Old bibles can be really cool. Sometimes you will find interesting insights in the margins that you won’t find in commentaries. And I have the Bible notes from a pastor John Weddell that date to 1918. And I love how he describes the call of each of the first books upon our life. Let me begin by reading his marginal notes:
• Genesis - Begin with God. • Exodus - Come out for God. • Leviticus - Get right with God. • Numbers - Get somewhere! • Deuteronomy - Stop and think. • Joshua - Take the land. • Judges - Watch the borders.
I think he is on to something there - especially in the first three books. Where Genesis calls upon us to begin everything with God, Exodus calls us to come out for God; to take a stand; to come out of world and to a totally committed relationship with Yehowah as our covenant Lord.
Egypt is the symbol of the world. Pharaoh and his task masters are symbols of Satan and his demonic hosts that try to rob us of liberty and joy. And the Exodus is a symbol of our redemption.
Context: the misery of backsliding (Ex 1)
The first chapter sets the covenant context for the book by connecting it to Abraham. Every covenant builds one upon the other. Galatians makes quite clear that the Mosaic covenant does not replace the Abrahamic covenant. Every covenant in the Scriptures builds upon the previous ones.
But chapter 1 goes on to describe the utter bondage in slavery that Israel found itself in. Covenant succession is not a given; it is not automatic; people can apostatize if parents are not nurturing them in the Lord. The young people who have been disciples in America’s Egyptian public schools are leaving the faith on a massive scale. And when they do so, they experience misery. Look at chapter 1, and beginning to read at verse 11.
11 Therefore they [that's the Egyptians] set taskmasters over them [that's the Israelites] to afflict them with their burdens. And they built for Pharaoh supply cities, Pithom and Raamses. 12 But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew. And they were in dread of the children of Israel. 13 So the Egyptians made the children of Israel serve with rigor. 14 And they made their lives bitter with hard bondage—in mortar, in brick, and in all manner of service in the field. All their service in which they made them serve was with rigor.
And then comes the killing of all the male children that were born to the Israelites at the end of the chapter.
Keep this horrible misery clearly in your minds because it illustrates the utter foolishness and irrationality of their constant desire to go back to Egypt and eat the leeks and garlics of Egypt. They were miserable in Egypt and they wanted out. But when they went out with Moses they feared liberty and all the responsibilities that liberty entailed and they wanted to go back. But they have a selective memory of what they are going back to.
And I think this is an amazing picture of Christians who backslide. They forget the misery they were under when they were in bondage to Satan. They forget the fact that their life had no future in spiritual Egypt; they were headed toward hell. They forget the fact that God has promised to provide for all of our needs in Christ Jesus. Though God has redeemed us at infinite cost, Christians foolishly long for the cucumbers, watermelons, leeks and garlics they were given as slaves. What are the leeks and garlics of Egypt for us? Well, it might be pornography for some, and materialism for others. But the world has a way of making us forget about the incredible privileges that we have in Christ and to long for pleasant things that were associated with our miserable life outside of Christ. It's irrational.
So this is a book that shows us that even after conversion, God has His work cut out for Him in reconstructing us to His blueprints and ushering us into the sweetness of fellowship that we were purchased for. Beautiful as that is, we tend to drag our feet. We are sometimes reluctant to go from the first section of this book, into the training of the second section, and into the beautiful fellowship of the third part of Exodus.
The Israelites dragged their feet right from the start and they continued to drag their feet. Initially they didn't want to be redeemed. It seemed too risky. Now it is true that they thought Moses' promise of freedom might be good, but as soon as Pharaoh gave some push back, chapter 5:21 says that they rejected the idea. It very much discouraged Moses.
So the background here is very similar to Adam and Eve in Genesis 3. Adam and Eve ran from God, hid their sin, and once the sin was exposed, gave excuses to God about about why they had sinned. And just as God captured Adam and Eve (yes, even against their will) and brought them into the covenant once again, in chapter 6:1 God says that He was going to orchestrate the lives of these Israelites so that they would be motivated to leave - God said that He would drive out of Egypt. He brings pain into their lives so that they will be motivated to leave. That's chapter 6:1. The point is, God's people have always been an unwilling people until God's grace changed them. And then they are quite willing.
Key word: redemption
The whole book can be summarized by one word - redemption. Redemption is a word related to the slave market. If a person is still a slave he has not been redeemed. Some people think that salvation is making a profession of faith but then continuing to live as slaves to sin. That is not redemption.
Key verse: Exodus 6:6 in context of 6:2-9
And I might as well deal with the key verse at the same time as the key word. The key verse is Exodus 6:6. It's another key verse that is easy to remember - 6:6. But I want to read the whole context of verses 2-9 and give a bit of exposition, because I think it introduces the book so well. This is the only part of Moses' call that I will deal with, but it gives an overview of the book in a nutshell. It starts by pointing out that God planned redemption long before they were born.
Ex. 6:2 And God spoke to Moses and said to him: “I am Yehowah. 3 I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty, but by My name Yehowah I was not known to them.
Many have thought that this is an outright contradiction of Scripture since scores of Scriptures in Genesis have the word Yehowah (all caps LORD) in it. Genesis 12:5 says that Abraham called on the name of Yehowah. In Genesis 14:22 Abraham talked to the king of Salem and said "I have lifted my hand to Yehowah, God Most High, the possessor of heaven and earth..." So what is God saying here?
The explanation is really quite simple. Notice that God doesn’t say Abraham didn’t know His name Yehowah. Instead, He says that His name Yehowah didn’t make Him known to them. They didn’t understand what His name revealed about His character. Every other name God gave to Himself had revealed something about His character and attributes. For example, He is called "El-Shaddai" which means God Almighty, He is called the Lord our righteousness, the Lord our provider and other names. But no one knew what the name Yehowah meant until God explained it to Moses in chapter 3. In chapter 3 God told Moses Yehowah means "I AM THAT I AM." God is self-sufficient and overflowing generously for the needs of others. He has no needs, which frees Him up to give.
He continues in verse 4:
4 I have also established My covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land of their pilgrimage, in which they were strangers.
First of all, notice that the whole book of Exodus flows from the Abrahamic covenant. It is not at odds with at covenant of grace as so many people think.
Second, if God has established the covenant it is impossible for Pharaoh to hold back His hand. In fact we saw last week that God swore by Himself and even passed through the pieces of the animals as a statement, "May I be cut off is this covenant is broken." God guaranteed to Abraham that his descendants would be in Egypt for a certain number of years and would come out with great riches. God would have to become a liar, He would have to cease to be God before this promise could fail. You too can bank on the promises of a God who cannot lie. So He is basically saying, don't worry Moses, my reputation is at stake here. I have established my covenant and I will fulfill it. Redemption is inescapable; redemption will happen. And the first third of the book is full of those kinds of reminders. Verse 5:
5 And I have also heard the groaning of the children of Israel whom the Egyptians keep in bondage, and I have remembered My covenant.
God did not need to be told about the groanings of the Israelites. He knew about them and He was not indifferent to them. You too can have this assurance. The Lord hears your groanings and says that every one of your tears is recorded in His book (Psa. 56:8). There is not a tear that you shed that God is not intimately concerned with. Furthermore, He sympathizes with you and is touched with the feeling of your infirmities (Heb. 4:15). He remembers His covenant with you even when you forget that covenant.
But there are seven rich promises that God gives in verses 6-9 that take us from one end of the book to the other. That is why I say that this is a key passage.
Therefore say to the children of Israel: “I am the Yehowah. I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians...
John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress shows the burden that sin can bring about in a non-Christian's life and the great relief and peace that is felt when those burden's are lifted at Calvary. And throughout our life He shows His concern by telling us to cast our burdens upon Him. It is a marvelous aspect of redemption that is illustrated later in this book. Continuing in the second part of verse 6:
...I will rescue you from their bondage...
This is part one of the whole book - rescue. God is not content to just rid them of their burdens and make their task easier. He is going to completely free them from slavery. He wants them completely divorced from their old life and wants them to be bound to Him. This is the way with God's people to this day. God wants us to have a complete severance from the world, the flesh and the devil and a new walk in fellowship with God that requires a whole new pattern of doing and thinking (which is the second section of this book). God's law was not designed to burden us, but to give us blueprints that would help us to soar on wings of eagles. He tells us, "sin shall not have dominion over you." God has taken us out from the bondage of Satan. But we need to follow His blueprints if we are to experience that liberty. The third part of verse 6 continues:
...and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments.
The word "redeem" there is used of a kinsman redeemer paying to free a person from slavery or paying a ransom for someone who is captured. So just as Genesis points to the coming incarnation of God the Son, this passage does too. He is going to act as a kinsman redeemer. But how could He be said to be the Kinsman Redeemer before the incarnation? Well, it is true because in God's decrees the incarnation is so certain that it is as good as done. Let me illustrate with the cross. Since Christ's cross was predestined before the foundation of the world, Revelation can speak of Jesus as being Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. He wasn't literally slain then, but in God's decrees it was as good as done. Well, in the same way, because of the certainty of God's decrees, God the Son can say that He is acting as a Kinsman-Redeemer even before He was incarnate.
But there is more. This verse speaks of redemption as being both by price and by power. And you will see that in the outline of this book. In the Old Testament, a Kinsman Redeemer could redeem with money, but he was also an avenger who had to be powerful enough to destroy the enemy. That too is a part of redemption. In the picture or type of Israel being redeemed from Egypt it was by the blood of the Passover lamb (that was the price) and the power of God's judgment on Egypt and bringing them safely through the sea. Well, in the same way, Jesus' blood was the price and His victory over the world, death, and Satan was a display of His power. And Ephesians 1:18-19 says that the same power that raised Christ from the dead is at work in you. Satan has no power to hold us.
But verse 7 gives us a fourth promise:
I will take you as My people...
What a glorious promise. The idolatrous Israelites were worthy of judgment just as much as the Egyptians were. They were an idolatrous cantankerous lot and yet God, seeing nothing good in them decided to show His favor to them by making them His own people. We too, though utterly unfit for the least of God's merices are called to be God's special people that He cherishes and to whom He ministers. He has made us accepted in the Beloved. He claims us as His own. This should melt our hearts in gratitude and praise to Him. It should give us comfort when we fall and encourage us to ask His forgiveness and to try again. We have an infinitely patient and loving God. If God could take them as His people, He can take us. So be encouraged, as Moses was.
The fifth promise is also in verse 7:
and I will be your God.
This is the flip side of the coin. We belong to God and He belongs to us. He promises, "I will never leave you nor forsake you."
The sixth promise is in the last part of verse 7:
Then you shall know that I am Yehowah your God who brings you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.
That's an essential part of redemption - to bring us out. But verse 8 speaks of the service they were saved for:
8 And I will bring you into the land which I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and I will give it to you as a heritage: I am Yehowah.’ ”
If you are in Christ, then God redeems you to a task, and the task is to take this world for Christ and inherit it. They were redeemed for a task, to take Canaan for God and to inherit it. If you reject your task, you are rejecting part of the very purpose of redemption. Certainly you have been freed from slavery, but Romans tells us that God purchased you to be His slave - a slave adopted into is family, yes, but we are saved to serve. Verse 9:
9 So Moses spoke thus to the children of Israel; but they did not heed Moses, because of anguish of spirit and cruel bondage.
The Israelites were unwilling to be redeemed, just as no man truly seeks God today apart from His sovereign grace. But Exodus is the symbolic story of how God takes us from being a people who want slavery to sin to a people who are ready to worship and fellowship and enter into a loving relationship with God. In the middle chapters, the Israelites are sometimes fearful and have a hard time trusting God. And there is a story I'm going to tell you that I think describes two kind of people in this book. There were people like Caleb who quickly entered into the end result of friendship. Actually, the entire younger generation did. And there were others who were so fearful that they couldn't live by faith; they are always living like slaves. God was just as dependable to both, but there was a vast difference between the joy and liberty of Caleb and the fear of others.
Here's the story: Many years ago there was man who was crossing the Mississippi River for the first time. There was no bridge, but the river was covered with ice. Since it was early winter the man was unsure whether the ice would hold him up or not, but he was desperate to get to the other side before night fall. He decided he would take the risk and began to creep very cautiously on all fours so as to distribute his weight across the surface of the ice a bit more. About halfway over, he heard the sound of singing behind him. Out of the dusk a man came driving a horse-drawn load of coal and without any hesitation ran it all the way across the river singing merrily as he went along. He was without a worry. The river wasn't any more firm for the man in the sleigh than it was for the man timidly crawling on all fours. Even though the traveler felt fearful and insecure, the ice held him up.
And God holds even the most fearful and insecure of His people up as well. But what God wants for us is the full joy of knowing that we are secure in God's redemption and in His promises. In other words, He wants us to enjoy the third section of the book because we have taken seriously the first two sections. Painfully creeping across the ice is better than not going at all, but my prayer is that God’s promises will be so strongly held by faith that you rejoice. In fact, that's the purpose statement for the Gospel section of our church's ten foundations: “To see our members so secure in God’s grace, so knowledgeable in God’s law, and so confident in His promises, that they are freed from self-doubts to joyful service.” That's the direction that the whole book takes us on. Let's take a look at the book's outline.
The outline of the whole book captures this key passage in three key words: rescue, reconstruction, and fellowship. I've given a visual outline of the book of Exodus that is based in part and improves upon the one in Joe Morecraft's wonderful three volume study guide to Exodus. If you are a visual person, it might help you to see the logical flow of the book as a whole. So if you have a copy, take a look at it.
There are three columns under the book's theme of "God Redeeming a People to Himself" - rescue (which is chapter 1-18), reconstruction (which is chapters 19-24), and fellowship (which is chapters 25-40). Those three words all come under the theme of redemption. Redemption is not just paying for a slave and then leaving him in the market. Redemption is purchasing him, providing for him, and bringing him into the fellowship of the family. And each of those three sections has their own further subdivisions - an additional three sections in each of the three columns. There is a beautiful symmetry in the book. So that's the big picture flow of the book, but let's dig down a bit deeper.
Based on the Abrahamic covenant (1-4)
The first subsection under the rescue column is Covenant (chapters 1-4). Does God make his covenant with them because they earned it? Hardly. They were a stubborn people engrossed in idolatry. Did He make His covenant because they wanted to be redeemed? Hardly. The Scripture I read earlier had the leaders basically saying, "No thank you." This is truly God's sovereign grace and mercy that granted people liberty from slavery even though they had nothing within them to warrant it - nothing. It is a beautiful illustration of unconditional election.
Confrontation of idols (5-11)
The next sub-section (chapters 5-11) is called confrontation because God confronted idols that the Israelites had trusted in and brought them to nothing. These Israelites were not in bondage by accident. They were outwardly in bondage because their heart was in bondage to Satan and the demonic false gods. Scripture says that most of them worshiped other gods.
So in chapter 5 God begins to make them ready by making the bondage even more unbearable. He doesn't want them to find satisfaction in worshiping other gods. He wants them so miserable that they will be strongly motivated to leave Egypt.
In chapters 7 and following God brings the ten plagues not only to show His power over the gods of Egypt, but also to wean His people away from trust in those gods. The message of redemption is not complete until you have a tearing down of idols.
Look at chapter 12:12. God gives the purpose for these plagues in these words:
For I will pass through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the LORD.
Notice that phrase, "against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment." This was a war against idolatry. God had been showing the utter impotency of the gods that Egypt trusted in. In chapter 18:11, Jethro, Moses' father-in-law said,
Now I know that Yehowah is greater than all the gods; for in the very thing in which they behaved proudly, He was above them.
In other words, God demonstrated through the plagues that the very areas that the demonic gods claimed expertise in, God was above them. And that theme is repeated two other times. Each plague took on at least one other god of Egypt. Let me quickly go through each plague and show this.
Plague 1 took on the god Osiris, the god of the Nile and Khnum, the guardian of the river's source (7:14-25)
The first plague (in chapter 7:14-15) turned not only the entire Nile River to blood, but all water that had been brought from the Nile. It was all turned to blood. The Nile was considered divine by the Egyptians. They believed it was the blood stream of their greatest god, Osiris. They also worshiped the crocodile-god, Hapi, and Khnum, the guardian of the river's source, but it was Osiris that was likely in view - especially because the Nile was said to be his bloodstream. The Egyptian hymn to the Nile states that it is "The bringer of good, rich in provisions, creator of all good, lord of majesty, sweet of fragrance." Well, by the time God was done with it, it stank. It was not sweet of fragrance. All the fish died, and it became a stinky river of death.
Plague 2 took on the goddess Heket (or Heqt), the fertility god pictured with the head of a frog (8:1-15)
The second plague (in chapter 8:1-15) was the frogs. The Egyptians worshiped the goddess Heket (sometimes spelled Heqt), associating her with fertility, water, and renewal of the land. She is pictured with the head of a frog. The true God made the demon goddess, Heket, very unpopular as frogs swarmed into houses, into beds, into kitchens, driving people out their homes. Since they put their trust in frogs, God drove them crazy with frogs, and once Pharaoh asked for them to be removed (which was an insult to Heket), God killed all the frogs. Both the bringing and the killing of the frogs were an insult and an attack upon Heket, and a declaration that God alone was the Sovereign over nature.
Plague 3 took on the god Geb (also spelled Keb or Seb), the god of dust (8:16-19)
The third plague (in chapter 8:16-19) turned dust to lice after Moses struck the dust of the earth with his rod. That's a lot of lice. It made the Egyptians miserable. So much for the Egyptian god, Geb (sometimes spelled Keb or Seb), the god over the dust of the earth. When the magicians could not reproduce this miracle, they confessed that this was the finger of God - an expression associated with the kingdom repeatedly in Scripture. And redemption establishes the kingdom. Redemption is not lawless - and we will see that in the second section.
Plague 4 took on the Uatchit, the fly god (8:20-32)
The fourth plague (which is in chapter 8:20-32) was a huge manifestation of the blood-sucking dog-fly, a fly that was feared and worshiped. And the god of that blood-sucking fly was the god Uatchit. This plague was only on the Egyptians, not on the Israelites. The previous plagues made the Israelites miserable too. But here He makes a difference. It's as if God sics their gods on them, while protecting Israel. Some think that this may have also been God striking the Egyptian god of creation, movement of the sun, and rebirth of the earth since that god had the head of a fly. In any case, no Israelite was bothered by these flies. Morecraft states,
Because of this distinction, God would save Israel in spite of her sin, and condemn Egypt because of hers. God has mercy on whom he will, and hardens whom he will.
Plague 5 took on Hathor, the goddess of love and protection pictured with the head of a cow, as well as the gods Ptah, Mnevis, Amon, and Apis (9:1-7)
The fifth plague (which is in chapter 9:1-7) killed cattle with disease, and this plague was a direct attack on Hathor, the goddess of love and protection, who was pictured with the head of a cow. And it may have also been an attack against the gods and goddesses of cattle, Ptah, Mnevis, Amon, and Apis. It not only brought massive economic loss to Egypt, but also showed the gods of Egypt to be nothing.
Plague 6 took on the goddess Sekhmet, the protector from diseases and boils as well as Imhopet, Amunotep, Serket, Ta-Bitjet, Khonsu, Nefertum, and Serapis, the other gods of medicine and healing (9:8-12)
The sixth plague (in chapter 9:8-12) was boils. Supposedly the lion-headed goddess, Sekhmet was a protector against diseases and boils. And if that didn't work, they would worship Amunotep, Serket, Ta-Bitjet, Imhotep, Khonsu, Nefertum, and Serapis, the Egyptian gods and goddesses of medicine and healing. They actually had a lot of gods for healing. But when every Egyptian was in agony with these horrendous boils, the healing gods were completely discredited. Davis says, "Magicians, priests, princes, and commoners were all equally affected by the pain of this judgment, a reminder that the God of the Hebrews was a sovereign God and superior to all man-made idols."
Plague 7 took on the god Nut, the god of the sky as well as Isis and Seth, the Agricultural deities and Shu, the god of the atmosphere (9:13-35)
The seventh plague (in chapter 9:13-15) was the worst hail Egypt had ever seen. So much for the protection of Nut, their goddess who was said to control the sky. Nor were Isis and Seth, the agricultural deities any help, or Shu, the god of the atmosphere. Again, huge economic losses to Egypt, and no loss to the Hebrews in Goshen.
Plague 8 took on Serapia, the locust god as well as Seth, the God of storm and disasters (10:1-20)
The eighth plague (in chapter 10:1-20) was locusts, and to the horror of the Egyptians, they saw the rest of their crops completely consumed. They worshiped the locust god, Serapis, in order to keep locusts away, and they worshiped Seth, the God of storms and any other disorders. But the true God showed that He controlled the locusts at Moses' word, and in the process brought Egypt economically to its knees. And in verse 19, God ended the plague by drowning the locusts in the Red Sea, another symbolic statement of judgment on the demons. In chapter 10:2 God says why He brought the locusts:
that you may tell in the hearing of your son and your son’s son the mighty things I have done in Egypt, and My signs which I have done among them, that you may know that I am the LORD.
Plague 9 took on the god Ra (sometimes spelled Re), the sun god as well as Amon-re, Aten, Atum, and Horus, the lesser sun gods, and Thoth, the moon god (10:21-29)
The ninth plague (in chapter 10:21-29) was darkness. This was a blow to the heart of Egypt's false worship because it discredited their greatest god, the sun god, Ra, and numerous other gods and goddesses associated with the sun. God could blot out the sun at any time because it belonged to Him.
Plague 10 took on Pharaoh, the protector god of families (11:1-12-51)
Pharaoh, the protector of Egypt's families, was discredited in the tenth plague, which killed the firstborn of Pharaoh and all other firstborn that did not have the blood of the Passover. Pharaoh had no power to protect them. He was a lousy god. The state always is a lousy god. Of course, since it happened at the time of the Passover, it showed God that God alone can protect us from harm, and He does so through the blood of the Lamb - the Lord Jesus. His blood protects us from the demon-gods of this world.
And since all the gods were mediated to the people through Pharaoh, Exodus inescapably contrasts the true God with all statism or state claims to sovereignty over the people. This is an essential part of redemption. Redemption confronts all idols without exception and calls us to leave them behind and to submit to the true God. Statism is perhaps the biggest idol in America, and all true Christians should abandon statism and embrace liberty. But too many Christians fear the risks of liberty and constantly go back to Pharaoh. It may take God's judgments to drive Christians in America away from their idols and away from Pharaoh. Exodus is actually a much-needed book to confront the compromised Christianity in America.
Guaranteed by God's almighty power (12-18)
So on your outline of the book you can see that the rescue column involves covenant, confrontation, and the power of God in judgment. The power of God was demonstrated not only in the plagues, but also in the parting the Red Sea in chapter 14 and drowning the Egyptian army in that sea. In the Song of Moses in chapter 15, all Israel rejoiced in God's judgments. The mercies of redemption are brought into brilliant relief against the background of the judgments of what is left behind.
And this section ends with God's marvelous provision for His people of water in chapter 17, and the establishment of the synagogue system in chapter 18 - which is identical to New Testament Presbyterianism. Why did God place the establishment of the church, or the synagogue system in chapter 18? Why not elsewhere? Well, it illustrates that redemption is from something and into something. And if you aren't a member of the church under the authority of elders as commanded in chapter 18 of Exodus, redemption's purpose has not yet been finished for you. I don't have the time to do an exposition of chapter 18, but I hope to write a book on Ecclesiology, and part of it will be to show that all the principles of Presbyterianism were in that synagogue system in chapter 18. It's very decentralized, but there still is authority, discipline, and protection, and there is required membership and accountability. We are rescued from the world not to be on our own but to be part of the body of Christ.
But then comes the next major section of the book - reconstruction. That's the second column. After you have been rescued and constituted as a church, God educates you and realigns your heart, your thinking, your words, your relationships, and your actions. This whole second third of the book is the reconstruction of the lives of Christians with God's Biblical blueprints.
And he divides this section on reconstruction or realignment of the redeemed ones lives with God's law under three headings: the ten commandments, the judgments (or case laws), and the ordinances (or affirmations of the covenant).
The King gives commandments (19-20)
And Morecraft points out that the ten commandments (listed in chapter 20) really were designed to protect.
The first commandment protects true theology The second commandment protects true worship The third commandment protections the name of God The fourth commandment protects the Sabbath and the covenant as a whole The fifth commandment protects the family The sixth commandment protects life The seventh commandment protects marriage The eighth commandment protects private property The ninth commandment protects truth And the tenth commandment protects the heart.
These commandments are blessings. They protect us. And they rise and fall together. You cannot abandon any one of those without messing up the covenant. James 2:10 says, "For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all." God made the ten commandments to need each other; to fit together. You can think of them as ten facets of a diamond or ten windows into the moral character of God. And those ten are a marvelous summary of the whole law. And it is only a summary of God's moral law because the next sub-section covers the case law applications of the ten commandments to different areas of life.
These commandments are applied to all of life (21-23)
And we won't have time to go over these brilliant case laws. But it is interesting to contrast the case laws in chapters 21-23 with those in Deuteronomy.
Deuteronomy has twenty chapters of case laws where Exodus has only three. So even the case laws here are a summary of what you will find in Deuteronomy.
A second difference that you will notice in your outlines is that Deuteronomy's case laws are grouped in exactly the same order in which the ten commandments are written whereas Exodus starts with an exposition of commandments five through 10 in the first section and then works backwards in the second section by giving an exposition of commandments 4, then 3, then 2, and then 1. I haven't figured out why God gave that order. It's so deliberate that there must be a purpose. If any of you figure out that purpose, let me know. It is a very deliberate change of order.
And there is one other interesting feature to the case laws of Exodus. The exposition of the seventh commandment (you shall not commit adultery - which is outlined in chapter 22:16-20), is placed in the middle of the exposition of the eighth commandment (you shall not steal - which is in chapter 22:1-15 and 21-31). Perhaps that was done to emphasize that sexual sins are also a form of theft.
Otherwise there are a lot of parallels between the two sets of case laws. And I will wait till the book of Deuteronomy to comment on the genius of the case law system and its wisdom for guiding our lives. They truly provide beautiful blueprints to guide individuals, families, businesses, churches, and society as a whole.
These laws are embraced as central to the covenant (24)
In chapter 24 the laws of God are embraced in a covenant ceremony that commits God's people to living by those laws. Redemption is not to lawlessness. Or as Paul worded it, "Shall we sin that grace may abound? Certainly not!" The ratification ceremony is prefaced with the blood of sacrifices and with eating communion meals (signified by the peace offerings). This showed that they could not keep the law apart from grace. Grace and law are kept together in Scripture. Apart from law we would not sense our need of grace, and grace enables us to keep God's law. So God reconstructs His people graciously by the law in order to make the third section of the book possible.
Blueprints given for worship grounded in Jesus (25-31)
So we have rescue in the first third of the book, then reconstruction of people's lives in the second section, and then fellowship in the third section. Fellowship with God is what every chapter previously has been driving us towards. And the last section (chapters 25-31) makes it crystal clear that fellowship with God can only happen through the coming Messiah, Jesus. And that was symbolized by the detailed instructions concerning the tabernacle, by which God would dwell with His people. Now, obviously there are a lot of other axioms that are given to us in these chapters which I will not get into - such as the axioms for arithmetic and the axioms for geometry. But in terms of the major themes, every portion of that tabernacle, its furniture, and its sacrifices pointed to Jesus enabling God to dwell with man and man to dwell with God. I love the statement by the French theologian, Pierre Courthial. In 2018 he wrote,
Out of the warmth of His affection for Israel (Deuteronomy 7:8; 23:5), out of a desire to meet with Israel, out of the close intimacy that He wants to have with Israel, God goes so far as to pitch His tent among the tents of Israel; that their lives might be centered on Him, He chooses to live right in their midst. “I will be with you,” the Lord had promised. The Tent of Meeting, the Tabernacle, is the movable memorial to the promise that He will go with His people every step of the way from Sinai to Jerusalem.
False worship (golden calf) condemned (32-34)
And of course, true fellowship is contrasted in chapters 32-34 with the false worship of the golden calf. There are always shortcuts people want to take to true fellowship.
Completion of the tabernacle (35-40)
And then the tabernacle is completed in chapters 35-40. So hopefully you can see the logical flow of the book.
Types of Christ
But I haven't dealt with Christology yet, so I want to end by briefly giving two types that point to Jesus as our Savior. And its sad that I can't give all the rich symbolism of this book. You could spend an entire year teaching on the Christology of this book. The Tabernacle alone is incredibly marvelous. At my Bible school there was a three credit hour course that was devoted exclusively to teaching how every part of the tabernacle and its furniture pointed to Jesus and salvation. That's a lot of time spent on just one of the types of this book. And Exodus is absolutely chalk full of symbols for Jesus, as you would expect since it is a book on redemption. Moses stands as a type of Jesus, as do the festivals, the Exodus itself, the manna, the rock that was struck, the sacrifices, the tabernacle and all of its furniture, and the high priest. I'm only to give you a very cursory look at two of those symbols.
The Passover (Ex. 12; John 1:29; 1 Cor. 5:7)
The Passover in chapter 12 is one of the most important chapters in the whole book. And each of the points I will give you are fodder for much more exposition. But at least I will introduce you to fifteen ways this Passover foreshadowed the person and work of Jesus.
- In verse 3 a lamb was taken. John 1:19 says that Jesus is the lamb that takes away sins.
- In verses 4-5 the lamb had to be without blemish. The only way that Jesus could save us was if He was without sin (1 Pet. 1:19; 2 Cor. 5:21)
- In verse 5 the lamb had to be a firstling, or in its prime. Jesus was not a babe when He died, but was in middle years; in His prime.
- Verses 3 and 6 say that this lamb had to be set apart on Nisan 10, four days before Passover was killed. Jesus was anointed with oil four days before Passover (Matt. 26:12)
- The lamb was slain on Nisan 14 just as Jesus was crucified on the Nisan 14 (John 19:14,31)
- All Israel had to kill a lamb in verse 6 just as several New Testament Scriptures say that all Israel killed Christ (Matt. 27:20-23; Luke 23:18; Acts 2:23). And later Scriptures say that we all killed Christ with our sins.
- In verses 7 and 22 the blood was applied to the door posts to protect the people just as blood must be applied to our hearts (1 John 1:7; Matt. 26:28; Rom. 5:9; Rev. 1:5; 7:14) and our homes for our protection (Rev. 12:11)
- In verses 8-10 the Israelites had to partake of the lamb just as John 6 says that we have no life unless we partake of Christ (John 6:53-55)
- In verses 8-9 the lamb was roasted with fire just as Jesus came under the fire of God's wrath (Heb. 12:29; Is. 53:5; 1 Pet. 2:2; Psalm 22)
- Verse 8 calls for eating bitter herbs of Egypt to symbolize the bitterness of sin and bondage.
- Verse 10 says that what was left over was to be burned and could not be left to any Egyptian to eat. In the same way, numerous verses indicate that Christ's redemption is for the elect alone; it's particular redemption (Rev. 5:9-10; John 11:49-52; 17:9-10). And of course, these things give us instruction on how to keep the Lord's Table.
- In verse 10 it had to be eaten immediately and not put off till the morning just as Hebrews 3 warns us to appropriate Christ today and 2 Corinthians 6:2 says that now is the acceptable time and now is the day of salvation.
- Verse 11 says that those who ate needed to gird up their loins and be ready to follow Moses out of Egypt immediately just as we must forsake all and immediately be ready to follow Jesus according to Hebrews 13.
- In verse 46 not a bone was to be broken, and John 19:32-33 says it was because not a bone of Jesus would be broken.
- There was no yeast allowed just as Christ has cleansed us from the yeast of sin (1 Cor. 5:5-7)
There are actually other applications of this incredibly full type of Christ, but those should be enough to give you a good feel for it.
Tabernacle and all its furniture
And I want to end with a very brief description of the tabernacle. This symbolizes how God dwells with us in friendship and fellowship.
- The tabernacle was set up on Chislev 25 just as Jesus was born on Chislev 25. The tabernacle of His body was set up then.
- The first sacrifice there was on Nisan 14, just as Christ was sacrificed on that date.
- John 1:14 and several other passages show how the tabernacle was a symbol of God dwelling or tabernacling with men through Jesus. And so I have a bunch of Scriptures that show that the tabernacle was a symbol of Jesus (Heb. 9:11-12; 21-24; 2 Cor. 5:19; Col. 2:9; Heb. 10:5; Rev. 21:3; Jn. 1:14 2:13-22) as well as of the body of Jesus, the church (Col. 1:26-27; 1 Cor. 12:13; Rom. 12:5; Eph. 2:21, 22).
- Hebrews draws parallels between the High Priest and Jesus as our High Priest.
- There was only one door into the tabernacle, and Jesus declares Himself to be that entrance to God (John 10:7, 9; 14:6; Eph. 2:13; 1 Cor. 2:2; Heb. 10:19-20). We can only approach the presence of God boldly through Jesus.
- Immediately after entering, there is a bronze altar where a sacrifice was made. This points to Christ's crucifixion.
- But even after sacrifice, there is a brazen laver which points to Christ's continual cleansing by the waters of the Holy Spirit.
- Then in the holy place there is the Menorah, which speaks of the perfection of Jesus as our light (Jn. 8:12)
- And across from it a table of shewbread which had communion elements on it, also pointing to Christ's broken body and spilled blood which alone can usher us into close fellowship with God.
- Then there is a golden altar of incense, which represents the prayers of Jesus. Without His prayers we don't have a chance.
- Then comes the veil that separated the Holy of holies from the Most holy place, which is said to be Christ's body (Heb. 10:20; Matt. 27:51).
- All the furniture was made with Acacia wood, symbolizing Christ's humanity, and it was always covered with gold, symbolizing Christ's deity.
- The various silver items in the tabernacle speaks to redemption (cf. Ex. 30:16; Mark 10:45)
- Bronze speaks to judgment (cf. Numb. 21:9; 2 Cor. 5:21; Matt. 27:46; etc)
- The blue fabrics represented heaven
- Purple represented royalty
- Scarlet represents sacrifice
- Fine linen speaks of purity (Rev. 15:6; 19:14)
- Each of the layers of skins on top of the tabernacle symbolizes a different aspect of Christ's work. Ram's skins died red, symbolized the substitutionary atonement of Jesus. Badger skins were unclean, and represented Christ being made sin for us, yet they were covered with goats hair, which speaks of atonement.
So every day the Israelites were surrounded with images of the Gospel and images of the coming Messiah. And all of these showed them how to enter fully into the three main sections of this book - rescue, reconstruction of our lives, and sweet fellowship and friendship with God - which is what you experienced in the tabernacle. We will wait till Leviticus to deal with some of the other symbols of Jesus that God began to develop in Exodus. Let's close in prayer.
Moses (Deut. 18:15)
The festivals (Ex 23; etc.)
The Exodus (Luke 9:31) redeeming a people to Himself (1 Pet 2:9,10)
The manna (Ex. 16:31; etc)
The rock (Ex. 17:6; etc)
Animal sacrifices (24:8 with Matt. 26:27,28; Heb. 12:24; 1 Pet. 1:2)
The high priest
From Joe Morecraft, The Redemption of God's Covenant People, volume 3, (Atlanta, GA: Chalcedon Presbyterian Church, 1988), p. 41. ↩
Such as Amun-Re, Aten, Atum, Horus, Harakhte, the lesser sun gods, and Thoth, the moon god, etc. ↩
Morecraft, Redemption, p. 105 ↩