The text for this lesson is Exodus 14
- God pours out His saving love for me by delivering me from trouble and daily giving me a new start.
- Law: In moments of fear, I forget the loving care that God has for His children and think that I am completely alone.
- Gospel: In mercy, God comes to me in the times that I think He is farthest away and through His Son, Jesus, delivers me from all those things that would seek to do me harm.
- When Moses first commanded Pharaoh to let the Israelites go, he refused. Only after ten plagues did Pharaoh relent and give in to Moses’ command. After Pharaoh allowed the Israelites to leave Egypt, however, he regretted his decision and sent his army after Israel. The people of Israel then faced Pharaoh’s army on one side and the Red Sea on the other. Even though God was right there with them, as evidenced by the pillar of cloud and of fire, the Israelites assumed they were on their own and that nothing could protect them from Pharaoh’s murderous intent.
- Pharaoh is an example of just how bad it is when someone becomes so obstinate in his opposition to God’s Word and will that he is incapable of listening to Him.In this text from Exodus, Pharaoh regrets his decision to let the Israelite slaves go, and he raises an army to pursue them. He does this because God has “hardened his heart”—He has handed Pharaoh over to the evil desires of his heart. God says that He’s doing this so He can get “glory over Pharaoh, his chariots, and his horsemen” (14:18).
These texts trouble us because we know God earnestly desires the salvation of all people (1 Timothy 2:4). So, how do we make sense of the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart? The key is this: God gives Pharaoh precisely what Pharaoh wants. Though it is God’s will that all be saved, in our fallen state we all resist His will. Pharaoh continued to do so even after God had begun to work in him through the preaching of His Word. Pharaoh could have repented, but he did not. He continued in unbelief. He wanted life apart from God’s mercy, and he got it.
In this final showdown between Pharaoh and the God of Israel, God takes the initiative. First, He hands Pharaoh over to the evil desires of his own heart. Second, He saves His people from Pharaoh’s evil desires. Key in understanding this text is Exodus 14:13–14: “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.'”
Confronted by Pharaoh’s army, the Israelites are afraid that they are about to be killed in the desert. They are trapped between Pharaoh and the sea. They know they cannot survive a battle with combat-hardened Egyptians. Moses allays their fears by telling them that God will fight for them just as He did in the Passover (12:12). The Israelites’ task is simple: remain silent. This is not their battle; it is God’s.
God makes this clear through His presence with His people in the pillar of cloud and of fire. In the pillar, God moves to stand between the Egyptian army and the Israelites, protecting His people from assault. God then parts the waters of the Red Sea so that His people can walk safely through it on dry ground.
But, because Pharaoh and his army are relentless in their hatred of God and His Word, they pursue the Israelites into the sea. God causes the water to cover the Egyptian army. As in the account of Noah, water is again, at the same time, an instrument of both judgment and mercy.
In the New Testament, this text is used to point us to Baptism (1 Corinthians 10:1–4). The Israelites are, in a way, baptized (that is, washed) in the sea. Baptism destroys the old Adam in us and delivers us from sin, death, and the devil, giving us new life. In the same way, this washing destroys Pharaoh’s army and delivers the Israelites from trouble, giving them new life.