Exodus 14 Sermon Notes


Let’s study a story about the Jewish people hopelessly trapped between the Egyptian Army and the Red Sea that teaches us that it’s possible to know peace when everyone else knows panic.

The Red Sea story has formed and informed the Jewish people for 3,500 years. Over and over in the Old Testament, when spiritual leaders wanted to remind their people about the LORD’s ability to save, they would point to what God did at Red Sea. And when we get to the New Testament, this story is seen as a picture of how God grants us salvation from our sins.

Exodus 14:1-2

This week I took some time to dig into the issue of location. The Mekilta – a kind of Jewish commentary on Exodus – says that the place was a valley between two high rocks – mountains. Pi-hahiroth means “the mouth of the gorges.” Migdol was a common name for an Egyptian watchtower. Lots of those were scattered across the land. Baal-zephon could be referring to a place with an idol to an Egyptian god. The translation of the name? Lord of the north, of the hidden things, of the darkness.

Exodus 14:3

The important thing to note here was that there was no human way of escape. At the mouth of a gorge, hemmed in by mountains perhaps with a enemy watchtower above, across the sea from a place dedicated to the worship to a false god. Remember, the LORD had been leading them with the pillar of cloud by day and fire by night. The LORD had led them to this of no escape. The LORD doesn’t always lead us to places of comfort and ease.

Pharoah’s thinking, “The Israelites are lost; they’re confused. They’ve made a strategic blunder. They’re stuck, trapped in the wilderness between the desert and the sea.”

Exodus 14:4

So, what’s going on here? Without taking away Pharoah’s human autonomy and responsibility, God Himself does make Pharoah’s heart even more stubborn.

See, over and over throughout this story, Pharoah refuses to submit to the LORD’s authority because he wants to be in charge. In that sense, he’s hardening his own heart. 10 times through the 10 plagues the LORD had shown Pharoah that He was intent on protecting and delivering His people. But Pharoah was determined to defy God and destroy himself.

The Old Testament Theologian Desmond Alexander says, “When God stiffens Pharaoh’s heart, he merely strengthens the king’s resolve to do what he has already chosen to do.”

Exodus 14:5

Evidently, Pharoah had scouts tracking the journey of the Jews and giving him updates. Why would he be tracking the Jewish people? He wants them back in Egypt, slaving for him.

Imagine what would happen in our economy if hundreds of thousands of workers disappeared. Who’s making sure we have electricity and water? Who’s driving the trucks? Who’s manning the stores?

Pharaoh knows Egypt is trouble without the Jewish workforce. His empire would almost collapse. He can’t let that happen. So, he’s about to give chase. He wants these Jewish slaves back as soon as possible!

Exodus 14:6-9

God’s people are trapped. The LORD Himself has led His people to the edge of the Red Sea, with this Egyptian army closing in behind them. The Israelites turn and see dust rising on the horizon. Pharaoh’s chariots are racing toward them. Fear grips their hearts. Panic sets in. It’s a scene of chaos and confusion. It’s a capital “R” Red Sea moment. In life, we often face our own little “r” red sea moments—circumstances that loom large and threaten to overwhelm us. We see the approaching chaos.

Exodus 14:10-12

God’s people aren’t believing the promises of God. The LORD had told their forefathers – Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – “I am going to make Israel a great nation; I’ll bless you to be a blessing!” And the LORD had just said in Exodus 13 that He was going to bring them into the Promised Land and give it to them! God’s people are not believing God’s Word. They think they are going to die! So, they grumble.

And grumbling is growling against God. They aren’t trusting in God’s will and God’s ways. So, they direct their gripes toward Moses.

Exodus 14:13-18

I love that once again the shepherd’s staff of Moses shows up here. It’s a tangible reminder of God’s call to Moses back in Exodus 3 at the burning bush. It’s a reminder to Moses that he’s still a shepherd – not for sheep anymore, but for people. That staff helped keep Moses humble, focused, grounded, and connected to the LORD and his call on Moses’ life. The staff is a reminder, “Moses, it’s not you doing these great things. It’s Me.” The LORD displays His power through that staff. 

Exodus 14:19-22

Who is this angel of God? Angel in the Hebrew is mal’akh, which means a messenger or an envoy. This is a manifestation of God’s presence. This could be a pre-Pentecost visitation of the third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. Or it could be a pre-Incarnate visitation of the second Person of the Trinity, Christ, like we have in Exodus 3 at the burning bush.

The angel of the Lord in the pillar of cloud and fire, while keeping the people and the army separated, brought darkness to the Egyptian army and light to the people of God. God guides and guards His people. And that should be a comfort to you and me. Where God guides us, there God guards us! Make sure you are where He’s guided you! 

The LORD can do whatever the LORD wants to do whenever He wants to do it! The very existence of God implies the possibility of the miraculous.

The Bible scholar A.W. Pink wrote, “The great difference between faith and unbelief is that one brings in God, the other shuts Him out… Bring in God and supernatural displays of power are to be expected” (Gleanings in Exodus, p. 105). 

Exodus 14:23-31

God is a God of justice. Deuteronomy 32:35 says, “The day of their calamity is at hand, and their doom comes swiftly.” Psalm 94:2 says, “Rise up, O judge of the earth; repay to the proud what they deserve!” Nahum 1:2-3 says, “The Lord is a jealous and avenging God; the Lord is avenging and wrathful; the Lord takes vengeance on his adversaries and keeps wrath for his enemies.”

The people of God were goners. They were backed up against the sea. With Egypt coming. Charging at them with 600 chosen chariots. And yet in this seemingly impossible situation, God makes a way. He saves His people. He delivers them from death.

Go back to Exodus 14:13-14 and look at the five commands.

Command #1: Fear not. What changes need to take place in the way you approach life so you fear less?

Command #2: Stand firm.

Hebrew scholars Keil and Delitzsch favor the translation “stand still,” like the KJV. Through Moses, God is commanding the people to cease from their own efforts, to rest quietly, and to trust in God’s salvation. They can’t save themselves. We can’t save ourselves. No matter how religious we are, no matter if our good deeds outweigh our bad deeds, no matter how moral we become, we can’t deliver ourselves. Our enemies – the world, the flesh, the devil – will overtake and overwhelm us! We will be carried back into slavery to our sin. We can’t save ourselves. Stop trying. Stand still.

Command #3: Watch God. God does for us what we cannot do for ourselves. He sent the LORD to live the life we could not live, to die the death we should have died, to be raised to give us new life. The name Jesus – Yeshua – means salvation. No wonder Jesus called Himself the Way. See the salvation of the LORD, which He will work… We don’t work; He does!

Command #4: Be silent. I don’t have to explain myself to God. I don’t have to justify myself. I don’t have to defend myself. Jesus is my advocate. He’s interceding on my behalf before the Father, “He doesn’t deserve to be rescued! She doesn’t deserve salvation. But You sent Me to make a way! So, save him on My account!”

Command #5: Go forward.

By faith, the people stepped into that miraculous deliverance. Salvation is a kind of “crossing over.” They were leaving Egypt behind. They were leaving false gods behind. They were leaving slavery behind. They were going to be free. They are heading to the Promised Land. God froward!!! Cross over!!!

On one side of the Red Sea, they are within reach of their old false masters, they were under sentence to death. And Pharaoh is saying, “We’re gonna get them; we’re going to kill them.” And when they’re on that side of the sea, they were still under sentence to death.

But as soon as they crossed over, they were safe. And when the Egyptians tried to cross over, they were defeated. The minute God’s people crossed over, they crossed over from death to life. They crossed over from being under the sentence of death. They were no longer facing condemnation.

In John 5:24 Jesus said, “Whoever hears My word and believes Him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed [crossed over] from death to life.”

In the New Testament, we see a connection between the experiences of the Israelites at the Red Sea and our experiences with Christ. God wants to teach us something about our salvation and deliverance.

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… these things took place as examples for us. 1 Corinthians 10:1-2, 6

Being “under the cloud” points to how the LORD guards and guides. Passing through the sea and being baptized into Moses points to the people’s union with Moses as their leader.

And this passage in I Corinthians 10:4 goes on to speak of how Christ Jesus was present in Exodus is the deliverance of God’s people.

This story foreshadows our rescue in Christ!

A more sinister one than Pharoah, Satan, was pursuing us… along with his demons. And we were in greater danger than the Israelites – captured by the enemy, worshipping false gods, and kept in slavery to our sin!

But God has given us a deliverer better than Moses, Christ Jesus! And just as Pharoah was rendered powerless and destroyed, our more diabolical enemy, Satan, will one day be defeated forever and ever.

And we have a better Guide, God’s Spirit! Like the cloud in this story, the Spirit led us to a place where we understood that we could not save ourselves! He did for us what we could never do! We were baptized into Christ, into the water.

And now we have a better freedom! Just as the Jewish people were set free from idolatry and slavery in Egypt, we’ve been set free from our idols and our slavery to sin. And we are headed to a better Promised Land.

Think about that seemingly impossible situation and let these words wash over your soul.

Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted… Psalm 46:10

[The righteous] is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord. His heart is steady; he will not be afraid, until he looks in triumph on his adversaries. Psalm 112:7-8

You will be delivered by returning and resting; your strength will lie in quiet confidence. Isaiah 30:15 (HCSB)