Exodus: The Way Out
As we begin our sermon series on Exodus this Sunday, one of the most important things we can do is step back and look at the whole book at once and ask, “What does this have to do with us today? How should we understand and apply Exodus?”
It might be easy to think of it as a book of rules. God gives the law in the form of the Ten Commandments to the people in chapter 20. There are also many instructions from God about the priesthood and the tabernacle.
It can also be tempting to think of Exodus as a book about someone else. After all, we live in a very different time and place. Our experience of God can be quite different than the fantastic power displayed at the Red Sea and Sinai. The laws, in some sense, don’t seem to apply to us the way they applied to the Israelites.
For that matter, what is the relationship between the God of Exodus and the God we love and serve today? Is he even the same God? Or has he mellowed over time? How do we relate to a God that seems more quick to anger and wrath?
In the end, it would be a mistake to divorce the rules and laws from the context of God’s relationship with Israel – a relationship marked by God’s saving and delivering power and love. It would be a shame to fail to see that we are the continuing people of God – not so different from Israel at Mt. Sinai. It would be a travesty to believe that the God of Exodus has changed one bit since the events that we read in Exodus.
The truth is, the historical events recounted in Exodus serve not only as a record of history, but as a glimpse into the reality that is redemptive history. Israel was oppressed and enslaved in Egypt, just as we are born slaves to sin. But God, out of his love for his people, and to display his power to his people and the world, delivered his people from bondage through a terrible judgment against the enemy. Israel deserved this judgment as well, but was spared from it by the blood of an innocent and spotless lamb. We, too, have been delivered by God from slavery to sin, freed by the blood of Christ, the lamb of God through his judgment against sin and death. We are, like the Israelites, now led into the wilderness – a place of waiting and obedience en route to the New Heavens and the New Earth, our Promised Land. And in this wilderness place, God reveals to us, as he did to Israel, his perfect righteousness – the pattern into which he is making us.
So you see, Exodus, which means “the way out”, is really about us. It’s about God delivering us, his people, from slavery, revealing himself to us in his law, and promising to love us. This will be the interpretive tack we will take in the coming months in Exodus.
Exodus, the second book of the five written by Moses (often called the Pentateuch) picks up about 400 years after the end of Genesis, the book which precedes it. The deliverance it describes is so amazing that it becomes the pattern by which Israel goes on to understand her God and his even greater work of salvation throughout the Old Testament. And by God’s grace, we too will learn more about our triune God and his saving work as well as ourselves as we open up the book of Exodus together on Sunday mornings.