Merry May We Be (Artful Devotion)

Egyptians Drowning in the Red Sea by Sadao Watanabe
Sadao Watanabe (Japanese, 1913–1996), Egyptians Drowning in the Red Sea, 1977. Hand-dyed kappazuri stencil print on momigami paper, 21 1/8 × 17 3/4 in. From the Bowden Collections.

Exodus 14:19–31:

Then the angel of God who was going before the host of Israel moved and went behind them, and the pillar of cloud moved from before them and stood behind them, coming between the host of Egypt and the host of Israel. And there was the cloud and the darkness. And it lit up the night without one coming near the other all night.

Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the LORD drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided. And the people of Israel went into the midst of the sea on dry ground, the waters being a wall to them on their right hand and on their left. The Egyptians pursued and went in after them into the midst of the sea, all Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots, and his horsemen. And in the morning watch the LORD in the pillar of fire and of cloud looked down on the Egyptian forces and threw the Egyptian forces into a panic, clogging their chariot wheels so that they drove heavily. And the Egyptians said, “Let us flee from before Israel, for the LORD fights for them against the Egyptians.”

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea, that the water may come back upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots, and upon their horsemen.” So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to its normal course when the morning appeared. And as the Egyptians fled into it, the LORD threw the Egyptians into the midst of the sea. The waters returned and covered the chariots and the horsemen; of all the host of Pharaoh that had followed them into the sea, not one of them remained. But the people of Israel walked on dry ground through the sea, the waters being a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.

Thus the LORD saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. Israel saw the great power that the LORD used against the Egyptians, so the people feared the LORD, and they believed in the LORD and in his servant Moses.

(Related post: “‘Oh Mary, Don’t You Weep’: Death, Resurrection, and the New Exodus”)

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The Crossing of the Red Sea is read by Christians as a picture of our passing safely through the waters of judgment led by Christ, the New Moses. The traditional English carol below, “Carol of the Exodus,” is arranged by Charles Wood.

Moses, sing unto Christ thy King, who hath won the victory
And hath laid low haughty Pharaoh underneath the deep Red Sea.

Yea, merry, merry, merry, merry, merry may we be,
As bird upon the berry of the may or cherry tree,
While as we stand with harp in hand
On the shore of the Red, Red Sea.

God perforce overthrew the horse, rider, car, and axletree.
They sank as lead, and their men lie dead, dead as stone, so mote* it be!

His right hand and his wonderwand did divide at his decree
The surging wave, and thereby did save us and ours from slavery.

Thou didst blow and entomb our foe in the bottom of the sea.
And if dry-shod we went o’er, O God, be ascribed the praise to thee!

* That is, must (obsolete).


This post belongs to the weekly series Artful Devotion. If you can’t view the music player in your e-mail or RSS reader, try opening the post in your browser.

To view all the RCL scripture readings for Proper 19, cycle A, click here.

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