Μiriam has gone through the darkest night of her life. Circumstances seemed impossible; she was trapped. Her enemy was chasing her, the sea was in front of her, and walls surrounded her. It is now morning and daybreak brings new light. Her enemy is drowned in the sea, and she is one of about two million souls standing on the banks of the Red Sea, hearts full of gratitude, filling heaven with praise to the Lord. Exodus 15 is a morning song; the dark night is over and a new day has dawned. The Lord has delivered His people. Singing praise is the response of hearts overwhelmed with gratitude.
The Priority of Praise
Now, there was so much to do! Food? They left the cucumbers and melons in Egypt. Shelter? They left their homes in Egypt. Protection? They had been slaves, but Egypt afforded them a measure of protection from surrounding nations. Planning? The needs of the people are many and the desert is in front of them. So many legitimate and necessary activities could take priority, but praise comes first.
One aspect of praise is seeing value in its object. Miriam values the Lord above all else. To give praise to God is to magnify His merit and worth. Praise takes priority because the nation values God above anything or anyone. They do not fail to withhold from God first what is due His name (Psa 50:23; Rom 1:21), nor are they forgetful of His mercies (Deu 6:12) or unthankful for His kindness (Luk 6:35). Failure comes later, but here hearts are fixed upon the Lord; their boast is in Him as they recount His greatness. They valued the Lord above all and could not help but praise Him before any other endeavor.
The Focus of Praise
The Lord did it all! This is a song “unto the Lord” (Exo 15:1). The Lord is the object of praise. It’s all about His person, His power, His protection, His majesty and His provision. There is no mention of their effort. There is no mention of the awful condition they were in. Their whole boast is in what the Lord has done; He triumphs gloriously. It is by His strength, by His right hand that the enemy was dashed in pieces. It is by His breath that the waters stood up and the sea washed over their foes. It is His mercy that led them. It will be by His directive that they will be planted in the mountain of His inheritance. And it is the Lord that “shall reign for ever and ever” (v18).
Another aspect of praise is “boasting” (Psa 44:8) in its object. Their boast is in the Lord and in the Lord alone. They appreciate the Lord for His power; with ease He overthrows their enemy. They acknowledge His ability to lead them as they step out into the unknown. They will be brought into the land of Canaan; they will enjoy the sanctuary which the Lord’s hand will establish. The Lord will provide a place where He can dwell among His people. Their praise is confident in what has happened and in what will happen. Relief from the oppressor? Yes. Freedom from bondage? Yes. But greater than that is their God. The Lord is on their side. He delivered them in the past, He provides for them in the present, and He will guide them in the future.
Later in the journey, after the rebellion at Mount Sinai, they will be reminded, “He is thy praise, and he is thy God, that hath done for thee these great and terrible things, which thine eyes have seen” (Deu 10:21). The warning against forgetfulness is repeated in Deuteronomy. They will need to be reminded that God Himself is the focus of their praise. Here, their focus is sharp, singular and clear, and the object of praise is the Lord Himself.
The Fullness of Praise
They cannot contain themselves! Miriam’s praise is a repetition of words found in Exodus 15:1: “For he hath triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea” (v21). Miriam and the women answer “them” (masculine), the men, joining in a chorus. This song is not written over months or even days. This song is spontaneous, perhaps composed by Moses the morning it is sung. Praise bursts from their hearts – their praise is full.
Praise is collective. Miriam is one of many, and yet praise is very personal. Notice the repetition of the possessive pronoun “my” in Exodus 15:2: “The Lord is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation: he is my God … my father’s God, and I will exalt him.” The nation is saved; Miriam is saved. The Lord cares for the nation; the Lord cares for Miriam. She is not lost in the number. The Lord knows, cares and provides for each.
A third aspect of praise is finding “joy” in its object (Psa 42:4). It would be difficult to read what is sometimes called the Song of the Sea and not see fullness of joy jump off the page. Joy is the great ingredient in praise. It is the desire of our Lord that our joy might be full: “These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full” (Joh 15:11). He repeats His desire in John 16:24: “that your joy may be full.” He prays for His own in John 17:13: “that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves.” When joy is full, praise pours forth. Praise is full, personal and joyful.
Miriam’s praise is first, focused and full. How much greater revelation have we received of the Lord through Christ. How much more cause has the Lord given us to sing His praise! “Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!” (Psa 107:15).
 All Scripture quotations in this article are from the KJV.