Two sets of water. Two miracles. Two fundamental lessons on salvation.
The parting of the Red Sea and the Jordan River are much more than neat miracle stories. They are central events in the unfolding drama of redemption that proclaim who God is and the nature of His salvation. In this post, I will discuss one fundamental lesson of salvation revealed in the first of these events.
The Red Sea
Imagine the scene at the Red Sea: God had promised to lead His people out of slavery in Egypt and into land he promised to give Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Through many miraculous signs and wonders, God moved the stubborn heart of Pharaoh to momentarily allow Israel to leave. In dramatic fashion, the people evacuate Egypt, Pharaoh changes his mind and pursues Israel, and Israel seems to be trapped by the impassibility of the Red Sea. Their first thought isn’t to turn to God for help (easy to judge, but unfortunately we often do the same), but to complain and grumble against Moses and declare that they were better off in Egypt (see Exodus 14:10-12). Moses responds, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today” (Exod. 14:13).
Lesson 1: Salvation is of the Lord
God instructs Moses to lift out his staff toward the waters, and as he does, the waters part, allowing Israel passage through the barrier entrapping them. God hardens the hearts of the Egyptians, inclining them to follow after Israel, only to be decimated by the returning waters. The Lord provided salvation and executed judgment on the enemies of His people, and it was completely His doing. It was the salvation that “he worked” for them (Exod. 14:13). In fact, Moses even told the Israelites that it was God who would fight for them, and all they had to do was be silent (Exod. 14:14). Thus, Israel contributed nothing to their salvation; they simply had to trust God and step between the rising waters as He saved them.
God has similarly provided a salvation from our slavery to sin and death by setting forth His Son, Jesus Christ, to provide atonement for our sins. In our natural state, death creeps closer every moment (as did the army of Egyptians to the Israelites), sin enslaves our hearts, and we remain under the righteous wrath of a holy God (John 3:18). Yet Christ has provided salvation: He has paid the penalty of our sins by bearing the wrath of God on the cross, He has provided righteousness for us by living a life in perfect obedience to God’s law, and He has executed judgment on our enemies of sin, death, and Satan.
As Jesus accomplished our salvation on the cross, the temple curtain was torn in two, symbolizing our invitation to step through the parted fabric by faith in Christ and come into the presence of God. This salvation, too, is God’s only method (as was the Red Sea), and we can do nothing more to contribute to it than the Israelites did theirs. It is wholly of the Lord. Consider Paul’s words to the Ephesians,
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Eph. 2:8-9).
God has provided salvation for His people. As He called the Israelites to step between the parting waters and trust Him, He beckons us to repent of our sin and trust the risen Christ for salvation. Yet even this trust is provided by Him- “the gift of God” in verse 8 is used in reference to the faith that God grants us- the same faith that He granted to the Israelites to the step into the sea. It is as if we too can do nothing but be silent and trust as He works out our salvation in Christ (Exod. 14:14). And for those who do, we may look on this great salvation and say with the Israelites on the other side of the Red Sea,
“The Lord is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him” (Exod. 15:2)
Next: Lesson 2 From the Jordan River