From Slavery to Salvation: The Song of Salvation

Original Date: 
Sunday, June 19, 2016

Exodus 15:1-21 From Slavery to Salvation: The Song of Salvation

Summing Up
Today we are wrapping up our series on the first half of the book of Exodus. Since Easter, we have been following the life of Moses. From his time as a baby, floating in a basket in the Nile; to his time in the desert, on the run from Egyptian Authorities; to his confrontations with Pharaoh and the outpourings of plagues; to the climactic moment, when Moses raised his staff and the waters parted and Israel walked through the Red Sea on dry ground.

And through it all, even while we’ve been focusing on Moses, I hope you’ve noticed that Moses is really just a supporting actor in this story. That is to say, if this were an Oscar-winning movie, the award for best actor in a lead role would not go to Moses, but to God. Because clearly, the whole point in this story has been to reveal who God is.

The question, “Who is the LORD?” has been asked in various ways throughout the story. By Moses, by the Israelites, and by Pharaoh. And God has been revealing Himself as YHWH. Jehovah. The Great I AM. He has been demonstrating that He is greater than any other god, that He keeps covenant with His people, and that His arm is strong enough to save.

Even in the Red Sea crossing, which we looked at two weeks ago, God’s point was that the “Egyptians will know that I am the LORD when I gain glory through Pharaoh, his chariots, and his horsemen.” (Exodus 14:18) God is clearly the lead character in the story of Exodus.

And now, we pick up the story with Israel standing safely on the far shore of the Red Sea, with the Egyptian army shattered and drowned in the waters behind them. And what did the people do? They sang.

On the other side of the Red Sea, Israel held a great worship service. The people saw what YHWH had done, and they responded in grateful worship–they sang.

They sang a victory song, a worship song, a hymn of praise to God for His salvation.

It’s sometimes called the Song of Moses. Or the Song of Miriam. Or the Song of Moses and Miriam (because they both led Israel in singing it). Or it’s sometimes called the Song of the Sea.

Whatever you call it, it was a worship song of praise to YHWH for His rescue of His
people at the Red Sea. And it serves as a sort of summing up of everything we’ve learned about God so far in Exodus.

Moses and Miriam
So let’s consider the song. Exodus 15:1 says:

Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the Lord:
“I will sing to the Lord,
for he is highly exalted.
The horse and its rider
he has hurled into the sea.”

And verses 20 and 21, at the end of our passage says:

20 Then Miriam the prophet, Aaron’s sister, took a timbrel in her hand, and all the women followed her, with timbrels and dancing. 21 Miriam sang to them:
“Sing to the Lord,
for he is highly exalted.
The horse and its rider
he has hurled into the sea.”

So you can see why this is sometimes called the song of Moses and Miriam. Both are clearly leading the singing. Perhaps in a call and response sort of way, with the men singing and the women echoing.

Exodus tells us that six hundred thousand men, plus women and children, left Egypt. That puts the total size of this group somewhere between 1.5 and 2 million. I don’t know if we can imagine all of them singing at one time, but if that were the case it would have been both deafening and beautiful.

A quick word on Miriam. This is almost certainly the same girl who watched over Moses when he was placed in a basket and found by the Egyptian princess. You remember that Moses’ sister helpfully brokered an arrangement for Moses’ own mother to serve as his wet nurse. It is interesting that she is not named in that story. Here, she is named, but identified as the sister of Aaron. I understand that this is in keeping with a custom of identifying a woman in relation to her oldest brother.

Miriam only shows up twice more in scripture. Once, in Numbers 12, she and Aaron oppose Moses on the issue of intermarriage, and she ends up struck with leprosy. But Moses prays for her, and she is healed. And then, in the book of Micah, as God recounts some of the history of Israel, he says: “I sent Moses to lead you, also Aaron and Miriam.” (Micah 6:4)

So, while she is not mentioned very often, it is clear that Miriam had an important leadership role during the Exodus. And here, she is dancing and playing and leading the women in singing praise to God. Moses is 80 years old at this point. Miriam must be nearing about 90. But they have just witnessed the salvation of God and that calls for singing and they can’t hold back.

So, we could ask the question: Why sing? Why sing to the LORD? And the song itself provides us with four answers. Why sing to the LORD?

1. Because the LORD is highly exalted.

2. Because the LORD has fought for you.

3. Because the LORD will fight for you.

And #4. Because the LORD will reign forever.

Those are good four reasons this song gives us for singing to the LORD. So we’ll look at them one at a time and talk about how we might “sing” them in our own lives.

Lifted Up
First, sing to the LORD because the LORD is highly exalted. Verses 1 and 2:

Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the Lord:
“I will sing to the Lord,
for he is highly exalted.
Both horse and driver
he has hurled into the sea.
2 “The Lord is my strength and my song;
he has become my salvation.
He is my God, and I will praise him,
my father’s God, and I will exalt him.

“I will sing to the LORD, for he is highly exalted.” Or your version might say, “has triumphed gloriously.” Both are possible translations. Some scholars translate it, “He is exalted in exaltation.” The word, which is repeated twice for emphasis, is also the word used to describe the rising tide of the sea. So it is a vivid pun, describing the glory God deserves with a word that brings to mind the crashing of the sea on the heads of the Egyptians.

Because of His victory at the Red Sea, He is glorified in gloriousness. And He deserves to be sung about. He is highly exalted.

He has won! The horse and its driver he has hurled into the sea. The war is over, and YHWH is the victor! And He gets the praise!

That’s what this song is all about.

Application? We should exalt our God.

EXALT YOUR GOD!

Exalt is not a word we use too much anymore. When I was pastor at Pleasant Valley, we set out to define our 5 main purposes as a church. We ended up using the acronym SEEDS. S-E-E-D-S. It was a rural church, so we thought that was a good image. And we described our purposes as Service, Encouragement, Discipleship, and Sharing. But for the other E, we wanted a word that talked about worship. So we used the word EXALT.

That means to lift Him on high. To raise Him–in our minds and hearts, our actions, our words, our songs–above all else. Exalt your God. That’s what v.2 says. “The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise him, my father's God, and I will exalt him.”

Notice how personal this is. It’s sung corporately, but it’s experienced personally.

“The LORD is my strength and my song he has become my salvation. He is my God, and
I will praise him, my father's God, and I will exalt him.”

Every individual singer proclaims God as strength, song, and salvation. That’s how you exalt Him! You claim Him as your strength, song, and salvation. And you praise Him. You recognize Him as your father’s God–that is to say, the God of your father. The promise keeping God who was faithful to those who came before you.

And you lift His name on high.

“I will exalt Him.”

Are you exalting your God? Do you live a life of worship? Do you claim and proclaim God as your strength, your song, and your salvation?

So often, we claim everything but God as our strength. Our bank account. Or our job. Our relationships. We say: “this is what will get me through.” But it isn’t God we are relying on; it something less than that.

So often, we sing the praises of whatever has caught our attention. We can’t stop talking about our newest toy: the app that helps us get in shape or the TV show that we are binge watching. But how much do we sing about God?

So often, we don’t recognize God as our salvation. We might thank Him for our salvation, but we don’t call HIM our salvation. That it’s all from Him.

But to exalt God, we have to claim and proclaim Him as our strength, our song, and our salvation.

Because He is our Savior. That’s what Israel was so excited to sing about.

Warrior
Second, sing to the LORD because the LORD has fought for you. Verse 3:

3The LORD is a warrior;
the LORD is his name.

“YHWH is a warrior. YHWH is His name.”

Do you think about God as a warrior? It’s been pretty inescapable for the last3 or 4 sermons, but it’s not something we naturally or normally associate with God.

“The LORD is a warrior; the LORD is his name.”

Our God is a fighter. He is not just some grandfatherly Santy Claus figurehead up in heaven somewhere doddering around his room.

Our God is a warrior. YHWH is his name.

One of the primary images throughout this story has been the “mighty hand of God.” It’s going to show up later in this song. We’re supposed to think of Russell Crowe in Gladiator. Sylvester Stallone in Rambo. Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator (the second and third ones, where he is a good guy. And not the last one, which we are going to pretend never happened.) This is a superhero warrior, a champion.

A God who sends tsunamis to strike down Egypt. Verses 4-7:

4 Pharaoh’s chariots and his army
he has hurled into the sea.
The best of Pharaoh’s officers
are drowned in the Red Sea.
5 The deep waters have covered them;
they sank to the depths like a stone.
6 Your right hand, Lord,
was majestic in power.
Your right hand, Lord,
shattered the enemy.
7 “In the greatness of your majesty
you threw down those who opposed you.
You unleashed your burning anger;
it consumed them like stubble.

One of the things that strikes me about this song is that it celebrates the destruction of Pharaoh’s army. They aren’t singing about walking through the water safely, getting to the other side. They are singing about the end of their enemies.

God has fought for them. God has eliminated the threat. If the Red Sea Crossing were just about the people going from shore to shore, the Egyptian chariots would still have been in pursuit. Maybe they would have had to go around the water. Maybe it would have taken them a few days to catch up. But they would still have been a threat.

What Israel sings about is God throwing down those who opposed him. This is God fighting for His people. Verse 8:

8 By the blast of your nostrils
the waters piled up.
The surging waters stood up like a wall;
the deep waters congealed in the heart of the sea.

That’s a great image: God is like a mighty bull. He snorts, and the blast of His notstrils pushes the sea back. Verses 9-12:

9 The enemy boasted,
‘I will pursue, I will overtake them.
I will divide the spoils;
I will gorge myself on them.
I will draw my sword
and my hand will destroy them.’
10 But you blew with your breath,
and the sea covered them.
They sank like lead
in the mighty waters.
11 Who among the gods
is like you, Lord?
Who is like you—
majestic in holiness,
awesome in glory,
working wonders?
12 “You stretch out your right hand,
and the earth swallows your enemies.

The LORD is a warrior. YHWH is His name. He has fought for you. He has swallowed up your enemies.

So what is the application for us? I’ll put it like this: EXTOL YOUR SAVIOR!

That means, tell of His wonderful acts. Recount His saving power. Revel in His rescue of you. Rejoice in His mighty salvation on your behalf.

Extol your savior. That’s what Israel is doing in this part of the song.

Do you hear them recount the story? God has rolled up His sleeves and destroyed their enemies.

And they can’t help but sing about it. “Way to Go, God!” You did it! Your right hand was majestic in power! You shattered the enemy! You did it! You took them out! You stretched out your hand over the earth, the grave swallowed them. You did it! You snorted and we were safe! You blew and they were drowned! You did it! You did it! You did it!

That’s what they were doing. They extolled their Savior in song. They didn’t stay quiet about their rescue! They sang, and they proclaimed the mighty acts of God.

A God like no other. Verse 11 again:

11 Who among the gods
is like you, Lord?
Who is like you—
majestic in holiness,
awesome in glory,
working wonders?

When Beth was in the labor and deliver room with Ellie, we had a CD that had this verse set to music. And we played it over and over and over again. “Who among the gods is like you LORD?” We didn’t think we were ever going to have a biological child of our own. Ellie was a complete surprise to us. So this is the verse we were singing: “Who is like you—majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?” And, of course, we wanted to tell people about what God had done for us.

And that raises a question: When was the last time (except right here in public worship) that you extolled your Savior?

You know that your Rescue, the Cross of Jesus Christ, is so much more glorious than the Red Sea Rescue, don’t you?

Jesus is warrior, too. But He draped Himself, not in armor that destroyed His enemies with a breath, but in flesh that destroyed His enemies through His own blood! And He made some of His enemies into His dear and precious friends.

He waged a war with sin and death, 2000 years ago, and you and I (like Israel) get to enjoy the spoils without raising a finger in our own defense. Jesus is a warrior. And He has been mighty to save. His right hand has rescued His people.

When was the last time that you told someone that story? When was the last time you went on and on about the God who is majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders? When was the last time you extolled your Savior?

Future Grace
Third, sing to the LORD because the LORD will fight for you. In verse 13, the song makes a change of focus. Instead of singing about what God has done, the Israelites begin to sing about what God will do next. Verses 13-16:

13 In your unfailing love you will lead
the people you have redeemed.
In your strength you will guide them
to your holy dwelling.
14 The nations will hear and tremble;
anguish will grip the people of Philistia.
15 The chiefs of Edom will be terrified,
the leaders of Moab will be seized with trembling,
the people of Canaan will melt away;
16 terror and dread will fall on them.
By the power of your arm
they will be as still as a stone—
until your people pass by, Lord,
until the people you bought pass by.

The LORD has fought for you.

Now, we sing about how the LORD will fight for you.

The nations are going to hear about what happened to Egypt. And they’re going to be scared. They are going to fall like dominoes before the mighty arm of YHWH. YHWH is going to fight on Israel’s behalf. And Israel will march into the Promised Land.

Now, we know from reading the rest of the story, that it didn’t happen as easily as verses 13 through 16 make it seem. But this is a bird’s-eye view of the story. Really, a God’s-eye view of the story. And we can see it by faith.

The LORD did fight for Israel, He did terrorize the nations, and He did establish Israel in the Promised Land. The LORD is not just a one-time only warrior. He is not just someone who saves His people once. He doesn’t just fight for them one time and then they are on their own. He fights again and again for His people. He saves them again and again from the trouble they get into. He goes to war for His people again and again.

And here, they can sing to Him with confidence because they have faith in future grace. His track record in the past demonstrates that He can be trusted for the future. He fought for them against Egypt, He’ll fight for them against Edom and Moab and Canaan.

Sing to the Lord Because He Will Fight for You. Why?

Because you if you believe, you belong to Him. You are His special possession. He owns you.

Look at v.13. You are “redeemed.” That means that you were bought back, remember the Passover and what it symbolized. Verse 16 “...the people you BOUGHT...”

God’s people are God’s because He bought them.

Christ’s people are Christ’s because He bought them with His own blood–the most precious thing in the universe. On that bloody Cross (if you believe in Him) He was buying you. And if He bought you, how much more will He continue to fight for you! You are His investment. He will protect His investment!

“He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all–how will he not also, along
with him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32)

He will. And it deserves to be sung.

Application? FOLLOW YOUR REDEEMER!

If Israel really believed what they were singing, they would have seen so much victory as they marched into Canaan. But they really struggled to live up to what they sang at the seashore. In this same chapter, they grumble against Moses and the LORD.

But if verse 13 is true, “In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed. In
your strength you will guide them to your holy dwelling,” if that’s true, then Israel should
follow their Redeemer in faith wherever He takes them.

And we should follow our Redeemer wherever He wants to take us.
• If God is fighting for us, why would we hang back?
• If God is for us, who can be against us?
• Are you following your Redeemer?
• Are you obeying His commands?
• Are you trusting in His fighting your behalf in such a way that you can do whatever He asks?

Established
Fourth, and finally: Sing to the LORD because the LORD will reign forever. Verses 17 and 18:

17 You will bring them in and plant them
on the mountain of your inheritance—
the place, Lord, you made for your dwelling,
the sanctuary, Lord, your hands established.
18 “The Lord reigns
for ever and ever.”

Here’s the note on which the song ends–total triumph. God present with His people. His people planted on the mountain of His inheritance (which was fulfilled in part in Jerusalem, and will be fulfilled fully in the new heavens and the new earth and the new Jerusalem). And the LORD reigning for ever and ever and ever. Amen.

That’s where it’s all headed. And they could see it (by faith) at the sea shore.

And they sang!

Because the LORD will reign forever.

Application? CELEBRATE YOUR KING!

Anticipate (with joy) that day when your King, King Jesus, is recognized by the whole world as the Ruler of All.

He is the Ruler of All in principle and in fact. But there is still resistance. A day is coming when all resistance, all Egyptian-like resistance, will be put down. And King Jesus will be seen to be King that He really is.

Philippians 2 describes what that day will be like:

9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

So we sing about it right now! Celebrate Your King.

Like Miriam with tambourine in her hand, and all the women following her: “Sing to the LORD, for He is highly exalted.” He has fought for us. He will fight for us. He will reign forever and ever. Sing to the LORD for He is highly exalted. The horse and its driver He has hurled into the sea.

Sing to the LORD.