Today’s Reading: Exodus 14-16
The Lord has brought Israel out of Egypt. He has been leading them to Canaan, but the path he was leading them on initially went away from Canaan. The more direct path would have been to take Israel on the way of Philistines, but this was a way of war (Exodus 3:17). Instead, God led Israel through the wilderness to the Red Sea (Exodus 3:18). Later, in Numbers 20, we learn that this way through the wilderness was called the king’s highway.
So, God could have led Israel to Canaan, the promised land, on a path of war. But, God had a different plan, a better plan. Instead of a path of war, God chose to lead Israel to Canaan on the king’s highway.
What is the king’s highway?
While God was leading the Israelites through the wilderness to the Red Sea, Pharaoh and the Egyptian army was chasing them. The people of Israel began to fear greatly and they cried out to the Lord. They complained to Moses that he had simply brought them out to the wilderness to die (that statement is dripping with irony by the way). The people said it would have been better to stay in Egypt and serve the Egyptians than die in the wilderness.
In Exodus 14:13-14, Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” The people have reached the edge of the sea. They’re trapped between the Red Sea and the Egyptians. And, Moses says, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord.”
To understand what is happening, we need to remember that Egypt is a type or picture of the world – it’s values, it’s culture, it’s systems, it’s way of being. In 1 John 2:16, the world, Egypt, is described for us, “For all that is in the world – the desires of the flesh, the desires of the eyes and the pride of life – is not from the Father but is from the world.” God has led Israel out of the world, but all of the desires of the world are bearing down on them. They are trapped by these desires with no where to go. Like Israel, God is calling us out of the world (not physically but spiritually). But, we are trapped by all that is in the world. We are to fear not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord. But, what is this salvation?
After Moses told Israel to look for the salvation of the Lord, in Exodus 14:15-16, God said to Moses, “Why do you cry to me? Tell the people of Israel to go forward. Lift up your staff, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, that the people of Israel may go through the sea on dry ground.”
The phrases “over the sea and divide it” and “on dry ground” should immediately send us back to day three of creation in Genesis 1, which I wrote about in Creation: A Witness to Jesus. On day three, the seas were gathered and the dry ground appeared. In that post, I wrote that this was a picture of Jesus’ baptism and that the dry ground appearing was the resurrected Jesus coming forth.
After God told this to Moses, “Then the angel of God who was going before the host of Israel moved and went behind them, and the pillar of cloud moved from before them and stood behind them, coming between the host of Egypt and the host of Israel.” (Exodus 14:19-20)
The angel of God is Jesus, and the pillar of cloud is the Holy Spirit. They had been leading Israel on the journey through the wilderness, on the king’s highway. But, when Israel was trapped by the world and told to go forward by God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit moved from leading Israel to standing between Israel and Egypt. Jesus and the Holy Spirit come between Israel and the lusts of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, all that is in the world, the host of Egypt.
Then Moses lifted up his staff, the sea was made dry land, and the waters were divided. Israel went through the midst of the sea on dry ground.
Instead of taking Israel to the promised land on the way of Philistines, the path of war, God took Israel on the path through the wilderness, the king’s highway. And, the king’s highway led right into the Red Sea where the waters were divided and Israel walked through on dry ground.
Are you seeing what the king’s highway is?Are you seeing the path to the promised land, the place of rest?
Paul tells us exactly what the crossing of the Red Sea was in 1 Corinthians 10:1-2, “For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.” The crossing of the Red Sea was Israel’s baptism.
Baptism is the sign, the symbol, that we have died with Jesus. Romans 6:3 says, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” Israel’s crossing of the Red Sea is a picture of all believers being baptized into Christ and into his death. The crossing of the Red Sea is a picture of the believer picking up his own cross and dying to himself. As Paul says in Galatians 6:14, “But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”
When Israel had safely cross through the Red Sea on dry ground, Exodus 14:30 says, “Thus the Lord saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians.” In their baptism, Israel beheld the salvation of the Lord, as Moses had said. The same is true for us. Paul says in Romans 6:4, “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in the newness of life.”
So, what is the king’s highway? What is God’s road to victory?
The Cross! Crucifixion! Death!
Not warring or killing but dying!
God could have led Israel and us out of Egypt, out of the ways of the world, through a path of war, the way of the Philistines.
But God says no to that way. Instead, God led Israel on a path through the wilderness, the king’s highway. Who is the king? Jesus! Jesus’ path to life was through death, through the cross. Jesus defeated death through death.
1 Corinthians 15:54-57 says, “‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’ ‘O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Jesus won the victory for us on the cross. God gives us the victory when we come to Jesus, pick our own cross, and die to our self and the world.
God’s road to victory is the king’s highway not the way of the Philistines. God’s road to rest is the cross, the way of Jesus, the king. God’s road life is death not war.
One final point. After Israel’s victory, Moses and Israel sang a song. Part of the song says, “The Lord is a man of war; the Lord is his name.” (Exodus 15:3)
Oh, how we love to take that verse out of context of the whole Bible. Oh, how we love to use that verse to justify our own violence and the lusts of our flesh, the lusts of our eyes, and the pride of our life. James 4:1-3 tells us that this is precisely where strife, fights, and war comes from.
Oh, how we love to take the statement “the Lord is a man of war” out of the context of Jesus. God speaks through Jesus now. Jesus is the exact image of God. Jesus, the crucified Christ, is the lens through which we must read the entire Bible.
How did Jesus wage “war”? On the cross. By dying. Through weakness.
The true path to Canaan, the promised land, eternal life, is not though war. The true path is through the cross and death to all that is in the world.
This is how we fear not, stand still, and behold the salvation of the Lord.
God says to go forward into the Red Sea, into your baptism, into your death to yourself and the world.
Be crucified with Christ!
Jesus is the way!