In Exodus 15:1–21, the Holy Spirit records for us the first national psalm of Israel. We are told that Moses and the people of Israel sang this song after they passed through the Red Sea on dry ground and had seen God destroy the Egyptian army in its waters. Maybe some of you have also sung the first few verses of this psalm as a simple song of praise: “I will sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea” (v. 1).
The song recorded in these verses recounts many wonderful things about our God. But one of the most remarkable is the statement made in verse 3: “The LORD is a man of war; the LORD is his name.” You will notice that the word “LORD” appears in small capital letters. The word is in small capitals to remind us that what we are reading there is the covenant name of God, His own special name that He has revealed to His people: Yahweh.
The Holy Spirit speaks through this song to reveal something important about Yahweh, our covenant Lord. Through their deliverance at the Red Sea, Israel had learned something new about their God. They celebrated this new revelation in this psalm. Israel had always known that God was strong, that He was the salvation of His people, and that He was “their father’s God” (v. 2). But the incident at the Red Sea revealed to them something new about their covenant Lord: He is also a man of war.
Here in Exodus 15:3 we have the first explicit statement in Scripture of the warlike nature of our God. This will become a central motif or theme in the Bible—namely, that the Lord fights for His people to deliver them from their enemies.
We see God revealed here as a man of war who holds tremendous and frightening power. Egypt with all its military might was no match for the shattering strength of God’s hand, the ferocious fire of His fury, and the irresistible blast of His breath (vv. 6–8). All Egypt’s foolish boasts and plans had been completely extinguished by God as easily as we might blow out a candle. No wonder God’s people sing the words they do in verse 11, confessing that there is no one like their God.
This passage also provides us with a glorious picture of the Lord Jesus Christ, the man of war who comes to fight for His people and to deliver them from their enemies. Jesus came as a suffering servant to die on the cross, but He faced our enemies and His as God’s consummate man of war. And in that fight, Jesus battled enemies who were far more dangerous and powerful than Pharaoh and his army. Jesus had to contend with the devil, death, and hell. But Christ conquered them completely and gloriously by His death and resurrection. Christ has delivered us from all our enemies. And He will come again soon, in glory, to work justice for His name and for His people by that same almighty power.