First Reading: Exodus 14:15-15:1
The Parting of the Red Sea
15 YHWH said to Moses, “Why do you cry to me? Speak to the children of Israel, that they go forward. 16 Lift up your rod, and stretch out your hand over the sea, and divide it: and the children of Israel shall go into the midst of the sea on dry ground. 17 I, behold, I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians, and they shall go in after them: and I will get myself honor over Pharaoh, and over all his armies, over his chariots, and over his horsemen. 18 The Egyptians shall know that I am YHWH, when I have gotten myself honor over Pharaoh, over his chariots, and over his horsemen.” 19 The angel of God, who went before the camp of Israel, moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud moved from before them, and stood behind them. 20 It came between the camp of Egypt and the camp of Israel; and there was the cloud and the darkness, yet gave it light by night: and the one didn’t come near the other all the night.
21 Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and YHWH caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all the night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided. 22 The children of Israel went into the midst of the sea on the dry ground, and the waters were a wall to them on their right hand, and on their left. 23 The Egyptians pursued, and went in after them into the midst of the sea: all of Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots, and his horsemen. 24 It happened in the morning watch, that YHWH looked out on the Egyptian army through the pillar of fire and of cloud, and confused the Egyptian army. 25 He took off their chariot wheels, and they drove them heavily; so that the Egyptians said, “Let’s flee from the face of Israel, for YHWH fights for them against the Egyptians!”
26 YHWH said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea, that the waters may come again on the Egyptians, on their chariots, and on their horsemen.” 27 Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to its strength when the morning appeared; and the Egyptians fled against it. YHWH overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea. 28 The waters returned, and covered the chariots and the horsemen, even all Pharaoh’s army that went in after them into the sea. There remained not so much as one of them. 29 But the children of Israel walked on dry land in the midst of the sea, and the waters were a wall to them on their right hand, and on their left. 30 Thus YHWH saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. 31 Israel saw the great work which YHWH did to the Egyptians, and the people feared YHWH; and they believed in YHWH, and in his servant Moses.
1 Then Moses and the children of Israel sang a song to YHWH.
World English Bible
Cecil B. DeMille and the animators at Dreamworks SKG have something in common. The special effects for the parting of the Red Sea established both technical and economic high points for their day. Despite the cost and effort, this scene as depicted in both “The Ten Commandments” and “The Prince of Egypt” is still breathe taking.
Like the narrative of Abraham and Isaac, Christians view the parting of the Red Sea as an archtype. Just as the Israelites walked through the midst of the water toward their salvation, we, too, journey through the waters of baptism toward our freedom. And, just as evil (symbolized by the army of the Pharaoh) was crushed in the rushing waters, so too, our sins are washed away in Baptism. Just as God formed a new people out of the experience, we, too, are formed into his new people, the Body of Christ.
Notice, two constants in the story: the power of water and the power of God over water. Water still has the power to give and take life, to cleanse and refresh. But, God forms this power to his own ends. The mighty breathe of God (his Spirit) swept over the waters and divided them to create the cosmos in Genesis. Then, his breathe swept over the Red Sea to create a new relationship with his people. Now, in Baptism, he breathes his Spirit across the water, so it may enter us and incorporate us in Christ.
Baptism obviously does not have the “FX wow-factor” that the parting of the Red Sea had. But it does not mean that it lacks the power that this narrative had. Through the waters of Baptism, God breathed across each one of us and made us his own.
So, the next time you replay the scene from either movie, put yourself in movie. Relive the danger and the rush of freedom. Remember, as God did for the Israelites, he did for you.
Reflect on your baptism. When you renew your baptismal promises on the Easter Vigil, relive the moment of the water that rushed over you.