“Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the Lord, and spake, saying, I will sing unto the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea. The Lord is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation: he is my God, and I will prepare him an habitation; my father's God, and I will exalt him.”— Exodus xv. 1, 2.
THIS is the first song unto the Lord which is recorded in holy scripture. In Jacob’s blessing of his children there are verses which may be regarded as songs; but they are mere fragments, and can scarcely be said to be sung unto the Lord. There are other couplets in the Book of Genesis, but this is the first connected song upon record. I should think that Abraham often sang unto the Lord; but we have no record of it. We can hardly doubt but that Isaac had his quiet psalm, as Enoch had, and Noah, and others who called upon the name of the Lord; but none of these hymns are left to us. This is the very first of those sacred songs preserved in Scripture, and in some respects it is first in in merit as well as in time. At any rate, its august occasion lifts it into the highest place among patriotic hymns.
The song of Moses appears to have been chanted by an exceeding great multitude. Miriam, the prophetess, took her timbrel and led the strain, all the daughters of Israel going forth with her with their timbrels and dances, and the whole multitude of the people taking up the strain. Never had the shores of the Red Sea, or any other sea, heard such a song. There were at least six hundred thousand men, beside women and children. What an assembly! Millions made up that choir! Though their voices were little tuned to music, yet as they lifted them up, each one throwing his whole strength into the strain, it must have sounded like the noise of many waters, especially when they repeated the refrain, “Sing unto the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea.”
We saw just now, in our reading in the fifteenth chapter of Revelation, that the Song of Moses, the servant of God and of the Lamb, will be sung toward the close of this dispensation, when those who have gotten the victory over the beast and his image shall stand on the sea of glass, having the haps of God. Before the seven last plagues shall be poured out upon the earth, and God shall overthrow the hosts of Antichrist once for all, then shall this song be heard, sung, not by the Israelitish nation, but by that higher Israel who have escaped by the grace of God from the power of the spiritual Pharaoh, and have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. How sweetly will they together take up the song, “Sing unto the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously! Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty.”
It is obvious, then, from the plentiful allusions to this song in holy scripture, that it is full of deep spiritual significance. It teaches us not only to praise God concerning the literal overthrow of Egypt, but to praise him concerning the overthrow of all the powers of evil, and the final deliverance of all the chosen. It is God’s intent that from the day of Moses downward, even to the hour when flames of fire shall lick up the works of men, and the heavens themselves shall be dissolved with fervent heat, that this shall be the song of the chosen people everywhere, “Sing unto the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously.”
The first verse of this song was quoted by David. I think you will find it in almost the same words three times in the Psalms, but especially in the hundred and eighteenth Psalm you have the exact words, “The Lord is my strength and song; and is become my salvation.” As if the Holy Spirit, when he furnished Isaiah with his noblest minstrelsy, could not excel the earlier strains of Moses, Isaiah himself, in chapter twelve, has the same words: “Jehovah is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation.” It is evident that this patriotic song was interwoven with the life of Israel, and that when good and gracious men would express themselves in praise at their very best, they fell back upon this song of Moses, and they sang unto the Lord who had triumphed gloriously. So full of significance then as this song is, there is something for us to learn from it this morning. May God the Holy Ghost, who dictated this song to Moses, now write it afresh upon his people’s hearts! Breathe on us, Holy Spirit, that we also may be filled with the praises of Jehovah.
First, I shall want you to notice the time for singing this song. The text begins, “Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song.” Secondly, I shall want you to observe the tone of this song; it is worthy to be sung in heaven itself. High and lofty indeed it is. And thirdly, we will consider the first clauses of the song itself: “The Lord is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation: he is my God, and I will prepare him an habitation; my father’s God, and I will exalt him.”
I. It will be instructive to notice THE TIME OF THE SINGING OF THIS SONG. To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven: there is a time of the singing of birds, and there is a time for the singing of saints. “Then sang Moses.”
It was first of all at the moment of realized salvation. “The Lord saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the sea shore; and Israel saw that great work which the Lord did upon the Egyptians: and the people feared the Lord, and believed the Lord, and his servant Moses. Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the Lord.” There was no singing in Egypt; sighing, and crying, and groaning, and lamentation abounded there, till the Lord said, “I have surely heard the cry of my people.” There was no singing that I know of even at the celebration of the paschal supper, on that dreadful night when they ate the lamb in haste with their loins girded, and their staves in their hands. Its first observance was upon a night almost too solemn for song. I do not read that they sang when they came to Succoth, or reached their first encampment; I doubt not that they sang snatches of songs when they found themselves free from their daily tasks, and from the Egyptian rod. No doubt there were individual songs, but the masses did not unite in concerted music: they were too hurried and too much in fear of pursuit. No poet, as yet, had arisen to write a lyric in which all would join. The hour of their complete deliverance had not yet fully come. They marched on steadily, but they had hardly reached the time for timbrels. When they had crossed the sea, and the waters thereof rolled between them and the house of their bondage, “Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the Lord.” Their previous lives had been one long-drawn sigh, or one discord of anguish and fear and woe; but when their slavery was altogether a thing of the past, then sang Moses. The depths have covered the Egyptian host; there is not one of them left; “Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the Lord.”
You will have noticed, perhaps, in reading the previous chapter, that Moses had said to the people (xiv. 14): “The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.” But now that God has fought for them, they are not commanded to hold their peace any longer. The battle is fought, and the victory is won, and “Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the Lord.” How could they help it? Surely “if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.”
What does that teach us, brothers and sisters, but that we cannot sing in the land of bondage while under the dominion of sin and Satan? How shall we sing the Lord’s song in that strange land? We do not even sing in the first moments of our spiritual life, when our question is how to escape destruction through the sprinkling of the blood Nor do we, perhaps, sing in those first hurried steps when we fly from the power of sin and Satan, endeavouring to escape out of bondage. But, oh, when we see that Christ has saved us, when we understand that he that believeth in him hath everlasting life, then we sing! When we learn that “he that believeth is justified from all things from which he could not be justified by the law of Moses,” and hear the Word of the Lord declaring, “To as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name,” then we sing unto the Lord. Who could stop us? It would be unnatural for us to be silent after sin is put away. When we are reconciled to God by the death of his Son the dumb devil is cast out of us. “Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the Lord.” Our early days, when first we saw how complete was the redemption of Christ, were days of constant praise; and I think to-day if we see afresh how perfect is the righteousness of Christ, how fully accepted is the great atonement, how secure is our standing by virtue of our union with the Son of God, we shall return to our music and make this house resound with grateful psalms. When we doubt our salvation we suspend our singing; but when we realize it, when we get a grip of it, when we see clearly the great work that God has done for us, then we sing unto the Lord who hath for us also triumphed gloriously. I say again, how can we help singing? How can our joy of heart any longer be pent up? It must pour itself forth in floods of harmony, in tunes of realized salvation.
So is it also in times of distinct consecration. You may not see this at first, but I would remind you that the apostle assures us that all Israel were “baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea.” When Pharaoh and his hosts had been destroyed, Israel stood for the first time, as a nation separated from Egypt. The Red Sea was a most effectual division; Israel became a distinct people, a race redeemed from among men: they would never again feel the yoke of Mizraim, they would not return unto Egypt, nor would Pharaoh again pursue them. They were now a distinct people consecrated unto Jehovah; to them God would reveal himself, and among them he would dwell. That passage through the Red Sea was the type of their death, their burial, and their resurrection to a new life; it was their national baptism unto God: and therefore they sang as it were a new song. Do you wonder that they did so? It is the happiest thing that can ever happen to a mortal man, to be dedicated to God: it is the grandest posture in which a creature can stand, to be fully consecrated to his Creator: it is the sweetest and happiest condition in which a heart can be, when it feels that it is redeemed of the Lord, and henceforth is not its own, but bought with a price. No song among sweet pastorals can exceed in sweetness that heavenly Canticle, “I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine.” There is no greater joy than to know that the Lord has chosen us unto himself to be his peculiar heritage. Conscious of redemption by blood and separation unto Jehovah, their God, “Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the Lord.” Oh you that hope that you are Christians, but have never yet taken the distinct step to avow yourselves to be wholly the Lord’s; oh you that have never come clean away from Egypt, and made the waters to roll between you and a guilty world— you have delayed a joy which I trust you may not longer miss, lest that dreadful text be fulfilled in you, “Whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” “Then,” in the day of realized salvation, “then,” in the day of distinct consecration, they sang this song unto the Lord.
Brethren, it was also a day of the manifest display of God's power. Our hearts are heavy; at least, mine is so, when God seems to put his right hand into his bosom and not to vindicate his own cause. I am most sad because I see error prevalent everywhere; falsehood reigns, and Jannes and Jambres withstand Moses, and the prince of this world disdainfully demands, “Who is Jehovah?” Plagues many are upon us: the earth swarms with errors as if the dust were turned into lice throughout all the land. Heresies like frogs are croaking everywhere; they have come up into the King’s chambers. The Lord hath sent a thick darkness over all the land, even darkness that may be felt. The people loathe to drink of the waters of our sanctuaries; for a curse is upon them in many a place. Our heart feels bowed down, and we go mourning, and say, “Why hast thou made us to drink the wine of astonishment?” But when we hear of conversions, when we see God blessing the work of the Sabbath-school, when we hear of sinners turning to Christ and seeking mercy, when we notice the children of God diligent in service, when we see the work of the Lord wrought with vigour, then is our heart exceeding glad, and then, like Moses and the children of Israel, we sing unto the Lord. How can we be silent when God's arm is made bare? A revival is our joyous holiday. If we had our choice of all the benedictions that God can give us on earth, it would be to see the church revive, his truth prevail, and his kingdom come. It is not with some of us a matter of indifference whether the truth is preached or error is proclaimed; no, it is our life to see the gospel conquer. Now we live if ye stand fast in the faith; but our spirit distinctly sickens in proportion as the church of God decays; and when the church is strong, and God is with her, then is our heart revived, and our song bursts forth, “The Lord is my strength and my song; he is become my salvation.”
But this song may be sung at all times throughout the life of faith.
I want to put it to the people of God here whether it is good to save up our songs for special occasions of great joy, or for times when we have something visible to sing about. Should not the believer sing by faith as well as live by faith? Do you not think that the song of Moses and the children of Israel at the Bed Sea was, after all, a poor affair as far as faith is concerned? The bulk of the Israelites had very little faith indeed; and loud as was the song, there was more noise than faith in it; for within a day or two they began to murmur against God. Sing in fine weather! Any bird can do that. Praising God when all goes well is common-place work. Everybody marks the nightingale above all other birds because she singeth when the other minstrels of the wood are silent and asleep; and thus doth faith praise God under the cloud. Songs in the day are from man, but God himself giveth songs in the night. O come, let us sing unto the Lord under the clouds; let us pour forth his praises in the fires! Let us praise him under depressions; let us magnify him when our heart is heavy. Faith believes in God when there is nothing to support her but the bare promise. That man was highly commended who did not despair of the Roman Republic; let us never despair of the Redeemer’s kingdom. That is the true Christian who can say, when everything grieves him, “Nevertheless, with joy will I draw water out of the wells of salvation; for I will sing unto the Lord as long as I live.” “Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea.” I ask to-day from every heavy heart and every downcast spirit, from every man that contendeth earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints, and trembles for the ark of the Lord, that in the midst of his trembling and grief, he should burst into song. Rob not God of his glory, but let it be said this day, “Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the Lord, and spake, saying, I will sing unto the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea.
Thus we have spoken upon the time for singing. That time is NOW, I think. Let your hearts begin to ring all their bells, and let not their sweet chimes cease for evermore.
II. Notice, secondly, THE TONE OF THIS SONG. “Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the Lord.”
Note, first, that the tone is enthusiastic. There is not a dull line, there is not a dreary sentence, all through; it is full of force, life, power; it is Luther’s Old Hundredth psalm, and more; it rises to a height of intense enthusiasm which cannot be excelled. The words are, “I will sing unto the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously”; and the singers endeavour to sing gloriously, too.
The tone is also congregational, being intended for every Israelite to join in it. Though Moses began by saying, “I will sing unto the Lord,” yet Miriam concluded with, “Sing ye to the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously.” This is a hymn for every child of God, for ail that have come out of Egypt. Should not there be praise from every one of you? You in the back settlements, you that bear the mark of Egypt’s lash, and smart from wounds still unhealed; you that remember well the taskmaster, and the iron furnace; yet sing ye unto the Lord. From Egypt lately come, sing ye unto the Lord! There should be sent up unto God by his church a perfectly unanimous harmony of praise. “Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness!” Let all the redeemed of the Lord say so. “O come, let us sing unto the Lord: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation.” Let the song be enthusiastic and unanimous.
Yet please to notice how very distinctly personal it is. It is strikingly so. “I will sing unto the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously. The Lord is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation; he is my God, and I will prepare him an habitation; my father’s God, and I will exalt him.” Do not lose yourself in the throng. It is no egotism to resolve that if nobody else will sing, you will say with David,“I will sing unto the Lord as long as I live.” The fact is, that unanimity cannot become fact if each mind is not active in praise. We cannot have a perfect accord unless each child of God feels that he must make his own distinct music melodious in the ears of the Most High. I tell you, brethren, if you will not praise the Lord this day, I will. Do you not say the same? Does not each brother and sister here say, “If no others feel bound to gratitude, yet I have such reason for thanksgiving that I will praise the Lord while I have any being”? In my case the Lord hath “triumphed gloriously”; and if others will not take him to be their God, yet this God is my God for ever and ever; he shall be my guide even unto death. I like the personality of this song, and would urge you to follow it. Some of you cannot sing unto God because you have no personal enjoyment of grace from him, and do not know God for yourselves. Oh, if this be your case, do not let yon sun go down until you do know this God, and so can offer your own peculiar song to him.
Note, again, the tone of this song is exceeding confident. There is not a shadow of doubt in it: it is all the way through most positive in its ascriptions of praise. The lip does not quiver, the mind does not waver. It begins, “I will sing unto the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously.” It declares a fact, about which there can be no doubt: “the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea”; and it goes on to make statements which are not qualified with hopes, and desires, and “ifs,” and “buts,” but are bold assertions which cannot be challenged. “The Lord is my strength and my song, and he is become my salvation.” That is the kind of singing. I do not mind occasionally singing with Cowper, when he is down in the dumps; for some of his dreary hymns admirably express the experience of the weaker members of the family; but I would not always keep to the minor key. Oh no! let us sing songs of joy and victory. Doubts and fears ill become the children of God. The full assurance of understanding is our privilege and our duty, and why should we not have it? When we come before God, why should we bring him such broken-legged worship? No, let us bring him perfect praises, the firstlings of our bullocks, even as David says, “Then shall they offer bullocks upon thine altar.” God should be worshipped with the best we have; his mercy is so sure, so true, that he ought to have our fullest faith. Where is room for doubt? Let us sing with confidence unto the Lord.
And this song is exceeding comprehensive. It sings of what God has done, and then of what God will do in bringing his people into the Promised Land; nor does it finish till it rises to that loftiest strain of all: “The Lord shall reign for ever and ever.” I think I hear them repeating that verse again and again: “The Lord shall reign for ever and ever. Hallelujah.” Sing to the Lord, not only of the past, but of the present and the future. Sing of the second coming; sing of the glory to be revealed; sing of high heaven and the city that needs no candle, neither light of the sun; sing of the victories of Christ when the armies of heaven shall ride forth on their white horses, and he shall lead them whose name is written on his vesture and on his thigh— King of kings, and Lord of lords. There is matter enough for eternal music if our hearts are right with God.
Note, too, all through, that this song is immeasurably joyous. The Israelites were slaves enjoying new liberty; children let out to play. How merrily did they disport themselves! They did not know how to be glad enough. Let us give to God our unlimited joy. David said, “God is my exceeding joy.” I know of no greater word than that word “exceeding”; because, however far you go, if your joy is “exceeding,” it is above the highest; and however brave the description, if your joy be “exceeding,” it surpasses all language. Believers ought to be unutterably happy. Men redeemed with the precious blood of Christ ought habitually to be almost too happy to live: men that are children of God, and heirs of the covenant, and are soon to be where Jesus is in the ineffable splendour of Jehovah’s light, ought to feel their soul overflowing with delight. The pulse of the believer should beat hallelujahs; every heaving of the lungs should raise a Te Deum. Oh, if our minds could but rise into the heavenlies, where we ought to be, we should not only be happy as the days are long, but we should enjoy the days of heaven upon the earth!
Yet I must say, however enthusiastic that song was, and however full of joy it was, it was only such a song as was due unto the Lord. If those people on that day had sung to the Lord some dull, heavy tune, I think if I had been there I should have said, “Change that note. Rouse ye to ardour! Awake, awake, put on strength.” of the present age are constructed upon the principle of “Let us sing and rattle through the words as hard as we can go.” I like weightier music; moving swiftly, but yet grandly. Such was the song of Moses, full of solemnity, but full of heart; a tune into which every one could throw the full volume of his voice without fear of spoiling the delicacy of tone. But, brethren, the tribes of Israel did not even then praise the Lord half as he should be praised. If all the angels in heaven had left their seats and descended to the Red Sea shore, and if cherubim and seraphim had joined the lofty song, it had not been more than meet for the occasion. So to-day, if we could arouse all on earth, and all in heaven, as well as all that is within us, to bless and magnify the Lord, the song would not be equal to the majesty of the divine goodness; it would be but a faint expression of what God deserveth from each one of us. Therefore, let us sing unto the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously.
“Sound the loud timbrel o'er Egypt’s dark sea!
Jehovah has triumph’d, his people are free.
Sing— for the pride of the tyrant is broken,
His chariots, his horsemen, all splendid and brave,
How vain was their boasting! The Lord hath but spoken,
And chariots and horsemen are sunk in the wave.”
III. We are to dwell fora few minutes upon THE FIRST CLAUSES OF THIS SONG. “The Lord is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation: he is my God, and I will prepare him an habitation; my father’s God, and I will exalt him.”
Notice, the song is all of God; there is not a word about Moses. Read this song through, and neither Moses, nor Aaron, nor Miriam are in it: God is all in all: “I will sing unto Jehovah.” That is blessed praise when self lies with the Egyptians at the bottom of the sea, and when everything that is in us that is commendable is traced to the grace of God, and the Lord is magnified for it. Oh for the glorification of Jesus, and none but Jesus! Brothers, we spoil our music by diverting our thoughts to man. Let us forget men, forget earth, forget time, forget self, forget this mortal life, and only think of our God. The song shall be all for thee, O Lord, for thou art all in all; and if we have one note that is determined to go astray we will this day bind it with cords, even with cords to the horns of thine altar, O Jehovah.
Observe, the song dwells upon what God has done: “The horse and his rider hath he thrown into-the sea.” There is nothing concerning the deeds of Moses and Aaron, or the pride of Pharaoh, or the craft of Jannes and Jambres. No, the whole is consecrated to the doings of the Lord. Let us trace all the mercies we get to our God, for he hath wrought all our works in us; he hath chosen us, he hath redeemed us, he hath called us, he hath quickened us, he hath preserved us, he hath sanctified us, and he will perfect us in Christ Jesus. The glory is all the Lord’s. Let us sing of what the Lord has done. When you read human history, read it to see the finger of God in it; trace all along through human story the silver line of covenant working; observe how the Lord casts the horse and his rider into the sea when they come out against him or his people.
The song also declares what the Lord will yet do. It is not about what evil men are doing, or what we are afraid will happen through their malice; but of what the Lord alone will do. He says, “Thou wilt surely bring them in”; he pictures the whole affair finished, and Israel settled in the Promised Land, and this is his song. Come, brethren, let us sing the music of the future, the music of what God will do. Do you believe that the Lord will be defeated in the long run? Do you fear that at the end Jehovah’s everlasting purpose will fail— that Christ will have died in vain? Think you the eternal truth promulgated in this book will be driven out of the earth by modern thought? or that our old Christianity, for which our fathers bled, will become extinct ? By no means. We shall conquer yet in the great name of Jehovah. Therefore let us take heart of hope to ourselves, and sing of what the Lord hath done so often; for again and again, “The horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea.”
Take up the first note: “The Lord is my strength” What a noble utterance! Poor Israel had no strength! She had cried out by reason of her sore bondage, making bricks without straw. Poor Israel was weakness itself! but Jehovah drew near in power. The Lord is my strength when I have no strength of my own. By the strength of the Lord, Israel came forth with a high hand and an outstretched arm; Egypt was glad when they departed, and the Egyptians gave them jewels of silver and jewels of gold that they might wish them well in departing; for God had given them honour in the sight of the people. Thus the Lord is our strength when we are at the extremity of weakness.
The Lord was also Israel’s strength against strength. Pharaoh was exceeding mighty. The kings of the earth trembled at the neighing of his war-horse; the rattling of his chariots made the very heavens to resound; but God was more than a match for him. When strength comes out against God’s people, God meets it with his omnipotence. What is Pharaoh’s strength when matched against Jehovah’s might? A paper pellet thrown against a wall of brass. The enemy said, “I will pursue; I will overtake; I will divide the spoil,” and so on; but Jehovah had only to blow with his wind, and the sea covered them. Thus will the Lord be our strength when the mighty are against us.
It is well to say, “The Lord is my strength” when we are weak and the enemy is strong; but we must mind that we say the same when we are strong, and our enemies are routed. Suppose Israel had stood on the shore and cried, “The Egyptian power is broken by the sons of Jacob. Israel hath cut Rahab and wounded the dragon.” Suppose the nation had boasted itself, it would have been guilty of a treasonable attempt upon God’s glory. Lo! Israel is strong enough to make the dukes of Edom tremble, and the mighty men of Moab to be afraid; but she must not sing unto her own honour. “Give unto the Lord, O ye mighty, give unto the Lord glory and strength. Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name.” Let this, then, be our song when we are weak, and our song when we are strong: “The Lord is my strength.”
Note, the word is not “The Lord gives me strength,” but “The Lord is my strength”! How strong is a believer? I say it with reverence, he is as strong as God— “The Lord is my strength.” God, the infinite Jehovah, in the infinity of his nature, is our strength.
The next is, “The Lord is my song” that is to say, the Lord is the giver of our songs; he breathes the music into the hearts of his people; he is the creator of their joy. The Lord is also the subject of their songs: they sing of him and of all that he does on their behalf. The Lord is, moreover, the object of their song: they sing unto the Lord. Their praise is meant for him alone. They do not make melody for human ears, but unto the Lord. “The Lord is my song.” Then I ought always to sing; and if I sing my loudest, I can never reach the height of this great argument, nor come to the end of it. This song never changes. If I live by faith my song is always the same, for “the Lord is my song.” Our song unto God is God himself. He alone can express our intensest joy. O God, thou art my exceeding joy. Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, thou art my hymn of everlasting delight.
“The Lord is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation.” The Father in his eternal purpose is my salvation; the Son in his complete redemption is my salvation; nay, not in his redemption only, but in his life, his death, his resurrection, his intercession, his second coming, he has become my salvation. And the Holy Ghost indwelling in me, quickening me, instructing me, illuminating me, perfecting me, keeping me— he is become my salvation. Triune God, it is not alone that thou dost save me, but thou art my salvation. I look for nothing but what is in thee, and if thou givest thyself to me, thou hast given me a perfect salvation, salvation from bondage, salvation from worldliness, salvation from death and hell, salvation into light, and liberty, and love, and joy, salvation that shall culminate in eternal glory. A full salvation is God to his people.
Next “He is my God.” Perhaps this is the most joyous note of all. “He is become my salvation”—this is very sweet: “He is my God”— this is the sweetest of all. “He is my God,” I choose him to be my God, but I choose him of necessity; I can do no other. Who else can be my God? In the Revised Version it is, “This is my God,” and a very proper translation, too; as if Israel saw what God did at the Red Sea, and then exclaimed, “This is my God.” This God of justice, this God of vengeance and power, is my God. Beloved, choose Jehovah to be your God: whom else can you choose? Let your hearts cling to him.
But then comes the added word, “He is my Father's God” that is to say, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob; a God by covenant, the God who has given himself to us by his own purpose and promise, and therefore is our God, not by any right of merit on our behalf, but solely by the gift of his free, rich, covenant grace. Let us praise the triune God of free grace, for he belongs to each one of us. There is nothing in God that is not mine; there is no high and lofty attribute that is not mine; there is no deep and dark decree that is not mine. Thou hast neither cross nor crown, O Jesus, which is not mine. He hath given himself over to us to be our God for ever and ever. Come, let us exult in his name. Have you lost your goods? You have not lost your God. Have you nothing on earth? Yet can you say, “Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.” This is a holy portion, a happy portion, a heavenly portion, a sure portion, an endless portion, a portion which makes us feel rich to all the intents of bliss. This God is our God for ever and ever. Let us praise and bless his name.
Note, once more, that as Moses said, “He is my strength, my song, my salvation, my God,” now he adds, “He is my praise” The text in the Old Version is, “I will prepare him an habitation.” This jars a little on my ear; it rather sinks the majesty of the infinite for Israel to think so soon of Jehovah as One for whom she could prepare a habitation. Building a habitation was rather the idea of David in his hour of decline, than of Israel in the day of her astonishment and victory. The Revised Version of the Old Testament, which is infinitely superior to the Revised Version of the New Testament, renders it: “This is my God: I will praise him.” The fact is, there are two words so nearly alike that it is hard to tell which is correct — “habitation” or “praise.” Some of the oldest versions of all have it, “He is my praise.” I never like meddling with the Old Version, however; so we will take them both, and make sure that we do not miss the meaning. Doth not the Lord inhabit the praises of Israel? We will prepare him a habitation of praise. As soon as Israel had got clear of the Red Sea, clear of Egypt, clear of Pharaoh, by the power of Jehovah, then she said, “I will praise him.” O God, it shall be the business of thy people henceforth to praise thee! We have no bricks to make, but we will praise thee; we have no whips to fear, but we will praise thee freely; we are not slaves now, but we are bound to thee for ever, and we will praise thee. Then the people seem to say, “We will praise the Lord by regular and abiding worship.” Inasmuch as in order to worship, a place is needed, the thought comes up, “We will prepare him an habitation.” We will habitually praise our God for this great deliverance. Let us build our God a house of praises; let us lay the deep foundations in love, set up the pillars with gratitude, and roof in the whole with joyous hallelujahs.
The thought of care comes before me in the Authorized Version: “I will prepare him an habitation,” as if Israel said, “I will take pains to praise God, I will do it intelligently, and with my best powers; he shall have the best I can give to him. My best is poor compared with his deserts, but the preparation of my heart shall be his; I will lay myself out that everything shall be done decently and in order for the praise of this most High God; I will prepare him an habitation of praise. Does it not look as if Israel said, “The Lord hath come hither to this Red Sea to fight my enemies, and I pray that he may abide with me. I will prepare an habitation that he may remain. Lord, be not as a wayfaring man that tarrieth but for a night: let thy presence be ever with me, and I will praise thee always.” To have abiding fellowship with God is the natural desire of every redeemed soul. O brothers, let us import our own desires into Israel's words. Let us say,
“Come, dearest Lord, descend and dwell
By faith and love in every breast;
Then shall we know, and taste, and feel
The joys that cannot be express’d.”
Never leave us, nor even hide thy face from us, O Lord, our God. Dwell in us, that we may dwell in thee. Reside in these bodies, and make them thy temples. Abide with us. Manifest thyself to us as thou dost not to the world.
The verse closes with, “He is my father’s God, and I will exalt him.” How can we exalt him who is already high above all thought? We cannot make God really greater, but we can make him greater in the estimation of our fellow-men. Let it be the business of our lives to magnify him. Let us tell to our friends that which will make the Lord appear more glorious in their estimation. Let us lay ourselves out, by pen, and tongue, and life, to make our Lord Jesus Christ more honourable among those who surround us. Say, “I must and will exalt him. Perhaps I have groaned too much over my trials; perhaps I have been too depressed and heavy in spirit; but from this day I will exalt my Lord, and sound forth his praises. If he will permit me, I will make the glory of the Lord the one object of my being.” Come, ye young men and maidens, ye old men and fathers, let us praise the Lord on the high-sounding cymbals, and spend the rest of our days in crying, “Sing ye unto the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously.” Amen.