Dear Church Family,
In our sermon this past Sunday from Exodus 15:1-27, we examined the songs of victory which the people of God sang on the far shore of the Red Sea after the Lord had defeated and destroyed the pursuing Egyptian Army. Interestingly, their songs of victory follow a particular pattern. They sing of the past victory of God, the future victory of God, and then the past victory of God once again.
The Songs of Victory: Past, Future, and Past again
First, they sang “the song of victory past” (Exodus 15:1-12) as they praised God for His defeating their enemies: “The LORD is a warrior”! (Exodus 15:3). As Christian believers in the New Covenant, we too may and ought to sing the song of victory past. Only, we don’t sing a song of victory because the Lord has thrown the horse and his rider into the sea. Rather, we sing the song of victory past because Christ has been victorious on the cross of Calvary; He has defeated sin, and death, and the devil (1 Corinthians 15:54-57; Hebrews 2:14-15). Christ executes the office of a king by “restraining and conquering all of his and our enemies” (Westminster Shorter Catechism 26).
Then, the Israelites sang “the song of victory future” (Exodus 15:13-17), praising God for the accomplishment of His yet unfulfilled promise to bring them into the Promised Land. What’s interesting about their song of victory future is that they sing about future events in the past tense, as if they have already happened. In the Hebrew language this idiom is often used to refer to future events which are so certain that they are considered as having already been accomplished. As Christians, we too may sing of the future victory of Christ when he comes in glory and make all things new (Acts 1:11; 17:31; Revelation 21:1-7).
The reason that the people of God can sing with such confidence about the future fulfillment of God’s promises is precisely because they have already seen how God has proven Himself to be true to His word. Thus, they return to singing the “song of victory past” once again (Exodus 15:18-21). They sing of how the Lord parted the waters of the sea such that they were able to walk through on dry land, and then how the Lord had caused the waters to come back over their pursuing enemies.
The Song of Victory Present
Even as the Israelites sang the songs of the victory of God (past and future), they needed to learn how to sing “the song of victory present” – they needed to learn how the past and future victory of the Lord ought to have informed the way they lived in the present. Here’s what happened (Exodus 15:22-24). After three days of traveling through the wilderness with no water, they finally came to a place called Marah – so named because the water there was bitter and undrinkable. The Israelites began to grumble and complain against Moses – and ultimately against the Lord.
In the remaining verses of Exodus 15, we read of how Moses responded to their grumbling and how the Lord provided for them (Exodus 15:25-27). First, Moses prayed – he cried out to the Lord. Second, in response, Moses received special revelation – the Lord showed Moses a tree that when thrown into the bitter waters would make them sweet. Third, God called His people to obedience – the Lord promised to discipline them if they did not keep His commandments.
The Songs of Victory: Past, Future, and Past (in the New Covenant)
I find it fascinating that in the Apostle Paul’s letter to Titus, he expresses the same pattern of the songs of victory that we find in Exodus 15: past, future, and past again. Consider Titus 2:11-14:
11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men,
12 instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age,
13 looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus,
14 who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.
In these verses, Paul explains how we are to live between the two “appearings” of Christ Jesus. And, he does so in much the same pattern that we see in Exodus 15. First, in verse 11 we are to look to the first coming of Christ in the past, the appearing of the grace of God bringing salvation to all men. In verse 13, we are instructed to look to the future coming of Christ in glory. And, in verse 14, Paul fixes our gaze once again upon the past – Christ’s giving of Himself to redeem and purify His people. Like the songs of victory of the Israelites, Paul shows us how we ought to look to the victory of Christ on the cross, which gives us a confident hope in His glorious return. And, then we look back again to His first coming to remember why we can have such hope.
And, in the midst of these verses, Paul tells us how the past and future victory of Christ Jesus informs us how we ought to live in the present. We are to be zealous for good deeds (v 14), deny ungodliness and worldly desires, live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age (v 12).
In Exodus 15, we see how the Israelites were living between God’s powerful redeeming work in freeing them from slavery in Egypt (victory past) and God’s powerful work of bringing them into the Promised Land (victory future). In light of these past and future victories – and informed by them – the people of God had to learn how to live in the present. They had to learn to depend upon the Lord in prayer and attending to His Word, all the while seeking to obey all that He had commanded them.
Likewise, as we see in Titus 2:11-14, we live in a very similar situation. We are living between Christ’s powerful redeeming work on the cross in freeing us from the punishment and power of sin (victory past) and Christ’s powerful work when He comes again in glory to make all things new (victory future).
In the midst of this present evil age we will encounter trials, difficulties, and doubts. When that happens, we must remember to sing the song of victory past, remembering what Christ has accomplished for us on the cross. And, we must learn to sing the song of victory future, looking forward with confident hope and anticipation of Christ’s coming in glory.
And then, we must allow these songs of victory past and future inform us how to sing the song of victory present. Pray and cry out to the Lord, and the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Philippian 4:6-7). Read and attend to His Word, which is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16). Obey all that He has commanded, for we are His disciples and He promises to always be with us (Matthew 28:20).
This is how the people of God are called to sing the song of victory present. When in the midst of trials and difficulties (our own droughts and bitter waters of Marah), instead of complaining as the Israelites did, we must learn to first pray and call upon the Lord for help. When we pray, the Lord promises to hear. Second, we must learn to turn to God’s special revelation, the Scriptures. God doesn’t speak to us as He did to Moses, but He does still speak today – and He speaks to us in His written Word. And, when we attend to His Word, He promises to speak. Third, we must learn to obey what God has commanded in His Word, to seek to be obedient even and especially in the midst of difficult time. For when we obey, the Lord promises to teach us.
This is how we sing the song of victory present!
The Lord be with you!
- Pastor Peter M. Dietsch