EXODUS 13 and 14
“Out of Egypt have I called my son” – said the Lord (Hosea 11:1; Matthew 2:15). Israel was God’s adopted son, his Firstborn (Exodus 4:22), and when Pharaoh continued to hold that ‘son’ captive, the Lord punished him by putting the firstborn of Egypt to death, rescuing Israel in the process. All the firstborn in Israel now belonged to the Lord and so he expected the nation to make a gesture of consecration of their firstborn from that time onwards.
Thousands of years later, Mary’s firstborn son, Jesus, was similarly presented in accordance with that same law (Luke 2:7; 22-23). Acceptable animals, such as lambs, were literally sacrificed to God, but humans were not, being substituted with lambs or doves or pigeons. This was called ‘redemption’. We, of course, have been redeemed eternally from punishment, by the sacrifice of Jesus, the Lamb of God.
The journey from Egypt into the desert was fast and tiring; Moses brought our Joseph’s bones in a casket, in fulfilment of the promise that had been made to him at the time. The people set out briskly and purposefully, guided by a pillar of cloud or of fire, which was the visible presence of God – ‘The Angel of the Lord’. He then turned them back to travel in the direction they had come from and to camp on the edge of ‘the Sea’. This was almost certainly NOT the Red Sea; the phrase used is ‘Yam Suph’, or ‘Sea of Reeds’ (which do not grow in salt water). More probably Israel crossed the southern end of Lake Menzaleh, whose waters were very deep.
Israel was therefore soon caught in a ‘funnel’ of land, surrounded on most sides by the waters and with the Egyptians at the ‘mouth’ of that funnel, cutting them off on the landward side. Again, God had hardened Pharaoh’s heart and Pharaoh was determined not ever to let those slaves get loose again! Seeing the approaching Egyptian army, the Israelites were, discouraged, to say the least. Moses, however, answered them with the famous words: ‘Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today…The Lord will fight for you’. Sometimes when we seem to be trapped, God is in the next moment about to do something amazing to deliver us; so just stand still and wait for him to act!
Whilst the pillar of cloud/fire provided a diversion, and the Lord parted the sea/lake with a powerful wind, the Israelites ran between the two walls of water all that night and arrived at the other shore. By then the Egyptian army was squarely in the middle and seemed to be having mechanical problems with nearly all their chariots! At daybreak, from the opposite shore, Moses waved his staff and the walls of water crunched together like the jaws of a gigantic vice, trapping, and then drowning the helpless army! (Those liberal scholars who claim that Israel simply waded across some convenient shallows might find that last bit rather hard to explain!)