Rev. Lubbers is a minister emeritus in the Protestant Reformed Churches.
The historical perspective of this prophetic song should be carefully observed by us.
It will be 40 years before Joshua will lead Israel across the river Jordan into the promised land (Jos. 3:14ff.). And it will be 480 years before the temple of Solomon will have been built (I Kings 6:1). And it will not be till the time of Christ’s death and resurrection that the new and everlasting house of God will have been built, in which all nations shall have a place, the elect Israel of God, the dwelling place of God in the Spirit (Eph. 2:13-22). And, lastly, it will not be till the final glorious renewal of all things that the Tabernacle of God shall be with men (Rev. 21:1ff.). Then shall there be a new heaven and new earth wherein righteousness shall dwell (II Pet. 3:10ff.).
The grandeur of the Song of Moses and of the children of Israel is that it casts its prophetic glance across these ages, as if all was fully accomplished in their deliverance from Egypt and in their being led into the land promised to Abraham and to his seed!
Israel will be brought into the land and “planted” in the inheritance of God. This inheritance, this holy habitation, is called the Sanctuary of God. This is a Sanctuary which God has “established.” It is not made with human hands. It was established by “thy hands” (Ex. 15:17). Here the LORD will reign forever!
In a sense, Israel is standing in the very sanctuary of Jehovah at the shores of the Red Sea. Have they not all been baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea? Were they not under the protection of the cloud of Jehovah’s glory all through the night? Did not the spirit of glory and of God rest upon them (I Cor. 10:1, 2; I Pet. 4:14)? Yes, they were a most blessed people. The eternal God was their refuge, and underneath were the everlasting arms. God rode in this night to their help in His excellence on the sky (Deut. 33:27). And, in the very heavens where God established His bow in the cloud, Israel dwelt safely!
It was the great NAME of JEHOVAH of which they sing. That name of Jehovah is upon their lips. Thirteen times they confess this great and glorious name. Pharaoh in stubborn ignorance and total unbelief had dared to utter the blasphemous words “Who is Jehovah that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not Jehovah, neither will I let Israel go!” (Ex. 5:2). But that morning the song of Israel was: some trust in chariots, and some in horses, but we will remember the Name of our God (Ps. 20:7).
They stand here at the shore of the Red Sea. The sea is now calm. It is as if it were a sea of glass. It may well have reflected in a thousand ways the glory of the Shekinah-cloud, which was a pillar of fire by night. Not an enemy is in sight! Here and yonder a dead body of a soldier lies on the shore—perhaps also the body of Pharaoh. And Israel sings as if they are already standing at the sea of glass singing the victory song of the Lamb standing on Mount Zion (Rev. 14:1ff.). And their refrain shall resound through the ages, as sung by those who “have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted of the good word of God and the powers of the world to come” (Heb. 6:4, 5).
For the children of Israel sing. No, not all that was called Israel sang in true spiritual joy. They saw the wonder of deliverance from Pharaoh, but did not see that this was water of separation from sin and death; that it called for a new obedience of faith and humble waiting upon God’s bidding on their desert journey. And many, whose carcasses fell in the desert, would not, could not enter into the promised land because of their unbelief (Heb. 3:18). However, there were those who had their hearing mingled with faith. They were the spiritual Joshuas and Calebs—the remnant according to election of grace!
Yes, it is redemption’s song. In a very real sense this was a sacrifice upon the altar, the golden. It was the sacrifice of thanksgiving; it was the fruit of the lips. Other sacrifice Israel could not, may not bring at this point. Their “sacrifice had been slain.” In a typical sense God says to them here: For Christ, your Passover, has been slain for you. Why? Because in the deepest sense this sacrifice is the blood of the Lamb of God, who had been slain from before the foundation of the earth (Rev. 13:8). Egypt’s names were not written in that book. But the children of Israel—yes, they are written in that book. They have killed their lambs in the night of the death of Egypt’s firstborn. And they, as God’s firstborn sons, had gone forth when God called “my Son out of Egypt” (Hos. 11:1; Matt. 2:15). Thus Israel was delivered from sin and guilt in the blood. “And when I shall see the blood I will pass over” (Ex. 12:13)!
The children of Israel, in their generations, stand here at the Red Sea. They stand here where God will bless those who love Him, in thousands of generations (Ex. 20:6). The holy seed, the children of Israel, confess here with their mouths and they believe with their hearts. They stand here with the word of prophecy in their ears, as this is spoken by Moses. The same Spirit that was in Moses was also in their hearts. It was not only in the hearts of the men of Israel, but also in the hearts of the mothers who were saved in childbearing, whilst they remained steadfast in faith, charity, and holiness with sobriety. For also these women and their believing children were members of the household of faith and of the Israel of God (Eph. 2:19; Gal. 6:10).
What a large singing church sang here at the seashore, at the very doorstep of the Promised land—in hope. Perhaps they are more than a million strong. Seventy souls had gone down to Egypt, and now they come forth in their thousands. And they really sing a new song. They sing of Jehovah, by Jehovah, and unto Jehovah. And the great theme was: the horse and his rider hath Jehovah cast into the sea. Who is life unto our Jehovah amongst all the gods of the heathen? It is the song of the ages of time as well as the endless eternity before the throne of God and of the Lamb (Rev. 4, 5).
Let us remember at this point, too, that Israel had not yet “come to Mount Sinai” (Heb. 12:18-21). They are still within the time of the 420 years after Abraham before the enactment of the law-giving, with the implied curse of the law (Gal. 3:17, 18). Hence, any attempt to judge of the propriety of Miriam’s acting as a prophetess in terms of Old Testament law does not obtain. And Calvin’s aside that Miriam’s playing with the tabret was proper as a part of the Old Testament services but would be entirely improper in the New Testament church misses the point.
It is quite evident that the women in Israel played a very important part under the leadership of Miriam as a “prophetess.” She simply interpreted the singing of Moses and all Israel at an occasion of inexpressible joy of a liberated church of Christ (Acts 7:38; Heb. 11:24, 25). The day of the removal of the reproach of Egypt upon Israel had dawned (Jos. 5:9). And, think of it, perhaps not less than 500,000 women could participate in this singing and musical fest. Miriam was not out of her role here, as she was later when she was smitten with leprosy for seven days because she tried to usurp the place and office of Aaron (Num. 12:1ff.). No, she could very well have a part in the service of the congregation of the living God. She might have played the organ in the church Anno Domini1991 with the sanction of Christ who has sanctified the entire creation into His service (I Tim. 3:3-5). Yes, also the music accompanying the singing is sanctified by the word of God and prayer!
It seems to me that we have here a pattern, part and parcel of the worship service in the church, which will one day be exalted into the heavenly accompaniment. I think I hear this when I read: “And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder. And I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps” (Rev. 14:2).
And I ask: was Miriam’s primitive tambourine translated into a golden harp far exceeding the sweet twanging of a David, under Christ, the Chief Singer in Israel, who leads the thundering organ of God with the singing as of a voice of many waters? Surely, it will be the year of the Eternal Jubilee. The sorrows and the reproach of all the Egypts in the world will be remembered nevermore! Amen!