The New England Primer was one of the most popular books in 17th- and 18th-century America. It sold more than three million copies and taught generations of children how to read and spell. The letters of the alphabet were linked to Bible stories, for example, “A: In Adam’s Fall, we sinned all.” M stood for Moses: “Moses was he who Israel’s host led thro’ the Sea.”
In today’s reading, M could stand for both Moses and his sister Miriam, the first woman in the Bible called a “prophet” (v. 20). Together they led the Israelites in celebrating the Red Sea crossing (vv. 1–2). In the song’s first section (vv. 3–6), God is pictured as a divine “warrior” who fought on behalf of His people and won the victory by hurling the Egyptians to the bottom of the sea. His right hand “shattered the enemy.” The second section (vv. 7–11) repeats this motif with even greater enthusiasm. God’s power is unmatched.
The enemy was so sure of victory that they were already dividing the spoils, but the fact is they never stood a chance. The third section (vv. 12–18) rejoices in drawing the conclusion that God leads and protects His people with power and love. He would surely keep His word and bring them safely to a better land.
God as a Divine Warrior is a recurring image in Scripture. Later in the Pentateuch, Moses described the confrontation with Pharaoh in these terms: “The Lord your God, who is going before you, will fight for you, as he did for you in Egypt, before your very eyes” (Deut. 1:30). Isaiah similarly proclaimed: “The Lord will march out like a champion, like a warrior he will stir up his zeal; with a shout he will raise the battle cry and will triumph over his enemies” (Isa. 42:13).
Take time to list the three problems or challenges you’re facing at this time. Why are you worried about them? Do any of them stand a chance before God’s power? As He was for the Israelites, so is He for you: “The Lord is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation. He is my God and I will praise him” (Ex. 15:2).