“Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the LORD drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided. And the people of Israel went into the midst of the sea on dry ground, the waters being a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.” Exodus 14:21–22
The Exodus from Egypt and the journey to the Promised Land is the great story of deliverance in Jewish history. This passage recounts the parting of the Red Sea, when God miraculously opened the way for the Israelites to escape from the pursuing Egyptian army. It reveals God showing up to rescue his people in the middle of pain, insecurity, and confusion.
For thousands of years now, Jews have remembered and celebrated how God took them from slavery in Egypt to freedom in the Promised Land. The Psalms celebrate this deliverance: “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. There did we rejoice in him” (Psalm 66:5–6). At a crucial moment, on their way out of Egypt and to the Promised Land, God divided the Red Sea so the Israelites could avoid being slaughtered by the Egyptian army. If God had not provided, they would all have died.
For Christians, the Exodus foreshadows the ultimate story of deliverance. It points to the death of Jesus on a cross. We look back at the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ as the work of God on our behalf. The Exodus and the ministry of Jesus tell us that God is a God of those in need, that God brings life and flourishing where death and destruction try to reign. The Exodus and the cross tell us that God’s nature is to rescue us. God comes near to us—down here in the thick of our fear and suffering.
There is no work we can do in exchange for this rescue. It is undeserved and unearned. The psalmist is highlighting the mighty works of God on our behalf, and now we see this fulfilled in Christ. Jesus did the work we couldn’t do, on our behalf. We couldn’t be good enough. We couldn’t fulfill the righteousness required by the Law. So God, in the person of Jesus, did the work we couldn’t do for us. God attributed Jesus’ work as our work. God exchanged our sin for Jesus’ righteousness. The work of God on our behalf is the best news possible to those under threat of destruction. God is our rescuer.