In his crisis, God says something strange to Moses in Exodus 14:15 – “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on. Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea…” Aren’t we supposed to cry out to God? There seems to be a gap in the narrative. Possibly, after telling the Israelites to stand still and shut their mouths, Moses went around the corner and cried, “Oh God! What now?” At this most critical hour, was he still doubting his ability to lead God’s people?
This was no time to cry. The Egyptians were advancing, and sitting in the prayer closet would not position the people for their miracle. God’s surprising command show us the right balance. There comes a time when our waiting must turn to action. To experience God’s miracle, you’ll have to get out of your prayer closet, study, or cubicle. You’ll have to open your eyes and face the sea for God to move.
As they stepped closer to the sea, the pillar of cloud, now called the “angel of God”, moved and stood behind the people. All night the cloud created a barrier of darkness for the Egyptians, blocking out the light of moon. But on the reverse, it was a pillar of fire, giving light to the Hebrews. The “angel of God” appears several times throughout the Old Testament, to Abraham in Genesis 19:1, Jacob in Genesis 31:11, and Gideon in Judges 13:3. It was the angel who spoke with Moses from the burning bush in Exodus 3:2. In each example the angel speaks in the first person for God, and yet it appears to be separate, as God’s servant or messenger. While we don’t know for certain, many believe the “angel of God” is Jesus, a pre-incarnate appearance of the second person of the Trinity.
Attempts have been made to explain the parting of the Red Sea as a work of nature alone. For example, a recent article from the Wall Street Journal was entitled, “How Did Moses Part the Red Sea – The Science of Tides May Have Saved the Israelites from the Egyptians.” Hebrew scholar Umberto Cassuto mentions a common occurrence in the Suez region at high tide. The water comes oozing out from under the sand, turning the surface to mud. In little time, the ground is covered in a deep layer of water. The reverse happens at low tide. As the waters retreat, the heat from the sun hardens the sand again.
Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte almost lost his life and his army because of the fast rising tide around parts of the Red Sea. During his tour through Egypt, they crossed over to the far shore without any difficulty. But on their return in the dark, they attempted to cross back but got stuck in the watery sand. In little time their horses were in mud up to their bellies and the tide was rising fast. It was a terrible situation, and many horses were lost. After a great struggle a ford was found that allowed everyone to cross safely.
On a side note, it’s our natural tendency to explain away the miracles of God as time passes and our gratitude fades. The reason we quit smoking is because we just decided to one day. We experienced a career breakthrough because we worked hard and just happened to meet the right person at the coffee shop. The broken marriage was saved because we finally found the perfect Christian counselor. Your life was healed from disease because you pulled yourself up by your bootstraps and became a vegetarian. Let’s not shortchange God. Your life was saved because he worked a miracle for you. Let’s give him the praise he deserves.
What happened at the Red Sea for the Israelites was no coincidence of nature. After Moses raised his hands over the waters, a mighty east wind began to drive back the waters. Soon the muddy ocean floor was dry land. Water heavier than thick, pre-cast concrete walls stood erect. Exodus 14:22 says, “The Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left.