Exodus The Book of Deliverance
Author: Traditionally Moses
Focal Point: Redemption/Covenant
When Israel arrived in Egypt they were honored guests and Joseph had become second in command. Some 400 years later they had been demoted to slaves and were ruled by a Pharaoh who did not know about their beginnings. The task set before Israel was to keep its identity intact and its belief in God vital while living in an alien culture. Religiously, polytheism was the order of the day. The Pharaoh himself was regarded as a god. If you chose not to worship him, it was considered treason. The children of Israel had to maintain their own faith in an invisible God with no ceremonies and no priest.
How do people who for all appearances look like victims instead of victors keep on believing? They could have become polytheistic which some did (Ex. 3.13). They could have become henotheistic (hen·o·the·ism (hèn¹e-thê-îz´em) noun Belief in one god without denying the existence of others). They could have chosen to be monotheistic while living in Goshen. No doubt there were individual Israelites in all of these categories when Moses came on the scene. Exodus tells about the birth of Israel by three definitive acts of God on their behalf. The first act was God’s deliverance of Israel from the oppressive bondage of the Egyptians. Second, he called/delivered Israel into a covenant relationship with him using an ancient Near Eastern treaty form. Finally, he summoned Israel to crown him as their king in the building and placing of the tabernacle.
The Covenant: The typical ancient treaty of the time was called a Lord-Servant Treaty. In order to understand its function among the ancients, one must understand its form. A typical Lord-Servant Treaty had six parts:
- The Preamble. This segment established the relationship between the two parties of the covenant. One part was lord the other was servant. They were not seen as equals.
- The Historical Prologue. The second segment was a reminder of the historical action on which the covenant relationship was built.
- The Stipulations of the Treaty. These treaties had a list of basic obligations of the servant toward the lord. The primary stipulation was loyalty to the lord of the treaty.
- The Disposition of the Text and its Public Reading. The instructions given in this segment of the treaty served as a reminder of the covenant stipulations.
- The List of Divine Witnesses. The witness who validated the covenant.
- The Blessings and Curses. Keeping the stipulations in a Lord-Servant treaty brought blessings. Breaking the stipulations brought curses. Each treaty had a list of both blessings and curses.
The Covenant: The covenant delivered to Moses by God was built on the Lord-Servant pattern. God had demonstrated his salvation love to Israel in the historical act of her deliverance from the hands of her Egyptian oppressors. The children of Israel as his servants, in response to his redemptive act, were to obey the stipulations of the covenant because of the love of God in their lives. The Law, as it is often called, was not designed to be a legal system of obligatory rules by which one could secure position and relation with God. The stipulations of the First Testament covenant are rooted in the grace of God. They are basic declarations about the quality of the redemptive life of the people of God. Scripture only points to one way in which salvation can occur. It is by the grace of God. Humankind can obligate God to acceptance by keeping a set of rules and regulations. The stipulations are kept because we are his children, not in order to become his children.
The Tabernacle: To the optical receptivity of Israel, God gave an object lesson to demonstrate his kingship. It was the building and placement of the tabernacle. The tabernacle set in the midst of his children painted a picture well know in the ancient Near East. God in the midst of his children, easily accessible to all his children was in the Near East tradition that the center of the camp was the place for the king’s tent. The picture was easily identifiable to the ancient mindset.
The design of the tabernacle provided an insight that God was to be understood as a holy God. The inner shrine demonstrated the holiness of God. It was called a dwelling place showing God co-dwelling with his people. It was a tent of meeting displaying that God does meet his people and reveal himself to them. It was a tent of testimony—a reminder that within it was the covenant that regulated the life of Israel. One moved ever closer to the presence of God going from the outside to the inside. Allegorical attempts have been made to place special meaning on each color, each piece of material, and each fixture in the tabernacle. This is a carryover from the early church fathers and seems misguided and often foolish. Watch out for the slippery slope of allegorical interpretation!
Exodus: (Exodus 1-18)
- Arranged thru Moses: The story of Exodus begins with Israel in captivity in Egypt. Over 400 years had elapsed from their arrival as a merely extended family with Joseph as the second in command of the nation. The children of God had slipped from prestige to poverty. Moses was born in a desperate time of trying to curb the size of the growing nation of Israel. He felt the pain of his people and set out to help them buy committing murder. Banished from Israel, God called him to go back and deliver his children from bondage to freedom.
- Blocked by Pharaoh: Moses pursued Pharaoh eight times with a request to let the people of God depart from their captivity. Moses’ request was denied eight times by Pharaoh. God sent ten plagues on the land and the people of Egypt. For the most part, the people of Egypt and Israel were separated, one receiving the plague the other not receiving the plague. The final vertex of God’s resolve was the death of the firstborn sons. The feast of the Passover finds its roots in this act of God.
- Caused by God: Pharaoh relented and allowed God’s people to leave. Short-lived in his decision, he and the army of Israel followed them to the Sea of Reeds. God acted again in redemption for Israel. Safely on the other side of the sea, they continue their journey toward Sinai.
The movie: The Ten Commandments, with Charlton Heston (d. 2008) as Moses and Yul Brynner (d. 1985) as Ramses made a lasting impression of this story. Still, today when I think of Moses, I see in my mind Charlton Heston standing at the sea of reeds with his hands outstretched. It’s just permanently seared into my mind. Go figure!
Covenant (Exodus 19-24)
- Commandments of God: Often called the Ten Commandments, God delivered ten summary words of the Lord-Servant Treaty.
- Intimacy of Brotherhood: This segment of Exodus displays the laws concerning the social government of Israel.
- Adoration of God: Finally, this section of Exodus supplies the laws which regulated the religious life of Israel.
Tabernacle (Exodus 25-40)
- Architect’s Design: God was the great architect of the tabernacle. He gave Moses the plan for the tabernacle and the purpose of its placement.
- Retarded Growth: Fellowship with God had not taken permanent hold among the delivered people of God and they lapse into idolatry. Because of this lapse, the building of the tabernacle is retarded. Moses, on behalf of the children of God, interceded, asking God not to give up on them.
- Tabernacle Completed: The story concluded with the completion of the tabernacle and the demonstration of God’s presence which dwelt within.
Thought To Contemplate
How God acted on behalf of Israel in the story of the Exodus is still the way he will act on our behalf today. God has acted first. He pursued us, we did not pursue him. God’s highest concern is his relationship with his children today. He is still the Lord of world history and our own personal history. He still demands righteous living from his children. In the person of Jesus, he demonstrated once and for all his great love and compassion for you by giving you a door through which you could walk out of your bondage into redemption.
Theology in Exodus
The three parts of Exodus: the Exodus, the giving of the law, and the building of the tabernacle emphasize one important theme: God was present with Israel during good times and bad times. The story of the Exodus is significant in Scripture. It is mentioned again and again. It seems clear that God’s greatest act of salvation in the First Testament was the Exodus. While living in Egypt, Israel may have forgotten God by choosing to be polytheistic or henotheistic but God had not forgotten them.
Exodus introduces five important theological points:
- Yahweh is seen as the personal covenant name of God. The “I Am” who is there and acts for his people. He is the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob (Ex. 3.6, 15–16). God is true to the promises he made in the past.
- The acts of God reveal his character. God…
- preserves Israel through Joseph Exodus 1.1–7, while Pharaohs may come and go, God remains to preserve his people even in their bondage. Exodus 1.8–2.20.
- rescues Exodus 6.6
- saves Exodus 14.30
- guides Exodus 15.13
- provides Exodus 16.4, 8
- disciplines and forgives Exodus 32.1–34.35
- The concept of Passover was God’s act of rescue and deliverance for his captive and oppressed children.
- The giving of the Covenant provided a format to have a relationship with God based on his act of mercy in deliverance.
- The Tabernacle is important because it provides a living picture of worshiping God.
Exodus is pivotal to the promises in the past to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph, and to the fulfillment of those promises in the future.
Questions Exodus Answers
- How does God act in power toward his people?
- How do I have a relationship with God?
- How do I worship God?
- The covenant God made was based on his love for his children. He acted on their behalf. When they followed the stipulations, they were blessed. They did not become his people because they kept the covenant stipulations; they became his children because of his benevolent act of deliverance. Because of this act of love by God for them, they should keep his covenant stipulations.
- God is alive in history.
- When God calls one to leadership, no excuse is acceptable.
- God has great care about worship and how we participate in it.
- Follow the supernatural events which God performed in Exodus which demonstrated for Israel that God cared for them. What part does the supernatural play in God’s concern for his children today?
- Look at each covenant stipulation and meditate on God’s purpose in bringing you into a relationship with him and with others.
- Find the word Passover in a concordance and read about it in its context throughout the First Testament. Is the event given prominence? If so, what do you think that means to you as a Second Testament follower of Jesus?
Thoughts for Today
- God is one who acted for the deliverance of his people: The Exodus in the First Testament and Jesus as our Exodus in the Second Testament.
- God acts in history is to reveal himself to his children and others.
- There are still people living in oppression in today’s world. God cares about them just as he did Israel as they lived in Egypt.
- We may be the one person that he calls to deliver someone from the hand of the enemy and bring them to an accepting knowledge of the one who rescues.
- God loves having a relationship with his children.
- God will meet with his children when they gather to worship. He also meets us individually as we worship.
- God should be at the center of our lives.
Toward The Second Testament
The Story of Moses: Exodus 1.1–19.2
The Exodus of God’s children from captivity is the central theme of the Jews in the First Testament. It demonstrated the power of God in action. This act of deliverance was provided for all those who were “covered.” The doorpost of each Israelite house had to be covered with blood for God to pass over them with the last of the plagues, the killing of the firstborn. We must remember that blood is a visual representation that something had died. In this case, lambs. This act of deliverance was in anticipation of the greatest act of deliverance in the history of humankind, the death of Jesus on the cross. After the Jews were delivered, they spent some time in the wilderness with Moses and their leader. While at Mount Sinai, God gave Moses the ten basic stipulations of the Covenant. In the Second Testament, Matthew presents Jesus as the New Moses for the New Israel. One of the pointers that Matthew uses is seen in the story of Jesus teaching from a “mount”, often called the Sermon on the Mount. This is a deliberate attempt by Matthew to draw attention and make a comparison of Jesus and Moses (Matt. 5–7).
The Giving of the Law: Exodus 19.3–24.18
It is often believed that the giving of the Ten Commandments was only for the First Testament Jewish nation. These commandments are a summary of the Covenant stipulations given to Moses by God. As Second Testament followers of Jesus, we should not jettison them as if they have no value under the slogan “…we live under grace not under the law.” These commandments should be used by followers of Jesus as a guide for thinking through the many and varied cultural situations which we confront. These commandments are not and never were practices that would lead people to a relationship with God. They were stipulations which one kept because of what God had already done. As a Jesus follower, you keep them because you love God. These stipulations become a guide to God’s will for the life of followers of Jesus, collectivity, and personally.
The Story of the Building of the Tabernacle: Exodus 25.1–40.38
John wrote in his Gospel that Jesus “became flesh and tabernacled among us.” The tabernacle was a picture for Israel which showed that God was at their center and each one had equal access to him. In Jesus, we have this same access to God.