Open Exodus 15:1-21.
What makes a great song? Lyrics that voice what you feel? Rhythm that moves you? Layers of rich harmony? Chord progressions that take you places?
A song rang out over the MCG at the final siren on 29 September 2018. It was the song every Eagles fan wanted to hear. The right song in the right moment sweeps you up and carries you like a raft on a white-water stream.
The first song in the Bible was that kind of song — the greatest victory song you could imagine. We waited 65 chapters to hear it. There’s only been one mention of a song, a song Jacob turned down. After 20 difficult years, Jacob slipped away quietly, rejecting the party Laban offered with mirth and song pretending everything is okay (Genesis 31:27). Our world is still full of escapist songs that don’t quite ring true.
Finally we get the true song, the authentic celebration. The song celebrates the moment they were released from serving Pharaoh to serve a new king. With his chariots on the sea floor, Pharaoh had no power to enslave them again. You can’t stop the music:
Exodus 15 (NIV)
1 Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the Lord:
“I will sing to the Lord, for he is highly exalted.
Both horse and driver he has hurled into the sea.
2 “The Lord is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation.
He is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him. …
13 In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed. …
18 “The Lord reigns for ever and ever.”
The song bursts into their collective consciousness, profound lyrics vocalizing what everyone feels, resonating rhythm that gets everybody dancing (15:20-21).
It’s the sound of freedom! This is the first time since Eden that people have been released to live under God instead of under human oppression. It’s good news!
It’s the good news of God’s kingship. They are now under YHWH’s rule, not Pharaoh’s. They will formalize this arrangement at Sinai with a covenant that defines them as the people of YHWH, the nation under his kingship, the representative kingdom of God.
As they search for language to describe their emancipation, they find words like salvation and redeemed. These motifs resonate through Israel’s songs, literally hundreds of times in the Psalms. Salvation and redemption are key themes in the prophets who promise that Israel’s faithful covenant God will again rescue his people, bringing them back from captivity to live under his kingship.
Jesus called it the good news of the kingdom. It’s the big story Paul had in mind when he spoke of salvation and redemption. What God did for the Israelites through Moses, he has now done for everyone through the Messiah.
It’s the same theme resounding in the Bible’s final song, but the volume is seismic because YHWH’s kingship extends to all nations:
Revelation 15:3 (NIV)
[They] sang the song of God’s servant Moses and of the Lamb:
“Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty.
Just and true are your ways, King of the nations.”
We’ve missed the big picture if we think of salvation as just about forgiveness for personal guilt. Salvation is emancipation from every form of evil, to live under God’s kingship. Redemption is the faithful sovereign bringing his people out of slavery to serve him instead.
Imagine the end of slavery, the end of oppression, the end of inequality, the end of injustice, the end of every abusive rule. Imagine a world where every knee bows to God’s anointed ruler, every tongue declares allegiance to him, every community honours our eternal sovereign in the way they live, a world where the Lord reigns for ever and ever.
Does the song of the Lamb inspire you? In our present struggles, it’s the music of life.