CANTICLE OF MOSES AND ISRAEL (EXODUS 15:1-18)
One of the biggest events, perhaps the biggest event of the Old Testament is the crossing of the Red Sea. It is such a big miracle that it is cited not just in the book of Exodus but also in other books. It is an event that gives us reason never to doubt the power of God. My name is Ifeanyichuwu, which means ‘Nothing is too heavy for God’. Indeed, nothing is too heavy for God, and the crossing the Red Sea made this very clear to the Israelites. After this event, which happened in Exodus 14, Moses and the people of Israel decided to praise God by way of the following canticle which we find in Exodus 15:
Then Moses and the children of Israel sang this [a]song to the Lord, singing,
“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 my song,
And He has become my salvation;
This is my God, and I will praise Him;
My father’s God, and I will exalt Him.
“The Lord is a warrior;
The Lord is His name.
“Pharaoh’s chariots and his army He has thrown into the sea;
His chosen captains are drowned in the [b]Red Sea.
“The deep [water] covers them;
[Clad in armor] they sank into the depths like a stone.
“Your right hand, O Lord, is glorious in power;
Your right hand, O Lord, shatters the enemy.
“In the greatness of Your majesty You overthrow and annihilate those [adversaries] who rise [in rebellion] against You;
You send out Your fury, and it consumes them like chaff.
“With the blast of Your nostrils the waters piled up,
The flowing waters stood up like a mound;
The deeps were 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 against them;
I will draw my sword, my hand shall dispossess them and drive them out.’
“You blew with Your wind, the sea covered them;
[Clad in armor] they sank like lead in the mighty waters.
“Who is like You among the gods, O Lord?
Who is like You, majestic in holiness,
Awesome in splendor, working wonders?
“You stretched out Your right hand,
The [c]sea swallowed them.
“You in Your loving-kindness and goodness have led the people whom You have redeemed;
In Your strength You have guided them with care to Your holy habitation.
“The peoples have heard [about You], they tremble;
Anguish and fear has gripped the inhabitants of Philistia.
“Then the [tribal] chiefs of Edom were dismayed and horrified;
The [mighty] leaders of Moab, trembling grips them;
All the inhabitants of Canaan have melted away [in despair]—
Terror and dread fall on them;
Because of the greatness of Your arm they are as still as a stone;
Until Your people pass by and [into Canaan], O Lord,
Until the people pass by whom You have purchased.
“You will bring them [into the land of promise] and plant them on the mountain (Mt. Moriah in Jerusalem) of Your inheritance,
The place, O Lord, You have made for Your dwelling [among them],
The sanctuary, O Lord, which Your hands have established.
“The Lord shall reign to eternity and beyond
Usually, when we have a problem we pray and cry to God, but whenever the problem is solved, we may not remember to give thanks to God or to sing His praise. God does not need our praises, but we need to praise Him because praising Him makes us more aware of His love and goodness to us. A very good way to praise God is by way of a song. The Israelites sang this beautiful song and we all should always sing the praise of God, especially in the areas of our lives where we experience victory.
Another thing we take from this canticle is to recall exactly what God has done for us and how He did it. In this canticle, we get a description of how the horses and riders are thrown into the sea, etc. It is good for us to know exactly what we are thanking and praising God for. In the preface of the Mass, the priest would always begin by saying how right and just it is that we should give thanks to God. Then he will mention specific events. An example of such preface is that of the Epiphany which reads
It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation,
always and everywhere to give you thanks,
Lord, holy Father, almighty and eternal God.
For today you have revealed the mystery
of our salvation in Christ
as a light for the nations,
and, when he appeared in our mortal nature,
you made us new by the glory of his immortal nature.
And so, with Angels and Archangels,
with Thrones and Dominions,
and with all the hosts and Powers of heaven,
we sing the hymn of your glory,
as without end we acclaim:
First it says it is good to give thanks to God. Then it gives a specific reason for giving thanks to God, namely that today, the mystery of our salvation in Christ is revealed. Then for this reason, we sing with all the angels the Holy, Holy, Holy. One great reason for us to thank God is for the gift of Our Lord Jesus Christ who came to set us free. What would we have done without Him. The crossing of the Red Sea was only a prefiguration of how Jesus, like Moses, will lead us all, through the Red Sea of our sin and evil to the promised land which is Heaven. So, when this psalm is sung on Easter Vigil, let us think, not so much of Moses leading the Israelites through the sea, but of Jesus, leading us from this world into eternal life in heaven. For this we will never stop singing.