Old Testament

The Red Sea Crossing in the Psalms: Returning to Redemption

One of the notable things about the Psalms is the frequency of citations to the crossing of the Red Sea when Israel came out of Egypt. This event was a climax in the life of the people of God in the Old Testament. They were spared God’s judgment in the Passover, when he killed all the firstborn of Egypt. Following this, not only did Pharaoh let them go, he compelled them to leave. They stood at the banks of the Red Sea, seemingly trapped between the water in front of them, and the Egyptians behind them.
But of course God intervened, and parted the waters. Exodus 14 records the denouement:
So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to its normal course when the morning appeared. And as the Egyptians fled into it, the Lord threw the Egyptians into the midst of the sea. The waters returned and covered the chariots and the horsemen; of all the host of Pharaoh that had followed them into the sea, not one of them remained. But the people of Israel walked on dry ground through the sea, the waters being a wall to them on their right hand and on their left. Ex. 14:27-29.
When we come to the Psalms, the writer returns again and again to this. Beginning in Ps. 66:5-6:
Come and see what God has done:
he is awesome in his deeds toward the children of man.
He turned the sea into dry land;
they passed through the river on foot.
Also, Ps. 78:12-13:
In the sight of their fathers he performed wonders
in the land of Egypt, in the fields of Zoan.
He divided the sea and let them pass through it,
and made the waters stand like a heap.
Other places where this is found are, Ps. 74, 77, 106, 114, 136.
The writers of Psalms return to this event so frequently because it is seminal in the life of God’s people. It is a visible deliverance from their enemies. In a way, it is is the public declaration of the separation God effected in the Passover. Going back to what God did in letting Israel pass through the waters, even as he judged the Egyptians, is an encouragement to the people to remember God’s mighty works. Even as he did so long ago, so will he do again. For the Christian, the cross and the resurrection are these events. Paul does indeed link the death of Christ to the Passover, but he doesn’t explicitly link the Red Sea crossing with resurrection, so I hold this picture loosely. He does indeed speak of being baptized into Moses, and elsewhere baptism is a presented as a picture of death and resurrection, but it is a connection to a connection.
By returning to God’s mighty works, his accomplishments in the cross and the empty tomb, we encourage our hearts that just as he did so long ago, the same God is there for us. We have an advocate at God’s right hand, we have one who has passed through death, and who makes intercession for us. God’s past actions are indeed a demonstration that he can and will work on behalf of his people in the future.

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