“Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. 14 The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” These are the words with which Moses encouraged the frightened Israelites when, by God’s leading, they found themselves hemmed in by the Red Sea before them and Pharaoh’s army behind them. This morning we’ll see how God powerfully and miraculously acted upon this promised deliverance.
Having reassured the Israelites that the LORD would fight for them, Moses must have then turned to beseech God in some unrecorded prayer for, as stated in verse 15, “Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on.’” The time for being still had passed; moving on was God’s answer to Moses’ crying out. It was time for the Israelites to march courageously towards the formidable and impassable Red Sea that lie ahead. As they did so, the LORD instructed Moses, verses 16–18, “16 Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground. 17 I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them. And I will gain glory through Pharaoh and all his army, through his chariots and his horsemen. 18 The Egyptians will know that I am the Lord when I gain glory through Pharaoh, his chariots and his horsemen.” With these words, the LORD underscored what he had previously said to Moses as recorded in verse 4 of this chapter: “And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them. But I will gain glory for myself through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord.” Now that the moment of truth had arrived, Moses was told by God to stretch out his hand “over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground.” The impassable crossing would now become passable for this miraculous parting of the Red Sea was the means that the LORD would use to deliver his people; this miraculous parting of the Red Sea was the means that the LORD would use to gain glory for himself; this miraculous parting of the Red Sea was the means that the LORD would use to let the Egyptians know that he—and he alone—was the LORD.
So we read, beginning with verse 19, “19 Then the angel of God, who had been traveling in front of Israel’s army, withdrew and went behind them. The pillar of cloud also moved from in front and stood behind them, 20 coming between the armies of Egypt and Israel. Throughout the night the cloud brought darkness to the one side and light to the other side; so neither went near the other all night long.” The first thing God did to deliver his people was to form a barrier between Israel and Egypt: the angel of God who had gone ahead of the Israelites now went behind them; the pillar of cloud they had been following by day also moved behind them. Thus there was darkness to one side, presumably that of the Egyptians; and light on the other, presumably that of the Israelites, as the light—perhaps the pillar of light by which the LORD had promised to lead his people at night—allowed them to keep marching forward. Whatever the case, this division of darkness and light was a means of the LORD’s deliverance by keeping the two nations apart from one another all night long.
It was at this point, when the Israelites were well-protected from any Egyptian onslaught, that the LORD’s instructions to Moses came into play. As stated in verses 21–22, “21 Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the Lord drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, 22 and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left.” Again, whereas previously the Israelites had been hemmed in by the Red Sea in front of them and the Egyptians behind, as they now obediently marched towards that sea, the LORD ripped that hem apart by causing “a strong east wind” to divide the waters before the Israelites so that they were able to walk between two walls of water and march along the bottom of the sea on ground that the same winds had dried—try and picture that! The Red Sea’s average depth is around 1500 feet, over a quarter mile!
For their part, rather than acknowledge the miracle they were witnessing and the LORD as God, verse 23 states that “The Egyptians pursued them, and all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots and horsemen followed them into the sea.” The foolhardy Egyptians didn’t accept this parting of the waters for the miracle that it was. In their hardened state, they didn’t understand that this parting was for the sake of delivering the LORD’s people from the evil of slavery and oppression to which the Egyptians had subjected them. Therefore, they gave chase; but the LORD kept them from chasing. As stated beginning with verse 24, “24 During the last watch of the night the Lord looked down from the pillar of fire and cloud at the Egyptian army and threw it into confusion. 25 He jammed the wheels of their chariots so that they had difficulty driving.” After an entire night of driving back the sea, the climax of God’s deliverance took place during the last watch, the final waning hours of night which lasted from 2:00 to 6:00 A.M. According to one scholar, this was “often the time for surprise attack” in a battle. And make no mistake: this was the battle of the LORD on behalf of his people. It was only at this point in the battle that the truth of what was occurring dawned upon the Egyptians. As stated at the end of verse 25, they said, “Let’s get away from the Israelites! The Lord is fighting for them against Egypt.” Having suffered through ten plagues that resulted when Pharaoh refused to let the Israelites go and worship the LORD, the Egyptians should have known sooner what was taking place. Yet it wasn’t until their chariots were disabled that they came to the realization that it was none other than the LORD who was fighting this battle. Therefore, they began to flee.
But it was too late to escape the LORD’s judgement. As stated in verse 26, “Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Stretch out your hand over the sea so that the waters may flow back over the Egyptians and their chariots and horsemen.’” As the LORD had caused the Red Sea to divide when Moses obediently stretched out his hand, now the LORD caused the Red Sea to return to its original state as Moses again obediently stretched out his hand with the result that, verse 27, “at daybreak the sea went back to its place.” As dawn broke, the Israelites had been delivered by God and found themselves safely on the other shore, no longer hemmed in, with both sea and their Egyptian enemies safely behind them. As stated in the latter half of verse 27 into 28, “The Egyptians were fleeing toward it, and the Lord swept them into the sea. 28 The water flowed back and covered the chariots and horsemen—the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed the Israelites into the sea. Not one of them survived.” Again, this was just as Moses had earlier told the Israelites: “The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. 14 The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”
Beginning with verse 29, the chapter closes by summarizing, “29 But the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left. 30 That day the Lord saved Israel from the hands of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the shore.” Despite their faithlessness towards him and his servant, God had remained faithful to his people. For that this deliverance from God was so evident that even the previously disbelieving Israelites now believed. Having witnessed and experienced God’s Almighty hand in protecting and delivering them from the Egyptians, the Israelites, as stated in verse 31, “feared the Lord and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant.” As a result of the LORD’s deliverance, the Israelites trusted not only him, but also Moses, his chosen servant.
Now before turning to the testimony concerning Moses by the author of Hebrews, I’m going to take a moment to talk about the Red Sea for there are scholars who dismiss the miraculous nature of God’s deliverance by suggesting that what the Israelites actually crossed over was a different body of water, the Sea of Reeds, a marshy and shallow sea that would have been relatively easy to cross and escape from the Egyptians. In challenging this interpretation, I’ll first highlight what the texts we’ve already considered actually state:
First, when the Egyptians gave chase, had escape for the Israelites been merely a matter of crossing a shallow portion of the Sea of Reeds, they would have scrambled across it with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength. Yet such scrambling wasn’t an option. Instead, upon seeing the Egyptians behind them and the sea before them, the Israelites accused Moses of bringing them to the desert to die, suggesting that they would have been better off had they never left Egypt in the first place. It’s difficult to understand such an accusation had escape across a comparatively small marsh been available to them;
Second, the dividing of the Red Sea took all night as Moses stretched out his hand over the sea and the LORD drove it back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. If escape occurred over the shallow Sea of Reeds, this description not only would make no sense but would have been completely unnecessary;
Third, when the LORD divided the waters and the Israelites walked on dry ground, the text states that there was a wall on their right and on their left. By definition, a wall is “any high vertical surface or facade, especially one that is imposing in scale.” The shallow Sea of Reeds being parted would possibly have resulted in a low embankment, not a wall of water—and, again, no such parting would have been necessary to begin with;
Fourth, when the Egyptian army attempted to pursue the Israelites, the wheels of their chariots were jammed and they sought to flee. Although chariot wheels certainly could jam in a marsh, this doesn’t explain why the Egyptians weren’t able to flee once they lost the advantage of their chariots. Yet the text states that they were unsuccessful in their flight because, at the LORD’s command Moses once again stretched out his hand over the sea with the result that the formerly parted sea flowed back, covering and drowning the Egyptians so that not one of them survived. A shallow marsh would hardly have resulted in the death of one man, much less in that of over six hundred of Pharaoh’s best charioteers;
Last, and as we’ve just noted, when the formerly disbelieving, frightened, and accusatory Israelites found themselves on dry land and their enemy destroyed, their previous disbelief in the LORD and Moses was transformed into a rightful fear of the LORD as they recognized that his ways were right, theirs were wrong, and, consequently, they placed their trust both in him and Moses.
Why then have some modern scholars argued that the sea that the Israelites crossed was not the Red Sea but the Sea of Reeds? In part, they’re trying to find a natural explanation for a supernatural occurrence. But also, and without getting too bogged down in the details, the answer lies in a disagreement over the Hebrew words “Yam Sup/Suph”—all acknowledge that “Yam” means “Sea” but there’s disagreement about the derivation of “Sup” or “Suph.” As stated in the Crossway ESV Study Bible note on Exodus 13:8 whose discussion I’ve used to present this debate:
In all accounts of the crossing of the sea…the water is often referred to as Yam Sup, which is also the Hebrew phrase in this verse. Some modern scholars interpret Yam Sup as “Sea of Reeds/Papyrus” because the term sup refers to the reeds growing along the Nile River. Because papyrus does not grow along the Red Sea/Gulf of Suez, some scholars have concluded that the Yam Sup is one of the marshy lakes in the eastern delta region north of the Red Sea.
These modern scholars then go on to identify the sea mentioned in Exodus with one found in an ancient Egyptian document. From this they then conclude “that the Israelites crossed a marshy area of a lake rather than a large body of water such as the Red Sea.” Consequently, the escape of the Israelites required no miracle parting of the waters; it was just a slog across a marshy lake.
The scholarly counter-argument—which is consistent with the textual testimony we considered above—contends:
First, that the word sup—s-u-p—isn’t related to the Egyptian word for papyrus but to a Hebrew word sop—s-o-p—that means “end.” In this case, “the yam sup would literally mean ‘the sea of the end,’ that is, the sea at the end of the land of Egypt, (i.e., the Red Sea);”
Second, the Septuagint—the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures—translates yam sup as the Red Sea in the Greek, both here and elsewhere;
Last, “every certain reference to yam sup in the Bible refers to the Red Sea or its northern extensions in the Gulfs of Aqaba and Suez.…. This suggests that the name Yam Sup is best understood to denote the Red Sea/Gulf of Suez and, therefore, the Israelites crossed this major of body of water when they fled Egypt.”
In other words, a miracle of deliverance did indeed occur as recorded in the book of Exodus and as understood throughout Scripture.
The parting of the Red Sea as a miracle is certainly how the author of Hebrews understood this account. To place his remarks in context, verses 1 and 2 of Hebrews 11 state, “1 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. 2 This is what the ancients were commended for.” The faith of these ancients, this confidence in what they hoped for, this assurance in what they did not yet see, is what all the exemplars of faith that follow share in common. Concerning Moses, some highlights surrounding him include the faith of his parents. As stated in verse 23, “By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.” The king’s edict, if you’ll recall, was that every male infant was to be put to death. Disobeying this edict could have resulted in death. Yet Moses’ mother took that risk and hid her son nonetheless.
It’s evident even in these few verses that the faith of Moses’ parents had passed down to him. As stated in verses 24–26, “24 By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. 25 He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.” Despite having been raised in Pharaoh’s household after his daughter found him in a basket, Moses identified with and acted on behalf of his Israelite brothers and sisters.
But, in obedience to the LORD, Moses returned to Egypt to rescue the Egyptians in God’s timing. Then, as stated in verse 27, “By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible.” And as we’ve also seen, verse 28, “By faith he kept the Passover and the application of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel.” Last, this leader who exemplified faith in the LORD saw that faith expressed in those he was leading. As stated in verse 29 and as we’ve just seen recounted in Exodus 14, “By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned.” In all of these situations and circumstances, Moses trusted God for his deliverance. And so should we.
Although we may not be hemmed in by the Egyptians behind us and the Red Sea before us, God’s Scriptures teach that we, too, are in need of deliverance. For all people are hemmed in by a fallen human nature that, of its own accord, seeks its own pleasure above and beyond the pleasure of knowing and loving the God who made us. And the result of satisfying our own pleasure in ways that God never intended is not only physical death but eternal death. But the Good News recorded for us in God’s Scriptures is that our heavenly Father sent his eternal Son to earth in the person of Jesus the Christ, Jesus the Messiah, to deliver us from evil—and to deliver us from Satan who seeks ever to destroy us—and to deliver us from death—by taking away our sins and the punishment they deserve by placing them upon himself.
This truth is what we celebrate this morning and every time we partake of the Lord’s Supper. As we eat the bread, we are reminded of the sacrifice of our dear Jesus’ suffering and death for our salvation. For he died in our place so that, as he then rose from death, we might begin to receive his eternal life even now by the Holy Spirit he sends to all who believe in him;
And as we drink the cup, we are again vividly reminded that he shed his blood for us and that now all who believe and receive him are covered by his blood which blood, paradoxically, is the only means by which we can be cleansed of our sins. This deliverance from sin and death is available only to those who believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, God’s eternal Son sent from the Father who, having accomplished his task of salvation, now rules at the Father’s right hand.
And so, dear sisters and brothers, through Christ and Christ alone we can add our names to those whose faith is recorded in Hebrews 11 by placing our confidence in God who is faithful and trusting him for our deliverance today and always. For as our gracious Lord expressed his steadfast love to the faithless Israelites, so he expresses his steadfast love to all who believe and receive his Son as their Savior and Lord.
So let us now turn to him and thank him for his love—and thank him for his grace—and thank him for his Son—and thank him for his faithfulness even in times when we have been faithless. Let us pray.
 Exodus 14:13–14.
 As stated in Exodus 13:21–22: 21 By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. 22 Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.
 Reformation ESV Study Bible note on Exodus 14:24. The note references 1 Samuel 11:11: The next day Saul separated his men into three divisions; during the last watch of the night they broke into the camp of the Ammonites and slaughtered them until the heat of the day. Those who survived were scattered, so that no two of them were left together.; The ESV Study Bible makes the same observation referencing, in addition to 1 Samuel 11:11, Joshua 10:9: After an all-night march from Gilgal, Joshua took them by surprise.
 Exodus 14:13b–14.
 Exodus 14:11–12: “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? 12 Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!”
 Exodus 14:21: Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the Lord drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land.
 Exodus 14:21b–22: The waters were divided, 22 and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left.
 Emphasis added.
 Exodus 14:23–25: 23 The Egyptians pursued them, and all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots and horsemen followed them into the sea. 24 During the last watch of the night the Lord looked down from the pillar of fire and cloud at the Egyptian army and threw it into confusion. 25 He jammed the wheels of their chariots so that they had difficulty driving. And the Egyptians said, “Let’s get away from the Israelites! The Lord is fighting for them against Egypt.”
 Exodus 14:6–7, 26–28: 6 So he had his chariot made ready and took his army with him. 7 He took six hundred of the best chariots, along with all the other chariots of Egypt, with officers over all of them….26 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea so that the waters may flow back over the Egyptians and their chariots and horsemen.” 27 Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at daybreak the sea went back to its place. The Egyptians were fleeing toward it, and the Lord swept them into the sea. 28 The water flowed back and covered the chariots and horsemen—the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed the Israelites into the sea. Not one of them survived.
 Exodus 14:29–31: 29 But the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left. 30 That day the Lord saved Israel from the hands of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the shore. 31 And when the Israelites saw the mighty hand of the Lord displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant.
 Passages provided include: Exodus 15:4, 22: 4 Pharaoh’s chariots and his army he has hurled into the sea. The best of Pharaoh’s officers are drowned in the Red Sea…. 22Then Moses led Israel from the Red Sea and they went into the Desert of Shur. For three days they traveled in the desert without finding water.; Deuteronomy 11:2–4 (see verse 4): 2 Remember today that your children were not the ones who saw and experienced the discipline of the Lord your God: his majesty, his mighty hand, his outstretched arm; 3 the signs he performed and the things he did in the heart of Egypt, both to Pharaoh king of Egypt and to his whole country; 4 what he did to the Egyptian army, to its horses and chariots, how he overwhelmed them with the waters of the Red Sea as they were pursuing you, and how the Lord brought lasting ruin on them.; Psalm 106:7, 9, 22: 6When our ancestors were in Egypt, they gave no thought to your miracles; they did not remember your many kindnesses, and they rebelled by the sea, the Red Sea…. 9He rebuked the Red Sea, and it dried up; he led them through the depths as through a desert…. 22miracles in the land of Ham and awesome deeds by the Red Sea.
 Reference provided is Exodus 2:3, the account of Moses’ mother sending him off as an infant: But when she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with tar and pitch. Then she placed the child in it and put it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile.
 Specifically, Papyrus Anastasis III describes a papyrus lake “not far from the city of Rameses that could be identified with the Yam Sup of the Exodus account.”
 Ten erythran thalassan.
 Emphases added. Passages provided are 1 Kings 9:26: King Solomon also built ships at Ezion Geber, which is near Elath in Edom, on the shore of the Red Sea.; Jeremiah 49:21: At the sound of their fall the earth will tremble; their cry will resound to the Red Sea.
 See, for example, Deuteronomy 11:1–4: 1 Love the Lord your God and keep his requirements, his decrees, his laws and his commands always. 2 Remember today that your children were not the ones who saw and experienced the discipline of the Lord your God: his majesty, his mighty hand, his outstretched arm; 3 the signs he performed and the things he did in the heart of Egypt, both to Pharaoh king of Egypt and to his whole country; 4 what he did to the Egyptian army, to its horses and chariots, how he overwhelmed them with the waters of the Red Sea as they were pursuing you, and how the Lord brought lasting ruin on them.; Joshua 2:8–10a (Rahab is the “she”): 8 Before the spies lay down for the night, she went up on the roof 9 and said to them, “I know that the Lord has given you this land and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you. 10 We have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt,…; Joshua 24:5–7 (the LORD is speaking): 5 Then I sent Moses and Aaron, and I afflicted the Egyptians by what I did there, and I brought you out. 6 When I brought your people out of Egypt, you came to the sea, and the Egyptians pursued them with chariots and horsemen as far as the Red Sea. 7 But they cried to the Lord for help, and he put darkness between you and the Egyptians; he brought the sea over them and covered them. You saw with your own eyes what I did to the Egyptians.; Nehemiah 9:9–12 (addressing the LORD): 9 You saw the suffering of our ancestors in Egypt; you heard their cry at the Red Sea. 10 You sent signs and wonders against Pharaoh, against all his officials and all the people of his land, for you knew how arrogantly the Egyptians treated them. You made a name for yourself, which remains to this day. 11 You divided the sea before them, so that they passed through it on dry ground, but you hurled their pursuers into the depths, like a stone into mighty waters. 12 By day you led them with a pillar of cloud, and by night with a pillar of fire to give them light on the way they were to take.; Psalm 106:6–12: 6 We have sinned, even as our ancestors did; we have done wrong and acted wickedly. 7 When our ancestors were in Egypt, they gave no thought to your miracles; they did not remember your many kindnesses, and they rebelled by the sea, the Red Sea. 8 Yet he saved them for his name’s sake, to make his mighty power known. 9 He rebuked the Red Sea, and it dried up; he led them through the depths as through a desert. 10 He saved them from the hand of the foe; from the hand of the enemy he redeemed them. 11 The waters covered their adversaries; not one of them survived. 12 Then they believed his promises and sang his praise.; Psalm 136:10–15: 10 to him who struck down the firstborn of Egypt His love endures forever. 11 and brought Israel out from among them His love endures forever. 12 with a mighty hand and outstretched arm; His love endures forever. 13 to him who divided the Red Sea asunder
His love endures forever. 14 and brought Israel through the midst of it, His love endures forever. 15 but swept Pharaoh and his army into the Red Sea; His love endures forever.; Isaiah 51:10 (the LORD is being addressed): Was it not you who dried up the sea, the waters of the great deep, who made a road in the depths of the sea so that the redeemed might cross over?; Acts 7:36: He led them out of Egypt and performed wonders and signs in Egypt, at the Red Sea and for forty years in the wilderness.
 Exodus 1:15–16, 11: 15 The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, whose names were Shiphrah and Puah, 16 “When you are helping the Hebrew women during childbirth on the delivery stool, if you see that the baby is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, let her live….” 22 Then Pharaoh gave this order to all his people: “Every Hebrew boy that is born you must throw into the Nile, but let every girl live.”
 Exodus 2:1–2: 1 Now a man of the tribe of Levi married a Levite woman, 2 and she became pregnant and gave birth to a son. When she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him for three months.; Shiphrah and Puah, the Hebrew midwives, similarly disobeyed Pharaoh’s edict by allowing the infant boys to live. See Exodus 1:17–21: 17 The midwives, however, feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do; they let the boys live. 18 Then the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and asked them, “Why have you done this? Why have you let the boys live?” 19 The midwives answered Pharaoh, “Hebrew women are not like Egyptian women; they are vigorous and give birth before the midwives arrive.” 20 So God was kind to the midwives and the people increased and became even more numerous. 21 And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families of their own.
 James 1:13–15: 13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.