Exodus 13:17 – 14:31 – Pillars of Cloud and Fire / Crossing the Red Sea

Exodus 13

God defines so much for His people in this chapter.  The obvious things are the instructions for the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which are given in verses 4-10, and in 11-16 the importance of the first-born is made known – a fact that will permeate their fabric now, and in times to come.  To consecrate is “to set apart” or make to holy, by giving it to God; and that is exactly what His people will be expected to do, as the first-born of every man and animal of the people of Israel now belong to the Lord (verse 2).

The first-born of man will be redeemed – that is, a lamb will be sacrificed in their place.  They are to keep this as a statute from year to year, and tell their sons the story of why it is now so – because the Lord has delivered them with a strong hand.  The repetition of the Lord bringing the people out “with a strong hand” echoes the repetition of “I am the Lord”.  The point seems clear that the Lord must be given respect, fear, and honor as the Holy one.

“…about six hundred thousand men on foot…”

God did not lead them by the way of the Philistines even though that would be the shortest way (verses 17-18). They were equipped for battle, but the Lord knew they were not ready for war; and He led them through the wilderness to the Red Sea.  The Lord knew how nervous, and even frightened so many thousands of people must have been.

They were free now, it’s true.  But we tend to forget when reading about this that they were leaving the only home(s) they had ever known – and they were headed into the wilderness, and even the darkness, to a final destination most of them really did not know about.  They didn’t even know when they might finally get there – much less, what would happen to them along the way!

We cannot really envision the presence that the Lord made known to His people at this time (verses 21-22), but the references to the pillar of cloud, and by night a pillar of fire, will be repeated elsewhere.  How reassuring, and very fitting, it must have been that God Himself – the same one who in His power and might brought all these great plagues on Pharaoh and his people – was now leading their way with a presence that was both magnificent and awe-inspiring!

Joseph’s wish to be buried in Canaan will be done

The future still had to seem uncertain, but God, in His matchless wisdom (and for very good reasons that we can only partly understand), is making it very clear to them in so many ways that He truly is in charge now!  Don’t miss the significance of the faith of both Joseph and of Moses in verse 19, as he take takes the bones of Joseph with him, fulfilling Joseph’s charge in (Genesis 50:24-25)!

Exodus 14 – The Crossing

No matter what you might think of the Biblical accuracy of the Cecil B. DeMille classic, it is pretty hard to read this chapter without seeing the face of Charlton Heston in your mind’s eye unless you are so young you just never saw it (hard to believe, but it happens).  For a time before CGI was even a dream to anyone, the special effects of its most famous scene are still truly wonderful.   And as I read the chapter again even today, I still get caught up in the very real story of what God did here for it is, if nothing else, a really great story!  But it is something else.  It is God’s word to us.  And I wonder sometimes when we read stories in the Bible that may have become very familiar to us all of our lives… if many of us sometimes really still just don’t get it.

Unknown where the crossing took place

Come now, you might say.  It’s the account of the crossing of the Red Sea, God delivering His people.  I understand that, and probably you do already get what I mean here, but I don’t think all of us do – not always.  That is, after all, the point of reading the Bible again and again, isn’t it?  If we never learned anything new, what would the point be?  Read it once – maybe a second time to refresh the memory – and move on, right?  But we learned long ago that reading the Bible is different, didn’t we?  We can read the same chapter we read yesterday six months from now and we might learn something totally different.

So what do I personally take away from these 31 verses of the Lord’s word today?  Well, there’s the usual stuff, of course.  Here is the same Pharaoh and his servants that couldn’t get the people of Israel out of their land fast enough after the last plague.  Now that they are gone, they start to wonder “What were we thinking, letting them go!”  So they have to go after them.  Then there are the people of Israel, who find out they are coming after them.  The same people of Israel who saw the power of God throughout the ten plagues.  The same people of Israel who have been led through the wilderness and the darkness by the awesome visage of “the angel of God” (verse 19 and Exodus 13:21-22).  The same people who now cry out, and even tell Moses that they were better off back in Egypt (verse 12)!

We are so blessed in our lives that sometimes we do not even see the many ways that God continues to bless us each and every day.  Then, if we run into a situation that is difficult, and sometimes even seems desperate, we can so easily begin to lose hope when we do not fully trust in the Lord.  And in those times, it is easy to listen to others who would have us believe that it truly is hopeless.

We do not have Moses or anyone else to perform wonders before our eyes at God’s command.  God knows that He has given us what we need on this earth – through His word.  And He will see that we get whatever else we really need until we reach the end, and bring us home to Him if we choose to serve Him.

The lack of faith on the part of the people of Israel in verse 12, after so much reason to have faith in abundance, is sometimes hard to understand.  But God fights for them anyway, and…

Well, I don’t want to ruin the rest of the story for you…

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.