by Pastor David Groendyk
Many critical scholars have tried to disprove the historicity of the crossing of the Red Sea, claiming that we’ve never managed to find any hard evidence that it happened. But hard evidence is not what we base our trust in God’s Word on; we base it on the fact that God said it. There’s no reason for us not to take God at his word when he recounts the way he delivered Israel from Egypt once and for all.
Everything looked pretty rosy for Israel by the end of chapter 13, but now Pharaoh has changed his mind yet again. He doesn’t like that he’s lost all of his free labor, so he goes after them. As Egypt draws near to the Israelite camp, it must have been a mixture of sheer panic and resigned hopelessness in God’s people. They all thought they were about to die (vv. 11–12). I’m sure many of us have gone through this same type of fear. Just when we think we’re out of the woods and we can see the sun peeking out through the clouds, something else happens that drags us back down into the depths of exhaustion and depression and we feel like we’re drowning again. One of the great comforts from this narrative of Israel crossing the Red Sea is that God already knew Pharaoh was going to do this (vv. 1–4). All of the surprises that catch us off guard and throw us into confusion and desperation have already been planned out by God. Nothing catches God off guard! And don’t you think God already has a plan to get you through whatever it is you’re struggling with (vv. 13–14)? Remember that comforting fact today: God already knows what you’re struggling with, and he knows exactly what you need to get through it.
God’s plan, however, is not always what we expect. Twice in our passage, God reveals his grand purpose for whatever is going to happen between Egypt and Israel. “I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host” (vv. 4, 17). Destroying the whole Egyptian army and saving the Israelites is only the secondary goal in this story. The number one goal is that God would get glory. As many times as we have to wander through life unsure of what is happening to us or why it is happening, we always know that God’s plan is for his own glory. And that ought to always be our number one goal as well. Nothing else matters as much as worshiping and glorifying our God. Why? Because our God deserves it! Sometimes God shows us his glory in delivering us from our trials; sometimes his glory is shown in not delivering us but sustaining us through them. Either way, our eyes ought to be fixed always on God not ourselves.
For the next 1500 years, Israel being delivered from Egypt was held up as the greatest victory God had ever won and the greatest demonstration of God’s love that anyone had ever seen. But it would not remain so. The redemption of Israel from Egypt was always meant to be a picture of the greater redemption that God would accomplish on the cross. The words of verses 30–31 could be re-written for the day of Christ’s resurrection: “Thus the Lord saved his people that day from the eternal wrath, and his people saw their sin lying dead in the grave. His people saw the great power that the Lord used against their sin, so the people feared the Lord, and they believed in the Lord and his Savior.” If you think the Red Sea was a glorious victory, the cross is an even greater one. This is why we’re able to continue to give God glory through many trials and suffering. Because we know that in the end “we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:37–39).