea salvation was not the end of the Lord's work on their behalf. He would lead them, and plant them, in the Promised Land. Remind you of any particular promise in the New Testament? Yep, you got it (I hope!). Romans
states this 'how much more' when it says ' For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!' Surely this is something to be thankful for! God's work on our behalf never stops at our salvation. The Bible says that if He sent His Son to the cross when we were His enemies (which He did), then we should have an even greater expectation of His continual work on our behalf now that He has given us His Son.
What a song this is! It covers all aspects of Israel's salvation and gives all glory to the Lord. In contrast with much of our praise and worship today, it doesn't focus at all on 'self' but places the God of Israel in His rightful place as savior, redeemer, and Lord. As we have seem, it is a song that we can sing too for God is all of these things to us. Let us see, through a revelation of God's grace, the extent of His salvation and let's believe His words and sing His praise too.
As there was about 2,500 years of recorded history in scripture before the exodus, there may be a small chance that someone did actually sing before this point! But it is interesting that this is what God has recorded as the first song of praise for it shows that true worship comes after God’s people see the extent of His salvation. ↩
Wow. The Lord is their strength and salvation. I don’t think the church understands this at all well. I don’t think we really understand the extent of passages like the following - ‘It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.” It is not that we add our bit and the Lord adds His. Jesus is our righteousness (that is, our standing before the Father is completely based on the work of Christ on our behalf… yes, completely! Go be a missionary to deepest dark Africa all your life, serving God faithfully with all you have, and still, when you die and stand before the Lord, you won’t have added one thing to your salvation or standing with God. It will still be Jesus plus nothing.) This is the first (and probably easiest) truth to grasp on the road to Christian maturity. The passage also says that Jesus is our holiness. This implies that Jesus is the one who wants to live through you practically. And it is definitely the practical outworking that we struggle with the most! I guess the first place to start is where Israel did here… realization that the Lord didn’t just come to help out a little, but He came to take over. When there is victory it is because He does it! So let him who boasts, boast in the Lord. ↩
I may have written about this before… I can’t honestly remember. My memory seems to be going at an early age! Anyway, it is worth repeating. My mother once had a vision of the rapture of the church (It is ok. She is not totally dodgy!) She saw the believers outside, looking up, with no one speaking. She briefly saw Jesus coming and then, instantaneously, found herself alone with the Lord in Heaven, bowed down at his feet. And she said (and I’ve finally got to the reason for this footnote) that her eyes where opened completely to know that He had done EVERYTHING for her. We get glimpses of it down here do we not? Sometimes what He has done for us is very real and overwhelming. Sometimes it just isn’t. The magnitude of what Jesus has done doesn’t change, but we do. Well one day, we shall know even as we are known. And in that day your eyes will be completely open to see that He has done everything. And you will be free to worship Him fully in spirit and in truth. Maranatha! ↩
Watchman Nee, in his classic book ‘The Normal Christian Life’ writes of the importance of keeping your eyes focused on the truth concerning what Jesus did on the cross. He writes ‘You probably know the illustration of Fact, Faith, and Experience walking along the top of a wall. Fact walked steadily on, turning neither to right nor left and never looking behind. Faith followed, and all went well so long as he kept his eyes focused upon Fact; but as soon as he became concerned about Experience and turned to see how he was getting on, he lost his balance and tumbled off the wall, and poor old Experience fell down after him. All temptation is primarily to look within; to take our eyes off the Lord and to take account of appearances. ‘ ↩