Of the rich variety of books that make up the Bible, the book of Exodus is unique in providing a micro-picture of the larger biblical story of salvation. Exodus describes how God brings estranged people into a personal relationship with Himself.
The motif of knowing God permeates the book of Exodus. Although at the outset God appears far removed from the plight of the oppressed Israelites, He is well aware of their suffering. As the victims of forced labor and genocide, dehumanized and exploited by their captors, the Israelites cry out to God for help (Ex. 2:23). Fully conscious of their torment, God summons Moses to be the agent through whom He will rescue the Israelites from the control of a satanic dictator.
As Moses shepherds the flock of Jethro, his father-in-law, on the slopes of Mount Sinai, he encounters God in the burning bush (3:1–6). Ordered to remove his sandals, Moses quickly realizes that he stands in the presence of the Holy One. And so begins a relationship that will profoundly change the rest of Moses’ life.
In Exodus, God makes himself known through both word and action. When Pharaoh claims that he has no knowledge of Moses’ God, God displays His power in a series of signs and wonders. These supernatural events are clearly intended to make God known (8:10; 10:2).
The signs and wonders climax in the Passover, an event that the Israelites will memorialize for generations (12:14). The sacrifice of the Passover lambs saves the firstborn male Israelites. The substitutionary death of the lambs ransoms the firstborn males from death by atoning for their sin. The sprinkling of the sacrificial blood on the door frames of the houses purifies those inside. By eating the sacred meat of the sacrificial animals, the Israelites are sanctified, or made holy. All three elements—atonement, purification, and sanctification—are necessary in order for the Israelites to become God’s holy people. Importantly, the first Passover foreshadows a much greater Passover that comes through the life-giving death of Jesus Christ, the ultimate Lamb of God. Without Passover, people remain under the judgment of death, alienated from the living God.
While Exodus emphasizes God’s role in delivering the Israelites from the tyranny of evil, it also highlights their call to exclusive obedience to their Savior. When the Israelites arrive at Mount Sinai, the people are invited to embrace God as their sole King through a covenant. Whereas Pharaoh imposed himself upon the Israelites, God graciously asks the newly liberated slaves to accept His lordship over them, promising that they will become a royal priesthood and a holy nation (19:6). At no point does God compel the Israelites to obey Him against their will.
God offers the Israelites a very different future. Previously distant from Him, they will now experience God’s special presence with them. Previously the victims of exploitation and genocide, they will now enjoy the privilege of being God’s treasured possession (19:5). Previously forced to build store-cities for Pharaoh, they will now construct a richly ornate tabernacle for God.
Exodus concludes with the Holy One of Israel taking up residence at the very heart of the Israelite camp (40:34). God’s coming to dwell among His people anticipates Jesus Christ’s coming to “tabernacle” in human form (John 1:14). Additionally, it foreshadows the ultimate goal of the future New Jerusalem when God will dwell with all those He has redeemed (Rev. 21:3).
In the big picture of divine salvation, God’s rescue of the enslaved Israelites marks an important stage in the process of mending the broken relationship between God and humanity. Importantly, it provides a paradigm for understanding the salvation that comes through Jesus Christ. As our Passover, He is the one who redeems us from Satan’s control and ransoms us from death.
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