There are a handful of themes in the Bible so significant that you can’t go many pages without encountering them. Israel’s exodus from the land of Egypt is one of those. Especially as you read through the Old Testament, you will find repeated allusions to this event: the Psalms recall the event as reason to praise God; God identifies himself throughout narrative events as the God who brought Israel out of Egypt; the entire overarching story of the Bible is rooted in the promise that God’s people would have a land he would provide for them.
The Exodus is surely one of the most well known stories within the Bible.
But do you know why it’s so significant? Do you know why the story is about more than God opposing slavery or about his miraculous ability to part the seas (though both of those things are important)?
The story of God leading Israel out of slavery in the land of Egypt to freedom in a land of abundance is foreshadowing of the greater exodus to come, one that us followers of Jesus get to personally experience.
As bad as Israel’s condition in Egypt was, there is a condition far worse that is experienced not only by one group of people at a specific time, but by all people of all time. It is the shackles of sin, the enslavement to evil, by which we are all united. It’s not that we’re all a mixed bag of good and evil, striving for the good to prevail within us, as we so often like to think. Paul stated our condition bluntly: “You were dead” (Ephesians 2:1). The sinner has the power to free himself from sin no more than a dead man has the power over death to make himself alive. It’s an impossibility. We, on the basis of our own power, were without hope.
Ephesians 2:4 contains perhaps the two most powerful words in the Bible. But God. A beam of light breaks through an impenetrable darkness. God is our only hope of life. God is our only hope of exodus, a departure from the domain of death.
As we saw last week, God provided the means of our escape. By the blood of our passover lamb, Jesus, we are passed over from judgment. Now, having been passed over, we look to the land into which God is bringing us.
For Israel, the land of Canaan was the Promised Land. It was a land flowing with milk and honey, a place to be their own where they could worship the Lord and represent him to the surrounding nations. It would be a place where they could experience rest from their enemies. But this land would never hold a candle to what it would typify.
The Israelites wanted rest from the oppression they faced in Egypt. Followers of Jesus recognize that there is a greater rest we desire. Humans desire a truer rest, one from the very nature of sin, one that will free us to live in harmony with our God according to how we’ve been created.
Listen to what the writer to the Hebrews has to say about this rest:
“For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience” (Hebrews 4:8-11).
Joshua, who would later lead Israel into the Promised Land, didn’t fully deliver the people into the rest that God promised. This would be done by Jesus, God himself, through his death and resurrection.
When Jesus was raised, he defeated the powers of death that enslave us all and provided us a firm assurance that he will lead us to the Promised Land, heaven.
This truth allowed Jude to write that it was Jesus who brought Israel out of Egypt, recognizing a greater Exodus was being prepared after the deliverance of Israel (Jude 5).
Read Revelation 21-22 for a depiction of the Promised Land we look forward to, heaven on earth where we followers of Jesus will be forever free from our greatest oppressors.
As you read the Old Testament and encounter the theme of exodus, let your eyes be drawn to Christ, to God your deliverer. Don’t stay in Egypt to be judged. Don’t lose heart in the wilderness. Press on with full assurance of your complete deliverance.