The angel of God who was going before the Israelite army moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud moved from in front of them and took its place behind them. It came between the army of Egypt and the army of Israel. And so the cloud was there with the darkness, and it lit up the night; one did not come near the other all night. Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea. The Lord drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night, and turned the sea into dry land; and the waters were divided. The Israelites went into the sea on dry ground, the waters forming a wall for them on their right and on their left. The Egyptians pursued, and went into the sea after them, all of Pharaoh’s horses, chariots, and chariot drivers. At the morning watch the Lord in the pillar of fire and cloud looked down upon the Egyptian army, and threw the Egyptian army into panic. He clogged their chariot wheels so that they turned with difficulty. The Egyptians said, “Let us flee from the Israelites, for the Lord is fighting for them against Egypt.” Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea, so that the water may come back upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots and chariot drivers.” So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at dawn the sea returned to its normal depth. As the Egyptians fled before it, the Lord tossed the Egyptians into the sea. The waters returned and covered the chariots and the chariot drivers, the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed them into the sea; not one of them remained. But the Israelites walked on dry ground through the sea, the waters forming a wall for them on their right and on their left. Thus the Lord saved Israel that day from the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. Israel saw the great work that the Lord did against the Egyptians. So the people feared the Lord and believed in the Lord and in his servant Moses.
Food For Thought:
This is a well-known story that marks the point in the Exodus at which the Israelites leave Egypt and enter into their wilderness wanderings. The Israelites at first were slaves to the Egyptians, and later on, Moses was selected to deliver them out of slavery. The Egyptians had to suffer ten plagues before the Pharaoh freed the Israelites after which comes the crossing of the Red Sea. Moses held out his staff, and the Red Sea was separated into two halves by God. The Israelites walked on dry ground and crossed the sea, followed by the Egyptian army. Moses again moved his staff once the Israelites had crossed and the sea closed again, drowning the whole of the Egyptian army. God chooses Moses to lead the children of Israel out of slavery in Egypt and into the land of Canaan, which God has promised to them.
Crossing the Red Sea, a wall painting from the 1640s in Yaroslavl, Russia
No matter how many times that I read this story, I can’t help but think of Moses and his bravery. He has been called by God to lead his people into the wilderness (into the unknown) and a time of wandering. I think of God’s call upon each of our lives. How God calls us sometimes into foreign and unknown territory. How God calls us to act in ways which are counter-cultural. How God calls us to take up our cross and follow Him. Think about a time in your life when God called you into an unknown territory. What did it feel like? How did you respond? Were you scared? Did you trust that God would see you through and guide you? Faith by its’nature is a risky endeavor. One of my favorite quotes from Martin Luther King Jr. is “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”
God, you are the power of liberation, calling your servant Moses to lead your people into freedom, and giving him the wisdom to proclaim your holy law. Be our Passover from the land of injustice, be the light that leads us to the perfect rule of love, that we may be citizens of your unfettered reign; we ask this through Jesus Christ, the pioneer of our salvation. In your precious name we pray, Amen.