Then Moses and the people of Israel sang this song to the LORD, saying,
“I will sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously;
the horse and his 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 man of war;
the LORD is his name.
“Pharaoh’s chariots and his host he cast into the sea,
and his chosen officers were sunk in the Red Sea.
The floods covered them;
they went down into the depths like a stone.
Your right hand, O LORD, glorious in power,
your right hand, O LORD, shatters the enemy.
In the greatness of your majesty you overthrow your adversaries;
you send out your fury; it consumes them like stubble.
At the blast of your nostrils the waters piled up;
the floods stood up in a heap;
the deeps congealed in the heart of the sea.
The enemy said, ‘I will pursue, I will overtake,
I will divide the spoil, my desire shall have its fill of 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, majestic in holiness,
awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?
You stretched out your right hand;
the earth swallowed them. “You have led in your steadfast love the people whom you have redeemed;
you have guided them by your strength to your holy abode.
The peoples have heard; they tremble;
pangs have seized the inhabitants of Philistia.
Now are the chiefs of Edom dismayed;
trembling seizes the leaders of Moab;
all the inhabitants of Canaan have melted away.
Terror and dread fall upon them;
because of the greatness of your arm, they are still as a stone,
till your people, O LORD, pass by,
till the people pass by whom you have purchased.
You will bring them in and plant them on your own mountain,
the place, O LORD, which you have made for your abode,
the sanctuary, O Lord, which your hands have established.
The LORD will reign forever and ever.”
For when the horses of Pharaoh with his chariots and his horsemen went into the sea, the LORD brought back the waters of the sea upon them, but the people of Israel walked on dry ground in the midst of the sea. Then Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women went out after her with tambourines and dancing. And Miriam sang to them:
“Sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously;
the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea.”
(Exodus 15:1-21 ESV)
Why sing? Why include a song in this middle of telling this story? Part of the answer is that it cannot be helped. As Moses and the people said, “Yahweh is my strength and my song, and He has become my salvation.” When God is not just an invisible someone we believe in but someone who has become active in our lives in ways we could never have anticipated, we leave the realm of mere acknowledgement. We are emotionally involved now with Him and singing to Him and about Him makes all the sense in the world. You do not have a real relationship with God if He is only your strength and not also your song.
Because of God’s great and awesome deed of deliverance from the mightiest army on the face of the earth at that time, Israel anticipates the fear and dread of Yahweh that will fall on the peoples to whose land they are traveling. They will leave the Israelites alone when they pass by on the way to Canaan and God will establish His place of worship, His sanctuary, in Canaan, where Israel will worship Him forever. There is much that is true in this psalm but the Israelites will find that even though afraid, these nations will send armies against them and in the far future Israel’s worship of Yahweh will fade. May we be warned not to follow their example. Instead, may we continue to find reasons to sing to Him.
Wikipedia defines and says of singing that it is “the act of producing musical sounds with the voice and augments regular speech by the use of sustained tonality, rhythm, and a variety of vocal techniques,” and mentions the health benefits of singing for the brain and the body in general. But in a strange way it is comedian Steven Wright’s joke about singing that gets more to the heart of it. He says, “I remember when the candle shop burned down. Everyone stood around singing ‘Happy Birthday.'” Singing is the soul taking joy and even tragedy and making it bearable. It is God’s gift to us for saying from our souls what just could not be adequately said in mere words.