Elon, North Carolina
Last week, we looked at one of the most spectacular miracles in the Bible. It is the miracle of the parting of the Red Sea. It was an awesome display of God’s power. The Jews were in an impossible situation. They were trapped. Pharaoh’s chariots were coming after them and they had absolutely nowhere to run. They thought they all were going to die.
When the situation could not get any worse is exactly when God stepped in and performed one of the greatest miracles in the whole Bible. He split open the Red Sea and made two walls of water on both sides. They not only were able to cross the Red Sea, the text says that they crossed it on dry ground (14:22, 29; 15:19). No muddy shoes for God’s people. Today, we will be looking at their reaction to this incredible miracle. They had three responses.
Thus the Lord saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. Israel SAW the great power that the Lord used against the Egyptians, so the people FEARED the Lord, and they BELIEVED in the Lord and in his servant Moses. Then Moses and the people of Israel sang this song to the Lord (14:30-15:1 ESV).
First, they FEARED God.
Before, they feared man. They saw Pharaoh coming with all of his chariots and they were terrified. They thought they all were going to die. After this miracle, they feared God. They looked back and saw the Red Sea close up on all the Egyptians and kill all of them. They saw a bunch of corpses float in the water and they were absolutely stunned what God did. Their mouths were wide open when they saw what God did.
Second they BELIEVED God.
Before, they were full of unbelief. They thought they were going to die in the wilderness. Now they are full of faith. They saw God perform one of the most stupendous miracles in the whole Bible right before their eyes. The whole nation was like Doubting Thomas. They had to see to believe. Once they saw the Red Sea split and all those dead Egyptians floating on the shore, they believed.
Third, they WORSHIPED God.
When they get to the other side of the sea, their faith turns into worship. We will spend some time looking at their worship. This is a chapter that is very relevant today to us. There is a lot we can learn about worship from this song of Moses.
We will see how the worship in most churches today compare to the worship we see here. If you start doing some of the things they did here, like dancing, you might get thrown out of some churches. The Hebrews worshiped God with song, with dance and with instruments. What was this worship like?
Characteristics of this Worship
1. This worship was new
They never sang this song before. It was the first time. They did not do any singing in Egypt. Exodus 2 says that God heard the groaning from their slavery. It says that he heard their cry. It does not say that he heard their song. This was the song of the redeemed. You have to be redeemed to sing this song.
The Egyptians were not singing but God’s people were. You have to be born again and have a new heart to have a new song. This was a song of salvation. They were singing about their redemption. The people singing were not professionals. They were not trained singers. They were just people who had been redeemed by God.
2. This worship was spontaneous.
It was not planned and it was not coerced. No one forced them to sing this song. They did not sing out of obligation or because it was something that they thought that they should do. They are not doing this because it was time to go to church. They wanted to sing this song. Worship is the normal response to redemption.
In fact, we have a far greater redemption than they ever had. If you are genuinely redeemed, you will want to worship. It will come out. It is one of the signs of salvation. If you have no desire to worship God or feel uncomfortable in a worship service, you are probably not saved.
3. This worship was universal.
If you look at any church service, there are always some people who are passionate about worship and some who are not. They are just there but are not really worshiping God. On this day, everybody was worshiping. No one was silent. The men were singing and the women were singing as well. Exodus 15:1 says, “Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song” (NIV). This worship was completely spontaneous. It came from the holy Spirit.
It must have been an incredible scene to see a choir of two million people on the shore of the Red Sea start praising God all at once. The Mormon tabernacle Choir with its three hundred and fifty people pales in comparison. This was a two million member choir. This worship was corporate. It was public. There is nothing wrong with worshiping God in private. That is biblical but there is power in corporate worship.
4. This worship was musical.
It is possible to worship God without music but they used music to worship God. The Bible tells us to worship God with songs, hymns and spiritual songs (Ephesians 5:19). It tells us to worship God with instruments.
“Praise him with trumpet sound; praise him with lute and harp! Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe! Praise him with sounding cymbals; praise him with loud clashing cymbals!” (Psalm 150:3-5 ESV)
They worship God with vocal music (singing), instrumental music (the tambourine, a simple percussion instrument) and with dance. Moses writes a song and he was eighty at the time he wrote it. We did not even know that he was a song writer.
This is the first time in the Bible we see the word “song”. Exodus 15 contains the first song in the Bible. It was possibly the oldest song in human history. It is a very old song. It is about 3500 years old. We do not know what this song sounded like but we know that it is still being sung today. People in heaven are still singing this song.
Revelation 15:1-3 says, “And I saw what appeared to be a sea of glass mingled with fire—and also those who had conquered the beast and its image and the number of its name, standing beside the sea of glass with harps of God in their hands. And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb” (ESV)
They will not just sing the Song of the Lamb. They will also sing the Song of Moses. We will sing some new songs in heaven (Revelation 5:9; 14:3) but we will also sing some old songs as well. Apparently, in heaven we will sing some songs we sang on earth. We may not be singing the hymn “Dwelling in Beulah Land”.
Then Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women went out after her with tambourines and dancing. And Miriam sang to them: “Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea.” (15:20-21 ESV)
Miriam was the one who watched over Moses when he was a baby. She kept an eye on him while he was in the basket and abandoned in the river. This is the first time she is named in Exodus and here she is called “the sister of Aaron” (15:20) but that also made her the sister of Moses.
She was a PROPHETESS. She is the first woman in the Bible to be called a prophet. She is the first one in the Bible to be called a prophetess. She had some prophetic gift, although we never hear any of her prophecies.
She was also a WORSHIP LEADER. She was the first worship leader in Scripture. Some churches do not allow women to be worship leaders. They only allow men to be worship leaders but here Miriam took a leadership role in worship.
Miriam helped lead worship and even used musical instruments. She also led the women in a dance (which proves that she could not have been a Baptist). Moses was eighty and Miriam was about ninety at this time. We do not have too many ninety year old worship leaders in church today. Some people that age can barely walk. Miriam was dancing at ninety.
There are actually two songs in this chapter. Moses has a song (15:1) and Miriam has a song (15:20-21). They made a team. Moses led the men and Miriam his sister led a group of women. The men apparently sang the stanzas of the song and the women sang the chorus.
Exodus 15 says the same thing that Exodus 14 says in a different way. Exodus 14 is a description of what happened on that day. It is a narration of events. Exodus 15 tells the same event in song. Exodus 14 tells what happened IN HISTORY. Exodus 15 tells what happened IN SONG. It uses poetry, not prose. It uses some figurative language.
It calls God a man of war (15:3) but God is not a man. It mentions God’s nostrils (15:8) but God does not have nostrils. It talks about God’s right hand (15:6, 12) but God does not have a literal hand. He does not have a physical body, so He does not have a right hand. The purpose of this song is not narration but celebration. It was a song of celebration. There was some dancing involved.
5. This worship was personal.
Exodus 15:2 says, “The LORD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation” (ESV). They did not just say “The Lord is our strength and our salvation”. They said “the Lord is MY strength”. When I am completely weak and have no strength in my, the Lord is my strength. He is MY salvation and He is MY God (15:2), not just “my father’s God” (the God of my parents or grandparents).
6. This worship was God-centered.
This was not only a song of redemption and a song of victory; it was a song of praise. This song was God-centered, not man-centered. Some of the music sung in churches is man-centered. It is humanistic. This song does not praise Moses for being such a great general or leader, although Moses was the one who wrote the song.
Moses does not take the credit for leading the Jews out of Egypt and across the Red Sea. He gives God all of the glory. The praise goes to God and God alone. This song was sung TO God and ABOUT God. That is different from music in some churches, which is almost a performance.
That is not to say that we should not have talented or gifted leaders up front. We need to give God our best. Some come to church to be entertained, like going to a concert. They are not really engaged in worship. As you look around the congregation, you will see many people not even singing. Exodus 15:1 says “Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song TO THE LORD”. They were not giving a concert. They were singing to the Lord.
This song was not only directed to God, it was all about God. There are about forty-five references to God in this song. Exodus 15:2-3 says, “THE LORD is my strength and my defense; 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” (NIV).
This was a praise song after one of the greatest miracles in the Bible, the parting of the Red Sea. It is pure doxology. What did they praise God for in this song?
Three Reasons for Praise
1) Praise God for who He is.
The women sang, ““Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods?” (15:11). God said earlier, “For this time I will send all My plagues on you and your servants and your people, so that you may know that there is no one like Me in all the earth” (9:14). There is no one like Him among the gods and no one like Him in all the earth. God says this over and over again in the Bible.
He is great in majesty (15:7). He is majestic. He is highly exalted (15:1). He is majestic in power (15:6). He is powerful. He works wonders (15:11). This is a miracle-working God. He is sovereign. He will reign forever and ever (15:18). He is also called a warrior (15:3). Some people might have a problem with that. It is a different view of God that many have.
Some people think that Christianity is opposed to all war. Some think that war is immoral and that Christians should not even serve in the military. Many denominations take militant hymns out of their hymn book (“Onward Christian Soldiers”) because they thing they are unchristian, including (so Wiersbe) but here God is called a warrior. It is militaristic language.
The KJV says God is “a man of war”. That is misleading. It does not mean that God is a man. It means that God is a warrior. He knows how to fight and defeat his enemies. He fights for His people. He has powerful weapons. This God is not weak but strong. He is all-powerful.
2) Praise God for what He has done
What did He do in this chapter? The focus of this song is what God did to the Egyptians. He defeated the greatest army on the planet at that time.
Pharaoh’s chariots and his army he has hurled into the sea. The best of Pharaoh’s officers are drowned in the Red Sea (15:4). He shattered the enemy (15:6). He did something that the Hebrews could not do. He did the impossible and He did it without any effort. But you blew with your breath, and the sea covered them (15:10). All God had to do was breathe to kill them and they sank like led (15:10). They sank to the depths like a stone (15:5).
The same thing will happen in the future. The Bible says that the Antichrist will one day to incredible damage to God’s people. Many will be killed. He will claim to be God and demand people to worship him but when Jesus returns he finish the Antichrist off with the breath of his mouth, according to II Thessalonians 2:8.
Some might have a problem with this chapter of Exodus. This song praises God for the death of the Egyptians. Thousands of people just drowned. The earth swallowed them. They had a watery grave. Is that Christian? It is biblical to praise God for his righteous judgment. This was divine judgment on sin. We will be doing that in heaven. We will praise God for his mercy and grace. He will also praise Him for his holiness, his righteousness and his justice.
3) Praise God for what He is going to do.
The song is divided into two parts Exodus 15:1-12 look back to what God has already done. Exodus 15:13-21 look forward to what God will do in the future. It is a pledge of their entrance into the Promised Land. What happened to the Egyptians will happen to the Canaanites one day.
“The peoples have heard; they tremble; pangs have seized the inhabitants of Philistia…Now are the chiefs of Edom dismayed; trembling seizes the leaders of Moab; all the inhabitants of Canaan have melted away. Terror and dread fall upon them; because of the greatness of your arm, they are still as a stone, till your people, O Lord, pass by, till the people pass by whom you have purchased.You will bring them in and plant them on your own mountain, the place, O Lord, which you have made for your abode” (15:14-17 ESV).