I’ve enjoyed on various holidays visiting old prisons. Fremantle jail was creepy and eerie. Port Arthur especially is rich in history and intriguing.The thing that captures my attention the most in these places is the escape stories. Some disturbing, some sad, some mysterious.
Jailbreaks like ‘Escape From Alcatraz’ or POW movies like ‘The Great Escape’, stories of people overcoming the odds to escape spike our interest, and the Red Sea Crossing falls into this category for sure.
This part of Israel’s history, and maybe more than any other in the bible, is alluded to explicitly and implicitly in numerous ways in both OT and NT passages.
Passing through the water, and being ‘baptised into Moses‘ as Paul uses it in 1 Corinthians 10:1-2 is just one example of many.
The Exodus tells us the story of Israel’s redemption, and we are invited to read it and study it ourselves as our own story of redemption also, as 1 Corinthians 10:6 says, ‘this all happened to them as an example’ for us.
Their story is the same as ours.
“ I was in a foreign land, under bondage in slavery. But I came out, by the blood of The Lamb. Our Mediator lead us out and we crossed over. We’re now on our way to the Promised Land, but we’re not there yet. Until we get there, we will follow the commandments we have been given, we know God will tabernacle with us, and will lead us safely there.” – Alec Moyter
1 – Escaping Deep Bondage v. 1-12
The Israelites had been ‘let go’ by Pharaoh, they left Egypt rejoicing in their freedom.Their rejoicing was short lived though. They had been set free, but their bondage went much deeper than just the physical title they had as ‘slaves’.
The bondage of the Israelites had ‘layers’ ( Tim Keller). They had been functionally freed, but their freedom wasn’t real to them.
Like a slave after the abolition, they had rights, they had a new identity, but they were, by reality of their own hearts and the power of their old master, still in bondage.
- v. 5-9 Pharaoh wants them back: ‘serve me or die’. ‘if I can’t have you, no one will’. “the thief comes to steal, kill and destroy” ( John 10:10)
- v. 10-12 they want to go back: we have short memories, just as they did. “Didn’t we tell you we wanted to stay?” Ah, no, they didn’t! ( Exodus 4:30-31). They had believed. They had left Egypt – they had been marching defiantly, until they looked back and saw their old master coming to claim them again and all was forgotten in an instant. They forgot the power of God that He had shown them in the plagues. They had forgotten how God had guided them to this precise point by the pillars of fire and cloud. They forgot, and they wanted to go back to Egypt.
“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1
“We have been saved from the penalty of sin. We are being saved from the power of sin. We will be saved from the very presence of sin.” – Tim Keller
It takes a deep work to deliver us from our deep bondage. Our salvation is achieved in a moment, but the rest of our lives is a process of renewal and repentance.
2 – Crossing Over By Grace, Through Faith and For Glory v. 13-29
Moses’ response to the people’s ridiculous statements are well worth meditating on whenever we are feeling like our escape from the bondage of sin isn’t going so well.
- fear not
- stand still
- see the salvation of The Lord
- the Egyptians you see you will never see again
- The Lord will fight for you
- you only have to be silent
Incredibly challenging for us to think of in light of our salvation and the new life we are now in, and the Gospel message is so clearly and beautifully presented to us in these words.
They were only going to cross over by the sheer grace of God. There was nothing they could do. They were dead, just as we are outside of Christ. ( Ephesians 2:1).
They crossed over, walking by faith, not by sight.
The ‘sight’ that confronted them would’ve been unbelievable.
Doubtless, there would’ve been many that walked through the waters, second guessing every step, in fear, inching forward.
Others maybe boldly and triumphantly walked, ran, jogged, skipped, over the dry land, praising God and celebrating their great escape together.
I would most likely be in the first group. All I’d be able to think is, “ I can’t swim!”.
But they all crossed over all the same. They all saw the deliverance of The Lord.It wasn’t the size or quality of their faith. They were saved because of the object of their faith, who doing all of this, not just for their salvation alone, but ultimately for His glory.
God gets glory through delivering His people – v4
God gets glory hardening the hearts of Egyptians – v17
The only reason Israel was saved was because God is God, and He wanted everyone to know this – not only His chosen people, but also His enemies.
If you have come this far in the story and you think God should let Israel through simply because He owes them, you’ve seen it all wrong so far.
If you think by now Egypt has been punished enough and anything further would be sadistic, you have missed the truth of the righteous and just judgement of God.Egypt and Pharaoh had had every possible to repent, to turn to God. Instead they chose destruction and death.The Israelites, meanwhile, crossed over, from death, to life.
Any who come to Jesus find Someone who can either save them or judge them, depending on their faith in Him, and the grace that has been revealed to them. The Israelites believed and were saved. The Egyptians refused to believe, and were judged by the God who fights for His people and for His glory ( v.14, 25).
3 – The True Baptism v. 30-31
How did they get over?
They had a mediator who was appointed by God to lead them out of bondage and into freedom. A mediator who could be used as a channel for God’s saving power. Someone God could use to command the wind and the waves. Someone who could rid them of the slavery of their past by standing in their place, taking the power of God, both for saving deliverance, and for righteous judgment at the same time.
You cannot face this kind of grace and leave the way you came.
There’s two ways out of the water. Forward, into faithful obedience, following where the grace of God has enabled us to go, or the alternative is to try to turn around and go back to Egypt, which ends in destruction.
Christianity is unique. All other religions are built on what we can do. It’s about a step by step process to building a bridge over the water and chaos of life and death, we build, ‘pylon by pylon’ ( Tim Keller) crossing over in your own effort. But Christianity isn’t about us building the bridge that we have made. It’s about trusting the bridge that has been given. God gives Himself to save us.(v30).
Water, and passing through water is seen so often in Scripture as an analogy of death. Water, from the very start of history, in Creation, was seen as chaos, as nothing, as void, de-creation would be a world with nothing but water – hence Noah’s flood, which was God ‘de-creating’ His Creation.
In Jesus Christ, we have the Creator made flesh, de-created on the Cross for us, so we could be re-created in Him. – Tim Keller
We have that greater Noah – He took the flood of wrath for us.
We also have that ‘greater Jonah’ – thrown overboard into the depths for us.
We have a Mediator who not only claims the blame for our sins, like Moses does for the Israelites, but takes our sins on Himself completely.
We have the Saviour Who commands the very winds and waves, and brings peace.
We have the Mediator Who stands between us and God and says to us, “Stand still. See the salvation of The Lord.”
You can only pass through the water and enter new life after a price has been paid for your safe passage. For the Israelites and for us, that price is the blood of the Lamb.
There is no escape without the shedding of blood.
The death of the firstborn or the blood of the Lamb.In Jesus, we get both. The Lamb slain before the foundation of the world, the only begotten Son of the Father, Firstborn of all Creation. His blood was shed for the sins of the whole world, Egyptians and Israelites alike. But the only way to be delivered by that blood is to take your place under it.
Where are the Israelites headed?
There are on their way to Sinai to receive the law. They didn’t get the law before God saved them. He saved them, then gave them the law. The more you see what He has done, the more you will want to live to please Him.
Standing firm in the salvation of The Lord does not mean being literally stationary. We are told to move forward into that salvation.( v.15).
If you know God has called you out, why would you remain where you are?
Sin’s bondage has a way of dragging us back to old habits, behaviours and lifestyles that destroy our freedom. We are called out of bondage, into freedom. Out of darkness into light. Out of death into life.
If your life feels like you’re a slave to your desires, if your relationships seem like they’re crumbling all around you, if your past seems to be always lurking – wanting to drag you back where you don’t want to go, if you find yourself in a tight spot and you can see no escape and while you blame God for not delivering you, remember that you have already been delivered.
Come ever further out of your bondage, sorrow and shame. Move forward into more of your new life given to you in Christ.
Maybe you have never ‘crossed over’ – now is the time. Death awaits those with hard hearts and blind eyes to what God has already done to save you