After all that had happened—the trauma of the night of the Passover, the march early the next morning, the deliverance by the passing through the Red Sea—what did the people do? They burst into song, led by Moses and his sister Miriam (Ex. 15:1-18).
There are different ways of analyzing the song. If you look at the commentaries you will find that there are almost as many ways of analyzing it as there are commentators! But one thing that emerges clearest in this great song of Moses is that it is all about God, and glorifies Him throughout. Moses had been used by God. He was a great man of enormous faith and courage. It must have taken tremendous faith to lead two million people out of a land where there was food into a barren wilderness, but he did it. Yet there is not a word about Moses in the entire song.
The name for God occurs eleven times in these eighteen verses and once more in Miriam’s refrain in verse 21. “God” occurs twice, and the pronouns “He,” “Him,” “His,” “You,” and “Your,” all referring to God, occur twenty-five times more. In general, the song moves from a celebration of God’s past deliverance of the people to the future victories which are still to come. That’s what good hymnody does, that’s what the hymns of the church should do.
Today our hymnody has fallen on such sad times. Some of it has become so man-centered that it doesn’t glorify God anymore. Arthur Pink notes, “The majority of the hymns (if such they are entitled to be called) of the past fifty years are full of maudlin sentimentality, instead of divine adoration. They announce our love to God, instead of His to us. They recount our experiences instead of His excellencies.”1
How different is this song! The theme of the song is to praise and exalt God (v. 2). It’s the great “Hallelujah” chorus of the Hebrew people. In fact, it’s so important that it occurs again in Revelation 15:3-4. In this passage, all wickedness is put down, and all the redeemed are in heaven. Both the Old Testament and the New Testament saints are glorifying God. How do they do it? It says they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb. In other words, they picked up on the Old Testament theme, but they saw the fulfillment of it in what Jesus Christ had done.
In our passage we see the hardening effects of sin and its result. As far as the Egyptians go, the story of the exodus ends with the death of the firstborn and the death by drowning of Pharaoh’s many horsemen and charioteers. It was a bitter result of the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart. But that’s what sin does. It hardens hearts, and the end result of a hardened heart is destruction. If you will not repent of your sin and confess it, and come to God for His mercy in Jesus Christ, the ultimate end is eternal judgment in hell.
The second thing we see is the absolute necessity of a blood atonement. The death of the lamb was pointing forward to the death of Jesus, and it’s the very heart of the Bible. It goes against modern religion because the teaching that’s true to Scripture always makes the death of Jesus and the necessity of faith in Him central. And so if we would apply this properly, you have to ask yourself if you are trusting Jesus for your salvation? Do you know that He died in your place as your substitute? And if you do know that, are you teaching others that essential doctrine as clearly as you know how? If you are, are you praying that God will lead many of the people you are teaching to trust Jesus, too?
The third point is the victory of faith. In one of the last books of the Bible, John wrote, “This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith” (1 John 5:4). That’s what you have at the Passover; you have the victory of faith as the Israelites obey God’s instructions to them through Moses. You see the victory of faith again as the people are standing on the edge of the Red Sea, and when Moses tells them to go forward they obey. Moses said, “Stand firm and you will see the Lord’s deliverance.” That’s a challenge to faith today. F. B. Meyer said it very well:
Learn what God will do for his own. Dread not any result of implicit obedience to his command; fear not the angry waters which, in their proud insolence, forbid your progress; fear not the turbulent crowds of men who are perpetually compared to waters lifting up their voice and roaring with their waves. Fear none of these things. Above the voices of many waters, the mighty breakers of the sea, the Lord sits as king upon the flood; yea, the Lord sitteth as king forever…. His way lies through, as well as in the sea, his path amid mighty waters, and his footsteps are veiled from human reason. Dare to trust Him; Dare to follow Him!2
Fourth is the value of God-given ceremonies and services. There’s a great danger in substituting man-made ceremonies for those that have been given to us by God, and religious people fall into that. You shouldn’t add anything to what God has revealed. But on the other hand we shouldn’t neglect anything that God has revealed, either. He gave the Israelites the Passover so they might remember that observance throughout all their generations.
The last application is that after deliverance there should always be a song. The Hebrews burst into song as they stood there on the banks of the Red Sea. This is what we are to do today whenever we think of the wonders of redemption. A song ought always to follow redemption, and it’s why we have such rich hymnody in the church. We have the ancient hymns by people like Ambrose, and we have hymns from the period of the Reformation written by people like Luther, Calvin, and others. We have hymns written by people like Isaac Watts and Charles Wesley, and many others, coming right on down to our own time.
Do you love to sing? If so, sing. If you don’t, God will teach you. He taught David, you know. David said that “[God] put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God” (Ps. 40:3), who alone is worthy of our praise.
1“Spiritual Singing,” in Arthur W. Pink, Studies in the Scriptures: Annual Volume 1947, vol. 26 (Pensacola, FL: Chapel Library Resources, 2009, repr.), 53.
2F. B. Meyer, Moses: The Servant of God (New York: Revell, n.d.), 85.