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21st January

Exodus 13-15; Psalm 21

Bible in a Year
6 minutes
In this article
21st January

Exodus 13-15; Psalm 21

Bible in a Year
6 minutes


So far in Exodus, we’ve read how the Israelites, descendants of Jacob, grew in number and then were oppressed in Egypt. Amidst this darkness, Moses is born, saved by his mother's quick thinking and adopted by Pharaoh's daughter.

As a grown man Moses killed an Egyptian to protect an Israelite, forcing him into exile. In the wilderness, he encounters God in the form of a Burning Bush. Despite his self-doubt, Moses is chosen to free his people, with Aaron as his mouthpiece.

Back in Egypt, we read as their demands for freedom are met with intensified oppression. Undeterred, God unleashed a series of plagues, each aimed at debunking an Egyptian deity. From locusts devouring crops to a chilling darkness that undermines their sun god Ra, the plagues escalate in their severity. Yet, Pharaoh remained stubborn.

The plagues reach their peak with the Passover. This moment would go on to define the Israelite calendar and shape their culture and history.. Following God's instructions, they mark their doorposts with lamb's blood.

That night, Yahweh sweeps through Egypt, sparing the Israelites but taking the lives of Egyptian firstborns, including Pharaoh's own. Broken, Pharaoh finally relents, and the Israelites leave Egypt, not as slaves but as a people laden with wealth.

Exodus 13-15

Exodus 13 opens with instructions on the first-born sons. This moment, Israel’s freedom from Egypt, would be etched into their memory as a nation. God uses this opportunity to tie some key instructions and rituals to this memory so that they will keep them.

Then recognising that the people are in a fragile state, God makes a point of leading them the long way round to avoid fighting the Philistines. As we’ve just seen, God is more than powerful to defeat the Philistine army, but right now the people need time to heal and grow in confidence before they start fighting more battles.

Moses being a man of his word and a man of honour makes a point of keeping the promise his ancestors made to Joseph all those years ago (Genesis 50:25). He takes the bones of Joseph with them as they leave.

Israel leave Egypt and they get to the Red Sea. Meanwhile, Pharaoh has changed his mind and chases the people down with his soldiers. The people naturally began to panic, but God is fully in control and tells Moses to lift up his staff and start walking.

At that, the sea splits open. We lose something of the impact of this, but at the time the sea was considered powerful and mighty. Most of the people around at this time were not strong sailors, and so the sea was to be feared. It was often associated with great sea beasts of chaos.

And yet here is God, bending the sea to his will. This was a real demonstration of power. And then to further demonstrate his power God lets the Egyptians in and the collapses the sea on the Egyptians while keeping it open for the Israelites.

There are various links we can see in this story. The first is a parallel with Genesis 1:6-8 when God separated the waters at creation. And then we see similarities with the flood narrative, where God allows the forces of chaos to consume the wickedness and evil in the world. Those that are beings of chaos (children of the serpent) will be consumed by chaos.

Having safely reached the other side, the Israelites begin to sing songs of praise to God. They are free and God is powerful. They start by celebrating God’s victory over the Egyptians. Other than the obscure reference in Jacob’s blessing over Dan (Genesis 49:18) this is the first time that the Bible mentions God’s salvation.

Next they point out how unique their God is. There is no one like him (Exodus 15:11). They look at the impact this event is going to have on the other nations (Exodus 15:14-16). The Israelites do not need to fear the other nations because the other nations are now going to fear them. Who wants to attack a people whose God cast down ten plagues and split open a sea so he can drown an army in it?

The Israelites finish with looking forward to a time where God will establish his people. He creates a home for himself where they will live and he will reign forever. This moment sets up a theme of salvation and God’s reign throughout the Bible. The theme will be picked up time and time again, and it all harks back to this moment where God led his people out of oppression, defeating their enemies.

But despite all this goodness and rejoicing, we immediately see that everything is not yet right. The Israelites come to an area where the water is bitter, and the first response is to complain. God takes pity on them this time, and makes the water drinkable, but he gives them a warning. They are to remain faithful to him, listening for his voice and following his commands.

Psalm 21

This psalm is a royal psalm, (see Psalm 18, 45, 72, 110, 144 for examples of other royal psalms). Royal psalms are psalms that are focused on either God as king or on a human king. But this isn’t just a royal psalm. The first half is very much a praise psalm for all of God’s blessings, and the second half is a trust psalm, declaring the confidence that God will defeat his enemies.

Really, the main thing that makes this a royal psalm is the fact it is written from the perspective of a king, though in the third person. This is likely king David, as this psalm is attributed to him.

a) Psalm 21:1 - The king exults God

b) Psalm 21:2-7 - God blesses the king

b) Psalm 21:8-12 - God curses his enemies

a) Psalm 21:13 - The king exults God

The king opens by giving all glory to God. Everything he has comes from God. It is God who has given him his desires, and blessing him with the position. It is God that has given him his life and victory. No king can claim they are self-made. Each owes all they have to God, and in God find their security.

God has blessed the king because he has trusted in him. But God punishes those who rebel against him. Elsewhere in the Bible, the wicked are often spoken of as consuming the poor and destroying the innocent. Here God is doing the consuming and the destroying. To use a modern phrase, he is giving them a taste of their own medicine.

And so the king ends where he began, exalting God and giving him the glory. In this psalm we see the power and the authority of God. Even kings submit themselves to him. But we also see how taking the time to praise God for his past and present goodness (Psalm 21:2-7) can give us the confidence to declare his authority over our future (Psalm 21:8-12).

Anything you think I've missed? Maybe you've got a question that still needs answering. Send me a message over on my Instagram (@brynjoslin). I'd love to talk it through with you some more.

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