This is the oldest song in the Bible, but what is the purpose of the song of Moses? The children of Israel had just crossed the Red Sea and were praising God in song for His mighty works. Chizkuni states that singing this song would enable future generations to learn it by heart and to recite it on appropriate occasions.[i] Moses also sang another song at the close of his life in Deuteronomy 32 which is referred to in Revelation 15:3-4. The Song of Moses has miraculously endured and contains timeless truth throughout all generations and is of course relevant for today.
This song is at a juncture in the history of the Israelites. The Red Sea had been crossed but the Promised Land lay before them. At the start of Exodus a mere seventy individuals are mentioned though by the end of Exodus the nation had grown to a few million. What are the themes of the book of Exodus? Exodus is about redemption and serving God. The Redeemer paid the price to set His people free so that they may serve Him faithfully. Hence gospel truths are evident in the Torah.
Why do we have the song of Moses? Singing aids memorisation and this was a crucial event that needed to be remembered, not just as an historical event but for encouragement and to trust in God for the future. The Lord had been their Ebenezer-thus far had the Lord helped them. Yet Canaan was full of challenges and obstacles and the same is true for the believer on their pilgrimage to heaven.
What kind of song is pleasing to the Lord and honours Him? Is not the answer partly revealed in the question? A song pleasing to our Creator should extol His virtues, His character, attributes, ways, and mighty deeds. A song pleasing to God is either directly quoting from Scripture, or has a biblical theme or proclaims biblical truth. If we fail to do this, then our best efforts become centred around us rather than about the Lord. We are made for His glory that we might be His workmanship (Isaiah 43:7; Ephesians 2:10). Once we recognise that, our lives have the ultimate purpose in serving God.
Some limit their understanding of God to “God is love.” More often their understanding of love is not biblical and fails to consider God’s many other attributes. God is love, but God is also holy, just, a man of war and an all- consuming fire.
The Lord is my Song, my Strength, and my Salvation
In this song Moses rejoices in some of God’s attributes. He states that the Lord is my strength. The joy of the Lord is the strength of the believer and without Him they can do nothing. Moses also said that the Lord was his song. People speak of their favourite song and couples at times speak of “their song.” Can you also say that the Lord is “your song”?
Moses could testify that the Lord was his salvation. God saved them from slavery and from the sword and He also saves souls. Yeshua (Jesus) means Saviour and He is the One who brings salvation. He frees people from the slavery of sin and saves souls for eternity.
The Lord is a man of war and the term “the Lord of hosts” is mentioned no less than 285 times in the Hebrew Bible. Who was it that met Joshua before he took Jericho? The Lord of hosts, who is the Captain of the army of the Lord. The Lord promised Joshua that He would be with Him as He was with Moses and that He would never leave Him nor forsake Him (Joshua 1:5). Again in Revelation 19:11-16 we read about our great Captain and the armies of heaven following Him.
All the Hebrews had to do was to trust in the Lord and follow Him into the Promised Land. This song would provide encouragement and help them when they encountered numerous trials and difficulties along the way. Whenever we face issues of problems in our lives that are seemingly insurmountable, we should remember who the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is, and recall His mighty deeds and wonders.
In this passage Moses frequently employs the use of ‘you’ and ‘yours’ drawing our attention to the Lord and His deliverance. People who lack faith in God always wonder how will- “I” overcome a situation that is out of their depth. As we look to the Lord our eyes and focus need to be on Him. Additionally our only boast should be in Him, and all the glory should be directed to Him.
God blew with His mighty wind and covered the Egyptians reminding us that the Creator is in control of the creation. He who breathed life into Adam, could blow with His wind and part the Red Sea but also calm the Sea of Galilee. It is by God’s Holy Spirit that spiritual life is given to the believer.
Who is Like the Lord?
Moses asked some rhetorical questions concerning who was like the Lord. Many today attempt to put Jesus on the level of the founders of other religions. To that we only need to ask who else was sinless, or had the authority to forgive sins and to the lame man say, “your sins are forgiven you”? Who else could perform mighty miracles or raise a person from the dead? Who could make atonement for sin and rise three days later? Who else fulfilled prophecy concerning His birth, life, miraculous ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension plus a myriad of other intricate and detailed prophecies in between? Who else saves by grace?
We live in a superficial and shallow society that is painfully ignorant of ancient history and like babies throwing a toy out of the pram wants to pull down statues and re-write even modern history. But God’s word has been preserved for several hundred years, so has this song, and the Passover each year is an annual and important reminder of that. We must recognise the parting of the Red Sea as literal and performed by the hand of God.
This song might also be the testimony of the believer. The Lord has guided them and kept them and will continue to do so for the rest of eternity. God does not save someone and leave them to fumble through life and get on with it. His steadfast love and mercies are new every morning and sustain us daily. He guides those who serve Him and those who follow Him are themselves on an exodus from this world to their real home.
They had enemies on all sides surrounding them including the inhabitants of Philistia, the Edomites, Moabites and Canaanites and there was plenty of opposition in Canaan, yet their foes feared the mighty works of the Lord. The same is reflected today in Israel have many enemies surrounding them who are fearful of them.
But this is the assurance of those that trust in the Lord; their future is with Him. The poem “Invictus” states, “I am the captain of my fate. I am the master of my soul.” Thank God the believer can say, “The Lord is my Captain, my Ebenezer, my Master, my Redeemer. The Lord is the Author and Perfecter of my faith and has become my salvation.
This is the crux of the matter and gives us an eternal perspective. How can we who are only finite comprehend infinity? I live because He lives. He died and rose again and paid the penalty for my sin. This life is like a dot compared with a line that goes on and on and on that we cannot either see or imagine the end of. That is the reality of eternity. Having an eternal perspective and trusting in the Lord gives us assurance in the present and for the future.
Can you see the difference between the Israelites and the Egyptians at the Red Sea? One survived whilst the other perished. Similarly there are two types of people in this world, and they are sinners and sinners who have been saved by grace. And there is one God. What matters is trusting in the God of the Bible, in Jesus the Messiah for salvation, since He is the one who saves and spares us from the judgement.
We end where we began. Miriam’s chorus reflects that of Moses and there are other songs in Scripture. The song of Mary is another tremendous example and her hope and trust, was in her Son who is the Saviour of the world (Luke 1:47). The song of Moses was sung by Moses and Miriam and is for all believers at all times. God has set us free that we might serve Him to the praise of His glory, not ours!
[i] Chizkuni on Exodus 15 https://www.sefaria.org/Chizkuni%2C_Exodus.15.1?lang=bi