Chapter 1.
The Baby Steps of a Nation

Exodus 15:1-22

A pastor owned a remarkable horse which would go only if the rider said, "Praise the Lord," and would stop only if he said, "Amen." The pastor decided to sell the horse, but when he explained the horse's oddities to a prospective buyer, the buyer said, "That's ridiculous. I've been raising horses all my life. I'll make him go my way." So he jumped on the horse and kicked him until he started to run. The horse went faster and faster. Worried, the buyer reined back and yelled, "Whoa boy," but the horse would not stop. Suddenly the man saw they were galloping to the edge of a cliff. Desperately he yelled, "Amen!" The horse screeched to an immediate halt, just in time. Peering down over the edge of the steep cliff, the man wiped the perspiration from his brow and said, "Wow, praise the Lord!" That was the end of him.

This chapter is a chapter that doesn't end with praise but begins with praise and a song. God's people are praising the Lord, taking their first steps as a totally delivered nation. In fact, Exodus 15 is the first song of the Scriptures. It is a song of redemption and comes from the hearts of a redeemed people that has survived for thousands and thousands of years. How fitting that it is a song that glorifies God.

Two elements are found in redemption. We are redeemed by a purchase or ransom and by power. Redemption and ransom are different and distinct.

Hosea 13:14—I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction: repentance shall be hid from mine eyes.

A ransom is the payment of a price. Redemption is the deliverance of a person for whom the price was paid. As the Lamb of God, Jesus is our Purchaser; as the Lion of Judah, He is the powerful emancipator that frees us from the bondage of sin. A ransom would be worthless if the person was not released. If there were no release, no freedom, there would be no song of praise. Christ paid the price for sin's penalty by His death upon the cross and He is the one who has freed us from the bondage of sin. He took our place and paid our debt of death for our sins.

God's people rejoice as they have been delivered from the bondage of the Egyptians on Passover night and the power of the Egyptians in the crossing of the Red Sea. Notice verse one.

Exodus 15:1

Now that they are saved, they sing. This is the same crowd that was griping a few hours earlier on the other side of the Red Sea and wanting to go back to Egypt. They aren't griping now, are they? It is amazing what the power of God can do. While they were in bondage, there were no joyful strains upon the lips of the Hebrews. They sighed by reason of bondage. They cried and God heard their groaning. Now the sighing gives place to singing. Their groaning gives place to glee and praise.

A pastor was visiting some of his parishioners. He took his young daughter with him. As they visited an elderly couple, the man gave her a handful of peanuts. Expecting her to show a spirit of gratitude, the father asked his daughter, "Honey, what are you supposed to say?" Sincerely, and with her eyes fixed upon the man, she asked, "You got any more?" Thank God, this was not the attitude of the Lord's people here. God's people are no longer occupied with themselves, but with the Lord. What produced this change? It was the blood of the lamb and the power of the Lord. They saw, they believed, they sang.

Psalm 106:12—Then believed they his words; they sang his praise.

True joy is the spontaneous over-flowing of a heart centered upon the Lord Jesus Christ. This kind of joy should be continuous.

Philippians 4:4—Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice.

If our focus is on the Lord, our joy will be stable and steadfast. That's the problem though. We tend to be forgetful or get distracted, and do not center our lives upon the Lord Jesus Christ. Praise and joy are essential elements of worship.

Psalm 50:23—Whoso offereth praise glorifieth me: and to him that ordereth his conversation aright will I shew the salvation of God.

Hebrews 13:15—By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.

If you are filled with doubt and uncertainty about Heaven, how can you be joyful and thankful? Uncertainty and doubt beget fear and distrust, not gladness and adoration. How do we get this way? We become doubtful and uncertain when our lives are plagued by guilt from sinful living and when we fail to put into practice Bible principles of obedience, faith, trust, and godliness.

There will be times where you will find yourself not in the mood to praise the Lord. You won't feel like it. When this happens, praise Him with your will and a determined heart. Verse one of Exodus 15 says, "I will sing unto the Lord." How can a person rejoice when their life is full of difficulty? Notice Exodus 15:2.

Exodus 15:2

The Lord is MY strength, MY song, MY salvation.

Psalm 37:39—But the salvation of the righteous is of the Lord: he is their strength in the time of trouble.

Psalm 46:1—God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

Strength and songs are significant and inseparable. The joy of the Lord is our strength (Neh. 8:10). The joy of the Lord helps us in our service for Christ. We serve Him because we want to. If we lose our joy, our labor becomes a drudgery and we get into a rut. This is what happens to many pastors. This was David's weakness after he sinned with Bathsheba.

Psalm 51:12—Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.

Have you lost your joy? If so, deal with the cause.

In verse three through thirteen of Exodus 15, we find a review of the Red Sea incident and the defeat of the Egyptian army. Notice now verses fourteen through sixteen.

Exodus 15:14-16

Others did hear and fear the Lord.

God has given them a great victory. It's now time to move forward Verse 22 pulls the curtain to the start of their wilderness adventures, to the first baby steps of a totally free nation.

Exodus 15:22

Here we find that there may be barren times in our lives. They journey for three days into the wilderness of Shur. Shur means "wall." This area was a barren place where sandstorms were frequent and flocks most likely suffered and died on the journey. The first day of their march was probably very positive.

The second day was a little more trying for them. They turn from the sea into a labyrinth or maze of mountains lying over white limestone plains and sand dunes that were hot on the feet and dazzling to the eyes like a snow covered landscape is on a bright, sunny day. Their water skins probably still had water, but for most they were either out or very low.

On the third day, the journey was probably getting tiring or monotonous. Thirst scratches their arid throats and swollen tongues like sand paper on skin. Their lips were parched and chapped from the hot desert winds. The need for elusive water holes has put them in a desperate situation. Water-wise, they find themselves running into a brick wall in what I call the Wilderness of the Wall. Have you ever been there? Have you been in those situations where you are out of resources or strength and don't know what to do next? Your back is against the wall. Life in the wilderness can be that way at times.

The wilderness is a picture of this present world. It is a place the traveler journeys from one place to another. It can be very harsh and barren at times. Only a mad man would want to make his final home in a totally barren and harsh wilderness. This world is a wilderness, a place which men and women journey from time to eternity. Faith in the Lord, however, makes the difference in the way which you and I regard and esteem this world.

Those folks without Christ are content to live here. They believe this is their final home. When death stalks them, they are desperate and fear death for they have no hope of anything else. The godly Christian, on the other hand, has a different attitude.

Hebrews 11:10—For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

Hebrews 11:13—These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.

As pilgrims, we are just passing through. Our citizenship is in Heaven (Philippians 3:20).

Colossians 3:1-2—If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. [2] Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.

What are you living for? What are your priorities? Are you prepared to meet the Lord? The new music teacher at the Junior High school had just organized a band. The principal decided that the band should give its first concert, but the music teacher was not certain that the band was ready. Just before the concert, the music teacher whispered to her nervous musicians, "If you're not sure of your part, just pretend to play." When the big moment arrived, she brought her baton down with a sweeping flourish and lo, nothing happened. The band gave forth with a resounding silence. Nobody was prepared. Are you prepared for the return of Christ or for your appointment with Him when you die?

1 John 3:2-3—Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. [3] And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.

The first steps are many times difficult and tedious, whether it is a baby's first steps, the first day in school, or the first days of a new business. They are difficult sometimes for new Christians too. Breaking sinful habits, withstanding ridicule and temptations can be very distressing. Israel's first baby steps as a nation were difficult too. They were immediately faced with trials. They could find no water.

The first insight from wilderness life we find here is there is nothing much that the world can offer the believer. The pleasures of sin, and the attractions of the world cannot satisfy us. They leave us thirsty.

Psalm 63:1—O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is;

John 7:37—In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.

Do you have a hunger and thirst for the Lord in your life?

Matthew 5:6—Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.