Book of Exodus Chapter Fifteen Commentary by
Pastor Ron Beckham
The Song Of Moses
"Song(s)" may contain delightful words like those in this chapter and are a form of poetry, an expression of the soul set to music. Praise to God is the highest form of poetry and music, and in Verse 1, "Then Moses and the sons of Israel sang this song to the Lord, and said, 'I will sing to the Lord, for He is highly exalted;
The horse and its rider He has hurled into the sea.'" If you are willing to wait for the Lord, Who is not bound by the limitations of time and space as we are, you will, as Moses did, find blessed deliverance, if not in this life, then certainly in eternity. You can also see the praise of Moses in Psalm 90, and note that God will give us words that are beyond any ability we might think we have.
Here's what Moses sang, in this moment fresh from the deliverance just received from the otherwise invincible armies of Egypt: Verse 2—"'The Lord is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation; This is my God, and I will praise Him; my father’s God, and I will extol Him.'" Have you wished you had a better father? Do you want to be a better parent yourself? Moses had at least three fathers: "Amram" was his natural father (Exodus 6:20). His adopted father was a Pharaoh of Egypt (Acts 7:21-22), and his father-in-law was "Reuel," also known as Jethro (Exodus 2:18, 21). But God Himself is that good Father you always hungered for, deep inside your soul. The Lord Himself is the One who loves you with innocence, justice and compassion. Moses continued in Verse 3: "The Lord is a warrior; The Lord is His name." He is the One who will protect you. The God of Moses' father, Amram, had become the God of Moses.
Verses 4-5 continue—"Pharaoh’s chariots and his army He has cast into the sea; and the choicest of his officers are drowned in the Red Sea. 5 The deeps cover them; they went down into the depths like a stone." Moses and the people are literally singing these verses at the moment, and we will see in Verses 20-21, that Miriam, Moses and Aaron's sister, called "the prophetess" in those verses, picked up the theme presented here and sang these words with the women of Israel. And by the way, a number of theologians have said that Moses led the people through a shallow "sea of reeds," which merely moistened their feet. But note the words expressed in these Verses: Egypt's army was "drowned in the Red Sea. The deeps cover them; they went down into the depths like a stone." The Red Sea is two hundred miles wide and up to two thousand feet deep—there was no "sea of reeds" for Israel or Egypt—it was the Red Sea, and this is an eye-witness account that the Egyptians "went down...like a stone." Our God is STRONG.
Do you have enemies? If not now, you will have them, for enmity is part of what humanity is all about. When such problems arise, you need a strong Friend. The old Christian song calls out to us, "What A Friend We Have In Jesus"—He is our strong Friend. As Moses continued in Verses 6-7, "Your right hand, O Lord, is majestic in power,
Your right hand, O Lord, shatters the enemy. 7 And in the greatness of Your excellence You overthrow those who rise up against You;
You send forth Your burning anger, and it consumes them as chaff." At just the right time, God delivers His faithful ones.
Verses 8-10 view the action of the Lord from a human point of view. Moses had observed that the parting of the Red Sea was accompanied by "a strong east wind" (Exodus 14:21), likening it to a "blast" of the Lord's "nostrils." And God is indeed content with our attempts to comprehend Him, though He intends we will understand more. "At the blast of Your nostrils the waters were piled up,
The flowing waters stood up like a heap;
The deeps were congealed in the heart of the sea. 9 The enemy said, ‘I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil; my desire shall be gratified against them;
I will draw out my sword, my hand will destroy them. 10 You blew with Your wind, the sea covered them; they sank like lead in the mighty waters." Egypt's mighty army of chariots was gone in an instant.
Moses was raised in the house of Pharaoh, a place and people that believed in a multitude of so-called "gods." The God of Creation, the Lord, is greater than Moses, you and I have ever considered. In Verses 11-12, he extolled, "Who is like You among the gods, O Lord?
Who is like You, majestic in holiness,
awesome in praises, working wonders? 12 You stretched out Your right hand,
the earth swallowed them." Moses observed with passion that our Lord is wonderful. Those who have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ will sing a song very much like this one when the time of eternity for all is at hand: Revelation 15:3 reveals, "...they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb..." Have faith in the Lord and words like these will be yours forever. Reject Him and they may be the last words you will ever hear.
Note that the words and likely the music of this "song" were uttered by Moses and the people, but they were inspired not only by events fresh in their minds, but also by the Holy Spirit.
Verse 13 continues, "In Your lovingkindness You have led the people whom You have redeemed; in Your strength You have guided them to Your holy habitation." In that instant it was recognized without a doubt...it was the LORD who freed this people from slavery. You and I need to see without a doubt that it is the Lord who frees us from the power and penalty of sin.
News got around in those days, almost as effectively as it does now. Verses 14-16 report: "The peoples have heard, they tremble;
anguish has gripped the inhabitants of Philistia. 15 Then the chiefs of Edom were dismayed;
the leaders of Moab, trembling grips them; all the inhabitants of Canaan have melted away. 16 Terror and dread fall upon them; by the greatness of Your arm they are motionless as stone; until Your people pass over, O Lord, until the people pass over whom You have purchased." News traveled from village to village and to the cities of that time. The Philistines, on the Mediterranean coast of what is now Israel, had already heard about the events that led Moses and his people out of Egypt. Word had reached the Moabites and Edomites, inland from Philistia, and they were filled with "terror and dread." If Israel had been ready to enter Canaan, instead of lacking the faith to do it, they wouldn't have suffered in the desert for the next forty years. Instead they would have attacked and won. How many delays in life have been caused by a lack of faith?
The song of Moses, sung in jubilation by the people, continues in Verses 17-18: "You will bring them and plant them in the mountain of Your inheritance, the place, O Lord, which You have made for Your dwelling, the sanctuary, O Lord, which Your hands have established. 18 The Lord shall reign forever and ever." Notice the FAITH expressed in these verses. The people had seen the glorious hand of God in action and at the moment, they KNEW He can and will meet the needs of His people. When the Lord enters your heart and life, His words, His understanding, His intentions become known to you. His thoughts begin to be yours. When you consider Jesus Christ, the Messiah, you KNOW that your most important "work" in life is to "believe" in the One sent to die for our sins (John 6:28-29) and bring us to the promised land of eternity. Ancient Israel was terrified of the Egyptians...can you imagine how they felt at that moment, having seen the destruction of Egypt's soldiers and chariots? Israel exulted in Verse 19, "For the horses of Pharaoh with his chariots and his horsemen went into the sea, and the Lord brought back the waters of the sea on them, but the sons of Israel walked on dry land through the midst of the sea." Trust in the Lord and you will find yourself doing what is impossible for someone else.
The song was picked up and continued by the women of Israel, as seen in Verses 20-21: "Miriam the prophetess, Aaron’s sister, took the timbrel in her hand, and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dancing. 21 Miriam answered them, 'Sing to the Lord, for He is highly exalted;
The horse and his rider He has hurled into the sea.'" The "timbrel" was a small percussion instrument, a drum, consisting of a thin skin stretched over a wooden ring with metal pieces attached.
It was now time for the people to move on, and in Verse 22, "Then Moses led Israel from the Red Sea, and they went out into the wilderness of Shur; and they went three days in the wilderness and found no water." Your faith will be tested. The Lord already knows everything about you, and the tests are for you to see that your faith needs to grow. In the context of 1 Kings 17:7, during a drought, Elijah was sent to a brook where he had plenty of water to drink, but "the brook dried up, because there was no rain in the land," forcing him to move on and it tested his faith. Lacks in our lives will reveal who we really are, and change us for the better. "Shur" meant "wall," a wilderness area east of the Egyptian border.
Places acquire names, which is helpful because it aids in communication. In Verse 23, "When they came to Marah, they could not drink the waters of Marah, for they were bitter; therefore it was named Marah." The name they chose, "Marah," simply means "bitterness," a logical choice, and it continues in Verse 24, "So the people grumbled at Moses, saying, 'What shall we drink?'" Humanly speaking, bitter experiences lead to bitter thinking, but Moses was like a light in a dark room...he had faith in the presence of unbelief. In Verse 25, "Then he cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a tree; and he threw it into the waters, and the waters became sweet. There He made for them a statute and regulation, and there He tested them." The people spoke angry words, whereas Moses "cried out to the Lord" in prayer. There are many comparisons in Scripture: Cain and Abel, Jacob and Esau, David and Saul, Peter and Judas... and we are expected to learn and grow from comparing them. What do we do when bitter events enter our lives? Let's faithfully pray. Faith KNOWS that He will hear and answer our need. Trees typically don't make bitter water sweet, by the way, but God can do anything.
Verse 26 was a special promise to Israel: "And He said, 'If you will give earnest heed to the voice of the Lord your God, and do what is right in His sight, and give ear to His commandments, and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have put on the Egyptians; for I, the Lord, am your healer.'" Notice that the Lord spoke to Moses, who repeated those words to the nation. This was a prophetic word from God. When we pray, we are not only to speak, but also to listen. Just as a good father has much to say to his children, the Lord has much for you and me.
In Verse 27, "Then they came to Elim where there were twelve springs of water and seventy date palms, and they camped there beside the waters." The word "Elim" meant "large trees," and the place is also described in Numbers 33:9. Arriving at this favorable location underscored God's promise to care for them.
Lord, our faith is being tested. Troubles come to us, but so do moments of respite in which we are struck by the beauty of Your promised deliverance. Thank You, Lord, for it all, especially for the song of joy You bring into our lives. In Jesus Name. Amen.