From Bondage to Deliverance

John Buckley Photo John Buckley
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The book of Exodus.

The theme of the book of Exodus is the almighty God of redemption. The Israelites were currently in bondage to what at the time was the greatest power militarily, politically on the face of the earth. And that was Egypt, ruled by Pharaoh, who was viewed as the man-god. He had absolute authority and control over the land. He had huge armies. He had vast resources. He had taken fractured nations and put them together to create alliances that he alone and solely ruled underneath a very strict hand. And it’s in that time period that we start to enter and find out a whole new aspect about the children of Israel. They at this time were in bondage to the Egyptians.

Now, when we leave off in Genesis, we see that Joseph had an awesome opportunity to be able to be the second in command as a man of Jewish background, had united the resources that were there to be able to provide for seven years of famine because God had allowed him to have a dream revealed where he saw there would be seven years of plenty that he could take care of those seven years of famine. And he had done a remarkable job, and in the course of it, saved a whole Jewish tribe at least at that time, not really necessarily a nation. But now years and years had passed, and as the years have passed, we’re in a whole different world.

But before we kind of get into the details of that, let’s talk a little bit about what Exodus is really all about. As I mentioned, the theme is the almighty God of redemption. We know from speaking before that Moses was the author and that the date that it was written was around 1407 BC, and the timespan for the book of Exodus from start to finish was right around 315 years. There’s some key verses in Exodus that I’d encourage you to look up at another time, and those would be Exodus 3:7-10, Exodus 6:6, and Exodus 19:5-6.

If you look up the whole book of Exodus, it’s interesting too to see some of the words that were used over and over as you evaluate the importance of different parts of the book of Exodus. The one word that’s used more than anything else is the tabernacle, and that’s near the last part of Exodus. We’ll talk a little bit more about that later. That’s quoted 92 different times, either the word tabernacle or a derivative of the word tabernacle. The next most frequently used word is command, which was used 62 times. The word tent, or usually tied into the congregation, is used 27 times. And then the law was used 22 times. So it gives you kind of some of the importances that were utilized there in the book of Exodus and what God put a priority on when it came to his book of deliverance.

There’s three aspects of kind of what we would consider the outline of the book of Exodus that I really want you to grasp a hold of. The first is that Exodus from chapter 1 through chapter 18 was talking about the exodus. The word exodus really means a way out or a way to get away from. And it was the concept of what was going to happen to the Israelites. But we’re giving up the story a little bit ahead of time. Exodus 19 through 24 deals with the law. And then Exodus 25 through 40 deals with the tabernacle. So the exodus, the law that was given, and then the tabernacle.

So let’s talk about, first of all, the exodus, chapters 1 to 18. Again, the big picture aspect of things. In chapters 1 to 4, we see that God decides to raise up a deliverer. The Egyptians were the overlords. The Jews, because they have multiplied so much since Joseph’s death, had now become in bondage, and were captives instead of just residents who were visiting the land. They lived in a section of Egypt called Goshen. But they were the slave labor for the Egyptians. Many of the architectural feats that we see in the land of Egypt are actually done frequently by slave labor, and part of that was the Jewish nation, i.e. the pyramids as an example of that. So the Israelites were in bondage, and slavery underneath this new pharaoh is terrible. They are being beaten. They are seeing death at high rates. They are being asked to do things that are deplorable in the conditions that are there. They’re suffering difficulties, beatings. It was a horrific situation for the Israelites to be living in at that time.

Now, God had a plan. And the wonderful thing, as we think about the redemption of God, is even in our sin, how God has a plan, how God has a way to be able to always allow us to escape. The Israelites were suffering for years and God decides to raise up a man named Moses. Now, Moses was born to a Jewish mother. He was 100% Jew, Jewish mother and father. But at the time, the pharaoh saw that the control was kind of getting out of his hands. There was becoming more and more of these Jewish people, and his people were not procreating at the same rate. So he had declared that they were supposed to kill the boys when they were born and instructed the midwives, who were the ones that were to help the Jewish mothers have children, that if they had a boy, that they were supposed to take their life.

Well, we know a miraculous thing happened and that we see that Moses was born and his mother took him quickly and she had made a boat for him and put him in the river. Now, if you think about that… we know kind of the fairytale story of it. You might know the ending. Maybe not. You’ll find out in a minute. But can you imagine taking a small child, not even old enough to be weaned from his mother, putting him in a little boat made of bamboo rushes, and putting him in a river? Now, remember, Egypt, alligators, hippopotamus. There were snakes, things that could have taken his life. She trusted God knowing that this was the way of escape for her son, that God would watch over Moses. What a challenge to us about our faith in God, in being obedient to the things he tells us to do. And sometimes faith isn’t seen with human eyes but trusting in the all-caring and all-knowing God.

So we see Moses’ mother put him in the river and see him sent off. God’s direction is incredible. Where does he end up at? In the bathing area of Pharaoh’s daughter. And she finds this little Hebrew boy and falls immediately in love with him, takes him as her own, and raises Moses as her own. In fact, Moses becomes a part of the house of Pharaoh. Wow. A slave that was born to Jewish parents, that should have died, and God delivers him, who will be the deliverer for his people, to a place where he can get education, proper nourishment, proper training, leadership skills that are taught to him. And he grows up in that home. In fact, he’s in the home of the pharaoh for 40 years and God watches over him.

But there was always a draw and a tie back to his people, who he didn’t look like anymore, he didn’t associate with other than servants in the pharaoh’s household, but God leads him back there. And one of his adventures, he sees one of the taskmasters, one of the Egyptian taskmasters beating a Jewish man to the point that he was going to kill him. At least Moses was concerned about and Moses intercedes. He ends up killing this taskmaster. Immediately that word spreads. Moses is terrified and he flees. His world is changed radically. He goes from being in the household of Pharaoh and now he’s an outcast, a wanted man, rejected out of fear by his own people and sought after for the death of one of their own by the Egyptian nation. And he goes into the wilderness.

While he’s in the wilderness, he comes across a tribe known as the Midianites. And in that tribe of Midianites, he’s accepted in. He’s made a shepherd to take care of the sheep. He marries a woman named Zipporah who becomes his wife. His father-in-law’s name is Jethro, who was a wise, godly man who was able to give him guidance and direction there. And Moses is serving the way that he can, in a secluded way. And as he’s out there with his sheep one day, God decides to tell Moses that now is the time to come to terms with his future, and that was that he again would be the deliverer. So Moses, as he’s out in the wilderness, sees a bush that’s on fire.

Now, again, most of us are used to seeing some level of fire, whether it’s a fire pit or a fire that we build when we’re out camping. But rarely do you see a fire on a bush that the bush is not getting burned up. The leaves are not turning dark and shriveling up and falling into ash. It’s on fire and then a voice comes out from the bush telling Moses that he’s on holy ground and that he’s to take his shoes off. And God starts Moses on a journey, a journey to be that deliverer, and gives Moses a command that he would be the one that God would use to save his people. Moses is terrified. Moses apparently had some sort of stutter, so his excuses to God are of such like “Well, Lord, I can’t talk to them.” And God says, “Well, then we’ll bring Aaron.” Aaron, who was his brother, was an eloquent speaker. “Well, who am I going to tell is the one that sent me?” he says. And God says, “You tell them that I am sent you.” Two words that give the authority that God is the one that is giving him the authority to be able to do this. And then lastly, he goes, “Well, how am I supposed to prove to them? I am isn’t enough. Aaron isn’t enough. How am I supposed to prove to them?”

And God does a really cool thing. He says, “Moses, I want you to do something. I want you to take your hand and stick it in your cloak.” And Moses obeys, and he pulls it out and Moses’ hand is covered with leprosy. Leprosy was a disease that once you had it, it was highly contagious. It would literally eat the flesh away. And Moses was startled as he sees that hand, and God says, “Moses, stick it back in the cloak again.” And as he pulls it out, it’s completely healed. Now, if that isn’t enough, God says, “You have a staff. I want you to throw the staff down.” Moses throws the staff down. It turns into a snake. Now, remember, the staffs were to help with the sheep. They could be anywhere from 8 to 12 feet sometimes in length. We’re not talking a small snake. He drops it into the ground and it turns into a snake. What does Moses do? What most of us would do. He ran. But then God says, and I love this. He goes, “Moses, grab it by the tail.” Now, anybody that has half a brain knows you don’t grab a snake by the tail. The mouth can easily come around and get you. But again, Moses obeyed God to the letter of the law, and he grabs the end of that snake. And the Bible says it turns back into a rod again. God is trying to clearly instruct Moses. “I have a plan for you. You’re the man I’ve called to do it, and you’re the man that I want to go out and fulfill it. And I’m going to use you in ways that are going to blow your mind.” And that’s what happens with Moses.

So Moses then, we see as he becomes the deliverer, what I love is the cool tie-in to what Christ is to us, because Christ is like a prophet that was…you see a lot of correlations between him and Moses. In fact, a few different passages that would be interesting to look into that I encourage you to make a note of is Deuteronomy 18:15-18 and also Acts 7:34-37 because what Moses was the deliverer of God’s people, Christ was the deliverer of all people. We see that he was preserved in his infancy from the wrath of the king. What was Jesus Christ then? He was preserved in his infancy from the wrath of King Herod. He identifies himself with God’s people, not received and comes to Israel twice. And we see that Jesus was rejected by his own people and yet he was used of God to reach his people. And during the process of rejection, he entered into union with a Gentile bride. Now, again, did Jesus Christ humanly do that? No, but we know that the gate was open for the whole world, not just the Jews, and that we as his children become his bride and Christ is our groomsmen. He laid aside all honor from the palace to the sheepfold. And Jesus left heaven, perfection, and came to earth to be born of a virgin, to live a sinless life, to die a cruel death, left his honor so that you and I might have an opportunity for redemption. Moses, first in the Old Testament with miracles. And Christ was the first in the New Testament with miracles. The turning of the water into wine we see.

Now, there’s a contest that takes place between Pharaoh now and Moses as he’s called to lead his people. We see that he comes before Pharaoh because God has a message that he wants to be shared with the people. And that message is a strong message, and that’s to go to Pharaoh and say, “You’re to let my people go.” Now, first of all, Moses meets with the Israelite leaders, and there still isn’t an embracing fully of that. There’s an acknowledgment and a recognition, but not necessarily an excitement that Moses I’m sure wanted of a conquering king to come in and lead them. “And don’t you understand? Look how deplorable your conditions are.” But they didn’t quite embrace him the way that he had hoped they would. There was a lot of fear there, as you can imagine, of years and years of hostility towards them.

So he goes before the pharaoh. And what does he say to Pharaoh? I love the phrase. “Let my people go.” We see that first in Exodus 5:1, and we’re going to be talking about this contest for the next seven chapters, from chapter 5 through chapter 12. Can you imagine the god-king hearing from this Jew that he’s supposed to let these slaves that he needed as a part of the commerce of his nation to go? Are you kidding me? Pharaoh’s response, of course, is “Who is the LORD that I should obey him?” (Exodus 5:2) The 10 plagues were designed to answer that question. Now, the severity of the plagues seems to increase, but as Moses is confronting Pharaoh and Pharaoh rejects God’s message over and over again, you’ll notice a couple of things. First of all, not only the severity which I mentioned, but that God protects Goshen, which is where the Jews lived at. You could see a definitive line between the two of them. As you think through these plagues, it would be very interesting to stand on the edge of Goshen and to the rest of the country of Egypt and see what that looked like in relationship to this.

So the first plague that comes is found in Exodus 7:14-25. And that first plague is the plague of water turning into blood. And that was a plague that not only was Moses able to do, but so were the magicians and the prophets, the pharaohs, the ungodly ones, the ones that worshipped the devil and false deities. And they had to find other sources of water and Pharaoh was not turned by that. The second plague is the plague of the frogs that were sent. Frogs were everywhere: in their beds, in their ovens, in the places they stepped and stood. There were literally thousands and thousands of frogs. And interestingly, of course, when God stopped the plague, the leftovers were already there. And you’ll notice throughout the plagues that they’re all meant to take Egypt, which was the powerhouse nation, and turn them into a pauper nation. He destroys their commerce. He destroys their army. They’re left with nothing. They’re a pauper nation. So the frogs come. Exodus 8:1-15.

Then we see the third plague which is lice. Now, are you itching your head? Because that’s what I feel like when I think of lice. The frogs’ dead bodies are not even taken care of completely and the lice come. The lice plagued them and are everywhere, which is followed by flies. Now, man, I don’t like flies at all, but can you imagine them covering everything? You could swat and swat and swat, and still they’re there. So we have the lice that have just passed and the frogs that have just passed and the water that had turned into blood, and now they’re dealing with these flies. And then God removed that plague and we see the fifth plague which is a disease on the beasts. Now it goes from being uncomfortable and difficult, humanly speaking, to have flies all over your body and frogs jumping everywhere. Now we enter into where it starts to hit their commerce and animals start dying. The animals they rely on to help plow their fields, the animals they rely on to help give them milk, the animals they rely on to help give them their hide and their meat that they can eat and have clothes to wear. Now they’re attacked in Exodus 9:1-7.

The sixth plague is boils on man and on beast. Well, now it’s not just uncomfortable. Not it’s painful. Boils are large infections that end up on the skin that in order to take care of them, you have to get to the root of it. And frequently they would put like a clay jar and have to submerse underneath water, something that would put a seal to try to rip the boils off. But they were incredibly painful and they would puss and ooze, and they were disgusting and smelly. And that was on all of them, the rich and the poor of the Egyptian nation. Meanwhile, the slaves that they beat had no boils. The slaves that they beat, their animals still lived. Their animals had no illness or boils on them. And that’s in Exodus 9:8-12.

And then we see the seventh plague which is in chapter Exodus 9:13-35, and that’s hail. Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever been in hail. I remember driving one time, and all of a sudden, we got hit with some small hail. But I know my fear was “What is this going to do to my car? Is my windshield going to get knocked out?” And then you see damage from hail when it’s golf ball sized. Now, I don’t know exactly how big this hail was, but it was enough, the Bible says, that it destroyed crops. Again, we’re going back to the livelihood. This hail that destroyed crops and hurt people and animals, potentially killed both of them as well. And that’s Exodus 9:13-35.

Whatever the hail didn’t destroy in the crops, locusts came through. I was a youth pastor for years and I often think of, whenever I would invite the junior high over, we’d have snacks out there and I used to tease my wife. It was like the locusts came because when they would go through a snack table, there was rarely a crumb left over from anything that was left there. And that’s the way locusts are. They come in and they literally strip all the fields that are there. There’s nothing left as they’d eat everything in sight. And you’ll find that in Exodus 10:1-20.

And then we see the ninth plague. The ninth plague is darkness. Now, not just darkness. Darkness you can feel. Darkness that you literally can’t see your hand in front of your face. Overwhelming darkness. Now, can you imagine being in Goshen at the time of that plague where you could literally have one foot in Goshen and the other foot in the rest of Egypt and have that darkness be felt and seen, and see the amazing hand of God? Can you imagine some of the things the Israelites must have thought as they saw the plagues affect the other and God’s protection over them during this whole time?

And then we have the last plague. And each time on these plagues, as Moses would go back to Pharaoh, he would say, “No. No. No.” He tried to offer little options, but it wasn’t what was asked for by Moses that God wanted to have, which was to completely and totally let the Israelite nation free from their slavery. The nation is decimated now. They’ve had their crops destroyed. Much of their animals are destroyed. We don’t even know what kind of damage hail did do to the buildings. We know human life was lost. The pain, the agony, the frustration. And you almost think, “Why wasn’t there an uprising?” But remember, again, Pharaoh is the man-god. You can’t question God. You can’t question his authority. And then God comes to the Israelites and we see another picture of the redemption of Christ. And he says there’s going to be a last plague and this will be the plague that ends it all literally. But it’s going to be a plague that turns the pharaoh who stayed hardened to the point of finally saying “Leave.” Then he goes to the Israelites and he goes, “I’m going to be sending my death angel. And my death angel will, from home to home, everywhere from Goshen, that section of Egypt, to the riches parts of Egypt, to the poorest parts of Egypt, and all of the firstborn of all animals and all families will die, unless…”

I love the fact that even in mankind, the Bible says that if we reject Christ as our savior, we will face eternal damnation in hell. But if we’ll accept the free gift of salvation, this offer by Jesus Christ, we can have life eternal. And God said to the Israelites, “Take a sheep unblemished, a pure sheep that you would use for sacrifice. Take it and kill it and take its blood. And if you put its blood on the doorframe of your home, when my death angel comes, it will pass over you.” And if we have the blood of Christ that’s washed away our sins, we’ve taken that gift from Christ. We have that same concept of the death angel because our security and our eternity is in Jesus Christ and we’ll be with him forever in heaven.

So that night was a horrible night. The Israelites were grateful, but they were huddled in their homes as they heard screams as home by home realized not just that their firstborn of their animals had died, but they found in bed after bed the death of their children, the death of husbands, the death of mothers, the death of all firstborns in the homes where the blood was not seen by the death angel in the doorposts. And one of those that died was Pharaoh’s son. And at that point, Pharaoh finally said, “Leave.” Not only did the Israelites leave, but it was amazing to see that what God lays out in the book of Exodus for us to read is that they are given wealth, gold and silver, to take with them even as they pack up all their belongings and exit the land and start a way to a new promise, to go to their land that we talked about in the Abrahamic covenant in Genesis. And we understand that that was part of his promise. He says, “You will have your own land.” And now they can finally head out towards that. They can finally be able to embrace this new land that God had for them, so that they could experience the freedom that they’ve wanted all along. Well, they make it but not very far, until difficulty comes again.

But before we get into that, let me just step back a moment and talk a little bit more about the Passover. And Exodus 12 is where the Passover is talked about, if you’d like to read that on your own. And there’s a lot of spiritual implications of the Passover, and I laid out a couple for you already. The Passover teaches us God’s principle of redemption which we talked about. Christ is our Passover. 1 Corinthians 5:7 tells us that. God let Israel feel the bondage of their sins. The judgment of death passed upon all the households. Remember, up until this time, only those that were everywhere besides Goshen had faced him. But this time, even they did. And all of the firstborns, or they had to have a substitute which would have been that lamb and its death and its blood put on the doorframes of the homes. The lamb is slain. The blood is applied.

And the blood speaks primarily to God’s atonement for our sins. Chapter 12 in verse 4, we see the concern for the entire consumption. Ours is to appropriate all for Christ. All the lamb was eaten. We see the Bible says. Every small family to join in with the larger ones so that nothing is left over. It was complete. Ezekiel 46. Enter north, exit south. Enter east, exit west. So no one experiences all of this, but everyone experiences it together. Chapter 12 in verse 6, we see the many thousands of lambs, 200,000 lambs if 10 persons were per household. That’s a lot of lambs that would lose their life that night. Now, nouns and pronouns are always used in the singular. Israel shall not kill it, but them. In God’s mind, there will always be only one lamb. He said, “Kill the lamb.” And he was the lamb, Christ was, for our sin.

We also see in chapter 12 in verse 8 with the tie-in with the Passover that the food for God’s delivered people, the flesh which would equal feeding upon this death, these bitter herbs we just talked about there, bitterness of the bondage from which they were to be delivered. And then we see in chapter 12 in verse 9 the fire, the burning zeal of God’s judgment. No water equaling no lessening of the full heat of his wrath. Christ was offered vinegar and myrrh to lessen the suffering, but he refused it because he was there to suffer the full wrath of God. Why? For your redemption and for mine. We also see in Exodus 12:10-11 communion. It’s not to be separated from the sacrifice in which that communion, that connectivity is founded. Chapter 12 verse 22. Not that the Lord wouldn’t have known an Israelite from an Egyptian in the street. God did that, but God wanted them to know that their safety was caused by the sprinkling of the blood. And then in chapter 12 verse 23, not merely that the Lord passed by the houses of the Israelites, but he stood guard protecting each blood sprinkled door. The Lord protected them from himself. God the Father gave his Son to be a sacrifice for our sins so that we can have eternal life. The lamb alive was a pet. Admiring equals judgment. Hebrews 10:19 shows us the purpose of the veil was to prevent access in the tabernacle. Men may admire Christ and study him, but apart from the blood, they don’t know him. The perfect example of Christ bars our access to God. But by claiming his redemption, we are allowed access to God.

And lastly, in connection with the Passover, the pilgrim character of God’s people is now in view. They’re going to be leaving Egypt which had been their home. Redemption by blood makes us pilgrims and strangers not of this world. As the Passover had taken place, they not only became pilgrims, they were strangers of the world in which they lived. As they entered into the wilderness, the Passover was made and eaten, and now they’re ready for a journey. They were not to recline, but to be dressed for the journey. “Eat in haste,” it says. He who has been sheltered by the blood and is fed on Christ moves out of the bondage of Egypt. God’s place for him is not in Egypt. Remember, Egypt was a picture of the world. It was a picture of everything that represented opposite of who God was: torture and ferocity and false gods. And the Israelites represented all that Christ wanted them to have: people that were dependent on him, that understood their need for him, that realized they couldn’t do it on their own, that they needed a savior, that they were locked into bondage that the Egyptians had on them.

So now we have the exodus. They leave Egypt proper and they head away and they come up to the first natural barrier, the Red Sea. The Reed Sea, as they call it as well. There were reeds around it. The red concept of it, when they explained that, was the tint that was in there because of some of the compounds that were in the sea. But they came up to it. It was a body of water. They couldn’t pass. It was too deep for them just to kind of hold their belongings over their head and trudge across it. And they came there and the natural aspect of mankind comes out again: complain. “Oh, great,” they say to Moses, “You bring us out here. Why? Did you make a pact with Pharaoh so you can bring us out in here, so now we can die in the wilderness? Weren’t there enough graves there in Egypt? Now we’re going to die here? I would be better off as a slave there eating some leftover vegetables than be stuck out here where I’m going to die.” Complaining, not seeing the redemption of Christ, which again our world does as soon as they hit hardship, as soon as they hit difficulty. Even as Christians, we can do this where we fail to recognize God’s got it. Not always in our timeframe, not always the way we have it set up, but if we follow in obedience and be teachable to his plan, he’s got us. But we see through human eyes too often. And to them, the Red Sea was impassable.

Now, I wish that there were some events in history that I could get in a time machine and go back to. This would be one of them. Can you imagine as Moses stood before them and said, “God has a way”? And he lifts up the staff that God had given to him and God splits the Red Sea. He splits the waters, where they become walls of water. And I love this. If you’ve ever gone to a lake or anywhere and you’d gone out, the further down you go and you hit the bottom, what do you get? Silt. Deep, thick, sticky. It can almost grasp a hold of you like clay would, that you can’t get a hold of. God dries all it up because the Bible says they walked across a dry ground.

While meantime, back in Egypt, as this was all taking place, we see that Pharaoh had a change of heart. He sent an army out, which is, by the way, what caused an extra fear in the hearts of the Israelites as they saw that army come. But God blocked the Egyptian army from destroying the Israelites. And this was everything that he had left over. You’ve got all these chariots, the greatest sign of his military might, whatever horses that they still had that they could gather, that he kept alive during the times of the diseases and the times of the hail and the disease on the beasts, and they had them all together and they’re coming out after them full force. And the ferocity of the greatest nation on earth that was soon to be, as we talked, a pauper nation.

And what happens? The Israelites go across on dry land. Remember, there had to be over a million of them at this point and they go across. I always say to people often, “Man, if I would have been going across on dry land, there would be a part of me that wanted to stick my arm through that water of wall.” Wow. Can you imagine watching fishes go by you while you’re walking across? And God brings them across the Red Sea and out of it. And every once in a while, you’ll hear somebody go, “Well, it wasn’t really that deep,” and “Nah, it wasn’t that difficult.” Well, if it wasn’t, then how come as the Israelites exited and the Egyptian army pursued, that God said he released the water walls and it destroyed the army of Egypt in one fell swoop? The chariots were sunk. The horses and the soldiers drowned. The greatest army, the remnants of Egypt were destroyed in that bringing back of the walls of water of the Red Sea. If it was shallow, it would not have destroyed an army. God destroyed it and his people were one step closer in their exodus journey to be able to enter into the Promised Land.