Exodus 14:19-31. 19 Then the angel of God who was going before the host of Israel moved and went behind them, and the pillar of cloud moved from before them and stood behind them, 20 coming between the host of Egypt and the host of Israel. And there was the cloud and the darkness. And it lit up the night without one coming near the other all night.
21 Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the Lord drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided. 22 And the people of Israel went into the midst of the sea on dry ground, the waters being a wall to them on their right hand and on their left. 23 The Egyptians pursued and went in after them into the midst of the sea, all Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots, and his horsemen. 24 And in the morning watch the Lord in the pillar of fire and of cloud looked down on the Egyptian forces and threw the Egyptian forces into a panic, 25 clogging their chariot wheels so that they drove heavily. And the Egyptians said, “Let us flee from before Israel, for the Lord fights for them against the Egyptians.”
26 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea, that the water may come back upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots, and upon their horsemen.” 27 So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to its normal course when the morning appeared. And as the Egyptians fled into it, the Lord threw the Egyptians into the midst of the sea. 28 The waters returned and covered the chariots and the horsemen; of all the host of Pharaoh that had followed them into the sea, not one of them remained. 29 But the people of Israel walked on dry ground through the sea, the waters being a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.
30 Thus the Lord saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. 31 Israel saw the great power that the Lord used against the Egyptians, so the people feared the Lord, and they believed in the Lord and in his servant Moses.
Think about what just happened by the Red Sea that night. God didn’t immediately wipe out Pharaoh and his army like he could have. Instead God parted the Red Sea and then asked the Hebrews to walk through it by faith.
What is God showing us by making them walk through the sea? And how is it a picture of our salvation? Our union with Christ?
Think for a minute about how terrifying it must have been to walk through the Red Sea. Besides the obvious danger of Pharaoh’s army getting closer, what you may not know is that the sea itself carries a very scary mythology back then. The sea is chaos. It’s evil. Destruction. The sea is death. They called it the abyss. No one can control the sea. The “Sea God” just wants to kill us all. And that is exactly what God is asking them to walk through. It’s God’s way of saying “do you trust that I am the most powerful god in your universe?” More powerful than the sea? More powerful than death itself?
This is why when Jesus walked on the sea, or calmed the raging sea, or sent demonic pigs into the sea it was a very big deal to those ancient people. Jesus controls the sea. Jesus controls death and chaos. God doesn’t battle the sea, he rules it. God doesn’t battle death. He makes it do what he wants. He uses it for his good purpose of resurrection.
In the Red Sea crossing God is re-creating. Just like in Genesis 1 when God separated the sea from the land he is doing it again here. He is hovering over it and his breath is creating something new. A new creation. A new people.
But only by moving through death (the sea) will they find new life on the other side.
We saw yesterday that the Hebrews had to first shut up and be still. They had to trust. They had to have faith. And then that faith could move them forward.
But forward where? Into glory?
No. Into death. Into the sea.
In Christ we always, always, always move through death. Never around it. Through it.
This is what the gospel teaches us – that there is no resurrection unto glory without first a death unto resurrection. And that we experience God not only in the glory but first in the dying. In fact, without the dying there is no glory to experience.
Exodus reveals these truths to us. Stay with me here. The Hebrews’ salvation came on Passover night. By the blood of the lamb they were saved from death. We too have been saved from death in the justifying blood of Christ and our union with his death. “You must consider yourself dead to sin and alive to God” (Romans 6:11).
But then the Hebrews, already saved by grace, had to walk through the waters of the Red Sea. They had to walk through death again. Not so that they would live but so that their slave masters could die.
This is the sanctifying process that God uses in each of our lives. The life we are resurrected into is the life of the cross. The life of dying. The life that demands that we walk through the sea until all that would enslave us is drowned. The ongoing, repeated process of death and resurrection. God killing what would kill us as we become “living sacrifices” (Romans 12:1).
This is “to live is Christ” – to constantly follow the angel of God into the sea of death. Yes, you are gloriously passed-over, crucified, resurrected, and alive. But you are alive unto the cruciform life. A life of self sacrificially dying to the selfish indwelling sin in your soul and submitting to the selfless indwelling Christ in your soul. A life of walking in freedom through the sea until all that would enslave you is dead on the sea shore. Until we fully fear the Lord and believe his servant – Jesus.