This chapter takes place just after the safe crossing of the Red Sea by the children of Israel and it describes their new position due to the fact that their redemption from Egypt had been realized so they sang a song of redemption. Undoubtedly the Holy Spirit led them in expressing their feelings. This is prophetic in regard to Israel in the millennium when they will again recognize that "the Lord shall reign for ever and ever." (verse 18.)
The primary application here is to Israel but passing through the Red Sea also speaks of the position of the believer in redemption.
Singing in Scripture is only mentioned in connection with redemption. Angels are never said to sing. There is no redemption for fallen angels and the just angels need no redemption.
At the birth of Jesus "there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." Luke 2:13-14.
In Revelation, John says "I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands; saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing." Revelation 5:11-12.
The true character of Christian song should express the joy of salvation and praise for our Savior. We’re encouraged in scripture to express our praise to God if we know the Lord as our Redeemer. James 5:13b. "Is any merry? let him sing psalms." Ephesians 5:19: “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;”
For the first time in their history, the children of Israel knew what redemption was and they were filled with so much joy in their hearts that a song just had to come forth.
Exodus 15:1: “Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the LORD, and spake, saying, I will sing unto the LORD, for he hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea.”
Do you remember how you felt when you first got saved? The relief, the joy, the peace of mind that comes with salvation? There is nothing like it. You may not have sung audibly but there was a song in your heart that wasn’t there before. And it will never leave. Sometimes we sing “No other song I have to sing but Jesus.” There is no more meaningful song for the Christian than that.
The general subject of Moses’ song is simply the strength of the Lord Himself and the truth of what He had done in their redemption from slavery and their safe delivery from Pharaoh. That is acknowledged in Verse 2: “The LORD is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation: he is my God, and I will prepare him an habitation; my father's God, and I will exalt him.” It’s only in redemption that He can be known as their God.
Christ was not yet fully revealed, in fact, could not be, until the cross.
He was revealed in type to the children of Israel by the character of the relationship they were brought into, but it was not until the redemption of the cross was accomplished that He made Himself fully known to mankind. The incidents recorded here suggest the redemption at the cross yet to come.
The children of Israel now knew God as Jehovah, and we, by grace, know Him as our Heavenly Father. When Jesus revealed Himself to Mary Magdalene at the tomb, He told her, in John 20:17b, “I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God."
He is the subject of song in whatever dispensation He reveals Himself.
What He has done is brought out in the song of Moses and the children of Israel. It recounts the destruction of their enemies and the salvation of His people.
Verses 3-8. “The LORD is a man of war: the LORD is his name. 4: Pharaoh's chariots and his host hath he cast into the sea: his chosen captains also are drowned in the Red sea. 5: The depths have covered them: they sank into the bottom as a stone. 6: Thy right hand, O LORD, is become glorious in power: thy right hand, O LORD, hath dashed in pieces the enemy. 7: And 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. 8: And 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."
It was the Lord’s astounding display of redemptive power, not what Israel had accomplished, that they celebrated. They gave credit to the Lord for the mighty work He had done.
This first song of redemption contains the principles of praise for all future generations. When believers in this dispensation gather for worship, we can sing songs of praise for our redemption by the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit.
Verses 9-13. “The 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. 10: Thou didst blow with thy wind, the sea covered them: they sank as lead in the mighty waters. 11: Who is like unto thee, O LORD, among the gods? who is like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders? 12: Thou stretchedst out thy right hand, the earth swallowed them. 13: Thou in thy mercy hast led forth the people which thou hast redeemed: thou hast guided them in thy strength unto thy holy habitation.”
The song again points to the Lord’s hand as the source of their redemption and now the Lord is praised for their salvation. They had been sheltered from the destroyer in Egypt, but they had not been saved until they were brought out of Egypt and delivered from Pharaoh.
Verses 14-16: "The people shall hear, and be afraid: sorrow shall take hold on the inhabitants of Palestina. 15: 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. 16: 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."
They had sung about how the Lord would defeat all their enemies on their journey but they soon lost that exuberance and faith when they faced the realities of life in a strange land.
The Christian today is not exempt from a situation like this. There are some who know the forgiveness of their sins through the blood of Christ who afterwards, when they find themselves still in the nature of the flesh and still subject to the assaults of Satan, lose their joy and fail because of the difficulties surrounding them on every hand.
Even the apostle Paul reached a similar situation when he realized his utter dependence on God to resist the enemy. He wrote, in Romans 7:24, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?"
The Lord Jesus has provided cleansing for the believer’s sins through His precious blood. Through His death and resurrection, He has brought us out of our old condition and put us in a new safe place in Him, one that is safe from eternal death and judgment. Satan lost his claim to us at the cross, and with our acceptance of salvation, he has no further claim on us.
The position of Israel had now been changed from what it was in Egypt. They were brought to God in a new standing. They were to become a transient people entering a desert land they had never traveled. It would change their character because they were now pilgrims and strangers in a foreign land. They were not yet in the Promised Land but they knew by faith their redemption included all God’s promises as though they were already accomplished.
An old hymn express this very well. It says;
"So near, so very near to God, I cannot nearer be,
For in the person of His Son I am as near as He.”
This corresponds with our position as believers in the Lord Jesus. He once suffered for our sins, the Just for the unjust, to bring us to God. This is our position as His redeemed. We are pilgrims and strangers in this world, that is, we were brought to God according to all that He is but we don’t yet have His whole moral nature. Our sin debt has been completely satisfied in the death of Christ and we can rest in perfect peace.
Verses 17-18. “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. 18: The LORD shall reign for ever and ever."
God promised the children of Israel He would always be with them. Placing them in their present position proved He could fulfill all the rest of His promises. The power He displayed at the Red Sea was the guarantee that His promises couldn’t be frustrated.
If the purposes of God could be frustrated, He couldn’t be God.
There may be enemies that attempt to prevent the execution of His will, but faith says, "If God be for us, who can be against us?"
Israel could truthfully sing, in Verses14-16. "The people shall hear, and be afraid: sorrow shall take hold on the inhabitants of Palestina. 15. 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.” 16. 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, 0 Lord, till the people pass over, which Thou hast purchased."
The apostle Paul wrote "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?" Nothing could. The apostle was "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 from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8:35-39.
Don’t ever think that the foes of the believer are not real and powerful, but, when we measure the enemy by what God is, we realize that by God’s grace we can be more than conquerors through Him.
The dukes of Edom (verse 15) and the mighty men of Moab, and the inhabitants of Canaan, typify the legions of Satan that may try to bar the way to the inheritance, but when God, in His strength, acts on behalf of His blood bought people, the enemy will be utterly defeated. The end is sure from the beginning, that’s why the believer, along with the children of Israel, can sing a song of victory while in the wilderness that is this world.
The reign spoken of in this Scripture primary pertains to the earth but it points forward in time to the millennial kingdom of the Messiah who must reign till He has put all His enemies under His feet. But in principle it goes further, He will reign for ever and ever as the result of the cross. He humbled Himself there and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross, and now He is and will be exalted forever.
“The sanctuary which Thy hands have established” in the seventeenth verse is different from the one in verse 2. Verse 17 refers to the eventual establishment of the Millennial Kingdom with the temple at Jerusalem, but, in verse 2, as soon as they could rightly say, "The Lord is my strength and song, and He is become my salvation," they could add "He is my God, and I will prepare Him an habitation; my father's God, and I will exalt Him." This “habitation” was to be the Tabernacle in the wilderness.
The building of the Tabernacle will come in later chapters but this is the first mention of an earthly habitation for the Lord with His people.
God had saints before this, but not a people, and until redemption was accomplished He never dwelt on earth. He visited His saints, and appeared to them in many ways, but He never had His dwelling-place in their midst. But as soon as atonement for sin had been made by the blood of the lamb and His people were out of Egypt, He put it in their hearts to build Him an earthly dwelling place.
God was ever with them. He led them by the pillar of cloud by day, and the pillar of fire by night, as soon as the exodus journey started. He couldn’t have a dwelling place in Egypt because that was the territory of the enemy.
He would identify with this people, dwell in their midst, and be their God, and they would be His people and He would bring them into the Promised Land.
This is true in Christianity. God did not take up His present dwelling place on earth until atonement for sin had been made and Christ had risen from the dead and ascended on high. God dwells within the individual believer in the form of the Holy Spirit. As soon as we are cleansed by the blood of Christ, God makes our body a temple of the Holy Spirit. God dwells in us, in the person of the Holy Spirit, and He goes wherever we go. That can be a great comfort at times and a sobering thought at other times.
God never intended the children of Israel to wander in the wilderness for forty years, nevertheless they were blessed by having the habitation of God in their midst and they could look forward to their inheritance. The tabernacle was the center of their encampment and a place where they could approach Him, through the priests, with sacrifices and incense. God was always present in the cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.
The believer today has just as much assurance. God formed us and God does dwell in the house He has formed, and He will dwell in it until the Lord’s return. What a privilege it is to be brought out from under the power of Satan into the presence and the power of God. The believer has been included through the grace of God in the power of the Holy Spirit. It’s a wonderful place of blessing on earth.
Verse 19-21: “For 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."
This can be considered as a shadow of Satan’s final defeat. Pharaoh was totally beaten and engulfed by the Red Sea in God’s final judgment of him. Satan will be cast into the Lake of Fire in his final defeat, and totally engulfed by God’s judgment.
20: And 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. 21: 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.”
The wilderness journey of Israel had just begun. The sounds of their song had barely died away before they started their pilgrim journey.
22: So Moses brought Israel from the Red sea, and they went out into the wilderness of Shur; and they went three days in the wilderness, and found no water. 23: And when they came to Marah, they could not drink of the waters of Marah, for they were bitter: therefore the name of it was called Marah. 24: And the people murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink? 25: And he cried unto the LORD; and the LORD shewed him a tree, which when he had cast into the waters, the waters were made sweet: there he made for them a statute and an ordinance, and there he proved them, 26: And said, If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the LORD thy God, and wilt do that which is right in his sight, and wilt give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I am the LORD that healeth thee. 27: And they came to Elim, where were twelve wells of water, and threescore and ten palm trees: and they encamped there by the waters."
The tree mentioned in verse 25 that sweetened the water is prophetic of the tree that our Savior died on to make the life-giving waters of salvation sweet to many a weary soul.
God made them an offer here that they couldn’t refuse. If they would listen to Him and obey His commands, He would protect them and provide for them physically.
From here to the end of the 18th chapter we need to remember that Israel was not under the Law as yet, they were under grace. The murmuring in chapters 15, 16, and 17 was not judged on the spot because of the fullness of God’s love.
But after Sinai and the Law, complaints and actions like these met with immediate judgment for the simple reason that the people had been, at their own request, put under law.
If God was to reign in righteousness, their transgressions and rebellion had to be dealt with immediately and according to God's righteous requirements of the law.
Before Sinai and the Law, they were under grace and their sins and iniquities were covered by the blood of the Pascal lamb, just as the believer’s sins in this dispensation of grace are covered by faith in the blood of Jesus Christ our Savior.