God, knowing the heart of Pharaoh tells the Israelites to change direction. He asks them to turn back to the north and go towards the Red Sea.
The reason for this change of direction is because God knows that Pharaoh will pursue His people and He wants to lead Pharaoh and his army towards the Red Sea where he can destroy them.
Pharaoh would pursue Israel, thinking they were trapped which would fill him with confidence, but God knowing Pharaoh better than Pharaoh knows himself was going to take advantage of this ruler’s stubborn and arrogant heart.
Here we read that Pharaoh and his officials changed their minds about letting Israel go free. He wanted to punish them because in his mind they were his slaves.
Remember Egypt was the world power and they were thoroughly equipped for war. Chariots were the most sophisticated military technology available at that time, and so in their mind, Israel had no chance against them. The Israelites, however, were marching with boldness, 1 Kings 11:26-27 / Psalm 106:7-12.
When the children of Israel see Pharaoh’s army coming, they start complaining to Moses. And let’s be fair, wouldn’t you be complaining if you saw an army of Egyptian chariots coming towards you?
They end up getting stuck before the Red Sea and they have nowhere else to go. If they try and move forward, they will drown in the Red Sea, if they try to move backwards, they will be caught by the Egyptian army that is moving in on them.
It’s not surprising that God’s people were terrified and cried out to Him, Psalm 46:1. The only thing that can save them now is a powerful miracle from God Himself.
And so now more, than any other time is the time for faith. This was not the time to be looking back, this wasn’t the time to be wishing they had never left in the first place, Psalm 106:7-8.
Moses steps forward in this hopeless situation and tells the Israelites to trust in God. In his response, he basically tells them five things, 1. Do not be afraid. 2. Stand firm. 3. See God’s deliverance. 4. The Lord will fight for you, and 5. Be still.
Wow, is this the same Moses we saw earlier at the burning bush? The same Moses that ran away from Egypt and came up with excuse after excuse as to why he isn’t the one who should deliver Israel, Exodus 3:11 / Exodus 3:13 / Exodus 4:1 / Exodus 4:10 / Exodus 4:13.
God reminds Moses that now is not for complaining, now is not the time to go back, they must move on. Because the Israelites were terrified they could see what God could see, they couldn’t see that God was ready for action, and they could see that God was about to deliver them from the hand of the Egyptians forever.
God was going to be glorified through this whole event and Pharaoh would get an answer to his question, ‘Who is the LORD, that I should obey His voice to let Israel go?’ Exodus 5:2. God used the miracle of the parting of the Red Sea to speak to Egypt as much as He used it to speak to Israel.
Back in Exodus 3:2, the angel of God was guiding them by going before them, here he is now giving them protection by standing behind them. Is there anything which God can’t use to display His power and protect His people?
The cloud by day and fire by night not only illuminated the way for Israel to cross the Red Sea but it also blocked Pharaoh’s chariots. The pillar previously mentioned in Exodus 13:21-22 was now positioned as a barrier between the attacking Egyptians and the children of Israel.
The cloud brought darkness to the Egyptians, but light to the Hebrews. We mustn’t miss the importance of the cloud in the Old Testament.
Earlier back in Exodus 13:20-22, we saw a cloud that then transforms into a fiery light at night would have been amazing to witness. And it must have been large enough so that everyone travelling could see what direction to go, Psalm 84:11 / Psalms 105:39.
Later, when God miraculously feeds the Israelites, the cloud would have been in sight of everyone, Exodus 16:10. The glory of God appeared in the cloud but whether this was the cloud which accompanied the Israelites we are not told. It may have been a special cloud which veiled the glory of God on this special occasion.
But the point is this, the appearance of God in this cloud was still a part of the proof that Moses hadn’t led them out of Egypt on his own authority. It was to convince the people that their God was directing Moses and that any criticism of Moses and his work would be a sin against God.
And so when God is speaking to Moses from the cloud, the people could see His glory and hear His voice. It was a clear sign that the Israelites were indeed being preserved by God Himself. It was a clear sign that God wanted Israel to know that the quail and manna were from Him and not just some coincidence.
This cloud was way more than a novel way to lead Israel in the wilderness, it’s the revelation of God Himself to His chosen people. This same cloud is the very cloud which is going to lead them to the base of Mount Sinai.
We know that at Sinai, God came to the people in ‘a thick cloud’, Exodus 19:9. Later in Exodus 33:9-10, we read that the cloud came down and rested at the entrance of the tabernacle and the Israelites would worship God.
One of the last events at Mount Sinai was the construction of the tabernacle which again the cloud played a significant role. Exodus 40:34-35 tells us that cloud covered the tent of meeting and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And so once the tabernacle was constructed, the cloud remained over the tabernacle.
It’s important to note that Israel didn’t aimlessly just walk around the wilderness for forty years, God was leading them from place to place. When the cloud moved the tabernacle was disassembled and moved until the cloud came to rest, Exodus 40:36-38.
What a sight this must have been as the water slowly resides to the left and the right. The Red Sea is literally parted, and there is now dry ground, which God has miraculously provided for His people in order for them to escape from the Egyptians.
We can only imagine what this would have been like to be actually walking on this dry ground with a literal wall of water on both sides of us, Joshua 4:22. I would imagine that this was one of the scariest walks in Israel’s history.
But do you know what they are learning as they walk through? Faith. They’ve already seen many wonders by God and now they are practising what real Bible faith is. Real Bible faith has legs attached to it, real faith walks with trust in God.
At this time, the Egyptian army had just entered the dry land, Moses does what God commands and the sea returns to its full depth while the Egyptians were fleeing into it.
The waters returned and covered the chariots, the horsemen, and all of the army of Pharaoh and not one of them was left standing. God had literally wiped Israel’s enemy right off the face of the map with this one incredible act of deliverance.
The confusion was caused by God pulling off chariot wheels and so the Egyptians couldn’t really drive their chariots. The advance of the Egyptians against Israel was probably fragmented and highly disorganized. It must have been like watching a multi-car pile-up on the M6 with cars smashing into each other in all directions.
Paul says that the walls of water stood on either side of the Israelites, and the cloud was over them, 1 Corinthians 10:1-2. And so they went ‘through’ the sea, as they passed ‘under’ the cloud, they were immersed in the cloud-sea combination.
The people were saved from the Egyptians on the day of their baptism, at which point they also entered into a new relationship with Moses. Like Christians today, we are made free from sin when we submit to the waters of baptism which replicate Christ’s burial and resurrection, Romans 6:3-7.
At this point there is no doubt in the minds of the Egyptians who are fighting for who, they now know that they are fighting against the Lord.
Moses was told to stretch out his hand as he did on a previous occasion, Exodus 13:18 / Exodus 15:14, and as we read Pharaoh’s chariots found themselves stalled in the crossing path of the Red Sea, and the waters’ sudden return brought about their death, Psalm 77:16-20.
And so the children of Israel are on the other side of the Red Sea safe and sound and they are about to take a journey to Mount Sinai. God is not through displaying His presence with the cloud.
The very same water which saved Israel brought an end to their enemies forever. After seeing all the dead bodies which had been washed up on the shore, which would have included Pharaoh, Psalm 136:15, God’s people feared the Lord and started to trust Moses. They had just witnessed God pouring out His judgment upon Egypt and experienced the same God bring about their salvation.
God doesn’t perform miracles for the fun of it, He performs them for a reason and it’s usually to encourage faith in Him, Mark 16:20 / Hebrews 2:4. What a journey this has been not only for the Israelites but especially for Moses.