Why Cross the Red Sea?

“How did Moses cross the Red Sea?” Do you remember that song for children? The song explains the miraculous way in which God delivered his people from Pharaoh’s army as they made their exodus from Egypt. There is no doubt that this was a miracle which that generation never forgot. In fact, we will never forget this great work of God. But there is another question that must be answered as well. Not how, but why did Moses cross the Red Sea? What was God’s purpose for performing this great miracle? There are several reasons indicated in Exodus 14.

Now the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: “Speak to the children of Israel, that they turn and camp before Pi Hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, opposite Baal Zemphon; you shall camp before it by the sea. For Pharaoh will say of the children of Israel, ‘They are bewildered by the land; the wilderness has closed them in.’ Then I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, so that he will pursue them; and I will gain honor over Pharaoh and over all his army, that the Egyptians may know that I am the LORD.” And they did so (1-4).
Unbelievers need to know who God is.

The ten plagues should have convinced Pharaoh and all of Egypt that God is the Lord. They should have realized that God was not just another idol. He is the Sovereign Lord God Almighty! After losing their health, prosperity, cattle, and children, they should have realized this. But Pharaoh was stubborn and his people were willing to follow him despite the great losses they had suffered. So, God hardened Pharaoh’s heart even further and the maniac chased after the children of Israel.

It would seem that God does not always have the salvation of every man in mind. There are some who are doomed to destruction because of their unbelief and hardness of heart. So it was with Pharaoh. Although clear evidence of God’s power was set before him, Pharaoh refused to believe. So, God destroyed him as a sign to Egypt that he is who he said he was.

The world needs to know who God is. They need to know that he is the Lord God Almighty who controls everything. He is not a kind old man who overlooks sin. He is supreme over all and demands complete surrender. Pharaoh and his army learned this rather quickly. But how about the people who were left over? I imagine that they lived in wide-eyed fear for many years after these events. And I imagine that they never forgot who God is.

Believers need to know who God is.

The ten plagues were great evidence to the children of Israel as well. They learned that God is the Lord. But even after those incredible events, there were some who were not convinced of God’s plan. As soon as they saw the approaching chariots, they turned on Moses with bitter complaints.

Then they said to Moses, “Because there were no graves in Egypt, have you taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you so dealt with us, to bring us up out of Egypt? Is this not the word that we told you in Egypt, saying, ‘Let us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than that we should die in the wilderness” (11-12).
They had already suffered under their taskmasters because of Moses’ efforts to have them released. Now they were thinking that slavery was much better than being slaughtered in the wilderness. All they could think of was what they once had in Egypt. These new believers needed to be reminded of who God is. The plagues had been a great sign to them but they had been spared from much of the bad results. Perhaps they were not entirely convinced of God’s plan or of his power. It was time for God to fulfill his second purpose for parting the Red Sea.

And Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. The LORD will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace” (13).

And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and when the morning appeared, the sea returned to its full depth, while the Egyptians were fleeing into it. So the LORD overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea. Then the waters returned and covered the chariots, the horsemen, and all the army of Pharaoh that came into the sea after them. Not so much as one of them remained. But the children of Israel had walked on dry land in the midst of the sea, and the waters were a wall to them on their right hand and on their left. So the LORD saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. Thus Israel saw the great work which the LORD had done in Egypt; so the people feared the LORD, and believed the LORD and His servant Moses (27-31).

What happened in between those two passages made something very clear to the children of Israel. The Lord is God and there is no other god beside him. After safely crossing the Red Sea and seeing the destruction of their enemies, the Israelites walked away with thankfulness and a deep respect for God. He was not just the God of Moses; he was their God.


God often uses a crisis to reveal his greatness to the world. Although we would like them to react differently, people do not always respond the right way. Some refuse to submit themselves to the Lord despite the display of his great power. These people may rebel against his sovereignty, but their destruction is sure. But for believers there is a different outcome. Believers recognize God’s greatness and gratefully submit themselves to his will. Their lives are forever changed and they live with a new perspective: God is the Lord and can do anything he pleases.

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