1 . Exodus 15:2-5 , "The Lord is my strength," to "They sank into the bottom as a stone."
2 . Exodus 15:6-10 ," Thy right hand, O Lord," to "They sank like lead in the mighty waters."
3 . Exodus 15:11-12 , "Who is like unto Thee, O Lord," to "The earth swallowed them." The first verse stands separate from the whole, as an introduction, and at the same time as the refrain. Moses and a chorus of men commenced their chant with it, and probably proceeded to the end of Exodus 15:5 , when Miriam, with the Hebrew women, interposed with a repetition of the refrain (see Exodus 15:21 ). The chant of the males was resumed and carried to the close of Exodus 15:10 , when again the refrain came in. It was further repeated after Exodus 15:12 ; and once moral at the close of the whole "song." Similar refrains, or burdens, are found in Egyptian melodies
A man of war . A strong anthropomorphism, but one that could scarcely be misunderstood—"a man of war," meaning commonly "a warrior," or "one mighty in battle" ( Psalms 24:8 ). God's might had just been proved, in that he alone had discomfited and destroyed the most potent armed force in the whole world. The Lord is his name. Jehovah—the alone-existing One "truly describes him," before whom all other existence fades and falls into nothingness. On the full meaning of the name, see the comment on Exodus 3:14 .
The song of Moses a pattern thanksgiving.
There is nothing in the whole range of sacred or profane literature more fresh, more vigorous, more teeming with devotional thought than this wonderful poem. In rhythm it is grand and sonorous, in construction skilful and varied, in the quality of the thoughts lofty, in the mode of expression at once simple and sublime. Partly historic, partly prophetic, it describes the past with marvellous power, and gives with a few touches a glorious picture of the future. Throughout it breathes the warmest love of God, the deepest thankfulness to him, the strongest regard for his honour. We may well take it for our model when we have to thank God:—
I. FOR A TEMPORAL DELIVERANCE ; and observe
(a) distinct and repeated enunciation of the deliverance itself, with expatiation on its circumstances;
(b) anticipation of further advantages to flow from the deliverance in the future;
(c) transition from the particular mercy to the consideration of God's power, greatness and goodness in the abstract; and
(d) glorification of God on all three accounts.
(a) beginning and ending with praise;
(b) intermixture of the praise with the grounds of praise;
(c) persistence and repetition, but with the introduction of new touches.
(b) discontinuous, or broken into stanzas;
Our thanksgivings for great national or even great personal deliverances may well, if our powers suffice, take a poetic shape. Poetry is more expressive than prose, more heart-stirring, more enthusiastic. It is also better remembered, and it is less diffuse.
II. FOR SPIRITUAL DELIVERANCE FROM THE EGYPT OF SIN . Each man's deliverance will have its own peculiar features, which he will do well to note and make special subjects of thankfulness, not sparing repetition, that he may present the matter to himself in various lights, and see all God's goodness in respect of it. Each deliverance will also lead naturally to prospective thoughts, extending beyond the wilderness of this life to the Canaan which is our inheritance. Each will profitably lead us to go beyond ourselves, and dwell for a while on the general attributes of God, whence proceed the mercies that we individually experience; and we shall do well to praise God on all these accounts. Manner and form are of less importance than matter, and admit of more variety without sensible loss; but even here "the song" furnishes a pattern on which it would be hard to improve. The grounds for preferring poetry to prose for such an outpouring of the heart as a thanksgiving have been already stated. The propriety of beginning and ending with praise is unquestionable. Repetition has a value as deepening impressions, and affording opportunity for remedying accidental coldness or inattention. In private devotion the actual repetition of the very same words has an occasional place, as we see by our Lord's example in the garden of Gethsemane ( Matthew 26:44 ); but in a composition, phrases should be varied. Moses's song may well guide us as to the extent and character of such variation ( e.g; Exodus 15:5 , Exodus 15:10 , and Exodus 15:12 ).
The sublimity of this noble ode is universally admitted. It brings Moses before us in the new character of "poet." Moses does not seem to have devoted himself largely to this species of composition; but the three specimens of his work which remain to us—this ode, his "Song" and "Blessing" in Deuteronomy, and Psalms 90:1-17 .—show him to have possessed a poetical genius of the very highest order; to have been as great as poet, as we know him to have been as warrior, leader, statesman, legislator, historian, patriot, and saint. The grandest features of poetry belong to the thrilling piece before us. It is the magnificent outburst of the feeling of uncontrollable triumph, awakened by the sight of the overthrow of the Egyptians in the Red Sea, and by the sense of deliverance and safety thence resulting. The language quakes and thunders in keeping with the grandeur of the theme. The presentation of the ideas is in the highest degree picturesque. The strokes of imagery are masterpieces—the whole scene of defeat and disaster being repeatedly revealed, as by lurid lightning-flashes, in single sentences, and even single words. The movement is rapid, rhythmical, inspiring. The art displayed in the minutiae of literary construction is very great, while in all, and through all, pervading, as its energising soul, every syllable and stanza of the composition, is the spirit of adoring awe and wonder, blending with gratitude, which ascribes all the greatness, and honour, and renown, of the victory to Jehovah. We have to touch at present, however, less on the literary beauties than on the religious teaching of the ode; and the nature of this, after what has been said on Psalms 14:1-7 ; admits of being briefly indicated.
1 . Natural. Adoring and exultant feeling naturally passes into song. It seeks expression. It tends to become rhythmical. It unites itself with music. Like mountain torrents, tearing down to the plain, and cutting their channels as they flow, pent-up emotion of this kind will not be denied utterance, and if suitable channels of rhythmical expression are not provided for it, will cut out channels for itself.
2 . Appropriate. It was right that, having experienced this great deliverance, the children of Israel should give utterance, in strains of praise, to the feelings of wonder, gratitude, and adoration with which it inspired them. It was due to God, and it would be beneficial in its reactive effects upon themselves. The duty of praise for benefits received is one to which no religious mind can be indifferent. If God has gifted us with the faculty of song, it is right that the first use we make of it should be to extol his goodness. See the Psalms ( Psalms 92:1 ; Psalms 98:1 ; Psalms 105:1 , Psalms 105:2 ; Psalms 111:1 ; etc.).
3 . Elevating. The faculty of song is not merely one of the faculties of our nature. It is connected with that which is deepest in us. When the Psalmist bids his faculty of song awake, he speaks of it as his "glory."—"Awake up, my glory" ( Psalms 57:8 ; cf. Psalms 16:9 ; Psalms 30:12 ). It is Carlyle who says—"All deep things are musical." Song, in its higher reaches, unites all the faculties of the soul in consentaneous exercise—heart, intellect, conscience, the religious nature, imagination, the artistic and tuneful sentiments, the social feelings. It arouses, elevates, fructifies, enkindles. It awakens the spirit to the sense of its own infinitude; fills it with scorn of what is base; attunes and harmonises it to what is noble. We do well, therefore, to cultivate the faculty of song; to exercise it in public and in private worship; to make it the daily vehicle of the expression of our religious feelings. "Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns," etc. ( Ephesians 5:19 ). See that the melody is from the heart, yet with the understanding also ( 1 Corinthians 14:15 ).
II. THE TRIUMPH DESCRIBED (verses 3-13). The quick, abrupt, vivid language of the ode brings the whole scene of Pharaoh's pursuit and destruction before us, almost as if it were transacting in our sight. The hot, breathless, intensely eager pursuit is depicted in verse 9, but it is chiefly the destruction that is dwelt on, and dwelt on in such terms, with the use of such similes, and in such relations of contrast to the proud monarch's insolence and boasting, as limns it with photographic distinctness on the mental vision. The design in the description being to exalt and glorify God's power in the overthrow, the points chiefly exhibited are these—
1 . The ease of this destruction. It is done in an instant, and without effort. In striking contrast with Pharaoh's paraphernalia of war, with his savage exertions in pursuit, and with his elaborate drawing out of his purposes in verse 9—" I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil," etc.—God simply blows with his wind, and the enemy is annihilated. "Thou didst blow with thy wind; the sea covered them; they sank as lead in the mighty waters" (verse 10). A movement of his hand, a blast of his nostrils, a solitary waft from the heat of his anger, suffices to destroy them.
2 . The swiftness of it. This, which was a most impressive feature of the overthrow, is brought out in various images. "The depths have covered them; they sank to the bottom as a stone , they sank as lead in the mighty waters" (verses 5-10).
3 . The fatality of it. The destruction was complete. There was no recovery from it. Horse and chariot and charioteer; the chosen captains; the whole array of Pharaoh's military strength—all went down in one swift, fell swoop, to the sea-bottom. "Thy right hand, O Lord, hath dashed in pieces the enemy " (verse 6). Pondering these images, we cannot but be impressed by the folly, the insanity, as well as the futility, of all attempts at contending with the Almighty.
III. THE ATTRIBUTES OF GOD AS REVEALED IN THE TRIUMPH . These, naturally, are made conspicuous in the ode. It was Jehovah, not Israel, who had achieved the triumph; and to Jehovah, accordingly, was all the praise due. Further, the design in the transaction had been precisely this: to display the character of God as Jehovah, and give a new demonstration of his possession of the attributes denoted by the name Jah (verses 2, 3). The attributes of Jehovah specially extolled are—
1 . Power . "Thy right hand, O Lord, is become glorious in power" (verse 6). The greatness of this power is seen by its being measured against the military might of Pharaoh, which thereby becomes a foil to it: another measure being found in the might and fury of the elements which it controls—winds, mighty waters, etc. Its resistlessness is seen in the suddenness and decisiveness of the overthrow.
2 . Supremacy (verses 11-18). This attribute, which is of the very essence of the Jehovah conception, was signally illustrated in the Red Sea catastrophe ( Psalms 135:6 ). Not only was God therein revealed as absolute Ruler in the domain of nature, but it was shown how Pharaoh himself, pursuing his own end, was yet bent to be an instrument in accomplishing God's; how, when he thought he was freest, and most certain of victory, God had the hook in his jaws, and was leading all his host straight into the grave prepared for him; how, accordingly, God is Supreme Ruler in the moral as well as in the natural world, in the region of human wills as well as in that of natural causation.
3 . Holiness . The holiness of God, burning like fire among stubble, and utterly consuming the hosts of the enemy, is justly celebrated in these verses (verse 7). God was revealed as "glorious in holiness" (verse 13); and because he was so, Israel was filled with awe in his presence (verse 13), and his habitation is spoken of as an "holy habitation" (verse 13), a sanctuary (verse 17).
4 . Mercy . This is the other side of the transaction of the Red Sea—the side of deliverance, as the former was of judgment, and mention is made of it in verses 2, 13. Here, then, is a wonderful constellation of Divine attributes—exhibited, too, not in word, but in suitable action, in deeds which gave them embodiment, and impressive manifestation. They are the same attributes which have been at work all down history, operating for the good of the Church, and for the overthrow of evil.
IV. THE EFFECTS OF THE TRIUMPH (verses 13-18). It is viewed—
1 . As inspiring fear in the surrounding nations, in Edom, in Moab, among the Philistines, and other inhabitants of Canaan. Every powerful manifestation of God's attributes is fitted to awaken terror among his enemies, and actually does so. Results similar to those here described will follow the great predicted judgments on the last representatives of Anti-christianism ( Revelation 11:13 ). The nations who heard of Israel's deliverance would have reason to fear, for their position exposed them to risk of attack, and Canaan was actually the destination of the tribes. This may suggest to us that if Israel had gone up to conquer these tribes, at the time when God wished them, they would not have found the conquest so hard as their fears represented. The Philistines and Canaanites were "melted" with terror: they were paralysed by their fears, and "still as a stone" (verses 15, 16). Yet, through the unbelief and cowardice of the attacking force, this great opportunity was missed.
2 . As a pledge that God would complete the work he had begun, and would ultimately "plant them in the mountain of his inheritance" (verses 13-17). In several of the expressions, the tenses are past, as though the thing prophesied were already as good as done. This also is an apostle's mode of arguing—God who has done the greater, will not now fail to do the less, and perfect the work he has begun ( Romans 5:9 , Romans 5:10 ; Romans 8:32 ; Philippians 1:6 ). Mark in this ode the designation of Israel as a redeemed, a purchased people (verse 13)—the Red Sea deliverance being viewed as a second purchasing of Israel by God to himself.— J . O .
The song of Moses and of the Lamb.
We cannot fail to connect in our thoughts the circumstances of this magnificent triumph-celebration with that other scene, described in the Apocalypse, where they who have "gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over the number of his name, stand on— i.e; on the margin of—the sea of glass, having the harps of God," and "sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb" ( Revelation 15:2 ). We do not enter into any elaborate explication of the Apocalyptic symbols. The beast and his followers obviously represent the Antichristian foes of the Church—the worldly secular powers that resist, oppose, and persecute the true servants of Christ. God's judgment on these hostile world-powers, already summarily depicted in Exodus 14:19 , Exodus 14:20 , is to be afterwards more fully described under the imagery of the seven last plagues. This vision of the multitudes on the sea of glass is anticipative, and represents the celebration by the Church of her own deliverance, and of the completion of judgment upon her enemies. The "sea of glass" has obvious reference to the Red Sea, made to roll back, and stand up like a sea of crystal ( Exodus 14:8 ), yet illuminated and filled with lurid radiance, by the fiery glow of the pillar which shone on Israel. The "sea" is the symbol (in this instance) of deliverance achieved, of victory won, of enemies judged and overwhelmed—the fire in the crystal pointing to the burning wrath which consumed them. But what we have immediately to do with is the fact that the saved multitudes sing the "song of Moses, and of the Lamb." This plainly does not mean that they sing two songs ; nor yet that the song which they sing is the song recorded here; for the terms of what they sing are subsequently given ( Revelation 15:3 , Revelation 15:4 ). The meaning is that the Church, having experienced a deliverance similar to that experienced by Israel at the Red Sea, but as much greater than that old deliverance, as Christ is greater than Moses, and his salvtion greater than the salvation from Egypt,—the old song is re-cast, and its terms re-adapted, to express both victories at once, the lower and the higher. The old is taken up into the new and is celebrated along with it. No victory of God for his Church will ever pass out of remembrance. Each will be the theme of grateful celebration to all eternity. But type must merge in antitype, and be celebrated with it in a single strain. The song of the redeemed over the defeat of the Antichristian powers at the end—over the defeat of all their enemies—is the true counterpart of this song of Moses, and the one (the latter) remains for ever the background of the other (the former), and is blended with it in the united celebration. Glancing at the two songs, this in Exodus, and that in the Revelation, we note—
1 . That the scope of both is the same—the defeat of hostile, pursuing, persecuting powers. And as the defeat of Pharaoh was the natural sequel to the exodus, and confirmed to Israel that redemption then achieved, so will the defeat of Christ's enemies in the end appear as the appropriate sequel to his work upon the Cross, and will complete the deliverance of his Church from those that trouble her ( 2 Thessalonians 1:6 ).
2 . That the attributes of God extolled in both are the same. This of necessity, for the work being similar, so must be the attributes revealed in it—holiness, power, unchallengeable supremacy, justice and truth, which here include mercy. "Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty," etc. ( Revelation 15:3 ). The effects produced on the nations by this display of God's attributes are also similar—"who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name … for all nations shall come and worship before thee." A higher result this, however, than in the case of the type.
3 . The singers in both cases are the same—those viz. who have experienced the deliverance which they celebrate. Would we join them? We, too, must be in Christ, and partakers with those who, in the strength which he gives, are overcoming the world ( 1 John 4:4 ).— J . O .
The song of triumph-God exalted in the lips of the people.
This song we may take as being in some measure the result and expression of the state of feeling mentioned in Exodus 14:31 . People who feared Jehovah and believed in him were very likely, in such a rush of feeling, to sing as did the Israelites here: at the same time we must be careful not to rest content with attributing this song merely to natural causes . There is no need to deny the presence of genius; if only we bear in mind at the same time, that it is genius elevated and sanctified by the inspiration which Jehovah alone can give. Who else than God himself can lead into a true acquaintance with him? and if they who thus know him would speak of him and sing of him, it must he with such an arrangement of thoughts and choice of expressions as he alone can supply. The history of hymnology makes it very evident that genius is not enough for distinction in this sacred service. Poems full of genius, and almost faultless in form, are yet worthless for praise. For in this as other matters God has taken the weak things of the world to confound the things that are mighty, lie puts the holy and eternal fire on lips that the world despises. They who have made the praises of the Church have not been the writers of epics; they are not found among the poets-laureate; and so here we must look for the power of God as much in the construction of this song, as in the production of the events it celebrates. We are called on to observe him who somehow makes men to utter even more than they know. It may be needful at the proper time to consider this as a contribution to Hebrew poetry; it is better still ever to remember it as a contribution to the worthy praise of God, that praise which while it celebrates him, instructs and ennobles the man who renders it. The question of authorship here, bear in mind, is not to be settled right off by saying that Moses composed it. He and the people sang it, but who composed it is quite another question. And that this point is left undetermined only throws us back more on the thought of God as the great agent in bringing this song into existence. As to the topics treated of in the song , the very fact that there have been so many different ways of dividing it, makes one more disposed to consider it in its unity, without any attempt to divide it into sections at all. Thus then let us notice in succession the dominant truths and convictions which run through the song. The first point is the exaltation of God amongst his people. This is the word with which the song begins. " I will sing unto Jehovah, for he is highly exalted."
I. NOTICE THE FACT THAT THERE IS EXALTATION OF GOD . God, in ruling the composition of this song, takes care of this most important point. It was the very point that needed to be brought out in all its prominence, so that no man should be exalted instead of God. Men exalt one another. They are constituted so as to admire that which is great and powerful, and when they are not men of faith, able to comprehend the greatness of the invisible God, their admiration must needs expend itself on the visible man. All temptation of this kind is here kept out of the way. The feeling that Jehovah is exalted runs all through the song. Everything is ascribed to him. Moses himself makes no claim, expects no praise. The people do not gather round him and hail him as deliverer. The tone of the praise is thus in perfect harmony with the deed that has been done. God becomes practically everything and man nothing. For what had Israel done here ? They had indeed walked down to the Red Sea, through it, and on to the other side, but no one who regards the proprieties of language would speak of this as contributing to their salvation. We do not praise a man for availing himself of the conditions of safety. Thus we have a type of the way in which God is exalted and glorified in spiritual salvation. When we consider what has to be done in saving a man from his sins; and when we consider also the manifestations, so abundant, so transcendent, of God's power in doing so, then how plainly incongruous it is to begin praising man for that simple act of faith by which he avails himself of God's goodness in Christ. The more we consider, the more we shall feel that whatever praise man may deserve is better left to God to express. By all means let us have brotherly appreciation for brotherly kindness; brotherly gratitude encouraging brotherly love. But God only can praise rightly. Though nothing is said of Moses in this song, God took ample care of the fame and reward of his faithful servant. We had better keep to that which God requires from us, namely, praise to himself. As he requires it, so we inky be sure he will fit us to render it.
II. THE EXALTATION OF JEHOVAH IS AN EXALTATION TO SUPREMACY . He is supreme over physical force in one of its most imposing forms. "The horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea." Perhaps those who have had to meet a charge of cavalry in the battle-field can best appreciate this expression. Jehovah is a man of war, and he goes out with strange weapons against great kings and their chosen captains; weapons which they cannot understand and cannot meet. He does not meet sword with sword, and chariot with chariot; the elements of nature are at his instant and entire command. In his hand the mightiest are as nothing . What is the excellency of Pharaoh, even though he be king of Egypt, before the greatness of the excellency of Jehovah? The answer is that as stubble before the fire, so is opposing man before Almighty God. "What a wind that must be, that strong east wind which raises waters, even from the deep, and keeps them when they are raised!" So we imagine man speaking in his inevitable submission to the powers of nature when they are roused. But when God has to speak of the east wind, it is as of something which comes as easily as a blast from the nostrils. True, this expression is chiefly used to indicate his wrath; but it also indicates the ease—if ease be a fitting word to use of Jehovah—with which his work is done. In Exodus 14:9 , man is represented as resolving and rushing forth in the utmost confidence; anticipating the end from the beginning; certain of his resources and certain of the result, and then as he advances in all his pride and ostentation, God meets him in equal simplicity and sublimity. " Thou didst blow with thy breath , the sea covered them; they sank as lead in the mighty waters." One breath from God, and the mightiest fabric goes down like a house of cards! Man accumulates his resources, he strains with prodigious efforts, he gathers his forces without mercy and without scruple; and then when all is in array, God calmly lifts his right hand, and the earth swallows the preparation and the pride of years.
III. THERE IS THE EXALTATION OF GOD ABOVE ALL OTHER DEITIES WORSHIPPED BY MEN . "Who is like unto thee, O Jehovah, among the gods?" This, of course, is also an illustration of Jehovah's exaltation to supremacy. Moses and the Israelites had not attained the feeling that all other deities than Jehovah were but empty and delusive names. That discovery was reserved in the wisdom of God for later and prepared generations. The feeling that the gods of the nations were real beings with terrible power, was very potent in the breasts of the Israelites, as was evidenced by their frequent and facile lapses into idolatry. Therefore this uplifting of Jehovah above the gods was most appropriate praise to put into the lips of Israel at this time. The gods of Egypt represented the strength of Egypt; the gods of Philistia the strength of Philistia; the gods of every country the strength of every country where they were worshipped. When the strength of a land was broken, it was like writing Ichabod on the statue of its presiding deity.
IV. THIS WAS AN EXALTATION IN SUPREMACY WHICH EXTENDED TO THE FUTURE . God, shown supreme in the midst of his people and over their enemies, will maintain and manifest that supremacy in all the time to come. The calamities of Egypt travelling, as it had done, in the path of ten humiliations, and now utterly overthrown, are to be made known in Philistia, in Edom, in Moab, and all through Canaan. Here we flint some explanation of the apprehension with which the progress of Israel was afterwards viewed, as by the Edomites and Balak. The Israelites came to be looked on to some extent as a peculiar foe. The utter destruction of a whole army in the Red Sea was not an event which could be kept in a corner. God had now done something for Israel which enemies might notice as a measure and an index of what would yet be done. Then from the mention of these typical enemies. Philistia, Moab, etc; we are led to consider the abiding enemies of God ' s abiding people , those invisible ones who are fully known only to God himself. They have some sense that what has been done by Jesus against them is the measure of what will yet be done. Just as the Philistines felt the sound of Pharaoh's destruction echoing against their fastnesses, and even in the very echo, shaking them, so we may be sure the principalities and powers of evil felt the greatness of what had been achieved when Christ was raised from the dead. That great act of Jehovah has been far more appreciated in the invisible world, among the powers of evil, than it is among us. They cannot but feel what the end will be. What forgetting fools the Israelites were in after ages, to act in contradiction to this exultant song of praise, trembling and fleeing before the nations that were round about.— Y .
The song of triumph.
The sense of Israel ' s obligation to Jehovah fully expressed . God, we have noticed, is lifted up in this song. We now proceed to observe how he is lifted up in the midst of his people, whom he encompasses with his protection, whom he cheers and illuminates with his favour. His destruction is not mere destruction; his supremacy is not only over his enemies, but also as the guide, the comforter, and the portion of his own. Hence we discover almost immediately on breaking into the song, how Israel is found expressing complete dependence on Jehovah.
I. THERE IS THE EXPRESSION OF INDEBTEDNESS . God has come to Israel in its suffering, need, and helplessness. Israel is weak, and God gives the strength it needs. Israel is sad-hearted, and God enables it to burst forth in songs of gladness. Israel is in peril, and God has interposed with effectual and abiding salvation. He has not only supplied some needs, but all needs wherein Israel was able to receive his aid. More needs would have been supplied, if more had been felt; more causes of gratitude given, if more could have been brought into operation. God is now felt to be a guide ( Exodus 15:13 ), and the land that was thought to fasten the people in, now takes its right place in the memory of the devout as an evident part of the highway of God's holy ones. What expressions of indebtedness could be more complete? It was impossible to exaggerate the debt, and God took care that the words of the song should not fall short in acknowledging it. Thus let it ever be our aim to thank God for his goodness to us, in such words as he supplies, and fill his forms full with the devotion of meditative and observant hearts.
II. THIS EXPRESSION IS A PERSONAL ONE . The word " I " stands out prominently. The song was not only for a delivered nation, but for a nation in whose deliverance every individual was blessed. It was emphatically a song for every Israelite. God had done all this for Israel, not that he might have a nation for his own to be looked at in the mass, averaged over the whole, the good along with the bad; it was to be a nation made up of holy, obedient, and grateful individuals. Even already, God is indicating that his true people must be bound to him by personal attachment and service. Pharaoh had said in his haste and thoughtlessness, " I and my people are wicked" ( Exodus 9:27 ). Here Jehovah gives something for each one of his own people to say; and if each of them labours to say it with a feeling corresponding to the words, then indeed there will come an outburst from the nation such as could not in any other way be produced.
III. THIS EXPRESSION BEING PERSONAL , IS ALSO AN EXPRESSION AS TO THE SOURCE OF PERSONAL ABILITY . "The Lord is my strength." The strength of a believer just amounts to that which God puts into him according to his need and according to his faith. Bring to God as many vessels as you will, and if it be wise to fill them, then God can fill them all. Learn that the natural strength of man, even at its best, is inadequate for some purposes and uncertain for any. It breaks down, often without warning and without recovery. Therefore it is a great matter for me to feel that "the Lord is my strength." He himself comes in, not to supplement human efforts, nor to fill up human defects, but rather to make his presence felt with men in the choosing of right purposes , and the carrying of them out to a full and satisfying attainment. The Israelite had been nothing in himself; nothing as against the tyranny of Pharaoh in Egypt; nothing as against the pursuing chariots by the Red Sea. And now all at once he is able to sing as if he were a portion and a factor of Omnipotence.
IV. THIS EXPRESSION BEING PERSONAL IS ALSO AN EXPRESSION AS TO THE SOURCE OF PERSONAL GLADNESS . "The Lord is my song." From him comes real and abiding gladness, such gladness as becomes man at his best estate. The world has its great singers, and what it reckons imperishable songs. Each nation has its own patriotic effusions, and excited and often half-drunken crowds will roar themselves hoarse over national anthems. There are love songs, drinking songs, war songs, and all that great number besides which elude classification. It would be foolish indeed of the Christian, in his haste, to despise these productions, for many of them are very beautiful, and they have an unquestionable and not astonishing hold on the general heart. But after all, we must escape into higher and holier associations, and dwell in them, if we would have gladness, such as will satisfy. The Lord must be our song . He, in his attributes, his actions, and the history of his dealings with the children of men, must be the topic of our praise. The great thing to make each of us glad must be that our minds are kept in perfect peace because they are stayed upon him. All other gladness, sweet as it may be in the beginning, will prove bitter, perhaps very bitter, in the end. Nor was Jehovah any less the song of every true Israelite here, because he was shown acting in such a stern, uncompromising way. The people had to praise God for an actual, present, and overwhelming mercy; and if they had to sing of destruction, that was a necessity not to be escaped. True, there is no word of pity all the way through this song for the destroyed host of Pharaoh, simply because it was not the place for such an expression. The thing to be here expressed and dwelt upon is praise to Jehovah, because of the greatness and completeness of the Divine action. And what an impressive contrast there is between the conduct of these Israelites when delivered and the conduct in the hour of victory, which only too many pages of history record, indeed, such conduct is not absent from the pages of the Old Testament itself. It was, of course, impossible, that any scene of butchery, pillage, and violation, could be presented to us here; but there is not even any tone of savage, revengeful ,exultation over the destroyed. Israel stands by the mighty waters, looks on the corpses of the Egyptians, and sends up this volume of undiluted, unqualified praise to Jehovah. Let us, for the moment, forget the personal unworthiness of the singers, their past unbelief, their future lapses into idolatry, rebellion, and self will. The words of praise here were the right words to speak; and at the time, we may be sure, many of them felt them. The words were true, the feeling real; the fault was that the singers did not continue to live so as to not the feeling more deeply in their breasts.
V. THIS EXPRESSION BEING PERSONAL , IS ALSO AN EXPRESSION AS TO THE SOURCE OF PERSONAL SAFETY . "He has become my salvation." There is thus an experience to dwell on that peculiarly inspires grateful acknowledgment. We are grateful to those who provide for us, who instruct us, who supply us with comforts and pleasures; but there is a peculiar tie to him who saves us in any hour of peril. God himself cannot but look with peculiar interest to those whom he has delivered; and the delivered should look with peculiar devotion to him. If it is much to create men and to provide for them in their natural existence, it is more still to save them from death and to give them eternal life in Christ; and thus God must look in a special way on those who believe and are being saved. And so also, if it is much to be created and much to be provided for, it is even more to be saved; to have the sure feeling that beyond this changing, corruptible scene, there is the house of God, not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. There are untold millions who owe existence and all their power of enjoyment to God, yet not one syllable of real thankfulness has ever passed their lips. But as to those who are saved, if they be truly in process of salvation, thankfulness is part of their life . Of this be perfectly sure, no salvation is going on if thankfulness for it be not in the heart and some sort of praise on the lip and in the life.
VI. In view of all that has thus been considered, it will be seen as a fitting consequence that JEHOVAH SHOULD BE DISTINCTLY SET FORTH AS WORTHY OF ADORATION AND HONOR . "He is my God and I will glorify him, my father's God and I will exalt him." My father ' s God . Here is the response, more or less appreciative, to all declarations in which Jehovah speaks of himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. True praise of God takes in the great historic past, yes, and also the past which is not historic; a past none the less real, none the less contributory to the present, even though there be no record of it such as we can read. Jehovah was deliverer to Israel that day by the Red Sea, because of what he had been to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob centuries before. What God is to each of us to-day, is possible because of what he was to our fathers long ago. Explore then and discover how present blessings are rooted in the past. This will not only be an interesting study, but will increase gratitude, and fix it more surely in the regions of the understanding.— Y .
Song of Moses and the Lamb.
"And they sing the song of Moses," etc. ( Revelation 15:3 ). It is quite impossible to sever in thought the song by the sea, and the reference in the Book of the Revelation. We therefore take for our text the words chosen, and in our homily keep ever in view—the passage of the sea.
I. THE SINGERS . "They that have gotten the victory." But conquerors must first have been soldiers. Here they are Christians who have become part of the Church militant by faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. Over what victorious'? As a matter of fact Christians are brought off more than conquerors over "the world, the flesh, and the devil." But in Revelation 15:2 , only "the world" is referred to; and of it only two constituents are mentioned: "the beast" and" the image" or likeness "of the beast." [On these and that "other beast" see Revelation 13:1-18 .; and for such exposition as is calculated to place the symbols in a reasonable light, see Porter's" Christian Prophecy:" Maclehose, Glasgow; and "The Apocalypse" by Prof. Godwin: Hodder and Stoughton.] The enemies overcome were, and ever are:—
1. Force : as directed against the Kingdom of God. The "beast" of Revelation 13:1-18 . is anti-theistic, or anti-Christian civil despotism, wherever found. Read Revelation 13:1-10 , with this idea in the mind, and the description is seen to be vividly true. Illustrations of battle and victory may be found in Egypt tyrannising over Israel, in early persecutions of the Christian Church. As soon as ever Christianity became a spiritual power conspicuous enough to attract attention, force set itself against it. So ever since down to martyr history in Madagascar. Note: there are instances now in which force, in varied forms, will set itself against the conscience. [The "mark" and "number" of the image are the signs, open or secret, of being identified with anti-theistic despotism.]
2 . Opinion . That which resembler godless government, viz. godless opinion, the tone of society, etc. This power of society against the Divine Kingdom, this pressure of opinion must have been terrible in Egypt. Felt to-day, not only at the "club," but in every workshop. One may add to this, not mentioned in Revelation 15:1-8 ; but in Revelation 13:1-18 ; "another beast," viz.:—
3 . Fraud . Specially as associated with "Priestcraft," whether of false religions, or of corrupted forms of Christianity. [For illustration of the despotism of Egyptian priestcraft, see Ebers' "Uarda."] This power seems mild as a lamb, with the speech of a dragon; rises out of the earth (does not descend from heaven); wields civil power for its own purpose (as in the case of Rome); pretends to miracle; gives power to anti-Christian public opinion; inflicts social wrong. How strong their enemies are, viz; anti-Christian government, anti-Christian public opinion, anti-Christian religion, every Christian comes sooner or later to know.
II. THEIR POSITION . "And I saw as it were a sea of glass," etc. Here note:—
1 . The sea . A sea of crystal flaked with fire. Such as we may sometimes see under light of setting sun. The symbol of the experience of life, i.e; of mingled mercy and judgment ( Psalms 101:1 ).
2 . The shore , i.e; the position of the victorious— ἐπὶ τὴν θάλασσαν —not in the sense of standing on the wave, but of an army encamped "upon the sea," i.e ; upon the shore.
3 . The allusion . To Israel on the eastern shore of the Red Sea.
4 . The reality in this symbol. The victorious redeemed Church, on the further side of the experience of life, singing the new and everlasting song.
III. THE SONG . It is "of Moses … and of the Lamb" A song like that of old, springing out of similar circumstances, celebrating a like deliverance. Here observe:—
1 . The place of Moses in relation to Christ. Moses is "the servant," etc. Incidental evidence of Christ's superiority and Deity. Christ is not a servant, save as he voluntarily took that position ( Philippians 2:7 ).
2 . The central place of the Lamb throughout the Book of the Revelation. Argument for the transcendent import of the Atonement.
The song is—
1 . One . Not two.
2 . Thankful . Some of the songs of earth are penitential, prayerful, plaintive.
3 . Of the Saved . From guilt, sin, darkness, sorrow. [Go into detail.] What a song it will be!
4 . Of the Free . The three despotisms of force, opinion, fraud, were left by Israel behind. So with the redeemed Church of God.
5 . Of the New-born . A new departure for Israel; the unending life before the Church triumphant.
6 . Of the Seers, who now see past all subordinate and second causes—past Moses—past even the Mediator Jesus, to the First Origin of all, "great and marvellous … Lord God Almighty ."
7 . A song of review . This is the final verdict, "Just and true," etc.
IV. LESSONS .
1 . To Christians . Do not wait for the final song. Sing in the passage of the sea. Poetry and. music the natural expression of praise. Some can pour forth their own song, e.g; Keble and Watts, Wesley and Lyre. Others must adopt praise furnished to their lips. But for all there is the poetry and the music—the sweet psalm—of a pure and holy life.
2 . To those not Christians . To sing the song of the saved, we must be saved.
"No lips untuned can sing that song
Or join the music there."
One of the first songs in the Bible— the first Jewish song—we may almost call it the tap-root whence springs the main stem of Jewish psalmody. The art of poetry and instruments of music were no doubt brought from Egypt; the land of slavery was yet the land of science. Such "spoils" were made all the more valuable, and appropriated all the more firmly by consecration (cf. Keble, Christian Year, 3rd Sunday in Lent). All the wealth of the world is at the disposal of God's children—for the earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof—the problem which they have to solve is how to use it without abusing it (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:23-28 ). Turn to the song itself, and see what lessons it has to teach. Three stanzas ( Exodus 15:1-5 , Exodus 15:6-10 , Exodus 15:11-18 )—each begins with ascription of praise to Jehovah; each ends with a reference to Jehovah's treatment of his foes. Notice:—
I. PRESENT GRATITUDE . Exodus 15:1-5 .—In the excitement of the great deliverance, words almost fail to express the praise. The name of the deliverer is repeated four times in eight lines. Yet not once is it a "vain repetition." All the difference in the world between using God's name to disguise an empty heart and using it to express the feelings of a full one. Here, "out of the fulness of the heart the mouth speaketh.." God loves such praise, the praise of a heart which cannot help praising. Some try to praise because they think God expects it of them; their hearts are like dry wells whilst yet, out of supposed respect to God, they keep on working the pump-handle! Fill the heart first and all such artificial efforts will be needless; the full heart is a springing well. " How fill?" By letting the thought of God's great mercies pierce through to the heart's deeps. If the thought of God and of his deeds comes home to us, our praise will soon flow forth freely.
II. PAST MERCIES THE CAUSE OF PRESENT GRATITUDE . Exodus 15:6-10 . This is what called forth the praise. All real, all genuine. Moses is not sending up his song to a " possible " God, but to one whom he believes in utterly as a living, present, powerful ruler. Notice—
1 . The reality of the enemy , No doubt about the tyranny in Egypt. Brickfields and scourges had left their mark upon the memory. No doubt either as to the late danger ( Exodus 15:9 ). The exasperated pursuers determined to repossess their prey.
2 . The reality of the deliverance . Where were the pursuers now? The wreckage drifting within sight marked the spot where they had sunk for ever!
3 . The reality of the deliverer . No doubt as to his existence—no doubt as to his goodness—in face of such overwhelming evidence. We also, if we would but realise it, have been as truly delivered from dangers just as real. If we but half believe in God, and offer him only a make-shift praise, it is not because he has done less for us; it is because we think less on the meaning of his mercies.
III. PAST MERCIES THE PLEDGE OF FUTURE TRIUMPHS . Exodus 15:11-18 .—Moses was confident about the future because he had no doubt about the past. He was prepared to go "from strength to strength," because he could start from a strong position. From what God has done, we may rightly infer what he will do. If he has made a way for his people through the sea of waters, he will also make a way for them through yet stormier and more perilous seas ( Exodus 15:16 ). The first deliverance is a pledge and prophecy of all future deliverances. Thus the song of Moses, strong in a present confidence, firmly based upon past mercies, finds its outcome in a good hope, inspiring men along the path of progress. If we would sing the song as it should be sung, we must learn from memory to praise truly; and true praise will soon quicken hope. To live for the future we must live upon the past. The song of the Lamb, the song which specially expresses the full satisfaction of all our hopes, can only be sung by those who have sung first this other song; the song which still feeds hope at the same time that it expresses gratitude.— G .
The results of deliverance to God's people.
I. THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE MARVELLOUSNESS OF GOD 'S POWER (3-12).
1 . The might of Egypt, when measured with the strength of God, was utter vanity (4, 5). The Lord's right hand had dashed in pieces the enemy. What can make the heart afraid which knows the power of God?
2 . The deadly malice of Egypt was extinguished in a moment like a spark beneath the heel. The picture of the foe's deadly purpose
II. CONFIDENCE FOE THE ONWARD WAY .
1 . In his mercy and strength God will lead them to the rest he has promised (13).
2 . This deliverance will fight for them (14-16). The heart of their foes will die within them. And when led into their land this fear of the Lord will be a wall between them and the nations round about. They shall not only be led in, but planted there in undisturbed security (17).
3 . God will, as now, triumph through all the ages, and accomplish, no matter how his people may fear and his enemies may vaunt themselves, all his righteous will (18).— U