“By faith they passed through the Red Sea as by dry land: which the Egyptians assaying to do were drowned.”
Indeed, the foolishness of God is wiser than men and the weakness of God is stronger than men. How foolish it may have seemed for Israel and Moses to keep the Passover that night in the land of Egypt. Yet this feast of the Passover was Israel’s deliverance. The king had commanded them to leave, and the Egyptians had laden them with gifts of silver and gold as remuneration for all the years of hard labor and bondage.
This same truth is also held before us in this Word of God. How unbelievably foolish appears to be the course which Israel took! Is it any wonder that Pharaoh must have thought that Moses was beside himself? A more foolish course could not have been selected by this leader of the Hebrews! However, one vital matter must be borne in mind. Notice what we read in Exodus 14:4, 8, 17, 18. Hence, at least three times we read of tbs. hardening of the hearts of Pharaoh and the Egyptians. God, while delivering His people, deliberately leads Pharaoh and his host to ruin and destruction, because He would make His power known.
Israel’s passage through the Red Sea—is there anything, in all the annals of history, comparable to this incident? Where, in all the pages of history, do we read of the migration of an entire people out of one land into another, and then through a sea and a river and a waste howling wilderness? As far as this amazing incident is concerned, it is apparently utterly foolish.
How true is the Word of God as stated in I Corinthians 1:25! The foolishness and weakness of God (regarded by the world as such) are indeed wiser and stronger than men. How this is verified throughout history! Was it not thus in the days of Enoch, that mighty witness of the Lord and preacher of righteousness before the flood? Do not the days of Noah speak to us of the same truth? Is it not thus throughout the ages? Are not, apparently, all the advantages with the wicked world? Are not the people of the Lord hopelessly outnumbered? Is not the church of God always a little flock? Do not the children of this world have access to all the resources of this world? Is not, therefore, the position of God’s little flock in the midst of the world one of utter hopelessness and helplessness? Yet, that mighty world will be destroyed and that little flock of the Lord will be saved. And the same truth is held before us in this text. On the one hand, we have here the power and wisdom of the world, represented by Pharaoh and Egypt, the mighty world power of that time and age. And, on the other hand, we have here the power and the wisdom of God. We might think that Pharaoh would have learned his lesson, having suffered when Jehovah devastated his land with ten mighty and dreadful plagues. However, the Lord hardens his heart, also the hearts of the Egyptians; He leads them in the way of utter folly and destroys them in the Red Sea.
Indeed, apparently how utterly foolish is Israel’s course as set forth in this history! First of all, what an agonizingly slow procession departs out of the land of Egypt. Some two million souls there were, and Psalm 105informs us that there was not one feeble one among them. Imagine: not one feeble one among them, and this in spite of the terrible bondage to which Israel had been subjected! And what a foolish route! One would think that a procession of this nature would at least take the short route to Canaan, in a northeasterly direction through the land of the Philistines. But such is not the case. Israel is commanded by the Lord to turn southward and march along the western shore of the Red Sea. Hence, the word is brought to Pharaoh that the Israelites are hopelessly entangled in the land, are in a predicament from whence they cannot escape. How hopeless is Israel’s position! To the north of them they see the advancing Egyptian army. To their left is the Red Sea, and it they cannot possibly cross. Before them and to the west lie the mountains and the wilderness. Indeed, Israel is hopelessly entangled in the land. Is it any wonder that the king of Egypt resolves to set out after them? Remembering the ten plagues, how he hated Israel!
Secondly, what a folly confronts them as they must pass through the Red Sea! O, it may appear that it was safe for Israel to proceed. Had not a riverbed been made dry for them? Yet, also this passage appears to be utter folly. First, the Red Sea is about six to seven miles wide at this spot. What a long way for such a procession! Secondly, would not the Egyptians be able to do so, travel much faster than they and hem them in? However, we must also bear in mind the following. Had the Lord simply made this pathway through the Red Sea, and was He, visible to all, holding up these waters so that they would not come cascading down upon them, all would have been simplified. But Moses had stretched out his rod and an east wind had come up and had blown all that night. What assurance did Israel have that that east wind would continue to blow? Yes, the wonder was that that east wind had blown when Moses stretched out his rod. But, to Israel it all must have seemed rather natural. Only a few saw Moses stretch out his rod. All that Israel perceived was an east wind that blew into their faces. And, if Israel believed only this, this is not so strange, is it? Do not the unbelieving critics say the same thing? How they claim that this is only a natural phenomenon! How hazardous it seemed to be for Israel to “take the chance” because of this east wind! What if it stopped blowing?
Thirdly, is our position in the world, apparently, less foolish? We are called to be God’s people in a wicked world, far greater and stronger than we. We seek a city we cannot see; we hope for a glory that is humanly impossible; we long for everlasting life beyond the grave, and our only hope is simply the Word and promise of the Lord, the fulfillment whereof is humanly absolutely impossible. Suffering and persecution and ridicule and mockery here below; glory .and life beyond, on the other side, humanly impossible and unattainable.
First, salvation must be of God alone. God has willed for His people and places them in impossible situations. He has willed for us a mountain of guilt which no man can possibly pay. He has willed for us chains of sin which we cannot possibly break, a pathway through sickness and death with which we cannot possibly cope. Salvation must be of God alone. His right arm and hand must bring salvation. Man must never have the opportunity to ascribe salvation to himself. All attention must be focused forever upon the living God, the God of our salvation.
How strikingly this applies to Israel here! How desperately hopeless was Israel’s position! Mind you, this was deliberately of the Lord. Jehovah commanded Moses to lead Israel along this impossible route. Imagine: two million souls, including children and babes, with all their cattle, threatened from the rear by the mighty Egyptian host, flanked on their left by the Red Sea, hemmed in by mountains and the wilderness! All this because salvation must come solely from the Lord. Notice what we read in Exodus 14:13-14. Indeed, Israel shall do nothing. The Lord alone will fight for them.
Secondly, Pharaoh and his host must be destroyed. On the one hand, this applies to Israel’s route. Notice, first, that Israel’s route is directed by the Lord. The Lord directs and commands Moses to lead Israel along the western shore of the Red Sea instead of taking the short route through the land of the Philistines. And Jehovah hardens Pharaoh’s heart. This is repeated in verse 8. Indeed, that king could and should have known better. He certainly should have had every reason to remain at home. Had the Lord God of Israel not devastated his land with ten mighty plagues? But the Lord hardens his heart. Sovereignly Jehovah works in Pharaoh that he wants to pursue Israel. He is no stock and block (and this is emphasized by “heart”), but it is all of the alone sovereign God of Israel. Then, on the other hand, this occurs at the Red Sea. The Lord commands Moses to stretch forth his rod over the Red Sea and then causes an east wind to blow all that night. What is the implication of this? O, if the Angel of the Lord had appeared visibly to Pharaoh and his host, then the king and his host undoubtedly would have refused to follow Israel into the sea. But now the Lord causes that east wind to blow. Pharaoh saw only the east wind and attributed to it the passage through the sea. Again we read in verse 17 that the Lord will harden their hearts. Only now we read of the hearts of the Egyptians. Perhaps this host had hesitated, not trusting the situation. But the Lord hardens their hearts. They see -only the east wind. And in their spiritual hardness and blindness and hatred against God and His people, they plunged into the sea after Israel, are led to their everlasting destruction. Indeed, the foolishness and weakness of God are wiser and stronger than men. And this occurs throughout the ages.
By faith they passed through the Red Sea as by dry land. This was possible only by faith.
Of course, not all the Israelites believed, as we read inI Corinthians 10:5. Indeed, with many of them God was not well pleased. This was true at the time of Moses and it is true throughout the ages. This faith applies undoubtedly to Israel from the viewpoint of the remnant according to election. Only they believed, and all the rest of them simply went along with them.
Israel believed. Indeed, everything appeared to be an insurmountable obstacle. It surely seemed that the way they traveled would never lead them to Mount Sinai or to the promised land of Canaan. But, they believed. And this faith, also here, is the evidence of things unseen, the substance of things hoped for. Israel must go forward, forward, if you please, into the sea. The object of their faith is not what they see. Presently, the wind blows, a path is struck through the sea, some five to six miles long, and they go on, believing that they will be delivered from the Egyptian host following them. They will be saved. The Egyptians will be drowned (literally: swallowed down) by the waters which will close over them.
And does this apply to the church throughout the ages? We must and do believe in the foolishness of preaching, in the cross which is the foolish content of this preaching. The world will continue to hate and ridicule us. Nevertheless, we believe; that cross will never fail us. It is the power of the living God unto salvation. We shall be saved, now and forever.
God’s ways are impossible ways.
We, however, shall be saved.
Unto the Lord be all the glory, now and forever.