The Passage at the Red Sea
January 18th, 1959 @ 8:15 AM
THE PASSAGE AT THE RED SEA
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Exodus 14, 15
1-18-59 8:15 a.m.
You are sharing with us the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the early morning message entitled: The Passage at the Red Sea or The Deliverance at the Red Sea. In our following the life of Moses, we have come to the middle of the twelfth chapter of the Book of Exodus. And you can easily follow the message this morning if you will turn to Exodus 12:29.
This is the tenth, and the last sign. And it is a terrible judgment; it’s a figure of that final judgment, when the death angel shall pass over and all who are not under the blood – upon them did the judgment of night, and of death, and of darkness rest. All alike, from the Pharaoh on his throne to the maid that worked at the mill, from the slave to the prince, all alike – and only one way to be delivered from the visitor of death and judgment; and that was under the blood.
Now in the twenty-ninth verse of the twelfth chapter of Exodus:
And it came to pass, that at midnight the Lord smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, (all who were not under the blood – every house, every home, every palace, every hut, every firstborn in the land of Egypt died who was not under the blood.) ,The firstborn of the captive that was in the dungeon; and all the firstborn of the cattle.
And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he, and all his servants, and all the Egyptians; and there was a great cry in Egypt, not a home where there was not death and judgment. And there was a great cry in Egypt; for there was not a house where there was not one dead.
And Pharaoh 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; go . . .
Take your flocks and your herds, as you have said, and be gone,
For the Egyptians were urgent upon the people, that they might send them out of the land in haste; for they said, We be all dead men.
, the people took their dough before it was leavened, their kneading troughs being bound up in their clothes upon their shoulders.
For they had eaten the Passover with a staff in their hands, with their feet shod, with their clothes on their backs, with their kneading troughs bound up with their clothes [Exodus 12:11]. They were a pilgrim people and they were ready to go. So at midnight, they all marched in the dead of the night. Look at the thirty-seventh verse: "And the children of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand . . . men that were on foot, besides (the women and) the children" [Exodus 12:37].
Now, that’s the reason you have the Passover – which is our Easter – in the full light of the moon. Easter is always the first full moon after the vernal equinox. It’s the reason it changes in the course of the passing of the years. The first full moon and the emphasis is on the "full moon." The reason for the full moon was so the children of Israel could march in the middle of the night. Had it been black, and starless, and moonless; covered over with darkness and shrouded with midnight, why, they would have had difficulty moving out. But under the full light of the moon, in that clear, crisp air where it never rains and it is never clouded, it was just about as though it was daytime.
So, I say that is why you have the Passover, that’s why you have Easter at the full of the moon. It was so God’s children could pilgrimage, "we are on the way." And every time you come to Easter, and look up there at that full moon, always remember why it is that this is Easter time. It’s a sign of the pilgrimage of God’s people. Joseph is no more in Egypt. It is time for God’s people to be gone. We’re on the way. We’re in a journey. We’re in a pilgrimage. And God has given us light for the way; that’s why the full moon at Easter time.
So, the children of Israel all converged, wherever they lived, up and down the land of Goshen, they converged at Succoth. And there were about two and one half million of them. And there at Succoth they encamped, made leafy tabernacles, food, and they baked their unleavened bread, and they gathered themselves there at that rendezvous for the great trek to the Promised Land.
Now, let’s turn over to the thirteenth chapter and the nineteenth verse, Exodus 13:19, and look what Moses did when they met at the rendezvous of Succoth: "And Moses took the bones of Joseph with him, for he had straitly sworn the children of Israel, saying, God will surely visit you; and ye shall carry up my bones away hence with you." That’s the way the fiftieth chapter, that you have in Genesis, that’s the way the fiftieth chapter of Genesis closes:
And Joseph said unto his brethren, I die: but God will surely visit you, and bring you out of this land unto the land which He sware to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.
And Joseph took an oath of the children of Israel, saying, God will surely visit you, and ye shall carry up my bones from hence.
[Genesis 50:24, 25]
That’s the only thing Joseph said that is quoted in the New Testament [Hebrews 11:22]. The only thing the Spirit of God picked out to reiterate: "Ye shall carry up my bones from hence," and now God had surely visited them.
He may be long in keeping His promise. He may tarry, He may delay, but it will come. God will surely visit you [Genesis 50:24; Hebrews 11:22]. And Joseph had been dead a long, long time, but God did surely visit His people. And in keeping with their promise and their oath, when the children of Israel go out of the land of bondage and of darkness, they carry with them the bones of Joseph, taking them back to the land that should belong to his children forever, and forever, and forever [Joshua 24:32].
So they took their journey from Succoth, and encamped at Etham, at the edge of the wilderness – where the green vegetation of Egypt plays out. There, they stopped the second time in the journey –
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:
He took not away the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people.
That, of course, is a picture of the presence of God with us, the Holy Spirit of God. This is the shekinah glory of the Lord. It’s the very chariot of the Almighty. And He is there to guide them, like the Holy Spirit is here to guide us. And God’s Holy Spirit will guide us if we will let Him. There’s no decision you ever make that God will not certainly tell you how to make it, if you will lean upon Him. And any direction that a church ought to take, and any choice that a church ought to make, and anyway that a church ought to go, there will be a pillar of light, and of fire, and of cloud – the presence of the Holy Spirit of God – to show you what to do if you will ask, and lean, and wait upon the Lord.
That comes to us in many ways; and I haven’t time this morning even to begin to describe them – but a conviction will come into your heart, and outward circumstances will corroborate it when a thing ought to be done. And when God’s Spirit says this is the way, walk ye in it [Isaiah 30:21], He is to guide us – this light of God, the Holy Spirit of God – and He is to shield us, shielding those people from the rays of the burning sun, shielding them from their enemies when the Egyptians pursued them [Exodus 14:19-20]. That’s the Holy Spirit of God today in our church and in our lives. The Holy Spirit of God shields us.
How many disasters almost have overtaken you? How many times have you come within an inch or hair’s breath of death? And how many times have those disasters almost overtaken us, and you did not realize it? There are a thousand things you can read in any newspaper of things terrible and tragic that have happened to other people; why didn’t they happen to you? They could have. Why did that automobile run head on into this automobile? Could have been you driving that car. Why did this awful thing overtake this family; why didn’t it happen to you? It’s by the protecting, merciful care of God!
Don’t let anyone of us stand up and say, "Now these things can happen to others, but they never come by me. He may have cancer, but I will not. He may have leukemia, but I will not. He may have these other terrible scourges, but I will not. Sorrows desperate may visit their home, but it will never visit mine." Don’t you think it for a minute! We are dependent upon the merciful care and goodness of God.
Lord, remember us, remember us. Our lives are in Thy hands. And our ways are guided by Thine eye, sheltered by Thy great, strong arm. The pillar was for guiding, the pillar was for protection. This is a blessed and precious figure of the Holy Spirit of God as He guides, and protects, and leads us in the way today.
All right, they are on the journey now: "And the Lord spake unto Moses saying" [Exodus 14:1] – now he had just written over here in the thirteenth chapter and the seventeenth verse: "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" [Exodus 13:17] – It was only a hundred miles up there from where they lived in Goshen. Up there to the Promised Land was just about a hundred miles across the Isthmus of the Suez. They could just go right straight up to it. But God never led them that way.
For God said, Lest peradventure the people repent when they see war (lest they turn around and flee when they see war) and they return to (the land of) Egypt.
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.
[Exodus 13:17, 18]
All prepared, all dressed, all ready to march, but God never led them up right straight to the land because the Philistines were there and they had never been trained in war. They didn’t know what war was, and those fierce warriors, those [sons] of Goliath, those tremendous soldiers, armed with spears and shields, why, it would have struck panic in the hearts of these slaves, just to look at them. So, the cloud, and the directive of the Spirit of God did the most impossible thing, speaking of the children of Israel,14 and 2: "that they turn and encamp before Pi-hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, over against Baal-zephon: before it shall ye encamp by the sea" [Exodus 14:2].
Now, I want you to see what the Holy Spirit of God did when they came out of Egypt. They turned due south, and they went down south, until they could not go any further. Down beyond them was an impassable mountain range, Baal-zephon. Then to the side of them, were limitless wastes of sand. And then to the north of them, where they had come, there was the land of Egypt, and in front of them was the Red Sea.
And I can imagine, when the cloud led them there – on one side, the mountain range; on this side, the limitless wastes of the sands of the desert; in front of them, the Red Sea; and back of them, the land of Egypt; the only egress where they came from – I can imagine that the people looked at that, and they said one to another, "This is the most preposterous and impossible of all of the selective sights for a camp that we ever thought for."
And somebody else could have said: "Well, is this the way to the Promised Land?"
And somebody else, with a discerning eye, said: "It is good for us that Pharaoh is burying his firstborn or else he would come upon us like a wolf upon penned sheep."
And somebody else would have said: "Had I been blind, I think I could have chosen a better place for us than this place."
And sure enough all of those predictions, and murmurings, and observations, and prognostications, and lugubrious murmurings, and observations, they all proved true. No sooner had they settled there, penned up like sheep, than an outpost rode back furiously into the camp, saying: "We saw on the horizon a whole army of Egyptians marching, marching this way!"
For you see: "It was told the king of Egypt that the people had fled" – this is 14:5 – "and the heart of Pharaoh and of his servants were turned, and they said, Why have we done this, that we have let Israel go from serving us?" [Exodus 14:5].
There, that big empty space in the land unoccupied, all of their servants gone, all of the toil of making brick and building cities now denied them, all the revenues and services that once came to them through two and a half million slaves – all of it taken away. "Why, we made a great mistake in just letting these people go. And not only that, but they carried off our gold and our silver [Exodus 12:35]. And in our haste to get them out of the land, we did anything to get rid of them. We must change this decision and bring them back so they can serve us again."
"So he made ready his chariot . . ." [Exodus 14:6]. And made ready his army, and made ready his people, and they pursued after the children of Israel [Exodus 14:8-9]. And when Pharaoh heard what they had done, what Israel had done, where they were encamped, do you know what Pharaoh said? He looked at his prime ministers, and he looked at his generals, and he looked at his leaders, and he said: "Uh-huh, my old gods, whom I thought were dead, my old gods are true gods after all. I thought they had forsaken me. I thought they had let me down."
In those contests between Moses and the gods of Egypt, every god that Pharaoh worshiped was humiliated; he was darkened; he was killed; he was made obscene and unclean. "But now," Pharaoh says, "my old gods have come back to my aid. Look at Israel – penned down there against the sea, against the sand, and against the mountain range; and the only egress [Exodus 14:9] – the one that we are following and bearing down upon, ourselves."
Oh, what a day for Pharaoh! Why, he could go in there with his sword and kill all the leaders; take all the rest of those people captive back to serve him all the days of his life and all the generations that are to come. He envisioned the building of more cities, and the digging of more canals, and the irrigation of more land. Oh, all the work the two and a half million slaves would be doing for him!
Pharaoh said his gods had come to deliver into his hand this oppressed people. You know the world has always got it figured out that way. There never was a fellow that went to war – whether his name was Hitler, or whether it was Tojo, or whether it was Mussolini, or whether it was Stalin, or whether it was any other one of them – there never was a one of them that went to war that didn’t think the gods were propitious: "They’re on my side, everything’s all set, we’re going to conquer the world." They’re just typical of all the other acts of darkness and iniquity: "The things all set; it’s on our side; everything is arranged."
And away Pharaoh goes marching triumphantly at the head of his army. Now, can you imagine the consternation in the camp for the Israelites down there; penned against the sea, penned against the mountains, penned against the sands of the desert? Oh, the things they had to say to Moses. Look at what they said unto Moses. Exodus 14:11:
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?
Is this not the this word that we did tell thee in Egypt, saying, Let us alone, that we may serve the Egyptians? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in this wilderness.
Isn’t that what we told you back there? Isn’t that what we said? Now, I want you to look at Moses. I want you to contrast the thirteenth verse with the fifteenth verse. Moses stands before those people, and they are frightened to death [Exodus 14:13]. They are scared. They don’t have any weapons. They don’t how to fight. They have never had any experience in war, and here the whole Egyptian army with 600 chariots bearing down upon them.
Now look at Moses. Now look at this. This is one of the most unusual scenes you will ever find in the Bible. Moses stands before the people and Moses says:
Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will show to you today: for the Egyptians whom you have seen today, ye shall see them again no more forever.
The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.
That’s what he says to Israel. All right now contrast that with the next verse. Now look at it: "And the Lord said unto Moses, Wherefore criest thou now unto Me?" [Exodus 14:15]. Moses would stand before the people, the very picture of courage and fortitude, then when he got before the Lord he was like a broken reed. O Lord, O Lord; Moses did not know what God was going to do. Moses didn’t know. He just trusted that God would do something. He didn’t know what God was going to do. He just stands before the people and says, "Fear not. Fear not, the Lord shall fight for you" [Exodus 14:13-14].
Then when he goes before the Lord, he just crumbles in his heart; "O Lord, O God, O God." That’s not a bad way to be. It certainly isn’t, to be weak before God, and strong before men. In fact I suspect that real strength is like that; strong before men and weak before God; standing up before men, falling on your face before God; not afraid of any man’s face, but scared to death of God; not afraid of what any man can do, but tremble in your soul at what God can do. I suspect that’s real bravery, real strength, real fortitude, real courage; not afraid of the face of a man, but trembling at the very thought of God. And that’s Moses here; stand in front of the Pharaoh; stand in front of the whole Egyptian army; stand in the presence of his people who are murmuring and terrified and he’s unshaken and unafraid and says, "Fear not. God shall fight for you" [Exodus 14:13-14]. And then when he closes the door to his tent, falls down on his face and cries unto the Lord.
"Well," says God, "Moses, this is no time to sit and sigh. This is no time to weep and cry. Moses this is the time to do or die. Get up Moses! Get up. Speak unto the children of Israel that they go forward" [Exodus 14:15]. And that’s what the Lord says to Moses, "Moses, why cry unto Me? Speak unto the children of Israel that they go forward." Get up and go. Get up and go where? This way into the arms of the enemy; this way across limitless burning sands; that way across an impassable mountain range, and this way into the middle of the sea; which way Lord, which way? Get up and go. And the Lord says, "That way toward Canaan; that way toward the Promised Land; that way right in the middle of the sea" [Exodus 14:15-16].
Oh brother, what faith, what faith! So He says, "Lift up thy rod, and stretch out thine hand over the sea . . . and the children of Israel shall go on the dry ground through the midst of the sea" [Exodus 14:16]. God never leads us in, He leads us through: "Yea though I walk in awe through the valley of the shadow of death," [Psalm 23:4].
God leads the children along,
Some through the fire, and some through the floods;
Some through deep waters, but all through the blood.
[George A. Young, 1903]
God leads His children along, leading them through, leading them through. And God’s restraining hand pulls back those great waves of the sea as the strong wind divides it and God’s restraining hand holds those walls of glass; and rank upon rank, upon rank, upon rank [Exodus 14:21-22]. Surely that’s a picture of our marching into the presence of the Lord some of these days. Rank upon rank, upon rank, upon rank; when the saints go marching in, and across the sea, and upon the other side.
And when Pharaoh saw the cloud lifted, when Pharaoh saw how they had gone across, he said: "My gods shall deliver them into my hands, who is this God Jehovah? We don’t even know His name; we don’t know anything about Him, but my gods shall deliver them."
And Pharaoh tempts Jehovah God; and into that divided sea he heads his army; he sends his chariots; he sends his generals; he sends his men. And when they got down there in the sea, their chariots began to bog down, and the wheels begin to come off; and there began to be filled with fear, and terror, and consternation [Exodus 14:23-25].
And the Lord said unto Moses, "Stretch out thine hand over the sea, that the waters come again," [Exodus 14:26]. And there before the eyes of God’s people they looked upon their oppressors – not one [Exodus 14:27-28], not one left, not one, like the angel of death that swept over one night, the great army of Sennacherib, in the days when Hezekiah prayed unto the Lord at the appeal of the prophet Isaiah [Isaiah 37:14-21]. And the next morning, 185,000 corpses [Isaiah 37:36] – instead of a live army: so it was here, so it was here tempting God, the oppressors of God’s people; and on the other side, an emancipated nation stood. On the other side, God’s redeemed people stood, on the side toward the Promised Land – the victory of the Red Sea, the deliverance at the Red Sea [Exodus 14:21-34].
Have you come to the Red Sea place in your life
Where, despite all you can do,
There is no way out; there is no way back;
There is no other way but through?
Then wait on the Lord with a trust serene
Till the night of your fear is gone.
He will send the winds. He will heap the floods,
When He says to your soul: "Go on!"
The tossing billows may rear their crests;
Their foam at your feet may break;
But over their bed, you shall walk dryshod
In the path that your Lord shall make.
In the morning watch, ‘neath the lifted cloud,
You shall see but the Lord alone.
When He leads you forth from the place of the sea,
To a land you have never known.
And your fears shall pass as your foes have passed.
You shall no more be afraid.
You shall sing His praise in a better place,
In a place that His hand hath made.
[ "The Red Sea Place," Annie Johnson Flint]
When you face the Red Sea place in your life, oh, why are we sometimes afraid? I don’t know. Why do our hearts tremble? I don’t know. Why do we doubt the ableness, and power, and delivering adequacy, and might, and sufficiency of God? I don’t know, but we do, but we do! That’s why we need to read the Book; that’s why we need to have the sermon; that’s why we need to come to church – just to remind ourselves that God is able!
When He blocks it this way, and this way, and this way, and that way – He will make a way, He will make a way. And God’s way is never in; God’s way is always through, up, out, on! The Lord’s marching orders are forward [Exodus 14:15].
Now, while we sing our song, somebody this morning to give his heart to the Lord, somebody to put his life in the fellowship of the church, while we sing this song, make this appeal, would you come and stand by me? In this great host, in the balcony around, on this lower floor into the aisle or down one of these stairwells, "Pastor, today I give my heart to the Lord." Or, "Today I’m putting my life in the church." One somebody you, or a family as the Lord shall open the door and lead the way, would you come? While we make this appeal, while we stand and sing.
THE PASSAGE AT THE RED SEA
Exodus 14, 15
I. Guiding pillar
1. God guides
2. Chariot of God – Shekinah glory
II. The route – Suez isthmus into wilderness