Theology Of Exodus
A Theological Glance At Exodus
The three parts of Exodus, the Exodus, the giving of the law, and the building of the tabernacle, emphasize one important theme: God was present with Israel during good times and bad times. The story of the Exodus is very significant in Scripture. It seems clean that God’s greatest act of salvation in the Old Testament was the Exodus. While living in Egypt, Israel may have forgotten God by choosing to be polytheistic or henotheistic, but God had not forgotten them.
In its three parts, Exodus introduces five important theological points:
1. Yahweh is seen as the personal covenant name of God. The I Am who is there and acts for his people. He is the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob (3.6, 15-16). God is true to the promises he made in the past.
2. The acts of God reveal his character. God:
- preserves Israel through Joseph 1.1-7, while Pharaohs may come and go, God remains to preserve his people even in their bondage 1.8- 2.20.
- rescues 6.6
- saves 14.30
- guides 15.13
- provides 16.4, 8
- disciplines and forgives 32.1-34.35
3. The concept of Passover was God’s act of rescue and deliverance for his captive and oppressed children.
4. The giving of the Covenant provided a format to for Israel to have relationship with God based on his act of mercy in deliverance. The covenant delivered to Moses by God was built on the Lord-Servant pattern. God had demonstrated his salvation love to Israel in the historical act of her deliverance from the hands of her Egyptian oppressors. The children of Israel as his servants, in response to his redemptive act, were to obey the stipulations of the covenant because of the love of God in their lives. The Law, as it is often called, was not designed to be a legal system of obligatory rules by which one could secure position and relationship with God. The stipulations of the Old Testament covenant are rooted in the grace of God. They are basic declarations about the quality of redemptive life of the people of God.The Law…was not designed to be a legal system of obligatory rules.Scripture only points to one way in which salvation can occur. It is by the grace of God. Man cannot obligate God to acceptance by keeping a set of rules and regulations. The stipulations are kept because we are his children, not in order to become his children.
5. The Tabernacle is important because it provides a living picture of worshiping God. To the optical receptivity of Israel, God gave an object lesson to demonstrate his kingship. It was the building and placement of the tabernacle. The tabernacle setting in the midst of his children painted a picture well-known in the ancient Near East. God was in the midst of the camp, easily accessible to all his children. This picture in the Near East tradition of being in the center of the camp was the place for the king’s tent was pitched. The picture was easily identifiable to the ancient mindset. Israel knew that God was their king even though they were going to have a difficult time in living into that reality.God was in the midst of the camp, easily accessible to all his children.
The design of the tabernacle provided an insight that God was to be understood as a holy God. The inner shrine demonstrated the holiness of God.
- It was called a dwelling place, showing God co-dwelling with his people.
- It was a tent of meeting, displaying that God does meet his people and reveal himself to them.
- It was a tent of testimony—a reminder that within it was the covenant that regulated the life of Israel. One moved ever closer to the presence of God going from the outside to the inside.
Allegorical attempts have been created to place special meaning on each color, each piece of material, and each fixture in the tabernacle. This allegory approach of interpreting the sacred text is a carryover from the early church fathers and seems misguided and often foolish. Exodus is pivotal to the promises in the past to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph, and to the fulfillment of those promises in the future.
- The covenant God made was based on his love for his children. He acted on their behalf. When they followed the stipulations, they were blessed. They did not become his people because they kept the covenant stipulations; they became his children because of his benevolent act of deliverance. Because of this act of love by God for them, they should keep his covenant stipulations. There is no hint of the Law being a legal formula that by keeping it, Israel would become God’s children. These were not spiritual disciplines to follow for reward; they were stipulations to keep because of what a loving and graceful God had done for them.
- God is alive in history.
- When God calls one to leadership, no excuse is acceptable.
- God has great care about worship and how we participate in it.
Toward The New Testament
The Story Of Moses: Exodus 1.1-19.2
The Exodus is the central theme of the Jews in the Old Testament. It demonstrated the power of God in action. This act of deliverance was provided for all those who were “covered.” The doorpost of each Israelite house had to be covered with blood for God to pass over them with the last of the plagues, the killing of the firstborn. We must remember that blood is a visual representation that something has died. In this case, lambs. This act of deliverance was in anticipation of the greatest act of deliverance in the history of humankind, the death of Jesus on the cross.
After the Jews were delivered, they spent some time in the wilderness with Moses and their leader. While at Mount Sinai, God gave Moses the ten basic stipulations of the Covenant. In the New Testament, Matthew presents Jesus as the New Moses for the New Israel. One of the pointers that Matthew uses is seen in the story of Jesus teaching on a mount, often called the Sermon on the Mount. This is a deliberate attempt by Matthew to draw attention and make a comparison of Jesus and Moses (Matt. 5-7).Matthew presents Jesus as the New Moses for the New Israel.
The Giving Of The Law: Exodus 19.3-24.18
It is often believed that the giving of the Ten Commandments was only for the Old Testament Jewish nation. But, in reality, these commandments are a summary of the Covenant stipulations given to Moses by God as part of the Lord-Servant Treaty. As New Testament followers of Jesus, we should not jettison them as if they have no value under the slogan “we live under grace not under law.” These commandments should be used by Jesus followers as a guide for thinking through the many and varied cultural situations which we confront. These commandments are not and never were practices that would lead you to relationship with God. They were stipulations which one kept because of what God had done. As a Jesus follower, you keep them because you love God, not so you can become Jesus follower.
The Story Of The Building Of The Tabernacle: 25.1-40.38
John wrote in his Gospel that Jesus “became flesh and tabernacled among us.” The tabernacle was a picture for Israel which showed that God was at their center and each tribe and individual had equal access to him. In Jesus we as community and as individual have this same access to God.
Questions to Ponder
- Follow the supernatural events which God performed in Exodus which demonstrated for Israel that God cared for them. What part does the supernatural play in God’s concern for his children today?
- Look at each covenant stipulation and meditate on God’s purpose in bringing you into relation¬ship with him and with others.
- Find the word Passover in a concordance and read about it in its context through the Old Testament. Is the event given prominence? If so, what do you think that means to you as a New Testament Jesus follower?
- Why are the five points in the theology of Exodus important? Explain.
- In what way does the theology of the Exodus point toward the New Testament?
- Why is any of this important for your community of faith?
- How has your “folk theology” about “living under law and not under grace” caused you to shun the great truths of the Old Testament?
- Exodus and Leviticus for Everyone (The Old Testament for Everyone)
- Exodus (The NIV Application Commentary)
- How to Read Exodus
- The Message of Exodus: The Days of Our Pilgrimage (Bible Speaks Today)