Introduction: Review and Imagination.
[Try watching the new Exodus movie on HBO this week].
Week 1 we looked at Genesis 1-2 saw a picture of a magnificence perfectly beautiful world created by God. And at the height of that creation God created humanity. They were made to carry out God’s ministry of bringing the goodness of God into the world. But we quickly learn in Genesis 3 that our first parents choose to reject this calling, and decided what was best for them and the world. Christians call this the “FALL”—when humanity fell from away from God’s intended design for them.
We have also seen these desires did not end with our first parents, but continued throughout the history of the world. In Genesis 6 God says—READ Genesis 6.5. God keeps showing His unique loving kindness to certain people throughout the book of Genesis. One of those was Noah, but a descendent of Noah is a man named Abram. We learn in Genesis why God called Abram—READ Genesis 12.3. God wants to bless all the families of the earth through Abram’s offspring. Through Abram God is building a people who will return to God’s design for humanity. One day God will allow these people to experience a world free from the brokenness of sin.
1. Israel’s problems are everyone’s problems.
Where we pick up in the story is with the descendents who come after Abram. Eventually his offspring experience a great famine in their region of the world, and they have to move to Egypt. Through a series of tragic events, one of their families members had become second in command in Egypt, which is the leading super power in this part of the known world. So all the Israelites move their and Exodus 1.7 tell us,”...the people of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly; they multiplied and grew exceedingly strong, so that the land was filled with them.” We want to notice God is keeping His promise He made to Abram. God is faithful despite the continued failures of people He has chosen. We also do not want to loose sight that God told Abram He would bless his family in order to bless all the families of the earth.
The problem, or crisis, is the Egyptians do not see Israel as a blessing, and thought they might try to take over, so they made them their slaves (Ex 1.8-14). As a growing nation, they end up under severe oppression for 400 years. Instead of building a kingdom that will glorify God Israel is forced to build a kingdom that glorifies the Pharaohs.
But in the midst of this God intervenes and saves a young boy named Moses through an Egyptian. I mean did you just hear that! Through the enemies of Israel God saves a young Israelite baby! Moses is raised as Egyptian royalty, but eventually murders an Egyptian and must flee into the wilderness. He marries a shepherds daughter and becomes one himself. He seems content out there. Then one day he sees a bush that is burning but is not being consumed. I think that might get most people’s attention (Ex 3).
God and Moses have a unique conversation. God reveals to Moses that He has not forgotten what He promised His grandfather, Abraham. God begins the conversation with Moses through revealing Himself more fully to him. And what does He reveal to Moses? FIRST, He reveals He is the God of His forefathers and He is going to rescue His people because of promises He made them—READ Exodus 3.6-7, 9. SECOND, He reveals the nature of who He is. Moses was raised in the Egyptian court, therefore, He was raised to believe in polytheism. God reveals to Him is the Only One true God—READ Exodus 3.14-15. God is essentially saying, “I am the one who was, is, and will always be.”
Moses returns to Egypt after this, and God displays His Deity by performing 10 plagues in Egypt. The last plague is the most important one, because God promises that He will destroy EVERYONE, even Israelites. The only way one could survive was by SUBSTITUTIONAL ATONEMENT. The substitutional atonement was the BLOOD of an unblemished lamb.
There a few things we need to take notice of here. FIRST, the last plague all of creation—READ Exodus 12.29. The sins of every human does not just effect themselves, but ALL of creation (cf. Rom 8.20-22). SECOND, It is easy to forget that even the Israelites would have died without this atonement. Without God warning them what would cover their sins they would have died along with the rest of creation. THIRD, sin is enslaving. Our own sin and the sin of others enslave us. Only God can rescue out of slavery. FOURTH, these are ideas or themes that will carry on throughout the rest of the story. Israel is a microcosm of the whole world.
All the smaller stories of the Bible are about the whole world. Therefore, when look at these stories we are supposed to see what these stories are saying about God, humanity, and the world. For instance, throughout the rest of the first FIVE books of the Bible we will see Israelites say things like, “we had it better in Egypt.” I mean SERIOUSLY?! It was better for you to be slaves and oppressed! I think the biblical counselor Ed Welch compares sin to enslavement. He says it is volunteer slavery. We start out pursuing something we believe will bring us joy—we choose it. But those things never deliver—they always fall short. What ends up happening is they choose us, and they choose to destroy us instead of bringing us life, joy, and peace. Our choices become cruel task-masters.
2. All true freedom requires sacrifice.
What God offers us true FREEDOM, but all slaves must be bought. God does not just sweep our poor choices under the rug, but requires payment. The cool thing is He will provide the payment He requires. Christians call this the GOSPEL.
Israel came to into Egypt with around 70 people in their family, but leave with over 1 million. They leave Egypt, and even with their oppressors change their minds and try to bring them back God destroys their enemies. Israel is TRULY free! God uses this time to talk to them about what FREEDOM in His KINGDOM looks like. Therefore, He gives them the LAW. They go to a place called MT. SINAI and are there about a year. Around 600 laws were given.
The heartbeat of the LAW can be found in Deuteronomy 6. This chapter in the OT, and according to an Israelite, is considered thee most important passage in their history. The SHEMA is found here—READ Deuteronomy 6.4-6. This is a revelation of who God is and who we are to be in light of that revelation. The Israelites are told to talk about God wherever they go or in whatever they are doing (Deut 6.7-9). God shows them what it looks like for them to love the LORD their God with all of their heart, soul, and might.
Now why are they supposed to live this way?—READ Deuteronomy 6.20-25. We the Israelites are truly thankful for God’s redemption, then are should live like they are. For instance, if you meet someone special they may ask you to for exclusive love. This does not mean you can’t love someone else, but you cannot love other people they same way you love that person. There will be rules, statues, or regulations in that relationship. They are not instituted to harm you, take away joy, or freedom. No, they are instituted to MAXIMIZE your joy! The LAWS God gives us are not to harm us, but to bring LIFE and JOY. Listen to what king David has to say about the LAW—READ Psalm 19.7-11.
The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.—Psalm 19.7-11
What is that reward? JOY! DELIGHT! Now let me be CLEAR. Some people make the LAW into a god instead of the LAW POINTING us to God. The Law can be a source of joy because it can bring us closer to God. But under the captivity of sin the Law can push us further away from God as well. The Laws are given so God can live among His people. When God is among us there is PEACE, LOVE, and JOY. Turn with me to Exodus 33—READ Exodus 33.14-17.
God gives Israel a regular sacrificial system to remind them of what He did to rescue them. A lot of people had to die to save them—it was costly to God. These were people that God loved and cared about. In a culture of shepherds and farmers they symbol was these animals they cared for would have to die for them realize the cost of it requires to have the presence of God among them. Sin is not just some MERE psychological problem, but has serious effects on layers of our lives and the lives of others around us. The lives of people and things we care about. God cares about these people and things much more than we do, and He wants us to realize the cost our sin has on them.
God build an entire nation to display these truths to the world. The Church is supposed to be the new and better Israel. We are supposed to live like we have been set from the slavery of sin. We have been called by God to live sacrificial lives—READ Romans 12.1.
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.—Romans 12.1-2
All of this is rooted in the language and instruction given to Israel. Israel’s sacrificial system was just a symbol of how they were to live. It was not about just offering sacrifices and then living how you want the rest of the year. Listen to what the author of Hebrews tells us about the sacrificial system of Israel:
For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near....But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.—Hebrews 10.1-4
When sins are truly taken away we begin to live differently. When are lives become living sacrifices then we deny the flesh and live differently.