Out of Egypt, Through Wilderness, Into Covenant: Introducing Exodus

The ESV Study Bible appropriately introduces the book of Exodus, saying:

Exodus is an adventure story par excellence. It features a cruel villain (Pharaoh), an unlikely hero (Moses), overwhelming disasters (the plagues), a spectacular deliverance (crossing the Red Sea), a long journey (through the wilderness), a mountaintop experience (where Moses received the Ten Commandments), and a grand finale (the presence of God coming down to the ark of the covenant, filling the tabernacle with glory). The story features unexpected setbacks and unpredictable delays, magic tricks (from Pharaoh’s sorcerers) and miracles, feasts and festivals, music and dancing, and many close encounters with the living God. God’s purpose in all of this was to show his glory by fulfilling the promises he made to his people in the covenant. The exodus is the archetypal deliverance of the OT—the definitive salvation event that established the identity of Israel as the people of God and demonstrated the character of their Deliverer as the God who saves.

Exodus is, indeed, the archetype of deliverance for the Old Testament or, as I will be calling it, the narrative heart of the Old Testament. As you read through the Bible again this year, make a mental note (or perhaps actual notes) of how often God refers His people back to His bringing them out of Egypt.

Hint: He does so many, many, many times.

You see, the narratives of the patriarchs in Genesis sowed the seed of the formation of God’s people, but it is in Exodus that the little family of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob has become a full nation with enough persons to make Egypt’s Pharaoh nervous. Thus, Exodus tells the story of Israel’s birth, of how the LORD chose to be their God and brought them out of the most powerful nation in the world with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. The Israelites were forever marked as a redeemed people, a nation chosen and saved by the Almighty. Philip Ryken is right on the dot in noting that “for Jews it is the story that defines their very existence, the rescue that made them God’s people. For Christians it is the gospel of the Old Testament, God’s first great act of redemption.”

Indeed, more than simply being the foundational story of Israel and a riveting story for us, Exodus is a magnificent foretaste of God’s even greater rescue that was to come. In Luke 9:31, we read that as Jesus was transfigured upon the mountain He spoke with Moses and Elijah “of his departure.” The Greek word for departure in that verse is exodos. They were speaking of Jesus’ exodus, the great liberation of God’s people that He was preparing to accomplish through His death and resurrection. Indeed, as we read the book of Exodus, we must certainly set our gaze upon all the wonders that God did then; however, we must also look forward to their even greater fulfillment in Christ. After all, He is the greater Moses, who worked greater wonders, rescuing God’s people from a greater slavery to bring them into a greater covenant. Exodus, like all of Scripture, is ultimately about Jesus, although Jude 5 explicitly says so of this book, saying, “Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt…”

Lord willing, we will divide our study of this book into three parts according to geographical location. Chapters 1-14 take place largely in Egypt, chapters 15-18 recount the wilderness journey to Sinai, and chapters 19-40 are of their encampment at Sinai. These three sections each highlight an aspect of God’s nature, which is quite fitting since one major theme of Exodus is God’s revelation of Himself to His people: first, that He is the Redeemer; second, that He is the Provider; third, that He is the Lawgiver. May we too come to know more and more of our great God as we journey through the book of Exodus!

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