The following study is based on Hebrews 11:29, “By faith they passed through the Red sea as by dry land: which the Egyptians assaying to do were drowned.”
The red sea experience is one of the most famous stories in all the Bible.
- Even though it is so famous, it is an important story in Hebrews 11 that it bears mention.
- This is the only story mentioned about the Israelites in the desert wanderings here in Hebrews 11. No other story is given any time. The very next story is their entrance into Canaan and the walls of Jericho which we will study the next time.
Let’s go to the red sea experience. We’re going to start a short time just before that. The Israelites are coming out of Egypt. The 10th plagues has just fallen.
- Exodus 12:29-32
29 And it came to pass, that at midnight the LORD smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sat on his throne unto the firstborn of the captive that was in the dungeon; and all the firstborn of cattle. 30 And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he, and all his servants, and all the Egyptians; and there was a great cry in Egypt; for there was not a house where there was not one dead. 31 And he called for Moses and Aaron by night, and said, Rise up, and get you forth from among my people, both ye and the children of Israel; and go, serve the LORD, as ye have said. 32 Also take your flocks and your herds, as ye have said, and be gone; and bless me also.
- Pharaoh finally learns his lesson and lets the children of Israel leave. This time he really means it. He doesn’t change his mind. They are finally free to go!
17 And it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God led them not through the way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, Lest peradventure the people repent when they see war, and they return to Egypt: 18 But God led the people about, through the way of the wilderness of the Red sea: and the children of Israel went up harnessed out of the land of Egypt.
- Did the children of Israel know that? We’re not sure that God told them that they better go a different way because of the Philistines as they probably didn’t know any way to go as they were always in Egypt.
- The only person that knew the routes around the whole area was Moses. First – he had just come from Midian. Secondly – he was a general before and would have known all the surrounding areas.
20 And they took their journey from Succoth, and encamped in Etham, in the edge of the wilderness. 21 And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night: 22 He took not away the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people.
- So God, from the beginning of their exodus from Egypt was their leader in the pillar of fire by night and pillar of cloud by day. Moses was probably following this pillar of cloud and fire with quite a bit of trepidation – was probably feeling a bit anxious. Why? Because he knew this landscape and knew that God was leading them to a dead end!
2 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. 3 For Pharaoh will say of the children of Israel, They are entangled in the land, the wilderness hath shut them in.
- They really did come to a dead end! God lead them there on purpose! Yes, the all knowing God seemed to get lost in His navigation!
- You know when we are in the heat of our trials and the experiences that we go through, that’s what we think sometimes! God you made a mistake! You made a mistake of leading me to this country, to this course of study, to this church – whatever it might be. But you know if we take a step back and assess the situation, we know that when we reason it out, we know that God doesn’t make mistakes – at least not like this one – God getting lost in the wilderness? Of course not!
- But in this time of distress and seemingly anxious moments, God was about to perform one of His greatest miracles ever!
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.
Before we continue on with the story… there is an important question to ask.
- Did God really harden Pharaoh’s heart? Did he manipulate Pharaoh and cause him to be lost? Did God use Pharaoh for a wicked purpose to prove a point?
- All these questions surround the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart. This is not the first time we see it. Actually it is used quite a number of times before that whilst the plagues fell.
- In the parable of the sower and the seed, there is no difference between the seed scattered in one ground and that of another.
- Everything depended on the reception of the seed, the condition of the soil.
- Pharaoh’s heart getting heart is not a deliberate act of God but rather a choice that he (Pharaoh) made.
- Repeated plagues (a total of 10) – given to impress Pharaoh’s heart of who God was and then taking it away, showing the mercy of God.
- God was trying to save Pharaoh, to soften and subdue his heart. But every time the plague was taken away, he changed his mind, his heart got harder.
- 1 Samuel 6:6
Wherefore then do ye harden your hearts, as the Egyptians and Pharaoh hardened their hearts? when he had wrought wonderfully among them, did they not let the people go, and they departed?
- We see that Pharaoh hardened his own heart through the choices he kept making in spite of the fact that God was so real through the plagues manifested.
- This text in 1 Samuel is not spoken by the Israelites but the Philistines who didn’t know God. But yet they recognised the fact that it was Pharaoh and the Egyptians themselves who decided their own fate. They weren’t calling God unjust in how He handled the situation with Pharaoh.
- Ezekiel 33:11
Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?
- God doesn’t take pleasure in the death of the wicked. He is willing for any to perish!
- 1 Timothy 2:4
Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.
- 2 Peter 3:9
The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
- He causes the sun to shine on the good and the bad. But depending on the condition of the heart, if it is wax it will melt, but if it is clay it will get harder.
- Repeated rejection of clear evidence from God that He was in control and that there was some higher being that Pharaoh was fighting against and not Moses caused Pharaoh’s heart to get hard.
But God tells Moses and the children of Israel in Exodus 14:4 that Pharaoh’s heart would be hard and that he would come after them. They knew from God that Pharaoh would chase after them. You would think that knowing in advance would help their situation right? Not only did God say that Pharaoh was coming, but that God would be honoured about it all! But look at what happens when Pharaoh actually appears!
10 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. 11 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? 12 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.
- At the first sign of trouble they became unreasonable! The children of Israel were still weak in faith, they were still growing. God was still patient with them.
- Now do you know why Moses had to be 40 years in the wilderness, to be able to deal with this type of unreasonableness! But Moses had learnt his lessons from the plagues and his faith has been growing. Look at his response to this unreasonable accusation against him.
- Exodus 14:13-14
13 And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will shew to you to day: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to day, ye shall see them again no more for ever. 14 The LORD shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.
- Even then Moses is trying to inspire faith in the children of Israel
- Exodus 14:15-16
15 And the LORD said unto Moses, Wherefore criest thou unto me? speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward: 16 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.
- Exodus 14:21-22
21 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. 22 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.
- God tells Moses to go forward, hold up his hands and divide the sea and let the children of Israel walk through!
- Of course, the children of Israel still had to have faith to walk through. It wasn’t as easy as just moving forward. They had to trust that this sea being held up would still hold!
- No one had ever walked through a sea before on dry ground! This was the first time! God was building their faith, teaching them to trust in Him!
23 And the Egyptians pursued, and went in after them to the midst of the sea, even all Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots, and his horsemen. 24 And it came to pass, that in the morning watch the LORD looked unto the host of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and of the cloud, and troubled the host of the Egyptians, 25 And took off their chariot wheels, that they drave them heavily: so that the Egyptians said, Let us flee from the face of Israel; for the LORD fighteth for them against the Egyptians. 26 And the LORD said unto Moses, Stretch out thine hand over the sea, that the waters may come again upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots, and upon their horsemen. 27 And Moses stretched forth his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to his strength when the morning appeared; and the Egyptians fled against it; and the LORD overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea.
Thus the LORD saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the sea shore.
- They didn’t even need to lift a single finger to fight. God really fought for them that day!
- They weren’t equipped for it, and neither were they trained to fight. God was building them step by step first as a nation. He needed to show them that they could trust Him! But on this occasion, they needed to step out by faith and walk through.
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.
- Do you see that? As a result, they believed the Lord.
- Their faith in Him as their Redeemer and Saviour was established.
Look at how Paul describes their experience:
1 Corinthians 10:1-2
1 Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; 2 And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea;
- We learn a very important lesson about baptism from this story. We should be experiencing God and exercising faith in His word before we get baptized. It was only as the Israelites heeded the word of God and walked through that they were baptized.
- Of course it wasn’t a literal baptism, but it was symbolic. They were surrounded by water on the left and right and there was a cloud above them.
- Faith is essential for baptism.
- Mark 16:16
He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.
- Mark 16:16
- Faith is not only essential for baptism, but also for salvation.
Friends, I hope you are seeing that it’s not works that we need to focus on first, but faith.
- Faith, and faith alone, saves.
- Faith can move mountains.
- Faith can give us the strength to have victory over our enemy the devil and sin.
- Let’s work on our faith today!
- John 6:28-29
28 Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? 29 Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.
- There was some people that came to Jesus and asked Him what works they could do.
- Jesus told them that the greatest work they can do is BELIEVE! Is to have FAITH!
Let’s work on believing all the words of our beloved Saviour today.
- To believe that He loves us, and that every word He wants us to follow is for our own good.
- Even when it seems like it will lead us down a dead end. Even when we have to walk into a valley with water on both sides.
- We can learn to fear no evil, to not be afraid, because not only is He the One that opened the way for us, but He is right there beside us as well!