If you’re my age or older, you have likely seen this classic movie with Charlton Heston. If you’re younger, you probably missed it.
This week, we reached the foundational story of The Exodus in our reading. If you don’t know any other Biblical story, you should know this one.
Lifegroup Discussion Questions are past the link!
Have someone read Israel’s liberation song in Exodus 15:1-18 aloud as a prayer.
Exodus 15:1–17 (NLT)
A Song of Deliverance
Then Moses and the people of Israel sang this song to the LORD:
“I will sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously; he has hurled both horse and rider into the sea.
The LORD is my strength and my song; he has given me victory. This is my God, and I will praise him— my father’s God, and I will exalt him!
The LORD is a warrior; Yahweh is his name!
Pharaoh’s chariots and army he has hurled into the sea. The finest of Pharaoh’s officers are drowned in the Red Sea.
The deep waters gushed over them; they sank to the bottom like a stone.
“Your right hand, O LORD, is glorious in power. Your right hand, O LORD, smashes the enemy.
In the greatness of your majesty, you overthrow those who rise against you. You unleash your blazing fury; it consumes them like straw.
At the blast of your breath, the waters piled up! The surging waters stood straight like a wall; in the heart of the sea the deep waters became hard.
“The enemy boasted, ‘I will chase them and catch up with them. I will plunder them and consume them. I will flash my sword; my powerful hand will destroy them.’
But you blew with your breath, and the sea covered them. They sank like lead in the mighty waters.
“Who is like you among the gods, O LORD— glorious in holiness, awesome in splendor, performing great wonders?
You raised your right hand, and the earth swallowed our enemies.
“With your unfailing love you lead the people you have redeemed. In your might, you guide them to your sacred home.
The peoples hear and tremble; anguish grips those who live in Philistia.
The leaders of Edom are terrified; the nobles of Moab tremble.
All who live in Canaan melt away; terror and dread fall upon them. The power of your arm makes them lifeless as stone until your people pass by, O LORD, until the people you purchased pass by.
You will bring them in and plant them on your own mountain— the place, O LORD, reserved for your own dwelling, the sanctuary, O Lord, that your hands have established.
The LORD will reign forever and ever!”
How The Jewish Believers Saw Jesus
The Exodus story is the foundational story of the Jewish people and the entire Old Testament. All Jewish identity and theology has been shaped by this single event. Later books of the Old Testament written during future tough times in Israel’s history drew consistently upon this story of a God-orchestrated exodus out of slavery and oppression and into freedom in the promised land as a paradigm for what was needed and what to hope for. During their hundreds of years in exile under various oppressive empires, Israel longed for God to send another Moses to lead another exodus. This is what they were hoping for, under brutal Roman rule, when Jesus arrived.
With that in mind, it shouldn’t surprise us that the New Testament is full of references to Moses and the Exodus. This story was the lens through which the early church interpreted Christ’s life and death. In their minds, Jesus fulfilled this paradigm.
Jesus was indeed a new Moses leading a new liberation, bringing a new judgment upon the evil empire. And for Israel to be spared this judgment, as with the plagues, they would need to identify themselves under the blood of a Passover Lamb which would “cover over them”. This language is how the New Testament writers tried to make sense of Jesus, and it’s all Exodus language.
In other words, most of the things we are told about Christ are in direct reference to this 4,000 year-old story about God freeing a nation of slaves. If we don’t understand the story and it’s language, then we will be very confused about what it means for Jesus to be a “passover lamb” which “atoned for our sins.” Without understanding this Exodus story in particular, we’ll end up totally corrupting and misconstruing what the New Testament is saying about Christ. This story, above all others from Israel’s long history, is one we absolutely must be familiar with in order to have any shot at knowing Jesus. Familiarity with Exodus is a prerequisite for Christianity.
Have you ever thought about Jesus in connection to Exodus like this before?
If someone asked you to tell the famous story of Israel’s exodus in your own words, how would you tell it?
Read Exodus 14:5-31.
How do you think it would have felt to be with them as they stood on the far side of the Red Sea after their miraculous escape?
As you imagine what it would have felt like to reach this incredible climax in the story, read Israel’s first worship song aloud once again (Exodus 15:1-18, above), remembering the context for their singing: They had just escaped from Egypt and through the sea after 400 years of slavery and “saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore” as they sang.
Exodus 6:1–9 (NLT)
Promises of Deliverance
Then the Lord told Moses, “Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh. When he feels the force of my strong hand, he will let the people go. In fact, he will force them to leave his land!”
And God said to Moses, “I am Yahweh—‘the Lord.’ I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob as El-Shaddai—‘God Almighty’—but I did not reveal my name, Yahweh, to them. And I reaffirmed my covenant with them. Under its terms, I promised to give them the land of Canaan, where they were living as foreigners. You can be sure that I have heard the groans of the people of Israel, who are now slaves to the Egyptians. And I am well aware of my covenant with them.
“Therefore, say to the people of Israel: ‘I am the Lord. I will free you from your oppression and will rescue you from your slavery in Egypt. I will redeem you with a powerful arm and great acts of judgment. I will claim you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God who has freed you from your oppression in Egypt. I will bring you into the land I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I will give it to you as your very own possession. I am the Lord!’ ”
So Moses told the people of Israel what the Lord had said, but they refused to listen anymore. They had become too discouraged by the brutality of their slavery.
This is a striking passage. God was declaring good news of Israel’s liberation. Shouldn’t Israel have celebrated? Instead, it says that they didn’t listen because of their broken spirits and harsh slavery. Knowing nothing in life but slavery, freedom was simply an unbelievable notion to Israel, and perhaps a terrifying thought as well. Looking back on our discussion last week about our own slavery to sin and thinking about Exodus as the primary paradigm for understanding Christ, do you have any resistance in you to the good news of possible freedom from sin? Does that idea strike you as unbelievable? Why would being set free scare someone?
How is this like us? Are you and I actually ready and willing to leave everything about your old life in metaphorical Egypt behind and participate in your own liberation? Or is it possible you actually prefer slavery to freedom? Does the notion of a complete departure from this sin actually strike you as good news that you believe in?
Are we willing to take some time to confess honestly to God together where we are with this?
It does no good to pray to God to deliver you from sin and temptation that you actually desire to hold onto. Instead, if that’s where you’re at, confess this desire to keep your sin to God. St. Augustine once prayed “Lord grant me chastity and continence; but not yet”. Sure, he was joking. Kind of. Is this like us? How?
Do we each truly desire an exodus from sin? Why don’t we spend a few minutes as a group in prayer asking the Holy Spirit to reveal what that would look like, and how we can participate in our liberation.