Old Testament Exodus Hymn of Victory

Hymn of Victory

We come to the final portion of the song of Exodus in chapter 15, the summary of what has gone before. Now passages like this can be difficult when looking to preach consecutively through a book. You can slip them into the sermon previous or the following sermon as somewhat of a footnote. Specifically, these verses in 19-21, add nothing new really to what we have looked at before. It might of made last week’s sermon longer. They could be included as an intro to the next weeks sermon. However, as you read through the Bible we often can glace over summary passages and think that we know all that has gone before and merely just think we know this all. Yet when we do that, we can be looking only at what is the same and not what is different. Which can help us grow deeper and understanding in the Lord and his word. We saw this in the ten signs and wonders, you could study them collectively and be amazed at God’s power and providence. But you can also study them individually and see more of those details at work in passages like that. I had a difficult time trying to work out where to place these three verses in this sermon series. Wondering if we could find enough in these verses to make a whole sermon. However, most of the time as I have that thought going into sermon preparation the more amazed at how all of God’s word is breathed out by God, and useful for our training, instruction and correction. So what can we learn and understand from this verse today?

Reminded of the scene

In verse 19 we are reminded of the scene in which is before us. That moments before, about 24 hours, the petrified people were trapped with Pharoah’s army descending upon them. That they were in this situation and place because God had led them to this place. That they had cried out blaming Moses for this problem (Ex 14:11-12). They had felt hopeless and helpless and through death was going to close the chapters in their story as individuals and as a nation. All of God’s promises were based upon his people. God came through for his people, as he always does. It seems that through the scripture that god’s promises are opposed, and his people oppressed. They are at their end, but yet God does not let his promises end, nor his people expire. In genesis 22 God makes a promise to Abraham, which can be called the offspring (Stars and Sand) and land promises that repeat throughout Genesis. Specifically, he says that “Your offspring will possess the gate of their enemies” (Gen 22:17). This very moment was a triumph bought about by God, because of his promises to his people. The author of Hebrews makes this very clear as God has sworn by himself, the argument centers on the reliability of God’s promises and the assurance of hope for believers. The passage begins with a reference to God’s promise to Abraham, highlighting that God swore by Himself since there was no one greater, emphasizing the certainty of His word. The author underscores that God’s promises are immutable and unchangeable, providing a firm foundation for our hope.

Drawing on the example of Abraham’s faith and patience, the author encourages believers to inherit the promises through faith and perseverance. He contrasts the steadfastness of God’s promises with the shifting nature of human oaths, reinforcing the trustworthiness of God’s word. He makes the connection to this assurance being like an anchor to our very souls. The people are reminded as they finished their song of praise to God about God’s victory, God’s character, and God’s future promises. That God made a promise to them and fulfilled that promise once more on the other side of the sea.

Curious Questions

Now quite possibly verse 20 is one of the main reasons that I and other preachers what to be able to move quickly over this passage. Mainly because even in such a short verse we can have so many questions; Is Miriam the sister who placed Moses in the water in Exodus 2? What does it mean that she is a Prophetess? Why is she only mentioned as the sister of Aaron and not Moses? What is the significance of the women singing? What about the tambourines and dancing? Should we have tambourines and dancing in our services? Why does Miriam sing to the women and not the women sing all together? How does this connect to the cross, if at all? Now we start to see we have many questions that we need to try and address to fully grasp and understand this passage. Before we begin with the answers I want to stop and explain this is how we grow and learn more about the Bible. If we start looking for the Bible to give us specific answers then you can turn to many pages and find a verse that might give you the response you are looking for. Satan when he tempted Jesus in the wilderness quoted scripture, however he did not use scripture correctly. However, if we let scripture interpret itself then we can seek to understand what the Bible actually says and not what we want it to say.

Sibling Questions

So lets have a look and see if understanding the answers can help us understand the meaning. Some are simple, such as the relationship of Miriam to Moses and Aaron. Is Miriam the sister who placed Moses in the Nile River? We do not know, however we have no other reference to another sister of Moses (Num 26:59). Why is Aaron only mentioned? Some have suggested that Moses is only a stepbrother and hence why he is not mentioned. However, this is not what we read about in Numbers 26:59, “The name of Amram’s wife was Jochebed the daughter of Levi, who was born to Levi in Egypt. And she bore to Amram Aaron and Moses and Miriam their sister.” Aaron is most likely mentioned because he is the eldest of the three siblings, and Miriam is older than Moses.

Title Question

What does it mean that Miriam is called a Prophetess? What does that mean? We must understand how it is commonly used in the masculine form. A prophet in the Bible is a person who communicates God’s will to people through His word. The prophet has a role as a messenger of divine revelation, delivering God’s commands, teachings, and warnings to the community. So, a prophetess is the female who is called by God to deliver God’s will through his word. Micah 6:4 explains that Moses, Aaron and Miriam were all sent by God, “For I brought you up from the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of slavery, and I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam.” In the Bible this title is applied to four other women, 1) Deborah – Found in Judges 4:4, Deborah stands out as a prominent figure in Israelite history. She served as both a prophetess and a judge, offering wise counsel and guidance to the people of Israel during a time of political and spiritual turmoil. We will come back to Deborah; 2) Huldah – Referenced in 2 Kings 22:14, Huldah emerges as a respected prophetess during the reign of King Josiah of Judah. When the Book of the Law was rediscovered in the temple, King Josiah sought Huldah’s counsel regarding its significance. Huldah confirmed the authenticity of the scripture and conveyed God’s message of judgment upon Judah for their disobedience. 3) Noadiah – mentioned in Nehemiah 6:14, Noadiah appears as an adversary to Nehemiah during the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem. Although her specific prophetic utterances are not recorded, she is identified as a false prophetess who conspired against Nehemiah and sought to hinder the work of God’s people; 4) finally, the unnamed wife of Isaiah – Referenced in Isaiah 8:3, the wife of the prophet Isaiah is described as a “prophetess.” While her prophetic messages are not explicitly documented in the scriptures, her designation as a prophetess shows a connection to her husband, Isaiah. In the New Testament we see Anna (Luke 2:36–38) and the four daughters of Phillip (Acts 21:8-9). We will see that Miriam plays a part in the coming stories found in the wilderness wonderings.

Specifically, in this passage we find out exactly what Miriam the Prophetess speaks as we find out in verse 21. Hence why she addressed the women singing, “Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea.” She gives the women a command and why they should obey that command. They are to sing to the Lord, previously in exodus 15:1 it explains “The people of Israel sang,” a more accurate translation would be the ‘sons’ of Israel sang. We had noted before the Sons of Israel as a key theme in the book of Exodus. Here the women sing along with them, quite possibly the women continue to sing this refrain as the sons of Israel sing the entire song. Which leads us to our next set of questions, women singing, dancing, and their tambourines.

Worship questions

How does this portion of Scripture relate to worship. As we have seen that we can learn lot about worship from the first portion of Exodus 15, what about this portion. Should we all bring our tambourines next week, and put on some more appropriate dancing clothes? As Presbyterians our answer is no, not because we are Presbyterians, and we are against tambourines and dancing. We need to understand a couple of things in this passage, the first is we have the wrong idea of what is happening hear, tambourines is not the best terminology, it is more a frame drum, without the clanging cymbals. We often would picture a free for all where everyone plays what they want, but that is not how we are instructed in worship. Worship needs to be done decently and in order (1 Cor 14:40). It is more likely the women playing their frame drums as constant beat in the background while singing the refrain as the men sang the song of Exodus. What about dancing then? Specifically, we need to understand this is not a free for all dance arena, but they dance in a ring. Culturally, this is exactly what the women would do when soldiers would return home after a victory (cf 1 Sam 18:6). This is an ordered, structured, dance. Now often this and other verses seek to take this and explain that church services can have people moved by the spirit to grab their tambourine/ flag and dance. This is not the cultural setting and is a misapplication of what is happening.

But we need to notice something else the focus is not on their beat or their moves but their words. The focus is not what they do but what they sing. And this is important, because we see many different types of worship throughout the Old Testament, for example in Psalm 149:1-9, people praise God through singing a new song to Him, dancing, making melody with tambourine and lyre, exulting in glory, singing for joy, having high praises of God in their throats, and holding two-edged swords as symbols of executing justice on the nations and peoples. We then need to be cautious to seek to have the argument that people in the Bible did it therefore we should do it, because we would have a hard time knowing when we cross the line. But more specifically we must understand an important principle and that is God commands us how we are to worship him, and specifically through song (Eph 5:18-19, Col 3:16). That me might see instruments in worship but the important element is singing, psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Some cultures might dance, use move more when singing, but again the focus needs to be on the singing, and that this is a corporate event not a solo performance.

This actually is not the only time in the Bible there is women singing and we should also note this as well, In the Bible, women celebrate God’s triumphs and promises through song. Deborah, a judge and prophetess, along with Barak, sings a song of victory after defeating Canaanite general Sisera, praising God’s role in their conquest and honoring the courageous leaders and tribes who fought alongside them. Hannah, mother of the prophet Samuel, offers a hymn of gratitude at the tabernacle, expressing thanks for the gift of motherhood and prophesying about God’s ability to overturn worldly power dynamics. Mary, the mother of Jesus, composes the Magnificat during her visit to her relative Elizabeth, rejoicing in God’s mercy, faithfulness, and redemption, while acknowledging her own humble state and God’s fulfillment of His promises to Israel. These songs collectively echo the praise and anticipation of God’s salvation through His promised Messiah.

Question of the Cross

Does any of this connect to the cross and Christ? After asking many questions and seeking to understand this passage I think we can begin to see some themes that show how we cannot it to the cross, not though superficial connections but organic ones that stem from the Bible. We notice that although we are given a slither and a seed in this passage these themes grow throughout the Bible, I want to point out three. The first is the similarities between this event and Deborah and Barak in Judges Chapter 4-5, which finishes with the song in chapter 5, that God has brought victory to his people, there is celebration of what God has done and also how he conquered their enemies. But we also see that this is a communal response where the people of God give thanks and praise to God. Secondly, the song of Mary again we can see similarities that the songs focus on God’s might and mercy which he has shown to bring salvation to his people. But finally, we must see the connection to the women at the tomb.

But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”” (Matthew 28:5–10)

We are not told what the women sing as they worshiped Jesus that very day, but you could imagine them singing, “Sing to the LORD, for His triumph is indeed glorious! Just as the LORD cast the horse and rider into the sea in Exodus 15:21, so has Christ cast our sins into the depths of the sea (Mic 7:19). Through His death and resurrection, Jesus defeated Satan, as foretold in Genesis 3:15, and triumphed over death itself (1 Cor 15:54-57). He emerged victorious, declaring, “I am the living one; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever!” (Rev 1:18). Let us lift our voices in praise to the Lamb who was slain but now reigns forevermore (Rev 5:12)!” May we seek to respond in worship and adoration as we hear God’s will reveled to us through God’s word. May we give praise to the God who has triumphed gloriously.

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