Latter-day Saint Life

What parting the Red Sea teaches us about the new and everlasting covenant


Leaving the world of the Egyptians was both joyful and terrifying for the Israelites. New questions arose as to how they were to survive in the wilderness of sin before their arrival in the land of promise (Exodus 16:1). Yes, they were no longer slaves to Pharaoh, but the prospect of survival in a dangerous and arid land brought new fears and challenges. The children of Israel were well aware that the hand of the Lord was with Moses and He had sanctioned their exodus. Gratefully, the Lord did not leave them comfortless. He led them out of Egypt to the mountain that was made sacred by the Lord’s presence: “And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night” (Exodus 13:21). 

The cloud by day and pillar of fire by night represent the presence of the Lord (Genesis 15). The Lord had already spoken to Moses from the burning bush (Exodus 3:3–4). Here again, the sanctifying element of fire denotes the glory or presence of the Lord before Israel. Similarly, the Lord guided the people of Jared by a cloud, as recorded in the Book of Mormon (Ether 2:4). The presence of the Lord was also manifested as a cloud to Israel in the tabernacle (Exodus 33:7–11). These elements of both fire and cloud suggest that the presence of the Lord is sacred, cleansing, and guarded. No unclean thing can dwell in the presence of God (3 Nephi 27:19); thus, his presence among Israel is both present and veiled.

The Lord guides us in the same manner he guided ancient Israel. He provides the influence of the Holy Ghost to guide us into all truth (John 16:13). The Spirit guides us out of the influence of the world’s behavior into a better life—a life in Christ. That influence directs us towards making and keeping sacred covenants. Like ancient Israel, one guided by the Spirit will be directed towards the next step in one’s journey to exaltation. For Israel, it was through the Red Sea; for modern seekers of truth, it is through the waters of baptism. Paul the apostle taught that the crossing of the Red Sea was a type for entering into the covenant of Christ through baptism. He wrote to the Corinthian Saints, “Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea and were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea” (1 Corinthians 10:1–2). Such a step of faith required that Israel go forward in the face of great opposition from the world. Pharaoh had sent his chariots to trap Israel against the banks of the sea. Israel was sore afraid, lamenting that “it had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness” (Exodus 14:10, 12). Such is the nature of any covenant commitment: to the world, it is a step of faith, but in truth, it is the only viable option to have “peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come” (D&C 59:23). 

Moses declared that “the Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace” (Exodus 14:14). Moses stretched forth his hand with his rod, and “the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind.” The children of Israel “went into the midst of the sea upon dry ground” (Exodus 14:21–22). The Lord provided a way through the sea that was the way of holiness (Isaiah 35:8; 40:3; 43:16). Only the humble and contrite may enter therein as indicated by the Lord’s response when the Egyptians pursued and went in after the children of Israel: “The Lord overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea” (Exodus 14:23, 27). Truly, baptism is a sacred ordinance: “See that ye are not baptized unworthily” (Mormon 9:29), or, as Paul warned, “Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 11:27). 

Safely on the other side of the Red Sea, the children of Israel were free from the threats of Pharaoh. But their elation was short-lived as they faced the daunting task of survival in a hostile wilderness. Likewise, when new converts enter into the covenant of Christ through baptism, is their journey complete? Nephi declares, “After ye have gotten into this strait and narrow path, I would ask if all is done? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save. Therefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life” (2 Nephi 31:19–20). 

Thus, after Israel had entered into the covenant, “the Lord saved Israel that day” (Exodus 14:30), just as we receive the promise of eternal life when we enter into the new and everlasting covenant (D&C 132). Ultimately, to be saved is to be placed beyond the power of all our enemies. Salvation “consists in the glory, authority, majesty, power, and dominion which Jehovah possesses, and in nothing else; and no being can possess it but himself or one like him.”28 But there is another way—in the here and now—that we can have what Paul describes as “the earnest of our inheritance” (Ephesians 1:14).29 This earnest from the Spirit of the Lord ratifies, seals, and confirms what the Lord promises in the waters of baptism. We can say, like Lehi, that we have obtained a land of promise while that promised land is still in the distant future (1 Nephi 5:5). Our responsibility, like Israel’s in the wilderness, is to abide in the covenant so that the Lord may seal us His (Mosiah 5:15).

Editor’s note: This article was originally published on in December 2017.

Types and Shadows of the Old Testament: Jesus Christ and the Great Plan of Happiness

To read the rest of this comparison and other types from the Old Testament, including Abigail, feasts, and Ruth and Boaz, check out Types and Shadows of the Old Testament: Jesus Christ and the Great Plan of Happiness.

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