Exodus 15:1-21: God's Song

February 15, 2009 Series: Exodus

Topic: Old Testament Passage: Exodus 15:1–15:21

 

Exodus 15.1-21:  God's Song

February 15, 2009

Sam Ford

 

Church and Singing

Colossians 3.16 

16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.  For many of us, we can handle a command to let the word of Christ dwell in us richly, until we are called to SING psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.  It is incredible to me how polarizing what and how we sing can be in a church experience.  The songs, the music, even the singers themselves will shape (for better or worse) the very identity of the church.   We label churches, and churches label their own services as traditional, contemporary, relevant, cultural, missional, out-of touch.  The musical experience will often attract and/or repel people.   It is a witness to the consumer nature of people who hop from church to church, looking for an experience AND the churches don't help as they allow personal preferences dictate what they do.  People have left or threaten to leave churches, complained more often, even split congregations over tambourines, guitars, and pipe organs. 

 

Many of us haven't a clue why we have music and song in church at all.  It's the sermon warm up right?  We need a worship time, right?  We need a wedding singer like guy who can get my juices flowing so I can tolerate the sermon.  For most people it's worship; and if for those 20 minutes on a Sunday they aren't moved to tears or tingles, they'll blame the lights, the song choice, the instruments, the guy lifting his hands hopping up and down next to em',  or the fact that we didn't let Matilda play her flute this week for a moment of "special" music.

 

Men and Singing

In addition to the musical experts in the congregation who won't shut up, you have men who won't say anything. Men think singing is girly.  In Exodus 15 we encounter the Song of Moses. It's called that because MOSES wrote it and he sang it. My guess is that he sang it to Israel in front of all the men, women and children, which, for many us sounds about as alluring as root canal work.  Sing in front of someone? Are you kidding? Why don't I just turn in my jewels now and strip myself of all my manhood.  Why is it that singing is not manly?  They'll sing in the shower, sing in their car, anywhere they are alone.  Bring them into public and they become silent as a mouse refusing squeak out a single note.  In fact, they will usually come late so they can skip it all together and just passively hear the sermon.    

 

Jesus Singing

First, singing is not girly.  How do I know this?  Jesus sings and Jesus is the manliness man that every lived.  Unlike most of the "Christian Artists" of our world, Jesus isn't some: gap dressing, horned-rim glass-knit cap wearing, vitamin-water drinking, repeat the same phrase 19 times singing, Silver-Audi driving, 100gb full ipod sportin, sideways belt buckle stylin guy, who puts out albums with their rock-star look away from the camera face.  Jesus is a blue collar God-loving singer who led his ragamuffin disciples in song.  On the night that Jesus was betrayed and arrested, knowing he would die the next day, he led his disciples into a garden and, according to Matthew 26.30 30 And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.   The book of Hebrews Hebrews 2.10-13, Jesus is pictured as standing in the midst of those whom he has saved,  12 saying, "     I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise."

Praise, not Singing

The problem with our praise, whether with our voices or any other part of our lives, is that we believe it begins and ends with us.  We do not worship God because we recognize he is worthy, glorious, and wonderful-we much more selfish than that.  We choose to worship and give in hopes of getting an experience, we give our time to feel less guilty about not giving our money, we give our money to feel less guilty about giving our time, we come to church on Sunday as an apology for how we lived all week, and we sing to feel warm and fuzzy because my relationship with God feels like cardboard.   It's all for us.

 

True praise, genuine worship, wants nothing more than to get God himself.  True praise and worship of God is not manufactured, it is not something we do to be accepted, it is not a box to check-it is our natural response to our hero.  This is not something new or unusual...we see this in culture all the time.  C.S. Lewis spoke of it when he asked as an agnostic, "What kind of God would demand we praise him?"  We despise men who say, "praise me!"

-          We fail to see that ALL enjoyment overflows into praise naturally.

o       Lovers praise one another

o       Readers praise their favorite books

o       Hikers praise the countryside

o       Sports fans praise their favorite games

o       Brilliant people praise brilliant TV shows like Lost

-          Men and Women spontaneously praise whatever they value and love

o       Wasn't it awesome, glorious, amazing

Their praise not merely expresses enjoyment, it completes it. "PRAISE ALMOST SEEMS TO BE INNER HEALTH MADE AUDIBLE" (C.S. Lewis)

 

My prayer then, is not that we enjoy our singing or that we pick the perfect songs, or have the best bands. But that we understand and become so IN LOVE with God that we can't help but praise Him for Him first with our VOICES and then with our lives just as we see Moses do here.

 

READ EXODUS 15.1-21

 

v.1-3 CALL to PRAISE - CANNOT BE SILENT

The song that is recorded in Exodus 15 has been given many names, "The Song of Moses", "The Song of Miriam," and the Jews call it the, "Song of the Sea."  The Song is probably the earliest-authored portion of the book of Exodus and the FIRST POETRY of the Bible.  Even though Moses may have written the book of Exodus as late as the last year of his life, when he was 120, he probably wrote this great song when he was still eighty, soon after crossing before Israel got to Mount Sinai.   

 

First thing Moses does is SING a Song...to GOD

As Moses sees the bodies of the Egyptians floating to the shore, evidence of the incredible and miraculous devastation that God has just inflicted.  When he sees how God destroyed their enemies, so powerfully that it would one day be a tale fearfully recalled by their enemies.  When he turns and sees 2 million God's people, men, women, children, cattle, riches, a nation that had only hours ago cried out in fear, were safe from their oppressor forever.  And Moses first response is to sing-TO GOD!

 

How many times do we come into church and just join in the singing without ever asking questions about what we're doing?  How many times to do we read the words we sing or just recite them like karaoke?  Moses' response is not contrived, it is not required, it is not obligated, and it is not at the request of God. God said he would make take them out to be worshippers, and worship is how he naturally responds to what God has done.  

 

LORD is my Song

And what is his song?  V. 2 says The LORD is his song-God himself is what he sings. The entire Exodus is a declaration of God's name.  In Exodus 34, God declares it himself saying: v.5-7  5 The Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. 6 The Lord passed before him and proclaimed,  "The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children's children, to the third and the fourth generation."  Think about ALL the songs you ever hear on the radio, or (dare I say" in church, or perhaps on the "safe" Christian radio where the LORD is not the SONG but MAN is.  How many times are we singing about ME, US, WHAT I WILL DO, versus God?  How many of those praise songs are so ambiguous that the only reason you know they are about God is because they are a sung by a Christian artist?  How many of those touchy feel-good emo-style songs could you just as easily substitute some human as the subject?  ("It's been so long since/You felt like you were loved/So what went wrong/But do you know There's a place where you belong /Here in My Arms)  And I know that many musicians tell me, there is a difference between a praise song, worship song...whatever.  I wonder if Moses gives us a pattern for songs that we should be singing, together. 

 

They seem to be less about making us feel good and more of a response to how we already feel.  Unless you sing them 15 times in a row, I don't think they are designed to generate some emotional experience, as much as they are a confession to God of God. 

 

v. 4-10 REASONS TO PRAISE - what God did (TRUTH)

The LORD is a warrior

Moses' song, therefore, is filled with the acts that God has done, implying that the people did nothing as Moses had said.  While they sat silent, God fought for them like a warrior.  In terms of salvation, we are not warriors battling along side of God...we are the damsels in distress about to be BBQ'd by the dragon.  We are the helplessly hopeless citizens in peril waiting for Superman to come in and save us.  

 

But Moses shows us that God is no Superman or Captain America who never kills anyone.  He is the judge and the executioner.  Moses shows us that we must sing, praise, and glorify the God of the Bible, the God of History, God has he has chosen to reveal himself, not the god our imaginations.  Many of us want to praise the parts of God that won't upset us emotionally so we end up worshipping some false, immoral, untrustworthy, capricious cruel god that makes us feel good but is ugly and weak.  Praise songs to God that emphasize OUR unbiblical vision of God is nothing less than Idolatry rooted in remaking God into the image of men. 

 

When people do not root their understanding of who God is in Scripture, in the Word of God, they will invariably end up in a place saying, "I don't believe in a God who....I can't love a God who."  That's God. Take him or leave him, that's God. 

 

In the case of the Exodus, we worship a God that does get mad, a God who does smash his enemies, and a God who is just and righteous in doing so. God is warrior who enters into our slavery, destroys our oppressor, whose plan is to destroy ALL EVIL in this world.  

4       "     Pharaoh's chariots and his host he cast into the sea,

                    and his chosen officers were sunk in the Red Sea.

5           The floods covered them;

                    they went down into the depths like a stone.

6           Your right hand, O Lord, glorious in power,

                    your right hand, O Lord, shatters the enemy.

 

The LORD is furious

In the greatness of your majesty you overthrow your adversaries;  you send out your fury; it consumes them like stubble. The LORD declares his own name.  We cannot rename him although many try.  MODERN SENTIMENTALISTS thinking wants God to be ever-tolerant, always softhearted, and thus defines God's justice as something other than how the Bible defines it. 

 

These are the ones who will suggest Moses could have easily written a song with a chorus like:

-          God I love you for loving me. 

-          You love me and so God I love you.

-          You showed me how to get out of a bad place.

-          You helped me to get out of the sad place.

-          God I love you for saving me.

-          You saved me and so God I love you.

 

The Song isn't nearly as powerful if Moses only talks about the fact that they are on the other side of the sea.  Grace is ONLY amazing if we recognize and confess the darkness we were in-the darkness that we wanted to be in....and still want to go back to sometimes...Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.   Again, our refusal to worship God's FURY is about us and our feelings.  If God is furious at sin, if God doesn't tolerate evil, we feel shame because we know that we are not GOOD. But I can sing of God's justice, I can sing of God's destruction of all evil in this world, I can rejoice at God's fury because he HAS brought me across the sea. 

 

We can sing songs about "How sweet the name of Jesus is" or repeat a Chorus about "I will sing to the Lord."  But the question we will always come back to is WHY.  Praise Jesus, you are sinless? SO WHAT?  Thank Jesus for dying on the cross...WHY DID HE HAVE TO?  Praise God that Jesus rose from the dead? TO DO WHAT? - We must preach the entire gospel, beginning with the Garden of Eden, the CHAOS that ensued, and how God is going to get us back there. 

 

11-12 THE RESULT OF PRAISE - God a REDEMER (ABODE/COMMUNITY)

A God like no other

As verse 11 says, there is not God like the God of Christianity.  As Paul says in 1Corinthians 8, there are a ton of so-called gods and lords.  But there is in fact only ONE true God.  And Moses God is like no other.  All other songs to false gods declare what we must do to please them or not do to displease them-they are all man-centered. There are many songs being sung all of which, at the core, praise the savior-of-the month-the one thing that for the moment we fear more than the one true God.    

 

The One true God is not like those false gods, and he does not leave us to figure our how to find our own way, how to free ourselves, or even how to sing a new song: 

Psalm 40.1   I waited patiently for the Lord;

          he inclined to me and heard my cry.

2      He drew me up from the pit of destruction,

          out of the miry bog,

     and set my feet upon a rock,

          making my steps secure.

3      He put a new song in my mouth,

          a song of praise to our God.

     Many will see and fear,

          and put their trust in the Lord.

 

This is why I am a Calvinist.  I believe in a God that can command me to have feelings that, for the moment, I don't have-to rejoice in the Lord, to delight in His Word.  I believe in a God who can say SING, PRAISE ME...because he puts the Song in my mouth.      

 

A community like no other

It is a song that is intended not to be sung by one person, but by a community.  God has not only brought YOU across the sea, he has brought an US.  People know what the kingdom of God is like by how we live it out in this community.  God led us into a HOLY ABODE together.  There is something amazing about singing corporately together-something spiritual.  It is an experience that you cannot have anywhere else, where the people sing with one voice.  It is, partially, a manifestation of how we are to live.  We are not just individuals who individually are saved and individually praise and individually live.  We are a one body called together not because we like one another, although we might, but because we have been given a common identity.  God intends us to live in community together.  It is not necessarily something that we choose, it is something that we are, that we become. 

 

14-18 the "OTHER" AUDIENCE of PRAISE----MISSION

14           The peoples have heard; they tremble;

                    pangs have seized the inhabitants of Philistia.

15           Now are the chiefs of Edom dismayed;

                    trembling seizes the leaders of Moab;

                    all the inhabitants of Canaan have melted away.

 16           Terror and dread fall upon them;

                    because of the greatness of your arm, they are still as a stone,

          till your people, O Lord, pass by,

                    till the people pass by whom you have purchased.

17           You will bring them in and plant them on your own mountain,

                    the place, O Lord, which you have made for your abode,

                    the sanctuary, O Lord, which your hands have established.

18           The Lord will reign forever and ever."

 

A Mission from God's Point of View

As they sing about what God has done, they also include some statement about what God will do.  It had to sound somewhat silly for them to sing this as, practically speaking, a simple report of a group of slaves escaping from Egypt would have put the fear of God in few people.  Praise God that he isn't practical, that he does some of the most foolish crazy things we can imagine.  In this Song, Moses teaches the Israelites, and us, to look at their circumstances from the perspective of God.  Regardless of what it looks like, how much man resists, how dark the world gets, the Lord laughs at their efforts.   We praise God because the Battle is the Lord's and, ultimately, is in his hands.  Ours is not to fight, rather, to follow because despite what things look like, there is no struggle, God is always in control, the END is never in doubt. 

 

A People that are Moving

We are to gather together and sing with one voice.  Now that Israel is across the Sea and they have arrived in somewhat of a safe place, it would be easy to fall into a place of comfort.  To simply set up their tents, keep everyone out, and "do church."  They have their God-given ceremonies, they have their songs, all they need are some pews and a children's ministry.  But God told them in Exodus, but way about in Genesis what the ultimate goal for their salvation was:

 

Genesis 12. 2-3 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed."

 

They are a sent people on their way to the promised land.  If their lives become just about gathering together to sing their one song, for the same people to hear, they have lost site of their greater purpose.  They sing their song, confessing WHO GOD is, not just for themselves, but for God.  They are no different than us.  We cannot become comfortable singing our songs, and my fear is that we have.  We, like Israel, are on a journey.  Theirs ended in Palestine, ours ends in heaven.  As we journey along we will meet obstacles and conflicts and it will be tempting to say-let's just say comfortable in our little tribe here. 

 

Conclusion: 19-21 Miriam's Song

The Song for the Next Generation

At the end of the Song, Miriam sings again.  Miriam's brief song is the same as the opening lines of Moses song.    She continues to teach the song to the women, who will teach it to their children for generations to come.  The Song begins with men and ends with women teaching the children who will, in hope, teach their children.  Does our life song begin and end with God.  Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously;  the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea.... The Lord will reign forever and ever."  I will Sing for he HAS triumphed.  The LORD WILL reign. Does it remind me of what God has done and trust in what he will do.  Is the FACT that he is KING move me to Sing.  If I am not moved to Sing...then who is King?

 

Our journey will end, but our SONG doesn't change

Finally, the song of Moses shows up in one final place, the book of Revelation.  Unfortunately, the book of Revelation has gotten so much attention rooted more in conspiracy theory like interpretations where you take ONE verse and fill in the rest....we lose site that Revelation contains a description of our final rest with Jesus.  And what are we doing, worshipping God through Song.  Praising God for who He is, is NOT the means to an END, it is the END in itself.  Our lives are about worship now and forever.

Revelation 15.3-4  3 And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying,

      "     Great and amazing are your deeds,

                    O Lord God the Almighty!

          Just and true are your ways,

                    O King of the nations!

4           Who will not fear, O Lord,

                    and glorify your name?

               For you alone are holy.

                    All nations will come

                    and worship you,

               for your righteous acts have been revealed." 

 

More in Exodus

July 19, 2009

Exodus 40: God's Dwelling

July 12, 2009

Exodus 37-39: God's House

July 5, 2009

Exodus 35-36: God's Builders