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Experiencing the Power of God
“And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, that they turn and encamp before Pihahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, over against Baalzephon: before it shall ye encamp by the sea…And I, behold, I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians, and they shall follow them: and I will get me honour upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host, upon his chariots, and upon his horsemen…Thus the LORD saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the sea shore. And Israel saw that great work which the LORD did upon the Egyptians: and the people feared the LORD, and believed the LORD, and his servant Moses.” (Exodus 14:1-31)
Multitudes there are who are described by our Savior as spiritually ignorant people, who always err, “not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God” (Matthew 22:29). They cannot understand the teachings of Holy Scripture, because they have never experienced them. They may be religious, outwardly very moral and righteous, and even orthodox in their doctrine, but God the Holy Ghost declares, “They do alway err in their heart; and they have not known my ways” (Hebrews 3:10). Why? Because they are utterly ignorant of the power of God. They have never felt, they have never experienced the power of God. They may sing, “There is power, power, wonder working power, in the blood of the Lamb,” but they have never felt the power of the blood in their souls. They may talk much about the power of God’s irresistible, saving grace, but they have never experienced that power and grace for themselves.
Therefore they “do always err in their heart.” To them redemption is only a doctrine. Regeneration is nothing but a principle. Righteousness is nothing but a legal standing. The new creation is a confusing puzzle. They have theories about these things, theories that must be adjusted, clarified, and changed year after year; but they know nothing by experience. They know nothing about “the power of God” by which sinners are saved.
Exodus 14 gives us a picture of men and women experiencing the power of God. In this chapter, the Holy Spirit gives us the history of the children of Israel coming out of Egypt and crossing the Red Sea, experiencing the mighty power of God. And that which they experienced is held before us throughout the Scriptures as a type and illustration of every saved sinner’s experience of grace. Here are seven things experienced by every sinner God saves by his marvelous grace.
1. Utter Helplessness
The first work of God the Holy Spirit upon the soul in the experience of grace is a painful, withering work. He brings the sinner to whom God is gracious into a state of utter helplessness, causing him or her to be entangled in hopelessness (vv. 1-9).
“And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, that they turn and encamp before Pihahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, over against Baalzephon: before it shall ye encamp by the sea.” (vv. 1-2)
Israel was brought out of Egypt in a manner altogether contrary to that which any earthly wisdom would have chosen. The Lord God took them in a path that led them directly toward the Red Sea, where they were easily trapped by Pharaoh and the Egyptians. But God’s way was “the right way” (Psalm 107:7). He brought them forth through “Pihahiroth,” which means “a hole,” and marched them directly in front of “Baalzephon,” one of the gods of the Egyptians, the very god who was worshipped as the god who would prevent the escape of their servants!
What a delightful picture! God causes his elect to pass through the dark hole of despair, with Satan (Pharaoh) seeking their destruction, and brings them through that dark hole in mockery of “the prince of darkness,” who would hold us captive still.
Do not fail to observe the fact that it was by the hand of Moses that Israel was brought into this dark hole and ensnared. There must be a work of death wrought in us by the law. We cannot be raised to life by God’s grace until we have been slain by his holy law (Romans 7:9). The Lord God brought Israel in the path he did, that he might make a display of his sovereignty in the destruction of Pharaoh (Romans 9:15-18; vv. 3-8).
“For Pharaoh will say of the children of Israel, They are entangled in the land, the wilderness hath shut them in. And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, that he shall follow after them; and I will be honoured upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host; that the Egyptians may know that I am the LORD. And they did so. And it was told the king of Egypt that the people fled: and the heart of Pharaoh and of his servants was turned against the people, and they said, Why have we done this, that we have let Israel go from serving us? And he made ready his chariot, and took his people with him: And he took six hundred chosen chariots, and all the chariots of Egypt, and captains over every one of them. And the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he pursued after the children of Israel: and the children of Israel went out with an high hand.” (vv. 3-8)
All things, even Pharaoh and the Egyptians, even Satan and the reprobate shall glorify our God (Revelation 4:11; Proverbs 16:4). Read verse 9.
“But the Egyptians pursued after them, all the horses and chariots of Pharaoh, and his horsemen, and his army, and overtook them encamping by the sea, beside Pihahiroth, before Baalzephon.”
Israel was shut up between the mountains behind them and the raging sea before them, with death pursuing them. That is exactly what God does with the sinner he pursues. He shuts the guilty sinner up between the impassable mountains of offended justice and his broken law and the sinking swamps of utter inability. Satan roars, and the guilty conscience screams in agreement, “God hath forsaken him: persecute and take him; for there is none to deliver him” (Psalms 71:11).
2. Shut up to Christ
What is the purpose of this? Why does God deal so with those who are the objects of his grace? Read verse 10, and you will see that God’s purpose is to shut us up to Christ.
“And when Pharaoh drew nigh, the children of Israel lifted up their eyes, and, behold, the Egyptians marched after them; and they were sore afraid: and the children of Israel cried out unto the LORD.”
Their situation, to all human appearance, was utterly hopeless. Before them was the Red Sea. Behind them Pharaoh and his armies were rushing to destroy them. They were surrounded by mountains. They were shut up to God, shut up to Christ, shut up to faith. That is what God does in Holy Spirit conviction. He shuts us up to Christ, sweetly forcing the chosen, redeemed sinner to call upon the Lord Jesus for mercy and grace to help in time of need (Galatians 3:23). Like the children of Judah before Ammon, sinners cry out for mercy only when they are shut up to faith. — “O our God, wilt thou not judge them? For we have no might against this great company that cometh against us; neither know we what to do: but our eyes are upon thee” (2 Chronicles 20:12). All earthly help was cut off. Israel could not make a move. They were shut up in confusion and dark despair.
“And when Pharaoh drew nigh, the children of Israel lifted up their eyes, and, behold, the Egyptians marched after them; and they were sore afraid: and the children of Israel cried out unto the LORD. And they said unto Moses, Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness? wherefore hast thou dealt thus with us, to carry us forth out of Egypt? Is not this the word that we did tell thee in Egypt, saying, Let us alone, that we may serve the Egyptians? For it had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness.” (vv. 10-12)
Salvation is near when the sinner is shut up to Christ. If the Lord God strips you of all hope and shuts you up to faith in Christ, I say to you as our Lord did to the rich young ruler, “Thou art not far from the kingdom of God.”
3. Gospel Counsel
When the sinner is in such straights, utterly helpless, suspended as it were over the mouth of hell, he cries, “What must I do?” That is where these people were. They cried to Moses in confusion and despair, essentially saying in verses 11 and 12, “What are we to do?” Hear the good counsel Moses gives, it is gospel counsel, the only counsel God’s prophets can give to the sinner God has shut in by his grace.
“And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will show to you today: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen today, ye shall see them again no more forever.” (v. 13)
`God does not arm Israel and tell them to go out and fight against Pharaoh. He did not strengthen their arms to bring salvation to them. He says, “Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD.” So it is with us! He says, our “strength is to sit still” (Isaiah 30:7). He who is our mighty Jehovah knows how to deliver his own. We read in verse 14, “The LORD shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.” Salvation is not something sinners obtain by effort (Romans 9:31-10:4). Salvation comes by revelation. — “Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will show to you today.” And when you see God’s salvation, you will see the Egyptians (your condemning sins) no more!
4. The Way Opened
Next, we see the way opened for God’s chosen by God himself. As we read these next verses, understand their meaning. When the Lord God our Savior saves sinners by the power of his grace, when he sets his captive prisoners free, giving them faith by his Spirit to come to him, he opens the way before them; but the way was opened long before it was opened to us. Christ our Passover opened the way by the blood of his cross, when he sacrificed himself for us. He opens the way before us in the sweet experience of grace by divine revelation, and brings us through the raging Red Sea of terror into the glorious liberty of the sons of God. This is how he does it (vv. 15-21).
First, he commands faith. He says “Go forward” (v. 15). “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved!” Second, he opens the way before us by the very rod of Moses, the rod of the law by which the Rock (Christ our God and Savior) was smitten of God (vv. 16, 21, 22).
“But lift thou up thy rod, and stretch out thine hand over the sea, and divide it: and the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea…And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the LORD caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided…And the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea upon the dry ground: and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left.”
Third, he performs a work of sovereign, distinguishing grace to bring his elect through the sea (v. 19-20).
“And the angel of God, which went before the camp of Israel, removed and went behind them; and the pillar of the cloud went from before their face, and stood behind them: And it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel; and it was a cloud and darkness to them, but it gave light by night to these: so that the one came not near the other all the night.”
Remember, this pillar of cloud and fire is our Lord Jesus Christ. He went before Israel to give them light and bring them through the sea; but he went behind them to confuse the Egyptians in darkness, lest they come near his chosen.
“Who maketh thee to differ from another? And what hast thou that thou didst not receive? Now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?” (1 Corinthians 4:7)
Fourth, the children of Israel were baptized unto Moses “And the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea upon the dry ground: and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left” (v22). The Spirit of God tells us, in 1 Corinthians 10:1, that this was a typical baptism, because the whole thing is a picture of faith. The children of Israel publicly consecrated themselves to Moses, committing themselves to Christ who led them through the sea. That is what believer’s baptism is. It is our public avowal of consecration to Christ.
“Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.” (Romans 6:4-6)
5. Egyptians Destroyed
Remember, God said they would see the Egyptians no more; and the next thing we see is the destruction of Pharaoh and all the Egyptians in the sea (vv. 23-30). He troubled the Egyptians (v. 24). He took the wheels off of their chariots (v. 25). He fought against them (v. 25). He overthrew them in the midst of the sea (vv. 26-27). “There remained not so much as one of them” (v. 28). It is written of our God that he “forgiveth all thine iniquities!” (Psalm 103:3; Romans 8:1). He did all this by the same rod of Moses that opened the way before them (v. 26). And as they passed through the sea in faith, the children of Israel saw God’s salvation (vv. 29-30).
“But the children of Israel walked upon dry land in the midst of the sea; and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left. Thus the LORD saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the sea shore.”
6. Salvation Wrought
Thus, God wrought the salvation of Israel; and thus he still performs this great work of grace, by which he causes chosen sinners to experience the power of God, giving us faith in Christ (vv. 30-31).
“Thus the LORD saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the sea shore. And Israel saw that great work which the LORD did upon the Egyptians: and the people feared the LORD, and believed the LORD, and his servant Moses.”
Israel saw the great work the Lord accomplished for them. When they saw it, they worshipped the Triune Jehovah. They feared him, calling upon his name. When they experienced the power of God in salvation, they believed on the Lord Jesus Christ who had delivered them.
7. Triumphant Song
Now, read the first verse of chapter 15. Here is the result of all this. The sinner saved by the omnipotent power of God’s grace sings God’s praise, triumphing over death, hell, and the grave.
“Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the LORD, and spake, saying, I will sing unto the LORD, for he hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea.”
Read the whole of Moses’ song, and you will discover that in this song of praise to our great God and Savior the saved people mention God’s name (Thy, Thine, and Thou) twenty-four times. All praise goes to our God, because the work is all his (Psalm 115:1; 1 Corinthians 15:57; Revelation 19:1-6).