Exodus: The Shadow of the Reality to Come
By Paul Robison

“When Israel was in Egypt's land.  Let My people go!  Oppressed so hard they could not stand.  Let My people go!  Go down, Moses, way down to Egypt's land.  Tell old Pharaoh to let My people go!”  Exodus is one of the most beloved books of the Old Testament because its themes and events are timeless.  What things come to your mind when Exodus is mentioned?  Maybe it's baby Moses being hidden in his floating basket or the burning bush that is on fire but isn't consumed.  Maybe it's the ten plagues or Charleton Heston confronting Yul Brenner in the movie “The Ten Commandments.”  Maybe it's the great miracle at the Red Sea or the Jews trembling before Mt. Sinai. Maybe it's the worship of the golden calf or the construction of the tabernacle. Did you know that Exodus has more miracles than any other book in the Old Testament?  Did you know that Exodus covers over 150 miles of land as millions of Jews made their way on foot from the territory of Goshen down to Mt. Sinai?  Did you know that it would take 30 boxcars of food and 300 tanker cars of water to supply the Jews and their livestock with one day's worth of nourishment?  These are interesting facts, but are these the things that Moses really wanted the Israelites to gain from this book?

Let's get a few basic introductory matters behind us, and then we'll look more closely at Exodus. The author of the book was Moses, as he was for all the books of the law (we have Jesus' word on that—Luke 24:44).  1 Kings 6:1 tells us that the exodus occurred 480 years from the fourth year of Solomon's reign.  The kingdom split in 930 BC.  So if we add 40 years for Solomon's reign, we get to 970.  Now the fourth year would then be 966, and if we add 480 to that figure, then we arrive at 1446 BC for the date of the exodus and the events in this book.  Other dates have been proposed, but this one fits best with 1 Kings 6.  The audience is Jewish, and Moses wants the Israelites to understand that Jehovah is Supreme, Majestic, and Awesome!  So this book's purpose is to further reveal Israel's God to the Jews, to the Egyptians, and to the whole world!  One scholar puts it this way: “The book of Exodus is concerned in a major way with the knowledge of Jehovah.  Ironically, Pharaoh sets this question: 'Who is Jehovah?' (5:2).  The pursuit of this question is primarily undertaken by God: 'that you may know that I am the Lord' and 'there is none like Me in all the earth' (7:17; 9:14).  The object of the divine quest includes Pharaoh and the Egyptians as well as Israel.  God's self-disclosure is thus not confined to Israel; it includes the world” (Fretheim).  The word “know” is found almost a dozen times when God is performing the plagues.  Pharaoh may not know who God is in chapter 5, but by chapter 15, God had done many wonders to help Pharaoh know exactly Who He is!  As God cares for the Jews in the desert, Jehovah also helps the whole world to know what kind of a God He is!  This book declares that God is holy (3:5), eternal (3:14), powerful (9:16), conquering (15:3-5), jealous (20:5), wrathful (32:11), merciful (34:6), and glorious (40:34-35).  The book's structure also reveals much about Jehovah.  This is what we want to examine in detail this morning as we quickly survey the book.  We want to see what the various sections of this book show us about God.  After looking at these sections, an application will be made to us today.

The first section is chapters 1-4, and this section shows us the provision of God.  Exodus begins by pointing out that the Israelites had moved to Egypt, that they had become great in number, and that this posed a threat to the Egyptians, so they made their slaves.  Of course, all of this was in keeping with what God had told to Abraham hundreds of years earlier in Genesis 15:13-14: “Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them for 400 years.  And also the nation whom they serve I will judge; afterward, they shall come out with great possessions.”  We see how the Pharaoh tries to reduce the number of Israelites by killing their sons, and this brings us to the birth of Moses.  Little did Pharaoh's daughter realized when she discovered the baby in the little floating ark that this would be the Jews' liberator.  Moses is educated right in Pharaoh's palace, and he tries to take matters into his own hands at age 40.  After killing an Egyptian, he flees to Midian, marries, and works as a shepherd for 40 years.  Then God calls him from a burning bush to return to Egypt and to deliver the Jews from their bondage.  Moses makes all kinds of excuses not to go, but God works with Moses, showing him miraculous signs, and Moses heads back to Egypt.  Moses' birth, his training, his work in Midian, and his call were not accidents.  The time of God's judgment upon the Egyptians was ripe, and Moses was God's provision to free the Jews from their bondage and to lead them back to the Promised Land.  God knew exactly what the Israelites needed, and we see that He prepares a man for 80 years to take on an enormous task for the next 40.  Stephen tells us in Acts 7:35: “This Moses whom they rejected, saying, 'Who made you a ruler and a judge?' is the one God sent to be a ruler and a deliverer by the hand of the Angel who appeared to him in the bush.”  The book begins with God's provision of the perfect man for the job!

The second section goes from chapters 5-14, and it shows the power of God. Here is where a great contest takes place for the whole world to see.  It is “high noon” in Egypt, and God is ready to challenge the Egyptians' gods.  When Moses first asks Pharaoh, who considered himself divine, to free the Jews, he replies: “Who is the Lord, that I should obey His voice to let Israel go?  I do not know the Lord, nor will I let Israel go.”  Now when you have divinities in a show down, there cannot be any compromises nor negotiations.  Only one “gun-slinger” will leave this situation alive.  God declares to Moses in Exodus 7:1ff: “See, I have made you as God to Pharaoh, and Aaron your brother shall be your prophet.  You shall speak all that I command you.  And Aaron your brother shall tell Pharaoh to send the children of Israel out of his land.  And I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and multiply My signs and wonders in the land of Egypt.  But Pharaoh will not heed you, so that I may lay My hand on Egypt and bring My armies and My people, the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great judgments.  And the Egyptians shall KNOW that I am the Lord, when I stretch out My hand on Egypt and bring our the children of Israel from among them.”  The hardening of Pharaoh's heart is not something that God does to all people.  Pharaoh is singled out because he and the Egyptians think that he is a god.  God was going to show the Egyptians, and the world, that He and His people were going to leave this show down at high noon alive and well!  The Egyptians worshiped the Nile River, and they had gods which were represented by frogs, bulls, and the sun.  Did you notice how the first two plagues and the eighth and ninth plagues are direct attacks on these gods?  The god of the Nile can't keep it from turning to blood, the god represented as a frog can't stop the invasion of the frogs, the bull god can't keep the hail from destroying the Egyptians' livestock, and the sun god can't bring a ray of light during the three days of darkness!  What a powerful God is Jehovah!  But God doesn't stop here.  Look at Exodus 12:41: “And it came to pass at the end of 430 years—on that very same day—it came to pass that all the armies of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt.”  God had not forgotten; He was right on schedule!  After the last plague, Pharaoh tells the Jews to leave, but he soon repents of this decision and begins to pursue the Jews with his army.  God tells Moses to go in a certain direction and then gives His rationale for this movement in 14:3: “For Pharaoh will say of the children of Israel, 'They are bewildered by the land; the wilderness has closed them in.'  Then I will harden Pharaoh's heart, so that he will pursue them; and I will gain honor over Pharaoh and over all his army, that the Egyptians may KNOW that I am the Lord.'” So Moses and the Jews obeyed, and God shows His power once again as He places an obstacle between the two groups, allows the Jews to pass through the sea, and then destroys Pharaoh's army in the waters!  By God's great power, the Jews were now free indeed from their enemies!

The next section, chapters 15-24, talks about the people of God as Jehovah helps the Jews to become His special people.  Besides providing food, water, and leadership for the people, God also meets them on Mt. Sinai and establishes a covenant with them.  We've studied before that a covenant is like a treaty, and God gives the stipulations that the Jews must follow in order for them to maintain their special relationship with Him.  Notice God's words in 19:5-6: “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine.  And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”  In chapter 24, we see how three priests and 70 elders have a covenant meal in God's presence (vv. 9-18).  One commentator made this remark: “The festival covenant meal, likely included meat from the peace offerings as well as bread and wine, was a grand celebration of the living God” (NSB).  The Israelites would be God's righteous model to the world of how a people can relate to the Supreme, Majestic, and Awesome God!

The next section, chapters 25-31, we discover the plan of God.  This was God's meticulous plan for the construction of a tent where He Himself could dwell among the Israelites and where the Jews could approach Him.  The materials, the furnishings, and the places of this tabernacle are described in great detail.  And everything is to be made according to the pattern.  Then the next few chapters tell about special clothing for the priests, the consecration of the priests themselves, the daily offerings, and other articles that were to be used in the worship of God.  As we read, we see that nothing is left to chance, and everything used in the tabernacle has a purpose and a function.  To those who worked on making the furnishings and the articles, God said in 31:11: “According to all that I have commanded you, they shall do.”  God had a definite plan for the Jews to worship Him.

The next section, chapters 32-39, shows us the amazing pardon of God.  In chapter 32, the honeymoon is just scarcely over, and Israel begins to abandon her husband for another—God for a golden calf!  Exodus 32:6 is translated this way in a more modern version: “The people sat down to a feast, which turned into an orgy of drinking and sex.”  Those who had seen God's power and become His special people were now making fools of themselves in one of the wildest beach parties of all time!  How could those who were freed by God, fed by God, and wed by God, turn from him so quickly?  You and I know that answer all too well don't we?  How can we blow money on lottery tickets that should have been put in the collection plate?  How can we neglect time with our families to spend hours watching Internet porn?  How can we lose our senses and drink bottles at happy hours and pursue highs from illegal drugs which will only bring us to ruin?  How can we abandon our vows to participate in our flings?  Like the Israelites, we'd rather have earthly pleasures than God's favor.  Now here is the truly amazing thing—when God had every reason and right to divorce this recent unfaithful bride, note what He tells Moses in Exodus 34:6ff: “Now the Lord passed before him and proclaimed: 'The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children's children to the third and the fourth generation.'  So Moses made haste and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshiped.  Then he said, 'If now I have found grace in Your sight, O Lord, let my Lord, I pray go among us, even though we are a stiff-necked people; and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us as Your inheritance.'  And He [God] said: 'Behold, I make a covenant.  Before all your people I will do marvels such as have not been done in all the earth, nor in any nation; and all the people among whom you are shall see the work of the Lord.  For it is an awesome thing that I will do with you.”  What a God of pardon!

The next section, which is the first part of chapter 40, we see the glorious presence of God.  When the tabernacle was completed, notice what is said in 40:34: “Then the cloud covered the tabernacle of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.  And Moses was not able to enter the tabernacle of meeting, because the cloud rested above it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.”  When God's glory fills the temple in 2 Chronicles 7:2-3, it involves some kind of fire.  Maybe that's what's going on here or maybe it's just the brilliance and splendor of the light.  For whatever the reason, God's glorious presence was so awesome that Moses was unable to enter the tabernacle!  Someone has noted: “The book of Exodus closes with the glory of Yahweh coming to inhabit the tabernacle.  What privilege!  What grace!  What responsibility” (Balis)!

In the next section, we find that the closing verses of Exodus underscore the purpose of God.  Why Moses, the plagues, the crossing the Red Sea, God's care in the wilderness, the covenant, and the tabernacle?  Listen to verse 36: “Whenever the cloud was taken from above the tabernacle, the children of Israel would go onward in all their journeys.”  The wilderness experience was part of broader picture as the children of Israel were slowly making their way to the land which God had promised to give them.  This was the ultimate purpose of God, and in the book of Joshua, we see this promise fulfilled!  Psalm 66:5-9 give us a nice summary: “Come and see what God has done, His wonderful acts among men.  He changed the sea into dry land; our ancestors crossed the river on foot.  There we rejoiced because of what He did.  He rules forever by His might and keeps His eyes on the nations.  Let no rebels rise against Him.  Praise our God, all nations; let your praise be heard.  He has kept us alive and has not allowed us to fall.”

Have you ever heard someone say, “The God of the Old Testament is a God of wrath while the God of the New Testament is a God of love.  Why did He change?”  If we look closely, as we have this morning, we discover that the God of the Old Testament is a God of wrath and love, and the God of the New Testament is exactly the same.  We often err because we misread the Scriptures; God did not change but remained consistent!  Our reading in Hebrews this morning emphasizes that what we find in Exodus only serves as a shadow pointing towards something which has greater substance!  Exodus is indeed a wonderful story, but now let's quickly notice some applications as we fast forward to our time. The provision of God for us becomes Jesus Christ: “For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17).  Jesus' birth was no accident, and He has become our Ruler and Deliverer as well since He liberates us from our slavery to sin: “But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life” (Romans 6:22)! We too enjoy the provision of God!  The power of God is seen today in the resurrection of Jesus and in the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit in believers' lives: “This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses” (Acts 2:32); “And because you are sons, God has sent for the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, 'Abba Father!'  Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ” (Galatians 4:6-7)! Paul says that there is “an exceeding greatness of God's power towards those who are believers” (Ephesians 1:19).  We too are transformed by the power of God!  And yes, we are also now the special people of God: “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy” (1 Peter 2:9-10)!  God still has a detailed plan for worship, which involves singing, praying, giving, preaching, and partaking of the Lord's Supper!  The wonderful continual pardon of God can be experienced by all people because of what Christ has done: “But if we walk in the light as He [Jesus] is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7)!  God is still merciful, gracious, and forgiving!  “God has made [you] alive together with Him [Christ], having forgiven you all trespasses ...” (Colossians 2:13)!  Only one Mediator between God and man is necessary—Jesus Himself (1 Timothy 2:5)!  Paul says that Christians are persecuted but not forsaken (2 Corinthians 4:9), and we know that this is true as well because Jesus Himself promised that He would be with us until the end of time (Matthew 28:20)!  And what is the purpose of God in all this?  That we too might be reach our heavenly promised land: “And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him.  They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads” (Revelation 22:3-4)!Now do we understand why someone made this affirmation: “The Christians' appreciation of the work of Jesus in mankind's salvation is understood and appreciated in a ratio equal to the understanding of the messages and themes of the Exodus and the book which bears its name” (Bailey).  God is still Supreme, Majestic, and Awesome!  “Guide us, O Thou Great Jehovah, pilgrim through this barren land, we are weak, but Thou art Mighty!  Hold us with Thy powerful hand!”  Do you KNOW this great God?  He has made provision for your salvation in His Son!  What privilege!  What grace!  What responsibility!  Experience His power, His pardon, and His presence today as you devote your life totally to Him and begin your journey toward heaven!