Israel’s crossing of the Red Sea is noted multiple times in the Bible, with the main section of information about that event found in Exodus chapter fourteen. There are some great lessons to learn from that unforgettable incident.
At the Red Sea, we see a fearful people. The children of Israel had been slaves in Egypt for hundreds of years. After the last of ten devastating plagues, Pharaoh charged Israel to leave Egypt. So, they began their journey toward the land which God had promised to give to the offspring of Abraham. As they came to the Red Sea, what did they see behind them? Pharaoh’s army was coming in hot pursuit of them. What was the Israelites’ response? “So they were very afraid, and the children of Israel cried out to the LORD” (Exodus 14:10).
What was it that Israel feared? Dying. What accompanied their fear? Complaining and foolish words, as we see in Exodus 14:11,12: “Then they said to Moses, “Because there were no graves in Egypt, have you taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you so dealt with us, to bring us up out of Egypt? Is this not the word that we told you 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 the wilderness.”
When people are afraid, they may say silly, hurtful, faithless things . . . the Israelites did. Did they not recall how Jehovah had protected them in Egypt during the ten plagues and had safely brought them thus far?! God does not want His children to have the spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1:7), and He certainly does not want us to be complainers (Philippians 2:14).
What else do we see at the Red Sea? There was the dividing of the waters and a separation. The Psalmist said this about God’s activity there: “He divided the sea and caused them to pass through; and He made the waters stand up like a heap” (Psalm 78:13). On that occasion, there was a clear distinction in how the Lord dealt with the Israelites and how He dealt with the Egyptians: “To Him who divided the Red Sea in two . . . And made Israel to pass through the midst of it . . . But overthrew Pharaoh and his army in the Red Sea (Psalm 136:13-15).
Who decided that it all should play out as it did? God did. Who made it (the dividing of the sea, safe passage of Israel, death of the soldiers in the sea) happen? God did. It was not an accident. It was not “Mother Nature” at work. It was a miracle. It happened when and how God wanted it to take place (Exodus 14:16,19-27). Jehovah was in charge!
This incident reminds us that God has the whole world in His hands. The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof (Psalm 24:1). Jehovah used the water of the flood to cover the earth in Noah’s day. He used frogs, flies, and hail to plague Egypt. He caused Israel to cross the Jordan River on dry land. He used a draught to bring His people to their knees in the days of the prophet Elijah. He is a mighty God, indeed!
In the big picture of things, what did Israel’s crossing of the Red Sea accomplish? It completed the Israelites’ deliverance from Egypt, and it got them on their way to the land of Canaan so God could fulfill the land promise He had made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Genesis 12:7; 15:13- 16). And did you know that other nations heard how the mighty God of Israel dried up the waters of the Red Sea and delivered His people? Rahab later said that when such news spread to the Canaanite people, their hearts melted because of Jehovah’s mighty power! (Joshua 2:8-12).
At the Red Sea, we see the salvation of God. When the Israelites trembled as they saw the army of Pharaoh bearing down on them, Moses charged them, “Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will accomplish for you today” (Exodus 14:13). What does the Bible say about what occurred? “So the LORD saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians . . .” (Exodus 14:30). After safely passing through the Red Sea, the Israelites praised God in song, proclaiming, “The LORD is my strength and song. And He has become my salvation; He is my God, and I will praise Him . . .” (Exodus 15:2).
In this case, “the salvation of God” resulted in the deliverance of Israel. What factors were involved?
- God’s power (Psalm 106:2,9-11)
- God’s mercy/kindness (Psalm 136:1,11-14)
- Moses’ rod (Exodus 14:15,16,21,26,27)
- The waters of the sea (Exodus 14:27,28)
- Israel’s faith (Hebrews 11:29)
One final thing we see at the Red Sea is the children of Israel showing fear again. The first time it was fear of dying at the hands of the Egyptians. This second fear, however, was a good type. Here is what is recorded after Israel safely crossed the sea: “Thus Israel saw the great work which the LORD had done in Egypt; so the people feared the LORD, and believed the LORD and His servant Moses” (Exodus 14:31). With the Israelites’ fear came faith, full acceptance of Moses’ leadership, and praise of God. It is proper for all people everywhere to have a healthy respect for the Lord God (Ecclesiastes 12:13).
May we all stand in awe of God’ amazing power, His infinite wisdom, and His great care for His people.
— Roger D. Campbell