1Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the LORD: “I will sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously; horse and rider he has thrown into the sea. 2The LORD is my strength and my might, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him. 3The LORD is a warrior; the LORD is his name.
4“Pharaoh’s chariots and his army he cast into the sea; his picked officers were sunk in the Red Sea. 5The floods covered them; they went down into the depths like a stone. 6Your right hand, O LORD, glorious in power – your right hand, O LORD, shattered the enemy. 7In the greatness of your majesty you overthrew your adversaries; you sent out your fury, it consumed them like stubble. 8At 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. 9The 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.’ 10You blew with your wind, the sea covered them; they sank like lead in the mighty waters.
11“Who is like you, O LORD, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in splendor, doing wonders? 12You stretched out your right hand, the earth swallowed them.
13“In your steadfast love you led the people whom you redeemed; you guided them by your strength to your holy abode. 14The peoples heard, they trembled; pangs seized the inhabitants of Philistia. 15Then the chiefs of Edom were dismayed; trembling seized the leaders of Moab; all the inhabitants of Canaan melted away. 16Terror and dread fell upon them; by the might of your arm, they became still as a stone until your people, O LORD, passed by, until the people whom you acquired passed by. 17You brought them in and planted them on the mountain of your own possession, the place, O LORD, that you made your abode, the sanctuary, O LORD, that your hands have established. 18The LORD will reign forever and ever.”
19When the horses of Pharaoh with his chariots and his chariot drivers went into the sea, the LORD brought back the waters of the sea upon them; but the Israelites walked through the sea on dry ground.
20Then the prophet Miriam, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine in her hand; and all the women went out after her with tambourines and with dancing. 21And Miriam sang to them: “Sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously; horse and rider he has thrown into the sea.”
Most scholars agree that Exodus 15, specifically “The Song of the Sea” is the oldest bit of scripture we have. I remember a seminary professor describing it as the national anthem of ancient Israel. The song recounts how God delivered the people of Israel from Pharaoh’s pursuing armies, coming to bring them back into slavery. As the song makes clear, the victory belongs to God: “Sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously; horse and rider he has thrown into the sea.” The song marks such an important national moment, we can forgive the bit of anachronism that intrudes—”The peoples heard, they trembled; pangs seized the inhabitants of Philistia. Then the chiefs of Edom were dismayed; trembling seized the leaders of Moab; all the inhabitants of Canaan melted away”—, lyrics which describe Israel’s conquest of the holy land. But this later interruption may not be an anachronism so much as greater detail to the saving work of God. If this is the first thing Israel decided to write about God, it means that their national consciousness begins with salvation—our God is a God who saves. How, then, could they ignore the unfolding salvation that followed? And if our knowledge of God, our story, begins at the cross, how can we ignore the signs that God’s saving love is still at work with us, forming us into a community of hope even in the midst chaos (symbolized throughout scripture as the sea)? We can’t. The point of the song is that God always makes a way through chaos. Chaos is just where our salvation appears.
Holy God, we praise you, for in Jesus Christ you have thrown down the reign of sin and death, and set our feet on dry ground. Let your Spirit bring us through chaos again, landing us safely in the promised land of your love and grace. We pray in the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.