And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
These words speak to us of the temper with which we should meet the great trials and crises of life, the temper which does all that can be done and leaves the result to God. Let us look at this temper or character and its opposite as they are seen working in politics, in religion, in the lives of individuals.
I. The question was once asked by an eminent thinker, whether nations, like individuals, could go mad. There certainly have been movements, like the Reformation or the French Revolution, of which no one could foretell the existence or power. But such movements, like the cataclysms of geology, have been rare, and they seem likely to be rarer as the world goes on. Yet this is not the aspect of the world which our imagination presents to us. There are the two opposite poles of feeling, the one exaggerating, the other minimising actions and events; the one all enthusiasm and alarm, the other cynical and hopeless. The true temper in politics is the temper of confidence and hope. "Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord." Be patient, and instead of changing every day with the gusts of public opinion, observe how curiously, not without a Divine providence, many things work themselves out into results which we never foresaw.
II. A temper of confidence and repose is needed in matters of religion. The great changes in religious opinion during the last forty years have taken two directions—Rome and Germany. These changes are far from unimportant, but the temper of alarm and exaggeration is not the right way of dealing with them. Amid the changes of religious opinions and the theological discord which distracts the world, we may possess our souls in peace. If sometimes our ears are thrilled and our minds confused by the Babel of voices which dins around us, we may turn from without, and listen calmly to that voice which speaks to us from within, of love, and righteousness, and peace.
III. Let us apply the same principle to our own lives. We need to see ourselves as we truly are, in all our relations to God and to our fellow-men. We need to carry into the whole of life that presence of mind which is required of the warrior who in the hour of conflict is calm, and sees what he foresaw.
B. Jowett, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xv., p. 193.
I. These words which to fleshly Israel must have seemed so strange, and which to weak faith echo so strangely still, contain two parts, a duty and a blessing. They were to "stand still," and so should they see the salvation of God. And this condition of blessing runs continually through the whole history of the Jewish and Christian Church. When God has tried His chosen servants or His chosen people, the most frequent trial perhaps has been this, whether they would tarry the Lord's leisure, be content to receive God's gift in God's way, hasten not, turn not to the right hand or the left, but "stand still" and see the salvation of God. By patient (the word implies suffering) waiting for God, an unresisting resistance unto blood, did the Church take root in the whole world.
II. It is for instruction only that we may ask why God should so have annexed the blessing of conquest to enduring suffering, and made patience mightier than what men call active virtues. (1) It may be that it has some mysterious connection with the sufferings of Christ. Vicarious suffering may be so far well-pleasing to God as having a communion with the sufferings of His beloved Son, and doubtless it may make those who are partakers of it more capable of the communication of the merits and influence of His passion. (2) Then, also, it may be needful, in the wisdom of God, for the perfecting of His saints. As all trial implies pain, so the trial of the most precious vessels, it may be, is to be accompanied by pains proportionate. (3) It is evident, that so God's power and glory are most shown in averting suffering, or in crowning the enduring faith by His blessing. (4) Since man's self-will was the cause of his fall, God would thus teach him to renounce dependence upon himself, to quit his own wisdom and his own schemes, and do God's will.
F. B. Pusey, Nine Sermons Preached before the University of Oxford, No. ix.
References: Exodus 14:13.—T.Arnold, Sermons, vol. i., p. 66; Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, p. 206; G. Moberly, Plain Sermons, p. 256; A. Raleigh, Rest from Care and Sorrow, p. 186; Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. ix., No. 541.
Exodus 14:13-14I. It was not the children of Israel who had brought themselves out of Egypt. They were a set of poor crouching slaves. It was not Moses who brought them out. It was the Lord who brought them out. This was what the Passover told them on the night they left Egypt, what it was to tell all future generations. The Lord was fighting for them. They were simply to follow where they were led, to accept the deliverance which He gave them and to remember whence it came.
II. The most wonderful of God's processes of education was the institution of sacrifices and the whole economy which is connected with them. The ground of the national existence was laid in sacrifice. The killing of the lamb, the blood token upon the door, the consecration of all the firstborn, were the witnesses that the slaves of Pharaoh were redeemed to be the people of God. Sacrifice was not merely the redress of an evil: it was a return to the rightful, orderly state of each man and of the people. The setting up of a self-will is the disturbance of order; the sacrifice or giving up of the will is the restoration of it. Therefore the sacrifices in the Book of Leviticus are not like the heathen sacrifices—schemes to bring about a change in the Divine mind. They proceed, just as much as the law proceeds, from that mind.
III. A Jew who ate the paschal lamb mainly that he might commemorate the destruction of the Egyptians or the favour shown to Israelites may have hoped that the same power which slew one enemy of the nation would slay another. Yet this hope must often have been feeble, for analogies are but poor supports to the heart when crushed by actual miseries. But he who counted it his chief blessedness to see God asserting His order through Egyptians and Israelites, in despite of the unbelief and rebellion of both, would naturally conclude that He who is and was and is to come would go on asserting His order till He had put down every enemy of it, till He had completely made manifest His "own character and purposes." The enemies of God's order are sensuality, self-will, selfishness. It is God's intention to wage perpetual war with these, till He has proved whether they or He are the stronger.
God must be the Deliverer in the least case as in the greatest. Man must be the instrument of deliverance. It must be a deliverance wrought by the Firstborn of many brethren for His brethren, by a High-Priest as the Representative of a society.
F. D. Maurice, Patriarchs and Lawgivers of the Old Testament, p. 186.
Exodus 14:15I. The story from which these words are taken is a story of national progress. It is also one of supernatural progress. For us the supernatural is, in the highest and truest sense of the word, natural, for it is the revelation of the nature of God. We accept the possibility of the supernatural and miraculous, but all the more for that do we hold that if God interferes in the affairs of men miraculously, He will not do it capriciously, unnecessarily, wantonly. Upon the whole story of these Jewish miracles there is stamped a character which marks distinctly the reason for which they were wrought; that reason was the religious education of the world. By these miracles the Jew was taught that for nations and men there is a God, an eternal and a personal Will above us and around us that works for righteousness. This great fact was taught mm by illustrated lessons, by pictures illuminated with the Divine light and so filled with the Divine colour that they stand and last for all time.
II. The lesson that seems definitely stamped on the story of the miraculous passage of the Red Sea is the lesson of fearlessness in the discharge of duty, of resolute walking in the way that we know to be God's way for us. We find this true: (1) in the case of individuals; (2) in the case of nations. For individuals and for nations God has appointed a law of progress. All who have ever striven to raise the tone of a nation's life, to bring the nation onward on the path that leads to peace and righteousness, have been preaching to mankind this great word of God's, "Go forward where God would have you go."
Bishop Magee, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xx., p. 55.
Exodus 14:15Progress is the great test of a Christian. It is not what we are absolutely, but what we are relatively, relatively to what we were. Religion must always be "a walk," and the child of God a traveller. Old things get further and further behind, and as they recede look smaller and smaller; new things constantly come into view, and there is no stagnation. The man, though slowly, and with much struggle, and with many humiliations, is stretching on to the ever-rising level of his own spiritual and heaven-drawn conscience.
I. We may be discouraged because of past failures. Still we have no choice but to go on. Life is made up of rash beginnings and premature endings. We have nothing for it but to begin again.
II. We may feel ourselves utterly graceless and godless. The remedy is, at once to determine to be a great Christian. We must aim at things far in advance. We must go forward.
III. Perhaps some great temptation or sin bars the way. Then we must not stand calculating. We must not look at consequences, but simply "go forward" to the new life of self-denial and holiness.
J. Vaughan, Sermons, 7th series, p. 15.
References: Exodus 14:13-15.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. x., p. 152. Exodus 14:15.—C. J. Vaughan, The Days of the Son of Man, p. 251; Outline Sermons for Children, p. 17; R. D. B. Rawnsley, Village Sermons, 2nd series, p. 120; J. Baldwin Brown, The Sunday Afternoon, pp. 428, 436; J. E. Vaux, Sermon Notes, 2nd series, p. 52; S. Baring-Gould, One Hundred Sermon Sketches, p. 45; Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. x., No. 548; Homiletic Magazine, vol. xiii., p. 18; J. Hamilton, Works, vol. v., p. 166. Exodus 14:15-31.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. ii., pp. 130, 132. Exodus 14:16.—J. M. Neale, Sermons in Sackville College, vol. iii., p. 320. Exodus 14:19, Exodus 14:20.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxx., No. 1793.
Exodus 14:20The guiding cloud severed the camp of Egypt from the camp of Israel. It marched between them. To the one it was God's presence, cheering despondency, comforting weakness, guaranteeing victory; to the other it was a perplexing, baffling, vexing apparition, betokening they knew not what, yet this at all events, that Israel had a friend, a guide, a comforter, and they must drive after him their chariots of earth, with such hope and such might as earth fighting against Heaven can muster.
I. Every word of God is at once a cloud and darkness to Egypt and a light by night to Israel. So far as revelation goes, it is to the believing what it calls itself—a light and a lamp. The real mysteries of our being were there before revelation: the mystery of life, the mystery of death, the mystery of an omnipotent God resisted, and the mystery of a holy God co-existent with evil. Whatever revelation does in reference to these aboriginal mysteries is in the direction of explanation.
II. Trinity Sunday is, in an especial sense, the Festival of Revelation. Trinity and unity are not contraries. The word Trinity was invented to preserve the unity. Trinity is tri-unity. The doctrine of the Trinity is this, that Holy Scripture, while tenaciously clinging to the unity, does present to us our Lord Jesus Christ as very God, and does present to us the Holy Spirit of God, not as a thing, but as a Person. Leave out of sight for one hour the Divinity of Jesus, and darkness settles again upon the soul which He died, which He lives, to redeem. Leave out of sight for one hour the personality of the Spirit, and darkness settles again upon the soul of which He is the Light, because the Life. We may listlessly dream or purposelessly loiter; but when a work is proposed to us, and we must do it or die, then we want that help, and must have it, which only a Trinity in unity can supply.
C. J. Vaughan, Half Hours in the Temple Church, p. 143; also Good Words, 1870, p. 747.
Reference: T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. v., p. 114.
Exodus 14:30-31Had it not been for this great deliverance, the children of Israel would only have been remembered in the after history of the world as the slaves who helped to build the Pyramids. Their religion was fast perishing among them, their religious rites forgotten; and they would soon have been found among the worshippers of the monster gods of Egypt. But God had better things in store for them when He led them through the Red Sea, making a path for them amid the waters.
I. It was one of the greatest blessings for the human race that during the preservation of the Jewish people the great truth of the personality of God and His nearness to His people was set before them in language which could not be mistaken. And it is one of the greatest blessings which we enjoy that we have the same Lord thus personally presented to us, revealed in the risen and glorified Lord Jesus Christ.
II. God is set before us in this passage, not only as a Person, but as a Person who cares with all a father's love, with all a father's watchfulness, for His own people. Our hopes in days of doubt and difficulties are directed to the same personal fatherly care of the great God who loves all His creatures, and who loves Christians above all in the Lord Jesus Christ.
III. When a great national victory is achieved, what boots it to him who loses his life in the hour of victory? The question for us is, not whether God has wrought a great deliverance, but whether we as individuals are partakers of that deliverance, partakers of the victory of the Lord Jesus Christ.
A. C. Tait, Penny Pulpit, No. 3, 100.
References: Exodus 14:30, Exodus 14:31.—J. Jackson, Sermons at St. Paul's, No. 22. Exodus 14:31 (with Exodus 19:7 and Exodus 36:5).—Parker, vol. ii., p. 100. 14-15.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. ii., p. 127. Exodus 15:1, Exodus 15:2.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxi., No. 1867. Exodus 15:1-21.—Parker, vol. ii., p. 106. Exodus 15:1-22.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. iv., p. 162. Exodus 15:2.—Bishop Thorold, Christian World Pulpit, vol. vi., p. 40; Parker, vol. ii., p. 317.
Speak unto the children of Israel, that they turn and encamp before Pihahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, over against Baalzephon: before it shall ye encamp by the sea.
For Pharaoh will say of the children of Israel, They are entangled in the land, the wilderness hath shut them in.
And I will harden Pharaoh's heart, that he shall follow after them; and I will be honoured upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host; that the Egyptians may know that I am the LORD. And they did so.
And it was told the king of Egypt that the people fled: and the heart of Pharaoh and of his servants was turned against the people, and they said, Why have we done this, that we have let Israel go from serving us?
And he made ready his chariot, and took his people with him:
And he took six hundred chosen chariots, and all the chariots of Egypt, and captains over every one of them.
And the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he pursued after the children of Israel: and the children of Israel went out with an high hand.
But the Egyptians pursued after them, all the horses and chariots of Pharaoh, and his horsemen, and his army, and overtook them encamping by the sea, beside Pihahiroth, before Baalzephon.
And when Pharaoh drew nigh, the children of Israel lifted up their eyes, and, behold, the Egyptians marched after them; and they were sore afraid: and the children of Israel cried out unto the LORD.
And they said unto Moses, Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness? wherefore hast thou dealt thus with us, to carry us forth out of Egypt?
Is not this the word that we did tell thee in Egypt, saying, Let us alone, that we may serve the Egyptians? For it had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness.
And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will shew to you to day: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to day, ye shall see them again no more for ever.
The LORD shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.
And the LORD said unto Moses, Wherefore criest thou unto me? speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward:
But lift thou up thy rod, and stretch out thine hand over the sea, and divide it: and the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea.
And I, behold, I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians, and they shall follow them: and I will get me honour upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host, upon his chariots, and upon his horsemen.
And the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I have gotten me honour upon Pharaoh, upon his chariots, and upon his horsemen.
And the angel of God, which went before the camp of Israel, removed and went behind them; and the pillar of the cloud went from before their face, and stood behind them:
And it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel; and it was a cloud and darkness to them, but it gave light by night to these: so that the one came not near the other all the night.
And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the LORD caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided.
And the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea upon the dry ground: and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left.
And the Egyptians pursued, and went in after them to the midst of the sea, even all Pharaoh's horses, his chariots, and his horsemen.
And it came to pass, that in the morning watch the LORD looked unto the host of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and of the cloud, and troubled the host of the Egyptians,
And took off their chariot wheels, that they drave them heavily: so that the Egyptians said, Let us flee from the face of Israel; for the LORD fighteth for them against the Egyptians.
And the LORD said unto Moses, Stretch out thine hand over the sea, that the waters may come again upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots, and upon their horsemen.
And Moses stretched forth his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to his strength when the morning appeared; and the Egyptians fled against it; and the LORD overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea.
And the waters returned, and covered the chariots, and the horsemen, and all the host of Pharaoh that came into the sea after them; there remained not so much as one of them.
But the children of Israel walked upon dry land in the midst of the sea; and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left.
Thus the LORD saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the sea shore.
And Israel saw that great work which the LORD did upon the Egyptians: and the people feared the LORD, and believed the LORD, and his servant Moses.