Now if you have your Bible with you, turn with me to the book of Exodus, chapter 15, or take one of our church Bibles and turn to page 57; Exodus 15, page 57. And then once you have the Scriptures opened before you, let’s bow our heads as we pray together.
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of all our hearts be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord our Rock and our Redeemer. As we hear Your holy Word, write its truth upon our hearts; open our ears to hear what the Spirit says to the church, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
Exodus 15 at verse 1. This is the word of Almighty God:
“Then Moses and the people of Israel sang this song to the Lord, saying,
‘I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously;
the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea.
The Lord is my strength and my song,
and he has become my salvation;
this is my God, and I will praise him,
my father's God, and I will exalt him.
The Lord is a man of war;
the Lord is his name.
‘Pharaoh's chariots and his host he cast into the sea,
and his chosen officers were sunk in the Red Sea.
The floods covered them;
they went down into the depths like a stone.
Your right hand, O Lord, glorious in power,
your right hand, O Lord, shatters the enemy.
In the greatness of your majesty you overthrow your adversaries;
you send out your fury; it consumes them like stubble.
At the blast of your nostrils the waters piled up;
the floods stood up in a heap;
the deeps congealed in the heart of the sea.
The enemy said, ‘I will pursue, I will overtake,
I will divide the spoil, my desire shall have its fill of them.
I will draw my sword; my hand shall destroy them.’
You blew with your wind; the sea covered them;
they sank like lead in the mighty waters.
‘Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods?
Who is like you, majestic in holiness,
awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?
You stretched out your right hand;
the earth swallowed them.
‘You have led in your steadfast love the people whom you have redeemed;
you have guided them by your strength to your holy abode.
The peoples have heard; they tremble;
pangs have seized the inhabitants of Philistia.
Now are the chiefs of Edom dismayed;
trembling seizes the leaders of Moab;
all the inhabitants of Canaan have melted away.
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.
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.
The Lord will reign forever and ever.”
For when the horses of Pharaoh with his chariots and his horsemen went into the sea, the LORD brought back the waters of the sea upon them, but the people of Israel walked on dry ground in the midst of the sea. Then Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women went out after her with tambourines and dancing. And Miriam sang to them:
‘Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously;
the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea.’”
Amen, and we praise God for this reading from His holy and inerrant Word.
The Anomaly of Singing
When Christians get together in church, let’s face it, they do some pretty weird things, at least by the standards of our culture, right? A worship service is a pretty odd thing if you think about it. When else in today’s America would you find a group of people from diverse backgrounds and with different stories and different ages and stages and different ethnicities and socioeconomic strata gathering together to sing? Singing has to be one of the weirdest things that we do, week by week by week. Why in the world do Christians sing? I want us to turn to Exodus 15 because it is a hymn, a song of praise, and it helps us answer that question, “Why should we sing?” Let’s face it; there are times when the last thing we want to do is sing. Some of you are here today carrying dreadful burdens - some of you are grieving, some of you are filled with doubts or insecurities, some of you struggling with weakness and sickness, some of you filled with anxiety and concern for loved ones. You don’t want to sing. Why should you sing? Well, there are three answers that our chapter gives us; there may well be more but there are at least these three. Look at Exodus 15 with me please. First, we see, Christians sing because God’s salvation demands it. God’s salvation demands it. Then secondly we’re going to see that Christians sing because God’s character deserves it. And then finally, Christians sing because God’s faithfulness drives it. God’s salvation demands it, God’s character deserves it, and God’s faithfulness drives it. Here we join the people of God on the east shore of the Red Sea after God has delivered them wonderfully and they can’t help themselves but sing.
I. We Sing Because God’s Salvation Demands It
And so first of all, we should sing because God’s salvation demands it. Remember the situation? God has led the people of Israel to camp between Migdol and the sea. Their backs are to the sea. And suddenly the massed ranks of the Egyptian army and its chariots are bearing down upon them and there is no escape; there’s nowhere for them to go. But then God intervenes and makes a way. He parts the sea. The waters stand up like walls on either side and the people of Israel escape on dry land. He delivers them. And as they make it to the far shore, they turn to see the waters crashing down together in a cataclysm of unmitigated judgments upon the enemies of God and His people and the Egyptian army is destroyed. God has vindicated His promises, delivered His people, and destroyed His and their enemies. God has saved His people wonderfully.
And there really is only one thing that Moses and the people can do - verse 1, “Then Moses and the people of Israel sang this song to the Lord.” Verse 20 - “Then Miriam, the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a tambourine in her hand” - by the way that is not warrant for the ladies to bring tambourines to church; please don’t do that! But Miriam took a tambourine in her hand and all the women went out after her with tambourines and dancing and Miriam sang to them. Notice Miriam’s song in verse 21 repeats the first verse of the song of Moses and the congregation of Israel. Probably these are not two separate songs but Miriam and the women with the tambourines are singing the refrain, if you like. There is an antiphonal song. They’re singing the chorus while the whole congregation together sings the verses. And notice what they’re singing about, verses 1 and 2. “Sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea. The LORD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.” That’s the theme. That’s the spark that ignites joy and fuels praise - the salvation of God from destruction and death. When God saves, His people sing. When God saves, His people sing.
Singing Throughout Redemptive History
In fact, if you were to survey the Scriptures as a whole, you will see again and again across salvation history in all the mighty acts of God that there is a response of song, of praise. Job 38 verse 7 tells us that at creation, at the dawn of time when all things were made by the word of God, “the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy.” There was song at creation when God spoke the world into being. And when God saved His people Israel from oppression during the era of the judges, again and again they respond in song. For example, when Jabin and Sisera are defeated by Deborah and Barak in Judges 5 they sing a song of victory and celebration in praise of God who has delivered them. When God rescues David from the hand of his enemies and especially from the hand of King Saul, Psalm 18 records his praises. David says, “I love you, O LORD my strength; the LORD is my rock and my fortress, my deliverer, my God, my rock in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I will call upon the LORD who is worthy to be praised and I am saved from my enemies.” When God saves him, he sings. When Israel are restored to Jerusalem after their captivity in Babylon, they come back as Isaiah the prophet promised. Isaiah 51 verse 11 - “The ransomed of the LORD shall return and come with singing unto Zion.”
At the time of the coming of Christ when every strand of God’s purpose in salvation history begins to come together at the very focal point of God’s purpose to save a people for Himself with the coming of Jesus Christ, we find an explosion, don’t we, of song - and so Luke 1:46 the song of Mary, and the song of Zechariah, Luke 1:67 and following. And when Mary finally delivers the Savior of the world, the Lord Jesus Christ, the angels who sang with joy at creation now split the skies in exaltation and adoration and sing praises, “Glory to God in the Highest and on earth, peace, among those with whom he is pleased!” - Luke 2 and verse 14. When Jesus is brought into the temple and presented in the temple, Simeon saw Him and he could not contain himself and he bursts into song - Luke 2:28-32. One of our elders after the early service was reminding me that on the night when Jesus was betrayed, as He has met with the disciples in the Upper Room and prayed with them and spoken to them of His coming sufferings and reassured them of the promise of the Spirit and His purposes till He returns, after they had celebrated the Lord’s Supper they went out, they sang a hymn, and departed. And from that moment, the darkness of the cross descended upon Him.
And then we see in Revelation chapter 5 verses 12 and 13 around the throne of the exalted Christ who has now secured deliverance by the cross and the empty tomb, around the throne of the exalted Christ are the countless numbers of angels, rank upon rank, with the triumphant church exalted in His presence singing praises, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing! And all creation joins in the song, to Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” When God acts in creation and especially in salvation, God’s people sing. They sing.
Christianity Is A Singing Religion
Listen to Philip Ryken. “The history of salvation,” he says, “is sometimes described as a drama - the drama of redemption. However, this drama is actually a musical. It is impossible,” this is important, listen - “It is impossible even to conceive of Biblical Christianity without songs of praise.” Christianity is a singing religion. A Christian who doesn’t sing is a contradiction in terms. If salvation were merely a reward for services rendered on our part to God, if He were simply giving us our due, quid pro quo - we’re earned it so salvation is ours by right; it’s our dessert - if that were true, well then we might strut and preen in self-congratulatory pride but we would never sing praises. Salvation would be ours by right; we’ve earned it. We’ve no one to thank but ourselves for it. But if God has broken in when we could not save ourselves, if Jesus Christ has obeyed the law of God that we could never hope to keep and paid our penalty at the cross, if there at Calvary it really is finished and there’s nothing for us to do, well then what is left for us as we receive the mercy and grace of God as sheer gift but to sing praise with gratitude and joy and hearts melting in wonder that we should be so beloved.
God’s salvation demands our song. “Be filled with the spirit,” Ephesians 5:18-20, “addressing one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart.” Child of God, saved by grace through the Lord Jesus Christ, you are a recipient of God’s great redemption. Sing! How could you be silent? It really is a great conundrum to me as I look out over the congregation week after week and if I may say so, particularly among the men of our church, to see any with arms folded and lips closed who profess to love the Lord Jesus Christ. Look what God has done. He commands you to sing His praises, but how could you not, even were there no command? Seeing what has been won for you, how can your lips stay closed? Sing His praises because God’s salvation demands it.
II. We Sing Because God's Character Deserves It
Then secondly, we sing because God’s character deserves it. We sing because God’s character deserves it. Moses, as you look through chapter 15 here, Moses sees behind what God has done, the very character of God Himself. Look at the song. It’s virtually a primer on the attributes of God, isn’t it? Moses praises God as a personal God. Verse 2 - “The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. He is my God and I will praise him; my father’s God, and I will exalt him.” My God, my strength, my song, my salvation, my father’s God - I am His, He is mine; I know Him and He knows me. There is intimacy and fellowship here. And yet as beautiful and profound and it must have been, it is nothing compared with the intimacy and fellowship and communion a child of God standing this side of Calvary may know. If by grace you trust in Christ, God has sent His Spirit to dwell in your heart and you have a communion that transcends anything Moses could ever guess at. We can say in ways Moses could not, “You are my strength, my song, my salvation, my God, mine; I am yours. You are mine.” God is personal. He wants to know you. You can know Him and He is therefore worthy of praise.
The Warrior God Who Fights For US
Notice verse 3, God is praised as a warrior God. It’s a difficult concept for us. Verse 3, “The LORD is a man of war; the Lord is his name.” Moses had told Israel in verse 14, 13 and 14 of chapter 14, that God would fight for them, that they had only to be silent and see the salvation of the Lord. And here, as they look back over the surging waters of the sea beneath which the Egyptian army have been drowned and destroyed, now they see God keeps His Word. He has fought for them and triumphed. But it is tough image isn’t it, for us today. The love of God we’re used to; the warrior God, not so much. But actually the Bible describes God as fighting for us. He fights for us and He has done so supremely and climactically, Colossians 2:15 - at the cross of Jesus Christ, there the greatest contest of them all was entered by the Lord your God and there He won the victory having triumphed over the principalities and powers, having disarmed them, triumphing over them at the cross. Your whole salvation rests on the truth that your God is a warrior God who fights for you, to make you His, and to deliver you from all His and our enemies by the cross of Jesus Christ. Praise God that He is a warrior God.
Praising God For His Mighty Power
And praise Him, verse 6, for His mighty power. “Your right hand, O Lord, glorious in power, your right hand, O Lord, shatters the enemy.” Down in verse 9 you see the boats of Pharaoh, verse 9, “I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil, my desire shall have its fill of them. I will draw my sword; my hand shall destroy them.” Pharaoh’s pretty confident, but for all his boastful confidence and self-reliance, do you see the sheer effortlessness of God’s response? Verse 10, “You blew with your wind and the sea covered them; they sank like lead in the mighty waters.” A puff of God’s breath and the enemy are overthrown. He blew on them and the mighty power of Egypt is destroyed. Praise God for His mighty power.
The apostle Paul prays for us that we would know what is the immeasurable greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His great might. And where is the might and power of God most fully and clearly and climactically displayed? “That we might know the greatness of His power toward us who believe according to the working of His great might that He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in heavenly places.” Immeasurably great power, great might, seen even more clearly than at the parting of the Red Sea, seen when the stone was rolled away and the tomb found empty and the crucified, dead, and buried Jesus Christ stood forth risen in glory forever. Praise God for His power, never more clearly seen than at the empty tomb.
Praising God For His Uniqueness
Then Moses praises God for His uniqueness. Verse 11, “Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?” That word “holy” essentially means separate, unique, distinct. Unlike anything or anyone else, God is ——— generous; He is in a category of one. There is no one like Him. We praise God because only He is God, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. There is no other.
Praising God For His Love
And then God is praised, verse 13, for His love. “You have led in your steadfast love the people whom you have redeemed.” The phrase “steadfast love” is the Hebrew word “hesed.” It means covenant love. The commitment of God to His people and His promises. It is marriage love. The love of God that takes His people to be His bride and says, “I do,” to His church, “I still do,” even when His church is unfaithful. It is the covenant faithfulness of God even to wayward children of God. “It is the steadfast love of the Lord that never ceases; His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning. Great is Thy faithfulness!” It is that same love, that love that redeems a people that reaches its zenith when the Son of God “loved me and gave Himself for me.” When God demonstrated His love for us in this, “that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Again and again do you see Moses traces the attributes of God, the character of God behind the mighty works of God, and the more he sees of God the more he turns the diamond of his perfections and sees the beauty of each new facet shining in brilliant glory, Moses sings praises. He can’t help it! It elicits a response. Prose will not do when the beauty of our God is clearly seen. Only poetry will work. Only song can give voice to the heart responding to the glory and greatness and grace of a God who saves by Jesus Christ. Would you look at the cross? At the thorns that pierced our Master’s brow? Watch Him give His last breath for you? Come and look again into the empty tomb. He has risen for you. Now He reigns and ever lives to make intercession for you. He has fought and triumphed for you. Here He is - our personal God, our warrior God, our mighty God, the only true God, the God of covenant love, of steadfast love, the triune God who saves by the cross of Christ. Fan the flames of praise and sing because of who your God is. When you see a spectacular sunset, when, fathers you first held your child, your heart bursts. There is a gasp of wonder and joy and delight. Moses is saying, “Behold your God. Behold the glory and beauty of your God. Anyone who sees Him must sing!”
III. We Sing Because God’s Salvation Demands It
We sing because God’s salvation demands it, we sing because God’s character deserves it, then lastly we sing because God’s faithfulness drives it. Just notice the pattern of Moses’ song. Verses 1 to 12. Verses 1 to 12 look back, don’t they, at salvation already won. They look back at the crossing of the Red Sea and the judgment of Pharaoh’s armies. They look back at what God has already done. But then in 13 to 21, or 13 to 18 rather, it looks forward to what God is yet to do. Israel have not yet begun to make their journey to the Promised Land. Here they are on the far side of the Red Sea, actually as we’ll find out with forty years of journeying still ahead of them, and yet Moses speaks of that journey with extraordinary confidence, with faith and assurance, believing that what God has already done provides him with great grounds for confidence that God who began the work will certainly finish it. And so he contemplates the terror of God’s actions at the Red Sea, striking the hearts of the inhabitants of Philistia, verse 14, and Edom and Moab and Canaan, verse 15. He thinks of the day when God will make the enemies of the people of God stand still as a stone till His people pass them by and come into the land of promise and into the sanctuary that has not yet been built where God’s own presence will be displayed. And the whole song climaxes on a cosmic scale of absolute confidence that the Lord will reign forever and ever, verse 18.
Looking Back To See What He Has Done
Do you see the pattern? Salvation accomplished in the past is being used to fuel faith in salvation that will one day be finally complete in the future. Moses looks ahead to the end of the journey and he speaks about it with confidence and faith and assurance and he’s able to do it because he looks back at the salvation God has already performed. And that is a pattern, I am persuaded, we badly need to master - faith in the promises of future grace and future deliverance and future glory, bolstered and garrisoned and made strong by faith in God’s already finished work of past grace and past deliverance at Calvary. How can you be sure that God will keep His promises? Some of you are locked day after day in what seems almost like mortal combat with besetting sin festering in your heart and there are days, seasons, when it seems to win more often than you seem to win. And you’re filled with insecurity about whether or not you are truly a Christian at all. Some of you I know from conversation struggle with assurance and wonder if you’re the real thing, if your faith is genuine faith, if perhaps you haven’t been deceiving yourself. Some of you are racked with insecurity and riddled with fear about tomorrow. You see your remaining corruption and your sin and you wonder, “Will I make it across the finish line?” How do you know that “He who began a good work in you will finish it at the day of Christ Jesus”? How do you know? How can you fight fear and find a well grounded assurance that enables you to stay in the fight and press on until you do cross the finish line?
How are you going to fight your fear and silence your spiritual uncertainty? You must do what Moses and the Israelites do on the banks of the Red Sea. You must look back and see what your God has done for your soul. How shall He who gave His own Son not also along with Him graciously give us all things? If God is for us, who can be against us? You see what God has done for your soul, believer in Jesus? He has given His Son to Calvary’s horror to make you His. There is no sin that festers in your heart that is a match for the love of God that gives Christ to the cross, nor are there any trials you may face today or in all the tomorrows ahead of you that are greater than the faithfulness of God who having begun with the cross will surely finish the work He has started and bring you to glory before the throne. He who promised is faithful and He will do it. And the proof? It is that the cross of Jesus Christ was planted in the soil of this world to save sinners like you. It is that the tomb is empty for you and that the throne is occupied for you and that the One who presides there and reigns there is even now interceding for you. See what God has done, fight fear about tomorrow with faith in what God has done in history, and know that He who has gone to such great lengths to make you His child will never leave you, never forsake you. Nothing can break the grip of grace that holds you fast in the palm of His hand forever. Nothing can separate you from the love of God in Jesus Christ our Lord. Fight fear with faith in God’s past salvation and when you do, you will begin to find that instead of words of anxiety and doubt, unbelief and fear, your mouth is opened with new songs of praise.
So God’s salvation demands your praises, your songs, God’s character deserves praises and song, and God’s great faithfulness surely drives, it fuels praise and song. Child of God, lift up your voice and lift up your heart and adore your great God and Savior who has so loved you. Shall we pray together?
Father, we bless You for the good news about Jesus that is for us a solid rock, a place to stand. We thank You that Jesus is our hiding place, our fortress, that He is our Rock and our Redeemer, our salvation, our song. Make Him, we pray, the ground of our confidence and the basis of our assurance and as we keep our eyes firmly on the cross, on the empty tomb, on the One who reigns from heaven’s throne, would You ignite praises in our hearts? For Jesus’ sake we pray, amen.
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