Monday, February 20, 2012

Exodus 15:1-21 Victory Song

"Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the LORD:

'I will sing to the LORD,
for he is highly exalted.
The horse and its rider
he has hurled into the sea.

The LORD is my strength and my song;
he has become my salvation.
He is my God, and I will praise him,
my father's God and I will exalt him.

The LORD is a warrior;
the LORD is his name.
Pharaoh's chariots and his army
he has hurled into the sea.
The best of Pharaoh's officers
are drowned in the Red Sea.
The deep waters have covered them;
they sank to the depths like a stone.

Your right hand, O LORD
was majestic in power.
Your right hand, O LORD
shattered the enemy.
In the greatness of your majesty
you threw down those who opposed you.
You unleashed your burning anger;
it consumed them like stubble.
By the blast of your nostrils
the waters piled up.
The surging waters stood firm like a wall;
the deep waters congealed in the heart of the sea.

The enemy boasted,
'I will pursue, I will overtake them.
I will divide up the spoils;
I will gorge myself on them.
I will draw my sword
and my hand will destroy them.
But you blew with your breath,
and the sea covered them.
They sank like lead
in the mighty waters.

Who among the gods is like you,
Who is like you --
majestic in holiness,
awesome in glory,
working wonders?
You stretched out your right hand
and the earth swallowed them.

In your unfailing love you will lead
the people you have redeemed.
In your strength you will guide them to your holy dwelling.
The nations will hear and tremble;
anguish will grip the people of Philistia.
The chiefs of Edom will be terrified,
the leaders of Moab will be seized with trembling,
the people of Canaan will melt away;
terror and dread will fall upon them.
By the power of your arm
they will be still as a stone --
until your people pass by, O LORD,
until the people you bought pass by.
You will bring them in and plant them on the mountain of your inheritance --
the place, O LORD, you made for your dwelling,
the sanctuary, O LORD, your hands established.
the LORD will reign for ever and ever.'

When Pharaoh's horses, chariots and horsemen went into the sea,
the LORD brought the waters of the sea back over them,
but the Israelites walked through the sea on dry ground.
Then Miriam the prophetess, Aaron's sister, took a tambourine in her hand,
and all the women followed her, with tambourines and dancing.

Miriam sang to them,
'Sing to the LORD,
for he is highly exalted.
The horse and its rider
he has hurled into the sea.' "

Exodus 15:1-21 (NIV)

Moses and the Israelites sang a victory song after Pharaoh's defeat.  However, the focus was not upon themselves, but upon the LORD who had brought about the victory.  A short retelling of the way that Pharaoh's forces were drowned in the sea (v.4-5) is bracketed by extensive descriptions of the LORD as a warrior, active in saving His people.  Verbs like 'hurled', 'shattered', 'threw', 'unleashed', 'consumed' etc., give us a vivid picture of the way that the LORD acted in the battle.

However, we also get the sense that this struggle was in no way a problem for the LORD.  His enemies are vanquished by merely His breath (v.8,10), or an outstretched hand (v.4,6,7,12).  [In fact, this battle reminded me of the way that the book of Revelation portrays the last days, when the LORD will strike down his enemies with his mouth (Revelation 1:16 and19:15).  Also, in Revelation 20:7-10, a multitude of nations which surround Jerusalem are simply devoured by fire from heaven, while Satan, the beast and the false prophet are thrown into a lake of burning sulfur.  However, I am getting ahead of the story!]

Moses' song is not only about their present situation with Pharaoh's armies.  After proclaiming the LORD's victory, and how the LORD is unlike any other so-called 'god', Moses launches into a confident statement of how the LORD will continue to lead His people all the way unto the land which He had promised their forefathers. (v.13)  The verses which follow (v. 15-18) give a kind of outline of their future journey:  Philistia, Edom, Moab, Canaan.

Finally, a recap of the battle reminds the Israelites how the forces of Pharaoh were drowned, while the Israelites were able to walk through the sea on dry ground. (v.19)

Miriam's part in the celebration is also noted.  She was a prophetess, and the sister of Moses and Aaron. (v.20)  She led the women with tambourines in song and dance to celebrate the victory which the LORD had accomplished.  The refrain which is recorded in verse 21 may have been a kind of chorus which was interwoven with the rest of this victory song:

"Sing to the LORD
for he is highly exalted.
The horse and its rider he has hurled into the sea."

Exodus 15:21 (NIV) 

All of the Israelites sang this song to the LORD.(v.1)
That is very appropriate, for He had saved them all.

Even today, this crossing over the Sea in safety,
and the victory over Pharaoh and the Egyptian army
are seen as a pivotal point in God's dealings with the nation of Israel.

I imagine that the Israelites also see this as the first action which they took together as a nation.

God also had other symbolism inherent in this victory,
which will become evident eventually as we continue to examine His story (history).
For now, let's just say that the LORD would eventually deliver the Israelites
(and, indeed, the people of every nation)
from a far more significant foe than a pharaoh of Egypt.

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