Summary: The exodus marks the real beginning of the history of Israel as a people and a nation. It tells the story of Israel’s continued struggle with sin and obedience. Despite all of this, God chose them for a special role and sticks with them
At the end of Genesis, Egypt and Palestine were in the grips of a famine and Joseph had been reunited with his father, Jacob, and his brothers after they came to Egypt to buy food. Joseph invited them to stay with him in Egypt. God used the next 4 centuries to fulfill 3 promises to Abraham and his descendants. The first was that they were to increase in numbers. (Gen. 46:2-4) Egypt was just the kind of place where that could happen. It had a predictable supply of water in the Nile River, a temperate climate and less exposure to invasion than other countries. This provided an environment where Jacob’s descendants could grow significantly. The political climate of Egypt was also favorable as well. Wealth flowed into Egypt from all over the world along with craftsmen and traders as Egypt increased it borders in Palestine and Syria and to the south. This was a time of benevolent rule and peace. And because of Joseph’s service to Egypt and its ultimate rescue during a great famine, his family enjoyed the political favor of Egypt.
But the second promise fulfilled is that the Israelites would be afflicted. The Scriptures tell us a time came when a new Pharaoh rose to power who had no knowledge of Joseph’s contribution or of his family. With its newfound wealth, Egypt began great building projects requiring forced service to complete. The Hebrew people fell under oppression and servitude along with conquered Asiatic people. The Hebrews made mud bricks, which was filthy and miserable work and had daily quotas that Egyptian records show slaves rarely met. The Hebrew time as Egyptian slaves was unbearable as they were worked “ruthlessly” and their lives were “bitter” due to “hard, cruel” service. As a result, Israel languished in “misery” and “suffering” and their spirits were “broken.” And so they cried out to God to deliver them and he heard them and responded. The third promise would happen only when these first two had transpired: the gift of the promised land. And what we finb is that all of this happened for a reason and were part of a larger plan.
In response to the growing threat of the number of Hebrews, Pharaoh demanded the killing of all Hebrew babies. But in response to Israel’s cries for help, God saved one child, Moses who grew into a man. Even though he had mishaps and flaws, he was used by God to deliver the Hebrews from slavery. God revealed himself to Moses in a burning bush and charged him to go free His people from slavery. God equipped him for this calling and what followed was an epic showdown between Pharaoh and Moses that included 10 plagues. Pharaoh finally relented after the Passover of the spirit of death over Egypt killing the Egyptians babies. The Hebrews were freed and after a dramatic escape, they entered the wilderness where they will travel for 40 years in a kind of spiritual bootcamp as God molded, shaped and prepared them for the challenges and calling that lied ahead. At the end of the journey, God gives the Law to teach them the expectations of relationship with him and how they were to live together as one nation.
The exodus marks the real beginning of the history of Israel as a people and a nation. From this point on, the Bible speaks of a nation unified by God. It tells the story of Israel’s continued struggle with sin and obedience. Despite all of this, God chose them for a special role and sticks with them. The escape from Egypt is a watershed event in the Hebrew’s people’s life. Yet, we cannot separate this miraculous event from the journey in the wilderness nor the conquest of the promise land or the giving of the Law. These make up the grand story of God’s deliverance. What we find is that these four events together became THE defining event in the life of Israel, their understanding of their purpose in life and how they are to live as one people.
In the great narratives of the Old Testament, the central character is always God and reveals who He is. What do we learn about God in our readings this week? God is all powerful. This is not the first time we have seen the power of God. In Genesis, God is the author of all creation who spoke everything into existence. We see God has the power to destroy through the flood. And we see God has the power to give life by helping a couple who is long past child bearing years overcome their barrenness. We see that God is able to work in spite of the sin of his children and the terrible events that happen to them. Nothing will thwart God from accomplishing His will. But in Exodus the question of God’s power is infinitely challenged. The Hebrew people are now enslaved in the most powerful nation of the world. A lone man, Moses, is enlisted to challenge the Pharaoh of Egypt, who is considered to be a god himself, to free the Hebrew people. What transpires is an epic showdown with the God of Israel and his emissary pitted against the god Pharaoh and the gods of Egypt. Clearly, from the eyes of the world, all of Egypt and maybe even some of the Hebrews, Moses was outmanned and outgunned. But time and again, God’s proves his power through each plague, the Passover, the parting of the waters of the Red Sea and even the journey in the wilderness as he provides water and manna. James Martin writes, “In reality, the Lord’s route was designed to get Israel out of Egypt and away from Egyptian control in such a way that only he, the Lord Almighty would be recognized as deliverer of the Hebrew people.” The Lord’s promise was done in such a way that the reputation of the God of Israel spread to the surrounding nations. For centuries to come, the nations of the world feared the God of Israel and no one doubted His power.