Exodus: This section consists of five parts. A) Confrontation B) The 10 Plagues C) Passover D) The Parting of the Red Sea E) Mt. Sinai

A. Confrontation

  • Can you imagine what this would have been like? Here comes this 80 year old guy, dressed in Shepherd clothing holding a an old shepherd's staff, coming before one of the most powerful pharaohs of all time and demanding that the Pharaoh would release 2 1/2 million slaves into his care!
  • Can you see his old friends saying; there goes another crazy Christian, just like the rest of them! First there was Noah., then Abraham and now here comes Moses boldly declaring, let my people go!
  • Of course the Pharaoh was incredulous, who does this 80-year-old shepherd think he is? Of course the answer to that is he doesn't think he's anything, but he believes his God is everything.

B. The 10 plagues

  • The reader not familiar with ancient Egyptian culture might see these plagues as merely punitive measures designed to break Pharaoh's resistance. While the plagues did function this way at a surface level, each plague was more importantly directed at the feet of one of the Egyptian gods. In so doing, Yahweh was demonstrating that he alone was sovereign God. Some would call this spiritual warfare!
  • One of the interesting aspects to this story, is that at one point, as with all the other plagues, the Egyptian magicians tried to reproduce the plague. But when it came to the plague of gnats, they realized that they could not make or duplicate it causing one of the magicians to say:
  • Ex 8:19 The magicians said to Pharaoh, "This is the finger of God. Meaning, even though many have said that these are 10 examples of spiritual warfare, it's not really a war! How can this be a war when God is destroying the enemy with only his finger! Clearly God is in control, and there was never any doubt about the outcome of this conflict!
  • One last thing about the plagues, it is important to note that the Exodus was not about God versus Egypt, but God versus unbelievers, whomever they were, be they Jews or Egyptians.
  • You see, many people are not aware of this, but some of the Egyptians joined Israel as they left  Egypt. So, as one scholar put it:  The purpose of the plagues was not only to demonstrate the kingship of Yahweh, but to put out an invitation for all those trusting in the gods of Egypt to come to their senses and follow the God of Israel. Implying that the plagues then were ultimately evangelistic!
  • The Lord said he was doing these things; Exodus 8:22"so that you Egypt might know that I am the Lord in the midst of all the earth!" So, those Egyptians who "fear that the word of Yahweh"(Exodus 9:20) fled Egypt with the Israelites, thus being (to use Paul's New Testament term in Romans 11:17; "grafted" into the covenant people of God. In doing this, they were prefiguring the gathering of the Gentiles in the book of Acts in the New Testament.

C.      Passover

  • The last plague is the most significant because not only does it finally change the Pharaoh's heart, but God uses it to institute the final aspect of covenant and that is the establishment of the memorial meal. (Check out chapter on Covenant)
  • As Moses prophesied that the firstborn of everything living in Egypt would die, God graciously gave his people a "way out" (Exodus), not only from the lost of their firstborn sons, but from the grip of those that had enslaved them.
  • And while he destroyed the firstborn sons of his enemies, God adopted Israel as his firstborn son on the earth, thereby revealing that God who is our Creator and our Savior/deliver is also our father!
  • To commemorate this event God's people were instructed to celebrate what would become their first Passover meal. This feast like all of the others, is saturated with symbolism and meaning concerning the coming Christ. Far too much than what we can cover here, but here are a few examples.
  • Each family was to select an unblemished male lamb from the flocks and "take care of it" for four days thus establishing a relationship with the animal.
  • One could easily imagine that the children of the family giving their lamb a name for the purpose  of creating some kind of relationship with the animal so that when it was put to death, they would sense in some way that the animal's blood had been substitute for theirs.
  • This concept of substitution is nothing new. We see this same idea in the Garden of Eden narrative when God clothed Adam and Eve with a hide of an animal to cover their unrighteousness.
  • But it was this act of sacrificing their lamb, and putting it’s blood over the top of their doorways and down each side, then exemplifying this with the Passover meal that would become the heart of their national worship in the development of the Jewish sacrificial system.
  • And so that they would never forget these truths like God delivering them from the bondage of sin and so they could receive the salvation of the Lord, God instructed his people to celebrate this feast annually! And this is why we see the Jewish people still celebrating this feast today!
  • One last aspect I want to highlight because it sheds some light on the urgency of Jesus message in the New Testament; Israel was instructed to eat a meal in haste with their cloaks and scandals on, and their staffs in hand since God's salvation was to arrive imminently.
  • Jesus would later use the same language: "the kingdom of God is near" and warned the Israelites that the day of the kingdom was like a bride waiting for her bridegroom who suddenly showed up for the bride to take her to the wedding. If the bride were not ready, she would miss her own wedding!
  • Finally, this day was so important that it would become the first day of the calendar year, a perpetual reminder of their day of salvation. The beginning of their new lives!
  • Of course, the New Testament writers saw this Passover meal totally fulfilled in Jesus. In John's Gospel, John the Baptist refers to Jesus as the "Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world."
  • John also interprets the Last Supper as a Passover meal and goes on to show us how Jesus was being crucified at the same time as the Passover lambs were being slain for the festival in Jerusalem.

D.    Parting the Red Sea

  • The moment had come, everything that needed to be done, was done. The 10 plagues had done what they meant to do which was to totally reveal the Egyptian gods for who they were: fakes!
  • Furthermore, the 10 plagues were the pronouncement God's righteous judgment upon those who had enslaved his people for 400 years. Therefore the 10 plagues had totally decimated the Egyptian economy which included their agriculture, homes, and families.
  • But perhaps the greatest shock that the Egyptians experienced, was the total turnaround of their perspective of Moses! At first, he was nothing more than this 80-year-old crazy shepherd, who came making this ludicrous demand that the Pharaoh must let God's people go!
  • Of course, this was looked down upon by Pharaoh and the Egyptians. In fact, he was made light of and why shouldn't they? He was nothing but some insane old fool who came out of nowhere! Why would anybody take this old man seriously! After all, look at him! Dressed nothing more than shepherds’ garb, holding only an old shepherds’ staff in his hand!
  • But unfortunately for them, what they did not realize was that Moses was in covenant with someone who was so far superior and greater than they ever imagined! Who would have thought that this crazy old fool was in a covenant partnership with the Creator of the universe?
  • Now after months of one miraculous display of power after another, the Egyptians not only took them seriously, but now we're terrified of him and his God!
  • Ex 12:31-36 During the night Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, "Up! Leave my people, you and the Israelites! Go, worship the LORD as you have requested. Take your flocks and herds, as you have said, and go. And also bless me." The Egyptians urged the people to hurry and leave the country. "For otherwise," they said, "we will all die!"
  • 34 So the people took their dough before the yeast was added, and carried it on their shoulders in kneading troughs wrapped in clothing. The Israelites did as Moses instructed and asked the Egyptians for articles of silver and gold and for clothing. The LORD had made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people, and they gave them what they asked for; so they plundered the Egyptians.
  • Are you catching this? The Egyptians were so overjoyed to get rid of the Israelites that they gave them their riches. Personally, I believe this was back pay for 400 years of labor.
  • Can you imagine the joy that the Israelites were experiencing? Now after 400 years of slavery God was sitting them free! What a relief! God was alive and heard their cries. Causing new hope to rise up in their hearts as they had been anticipating this day for some many years and now has finally arrived!
  • Unfortunately, the story was not over. Their God had something else up his sleeve that needed to happen so that he could fully accomplish what he had planned.
  • Ex 14:1-4 Then the LORD said to Moses,  "Tell the Israelites to turn back and encamp…  by the sea… Pharaoh will think, 'The Israelites are wandering around the land in confusion, hemmed in by the desert.' And I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and he will pursue them. But I will gain glory for myself through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD." So the Israelites did this.
  • In other words, what would seem in the worlds eyes as a total blockheaded blunder, that Moses would lead these 2 million people to a inescapable death end, was none other but a very brilliant calculated strategic move on God's part!
  • You see most of us don't see the big picture and so when God asks us to do something that doesn't make any sense, it's not because God has lost his mind, but rather because he sees something that we don't see.
  • And this is exactly what we see happening in the next part of this story! Pharaoh and his court suddenly realize that they had just set all the slaves free,  meaning that either they would have to do the work now or spend time and money getting someone else and training them to do it.
  • Of course, the easiest solution is to go recapture their slaves who just put them selves in the place where there is no escape.
  • Now, something that strikes me here, is how quickly they forget how powerful God was! They had just witnessed and experienced the awesome display of God's power over a period of months and now when faced with the possibility that they would have to go to work, they totally forgot all that God had done to them. I believe that this speaks to the power of our self-centeredness.
  • Ex 14:10-14 As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the LORD. They said to Moses, "Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt?
  • 12 Didn't we say to you in Egypt, 'Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians'? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!" Moses answered the people, "Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still."
  • At this point it becomes clear to us that while Moses understood what it meant to walk in covenant with God, the nation of Israel did not as seen here in their display of fear and unbelief!
  • This now highlights the number one goal of God; that God wants to teach Israel what it means to walk in covenant with him. That they have nothing to offer him, while he has everything to give them.
  • That God would be their resource to meet all their needs; food and water, clothing, and anything else they would need to get to where God is taking them. And also, as their covenant partner, he would be their protector has well, who would fight their battles for them! This last phrase The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still." Is the perfect expression of the meaning of covenant!
  • Ex 14:15-20 Then the LORD said to Moses, "Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on. Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground. I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them.
  • And I will gain glory through Pharaoh and all his army, through his chariots and his horsemen. The Egyptians will know that I am the LORD when I gain glory through Pharaoh, his chariots and his horsemen." Then the angel of God, who had been traveling in front of Israel's army, withdrew and went behind them.
  • The pillar of cloud also moved from in front and stood behind them, coming between the armies of Egypt and Israel. Throughout the night the cloud brought darkness to the one side and light to the other side; so neither went near the other all night long.
  • Once again, we can only understand what is really going on here against the background of the creation narrative which you recall function as an apologetic against the ancient near East religions.
  • God separates the light from the dark with his presence, so that the cloud kept the Egyptian army in the dark but brought light to Israel.
  • Ex 14:21-22 Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the LORD drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left.
  • Here we see the God was once again forming dry land in the midst of watery chaos, just as he had done at creation and commissioning God's people to enter in. In this way God filled the new form (the dry land) with life as they were making their way back to Eden, as pictured by the Promised Land.
  • Ex 14:23-25 The Egyptians pursued them, and all Pharaoh's horses and chariots and horsemen followed them into the sea. During the last watch of the night the LORD looked down from the pillar of fire and cloud at the Egyptian army and threw it into confusion. He made the wheels of their chariots come off so that they had difficulty driving. And the Egyptians said, "Let's get away from the Israelites! The LORD is fighting for them against Egypt."
  • Only too late did Egypt realize that Israel's God was real and sovereign and all-powerful, fighting against them!
  • Now this shouldn't surprise you or I because we understand this is the normal outworking of what it means to be in covenant with God!
  • Ex 14:26-31 Then the LORD said to Moses, "Stretch out your hand over the sea so that the waters may flow back over the Egyptians and their chariots and horsemen." Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at daybreak the sea went back to its place. The Egyptians were fleeing toward it, and the LORD swept them into the sea.
  • The water flowed back and covered the chariots and horsemen — the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed the Israelites into the sea. Not one of them survived. But the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left.
  • That day the LORD saved Israel from the hands of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the shore. And when the Israelites saw the great power the LORD displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the LORD and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant.
  • Once again, we see the enemies of God swallowed up in the watery chaos just like it was during the time of Noah. As God had told Abraham; "Whoever curses you I will curse!"
  • But even more important than that, when we look at this from the New Testament perspective, we discover that God is giving us a picture of his ultimate salvation in the coming of his son Jesus Christ.
  • 1 Cor 10:1-2 Remember our history, friends, and be warned. All our ancestors were led by the providential Cloud and taken miraculously through the Sea. They went through the waters, in a baptism like ours, as Moses led them from enslaving death to salvation life.
  • As Moses led them from the slavery of Egypt, so would Christ come to set us free from being enslaved to sin.
  • Furthermore, we are given a beautiful picture of baptism and what it really represents to us. The New Testament teaches us that when you experience the salvation of God through Christ, which happens when you put your faith in him and what he did for us on the cross, we now must be baptized!
  • New Testament baptism is the picture of our experience with Christ. When we are put under the water, that represents our dying to our old way of life, as our sins have now been washed away! Then when we are raised up out of the water, that represents us being raised by the power of God's Spirit into resurrected life.
  • This is what we see here in the story of the parting of the Red sea, Moses (A Picture of Christ), delivering Israel out of the enslavement of Egypt (A picture of us being set free of our sin) and now are on our way to the promise land! (A picture of living a spirit filled life in Christ!)
  • One last note, whenever we have a baptism, we always celebrate after, just like Israel did as they came out of the sea unto dry land, safe from their enemies. The song they wrote to celebrate this wonderful occasion appears to us as the first Hebrew poem in the Bible. It is the so-called "song of Moses" found in Exodus 15.
  • The song declares that God's outstretched arm of judgment came out of his "unfailing love" which is the Old Testament word describing God's covenantal heart towards his people.
  • This poem ends with the first explicit biblical reference to God as King reading; "Yahweh will reign for ever and ever."
  • This adds yet another aspect in the progressive revelation that God is giving us of himself; not only is he the God who is Creator, and our Savior and father, he is also our King!
  • Summing this all up, we see the Godhead; the Father, the son and the Holy Spirit destroy the gods of Egypt to demonstrate his rule as king and save his people from their sin this through appropriation, by faith of God's provision of a substitutionary sacrifice.
  • And now as we are going to see Israel discover what it means to have an exclusive relationship with God through their experience of Mt. Sinai, the mountain of his presence!

E)     Mt. Sinai

  • 50 days after Passover they reach Mount Sinai. This day became known as Pentecost. It is a day that came to represent this event of God's people coming to God and receiving his law.
  • So, the very first thing that Moses does when they arrive is to go up the mountain to hear from God.
  • Ex 19:3-6 Then Moses went up to God, and the LORD called to him from the mountain and said, "This is what you are to say to the house of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: 'You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles' wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine,  you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.'
  • What we have here really is a picture of God inviting his child Israel, adopted out of poverty and slavery to other gods, to enter into a relationship with a loving and infinitely wealthy father as heir to his kingdom.
  • In other words, it was now time for them to understand God's missional purpose in all this. Once again we see the threefold expression of God's purpose for his people:
  1. As his treasured possession; we were saved by God so that worship, intimacy and two-way communication that God had with Adam in the garden would be restored.
  2. They were to be a people who would obey him; referring to the law that he was about to present them so that his image would be restored in his people
  3. And they were to be a kingdom of priests: meaning that God was calling them to mediating the blessing of the King to all the earth. This was to be their vocation! To be a missionary people mediating the restored relationship, image and mission of God throughout all the earth.
  • And the rest of the Old Testament will be a commentary on how well they fulfill their calling
  • But to fulfill this threefold calling; Israel needed two major things that they were going to receive from their Mount Sinai experience!
  • First: they were to receive the Torah, the law for the purpose of restoring God's image that had been marred by sin by the fall of Adam and Eve!
  • Secondly: they were to receive the building plans for God's temple, God's house, that was introduced to us by the story of Jacob’s experience at Bethel! That God wanted place on earth where He would dwell and express himself until the world is filled with his glory.
  • This theme is so prominent throughout the Old Testament and into the new, that the apostles referred to it as a great mystery! A mystery so important that Paul refers to it numerous times because it lays the foundation for much of our New Testament theology concerning God’s church!
  • A topic whose scope is so large, that we will spend all day tomorrow studying it!