To God be the Glory
To the Israelites, the Egyptians seemed like an unconquerable foe. Yet, the people were told, “The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent” (Exodus 14:14).
In the very next chapter of the book of Exodus, we have a song that recounts God’s redeeming act (Exodus 15:1-18). Songs have a way of being etched in our memory. Without a doubt, this song represents how the exodus was intended to be remembered by the people of God. It was the time when God overthrew the oppressive power and was then regarded as great by the nations. It was the time when God reigned supreme.
The story of Exodus is essentially the narrative of the Bible. There is an oppressive force, the all-powerful God intervenes, and God’s people are set free. Whether the oppressive force is the Egyptians, the Babylonians, or sin and death, the events are retold through the pages of Scripture.
When we look again at the victory song of Exodus 15:1-18, it is interesting to notice who the main characters are. The Egyptians are in the song and their words are “I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil, my desire shall have its fill of them. I will draw my sword; my hand shall destroy them” (Exodus 15:9). The other main character is God. In the victory song, God acts against the Egyptians. God has “thrown,” “cast,” and “sunk” the enemy. God has done so through His power over the sea. In regards to the waters, God has blown and they “congealed” (Exodus 15:8).
The other foreign powers also get a mention in the song—Philistia, Edom, Moab, Canaan— “Terror and dread fall upon them all” (Exodus 15:16).
It is worth noticing that the people of Israel are not mentioned much at all in the victory song. Aren’t they the ones who are victorious? Aren’t they the ones who should get some credit? Didn’t they walk across the sea? Well, although they did have to walk “on dry ground through the sea” in faith (Exodus 14:29), the narrative is not ultimately about the people of Israel. It is about the God of justice and righteousness waging war against unjust Pharaoh. God had said to Moses, “And the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I have gotten glory over Pharaoh, his chariots, and his horsemen” (Exodus 14:18).
When we think about our own exodus story—our journey away from the oppressive power of sin, through the liberating waters of baptism, and into our new life—there may be times when we are tempted to think too highly of ourselves. We may start to think that it is through our own righteousness that we have been set free. If it is true that the exodus events shape the rest of the Bible, then let us use the victory song of Exodus 15 to shape how we think about our spiritual freedom. It is not because of our strength that we have been set free. Rather, it is because of God’s might.
The gospel story is ultimately about Christ waging war with Satan, so that God might be glorified. When we contemplate our Savior’s life, death, and resurrection, it ought to result in us echoing the Israelites of old: “Who is like you, O LORD, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?” (Exodus 15:11).