The second spiritual lesson is that salvation must be received through the channel of human faith. I talk about faith here because of a verse that occurs in Hebrews 11, which is important for understanding the Passover. Speaking of Moses, we read, “By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel” (v. 28). This tells us that faith was involved in the deliverance. In fact, it was the very essence of what was involved. This is connected with the spreading of the blood upon the doorposts. The angel of death was going to come through and the firstborn are going to be slain. What possible good can applying blood on one’s house do against the destroying angel? We now understand that this was a foreshadowing of the coming of Jesus Christ and his sacrificial death. But they would not have understood this at the time. But what they did was an act of faith. God had told them to do this in order to spare their firstborn sons, and they believed and acted on God’s word to them.
In our own day, the requirement of faith seems absurd to those who are unbelievers. You talk about salvation through faith in the work of Jesus Christ, something that a man did two thousand years ago, and people think you’re foolish. But this is what God says. He tells us that salvation is in Him and by Him alone. If we believe in Him we are spared, and the judgment passes over us; and if we don’t, we perish.
I’ve spoken of the Passover as the very heart of the book of Exodus in the Old Testament. But there is another event connected to this that is very important. In the crossing over of the Red Sea, God intervened in power and He parted the waters so the people could go across. And after they had crossed over on dry ground, the water came back and drowned the Egyptians. That is mentioned many times in the Old Testament, even more than the Passover. This deliverance through the parting of the sea is mentioned many times in the Psalms. You find similar references in Joshua, Isaiah, and Nehemiah. It was even known among the heathen, because when the people came to conquer the land and they made their way to Jericho, Rahab the prostitute told the Israelite spies in Joshua 2:10, “We have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt…” So knowledge of that great event had spread through the ancient cultures, and they were well aware of the power of Jehovah, the Hebrew God.
There has been a great deal of debate about the location of the “Red Sea” of Exodus. Is it that great section of the gulf that runs up to where the Suez Canal is today? There is a marshy area to the north of it that moves further up to an area called the Bitter Lakes, and there have been speculations that the crossover took place at any point along that line: the Bitter Lakes, the marshy areas in between, or the actual Red Sea itself. We don’t even know for sure where the borders of the Red Sea were in the ancient world. Many years have gone by, during which water levels rise and fall, and areas get silted in. But one thing we know is that the Israelites were not merely wading through a marshy area to get to the other side, because the water was deep enough that it had to be parted to let them through, and deep enough to drown the Egyptians when it came back. So wherever it was, this was certainly a stupendous miracle and the people understood it as such.
There’s another point, too. If you follow the details of their march, you find that they had moved more or less toward the east, that is, down toward the Sinai Peninsula. But then for some reason, at the direction of God, they moved back west into an area that we would call a cul-de-sac. They had the sand on one side, the mountains on the other, and the water in front of them. And they couldn’t go back, of course, because that was back to Egypt.
When Pharaoh saw that, he must have thought they’re just wandering around out there in the desert aimlessly, not knowing where they are going. He said, “They’re confused, and this is my opportunity!” Unfortunately it was Pharaoh who was confused. He thought that he could fight God. Well we know what happened: he blundered by pursuing them. He found out, as it says in Exodus 14:25, that the Lord was fighting for the Israelites against Egypt.
There are times when you and I seem hemmed in by circumstances. We don’t know which way to turn. We have got a problem on our right, there is a difficulty on the left, we can’t go forward, and there are enemies behind. In a situation like that we have to hear what God told the Jewish people to do through Moses. Exodus 14:13-14 is a very important text: “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Sometimes you have to fight, which we are going to see as we go on in the story. But there are other times when you have to stand still, and never more so than when you are hemmed in by circumstances.
After the crossing of the Red Sea, when the sun rose, it rose on a new free nation. The people had been slaves fleeing from their masters; now they were a free people standing in a new land, with a dramatic destiny before them. They were a picture of those who have been redeemed today. You see, we had been enslaved to sin but we have now been made new people in Christ, and we have been given a new community. Before us there is a new and awesome destiny. Peter knew this, using Old Testament terminology in calling Christians “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2:9).