Welcome back! Are you ready for another session? This one is a good one. Last week we learned about God’s promise to Abraham, this week we get to see how that promise starts to take shape. We’re in Part IV:Session 4: Exodus and Redemption, follow along: Multiply!
As we finish up with Genesis, we see God’s people growing and thriving. It seems like God promise is in full swing. However, when we enter into Exodus, we see a problem. God’s people (now called Israelites after Abraham’s grandson) are slaves in a land different than that that was promised to Abraham.
Israel’s current state doesn’t happen overnight, the first two chapters of Exodus span about four hundred years. At this point, Israel has pretty much given up hope of redemption by their God. If God promised to take care of Abraham’s descendents, then why were they in this predicament? God actually told Abraham this would happen:
“God said to Abram, ‘Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years. But I will also judge the nation whom they will serve, and afterward they will come out with many possessions'” (Gen. 15:13-14 NASB).
So God has not forgotten His promise, He’s right there waiting for the right time to enact one of the Bible’s greatest acts of redemption the world has seen up to this point (174). “As it turns out, God’s display of power in Israel’s exodus is frequently mentioned in the rest of the Bible as clear evidence of God’s commitment to His people and His power to redeem” (174).
Moses’s Encounter with I AM
When we enter into the scene in Exodus, things are pretty bad. Not only are the Israelites forced into hard labor, Pharaoh has just ordered the deaths of all the newborn boys to try to control the numbers. There is one Israelite woman, however, who was brave enough to save her little boy. She hid him until she could no longer do so, then made a little basket for him and placed him in the Nile river. By God’s providence, the basket was found by Pharaoh’s daughter and she raised him as her own in Pharaoh’s palace, naming him, Moses. No one knew at the time, but God was raising a deliverer to rescue His people from slavery.
“Now it came about in the course of those many days that the king of Egypt died. And the sons of Israel sighed because of the bondage, and they cried out; and their cry for help because of their bondage rose up to God. So God heard their groaning; and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God saw the sons of Israel, and God took notice of them” (Exo. 2:23-25).
Great things happen when God “takes notice”. God remembered His covenant and because of this covenant God is moved to action on behalf of the Israelites, and like His promise with Abraham, He begins with one man: Moses.
Discussion Question #1: Read Exodus 2:23–3:22 carefully. It records one of the rare instances when a human being had an audible conversation with Almighty God. What stands out to you about Moses’s encounter with God in this passage?
Moses’s encounter with God lead him to ask two foundational questions. Although Moses was trying to get out of the work God was leading him to, these are important questions even for us. They are “Who am I?” and “Who is God?”
God answers both of these questions. To the first, He says “I will be with you”. While this may seem like God is avoiding the question, it gives us an idea on where we should look when defining ourselves. We are God’s people, pure and simple. “We belong to Him, and there is no way that we can define ourselves apart from God. It is His presence with us that enables us to accomplish the tasks He gives us” (177). So we are who we are because God is with us.
The second question (Who are You?) God gives another answer that at first glance may seem like He is just dismissing the question: “I AM WHO I AM”. When we look closer, however, this significant point teaches us something about God. God cannot be defined in earthly terms. There is nothing that we know of that He can be compared to. “I AM” is the name God gives to His people and it speaks to His eternality. He doesn’t say “I was” or “I will be”, but simply “I AM”, now and for eternity, He never changes.
This name “Yahweh” (YHWH), I AM, is a personal name for God that is used almost three times as many times in the Old Testament as the simple name for God, Elohim (the title we saw in Genesis 1). “The implication of this frequent use of God’s personal name is that God aims to be known in Scripture not just as a generic deity, but as a specific person with a wholly unique character and a special relationship with His people” (178).
Let My People Go
God sends Moses into Egypt and he goes directly to Pharaoh with one simple message from God: “Let My people go.” Pharaoh doesn’t listen very well and actually increases the hardship and labor for the Israelites. Unfortunately, this lead the Israelites to blame Moses for their hardships and lead Moses to lose heart. However, this was only the beginning, God had a plan. God always has a plan.
Discussion Question #2: Read Exodus 5:22–6:13. What does this passage reveal about God and His relationship to His people?
It is important to point out here that Pharaoh was considered deity by the Egyptians. He was supposed to have authority and power over all creation. God was about to show all peoples, Egyptians and Israelites alike, that this was not even remotely true. God shares His supreme authority with no one.
The Passover Lamb
Now we come to the part that has the most significance to Israelite and Christian history. God’s power was shown clearly in the first nine plagues, but it was the tenth that actually provoked Pharaoh to let the Israelites go, but he wanted to drive them out of his land. The tenth proved God’s power over life and death. God gave warning to Pharaoh that unless Pharaoh complied, all the first born in Egypt would be struck down. Pharaoh didn’t listen…
“Now it came about at midnight that the Lord struck all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of cattle. Pharaoh arose in the night, he and all his servants and all the Egyptians, and there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was no home where there was not someone dead” (Exo. 12:29-30).
While we don’t wish to dwell on such a scene, we cannot leave this passage without learning an important lesson about God: “just as He is faithful to keep His promises of blessing, God is also faithful to carry out His warnings of wrath” (180).
During the earlier plagues, God spared the Israelites from afflictions, however with the tenth, God required action from His people. This was one of the first tests to see if the Israelites were ready follow God as Lord. Only the Israelites that slaughtered a lamb and painted it’s blood on the doorposts of their homes were they spared the death of their firstborn, the Angel of Death would pass over them. The Israelites were not spared because they were somehow more “good” than the Egyptians. They were spared because they obeyed and trusted in God.
This sets up a standard that is repeated throughout the rest of scripture, the only reason any of us escape judgement and receive forgiveness is by trusting in the Forgiver. In order to receive anything from God, we have to trust Him.
The Jews, afterwards, celebrated this event yearly as the Passover celebration. Years later, Jesus, Himself, was handed over to be killed during Passover as our sacrificial lamb. We are only saved from the Angel of Death if Jesus’s blood is painted over our hearts and we trust in Him as our Lamb.
Discussion Question #3: How does God’s provision of the Passover Lamb for the Israelites help us understand Jesus’s sacrifice for us?
Through the Red Sea
Pharaoh must have been a sucker for punishment because, no sooner had the Israelites started on their journey out of Egypt, than Pharaoh changed his mind and began to pursue them. Suddenly the Israelites find themselves cornered, with their backs to the Red Sea, just knowing that death awaited them at Pharaoh’s hand.
God still had a promise to fulfill, however, and nothing was going to stop Him from fulfilling that promise. Nothing. That sea was split straight across and the Israelites walked across on dry ground. As Pharaoh and his army dared to venture into the sea after the Israelites, the sea came crashing down and Pharaoh and his army was swept away. Israel’s God was proved to be the one true God and no one saves like Him.
Discussion Question #4: Read Exodus 15:1–21. How did the Israelites describe God’s act of redemption immediately after He led them out of slavery?
Discussion Question #5: What do God’s actions in Israel’s exodus teach us about God?
Discussion Question #6: The story of the exodus sets the paradigm for what God’s redemption looks like. How have you seen God’s hand at work in your own life?
A Forgetful People
You would think that after witnessing some of the most amazing, life-altering, faith-growing events in history that the Israelites would never falter in their devotion to God… and yet, time and time again, they forgot all that God does for them. They actually wanted to go back into slavery in Egypt. It seems so unbelievable to us and we are often quick to shake a disapproving head at the Israelites, but consider with me for a moment. How often have we seen God work in our lives, known the wondrous grace He offers us, and simply forgot. We are a complaining, ungrateful lot, just as the Israelites were. If only we would just trust in God. He will prove faithful again and again and again.
Discussion Question #7: What does Israel’s tendency to forget God’s redemption and begin complaining teach us about humanity?
Discussion Question #8: Make this more personal. Take some time to write about the times that God rescued you. What can you do to keep yourself focused on who God is and what He has done?
Discussion Question #9: Spend some time in prayer. Ask God to make the story of Israel’s exodus vivid to you. Ask Him for the faith to believe that He will come through on His promises to you no matter how desperate the situation appears. Pray that God would help you trust Him for your salvation.