(This study is an expansion of the worship section in my book, “A History of Man’s Quest for Immortality,” Fifth Estate Publishing, 2007)
God saved Israel from slavery in Egypt. Moses led the people of God across the Red Sea on dry land and God brought the great waters crashing down on the heads of the Egyptian soldiers. Israel’s freedom from their slave masters was complete and their new relationship with God was underway. Moses began by leading Israel in a song of praise to God. This is the first recorded worship song of Israel, so notice carefully the words God inspired Moses to sing. It has great importance in understanding how and why God wanted His people to worship Him. He wanted Israel to know that there was no other god like Him. God also gave Moses insight into Israel’s future and what they would accomplish when He brought them into the land He had promised to Abraham many years before.
“I will sing to the LORD, For He has triumphed gloriously! The horse and its rider He has thrown into the sea! The LORD is my strength and song, And He has become my salvation; He is my God, and I will praise Him; My father’s God, and I will exalt Him. The LORD is a man of war; The LORD is His name. Pharaoh’s chariots and his army He has cast into the sea; His chosen captains also are drowned in the Red Sea. The depths have covered them; They sank to the bottom like a stone. ‘Your right hand, O LORD, has become glorious in power; Your right hand, O LORD, has dashed the enemy in pieces. And in the greatness of Your excellence You have overthrown those who rose against You; You sent forth Your wrath; It consumed them like stubble. And with the blast of Your nostrils The waters were gathered together; The floods stood upright like a heap; The depths congealed in the heart of the sea. The enemy said, ‘I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil; My desire shall be satisfied on them. I will draw my sword, My hand shall destroy them.’ You blew with Your wind, The sea covered them; They sank like lead in the mighty waters. ‘Who is like You, O LORD, among the gods? Who is like You, glorious in holiness, Fearful in praises, doing wonders? You stretched out Your right hand; The earth swallowed them. You in Your mercy have led forth The people whom You have redeemed; You have guided them in Your strength To Your holy habitation. ‘The people will hear and be afraid; Sorrow will take hold of the inhabitants of Philistia. Then the chiefs of Edom will be dismayed; The mighty men of Moab, Trembling will take hold of them; All the inhabitants of Canaan will melt away. Fear and dread will fall on them; By the greatness of Your arm They will be as still as a stone, Till Your people pass over, O LORD, Till the people pass over Whom You have purchased. You will bring them in and plant them In the mountain of Your inheritance, In the place, O LORD, which You have made For Your own dwelling, the sanctuary, O Lord, which Your hands have established. ‘The LORD shall reign forever and ever.’ For the horses of Pharaoh went with his chariots and his horsemen into the sea, and the LORD brought back the waters of the sea upon them. But the children of Israel went on dry land in the midst of the sea.” Exodus 15:1-19
God inspired Moses to use His Holiest Name in this first song of worship: Yah and Yhwh (LORD). God also inspired him to use El and Elohiym (God). Notice also some key phrases which speak to God’s special relationship to Israel:
- my strength and song
- my salvation
- my God
- My father’s God
- The LORD is a man of war
- Your right hand, O LORD – glorious in power, dashed the enemy in pieces
- greatness of Your excellence
- glorious in holiness
- Fearful in praises
- doing wonders
- You have redeemed
- guided them in Your strength
- the greatness of Your arm
- Your people
- the people Whom You have purchased
- You will bring them in and plant them In the mountain of Your inheritance
- For Your own dwelling, the sanctuary, O Lord
- The LORD shall reign forever and ever
This short song contains immeasurable evidence of God’s deep Love and Devotion for the people of Israel. Though Israel treated God terribly for centuries, His Love for them has endured. How did Israel treat God terribly, you ask? Read the next 3 verses in Exodus –
“And they journeyed from Elim, and all the congregation of the children of Israel came to the Wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they departed from the land of Egypt. Then the whole congregation of the children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. And the children of Israel said to them, ‘Oh, that we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat and when we ate bread to the full! For you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” Exodus 16:1-3
Do you see that? Israel had been free from their horrible slavery in Egypt for just six weeks and already they’re complaining against God’s plan for them. Isn’t that just like human beings? We cry and cry to God – “Oh, Lord! Help us, Lord! Help us! Oh, Lord, just get me out of this mess and I’ll obey you forever and ever” – and the first time things get a little rough we start complaining – “Oh, Lord! Why is this happening to me? Oh, I wish I could be back where I used to be when things were so much better.” Just like a human. We’re either crying or complaining. What happened to the worship? to the praise? to the songs of joy? What happened in six weeks that would change the people of Israel from worshipers to complainers? They got hungry.
Think about that for a moment – the Israelites got a little hungry and they wished they were back in Egypt where they had pots of meat and ate bread to the full. I think they suffered from selective memory syndrome. The Egyptians had treated the Israelites terribly for years, but the only thing God’s people remembered was the little bit of food the Egyptians would allow them to eat. God demonstrated His amazing Power over the Egyptian gods and army, but all the Israelites could think about was their stomach. Just weeks earlier, they had all sung to the Lord about His strength and greatness and here they were with no faith in God’s ability to feed them. So, how did God respond to the growing unrest? “Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you.” (Exodus 16:4) God fed the people of Israel bread (manna) from Heaven and it supplied their needs for 40 years until they came to the border of the land of Canaan.
That was probably the last time the people of Israel ever complained about anything – right? Look at the next chapter in Exodus: “Then all the congregation of the children of Israel set out on their journey from the Wilderness of Sin, according to the commandment of the LORD, and camped in Rephidim; but there was no water for the people to drink. Therefore the people contended with Moses, and said, ‘Give us water, that we may drink.” (Exodus 17:1-2) Instead of worshiping God and being thankful for what He had done for them, Israel started up their whining and complaining campaign – “And the people thirsted there for water, and the people complained against Moses, and said, ‘Why is it you have brought us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst? (Exodus 17:3) The people were also saying some pretty bad things about God, testing Him and His Word – “Is the LORD among us or not?” (Exodus 17:7) What did God do about it? “And the LORD said to Moses, ‘Go on before the people, and take with you some of the elders of Israel. Also take in your hand your rod with which you struck the river, and go. Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock in Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it, that the people may drink.” (Exodus 17:5-6) Yes, God is extremely Longsuffering.
This story of Israel’s complaining and disobedience is repeated throughout the Bible, but God has always been true to His Covenant with Abraham. God promised Abraham, Isaac and Jacob two things – land and the Seed. No matter what Israel did against God, the Lord was Faithful to His Covenant. No matter how bad, how ugly, how sinful, how awful things became between Israel and God – God was always Faithful.
And things did get ugly –
“Now when the people saw that Moses delayed coming down from the mountain, the people gathered together to Aaron, and said to him, ‘Come, make us gods that shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ And Aaron said to them, ‘Break off the golden earrings which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bringthem to me.’ So all the people broke off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them to Aaron. And he received the gold from their hand, and he fashioned it with an engraving tool, and made a molded calf. Then they said, ‘This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!’ So when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made a proclamation and said, ‘Tomorrow is a feast to the LORD.’ Then they rose early on the next day, offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.” Exodus 32:1-6
Excuse me! Are these the same Israelites who God freed from bondage in Egypt? Are these the same people who walked across the Red Sea on dry land and witnessed God’s destruction of the Egyptian Army? Are these the people of Israel who ate bread from Heaven and drank water from a rock? Is this the same Israel that defeated the mighty army of Amalek? Are these the same people who saw the Glory of God resting on the top of Mount Sinai as a consuming fire? Are these the same Israelites who turned their back on the God they knew to worship a blind, deaf and dumb golden calf? Yes, I believe they are. How ugly is that? How absolutely pitiful. How human. God brought the people of Israel out of Egypt for the express purpose of protecting and providing for them while they served and worshiped Him – and what did they do? They served and worshiped an object of their own creation instead of the Creator. How sad.
Not unlike today – would you agree? God opened the door of salvation to every human being on the planet – Jews and Gentiles – through His Son Jesus Christ, and what do they do? They serve and worship objects of their own making. Study the history of man’s quest for immortality and that is what you will find – the human race serving and worshiping objects of their own creation.
It’s easy to read about Israel and wonder how they could be so foolish – but can we not see our own foolishness? Who or what do we serve? And I am talking to Christians as well as non-Christians when I ask this question. Who or what do we serve? You don’t think Christians can fall into the same spiritual trap as Israel? Look at what Jesus told some of the churches of the 1st Century.
“To the angel of the church of Ephesus write … Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent.” Revelation 2:1, 4-5
“And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write … But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality. Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate. Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth.” Revelation 2:12, 14-16
“And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write … Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent. Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds. I will kill her children with death, and all the churches shall know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts. And I will give to each one of you according to your works.” Revelation 2:18, 20-23
“And to the angel of the church in Sardis write, ‘These things says He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars: ‘I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God. Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you.” Revelation 3:1-3
“And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, ‘These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God: ‘I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked— I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent.” Revelation 3:14-19
What does our Lord want from us? Obedience and worship. Let’s give God what He wants. He certainly deserves that – don’t you think?
In Christ’s Love and Grace,
“Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”