Friday, 12 June 2009

The Greater Exodus

I'm not sure the below really makes good blog material. But I don't think it'll do any harm to anyone! It's a handout for my students, in the Exodus course. It's too complicated for them but it's the best I could do under present constraints. You might get an idea from it of how thrilling I find it to open up the Scriptures each week with a class of students. To see open eyes as people understand the meaning of the Bible where they hadn't seen it before makes the exhausting task of teaching for 5 hours each Thursday the best job in the world. "Ah, so that's what it's really about!"

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Exodus (Teacher: David Anderson) – Week 4 Handout

The Exodus

God has brought salvation to us through human history. A lot of the Bible is history. Some people think that history is less important than theology (doctrine). But this is a mistake – God has put the two together. He acts in history, and explains what it is that he is doing so that we can understand it. Therefore, if we are going to understand what the Exodus means, we must first study the history.

The Exodus itself (from the time Moses met God at the burning bush until Israel had crossed the Red Sea) is recorded in chapters 3-15:

  1. Meeting God at the burning bush, 3:1-4:17

  2. Moses' return to Egypt and meeting the elders of Israel, 4:18-31

  3. Meeting with Pharaoh and the results, 5:1-21

  4. The plagues, climaxing in the death of the firstborn, 5:22-11:10

  5. The Passover and the Exodus itself, 12:1-13:16

  6. The fall of the Egyptian army, 13:17-14:31

  7. The song of victory, 15:1-21

It is difficult to summarise this in a few words! It will be best for you to study Bentley. But do notice that the book of Exodus itself makes it clear that something important is happening. God could, if he wanted, have removed Israel from Egypt in a different way – without any plagues, or a festival (the Passover). It is clear that God was doing something with greater significance than just the exit itself. This was a crucial time for Israel. Before, they had lived under Egypt's laws and were not a nation themselves. Now they became one, and they received the Old Covenant which governed them until the time of Christ.

The Significance Of The Exodus For Christians

Here, we are asking what the Exodus means for us today. That is different to asking what it meant for Jews in Old Testament times. We are not asking what it meant to live under the Old Covenant – we will ask that another week. We are asking what it means for us living under the New Covenant.

If you read Exodus 19:4-6, followed by Colossians 1:12-15 and 1 Peter 2:9-11 you will see that the apostles Paul and Peter taught the Gentiles to understand the gospel using the Exodus. In the Exodus, a people were redeemed by blood from the power of darkness and given a wonderful inheritance. They became a new people belonging to the holy God as his own chosen possession. They were saved through the death of a lamb, when in Egypt the firstborn perished.

The apostles taught that this really is what has happened in the gospel. The church is a new nation, living under a new covenant. We were in slavery to Satan and sin in darkness. But at the cross, there has been a great judgment on those powers and they have been defeated and God's people have gone free. The gospel is the true Exodus, and Christ is both the firstborn who died under God's judgment and the lamb of God who substituted in the place of his people to save them. We have now become a holy people who belong to God and have been given his laws to live under.

How did Paul learn the meaning of the gospel so quickly, without going to a Bible college? The answer is simple. He had spent years studying the Old Testament Scriptures before he became a Christian. These Scriptures taught him about all the ideas that he would need to teach about as an apostle. They taught about a redemption that pointed forwards to the true redemption that Jesus would achieve at the cross. Paul did not need to forget all his Old Testament learning to learn something new. Instead, he simply needed to understand that the Old Testament was not complete in itself, but that it was preparing people to understand a greater reality that would happen when Jesus died at Calvary. People were often crucified by the Romans in Israel in the 1st century. How would anybody know that Jesus' death had any greater meaning? The answer is that God had been preparing for it for thousands of years. The Exodus was a model prepared in advance to explain the gospel.

It is very important to use the Old Testament rightly. We must read it remembering that it is there to lead the way to Christ and the New Testament. We use it wrongly if we start teaching that God wants us to have a large land or free us from political oppression like Israel. The earthly redemption of the Exodus is a model leading to the redemption from sin in the New Testament. It is true that sin is the cause of many problems in the world. But the solution does not come to us through a new earthly Exodus, but through the death of Christ and our obedience to him.

Now study Hebrews 3:1-4:8 and 1 Corinthians chapter 10. Here we are taught that the Jews were not a different people. Paul tells the non-Jewish Corinthians that the Jews were their ancestors! The church is the fulfilment and climax of God's promises to Israel. Because we are God's people who continue the story of the Jews, that means that we can learn from them and their experiences. In these verses, we learn that Christians are like Israel travelling through the wilderness. We have been redeemed from slavery to sin, but the promised inheritance is still ahead of us. The Israelites grumbled because they did not trust God. As a result, God was angry with them and they fell in the wilderness. We face the same danger. God can supply all our needs, but we need to trust him and not fall into grumbling or unbelief. The apostles used the Exodus to teach Christians how to live today. 1 Corinthians 5:6-8 is another important example, where Gentile Christians are taught using the Exodus. 1 Corinthians 10:11 says that all those things were written for us, who live under the gospel. Christ's death is much more than a new Passover and a new Exodus bringing a new Covenant and a new people. It is also a new Day of Atonement with a new High Priest; he is a new temple, a new King David, a new Son of David/Prince of Peace, a new Elisha, a new Adam and much more. But whilst he is more, he is not less! Christ is the true subject of the book of Exodus.

Preaching The Exodus

How should we teach or preach from Exodus today? John 5:44-46 and Acts 26:22-23 tells us that Moses taught about Christ. Therefore we know we can preach from it!

  1. We must preach about Christ – because it is about him.

  2. We must use it to explain the gospel – Exodus is given to explain the gospel!

  3. We must use it to explain the position of Christians today, like Paul in 1 Corinthians 10.

  4. We must use it to explain the duties of Christians today, like Paul in 1 Corinthians 5.

If you think about those four points, then there is nothing very special to Exodus about them. That is what we should do with every book in the Bible. There are no books that are just “for the Jews” or for people who live in some future time. It is all for the Christian church, “on whom the climax of the ages has come”, 1 Corinthians 10:11.

  • Don't use it just to teach stories with moral lessons. It is about redemption, not just giving us stories to illustrate other principles.

  • Don't use it just to teach morals – don't do this, do that; be like Moses, not like Aaron with the golden calf, etc. We must first go from Exodus to Christ, and only then to our duties.

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