A cloud of dust rose in the west, as six hundred of Pharaoh’s fastest chariots approached, his full army following close behind. Fear filled the Israelite camp as memories of weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth flooded back. The Israelites had been spared the horrific events of the fourteenth day of Abib, the Passover. On that day the Lord went through Egypt and struck down the first born in every house not marked by the blood of the lamb, from the home of Pharaoh who sat on the throne, to the home of the prisoner who was in the dungeon. Not a house in Egypt was without someone dead. But that was just a memory now. Now the full force of Egypt, all its rage, its pain and loss, was closing in, and the Israelites—the slave nation—were trapped between Pharaoh and the Sea.
At that moment, as the hoofbeats of the horses thumped and the wheels of the chariots thundered, the voice of Moses cut through the noise… “The Egyptians you see today you will never see again.” And the Angel of God, who had been traveling in front of Israel as a pillar of cloud, moved and stood between Israel and the army of Egypt.
Moses stretched out his hand, and all that night the Lord drove back the Sea with a strong east wind, and the twelve tribes of Israel went through the Sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left.
The Word of the Lord: “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. But the more I called Israel, the further they went from me.”
The Exodus is not a simple story of liberation. In fact, it is much more complex than that. Yes, the Israelites were set free from their slavery in Egypt, but they were now on their way to Mount Sinai to receive the Law of God. It is as if they were trading one master for another.
The Law of God tells us how we are to be, and what we are to do, and not to do. It reveals the will of God, and exposes our inability to keep it. In fact, the rest of the Old Testament, from Mount Sinai on, is an exposé on how Israel failed in its relationship to God, the nations around it, and each other. The Law, the very command that was intended to bring life, brought death.
Do you ever feel like that? Do you ever feel like you have failed God? We all have. We are in chains, not chains that we can see, but chains nonetheless. We are helpless to free ourselves from the grasp of Satan, and the curse of death. We hear the Word of God, but our sinful desires cry out against it. Our hearts are hard, and our enemy is quick to accuse. It seems as if there is no escape. We too are pinned between Pharaoh and the Sea—the devil and death.
Yet God is faithful.
Throughout the Old Testament, interwoven with Israel’s movement away from God, is the promise of the Messiah—the One who would bring restoration and blessing to all the people of the earth. As the Pharaoh could not strike a blow against those covered by the blood of the Passover lamb, so the devil’s accusations are hollow and void against those who are covered by the blood of Jesus—the Lamb of God.
When Moses stretched out his hand over the Sea, God rolled back the waves revealing the path to the Promised Land. When Jesus stretched out his arms on the cross, and released his spirit, God rolled back death revealing the path to eternal life.
The path is not always easy—the devil does pursue. Perhaps you hear the thunder of his chariot, or the hoofbeats of death?
Fear not. One who is greater than Moses has come. Your chains have been broken. Your deliverance secured. He calls to you. Trust in him. Do not move away from him, and one day you will watch as your accuser is swallowed by the Sea.
Rev. Troy Tysdal is Director of Communications and Prayer for the Church of the Lutheran Brethren and serves as editor in chief of Faith & Fellowship magazine.