Redemption and Mission
Redemption and Mission
Main Idea: God’s determination to free Israel from oppression so that they could worship Him calls us to practice a similarly integrative model of mission.
- The Need for Redemption (1:8-22)
- Political slavery (1:8-10)
- Economic slavery (1:11-14)
- Social slavery (1:15-22)
- Spiritual slavery (1:8-2:25; 9:1)
- The Mediator and Redemption (2:1-22)
- The birth of a Moses (2:1-10)
- The growth of Moses (2:11-15)
- The flight of Moses (2:15-22)
- God’s Motive of Redemption (2:23-25)
- The Mission of the Redeemed
- Let us care for urgent physical needs.
- Let us care for urgent spiritual needs.
The opening verses of Exodus connect the book directly to Genesis, which ended with the death of Joseph around 1805 bc. The first half of the book focuses on Israel’s departure from Egypt: the historical setting (1:1-2:25); Moses’s leadership (3:1-6:30); miraculous signs and judgment (7:1-15:21); and Israel’s journey (15:22-18:27). The second half covers the events at Mount Sinai: the Ten Words and the laws (19:1-23:19); instructions for entering the land (23:20-33); the confirmation of the covenant (24:1-18); instructions for, and later the execution of, building the tabernacle (25:1-31:18; 35:1-40:38); and the breach of the covenant, Moses’ intercession, and the renewal of the covenant (32:1-34:35).
In Genesis 12:2-3 God made His covenant with Abraham, promising to make him into a great nation, that through this people all nations on earth might be blessed. Exodus continues talking about God’s relationship with this people and this grand covenantal purpose.
Further, Exodus fits within the context of the first five books of the Bible (the Pentateuch) and should be read in light of this context. From this context, one can broaden out and observe how Exodus fits beautifully into the bigger story of the Bible. Many foundational promises, themes, and truths emerge from this book of Holy Scripture.
One might reasonably ask, “Why were the Israelites in Egypt?” Consider two related reasons. First, Joseph, Jacob’s son, was taken to Egypt because his jealous brothers sold him into slavery. He gained favor in the eyes of Pharaoh and ended up helping to save lives by stockpiling food. In the ensuing famine, all the earth came to Egypt to buy grain (Gen 41:57). Second, during this famine, his family went to Egypt, and Joseph provided food for them (Gen 42). The family ended up resettling in the Nile Delta. Seventy entered Egypt (see Gen 46:3-27), and from there they grew and grew!
In verse 7 we see the Israelites following the command God had given in the garden to “be fruitful and multiply” (Gen 1:28). God had later told Jacob, “I am God Almighty. Be fruitful and multiply. A nation, indeed an assembly of nations, will come from you, and kings will descend from you” (Gen 35:11). Eventually, the Israelites filled Egypt (Exod 1:7, 20). In Exodus 12:37 we read that their number expanded to six hundred thousand men, plus women and children!
“Redemption” is one of the greatest themes in Scripture. Later, we will see the meaning of this term more fully (ga’al, Exod 6:6; 15:13). As the Redeemer, God came to Israel’s rescue, protected them, and restored them.
The Need for Redemption
In verses 8-22 we find four reasons Israel needed redemption.
Political Slavery (1:8-10)
In Egypt, the Israelites were immigrants. They came to Egypt as refugees. Things started out favorably, but as the text says, the new ruler in Egypt “had not known Joseph” (v. 8). Now the Israelites lived in fear because they were discriminated against. Pharaoh said, “Let us deal shrewdly with them” (v. 10). As a result of discrimination, God’s people had no political freedom. Because of the rising Israelite population, they were perceived as a threat to Pharaoh, and this prompted his evil actions. Pharaoh’s harsh treatment would soon come to an end, however, and God would eventually make Israel into a great nation.
Economic Slavery (1:11-14)
Pharaoh used Israel for slave labor. Notice the language: “heavy burdens” (v. 11 ESV), “oppressed” (v. 12), “worked the Israelites ruthlessly” (v. 13), “bitter with difficult labor,” and “They ruthlessly imposed all this work on them” (v. 14). These phrases describe their enslavement. The Egyptians used the Israelites for construction projects (e.g., building Pithom and Raamses) and for agricultural projects. In comparison to the Nazi regime, we see that Pharaoh does not go as far as Hitler. Why? He knows that he needs them—but not all of them.
The injustice we read about here bears some resemblance to our day. People of power continue to abuse the weak for their own devilish reasons. Some report upwards of thirty million slaves in the world today (NotForSaleCampaign.org). Tragically, human trafficking is now the second largest organized crime in the world. What motivates this atrocity? Two of the main roots of this evil include sexual perversion and financial greed. Despite the existence of injustice like this, we believe that God remains a God of justice standing on the side of the oppressed. God’s people should also aim to glorify Him by imitating His character. The Scriptures describe God and His justice in many ways:
The mighty King loves justice. (Ps 99:4)
The Lord executes acts of righteousness and justice for all the oppressed. (Ps 103:6)
[He is] executing justice for the exploited
and giving food to the hungry.
The Lord frees prisoners.
The Lord opens the eyes of the blind.
The Lord raises up those who are oppressed.
The Lord loves the righteous. The Lord protects foreigners
and helps the fatherless and the widow,
but He frustrates the ways of the wicked. (Ps 146:7-9)
Later, God instructed His people to act for others the same way He acted on their behalf:
He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner, giving him food and clothing. You also must love the foreigner, since you were foreigners in the land of Egypt. (Deut 10:18-19)
Learn to do what is good. Seek justice. Correct the oppressor. Defend the rights of the fatherless. Plead the widow’s cause. (Isa 1:17)
Isn’t the fast I choose: To break the chains of wickedness, to untie the ropes of the yoke, to set the oppressed free, and to tear off every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, to bring the poor and homeless into your house, to clothe the naked when you see him, and not to ignore your own flesh and blood? (Isa 58:6-7)
One of the roles of the Redeemer (go’el) in the Old Testament was to restore economic stability to a family member, and God acts in this way. God ultimately gave Israel a land for themselves (Exod 6:8).
Social Slavery (1:15-22)
As the story goes on, we see how the Egyptians acted brutally and violently against the Israelites. This began with Pharaoh’s evil decision in verses 15-16. He initiated a state-sponsored genocide that demanded the killing of all the male Hebrew babies. This reminds us of the Deliverer who survived the ruthlessness of another dictator. Just as Moses lived in spite of the genocide, so Jesus lived through the baby-killing leadership of Herod (Matt 2:16).
Then Pharaoh told the midwives, or birthing nurses, Shiphrah and Puah, that when they saw a child on the “birthstool” (ESV) and it was a boy, to kill him. “Birthstool” is a difficult word to translate. Some say it means a “stone”—meaning they would give birth on a stone. Some say it means “a basin,” where they would wash the baby off, implying that one would drown the baby. Another option is that the “stones” represent “what you look for to see if it is a boy” (Russ Moore, “Exit Strategy”). Whatever it means, the command is clear: kill the boys. But why did Pharaoh do this? It seems that he attempted to slow the growth of the Israelites and to make them fear him.
Now they lived in constant terror. Think about it. Nine months of dread. Remember, ultrasounds did not exist. On delivery day, the “It’s a boy” report devastated parents.
However, God would deliver them out of this eventually. The final, most devastating act of judgment that God would inflict on Egypt was the death of firstborn sons (Exod 4:23). The Passover would forever remind God’s people of God’s redemption. And later, when Israel would become a new society, one of the things that they would emphasize was social justice and the sanctity of human life—the latter being something our culture still does not embrace.
After Pharaoh’s decision, look at the two midwives’ decision (1:17-22). These two women heroically did not listen to the king. Instead, they “feared God” (vv. 17, 21). While they did fear the king, they feared the King even more! Pharaoh realized what they had done and called them in for questioning: “Why have you done this?” (v. 18). They told him the Hebrew women were “vigorous.” Essentially, the Hebrew women gave birth before the midwives could even say, “Push!” They just kept having babies in the most remarkable way. Now, some argue that they lied, and God was not pleased with them. But did they lie? We do not have their entire statement recorded, but what we do have is factual: they said, “These women are vigorous.” Even if they did not give complete testimony in Pharaoh’s court, I think this is an example of “We must obey God rather than man” (Acts 5:29). The text is honoring these women, who lived up to their names (Shiphrah—“beautiful one,” and Puah—“splendid one”). Pharaoh was overstepping his bounds.
Next observe God’s decision regarding the midwives. We read in Exodus 1:20, “God was good to the midwives.” To what extent did God deal well with the midwives? He blessed them with families (v. 21).
We should remember that these women did something for us. Because they rescued the babies, we will be raised from the dead! How so? If you do not have these women, you do not have Moses, the exodus, David, Mary, or Jesus. The women are so important that Moses even mentioned them by name, yet you do not see the name of Pharaoh anywhere in this text. (“Pharaoh” means “Great House,” just as “White House” personifies the US president.) Pharaohs wanted their names remembered. They built pyramids to be remembered. Yet the only names remembered are those who feared God and protected life.
In hearing the midwives’ response, Pharaoh became infuriated. He demanded that all boys born to Hebrew women were to be thrown into the river. He likely chose the river for two reasons. First, it was convenient. Everyone lived on the Nile, and the clean up would have been easy. The Nile was a source of water and a conveyance for sewage, for the mighty current took away waste. Second, the Nile was viewed as a god, so this shifted the blame. Egyptians viewed the Nile as a giver and taker of life; thus, they might have thought they were doing the will of the gods. In seeing this, we should recognize a biblical pattern: God takes a place of death and turns it into a place of life and salvation. Think about Noah and the flood; Jonah and the sea/fish; the Red Sea and God’s people; and how Jesus’ tomb became the place of life. All of these stories point to God’s divine power to take death and bring life.
Spiritual Slavery (1:8-2:25; 9:1)
Pharaoh appears in archaeological records with the snake on his crown. It makes us think of the promise in Genesis 3:15, where we read of the enmity between the triumphant seed of the woman over the opposing seed of the serpent. Pharaoh lived out the serpent role by killing boys. Egypt was the enemy of God, and God must deliver Israel so that “they may worship [Him]” (Exod 9:1). This story shows us a cosmic, spiritual battle, not just a battle between Moses and Pharaoh.
God’s goal, then, included more than simply getting His people out of Egypt. He wanted to get Egypt out of His people. Luke underscored this truth in Acts 7:39. Stephen, in recounting the exodus and the events thereafter, said, “In their hearts [the Israelites] turned back to Egypt.” Even after leaving Egypt, Israel faced the temptation of turning their backs on God. In Exodus 4:22-23 we read of this spiritual purpose: “Let My son go so that he may worship Me” (emphasis added). Pharaoh blocked this purpose by oppressing the Israelites. Despite Moses’ repeated request for Pharaoh to allow Israel to make a journey into the wilderness “that we may sacrifice to [worship] the Lord our God” (3:18 ESV; 5:8), he denied it, and Israel’s suffering continued.
God’s desire extended beyond liberating Israel from political, economic, and social slavery. He desired worshipers. He wanted Israel (like Adam) to know and worship Him. Further, He wanted to use Israel to make worshipers from all nations. Therefore, God responded to all of the dimensions of Israel’s slavery. He did not just free them from socialeconomic-political oppression and let them worship any god. Neither did He just free them spiritually without changing their awful situation. God continues to be concerned for physical freedom, and especially spiritual freedom. Wright says, “Although Exodus stands as a unique and unrepeatable event in the history of Israel, it also stands as a paradigmatic and highly repeatable way God wishes to act in the world, and ultimately will act for the whole creation” (Wright, Mission, 275).
Some of us have not experienced the enslavement of these first three forms (political, social, and economical); but everyone understands this last form (spiritual slavery). We need spiritual deliverance. But some around the world, victims of human trafficking for example, are enslaved in all four ways. We must seek to deliver them in every way. One of the things I love about ministries like International Justice Mission is that they have related powerful stories of rescuing enslaved children physically and spiritually.
The Mediator and Redemption
In order to free people to worship Him, God raised up a mediator, a deliverer, a savior, named Moses. Let us take a look at Moses.
The Birth of a Moses (2:1-10)
Despite the circumstances, a Levite woman bore her son and kept him for three months. When it became too dangerous to hide him, she placed him in a basket and set him afloat in the Nile. The “basket” in this instance is the same word in Hebrew (tebah) used to describe Noah’s ark (Gen 6-9), the only other place it is found in the Bible. The basket was probably a covered papyrus box, maybe with air holes. She for some reason put him in a little boat, like Noah, that was sealed with pitch. Every Hebrew would have caught the significance of this word. Just as God’s hand of grace was on Noah, a deliverer, bringing salvation, so it was with the deliverer Moses.
Imagine this scene: Moses floats down the dangerous Nile! God sovereignly cares for this little boy. God keeps Moses from crocodiles, starvation, and drowning. When the daughter of Pharaoh finds him, she takes “pity on him.” Perhaps she says something like “aww,” the way others react when they see a little one. God used the nurturing instinct in her life to take care of Moses. And by God’s grace, Moses was nourished and taught by an Israelite—his mother, it seems—as an infant (vv. 7-9). God raised up a deliverer, right under Pharaoh’s nose!
This brings us to an important principle. We may think that things are falling apart sometimes, but remember God’s mysterious providence. God works out His perfect will in amazing ways. Trust in Him.
The daughter of Pharaoh gave the child the name Moses, “to draw out,” thinking “I drew him out of the water” (v. 10). What a perfect name, given the fact that God would use Moses to draw His people out of Egypt!
The Growth of Moses (2:11-15)
Notice the time that passes between verses 10 and 11. Moses grew up. A number of similarities exist between Moses and the greater Savior, Jesus. Let me point out a few:
- Like Moses, Jesus was born to be a Savior and was rescued from an evil ruler at birth (Matt 2:16).
- Like Moses, He sojourned in Egypt: “Out of Egypt I called my Son” (Matt 2:15).
- Like Moses, “silent years” occurred before His public ministry.
- Like Moses and the Israelites who wandered for 40 years in the wilderness, Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness (Matt 4:1-11).
- Jesus went to a high mountain and gave “the law,” His sermon (Matt 5-7), much like Moses did on Sinai.
Of course, Jesus transcends Moses. Jesus is without sin, and Jesus is fully God. Thus, it should not surprise us when we see Moses fail for all the mediators in the Old Testament failed at some level. But Jesus did not.
As the Story continues, we find that when Moses “had grown up,” he witnessed the brutal assault on one of his people, the Hebrews. Luke told us that this was when Moses was 40 years old (Acts 7:23). Seeing this, “he struck the Egyptian dead” (Exod 2:12). While some may say that Moses had the right to kill him as a son of Pharaoh, his own conscience reveals to us that he knew it was wrong for before he acted, he looked around, and after he acted, he “hid [the Egyptian] in the sand.” This act reveals that Moses still had a lot to learn before he would be ready to lead the Israelites out of Egypt.
It was not only wrong for Moses to kill the man, but it was wrong for him to attempt to begin leading the people out of Egypt without God’s instruction. In Acts 7:25 Stephen tells us that Moses assumed that “his brothers would understand that God would give them deliverance through him, but they did not understand.” This attempt led to the rejection of his leadership (Exod 2:13-14). Moses should have waited for God’s instructions.
On a more positive note, Moses’ act revealed that he desired to be associated with the people of God rather than the Egyptians. Hebrews 11:23-26 says this:
By faith, after Moses was born, he was hidden by his parents for three months, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they didn’t fear the king’s edict. By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter and chose to suffer with the people of God rather than to enjoy the short-lived pleasure of sin. For he considered the reproach because of the Messiah to be greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, since his attention was on the reward.
Ryken notes that the same word used to describe the exodus event is used here to tell of Moses’ going “out to his own people” (v. 11). Essentially, “before Israel could go out of Egypt, Moses needed to go out of Egypt, emotionally if not yet physically” (Ryken, Exodus, 60).
The Flight of Moses (2:15-22)
Moses became an outlaw on the run! As he fled, he ended up in Midian (v. 15). The Midianites’ name came from the fourth son of Abraham by his second wife, Keturah (Gen 25:2). Some of the teachings of Abraham possibly continued with the Midianites. Josephus tells us that the Midianites lived around the Gulf of Aqabah, which is at the north end of the Red Sea, about 120 miles south-southwest of the Dead Sea in the wilderness.
While Moses was at a well in Midian, the daughters of the priest of Midian came to get water. During their visit, some shepherds came and “drove them away” (v. 17). Moses acted to combat this injustice. But this time he did not kill anyone. Instead, he acted only to drive them away—a contrast to the previous episode in Egypt. We begin to see Moses act as a righteous deliverer. He not only rescued them but also “watered their flock” (v. 17). Moses began displaying servant leadership. This act of service got him rewarded with not only bread but also with marriage! So Moses married Zipporah and had a son, Gershom.
The book of Acts explains that Moses spent 40 years in Midian. Someone said, “Moses was 40 years in Egypt learning something; 40 years in the desert learning to be nothing; and 40 years in the wilderness proving God to be everything” (in James Boyce, Ordinary Men, 59). Think about that. He spent two years of preparation for every one year of ministry. By living in the wilderness, he learned to rely on God. By having a family, he learned to lead, guide, and discipline those he loved. By working with the Midianites, most likely as a shepherd, he developed skills to help him lead the Israelites out of their enslavement.
Of course, I do not want to imply that God selected Moses because he was so gifted and talented (see the next two chapters!). Moses depended on God’s power and grace for victory. But these experiences in the wilderness did have a shaping effect on his life. Remember, God wastes nothing. He often prepares us for the next chapter of life with the present chapter’s experiences.
God’s Motive of Redemption
Verse 23 begins with an important fact: “the king of Egypt died.” This meant Moses could return to Egypt as a prophet and not as a fugitive (see 4:19). Despite the change in government, the slavery remained severe. We read, “their cry for help ascended to God.” Picture the intense grief, distress, and agony here in these cries (cf. Ps 130:1-2; Lam 2:18; Rom 8:26). The verbs in this section show us God’s motive for acting on their behalf.
First, consider God’s knowledge of the oppressed. When the people cried out, He heard their cry. Not only did He hear it, He also saw or looked at their oppression, and He took notice, meaning He knew or was concerned (vv. 24-25). God heard. God saw. God knew. God’s ability to see and to hear appears throughout Scripture. Think of Psalm 34:15: “The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry for help.” God’s exhaustive knowledge or omniscience also appears often in Scripture. When the Scripture says that God “knew,” it means that He knew all about them. God was intimately aware of their agony. And because God knows, He acts.
Second, “He remembered His covenant with Abraham” (v. 24). God’s covenantal memory gets underlined here. God remembers His unbreakable promise of salvation. To “remember” something means to bring it to the front burner and act on it. The term “covenant” appears for the first time in Exodus here. It appears 25 times in Genesis. The best definition of “covenant” may be in The Jesus Story Book Bible: “a never stopping, never giving up, unbreaking, always and forever love” (Sally Lloyd-Jones, Story Book, 36).
As mentioned above, Exodus and Genesis go together. In Genesis, God declared His intention to bless Israel and to fulfill His covenant to Abraham. Later in Exodus, Moses will appeal to God’s covenant as he intercedes for Israel (chs. 32-34). At the right time, God remembered His covenant to make a people from all nations and sent Jesus. If you belong to God through Jesus Christ, you belong to His eternal covenant, “his never stopping, never giving up, unbreaking, always and forever love.” These motives, as Wright suggests, perpetually motivate God throughout the Bible. God’s purpose of redemption and mission given to Abraham continues in Exodus. This same God continues on the same mission of reclaiming worshipers today.
The Mission of the Redeemed
I believe Wright points us in the right direction for applying Exodus when he says, “Exodus-shaped redemption demands exodus-shaped mission. And that means that our commitment to mission must demonstrate the same broad totality of concern for human need that God demonstrated in what he did for Israel.... [O]ur mission must be derived from God’s mission” (Mission, 275-76; emphasis in original). We mentioned under the first point that God would deliver His people from (1) social-politicaleconomic slavery and (2) spiritual slavery. I contend that we too must share these same concerns. We must respond to urgent physical and spiritual needs around the world.
Let Us Care for Urgent Physical Needs
As we think about applying the mission in Exodus, allow me to draw on some of the insights of Wright again. One should avoid having spiritualized application only in Exodus, meaning evangelism with no social action—that is, so emphasizing the spiritual freedom in Exodus that we neglect real physical needs. We cannot allow ourselves to miss the socialpolitical-economic dimension in Exodus. Do not forget, these were real people being enslaved by a real ruler, and they could not worship when they were lugging mud all day, seven days a week.
Today, millions of young girls are enslaved and are raped multiple times a day for profit to satisfy the cravings of wicked people. This reality is sickening and maddening, and it demands a response from God’s people.
While proclamation remains the most important task of the church, this does not mean that kingdom citizens should neglect practical acts of mercy and justice. Plus, in some cases people cannot hear our message until they are liberated from physical injustice. Let me ask you, can girls who are being sexually abused multiple times a day hear the good news? Tragically, they cannot. Should we not fight to free them (and other victims of injustice) so that they may hear our message?
I believe the impulse that drives people to go to unreached peoples to share the gospel is the same impulse that calls them to care for victims of injustice: love. Justice is love going public. If we really love people, we will tell them the gospel while we care for their physical needs. Further, often the darkest places of injustice are the same places that have little gospel witness. If we lovingly go to the dark places, we will have opportunity to bring freedom—both physical and spiritual freedom.
Five issues help us remember to keep an emphasis on justice and mercy ministry here in Exodus.
First, Israel needed freedom not because of “their sin” but because of “Egypt’s sin.” To be clear, Israel was sinful—dreadfully sinful. But the exodus and the later exile of Israel have differences. God sent Israel into exile in Babylon because of their sin. “But there is no hint whatsoever that Israel’s suffering in Egypt was God’s judgment on sin” (Wright, Mission, 278). In Exodus an outside force oppressed them. Therefore, being delivered out of slavery to our sin is not exactly the same thing as Israel getting delivered from their slavery. We should make this application, but it is not the only application for us to make. The exodus shows God’s victory over outside powers of injustice, violence, and death. We cannot miss this.
Second, the New Testament does not replace the physical aspects of the exodus with the spiritual aspects of it. It extends the physical aspects and the spiritual aspects. The Greatest Command and the Great Commission encompasses both emphases—word and deed ministry.
Third, God has not changed. We should not make the mistake of thinking that God was concerned about real injustice then, but not now. Think of how many laws were given related to justice and how many Psalms speak of it. Remember that in His teaching, Jesus railed on the Pharisees who had their religious sacrifices but denied the “more important matters” of mercy and justice (Matt 23:23; cf. Matt 25:35-36; Jas 1:27). Further, the love and justice of God were on full display at the cross (Rom 3:21-26). The justice of God will also be magnified in the end of all things (Rev 20:11-15). God is just, and His people are to imitate Him.
Fourth, it is wrong to think that what God did for Israel is not what God wants or will do for other people. To think, “Yeah, God freed Israel from oppression, but that was Israel,” is to miss God’s purpose for choosing Israel in the first place: to be a blessing to the nations. And He chose them and acted on behalf of them so that people might know what He is like. While God did not free everyone in the Near East, this does not mean that He did not know about them or that He was not concerned about oppression elsewhere. God always opposes violent oppressors. For us, Israel stands as a model as to how God works in the world.
Further, the Old Testament shows that God acts for those who cry out under oppression. Psalm 33 goes from the “exodus” character of God to the universal claim of His love (v. 5) and on to the fact that all of human life is under His gaze (vv. 13-15). Psalm 145 says something similar: “His compassion rests on all He has made” (v. 9). Amazingly, in Isaiah 19 even Egypt itself is scheduled for a redemptive blessing: “When they cry out to the Lord because of their oppressors, He will send them a savior and leader, and he will rescue them.... Egypt will know the Lord on that day.... He will hear their prayers and heal them” (Isa 19:20-22). So Israel stands distinct, but God’s liberation of Israel is not limited to them. Instead, Israel serves as an example of God’s mercy and justice for all to see.
A final reason we should not miss the call to social action is that the midwives are honored for their act. They serve as examples for us to follow in protecting the weak and vulnerable. We need an army of people like these ladies to care for orphans, widows, the unborn, and victims of injustice.
Let Us Care for Urgent Spiritual Needs
The second mistake to avoid in applying Exodus is the view that is limited to the social-political-economic situation only, meaning social action with no evangelism—that is, being so focused on these social dimensions that the spiritual dimension gets lost. Some forms of liberation theology take this view. They are solely devoted to the issue of freeing those in oppression. This socialized approach is the opposite problem of the spiritualized approach. The socialized approach ignores the spiritual purpose of Exodus and disregards the New Testament connection of the exodus to the cross and the saving work of Jesus.
Remember, God wanted to free Israel that they might worship Him! As a royal priesthood, they were formed, like Adam (the garden priest), to worship God. A spiritual freedom was at the heart of their physical release. Israel’s deepest problem involved “Egypt inside of them”—a persistent tendency to return to their previous wretched condition. After Israel went free, they fell into sin in their hearts—idolatry—and got sent into exile. So, we should want to free people from physical oppression, but ultimately we should work to free them spiritually.
Therefore, we need an integrative model of mission. That is, a balanced, fully biblical, missional model. The integrative model takes into account the same broad totality of concern that God has for people. Let us do evangelism to see people saved from bondage to sin and death. Let us also care for the oppressed by fighting for justice for the physically enslaved and showing mercy to those in need.
To summarize, you could say that Christians should care about alleviating both types of human suffering: temporal suffering and eternal suffering—and especially eternal suffering!
Welcome to Exodus. May God help us to understand our redemption better, and may He help us to understand our mission better.
Reflect and Discuss
- What are some examples of economic slavery today that are comparable to Pharaoh’s exploitation of Israel? What can a Christian do about these things?
- What are ways that fear is used in some cultures to control populations? How does the gospel address fear?
- How does this account of God’s providence in protecting baby Moses encourage you?
- How has Moses’ experience growing up as a Hebrew in Pharaoh’s palace been portrayed in the movies? What do you think it might have been like?
- Why did Moses’ first attempt to help the Hebrews fail? What were the practical, social, and spiritual reasons?
- How has God prepared you for ministry? Have you learned your most valuable lessons in a “palace” or a “desert” or a “wilderness”?
- In what way is God’s gracious mission in Jesus Christ also seen in the book of Exodus?
- Of the ministries you support, which ones focus on social action and which ones on spiritual action? Does each ministry have the proper balance?
- What did Jesus say and do about social, political, and economic oppression in His day?
- Why is the social mission sometimes a necessary precondition to the spiritual mission? How does Matthew 11:5 express an integrative model of missions?