Before I reveal it, I wonder if you know: Where can you find the first song in the Bible?
First hint: It’s in the book of Exodus.
Second hint: It commemorates one of God’s greatest deeds.
Answer: Exodus 15:1-18
I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously;
the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea.
The Lord is my strength and my song,
and he has become my salvation;
this is my God, and I will praise him,
my father’s God, and I will exalt him.
The First Song
Imagine the triumph of this moment.
For 430 years, the Israelites lived in Egypt under severe oppression and slavery. After centuries of despair, God sent them deliverance. We read of Moses, the plagues, and the first passover. The people of Israel escaped out of Egypt—but they weren’t safe yet.
Pharaoh sends his chariots after the Israelites. In an incredible miracle, God parts the Red Sea, and the Israelites cross over on dry ground. God closes the sea in on the Egyptians, and everything dark about the Israelites’ past is literally washed away.
In celebration, the Israelites stand by the sea and sing a song of triumph.
Read the final third of the song and take in the elation of this moment:
You have led in your steadfast love the people whom you have redeemed;
you have guided them by your strength to your holy abode.
The peoples have heard; they tremble;
pangs have seized the inhabitants of Philistia.
Now are the chiefs of Edom dismayed;
trembling seizes the leaders of Moab;
mall the inhabitants of Canaan have melted away.
Terror and dread fall upon them;
because of the greatness of your arm, they are still as a stone,
till your people, O LORD, pass by,
till the people pass by whom you have purchased.
You will bring them in and plant them on your own mountain,
the place, O LORD, which you have made for your abode,
the sanctuary, O Lord, which your hands have established.
The LORD will reign forever and ever.
God’s people are referred to as “redeemed” and “purchased.” The nations tremble with fear because they see the amazing power of God. You see this promise—God has guided them by His strength to His holy abode, and God will plant them on His mountain, His sanctuary. And it ends with “The LORD will reign forever and ever.”
Exodus 15 is the first song of the Bible—and what a song!
The Final Song
If Exodus 15 is the first celebration, Revelation 15 is the true culmination.
Now, tracing the “final song” in the Bible is harder, but when I search the ESV for the last time the Bible directly mentions singing, it points to Revelation 15.
The scene is set in heaven. A large group of saints who have overcome the evil one are standing by the sea of glass. And in this picture from the future, it says these saints “sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb.” When I check my study Bible notes, the cross reference to “the song of Moses” cites Exodus 15.
Look at these words from Revelation 15:
Great and amazing are your deeds,
O Lord God the Almighty!
Just and true are your ways,
O King of the nations!
Who will not fear, O Lord,
and glorify your name?
For you alone are holy.
All nations will come
and worship you,
for your righteous acts have been revealed.
Although the lyrics aren’t the same, the concepts are strikingly similar.
- God’s people have overcome an enemy and are standing by a sea.
- Both declare the awesome deeds of God.
- Both declare a holy fear of God upon every nation.
- Both present a people, the first with the promise of being in God’s sanctuary, and the final with the promise realized.
In Exodus 15, the people of God rejoiced because God delivered them from centuries of slavery to the Egyptians. But one day, the people of God will gather with Him and sing because He has delivered us from millennia of slavery to sin and death.
And for you and me, we live between the songs. These songs show us a picture of God’s salvation stretching far back into history and forward into all eternity. Every day, with our highs and lows, we get the chance to remember our place in the arc of history.
God has worked salvation for His people, and one day will bring salvation to culmination. And “the LORD will reign, forever and ever.”