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The People Must Set up Camp by the Sea
The LORD’s command to set up their camp by the sea seems a foolish command. That is how the people get trapped. They have the sea in front of them and Pharaoh behind them. But what for the mind seems foolishness is the right way for faith (Hebrews 11:29).
Pharaoh’s Reaction Foretold
God gives the explanation for His command. He knows what Pharaoh will think. Next, He will let Pharaoh react as He wills. Pharaoh will unknowingly become an instrument through which God will glorify Himself.
Pharaoh Starts the Chase
Pharaoh receives the message that the people have left. He himself has given permission for it, but apparently as in an intoxication, a haze, without any real awareness of the content of his words. He has been forced to act by the circumstances, without inner conviction of God’s omnipotence. He never had the intention to really let them go. When he hears the message, it is as if he wakes up. He wondered in amazement how they were able to allow Israel to depart “from serving us”.
As the LORD has foretold, it also happens. Pharaoh goes back on his promise (cf. Jeremiah 34:10-1 Kings :). Blind as to the power of God, he starts the chase. Blinded by his own interests, Pharaoh uses his army against God’s people, something he has never done before. He deploys his very best troops. On the one hand it is Pharaoh’s own will, on the other hand he cannot do anything else because God has hardened his heart. The latter is the result of his own stubborn will, his unwillingness to bow before God.
The anger of Pharaoh is great, as is his speed to follow the people. He only uses chariots, not footmen because they would go too slowly. Pharaoh overtakes them at the place where the people have set up their camp according to God’s will. He seems to have succeeded in his aim. The fate of the people seems sealed. Similarly, satan does not intend to release anyone from his power without a fight. He will do his utmost to keep his victims in his power or to get them back again into it.
The Fear of the People
Pharaoh did not take account of God and someone who counts outside of God always counts wrong. It is not only Pharaoh who is the object of God’s actions. With the chase by Pharaoh, God also has in mind the education of His people.
The people react in panic fear. They see no way out. There is no such thing for the eye, neither around them nor within themselves. But by faith there is a way out after all – upwards (2 Corinthians 4:8). They call to the LORD, but not in true faith. They blame Moses. In their fear they make statements that do not testify of faith, but of unbelief.
Forgotten are all the wonders and signs which the LORD has done in Egypt. They only see the circumstances. They do not remember what the LORD has already done for them. As soon as freedom creates difficulties, they long to return to slavery. But God knows how to use their need to give them new teaching in the way of faith.
The language they use in their fear is the language of someone who has sheltered behind the blood of the Lamb, but who has no peace in his conscience regarding the power of the enemy. Someone can be a believer, but still constantly wrestle with the power of sin. As a result, such a believer becomes unhappy and miserable. This can take such strong forms that he yearns for a life in the world. There he did not experience this misery.
In Romans 7 we find the New Testament counterpart of the situation in which the people find themselves here. There we hear someone speak who is born again, but has not yet experienced the fullness of salvation. That this person has been born again is shown by the fact that he enjoys “the law of God in the inner man” (Romans 7:22). Such a thing can never be said of an unbeliever. The same person experiences that, although born again, he feels increasingly miserable because he fails so badly in doing good. Instead, he always does evil. Finally, he exclaims in despair: “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death (Romans 7:24)?
Moses Encourages the People
Calm and with conviction Moses gives the appropriate answer to the complaint of the people. Although he does not know how the matter will proceed, he says to them that they must trust, and that they will see the salvation of the LORD. They don’t have to do anything themselves. The LORD will fight for them. They will see the results of His work. This will free them from their fear and make them able to move on in joy.
The person from Romans 7 can, after the exclamation “wretched man that I am!”, say “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:25). After many times “I” – we hear this word about forty times in Romans 7 –, he is now at the point where he no longer sees what he can do, but what God has done through Jesus Christ. That is true liberation or freedom. Christ not only died for sins, the deeds; He also died to annul the power of sin. His blood cleanses from sins, His death frees from the power of sin. A picture of that is what the people will learn as a lesson at the Red Sea.
What the LORD Will Do
The LORD asks Moses why he calls to Him. That is not necessary, is it? The people don’t have to be afraid of the enemy, do they? After all, he has brought them out. Will He not then guide them further? Yet in His grace He meets the cries of His people and says what to do. They must continue in faith as if there were no sea. The LORD sends Moses, as a picture of the Lord Jesus, before them. Moses must prepare the way and stretch his staff over the sea to divide the waters.
The Lord Jesus died for us. He bore the judgment for us. By this we can, hidden in Him, pass through death. We died with Him, and so death is deprived of its power over us. This is why we died to sin, so that sin no longer has control over us (Romans 6:5-2 Kings :).
Sin came into the world through man’s disobedience. The power of sin is broken by the obedience of one Man, Jesus Christ. In the three hours of darkness on the cross He was made sin. At this lowest point of suffering His glorification of God is also the greatest. God is glorified in respect of sin by acting with it in this way. God hates sin. Now that sin has come, He uses the work of Christ for His glorification.
The LORD Protects His People
The Angel of God takes a different place. He always takes that place for the benefit of His people which is needed at that moment. He changes from Leader to Guard. He who is their vanguard is also their rearguard: “And your righteousness will go before you; the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard” (Isaiah 58:8). While God judges the enemies of His people, He protects His people with His glory. What is for His people for protection means the judgment for His enemies.
These two sides are also in the gospel: “For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life” (2 Corinthians 2:15-Nehemiah :).
The Path Through the Sea
By the power of God there is a path through the sea (Job 26:12) and “by faith they passed through the Red Sea as though [they were passing] over dry land” (Hebrews 11:29; Psalms 66:6). We see God’s almighty power in nature. He splits the waters. He does so by means of “a strong east wind”. The elements of nature are under His authority and obey Him in what He commands them.
In the end time, when the people in the great tribulation will undergo the same trial of faith, they will also experience the same salvation: “But now, thus says the LORD, your Creator, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, nor will the flame burn you. “For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior” (Isaiah 43:1-Leviticus :).
Pharaoh’s Army Perishes
Salvation is not only a separation between the people and the enemy, but also the complete judgment of the whole army of Pharaoh. The LORD looks down upon the whole scene (Exodus 14:24). He notes everything, He is in charge. He lets Pharaoh go to the middle of the sea. Then He confuses the Egyptian army and causes the wheels of the chariots to swerve. Natural explanations can be sought, but here we see that the LORD works it out. That gives reason to remember Him and His wonders, as Asaph does (Psalms 77:11; Psalms 77:16Psalms 77:19-Proverbs :).
At first it seems as if Pharaoh can go the same way as the people. He also goes into the Red Sea. It seems as if God is with Pharaoh and against His people. But what salvation means to Israel is what the judgment means to Pharaoh: “By faith they passed through the Red Sea as though [they were passing] over dry land; and the Egyptians, when they attempted it, were drowned” (Hebrews 11:29). And that judgment is complete, just as salvation is complete. There is not one enemy left. Not one member of the people dies.
So it is with the work of the Lord Jesus on the cross. There it also seems as if God is against Him and cooperates with His enemies. However, the resurrection makes it clear on which side God stands. This is only possible by understanding and exercising faith. In the judgment that the Lord Jesus bore on the cross, the victory over satan is completed. The resurrection of the Lord Jesus is proof that the victory over sin, satan, death and the world is complete. In His victory the victory of His people is included.
Israel Believes in the LORD and in Moses
The people reach the dry land. The man who in Romans 7 sinks, as it were, into the marsh, gets firm ground under his feet, which he expresses in faith by agreeing with the truth: “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). This is also what the believer expresses when he is baptized. In going through the Red Sea we see a picture of baptism. Just as the Israelites join Moses by going through the sea (1 Corinthians 10:1-Exodus :), so the believer identifies with the death of Christ by baptism (Romans 6:3-Numbers :).
Israel sees the dead bodies (cf. Isaiah 66:24). They see the proof of their complete liberation from the power of the enemy. His dominion has been destroyed. They have been impressed by the power of the enemy, they have been terrified by it; now they have been impressed by the power of God. Israel recognizes the mighty deed of the LORD.
They are filled with respect for Him and for Moses, His servant. If we have understood that we are free from the power of sin, it will fill us with awe and admiration for God and for His Son through Whom God has accomplished this. The result is that we will sing and honor Him, as we will see in the next chapter.
Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Exodus 14". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://studylight.org/
the Fifth Sunday after Epiphany