The waters flow back (15-03-23)
Psalm of Praise: Psalms 113:3-4
From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets,
the name of the Lord is to be praised.
The Lord is exalted over all the nations,
his glory above the heavens.
Bible Reading: Exodus 14: 23, 26-28
The Egyptians pursued them, and all Pharaoh's horses and chariots and horsemen followed them into the sea.
Then the Lord said to Moses, "Stretch out your hand over the sea so that the waters may flow back over the Egyptians and their chariots and horsemen." Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at daybreak the sea went back to its place. The Egyptians were fleeing toward it, and the Lord swept them into the sea. The water flowed back and covered the chariots and horsemen,
the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed the Israelites into the sea.
Not one of them survived.
Taking this event at its face value it reflects the brutality of war that we see when one country oppresses another. The innocent suffer and young soldiers die on the whims of tyrant rulers.
Some might argue that God was unjust to kill all the Egyptian army. Against this you can argue that Moses had asked Pharaoh to release the Israelites from slavery ten times. On nine occasions he refused. And then, after agreeing following the tenth plague, he changed his mind and chose to pursue them. Then, when the waters of the Red Sea divided, he chose to send his soldiers and chariots in after them. Had he of made a different choice on any of these occasions, the young men in his army would not have died.
As we pray for peace around the world, not least in Ukraine, let us pray that leaders will draw back from conflict before thousands more soldiers and civilians are killed at their behest.
Looking beyond the events of the parting and flowing back of the Red Sea, we have an image of Baptism which St Paul picks up in the New Testament. With the Israelites passing through the Red Sea, from a life of slavery to a life of freedom in the Promised Land, St Paul sees the imagery of death and resurrection, imagery that he sees paralleled in the waters of baptism where we die to our old sinful nature and rise to new life in Christ. Through the waters of baptism we are no longer slaves to sin, but children of God.
And there is more. As the waters returned and drowned the pursuing Egyptians we find an image of God burying our sins at the bottom of the sea, as the prophet Micah foretold, ‘You will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea’ (Micah 7:19). Someone said he also put up a sign saying, ‘No Fishing’!
When we rise from the waters of baptism to new life in Christ, we do so without the burden of sin. All of that is dealt with through the blood of Jesus, the true Passover Lamb.
Father God, I thank you that my sins were buried with Christ and that I have new life and freedom in him.
Amazing Grace, my chains are gone.