14 July 2018Exodus 14:5-31
"Do not be afraid, stand firm, and see the deliverance that the Lord will accomplish for you today." (v.13)
Psalm: Psalm 105:1-15
Exodus means 'going out' and the biblical Exodus story reaches a crucial point here as the escaping people of Israel reach the Red Sea. If they can get across, they will finally have escaped the clutches of the Egyptians. They had been slaves in Egypt for many generations and now, under their charismatic leader Moses, they were nearly free.
It had been a long struggle during which many plagues had struck Egypt: boils, locusts and frogs among them (Exodus chapters 7-10). Finally, the terrible Angel of Death had passed over the land striking dead the firstborn in every family from the royal court down to the poorest peasant and even including animals (Exodus chapters 11-12). Only the Israelites had been spared. It really seemed that now, as the old spiritual song has it, the Egyptian king (Pharaoh) had "let my people go". He was glad to see the back of them.
However, Pharaoh changed his mind and sent his army to recapture the Israelite people. With the sea before them and Pharaoh's army coming up behind, there seemed no escape; they were lost. But God promises to save them by parting the sea, allowing them across and then engulfing the Egyptians in the waves.
It is a recurrent theme in the Old Testament that the Israelites complain whenever things go wrong. It happens lots of times through the story of the exodus. The 'security' of slavery in Egypt looks better than the risky freedom of wandering in the desert. Moses' cry "Don't be afraid" is one of the Bible's chorus-lines in both Old and New Testaments.
Another recurrent biblical theme is that God is in charge of everything and everyone, including the Israelites' enemies. Here, God "hardened the heart of Pharaoh", stiffening his determination, or at least allowing his natural inclination to recapture the escaping slaves, and thereby ensuring the destruction of his own army.
God is always referred to as "the Lord". The Hebrew Scriptures have a personal name for God (Yahweh) but it is considered too holy to be spoken by human lips. Instead, a word meaning Lord is used.
Can you imagine what it must have felt like to be caught between the sea and the Egyptian army?
How do you respond to the promise that "the Lord will fight for you"?
Do you think God ever works through powerful rulers in the modern world?