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Author:Rev. Joe Poppe
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Congregation:Redeemer Canadian Reformed Church
 Winnipeg, Manitoba
Title:By delivering His people through the Red Sea, the LORD allowed them to pass from death to life
Text:Exodus 14:21-15:5 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Spiritual Warfare

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Confession of Dependence and Divine Greeting


Ten words of the covenant


Prayer of confession and illumination


Ministry of the Word

Reading: Exo.13:17-15:18


Text: Exo.14:21-15:5

By delivering His people through the Red Sea, the LORD allowed them to pass from death to life.

We’ll consider:

  1. how the LORD delivered His people through the Red Sea.
  2. how this is symbolic of a passing from death to life.
  3. how we are to thank the LORD for His mighty works.





Prayer of thanksgiving and intercessions


Divine blessing

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Joe Poppe, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ,

            In our series of sermons on Exodus, we’ve seen how the LORD has performed many mighty acts of redemption.  He brought judgment on the Egyptian gods, and showed Himself to be the Almighty Ruler of the heavens and the earth.  Through a series of ten plagues, the LORD brought His people Israel out of Egypt.  He freed them from their slavery, and repaid their oppressors for their wickedness.  God’s people were delivered from Egypt, and on the way to the Promised Land.

As we progress through the history of God’s people, we see that their enemies do not cease to attack them.  With the death of the firstborn of Egypt, Pharaoh had let God’s people go.  The Egyptians had been so eager to get rid of Israel that they sent them away, and gave them gold and silver and clothes, just to get rid of them.  Yet now Pharaoh and the Egyptians were starting to come to terms with what they had done.  They had released their slave labour force.  On whom Egypt depended.  And so, even after the LORD won a dramatic victory for His people, they are confronted with the pursuit of their enemies.

In many ways God’s redemption of Israel can be compared to the mighty works He has accomplished for us in Christ.  In Christ we have been delivered from our sins and misery.  He paid the price to redeem us.  Christ has set us free from the power of the devil.  Satan no longer has dominion over us.  Instead Christ now serves as Lord of our life.  We owe Him our allegiance, our service, our trust.

Yet just like the Israelites, being delivered from our sins and misery, doesn’t mean that the battle is over.  We are still involved in a spiritual war.  There can be times when we face great trials or temptations in our lives.  Our enemies - the devil, this world, and our sinful flesh continually attack us.  Their goal is to entice us, to lure us on in the ways of sin.  To turn us away from the Lord and His service.  To bring us back into slavery to sin and the devil.

Our text this morning shows us how the LORD continues to sustain His people.  How the LORD provides for us in the midst of the attacks of our mortal enemies.  The LORD incites Israel’s enemies to come after them so that He can deal them one final knock-out blow.  Our text speaks of the victory the LORD won for His people at the Red Sea.  It foreshadows the great victory that Christ has won for us when He died on the cross.  It teaches us about how God’s mighty deliverance allows us to pass from death to life.  And how that motivates us to give all glory to God for His wondrous deeds of salvation.  I preach to you the word of God under the flowing theme:

By delivering His people through the Red Sea, the LORD allowed them to pass from death to life.

We’ll consider:

  1. how the LORD delivered His people through the Red Sea.
  2. how this is symbolic of a passing from death to life.
  3. how we are to thank the LORD for His mighty works.

When Pharaoh let the Israelites go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, even though that was far shorter (Exo.3:17).  This shorter route was a caravan road that led north to Gaza, and followed the coastline of the Mediterranean Sea wherever possible.  It was the easy route to the land of Canaan.  The reason that God did not lead His people to the Promised Land this way was because then they would have had to face the military might of the Philistines immediately.  Then they might become discouraged, and flee back to Egypt.  So instead God led Israel south by the desert road toward the Red Sea (Exo.3:18).  This was the long way around.

Yet God had a purpose in this.  A number of purposes, actually.  Deuteronomy 8:2 makes it clear that God led Israel into the desert to test them, to know what was in their hearts.  Part of God’s purpose in leading Israel this way was also to deal a decisive final blow to Pharaoh and Egypt.  Part of it was to teach His people that He was God, and to help them put their faith and trust in Him alone.

The verses leading up to our text make this clear.  The LORD leads His people through the desert in such a way that it gives the impression that they were lost (Exo.14:3).  When Pharaoh and his officials realised the impact of Israel’s departure on them, they changed their minds about letting them go.  They said, “What have we done? We have let the Israelites go and have lost their services!” (Exo.14:5).  The Egyptians had lost their slave labour force.  The people who dug their irrigation ditches, and worked in their fields, and built roads and cities, who were the engine driving their economy.  Thus the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh so that he pursued the Israelites into the desert with the aim of bringing them back to Egypt.

Exodus 13:18 tells us that the Israelites went out of Egypt armed for battle.  In Exodus 17, the men of Israel would go out and fight against the Amelekites, under the leadership of Joshua.  But they were not ready for battle yet.  That is why the LORD led them through the desert, the long way to Canaan.  Pharaoh pursued them with six hundred of his best chariots as well as all the other chariots of Egypt with officers over them.  A chariot was a horse drawn, two wheel cart, made of wood and leather.  It was normally manned by two people: a driver who was also a shield bearer, and a fighting man, who could use both bow and arrow as well as a sword.  Pharaoh sent officers with these chariots as well.  Thus Israel was being pursued by a quick, mobile, and hard-hitting offensive strike unit.  Pharaoh’s crack troops went out, with the idea of bringing Israel back into slavery.

Pharaoh’s pursuit with chariots and horsemen struck fear in the hearts of God’s people.  Exodus 14:10 tells us that “they were terrified and cried out to the LORD.”  Their lack of faith is clear from the words they spoke.  They said, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt?...  It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!” (Exo.14:11-12).  What made Israel’s situation especially difficult was the fact that they were caught in a trap.  In front of them lay the Red Sea, and behind them was Pharaoh’s army.  They were sitting ducks; they had nowhere to go!

The point that Exodus 14 makes abundantly clear is this: Israel was helpless.  Yes, it’s true that they had left Egypt armed for battle.  But they were a slave labour force, not an army practiced in the way of war.  The battle was so unequal.  Chariots, horsemen and trained fighting men against an unorganized group of former slaves.

Moses addresses God’s people with these words.  He says, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today.” (Exo.14:13).  He gives them this command about the upcoming battle: “The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (Exo.14:14).  Then something wondrous happens.  “The angel of God, who had been traveling in front of Israel's army, withdrew and went behind them. The pillar of cloud also moved from in front and stood behind them.” (Exo.14:19).  The LORD moved to stand between Israel and the advancing Egyptians.  He was going to fight this battle for His helpless people.

Beloved, if we think about the lessons Exodus 14 teaches us from a spiritual perspective, there is much application to our lives.  If we think of the spiritual state we plunged ourselves into through the fall into sin, it is very similar to Israel’s circumstances.  By nature we are dead in our trespasses and sins.  With darkened minds, hearts inclined to evil, and desires to walk in the ways of sin.  Helpless against the attacks of Satan and our sinful flesh.  Just like Israel, we were caught between a rock and a hard place.  Incapable of getting ourselves out of the mess created by our sins.  Stuck, alienated from God, with no way of renewing or restoring our communion with Him.

God’s answer to us is not that we just need to try a little harder.  That if we just stay away from certain people or places, we will be victorious.  That we need to pray, and so we will overcome in our struggle against sin and the Devil.  God knows that with the fall into sin we plunged ourselves into such misery, such depravity, that we can never get ourselves out of it alone.  Just like in Exodus 14, the LORD is the one who acts, to deliver us through His mighty works.  All we can do is stand still and observe, and see how the LORD will fight the battle and win it for us.

Our text relates how the LORD fought Israel’s battle for her.  During the night, Egypt was in darkness.  This should have been a clear symbol to them of their impending doom.  In the meantime, Israel is in the light, for the cloud of God’s presence shone on them.  Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the LORD used a strong east wind to drive the sea back.

Thus the LORD provided an escape route for His people.  The Israelites were able to walk on dry ground through the midst of the Red Sea, with a wall of water on their right and a wall of water on their left.  It is so hard for us to imagine.  Consider the force of a large volume of water.  Normally you need a huge dam to withstand the pressure.  But God, through His almighty power creates a pathway through the sea, with towering walls of water on either side.  And so Israel escapes from what earlier had appeared to be an helpless situation.

Pharaoh and all his horses and chariots and horsemen followed the children of God on the pathway through the sea.  During the last watch of the night, between two and six am, the LORD threw the Egyptian army into confusion.  He made the wheels of their chariots come off, so that they had difficulty driving.  Then the Egyptians said, “Let's get away from the Israelites! The LORD is fighting for them against Egypt.” (Exo.14:25).  They started to flee.  But it was too late.

The LORD commanded Moses to stretch out his hand, and the walls of water came down on them.  He did this at daybreak, so the Israelites could see.  They saw how the water covered the chariots and horsemen – the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed the Israelites into the sea (Exo.14:28).  Not one of them survived.  Thus the LORD avenged the death of Israel’s baby boys, who had been thrown into the Nile by Pharaoh’s soldiers. The LORD fought the battle for His people.  He saved them from the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the shore.

  God won the victory at the Red Sea.  The people didn’t play an active role in the battle at all.  The LORD defeated Pharaoh and all his troops.  The horse and the rider He cast into the sea.  In the same way, our salvation is completely the work of Christ.  He went the way of the cross.  He bore the wrath of God against all our sins.  He died, to give us life.  We didn’t do anything to merit our salvation.  We were helpless, but Christ acted.  A work of His grace alone.  Through it Christ has fully paid for all our sins with his precious blood, and set us free from all the power of the devil.  It is by grace, by grace alone, that we’ve been saved!

We’ve seen how the LORD delivered His people through the Red Sea.  In our second point we’ll see how this is symbolic of a passing from death to life.  One of the important things to realise about the book of Exodus, is that it serves as a pattern or example of the salvation that was to come in Christ.  Our liturgical forms, confessions, and Scripture itself make this clear.

I’m not sure if you always notice what we pray in the prayer prior to the baptism of our children.  We pray, “Almighty, eternal God, in your righteous judgment you have punished the unbelieving and unrepentant world with the flood, but in thy great mercy saved and protected the believer Noah and his family.  You drowned the obstinate Pharaoh and all his host in the Red Sea, but led your people Israel through the midst of the sea on dry ground - by which baptism was signified.”  Please note that the drowning of Pharaoh and all his host in the Red Sea and the deliverance of Israel through it is a symbol of baptism.

What is the connection?  Both at the Red Sea and in baptism, water is used as a sign of God’s saving work for His people.  The LORD could have used many different means to bring a final judgment on Pharaoh and Egypt.  But He choose to deliver His people through the midst of water, and to drown the Egyptians in it.  Water is the symbol; it is seen, and causes faith.  The Israelites saw the towering walls of water on their right and left; they walked through them.  They saw the walls come down on the Egyptians, and drown them.

Exodus 14:31 concludes with the statement, “And when the Israelites saw the great power the LORD displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the LORD and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant.”  Note that it is through seeing that the people believe.  It is the same in the administration of baptism.  We see the sign of water – a washing and cleansing agent.  And we are reminded of how Christ’s blood washes away our sins, and how His Spirit cleanses us.

Some may think that this is a bit far-fetched.  But Scripture itself draws a comparison between the events that happened at the Red Sea and baptism.  In 1 Corinthians 10:1-2 Paul says, “For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea.  They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.”  Thus Paul makes clear that passing through the Red Sea was Israel’s baptism.

The LORD led His people through the midst of the water of the Red Sea in order to signify and seal His promises to them.  The LORD had promised to deliver them from out of Egypt, and to bring them to the Promised Land.  Every time they looked back on how the LORD delivered them from a trap by the Red Sea, they could reflect on how He had saved them from death.  In this way the LORD wishes to strengthen His people's faith.  He wants to assure them that they are safe with Him.  He wants to give them the certainty that He would continue to be faithful to them.  The LORD will fulfil His promise and give them to their inheritance in the land of Canaan, if only they believe in Him.

Brothers and sisters, it is the same for us today.  Article 34 of the Belgic Confession also draws a link between the events of our text and baptism.  It speaks about how the washing by Christ’s blood and Spirit “washes and cleanses our soul from sin and regenerates us from children of wrath to children of God.  This is not brought about by the water as such but by the sprinkling of the precious blood of the Son of God, which is our Red Sea, through which we must pass to escape the tyranny of Pharaoh, that is, the devil, and enter into the spiritual land of Canaan.”

Thus the Belgic Confession applies the events of the Red Sea to us in a spiritual way.  As Israel passed from death to life through the Red Sea, so we pass from death to life through the sprinkling of the precious blood of Christ.  As Israel escaped the tyranny of Pharaoh, so we escape the tyranny of the devil.  As Israel was promised the land of Canaan as its inheritance, so we are promised everlasting life with God.  Yet there is only one way to share in these blessings of salvation.  By faith in the Son of God.  By believing in Jesus Christ as our Saviour and Lord.  By trusting that He has won the victory for us through His once for all sacrifice on the cross.

To have such faith and to hold onto such faith is not always easy.  Especially in this broken life.  When faced with trails and hardships, when confronted with severe temptations.  The LORD had delivered Israel with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm through the ten plagues.  God’s people had rejoiced and celebrated with the Passover Feast.  But when trapped with the Red Sea in front of them and Pharaoh’s might behind them, they doubted God’s ability to save; they cried out in unbelief.

Isn’t that also how it often goes with us?  We have a wonderful redemption in Jesus Christ.  Jesus says in John 5:24, “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.”  In Lord’s Day 1 we confess that our only comfort is that we belong to our faithful Saviour Jesus Christ.  “He has fully paid for all my sins with His precious blood, and has set me free from all the power of the devil.”  Christ has done it; He has won the victory; in Him we have crossed over from death to life!

But then the struggles of life come in.  Hardships that make us doubt God’s goodness to us.  Sickness; struggles in relationships; getting so busy in life that our close connection to God is threatened.  Losing loved ones, facing an empty place, dealing with the loneliness that comes with that.  Struggles against sin and the temptations of Satan.  Facing a particular temptation that we cannot seem to overcome, that keeps drawing us back into the ways of sin.  We doubt, we despair, we wonder if we’ll ever be free from the clutches of the evil one.

The way to go forward in faith is to remember and believe.  To meditate on the mighty acts of God, on all His wondrous works.  On His power and majesty displayed in creation.  On His ability to save, when it seems like there is no way out.  To focus our attention especially on Christ, and His once for all sacrifice.  To “fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb.12:2).  To trust that in Him we have passed from death to life, and that we will share in the glorious inheritance He is preparing for us.

This brings us to our final point.  In it we’ll see how we are to thank the LORD for His mighty works.  The glory of God stands at the centre of the Exodus story.  In Exodus 14:4 the LORD says, “I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and he will pursue them. But I will gain glory for myself through Pharaoh and all his army…”  This is repeated in verses 17&18 when the LORD speaks about gaining glory through Pharaoh, his chariots and his horsemen, by drowning them in the Red Sea.  In Romans 9:16 Paul reminds us of the LORD’s words spoken earlier in Exodus.  He said to Pharaoh, “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”  The LORD brought judgment on Pharaoh and Egypt, and deliverance for Israel, so that all peoples might praise and glorify His name.

That praise needs to begin from among God’s own people.  From those whom He has saved by His mighty works.  How can someone stand silent, having been saved from certain death?  Consider Israel, sitting ducks between the Red Sea and the Egyptian army.  Their response to God’s mighty works was to praise and glorify his name.  Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the LORD: “I will sing to the LORD, for he is highly exalted. The horse and its rider he has hurled into the sea.  The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise him, my father's God, and I will exalt him.  The LORD is a warrior; the LORD is His name.  Pharaoh’s chariots and his army He has hurled into the sea.  The best of Pharaoh’s officers are drowned in the Red Sea.” (Exo.15:1-4).

That praise needs to come from us.  For the wondrous redemption worked for us by God in Christ.  It is striking to note that the song of Moses is being sung in heaven by those who have been victorious over the Beast.  John speaks about that in Revelation 15.  There he heard the people of God singing, “Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are your ways, King of the ages.  Who will not fear you, O Lord, and bring glory to your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.” (Rev.15:3-4).

One of the best ways to make progress in our faith is by thanking God for His mighty works of salvation, by giving glory to His name.  If your mouths are singing songs of praise to God, it is hard for your heart to be anxious or doubting or despairing.  If your lips are giving thanks, it is hard for your feet to be walking in the way of sin.  That’s why in Ephesians 5:19-20 Paul encourages us, saying, “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  If we have passed from death to life, then we will give God all glory, we will adore Christ for His saving deeds.  Amen.

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Joe Poppe, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2008, Rev. Joe Poppe

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