THE SONGS OF MOSES AND MIRIAM
(Praise for the past and hope for the future)
Exodus 15:1-21, Key Verse: 15:18
“The Lord reigns for ever and ever.”
Through last Sunday’s message, we learned that God did not want the people of Israel to face war because they were not ready, so he led them to the Red Sea so that they could experience God’s majestic power in his redemption, being protected them from the Egyptian army. After all of the Israelites crossed over the Sea, God closed it with water and drowned the mighty Egyptian chariots. What a great redemption God had done for the people of Israel!
Today’s passage is the song of Moses and the Israelites in response to God’s great redemption. It is a victory song. It may be the first national anthem ever written. It is Israel’s version of Star-Spangled Banner. In the same way, when you experience such an event, crossing your Red Sea, you cannot but sing for joy and praise God for his mighty hand and grace upon your life! Through today’s passage, we learn how our past victory enables us to have confidence in future victories. I pray that each one of us may remember it and make music to the Lord as Moses and Miriam did. Amen! There are two parts.
I. Sing the Anthem of God’s Victory (1-12).
Look at verse 1, “Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the Lord: ‘I will sing to the Lord, for he is highly exalted. Both horse and driver he has hurled into the sea.’” When Moses and the Israelites saw God’s many plagues and came out of Egypt, they did not write a song. Maybe they were too busy running away from Egypt. But when they experienced God’s majestic power as he opened the Red Sea for them to cross as dry land and finally drowned the mighty army of Egypt, they wrote a song, exalting God and his victory. Their hearts were filled with joy and thanksgiving. Let’s learn how they sang for God.
There are many wonderful things that happen as we sing a new song to God in public! It lifts our spirit and others’. It becomes memorable: we remember it for a long time, and our children can learn through singing the same song. We make God happy, just as we are joyful when our children exalt us with thanksgiving. God made a red carpet for the Israelites, and they walked along and sang thanks at the end. In the Old Testament, king David was the one who sang many songs to God, saying, “Sing to the Lord a new song.” (Ps 33:3) He sang not only at the time of victory but also of sorrow, which enabled him to overcome the situation and restore his spirit, and we call it the Psalms. Apostle Paul also encourages us, saying, “speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Eph 5:19-20) Let’s sing to the Lord for what he has done for each one of us. Let’s exalt God who has saved us from the bondage of slavery in sin and promised to give us the final victory, bringing us back to the Kingdom of God! Amen!
Look at verse 2. We find the word, ‘my,’ 5 times in this verse. People began to apply God as their personal God, saying, “The Lord is my strength, my defense, my salvation, my God, and my father’s God.” In fact, God introduced himself many times to the people of Israel, saying, “I am the Lord, your God.” but they could not relate the Lord God to themselves. They knew that the Lord is the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, but they did not make God as their own. After experiencing God’s redemption from the Egyptians who were chasing after them, they could accept God very personally. Now, they could relate the God of their fathers as their own God, saying, “The Lord is my strength, my defense, my salvation and my God.” For the first time, they applied their experience with God very personally.
This personal relationship with God is very important in one’s life of faith. This is what I pray for our 2nd next generations to have. This is what we pray for our Bible students to experience. I pray that each one of us may experience crossing his or her own Red Sea by God’s mighty power, so that each could build a personal relation with God. Each may relate his or her parents’ God as one’s personal God. Let each one of us have a personal anthem of God’s victory. Amen!
From verses 3-12, they defined who God is and described what he had done. Look at verse 3, “The Lord is a warrior; the Lord is his name.” There are many names of God in the Bible. Each person or each generation defined God in their own terms. Abraham called God Jehovah Jireh, who provided him a ram in the place of his son Isaac. Moses and the Israelites defined God as a warrior, who fights against his enemies and wins with his mighty hands. In fact, Moses said, “The Lord will fight for you.” Fighting against the enemy, God used all his means. The enemy was the best of Pharaoh’s chariots and his army. At that time, Egypt was the strongest country and his army was the best of the best. When the Israelites were being chased by the best of Pharaoh’s army, they were terrified and screamed at Moses, thinking that they would be dead. At the same time, they could not run for their lives because they were hemmed in by the Red Sea in front of them. But God, in his anger, used his nostrils to pile the water of the Red Sea so that the surging waters stood up like a wall. Think for a moment, how you would feel as you are walking in between two big walls of water. How dreadful and awesome that would be!
Yet Pharaoh’s army still chased after them into the sea, thinking that they could overtake them and bring them back to Egypt as slaves once again. How prideful they were! How scary it was for the people of Israel! But God protected them through the cloud of his angels. As soon as the Israelites came out of the Sea God blew his breath and covered the Egyptian army with the mighty water.
Here God’s nostrils and his breath represent the work of the holy Spirit, bringing a powerful wind to do a work that is impossible even with today’s technology, removing and then covering miles of a sea in a day. The people of Israel could see God’s mighty hand in majestic power, destroying his enemies who are arrogant and making walls of water for them to cross the Red Sea as on dry land. When they experienced it all, they could put their faith in God.
Have you had such an experience, defeating Pharaoh’s best army chasing after you even after God saved you from the slavery in Egypt? Pharaoh and his army represent the devil and his demons. Even after God saved us from the bondage of the devil through the blood of the Lamb of God, the demons are chasing after us through our old sinful way of life, just as the Israelites were complaining to Moses and not trusting in God when they were chased by Pharaoh’s chariots. Often God puts us in a situation where we are hemmed in problems without a way out. Yet, God speaks to us to live by faith and delivers us miraculously, often sending angels in real life, and he finally resolves it. We know that it is done not by our own strength but only by the power and grace of God. Let’s remember such an event of God’s victory and have a personal anthem of victory.
Today, I will share my story. When I was in in Ph.D. program, I felt that I was hemmed in; no help from my advisor for a year so I could not advance, and my fellowship was running out within a year without a prospective job. I was mad, frustrated, and scared, complaining to God and others, and God called me as I was meditating on John 9, saying, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” Instead of blaming myself or my advisor, God helped me to trust in him who will reveal his glory. As I held on to God’s promise, God opened the door to get a job with a provision to work on my dissertation for a year and moved my advisor’s heart to help me to finish it in a year. I could not but testify God’s victory, praising God that His word is living to those who believe. Thank and praise God for his victory!
Most of all, let’s remember that Jesus fought against Satan who tempted him to come down from the cross. Finally, he crushed the head of the devil through his resurrection. Therefore, all believers will have the final victory as God will destroy all his enemies in the fiery lake of burning surfer. Amen!
II. Confidence for the Future Victory (13-21)
Their experience in crossing the Red Sea gave them confidence in their future. Look at verse 13, “In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed. In your strength you will guide them to your holy dwelling.” They concluded their song about God’s work at the Red Sea with two topics, His unfailing love and His strength. They remembered that God had done this majestic work for them to know God who loved them in spite of their complaints and lack of faith. They knew that they did not deserve it, but God had done this awesome work. They failed God, but God’s love never failed redeeming them. He displayed his power and glory in his love. When they depended on his unfailing love and his strength, they could have confidence that God will guide them to his holy dwelling, where God promised to take them, the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Hivites and Jebusites, the land with flowing milk and honey. (Ex 13:5)
This reminds me of Apostle Paul’s confidence, saying, “When God is for us, who can be against us…. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, not anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:31, 35, 37-39) While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. How much more will he love us as we repent and live for him. When we remember the love of God in Christ, we have confidence that he will guide us. God who started his good work in each of us will finish it to the end. Amen!
Look at verses 14-17. They already knew how many strong nations were surrounding them. They were Philistia, Edom, and Moab, strong and war-like people with horses and chariots, but the Israelites just came out of Egypt with shepherd sticks. Yet they believed that these nations would not dare to stop them because terror and dread of God will fall on them. When they hear of God’s majestic work for the people of Israel, they will be like stones, not able to move, and the hearts of the Canaanites will be like candles before fire melting away due to fear. They were confident that God will lead them to the land where God promised.
Finally, the song concluded in verse 18, saying, “The Lord reigns for ever and ever.” Before, they thought that Pharaoh ruled them and the world. They had to throw their newborn babies in the Nile river. They were oppressed with hard labor under slave drivers. But now they could trust in the sovereign God who rules the world for ever and ever. This means that God ruled in the past even though they were slaves in Egypt. Now God rules at present time as he opened the Red Sea into dry ground for them to cross over and drowned the mighty Egyptian army. Moreover, they believe that God will rule not only Egypt but all other surrounding nations and the Promised Land, and the whole world.
Who has reigned the world in the past, at present time and in the future? A history class in a school system teaches about the history of kings and rulers. When we take this kind of history class in elementary, middle and high school more than 10 years, we begin to believe that the world is ruled by these people. But the Bible teaches that God is the sovereign ruler of history. How? What God said has been fulfilled. Now we see the fulfillment of biblical prophesies about signs and wonders approaching end times, such as we experience the worldwide pandemic. When we see the world, we often feel that the world is the devil’s playground and we are easily discouraged. As Christians, however, we must believe that our God reigns. All disasters, including the COVID-19 pandemic, are the birth pains, and the gospel will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations through those who are obedient to God’s call. When we believe that God is the sovereign ruler of history, we find peace and confidence that he will lead us faithfully to the ultimate Promised Land, the kingdom of God. He is the ruler of the world, of America and of each one of us. Amen!
Look at verses 19-21. In a man-dominated society, a woman usually does not speak much. But the Israelite women could not hold their joy anymore. They were behind the scenes until now, but now they are expressing their joy, praising God together. When all the men finished singing, the women began to sing, led by Miriam the prophetess. They sang to the Lord and dancing, exalting him for God drove the enemies into the sea, saying, “Sing to the Lord, for he is highly exalted. Both horse and driver he has hurled into the sea.” Their song was exactly the same as that of the men. But there is power in repetition. Even if the Israelites forget all other parts of the song, they will remember this part like a refrain in a song. Let’s not forget to exalt our God who gave us victory, singing and remembering again and again. Everyone may have different way of remembering God’s grace. To me, I write my key verse again and again almost every day, since 2008, two years before God’s victory in my PhD study. As I write it, God reminds me of God’s grace upon my life, which has given me confidence in God’s love and power, especially going through difficult times. I pray that each of us may find our own way of reminding of God’s victory and build confidence in God’s love and strength. Amen!
Through today’s passage, we learned that Moses and the Israelites, all men and women, sang the song of praising God for his salvation from the mighty Egyptian army and for his mighty work opening the Red Sea for them to cross as on dry land. Their past experience enabled them to have a personal relationship with God and trust in God for their future, entering into the Promised Land. In the same way, our experience of God’s salvation in his mighty power enables us to have a personal faith in God and trust in him for the future work he will do. Our confidence should be built on God’s victory, not on our failures. Reminding of God’s salvation provides us confidence in doing God’s work and entering into our ultimate Promised Land, the kingdom of God. Amen!