Image from by Wikimedia Public domain
‘Pharaoh’s army engulfed by the Red Sea’, by Frederick Arthur Bridgman (1847-1928)
The Exodus is a foundational theme in the Bible. God delivered His people Israel from Egypt through an Exodus. Jesus, too, saves people through an Exodus.
The Exodus from Egypt was the key saving event in Israel’s history (see, for example, Deuteronomy 4.32-40, 6.20–25, 1 Samuel 12.6–8, Psalm 105.26-45, Jeremiah 32:20–21). But the prophets told God’s people there would be another Exodus. That second Exodus was – at one level – fulfilled in the return from Exile. But the prophets also saw another Exodus – an Exodus more far-reaching than the return to the Promised Land, an Exodus that would eclipse even the Exodus from Egypt.
This new Exodus is prophesied in a number of places (for example Isaiah 11.10-16 and Isaiah 43.14-21). God was going to rescue people from a slavemaster far worse than the Egyptians. He was going to rescue them from bondage to sin and Satan. That Exodus would be accomplished by the Messiah, Jesus Christ. The Messiah would deliver people from sin and Satan through His death, resurrection and ascension to His Father in heaven.
The first Exodus
It was preceded by a sacrifice
Before the Exodus, Passover sacrifices were to be offered (Exodus 12.1-14,21-27,43-49). The Passover animals (lambs or young goats) died; the Israelites’ firstborn sons were spared. The Passover animals died instead of the firstborn, who collectively represented all Israel.
That sacrifice formed the main part of a meal. This meal – the Passover meal – affirmed the covenant relationship between God and His people. It was a covenant meal. Israel was to celebrate the Passover every year.
It was a baptism
The first Exodus was a baptism. Paul writes: “all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea” (1 Corinthians 10.2).
It released Israel from bondage
Through the first Exodus God delivered Israel from bondage in Egypt. The pursuing Egyptians perished in the overflowing waters.
It was a new creation – it brought a nation into being
At the Passover and Exodus, God’s people Israel were born. It was their birthday. For the very first time, we read of “all the congregation of Israel” and “the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel” (Exodus 12.3,6). Accordingly, God appointed the month in which Passover occurred as the first month of their calendar year (Exodus 12.2). Just as every year we celebrate our birthdays, God’s people celebrated their national birthday annually at the feast of Passover and Unleavened Bread (see Exodus 12.14,17,24-27).
In Isaiah 43.1,7 Isaiah prophesies about how God brought His people into existence – and he does so using creation language that echoes Genesis 1 and 2. God “created” , “formed” and “made” His people. These are the three words used to describe God’s creation of mankind. In Genesis 1.26, God said “Let us make man . . . .” ; in the following verse, we read “So God created man . . . .” and in Genesis 2.7, “the Lord God formed the man . . . .” . Israel was a new creation, a new mankind made in His image, made to live in fellowship with Him, created for His glory.
There are links, too, between the Exodus and the original creation. God sent a “wind” (Hebrew rûach) over the sea (Exodus 14.21). This reminds us of how His Spirit (Hebrew rûach) moved over the Earth at the beginning (Genesis 1.2). Dry land appears where once there was sea – reminding us of the appearance of the dry land recorded in Genesis 1.9-10). The light and darkness (Exodus 14.20) reminds us of God dividing the light from the darkness on the first creation day (Genesis 1.3-5). God was creating again. God was creating a new people, and He was going to bring them into a new Eden – the Promised Land.
The second Exodus
Just as Moses led God’s people through the first Exodus, so Jesus the Messiah takes people through a second Exodus.
It was accomplished by a sacrifice
At His transfiguration, Jesus talked with Moses and Elijah about His “his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem” (Luke 9.31). The word “departure” here translates the Greek word exodos. Jesus’ Exodus was His death and resurrection – with the emphasis on His death.
Before the first Exodus, Passover animals were sacrificed. Our Exodus happened because of a sacrifice – the sacrificial death of our Passover Lamb, Jesus (1 Corinthians 5.7).
The first Exodus was preceded by a meal. Jesus’ Exodus was preceded by a meal, too – the Last Supper. This meal celebrated the new covenant that Jesus was about to inaugurate through His sacrificial death. It was a covenant meal.
Israel was to celebrate their covenant meal – the Passover – annually. We are to celebrate our covenant meal – the Lord’s Supper – regularly, too. In fact, the early church seems to have celebrated it every time they met together as a church.
It was a baptism
The first Exodus was a baptism. Jesus’ Exodus was a baptism, too. He said “I have a baptism to be baptized with, . . . .” (Luke 12.50). His baptism was His suffering and death.
And everyone who believes in Jesus shares in His baptism of death. Paul writes: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6.3-4). As believers, we died with Christ and were buried with Him. When Jesus died, so did our “old self” that was enslaved to sin. Our “old self” was “crucified with him” (Romans 6.6, and see Colossians 3.9). And we rose with Him into resurrection life (Ephesians 2.6, Colossians 2.12).
It releases people from bondage
Through baptism in the cloud and the sea, Israel was released from slavery. The nation crossed over into a new life. Through sharing in Jesus’ baptism, we are released from slavery to sin and cross over into a new life with God. We have “crossed over from death to life” (John 5.24 NIV and see 1 John 3.14). The Father “has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son” (Colossians 1.13). We have been raised with Christ into a new life of freedom from bondage to sin.
It is a new creation – it brings a new humanity into being
The Passover and Exodus brought a nation into being – God’s people Israel. Jesus’ sacrificial death brought a new humanity into being. He has fulfilled the terms of the New Covenant promised to His people Israel (Jeremiah 31.31-34) and gathered both Jews and Gentiles into His new humanity, the Church. We are “one new humanity” (Ephesians 2.15 NIV).
Paul writes, “. . . if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5.17). Believers are new people, and participate in the new creation inaugurated by Christ’s death, resurrection and ascension into heaven – a new creation that will be consummated in the New Heaven and Earth.
The beginning of our natural life was through natural birth. The beginning of a Christian’s new life is a spiritual birth. Our natural conception and birth made us part of the old sinful humanity ‘in Adam’. New birth makes a person part of the new humanity ‘in Christ’. Once they were Satan’s offspring (see 1 John 3.10 and compare John 8.44). At new birth, they become God’s children (John 1.12-13, Romans 8.14-17, Galatians 3.26, 4.4-7, 1 John 3.1-2). They now have the right to call the Father, “Abba! Father!” (Romans 8.15, Galatians 4.6). God Himself comes to live in them; He gives them His uncreated, eternal life (see Romans 6.23). They are “born . . . of God” (John 1.13).
The Bible describes this new birth in a variety of ways: they’re “born again” (John 3.3,7) – or to use William Barclay’s rendering of John 3.7, “reborn from above” . They’re “born anew” (1 Peter 1.23, J. Ramsey Michaels’ translation), they’re regenerated (Titus 3.5). New birth is, in John Stott’s words “a deep, radical, inward transformation” . God’s children have a new disposition, a new inward inclination to obey God. In Oswald Chambers’ words, they bear “a strong family likeness” to their Father. And it’s only when someone is born into God’s new family, that they really become fully human as God created us to be. Ole Hallesby put it this way: “. . . if I were to tell you why I became a Christian and were to give my answer quickly and in one short sentence, I think that I would have to state it thus, to be as simple and as clear as possible: I did it to become a man.”
CREDITS ► Text copyright © 2017 Robert Gordon Betts ► Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ► Scripture quotations marked ‘NIV’ are taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.