Our passage today begins with God telling Moses to lead Israel to the Red Sea, essentially trapping themselves. God promises to again harden Pharaoh’s heart, which will result in two things: God’s glory, and the Egyptians knowing Who He is. And we as God’s people may feel trapped at times, but if we’re following God, His purposes will stand and He will be glorified. All we can do is obey when He leads, which Israel did (14:4). We see in verse 5 Pharaoh’s hard heartedness. Moses is sure to record that the entire army of Egypt came in pursuit to show the futility of man’s “power” against God.
In verse 11, we see the faith of Israel waver. In verses 13-14, we see the faith of Moses. And we see again God’s provision as His presence moves between them and the army of Egypt, protecting His people. And God provides the way of salvation for Israel through the sea, protecting them from the army throughout the night crossing. In the morning, God works judgment against Egypt, Himself throwing them into panic (v. 24), and ultimately destroying them with the sea (v. 28). What God used as salvation for His people, He used as judgment on His enemies. So, too, the cross of Christ provides salvation for those of faith, and brings judgment on those who do not believe (1 Cor 1:18 – see also John 3:36).
We see in verse 31 that the awesome display of power by God caused Israel to fear Him and “to believe in” Him. The “they believed” is a verb that more rightly describes God than them. It means that they found God to be faithful. As we will see, their faith will waver again when the going gets tough, but God’s faithfulness never wavers.
Chapter 15 records the Song of Moses*. The refrain of “the Lord is my strength and my song and He has become my salvation” (v. 2) is used again in the Old Testament verbatim (see Psalm 118:14, Isa 12:2) and in allusion (Ps 18:1-2, Ps 140:7). The idea of God being salvation as opposed to providing salvation is praise for Who God is as opposed to what He does. He is our salvation. And the Hebrew word for “salvation” is the word יְשׁוּעָה – pronounced Yeshua. This is the Hebrew name of our Lord, Jesus. God literally has become our Yeshua.
And the song recognizes that this is, in fact, the God of Abraham (“my father’s God”) and proclaims the covenant name: “YHWH is His name” (v. 3). The song then praises the deeds of God and extols His glory and power and majesty (vv. 4-7). It proclaims the uniqueness of our God Who is unequaled in majesty, holiness, glory, and power (v. 11). It proclaims His steadfast love** in leading and redeeming His people (v. 13). The song also proclaims the faith of the people that God will yet do what He has promised to do (vv. 15-17).
However, we see that this faith in God is short lived. Three days later, after finding no water to drink, the people “grumble against Moses” (v. 24 – compare to 14:31). And God again provides turning salt water into fresh water. Then we are told that God tests them, and makes them a promise (v. 26) that will play out over the course of the next millennium as the faithfulness of the nation waxes and wanes, the next 40 years included.
Chapter 16 sets the paradigm for this continual fickleness of the nation. Having just gotten water from God in abundance (15:25 and 15:27), the Israelites now grumble against Moses (really, against God – v. 8) for lack of food. We see that “I wish we had died in Egypt” that we will become quite familiar with. And God starts the test (v. 4). He will indeed provide food, which He does all the way up until they enter the land (16:35 – see also Josh 5:12), but after providing the food, and promising to continue to provide the food, God requires something of His people (and there’s that pattern again: action, promise, command).
God sends quail in the evening and bread in the morning. The faith of Israel is tested in the rules for gathering the manna (which is literally in Hebrew the exclamation “What?!?!”). Here’s the question: would what God has already done (in providing bread) be enough for them to believe He will yet do what He promised (provide it again)? And, sadly, the answer is no (v. 20). Then, God establishes that He will provide enough on the sixth day to require no gathering on the Sabbath. And again, some show their faithlessness (v. 27). Remember the promise we just read in 15:26? Israel blows it by 16:28. (Don’t be too quick to judge!) And it won’t be the last time. Yet, the Lord remains faithful. He then commands Moses to keep some manna as a memorial of what God has done for His people.
Of course, the salvation through the Red Sea points us to the salvation we have in Christ. (If you’ve been following the Revelation study, you know how the sea represents the divide between us and God, which Christ spanned for us). The fresh water, given so abundantly by God, points us to the Holy Spirit that Christ would give us, Who becomes a river of living water that flows out of our hearts (John 7:37-39). The bread from heaven points us to Christ Who is the true Bread of Life that God provides from heaven (John 6:32-33).
God saves. It’s Who He is. He is our salvation – our Jesus. He has already done it. He promises to still do it. Let’s drink the Water He provides, eat the Bread He provides, and live in His grace.
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” – John 6:35 (ESV)
* If you use Spotify, this is a great song based on the song of Moses: https://open.spotify.com/track/7qeYpmQZQf95rRHbwLOaWz?si=31d97656a48140e5
** The word translated “steadfast love” here is my favorite word in Hebrew. It is the word hesed (חֶ֫סֶד). It has no equivalent in English and describes an endlessly loyal love. It is translated variously in the Old Testament as: love, kindness, steadfast love, loyalty, goodness, mercy, favor, deeds of steadfast love, faithfulness, and devotion. This is what God directs exclusively toward His people.