During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the people of Israel—and God knew. - Exodus 2:23–25 (ESV)

Exodus is a book of the Bible that has had a particularly profound impact on my life. As I spent roughly two years preaching through it, my growing understanding of Exodus all but revolutionized my understanding of the story arc of the Bible and the greatness of God.

I say, "all but revolutionized" rather than simply, "revolutionized" because I cannot say that Exodus changed the way I think about the Bible at a fundamental level. It did not do that in the sense that it corrected wrong views. Instead, it deepened my understanding and appreciation of truths and themes which had remained at relatively shallow levels.

The Big Idea of Exodus

My Big Idea for Exodus is that "God Makes a People for Himself". I take as representative a passage from Exodus 19:

[4] ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. [5] Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; [6] and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.” - Exodus 19:4-6 (ESV)

I believe this passage is representative of the whole of Exodus for a few reasons. It comes at a crucial time in the story, in the transition between the end of the people's flight from Egypt and the beginning of their time at Sinai. Yahweh is recapping what has happened so far and offers them something for the future. Yahweh is also describing his reasons for doing what he has done. He has brought them out to be a holy people, a people devoted to Himself. That is why he brings them out of Egypt, which encompasses the first 19 chapters. It is also what he sets about doing the rest of the book, which encompasses the last 21 chapters.

The Outline of Exodus

Exodus begins where Genesis ended. Israel is in Egypt, but they have exploded in size. A new king takes power and decides to enslave the Israelites before they can overtake the nation. The nation keeps growing, so he decrees that baby boys be killed. A baby is born, Moses, who is placed in a basket in the Nile. He floats right into the hands of the Egyptian princess, who promptly adopts him. Little does Pharaoh know that his future downfall is being nurtured in his own palace.

We read about the call and commissioning of Moses in Exodus 3-6. It is the longest sustained dialogue between God and man that I am aware of in the Old Testament. Moses' resistance to the call to return to Egypt is incredible. Nevertheless, he eventually obeys, armed with the name of God, Yahweh, a couple of signs, and his brother Aaron.

The showdown with Egypt begins. As I preached the power of God in Egypt as God brought the plagues, the signs and wonders, which fill chapters 7-14, I ran out of words to describe the incalculable power of God on display. It struck me that Yahweh refers to the plagues as "signs" (Ex. 10:1). They are not just plagues. They are plagues with a message.

The exodus of Israel out of Egypt in chapters 12-14 is one of the most important events in the Bible. God's deliverance of Israel out of Egypt serves as a sort of prototype of the fuller salvation that would be accomplished by Christ, who saves us from bondage to sin and promises new life in him.

Immediately following the exodus, the people travel to Mount Sinai, arriving by chapter 19. During their travels, the people have plenty of time not only to do battle but also to complain. We read of both.

Chapter 20 marks the transition from the travels of Israel to the giving of the Law to Moses on Mount Sinai. We begin with the 10 Commandments and move on to laws governing domestic relations, idolatry prohibition, and other categories. In Chapter 24, the people agree to keep the Law. Then leaders go up the mountain with Moses and see a vision of God.

The rest of Exodus details more laws and also instructions for building the Tabernacle, which construction is described in painstaking detail. But this is not before the people of Israel break the covenant they had just made in spectacular fashion. In chapter 32 the people decide to make a golden calf to serve as a god to go before them. Moses famously breaks the tablets of the covenant in response and God offers to start over the nation with Moses. Moses intercedes for Israel and God shows him his glory, passing before him and declaring his name in chapter 34. At the end of Exodus, chapter 40, Yahwheh's glory fills the Tabernacle. This marks the end of the book.

The Benefits of Exodus

Exodus is, like the rest of Scripture, full of profitable material. One outstanding feature of Exodus is the privilege it provides us in reading about God's dealings with Israel. We learn so much about God.

We learn that God is faithful to his promises. God hears the prayers of Israel and answers them by bringing them out of Egypt. This can make us confident to bring our prayers to God and be confident he will also keep his promises to us.

We see God's power on display. God dismantles Egypt in an almost methodical fashion. It is one thing to see the result of God's power in the creation of the world. But it is quite another to see it on display in such an active way in history.

It is also hard to overstate the importance of Israel's meeting with God at Mount Sinai. This is a key event in history. God is nation-forming. He is also explicitly offering to be their God. And that is where we may become frightened as we see Israel display her tendency toward unrighteousness and immorality time and time again.

Mount Sinai is also the location where the covenant of Moses is made. This is where we get the Law of Moses with the Ten Commandments. These events help set the context for what Christ did on the cross for those who believe him. It is also the background for many of the conflicts and controversies in the New Testament. Apart from understanding the Exodus, it is difficult to understand the rest of the Bible. Reading the Bible without knowing the basic framework of Exodus is like jumping into the middle of a story. It is much harder to piece together the context and the issues at stake.

In sum, Exodus does much in the way of revealing God to its readers. We learn God's proper name, Yahweh, and subsequently observe the demonstration of his power and character in his dealings with Egypt and Israel. God demonstrates this same kind of power over and over again for his people, not only in the Old Testament but also in the New, and not only in the New Testament, but also today.

In reading Exodus, we read of an all-powerful God who saves. As we understand this same God to be living and working today, Exodus begs us to answer the question of how we can relate to God today. If you already know Christ, then Exodus is fuel for the fire of your relationship with God. If you do not, then Exodus ought to propel you to discover how you can experience the strong arm of Yahweh in your own life.

On Exodus and Living for God Through Christ