While it still looked to the Egyptians like they had time to make it safely to shore, God told Moses to stretch his hand over the sea. The sea flowed back to its rightful place, covering all the chariots, men, and horses.
Remember, it was daybreak. In Romans 13:12, Paul reminds Christians that the night is almost gone and the day is at hand. Two thousand years later, that is still true and will remain so until Jesus returns. The night is a time for sleep. Paul warns us to wake up, be alert, and put on the armor of light even though it is still night.
Late night, just before daybreak, is when enemies attack. If God’s people are alert, they will get out of danger. The devil, who loves the darkness because his deeds are evil, will pursue prey that is no longer where he expects and become vulnerable to God.
We must always remember that we have no human enemies. Pharaoh and his army were not the enemy, but merely Satan’s pawns. Satan intends for people to obey him. He will use soft tactics when he can and rough tactics where he must. If he seems more formidable than God, it’s because Satan runs roughshod over people’s will, motivated by hatred.
Whatever his tactics, God knows all about them. He seeks to reform a person’s will, motivated by love. Satan has no understanding of love (although he certainly understands the counterfeits he has made), and so cannot predict God’s tactics.
Romans 13:12 reminds us that deliverance comes at daybreak, which in the broad sweep of world history has not happened yet. We need to put off the deeds of darkness (not only slumber, but sin) while it is still dark. The parting of the sea is a biblical milestone, but not a complete victory. Satan corrupted all but two of the adults that experienced that victory; no one else lived to enter the Promised Land.
So here’s our unending challenge: to be more alert than the Israelites were. As they crossed the sea on dry land, looking over their shoulders in fear of Egyptian chariots, they had no faith. As they watched the sea go back to its place, they still had no faith. It was only when they saw corpses on the shore that they began to trust God and Moses. They spontaneously poured out their praise in the song in the fifteenth chapter. Their trust did not last very long.
When we see any kind of victory, we, too, ought to praise God with a spontaneous outpouring of joy and relief, but it’s not enough. At that time, God has broken one of Satan’s weapons, but not his whole arsenal. Until we see Jesus face to face, we must resist the temptation to sink into complacency at the time of victory. In the midst of celebration, we must remain on guard. It helps greatly to remember to maintain an attitude of praise and trust when it is difficult–when we feel the full force of the enemy at our heels. We ought to be just as sure of victory then as when we can actually see some evidence.