As the foundation of the Church was in miracles, so every after-stage in the building is carried on with increasing wonder until the top stone is brought forth with shoutings of grace, grace, unto it. Israel being brought into the wilderness, on the south east side of Egypt, Pharaoh, as the Lord had forewarned Moses, pursues them with a powerful army. This Chapter relates the interesting account of this pursuit. The Israelites are shut in on every side, and, according to human calculation, there is no way left to escape. The Lord opens a new way for them. Israel is delivered; the Egyptians are destroyed; and the effect wrought on the mind of the Israelites is strikingly expressive of thankfulness.
It is worthy the Reader's closest observation, that the way the Lord commanded Israel to go was contrary to the direct road to Canaan. When they were at Etham in the edge of the wilderness, they were not a great way from Horeb, had they gone on, but the Lord bid them turn off to the right towards the sea. Observe what the Psalmist said, in after ages, concerning this; Psalms 107:7. It was not the way which flesh and blood would have chosen, but it was still the right way. Pihahiroth signifies the mouth of the hole. Migdol means a town. Baal-zephon was the name of one of their gods, meaning one that set there to watch after any run-away servants.
This account is again rehearsed by Moses: Numbers 33:7-8.
I hope the Reader will not lose sight of the great doctrine included in this. All things whether they mean so, or not, must minister to God's glory. See Revelation 15:3. and particularly that scripture, Proverbs 16:4.
Consider this spiritually, and the same is every day manifested; the freedom of God's people is a galling thought to their enemies. Esther 5:12-13; Psalms 105:25; Acts 5:17; Act_5:33; Psalms 37:32; Psa_112:10.
Reader! keep in view, what hath before been said of the Lord's hardening this man's heart. Read that striking verse, Proverbs 12:16
Spiritually considered, how often is this the case of the church and people. Reader! I hope you know the sweets of difficulties, by which alone sometimes deliverance is found: See Paul's case, 2 Corinthians 12:7; 2Co_12:10.
No doubt their situation, as to all human appearance, was utterly hopeless. Before them was the Red Sea; behind them the enemy; on either side mountains. And is not this the very case of the believer? Apparent destruction before: the accursed enemy, the accuser of the brethren, behind; and mountains of sin on every side? 2 Corinthians 4:8.
If we observe the latter part of the preceding verse, and compare it with this, I think we may reasonably conclude, that although some murmured, others prayed. See Hebrews 3:16. It is a precious affliction, be it what it may, that leads the soul to prayer. It is a dreadful state when sorrows harden.
Is this the language of those who had seen the miracles in Egypt? Alas! my soul, what is man!
Oh! for an ardent faith! That's a sweet scripture, Isaiah 30:7. And so is that, Isaiah 26:3.
And is not this the case, spiritually considered, now! Doth not Jesus all this, and more? Isaiah 63:5.
Reader! do not overlook this account of the man of God. Was he not in prayer? There is not mention made of his praying it is true: but the thing is plainly implied in God's answer. Silent prayer in faith is powerful pleading with God in Jesus' name. The Lord's answer, wherefore criest thou unto me, is not in anger. The Chaldee translate it, I have accepted thy prayer. Reader! observe God's direction - go forward. Where? What into the sea? Yes! if God commands. He can make a way in the sea, and a path in the mighty waters. Psalms 77:19-20.
Reader! never forget, salvation is of God. Isaiah 63:13-14.
Again and again this sovereignty is held forth. Isaiah 1:24.
All the earth shall finally acknowledge this. Revelation 15:3.
Spiritually considered the same light which enlighteneth God's people, darkens the ungodly. The same gospel is both a savour of life unto life, and of death unto death. 2 Corinthians 2:15-16; Isaiah 45:7. Reader! was not this the Lord Jesus Christ? See what is said Exodus 14:24. See also Acts 7:38.
Pause, Reader, and learn to cry out with the apostle, behold the goodness and severity of God. Here is opened to us that wondrous display of discriminating grace, which is so often the subject of praise and admiration through the whole bible. The glory of God; the joy of the church: the terror of her enemies; Joshua 2:10; Psalms 114:3; Psa_106:9; Psa_136:13-14. But while I desire the Reader to make all due observation of those things, I beg of him, yet more particularly, to look into the spiritual sense of this great event. Read Hebrews 11:29. Doth not this plainly prove, that our fathers had an eye, by faith to even yet a greater salvation, than what they now experienced? And was not their passing through the Red sea typical of our redemption by the blood of Jesus? Moreover the apostle to the Corinthians makes it a type of baptism. See 1 Corinthians 10:1. After the Reader hath duly pondered those things, I beg of him to consult Isaiah 11:15-16 and say, is not this figurative also of the conversion of souls!
Pause, my soul, over this awful verse. To what a desperate length will sin drive men. See Proverbs 7:22-23; Isaiah 43:16-17.
How often before the Lord smites doth he alarm the ungodly. Acts 24:25. But yet further, Revelation 6:16.
The hour of reckoning is come. See that awful account, Ezekiel 31:15; Eze_31:18. And is not the destruction of Pharaoh a type of the everlasting destruction of the wicked? See Revelation 20:14.
If the Reader consults the map, he will find that the passage Israel made through the deep, was an arm of the sea, about three leagues over; so that the miraculous interposition of the Lord, is thereby fully proved. Job 26:12; Psalms 68:1-2.
There is a delightful passage in the Psalms 74:14 the spiritual sense of which is, (I venture to believe) that the meat of the soul, in trying dispensations to Israel in the wilderness, was looking back to the event of this distinguishing mercy. And so it is now. Past experience of God's faithfulness becomes food for faith in what is to come. Reader! if you and I had but grace to call to mind how the Lord hath appeared for us in former trials, this would bring relief and confidence to the soul, under present or future difficulties. Blessed Spirit! be thou the Lord's remembrancer. John 14:26; Micah 6:5.
Who would have thought, that after the many humbling lessons, Pharaoh had been taught, that folly should again so far have blinded his eyes, as to have come out against the Lord's people. My soul! Think seriously, in the view of this awful instance, to what a desperate state of wickedness the heart of man is capable of attaining when given up to a reprobate mind.
Who would have thought, that after the Lord had so wonderfully interposed in bringing Israel out of Egypt, and while guiding them by a pillar of cloud, and protecting them by a pillar of fire; that any further trouble should have arisen to harass and afflict them. My soul! remember the straits of Israel, in all the lesser trials of your faith: and do not forget, that as but for those difficulties which the people of God sustained, they never would have known the preciousness of divine interposition, in this miracle of mercy to themselves, and destruction to their enemies: so neither would you know the numberless instances of the Lord's opening ways of deliverance to you, and a thousand proofs of grace helping you on in the path, if there was not an hedge of thorns thrown up against you, and that frequently, thereby divine strength is made perfect in human weakness.
Reader! before we leave this precious chapter, look at it once again. Have you seen Israel in that critical moment, when, according to all human appearance, destruction was inevitable; an enemy behind, mountains on each side, and destruction before, and did God then manifest the lighting down of his glorious arm in the very moment of danger? And is it not so with the sinner, in his perilous state, unawakened by grace, and exposed to everlasting ruin. The enemy hastening on; sin encompassing all around; and every step he takes only leading nearer to the borders of eternity. Lord! open to the Reader (if haply his eyes have never yet seen his danger) a sense of this state! put a cry like Israel's in his heart to the Lord; and when, under divine teaching, he hath learnt, that every door of escape in himself is shut, and that there is no way to escape by human power; then do thou, as to Israel, open that new and living way in Christ's blood; give him to see, that there is salvation in no other; and let the language of one of old, be the language of his heart; I will go forth in the strength of the Lord God, and will make mention of thy righteousness even of thine only. My mouth shall show forth thy righteousness and thy salvation, for I know not the number thereof.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Exodus 14". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany