Exodus 15:1-21 ~ 20110320 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
03/20 Exodus 15:1-21 The Song of the Sea
God's stated purpose in the exodus was to make himself known. They Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD; you shall know that I am the LORD; I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his hosts.
'I could have done it differently' God says. 'But I do things the way I am doing them so that you may know that there is none like me. I am doing this for the good of my people and for the fame of my name in all the earth.'
God is out to get glory for himself. He is out to display his power, so that his name will be proclaimed in all the earth. God is out to display his sovereign uniqueness, his unmatched supremacy. We are told to stop being afraid of anyone but God, to be still and stop stirring up dust that obscures God's glory. We are told to be spectators of God's great salvation as God works salvation for us. The LORD fights for his people. God acts alone for our salvation. We have only to be silent.
The prophet Isaiah puts it this way:
We have seen God take his people out of Egypt. God's people were unbelieving, complaining, fighting against God's plan, questioning God's wisdom and capability. They cried out for help, but when God stepped in to help, they didn't like how he was helping. God was acting for their good, but they didn't know what good was. They considered slavery in Egypt better than the presence of God in the wilderness. They needed their sense of 'better' re-calibrated. But praise God, he took his grumbling doubting complaining discontented argumentative people and he saved them anyway! He saved them without their help or cooperation. He saved them in the most inconceivable way. He saved them by himself. Chapter 14 concludes:
I wish I had a recording of this song as it was originally sung. The bible tells us that there were about 600,000 men, besides women and children (Ex.12:37; 38:26; Num.1:46). I've sung with a group of pastors at the Minneapolis convention center numbering close to 2,000 and it was ground shaking and heart stirring. This is exponentially more, 300 times more men than that – and that's not counting the women and children that were part of the crowd. I wonder how it happened – if it started with Moses at one end of the multitude and slowly mounted and spread and reverberated back until all were belting out at the top of their lungs worship and praise to their awesome God. Remember, these are the people that were gripped with terror as Pharaoh's army overtook them by the sea and they had no hope and no way out. These are the people who saw God supernaturally part the sea and make a dry path for them to escape from their enemies. These are the people who saw with their own eyes the highly trained military of Pharaoh pursuing them into the sea, the same people who saw God crush their enemies under the sea so that not one was left. The text says the LORD saved Israel that day. They saw, they feared, they believed. And then they sang. Let's try to hear them as they respond to God's awesome salvation with worship.
Worship. Worship is an act of adoration or affection; declaring the worth of God to God. Worship, although not limited to singing, often finds expression in singing. We proclaim the truth about God and the things God has done in an emotionally charged celebration that we all vocally participate in.
It has been said that songs of worship are the take-home theology of the church. As you're doing the dishes or disciplining the kids or celebrating God's provision or facing a great trial, whether you start humming the tune or full-on belting out the words when no one is there to hear you, if the song is solid, you are rehearsing your theology and declaring your doctrine. Music is powerful. Two days from now you probably won't remember much of what I've said this morning, but you might catch yourself humming a tune that we sang this morning. Sometimes I find myself whistling a hymn that I haven't sung for over 20 years.
So I want to look at this song and ask the question 'what makes a good worship song?' What patterns do we see in this song that we could follow to enhance our worship of God?
Is it even legitimate to take this song as a good example to follow? I think we are justified in taking this song, because this song gets sung again. This song is sung in heaven.
What's not in this song?
Let's start by looking at what's missing. What is absent from this song? Me. I am missing. The song begins “I will sing; I will praise; I will exalt him' and it quickly forgets about self and focuses on God. I am not the center of the song. It is personal; it comes from my heart. But this is God-centered worship. In Miriam's refrain the declaration 'I will' is left off and it becomes an imperative command; sing! Everyone, sing to the LORD. God is the subject and the object of the song. It is a song about God and it is sung to God. This song is characterized by an utter forgetfulness of self.
God here fulfills his purpose of making himself known and getting glory for himself. His people forget about themselves, their successes, their fears, their failures. They sing about God.
What does this song say about God?
So what does this God-saturated God-centered song say about God? We could divide it into two main categories: who God is and what God does.
Who God is
This song celebrates who God is. God's people declare the character and nature of God. They sing the attributes of God.
God's people celebrate in song God's attributes; he is victorious; he is the source of strength; the theme of worship; he is rescuer; proven faithful; warrior; he is self-existent; all powerful; conqueror; he deserves to be proud; he is justly angry; he is unrivaled; incomparable; totally set apart; awe-inspiring; he is active in power; he is our faithful lover; our purchaser/ redeemer; our caring guide; he dwells with his people; he is the perpetual king. That is who he is.
What God does
The song celebrates not only the character and attributes of God, but the real historical actions of God. Let's look at what he does.
God kills his enemies
What they are memorializing in song seems to be all about God destroying his enemies. God triumphs; throws down; hurls; covers with the deep; shatters; tears down; consumes with fury; flares his nostrils; congeals the abyss; immerses in the mighty waters; swallows his enemies up in the underworld.
Isn't killing people mean? Doesn't God have to follow his own commandments? The short answer is 'no'. God is just. God is the judge. God says 'vengeance is mine, I will repay'. It belongs to God to give life and to take life. That is his right, not ours. Remember, these are the sworn enemies of God. They had seen God's mighty acts first hand. They could have joined with the Israelites in the mixed multitude as they left Egypt but they did not. Verse 9 chronicles in six 'I will' statements their rebellious attitude:
This is as they are pursuing God's people into the parted Red Sea! They have demonstrated that they are persistently evil and unrepentant. God is not obligated to give them a second chance (or, in this case, an eleventh chance!) God as savior of his people now crushes his enemies so they can no longer pursue them. In a fallen world hostile to God's purposes, YHWH must be a warrior. God's anger against evil and his destruction of those who oppose him are inherent aspects of his majesty. God is just and will not tolerate evil. God is abundantly patient, but evil will be totally eradicated. That is something we should celebrate!
The song goes on to describe the terror that is planted in the hearts of the future enemies of Israel.
God cares for his people
The song also talks about what God does for his own people.
This is quite the switch from 'you have led us out here to die!' He leads in steadfast love. He redeems. He guides into his house. He purchases his people. He brings us in and plants us, roots us in his presence, the place he has prepared for us. He reigns.
They sing the song of Moses and the song of the Lamb. Christ our passover is slain for us. All of this points us to Jesus. Jesus is the victorious conqueror of sin and death and hell; he is the source of our strength; the theme of our worship; he is rescuer, God our savior; proven faithful; the warrior who fights for us; he is self-existent; omnipotent LORD; he is lifted up and seated at the right hand of his Father; he is justly angry and will tread the wine-press of the wrath of God; he will eradicate all evil; he is unrivaled; incomparable; totally set apart; awe-inspiring; he is active in resurrection power; he is our faithful lover; our purchaser and redeemer who paid for our sins at the cross with his own blood; he demonstrates his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, while we were his enemies Christ died for us. Jesus is our gentle shepherd and caring guide who leads us in paths of righteousness for his name's sake; he is Immanuel, God with us, he goes to prepare a place for us; Jesus is the King of kings and Lord of lords and every knee shall bow to him and give him glory! That is who he is.