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Imagery of Exodus

One of the things that constantly impresses me about the study of the Old Testament is the imagery that God has preserved to grant his children understanding in the relationship that we share.  I have always thought on judgment day, that the presence of the Lord would be such an awesome sight, that no one would be capable of standing to offer an excuse for any rebellious mishap in their life.  If standing in the presence of the Lord would be possible, then the Lord would simply reveal the countless opportunities that He presented to encourage us to depart from the slavery of death and to partake in the life of the spirit. 

One such episode is that of the Exodus of Israel.  God had predicted to Abraham that his children would be oppressed for 400 years {Genesis 15:13}.  As the time of that oppression came to maturity, God presents a leader in Moses to guide His people out of slavery.  In reflecting on the power that God possesses, and looking back on the plagues that God used to encourage Pharaoh, I have come to believe that God showed great restraint in His dealings with Pharaoh.  Peter tells us that the Lord is not slow to keep his promises, and that He would prefer all to come to repentance {2 Peter 3:9}.  I believe that this is just as true today, as it was when Peter penned it.  I also believe that this was true at the time of the Exodus.  As the exchange between God and Pharaoh progresses, I believe we see 11 opportunities for Pharaoh to humble himself in the presence of the Almighty.  Each admonition from God dispels the misguided understanding Pharaoh has on how the world is structured.  Patiently, God unfolds his will before Pharaoh.  I am impressed by the fact that the same power that created the universe, and all that is in it, could have at any time dismissed Pharaoh from existence.  The God we serve does not deal with his creation like that.  One would argue that the sheer magnitude of the first inducement brought on the land of Egypt was significant enough to entice Pharaoh and the Egyptians into humble obedience.  Yet, though the arrogant pride of Pharaoh seemed unshakable, God redeems what is rightfully His and takes the lives of all the first born who are not shielded by the blood of the Passover lamb.   Looking in on the Israelites as they are being expelled from Egypt, we see the panic and confusion of the Egyptians as they mourn their losses.  Even in this, however, we only see pain in loss and not a humble turn to obedience.  As God leads the people out in the pillar of fire and clouds, He places them provocatively at the cul-de-sac of the Red Sea.   Some estimates put the number of Israelites at around 2.5 million plus the mixed multitude that went with them.  Traveling with such a mass of people would have taken time.  One study suggests that they took a couple of weeks to get to the Red Sea and may have stayed there for another week.  As the days of bereavement in Egypt begin to fade and the haughtiness of their prideful king begins to return, we see the same obstinacy raise its puny fist to the God of all.  Pharaoh is resolved to take back from God that which God has rightly claimed for Himself.  At long last, Pharaoh has created the demise of Egypt through his adolescent tantrums.  With the final mighty act of God, he confuses the Egyptians search for the Israelites by placing darkness between the Egyptian camp and the camp of Israel.  He splits the Red Sea and as the Egyptian army impudently follow into God’s salvation for his people.  Can you imagine, after being witness to the 10 previous illustrations of God’s power, the audacity of the Egyptians as they look for one last time at this display of God’s unimagined power and might and charge into the walled fortress of God’s salvation created explicitly for his people?  Finally, God collapses the walls of water on the importunate pursuit of the Egyptian army.  God has delivered on all his promises to Pharaoh and


Moses.  No more will the prideful, worldly king unabashedly usurp authority to harshly enslave the people of God’s choosing.

As I ruminate over the events of God’s dealings with Pharaoh, I cannot help to note the similarities culminating in Christ’s deliverance of humanity out of the bondage of sin.  As the Israelites were oppressed by the heavy hand of the Egyptians, so we are also oppressed by the unyielding hand of sin and death.  As the Israelites often said “it would be better to have been back in Egypt” {Exodus 14:11-12}, so we often look back on the life we had before salvation.  As the Israelites blinded themselves with the illusions of peaceful times in Egypt, so we are often beset with deceptions of the pleasant times under the bondage of sin.  Through many trials, God delivered the Israelites from oppression.  Through many trials, Jesus delivers us by the sacrifice of his own to life.  With a final blow, the threat of Egypt was crushed under the waters of the Red Sea while the Israelites, passing through those waters, were delivered to salvation.  As we pass through the waters of baptism, with a single crushing blow Jesus destroys the power of sin and death and opens the way to life and eternity.  With such a deliverance, how is it possible that anyone could not sing and rejoice at the top of their lungs “I will sing to the Lord for he has triumphed gloriously” {Exodus 15:1}. 

As the story goes, that generation, though they were witness to such power and majesty, refused to rest in the power of God. It took 40 years and the passing of an entire generation for the people to enter their promised rest.  Our lives stand before us.  We have seen the deliverance of the Israelites and the fulfillment of all promises and prophecy in Jesus Christ.  Sin and death lie crushed and decimated on the other side of the Red Sea.  What is before us is to traverse the wilderness with God at the lead.  Will you be held in the wilderness captivated by your own fears, drowning in a sea of doubt, lost for simply failing to follow?  Or, as the Hebrew writer illustrated, will you “run with endurance the race that is set before you”?  Will you fix your eyes on Jesus to be perfected in him? {Hebrews 2:1-2}

-  Steve Turquette