Israel’s Song, pt. 2
by Arthur W. Pink (1886-1952)
3“The Lord is a man of war:
the Lord is His name.
4Pharaoh’s chariots and his host hath
He cast into the sea:
His chosen captains also
are drowned in the Red sea.
5The depths have covered them:
they sank into the bottom as a stone.
6Thy right hand, O Lord,
is become glorious in power:
Thy right hand, O Lord,
hath dashed in pieces the enemy.
7And in the greatness of thine excellency
Thou hast overthrown them
that rose up against Thee:
Thou sentest forth Thy wrath,
which consumed them as stubble.
8And with the blast of Thy nostrils
the waters were gathered together,
The floods stood upright as an heap,
and the depths were congealed
in the heart of the sea.
9The enemy said, ‘I will pursue,
I will overtake, I will divide the spoil;
My lust shall be satisfied upon them;
I will draw my sword,
my hand shall destroy them.’
10Thou didst blow with thy wind,
the sea covered them:
They sank as lead
in the mighty waters.
11Who is like unto thee, O Lord, among the gods?
Who is like thee, glorious in holiness,
fearful in praises, doing wonders?
12Thou stretchedst out thy right hand,
the earth swallowed them.
13Thou in Thy mercy
hast led forth the people
which thou hast redeemed:
Thou hast guided them
in Thy strength unto Thy holy habitation.
14The people shall hear, and be afraid:
sorrow shall take hold
on the inhabitants of Palestina.
15Then the dukes of Edom shall be amazed;
the mighty men of Moab,
Trembling shall take hold upon them;
all the inhabitants of Canaan shall melt away.
16Fear and dread
shall fall upon them;
By the greatness of Thine arm
they shall be as still as a stone;
Till Thy people pass over, O Lord,
till the people pass over,
which Thou hast purchased.
17Thou shalt bring them in,
and plant them in the mountain
of Thine inheritance,
In the place, O Lord,
which Thou hast made for Thee to dwell in,
In the Sanctuary, O Lord,
which Thy hands have established.
18The Lord shall reign for ever and ever.”
19For the horse of Pharaoh went in with his chariots and with his horsemen into the sea, and the Lord brought again the waters of the sea upon them; but the children of Israel went on dry land in the midst of the sea. 20And Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances. 21And Miriam answered them, “Sing ye to the Lord, for He hath triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea.” (AV)
“The Lord is a man of war: The Lord is His name” (v. 3). This brings before us an aspect of the Divine character which is very largely ignored today. God is “light” (1 John 1:5) as well as “love”; holy and righteous, as well as longsuffering and merciful. And because He is holy, He hates sin; because He is righteous, He must punish it. This is something for which the believer should rejoice; if he does not, something is wrong with him. It is only the sickly sentimentality of the flesh which shrinks from believing and meditating upon these Divine perfections. Far different was it here with Israel at the Red Sea. They praised God because He had dealt in judgment with those who so stoutly defied Him. They looked at things from the Divine viewpoint. They referred to Pharaoh and his hosts as God’s enemies, not as theirs. “In the greatness of Thine excellency Thou hast overthrown them that rose up against Thee” (v. 7). The same thing is seen in Revelation 18 and 19. Immediately after the destruction of Babylon by the fearful plagues of God, we read, “And after these things I heard a great voice of much people in heaven, saying, ‘Alleluia; Salvation, and glory, and honor, and power, unto the Lord our God; for true and righteous are His judgments; for He hath judged the great whore which did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and hath avenged the blood of His servants at her hand.’ And again they said, ‘Alleluia’” (Revelation 19:1-3).
Far different were the sentiments of Israel here than those which govern most our moderns. When they magnified Jehovah as a Man of War their meaning is clearly expressed in the next words of their song: “Pharaoh’s chariots and his hosts hath He cast into the sea; his chosen captains also are drowned in the Red Sea. The depths have covered them; they sank into the bottom as a stone” (vs. 4-5). They did not regard this Divine judgment as a reflection upon God’s character; instead, they saw in it a display of His perfections. “He hath triumphed gloriously. Thy right hand, O Lord, is become glorious in power... in the greatness of Thine excellency Thou hadst overthrown them” (vv. 6. 7): This was their confession. The “modernists” have not hesitated to criticize Israel severely, yea, to condemn them in unmeasured terms, for their “vindictive glee.” Such a conception of the Lord as Israel here expressed was worthy, we are told, of none but the most ferocious of the Barbarians. But that Israel was not here mis-representing God, that they were not giving utterance to their own carnal feelings, is abundantly clear from Revelation 15:3, where we read of saints in Heaven singing “The Song of Moses the servant of God, and the Song of the Lamb.” Certainly there will be no manifestations of the flesh in Heaven!
Strikingly does the Song of Exodus 15 set forth the perfect ease with which the Almighty overthrew His enemies: “The Enemy said, ‘I will pursue you, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil; my lust shall be satisfied upon them; I will draw my sword, my hand shall destroy them.’ Thou didst blow with Thy wind, the sea covered them; they sank as lead in the mighty waters” (vv. 9, 10). The Lord had promised to bring His redeemed into Canaan, the haughty Egyptians thought to resist the purpose of the Most High. With loud boastings of what they would do, they followed Israel into the parted waves of the Red Sea. With one breath of His mouth the Lord overthrew the marshaled forces of the enemy, in their mightiest array, as nothing more than a cob-web which stood in the pathway of the onward march of His eternal counsels.
Well might Israel cry, “Who is like unto Thee, O Lord, among the gods? who is like Thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?” (v. 11). And well may we ask today, “Who is like Thee, O God of the Holy Scriptures, among the ‘gods’ of Christendom?” How entirely different is the Lord — omnipotent, immutable, sovereign, triumphant — from the feeble, changeable, disappointed and defeated “god” which is the object of “worship” in thousands of the churches! How few today glory in God’s “holiness”! How few praise Him for His “fearfulness”! How few are acquainted with His “wonders”!
“Thou in Thy mercy hast led forth the people which Thou hast redeemed. Thou hast guided them in Thy strength unto Thy holy habitation” (v. 13). This was a new standing — brought nigh to God, into His very presence. This is what redemption effects. This is the position of all believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18). God’s redeemed are a people whom He has purchased for Himself, to be with Himself forever — “that where I am, there ye may be also.” “Thou hast guided them in Thy strength unto Thy holy habitation.” “This is our place as His redeemed. That is, we are brought to God according to all that He is. His whole moral nature having been completely satisfied in the death of Christ, He can now rest in us in perfect complacency. The hymn therefore does but express a Scriptural thought which says — ‘So near, so very near to God, I nearer cannot be, For in the person of His Son, I am as near as He.’ The place indeed is accorded to us in grace, but none-the-less in righteousness; so that not only are all the attributes of God’s character concerned in bringing us there, but He Himself is also glorified by it. It is an immense thought, and one which, when held in power, imparts both strength and energy to out souls — that we are even now brought to God. The whole distance — measured by the death of Christ on the cross, when He was made sin for us — has been bridged over, and our position of nearness is marked by the place He now occupies as glorified by the right hand of God. In Heaven itself we shall not be nearer, as to our position, because it is in Christ. It will not be forgotten that our enjoyment of this truth, indeed our apprehension of it, will depend upon our present condition. God looks for a state corresponding with our standing, i.e., our responsibility is measured by our privilege. But until we know our place there cannot be an answering condition. We must first learn that we are brought to God if we would in any measure walk in accordance with the position. State and walk must ever flow from a known relationship. Unless therefore we are taught the truth of our standing before God, we shall never answer to it in our souls, or in our walk and conversation” (Ed. Dennett).
“The people shall hear, and be afraid; sorrow shall take hold on the inhabitants of Palestine. Then the dukes of Edom shall be amazed; the mighty men of Moab, trembling shall take hold upon them; all the inhabitants of Canaan shall melt away. Fear and dread shall fall upon them; by the greatness of Thine arm they shall be as still as a stone; till Thy people pass over, O Lord, till the people pass over, which Thou hast purchased. Thou shalt bring them in, and plant them in the mountain of Thine inheritance, in the place, O Lord, which Thou hast made for Thee to dwell in, in the Sanctuary, O Lord, which Thy hands have established” (vv. 14-17). What firm confidence do these words breathe! What God had wrought at the Red Sea was the guarantee to Israel that He who had begun a work for them, would finish it. They were not counting on their own strength — “By the greatness of Thine arm they” (their enemies) “shall be as still as a stone.” Their trust was solely in the Lord — “Thou shalt bring them in,” blessed illustration of the first outflowings of simple but confident faith! Alas, that this early simplicity is usually so quickly lost. Alas, that so often it is displaced by the workings of an evil heart of unbelief. Oh, that we might ever reason as did Israel here, and as the apostle Paul — “Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver; in whom we trust that He will yet deliver” (2 Corinthians 1:10).
“Fear and dread shall fall upon them; by the greatness of Thine arm they shall be as still as a stone” (v. 16). Opposition there would be, enemies to be encountered. But utterly futile would be their puny efforts. Impossible for them to resist success fully the execution of God’s eternal counsels. Equally impossible is it for our enemies, be they human or demoniac, to keep us out of the promised inheritance. “Who shall separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus?” Who, indeed! “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us” (Romans 8:38, 39). Thus the end is sure from the beginning, and we may, like Israel, sing the Song of Victory before the first step is taken. in the wilderness pathway!
Israel’s confidence was not misplaced. A number of examples are furnished in later Scriptures of how tidings of Jehovah’s judgments on Israel’s behalf became known far and wide, and were used by him to humble and alarm. Jethro, the Midianite, comes to Moses and says, “Blessed be the Lord, who hath delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians and out of the hand of Pharaoh... now I know that the Lord is greater than all gods” (Exodus 18:10, 11). Rahab of Jericho declared to the two spies, “I know that the Lord hath given you the land and that your terror is fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land faint because of you. For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you,” etc. (Joshua 2:9, 10). Said the Gibeonites to Joshua, “From a very far country thy servants are come because of the name of the Lord thy God; for we have heard the fame of Him and all that He did in Egypt” (Joshua 9:9). Hundreds of years later the Philistines said, “Who shall deliver us out of the hand of these mighty Gods? These are the Gods that smote the Egyptians with all the plagues in the wilderness” (1 Samuel 4:8)!
“The Lord shall reign forever and ever” (v. 18). And here the Song ends — the next verse is simply the inspired record of the historian, giving us the cause and the occasion of the Song. The Song ends as it began — with “The Lord.” Faith views the eternal future without a tremor. Fully assured that God is sovereign, sovereign because omnipotent, immutable, and eternal, the conclusion is irresistible and certain that, “The Lord shall reign forever and ever.”
“And Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a timbral in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrals and with dances. And Miriam answered them, ‘Sing ye to the Lord, for He hath triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider hath He thrown into the sea’” (vv. 20, 21). “The women’s voices, with their musical accompaniments, take up the refrain. It is the seal of completeness. Sin had come in through the women; now her heart is lifted up in praise, which testifies in itself of victory over it. The mute inanimate things also become responsive in the timbrals in her hand. The joy is full and universal in the redeemed creation” (Numerical Bible). Blessed witness to the final fruits of Redemption.
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