Crossing the Red Sea, pt. 2
by Arthur W. Pink (1886-1952)
11And 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? 12Is not this the word that 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.”
13And Moses said unto the people, “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 for ever. 14The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.”
15And the Lord said unto Moses, “Wherefore criest thou unto me? Speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward: 16But lift thou up thy rod, and stretch out thine hand over the sea, and divide it: and the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea. 17And I, behold, I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians, and they shall follow them: and I will get me honor upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host, upon his chariots, and upon his horsemen. 18And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I have gotten me honor upon Pharaoh, upon his chariots, and upon his horsemen.”
19And 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: 20And 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.
21And 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. 22And 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.
23And the Egyptians pursued, and went in after them to the midst of the sea, even all Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots, and his horsemen. 24And it came to pass, that in the morning watch 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, 25And 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.
26And the Lord said unto Moses, “Stretch out thine hand over the sea, that the waters may come again upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots, and upon their horsemen.” 27And Moses stretched forth his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to his strength when the morning appeared; and the Egyptians fled against it; and the Lord overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea. 28And 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.
29But the children of Israel walked upon dry [land] in the midst of the sea; and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left. 30Thus the Lord saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the sea shore. 31And Israel saw that great work which the Lord did upon the Egyptians: and the people feared the Lord, and believed the Lord, and His servant Moses. (AV).
“Is not this the word that 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’” (v. 12). Behind the rage of Pharaoh and his hosts who were pursuing the Israelites, we are to see the enmity of Satan against those whom Divine grace has delivered from his toils. It is not until a sinner is saved that the spite of the Devil is directed against him who till recently was his captive. It is now that he goes forth as a roaring lion seeing to devour Christ’s lamb. Beautiful it is to see here the utter failure of the enemy’s efforts. Now that the Divine righteousness had been satisfied by the blood of the Lamb, it was solely a question between God and the enemy. Israel had to do no fighting — God fought for them, and the enemy was utterly defeated. This is one of the outstanding lessons of Exodus 14 — “If God be for us who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31).
Vitally important it is for the believer to lay firm hold on this soul-sustaining truth. How often it occurs (exceptions must surely be few in number) that as soon as a sinner has fled to Christ for refuge, Satan at once lets fly his fiery darts. The young believer is tempted now as he never was in his unregenerate days; his mind is filled with evil thoughts and doubts, and he is terrified by the roaring of the “lion,” until he wonders who is really going to gain possession of his soul — God or Satan. This was precisely the issue raised here at the Red Sea. It looked as though Jehovah had deserted His people. It seemed as though they must fall victims to their powerful and merciless foes. But how deceptive are appearances? How quickly and how easily the Lord Almighty reversed the situation? The sequel shows us all Israel safe on the other side of the Red Sea, and all the Egyptians drowned therein! But how was this brought about? Of deep moment is every word that follows.
“And Moses said unto the people, ‘Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will show to you today; for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to-day, ye shall see them again no more forever’” (v. 13). The first word was, “Fear not.” The servant of God would quieten their hearts and set them in perfect peace before Him. “Fear not” is one of the great words recurring all through the Scriptures. “Fear not” was what God said to Abraham (Genesis 15:1). “Fear not, neither be thou dismayed” was His message to Joshua (see Joshua 8:1). “Fear not” was His command to Gideon (Judges 16:23). “Fear not” was David’s counsel to Solomon (1 Chronicles 28:20). This will be the word of the Jewish remnant in a day to come: “Be strong, fear not, behold, your God will come” (Isaiah 35:4). “Fear not” was the angel’s counsel to Daniel (10:12). “Fear not little flock” is the Lord’s message to us (Luke 12:32). “I will fear no evil” said the Psalmist (23:4), “for Thou art with me.” But how is this to be attained? How is the heart to be established in peace? Does not Isaiah 26:3 sum it all up? — “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed in Thee because he trusteth in Thee.”
“Stand still” was the next word of Moses to Israel. All attempts at self-help must end. All activities of the flesh must cease. The workings of nature must be subdued. Here is the right attitude of faith in the presence of a trial — “stand still.” This is impossible to flesh and blood. All who know, in any measure, the restlessness of the human heart under anticipated trial and difficulty, will be able to form some conception of what is involved in standing still. Nature must be doing something. It will rush hither and thither. It would feign have some hand in the matter. And although it may attempt to justify and sanctify its worthless doings, by bestowing upon them the imposing and popular title of “a legitimate use of means,” yet are they the plain and positive fruits of unbelief, which always shut out God, and sees nought save every dark cloud of its own creation. Unbelief creates or magnifies difficulties, and then sets us about removing them by our own bustling and fruitless actions, which, in reality, do but raise a dust around us which prevents our seeing God’s salvation.
“Faith, on the contrary, raises the soul above the difficulty, straight to God Himself, and enables one to ‘stand still.’ We gain nothing by our restless and anxious efforts. We cannot make one hair white or black, nor add one cubit to our stature. What could Israel do at the Red Sea! Could they dry it up? Could they level the mountains? Could they annihilate the hosts of Egypt? Impossible! There they were, enclosed within an impenetrable wall of difficulties, in view of which nature could but tremble and feel its own impotency. But this was just the time for God to act. When unbelief is driven from the scene, then God can enter; and in order to get a proper view of His actings, we must ‘stand still.’ Every movement of nature is, so far as it goes, a positive hindrance to our perception and enjoyment of Divine interference on our behalf” (C.H.M.).
“And see the salvation of the Lord.” It is surprising how many have, missed the point here. Most of the commentators regard this word as signifying that Israel were to remain passive until the waters of the Red Sea should be cleft asunder. But this is clearly erroneous. Hebrews 11:29 tells us that it was “by faith they passed through the Red Sea,” and faith is the opposite of sight. The mistake arises from jumping to the conclusion that “see the salvation of the Lord” refers to physical sight. It was spiritual sight that Moses referred to, the exercising of the eyes of the heart. Faith is a looking not at the things which are seen, but a looking “at the things which are not seen” (2 Corinthians 4:18) — strange paradox to the natural man! As we read in Hebrews 11:13, “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off.” And of Moses we read, “he endured as seeing Him who is invisible” (Hebrews 11:13) — that is, seeing Him with the eyes of faith. To “see the salvation of the Lord” we must first “stand still” — all fleshly activity must cease. We have to be still if we would know that God is God (see Psalm 46:10).
“For the Egyptians whom ye have seen today, ye shall see them again no more forever. The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace” (vv. 13, 14). Notice the repeated use of the future tense here: “He will show you....ye shall see them again no more.... the Lord shall fight for you.” How this confirms what we have just said! Jehovah’s “salvation” had first to be seen by the eye of faith before it would be seen with the eye of sense. That “salvation” must first be revealed to and received by “the hearing of faith.” “Which He will show you today” was the ground of their faith. Striking are the closing words of verse 14: “and ye shall hold your peace,” or, as some render it, “ye shall keep silence.” Six hundred thousand men, besides women and children, were to remain motionless in the profound silence which befitted them in a scene where so unparalleled a drama was to be enacted, moving neither hand, foot, nor tongue! How well calculated was such an order to draw the trembling heart of Israel away from a fatal occupation with its own exigencies to faith in the Lord of hosts!
“And the Lord said unto Moses, ‘Wherefore criest thou unto Me? Speak unto the children of Israel that they go forward’” (v. 15). “Go forward” does not contradict, but complements the “stand still.” This is ever the spiritual order. We are not ready to “go forward” until we have first “stood still” and seen the salvation of the Lord. Moreover, before the command was given to “Go forward” there was first the promise, “see the salvation of the Lord which He will show you today.” Faith must be based on the Divine promise, and obedience to the command must spring from the faith thus produced. Before we are ready to “go forward” faith must see that which is invisible, namely, the “salvation of the Lord.” and this, before it is actually wrought for us. Thus “by faith Abraham went out, not knowing whither he went” (Hebrews 11:8).
“But lift thou up thy rod and stretch out thine hand over the sea, and divide it: and the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea. 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 hand” (vv. 16-21, 22). The best commentary upon this is Hebrews 11:29: “By faith they passed through the Red Sea as by dry land.” It is beautiful to observe another word in Hebrews 11:29 — “The children of Israel walked upon dry land in the midst of the sea.” They did not rush through at top speed. There was no confusion. With absolute confidence in the Lord they crossed in orderly procession.
“And the Egyptians pursued, and went in after them to the midst of the sea, even all Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots, and his horsemen. And it came to pass, that in the morning watch 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 drove them heavily: so that the Egyptians said, ‘Let us flee from the face of Israel; for the Lord fighteth for them against the Egyptians.’ And the Lord said unto Moses, ‘Stretch out thine hand over the sea, that the waters may come again upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots, and upon their horsemen.’ And Moses stretched forth his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to his strength when the morning appeared; and the Egyptians fled against it; and 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” (vv. 23-28). The practical lesson to be learned from this is very plain: Those who attempt to do without faith, what believers succeed to do by faith — those who seek to obtain by their own efforts, what believers obtain by faith — will assuredly fail. By faith, the believer obtains peace with God; but all of the unbeliever’s efforts to obtain peace by good works, are doomed to disappointment. Believers are sanctified by the truth (John 17:19); those who aim to arrive at holiness without believing are following a will o’ the wisp. In the little space that remains let us summarize some of the many lessons our passage sets forth.
Typically the crossing of the Red Sea speaks of Christ making a way through death for His people. “The Red Sea is the figure of death — the boundary-line of Satan’s power” (Ritchie). Note the words of God to Moses: “Lift thou up thy rod, and stretch out thine hand over the sea. and divide it; and the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea” (v. 16). Moses is plainly a type of Christ, the “rod” a symbol of His power and authority. The Red Sea completely destroyed the power of Pharaoh (Satan) over God’s people. Hebrews 2:14 gives us the antitype — “That through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the Devil.” The effect of Moses lifting up his rod and stretching forth his hand is blessed to behold — “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” (v. 22). Not only had that which symbolized death no power over Israel, but it was now a defense to them! This very sea, which at first they so much feared, became the means of their deliverance from the Egyptians; and instead of proving their enemy became their friend. So if death overtakes the believer before the Lord’s return it only serves to bring him into the presence of Christ — “Whether Paul or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours” (1 Corinthians 3:22). But deeply solemn is the other side of the picture: “By faith they passed through the Red Sea as by dry land: which the Egyptians assaying to do, were drowned,” for the natural man to meet death in the power of human confidence is certain destruction.
Evangelically the crossing of the Red Sea tells of the completeness of our salvation. It is the sequel to the Passover-night, and both are needed to give us a full view of what Christ has wrought for us. In Hebrews 9:27 we read, “It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” For the believer this order is reversed, as it was with his Substitute. It was during the three awful hours of darkness, while He hung on the cross, that the Lord Jesus endured the “judgment” of God against our sins. Having passed through the fires of God’s wrath, He then “yielded up the spirit.” So in our type. On the Passover-night, we see Israel sheltered by blood from the judgment of God — the avenging angel; here at the Red Sea, we behold them brought safely through the place of death. The order is reversed for the unbeliever. “After death the judgment” for him.
Doctrinally the passage through the Red Sea sets forth the believer’s union with Christ in His death and resurrection. “I am crucified with Christ” (Galatians 2:20), refers to our judicial identification with our Substitute, not to experience. That Israel passed through the Red Sea, and emerged safely on the far side, tells of resurrection. So we read in Romans 6:5, “If we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection.” And again, “When we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, and raised us up together” (Ephesians 2:5, 6).
Practically the deliverance of Israel from the Red Sea illustrates the absolute sufficiency of our God. The believer to-day may be hemmed in on every side. A Red Sea of trial and trouble may confront him. But let him remember that Israel’s God is his God. When His time comes, it will be an easy matter for Him to cleave a way through for you. Take comfort from His promise: “When thou passeth through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee” (Isaiah 43:2). God can protect His people in the greatest difficulties and dangers and make a way of deliverance for them out of the most desperate situations.
Dispensationally the passing of Israel through the Red Sea foreshadows the yet suture deliverance and restoration of the Jews. The “sea” is a well known figure of the Gentiles (Psalm 65:7; Daniel 7:2; Revelation 17:15) Among the Gentiles the seed of Abraham have long been scattered, and to the eye of sense it has seemed that they would be utterly swallowed up. But marvelously has God preserved the Jews all through these many centuries. The “sea” has not consumed them. They still dwell as “a people apart” (Numbers 23:9), and the time is coming when Jehovah will fulfill the promises made to their fathers (Ezekiel 20:34; 37:21, etc.). When these promises are fulfilled our type will receive its final accomplishment. Israel shall be brought safely out of the “sea” of the Gentiles, into their own land.
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