Exodus Introduction: Our God, Deliverance, Covenant and Worship
God opens Exodus, as He concluded Genesis, with Jacob and His family in Egypt beginning in a personal way with the names of Jacob’s twelve sons, and so the Hebrew title is “Names” (Sh’mot) from verse 1: “These are the names…”
A lot has changed over the four centuries since Jacob and his family came down to Egypt as refugees seeking famine relief. God fulfilled His promises in Genesis 12 to 50 to multiply Abraham, Isaac and Jacob’s descendants from a family to a mighty people. They came as an extended family of seventy persons (Exodus 1:5; Genesis 46:26–27; Deuteronomy 10:22), “But the sons of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly, and multiplied, and became exceedingly mighty, so that the land was filled with them” (1:7).
The dynamics of Israel’s relationship with Egyptian leadership changed dramatically. Whereas Joseph had found favour with the Egyptians, Potiphar, the prison warden and Pharaoh (Genesis 39:21; 40:16; 41:1–45; 50:4) four centuries later, “Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph…. and they made their lives bitter with hard labour” (Exodus 1:8…. 14). Israel “cried out; and their cry for help because of their bondage rose up to God. So God heard their groaning; and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And God saw the sons of Israel and God knew (took notice)” (Exodus 2:23b–25).
In response to His people’s cries, and to fulfil His eternal purposes, God does four critically important things in Exodus. He reveals Himself, His character and His presence with them in deeper new ways as Israels’ God who is always with them and goes on before them. God sends a redeemer-leader and delivers His people from bondage of slavery in Egypt (chapters 1–18) passing over them because of the blood of a lamb on their door jams and lintels (12). He establishes a new covenant relationship with them based on blood sacrifice (12; 19–24). He teaches them how to worship Him and cautions them to avoid idolatry (25–40).
Everything God does for His people in Exodus foreshadows everything He does for His people in the New Covenant. He sends us a redeemer-leader, Jesus Christ who delivers us from the bondage of slavery to sin. He establishes a New Covenant with us in Jesus’ blood, the blood of The Lamb, our Passover “This cup, which is poured out for you, is the new covenant in My blood” (Matthew 26:28; Mark 12:24; Luke 22:20; 1 Corinthians 5:6–8; 11:25). He teaches us how to worship Him and gives us skills in avoiding idolatry (1 Corinthians 11–14; Ephesians 3; Colossians 3; Revelation 4–5; 1 John 4:1–6; 5:21). He is always with us and goes ahead to prepare our way to eternal glory with Him (Matthew 28:18–20; John 14–17).
Like the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, Exodus begins with the birth narrative of God’s redeemer-leader whose life is threatened in infancy. Moses is born about 1525 BC. He spends about 40 years growing to manhood in Pharaoh’s palace (Exodus 2:1–15; Acts 7:23) followed by 40 years of training in the wilderness of Midian and Sinai (Exodus 2:16–3:1ff). In His prior work in Moses’ life of dual citizenship God equips Moses with skills ideally suited to walk back into Pharaoh’s palace to negotiate with him over Israel’s release and then lead them through the wilderness for forty years. Exodus covers this approximately eighty year journey from the birth of Moses to the exodus from Egypt ca. 1445 BC and God meeting His people at Sinai to receive the Ten Words (Commandments), regulations and instructions for the tabernacle, worship and leadership. Like Jesus, through Moses God did many miracles.
Throughout Exodus, God reveals more and more about who He is, His nature, and what He does for His people. Meeting Moses at the burning bush and commissioning him, God tells Moses,“‘I AM WHO I AM’; and He said, ‘This is what you shall say to the sons of Israel: ‘I AM has sent me to you’” (3:14). He is YHWH, the eternally existing One, Father of the eternally living Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. In direct parallel with the New Covenant, “I AM” foreshadows Jesus’ seven “I AM” metaphors and seven absolute “I AM” statements in John’s Gospel.
To celebrate God’s deliverance through the exodus, Moses and the sons of Israel sing a song in chapter 15 exalting God for who He is: “He is highly exalted…. my strength and song, my salvation, my God…. The LORD is a warrior” (Exodus 15:1–3– 18). This beautiful song foreshadows the Song of Moses and the Lamb in Revelation 15.
While delivering Israel from Egypt God sends ten plagues to reveal His power, glory, judgment and vindication of His people in Egypt just as He sends similar plagues to reveal His power, glory, judgment and vindication of His people to the Roman world in Revelation 15–16. When caught between the Red Sea and the Egyptian army, Israel can only trust God to deliver them and He does. In his excellent article, “Divided Waters,” Tim Johnson offers us helpful insights from God’s deliverance of His people from Egypt through the Red Sea and lessons we can apply today.
In response to Moses’ request to see Him at Sinai, “the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, ‘The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in faithfulness and truth; 7 who keeps faithfulness for thousands, who forgives wrongdoing, violation of His Law, and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, inflicting the punishment of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations’”(34:6–7). These attributes are manifest in Jesus whom God sends as Saviour, advocate and judge.
Beginning in Exodus and continuing to Deuteronomy, God reveals His covenant law, His Torah, in detail. Torah embodies God’s law, teaching/instruction and directions for worship, sacrifice, daily, weekly and annual observances, and daily living.
God begins His Ten Words (Commandments) saying, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before Me…” (20:2). The first four commands guide Israel’s relationship with God and six to ten their relationships to one another. God follows them with many practical details.
Moses spent forty days twice with God on Mount Sinai (24:18; 34:8) where “He gave Moses the two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, written by the finger of God” (31:18). Ironically, despite God’s deliverance, signs and wonders, in Moses’ absence, with Aaron’s complicity, Israel resorted to idol worship of the golden calf (34). Moses intervened by disciplining the people and interceding to God on their behalf in one of his brilliant dialogues with God. On this note, we appreciate Kim Huliganga’s article On Exodus 4:1–17, “I will be with your mouth” (4:12).
God’s details for worship include the construction of the tabernacle. In his insightful article, Sam Mulligan shows us the rich perfection of the tabernacle is not about a tent but about the holy presence of God. Exodus 40 brings us to where “the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle” (40:34). God’s presence in the tabernacle foreshadows God’s presence in the Temple and ultimately in His new heaven, new earth and new Jerusalem where “the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23 And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illuminated it, and its lamp is the Lamb” (Revelation 21:22–23).
God’s revelation of Himself, His deliverance, covenant and worship in Exodus find their ultimate fulfilment in the New Covenant by which we know Him, worship Him and walk with Him today, the great “I AM,” the LORD your GOD!
Links for further reading:
Moses’ Authorship: https://app.box.com/s/4eh1l3uaufy7jf0z0orjqraubm38czl9
Date of the Exodus: https://app.box.com/s/7qpayjvtv59jf9wxn28ribpgbwy6b8qo