“By faith the people crossed the Red Seas as on dry land, but the Egyptians, when they attempted to do the same, were drowned.” Hebrews 11:29
This will be a study in the pursuit of the promises, perils, pitfalls and perspectives when faced with overwhelming obstacles. These events will inevitably happen to each one of us as long as we live in these bodies upon this fallen planet. In fact, today you may be up against a problem that may seem so overwhelming that it has paralyzed you with fear. Maybe you are encountering an obstacle that seems insurmountable, or in the midst of a crisis that seems so severe, so suffocating that you see no possible way out and therefore, because of this problem, obstacle, or crisis, it seems extremely difficult at times to be thankful.
When coming to Hebrews 11:29, Arthur Pink says “The apostle’s object in this 11th chapter of Hebrews is to show the power of real faith in God to produce supernatural acts, to overcome difficulties which are insuperable to mere nature, and to endure trials which are too much for flesh blood to bear under.”
Hebrews 11:29 is a contrast between the faith of Israel and the carnal response of the Egyptians who lashed out their hatred towards Israel to their own destruction (Exodus 14:1-31). God purposed to bring His people out of Egypt while Pharaoh, the most powerful man on the earth at that time, tried to thwart God’s plans. The situation that confronted Israel was a hopeless one so far as they were concerned. This is where faith kicks in. The eyes of faith do not look at the size of the enemy, but at the greatness of our God. They served a mighty God, who just demonstrated Himself to be powerful in all the plagues He poured out on the Egyptians. Moses demonstrating Biblical faith proclaimed:
“And Moses said to the people, ‘Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.’ (Exodus 14:13-14)”
The language of faith is demonstrated here as Moses is assured, despite all the external circumstances, that God would deliver them safely. He was not engaged with the difficulties and danger of this situation, nor was he occupied with his circumstance, but rather, he was occupied with what God had told him. His response is the response of the faithful. The eye of faith must see Divine salvation, before the eye of sense believes it.
Further in the narrative, we note a contrast between Israel and the Egyptians:
“And the people of Israel went into the midst of the sea on dry ground, the water being a wall to them on their right hand and on their left. The Egyptians pursued and went in after them into the midst of the sea, all Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots, and his horsemen. (Exodus 14:22-23)”
This passage demonstrates some interesting facts, such as the faith of the children of Israel as well as the hardness of the Egyptians. The Egyptians were so enraged to kill the children of Israel that they plunged into the midst of the parted waters. None of them even stopped to consider that this was the same God who had just inflicted all of the plagues on Egypt. This demonstrates the absurdity of unbelief. Listen to these words by Thomas Manton:
“When Moses gave the signal by his rod, the sea miraculously retreated, standing up like heaps of congealed ive on either side while they passed through. This is done, and they go on safely; the sea flanked them on both sides; the rear was secured by the cloudy and fiery pillar interposing between them and Pharaoh’s army, till such a time as all were out of danger, and safely arrived at the further shore; and so neither man nor child was hurt. The Egyptians followed the chase, as malice is perverse and blind, and those whom God designeth to destruction take the ready course to bring it upon their own heads; for at the signal again of Moses stretching forth his rod, the returning water swallowed them up in a moment.”
This account should be a warning to anyone who wants to wage war with God.
The reaction of the Jews was that of faith, trusting in God’s word. Consider what they were walking into. The walls of water must have been a dreadful sight, requiring no ordinary faith. The water was restrained by the power of God, and these people trusted in that power to hold those walls back. When we walk by faith, we, by definition, do not walk in fear.
This was a significant event in Israel’s history, as it is repeated over and over again as a reminder to the children of Israel of the power and might and faithfulness of God*. He doesn’t want us to forget about it, so that we do not forget about His might, power, and faithfulness. But the Bible gives us another reason to remember this story, because within it Moses points us to something far greater than himself. Paul refers to this event:
“For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, (1 Corinthians 10:1-2)”
This passage of scripture indicates that Israel’s passage through the Red Sea has same significance that Christian baptism now has. The points of resemblance have been noted by commentators such as Gouge, Manton and Pink. Let’s look at them:
1st – The ministry of Moses was confirmed by this miracle, so that the Israelites were obliged to take him as their leader and lawgiver. The miracles performed by Christ assure us that he was sent by God as our leader and lawgiver that we must hear and obey.
2nd – Israel’s baptism through the sea signifies the difference between His people and His enemies. The deliverance of Israel from the Egyptians was secured and the passage through the sea symbolizes that deliverance. And our baptism signifies our passage from death unto life.
3rd – They were baptized “In the cloud and in the sea,” because by submitting to God’s command they gave up themselves to His direction: so in baptism we dedicate ourselves unto Christ, avowing Him to be our Lord and Master.
4th – Both baptism and passing through the sea have the same outward sign – water.
5th – They both have this picture of go entering into the water and coming out of it.
6th – They both are grounded on God’s command and promise.
7th – They are administered once.
Consider some practical lessons from this account:
- The children of God are sometimes called on to face great trials. Pay attention to the fact that the obstacle mentioned in Hebrews 11:29 was after they were released from their bondage of Egypt. God was the one who led them to this obstacle in order to try and test the faith of the children of Israel.
- The power of bondage seems greater after we are saved. The power of sin while in Egypt seems like whips, when released from that bondage then the power of sin comes after you like chariots of warriors. Satan will pursue after the true child of God.
- The people of God are here instructed how to act under great trials. It is of first importance that we should diligently attend to the Divine order of three things: we are not equipped and ready to “Go forward” until we have “seen” (by faith) the “salvation of the Lord,” and that cannot be properly seen until our fears are calmed and we stand still; or, in other words, till we turn from all self-help and cease from all the activities of the flesh. The continuous call of God to the Christian is “go forward”, meaning that God wants us to walk steadfastly along the path of duty, walking in the narrow way which the Divine commands and precepts that have been given to us despite the obstacles and challenges that face us.
Now, some may be thinking “But, this is the Old Testament! How relevant is this content to us as New Testament Christians?” There is relevance in the study of the nation of Israel from the perspective of the New Testament. Two verses specifically clench the importance of the Old Testament, particularly as it pertains to living out the Christian life are:
- “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. (Romans 15:4)”
- “Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. (1 Corinthians 10:11)”
These two verses underscore the importance of studying the Old Testament. So, what does the Exodus story teach us? It teaches us about redemption. Redemption is defined as to liberate or to purchase by the payment of a price. Thinking about the description of the doctrine, it can be summarized around three ideas:
- People are redeemed from something – from slavery or bondage. We think of it, of course, as the slavery of sin.
- People are redeemed by something – by the payment of a price. According to the Bible, it’s the price of blood.
- People are redeemed to something. To what, you may ask? To a state of freedom. And within this freedom, the redeemed are free to serve the Lord, who redeemed them.
The Exodus of the Children of Israel teaches us about the nature of redemption. And so, in our study, we will consider how God deals with the redeemed to mature them in their faith. In subsequent articles, we will investigate the trials the children of Israel went through before and after their redemption to see how God used these trials to test them.