9. Israel’s Covenant Deliverer

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Introduction

The narrative of Genesis led from creation, through the fall, to several demonstrations of God’s grace which both define Him as a Redeemer and shape our understanding of redemption. Yet every experience of God’s grace leaves the recipients of the promise looking forward in anticipation of its fulfillment. And so Genesis comes to a close with the dying Joseph confidently encouraging his brothers, “I am about to die, but God will visit you and bring you up out of this land to the land that he swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob” (Genesis 50:24). Even so the promises to Abraham of a great nation in the Promised Land who both receives and is a blessing to the nations seems quite distant as Exodus begins with the coming to power of a new Pharaoh who exploits and oppresses Israel. This was never meant to call into question God’s fidelity rather Moses writes Exodus and Leviticus at Sinai (Exodus 24;4, 7; Leviticus 27:34) to reinforce the identity of God and their identity as His people.

I. The Narrative of Exodus

A. Outline of Exodus

While there are many twists and turns along the way the narrative of Exodus may be understood in three distinct movements.

I. The Exodus from Egypt and Journey to Sinai (1-18)
II. The Mosaic Covenant (19-24)
III. The Tabernacle (25-40)

B. The Exodus from Egypt and Journey to Sinai (1-18)

This study will focus mainly on the Mosaic Covenant and only briefly touch on the Exodus and the Tabernacle. There are two primary reasons for this. First, in the Mosaic Covenant God reveals His intent in redeeming Israel and secondly, this intent then naturally flows into the creation of the tabernacle. There are several important biblical-theological themes in the Exodus that will be picked up on in our study through The New Testament; however, other than the Passover those will not be addressed for sake of brevity.

This narrative is rich with language from creation and the promise to Abraham. Israel has grown in number they are being fruitful and multiplying both in response to the creation mandate and in fulfillment of the covenant with Abraham. As Pharaoh’s fear of the Hebrews grew he oppressed and afflicted them and when they continued to multiply he decrees that all the male children be killed. This is an assault upon the promised seed of the Abrahamic Covenant and echoes the struggle between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman.[59] The plagues bring this conflict into focus culminating in the death of Pharaoh’s firstborn. “The firstborn son of the Pharaoh was destined to rule but instead it is the firstborn son of Yahweh who will have dominion.”[60] After the plagues and the death of his firstborn Pharaoh concedes and urges the people of Israel to leave; however, God further hardens Pharaoh’s heart and he gathers his army in pursuit. The best place to begin for a summary of these events is the Song of Moses (15:1-21).

Will someone read the Song of Moses for us? How does this song describe God? What is Israel’s relationship to Him? How does this paint a picture of redemption?

J. Richard Middleton notes the importance of these events in the shaping of Israel’s worldview,

Beneath the Old Testament’s use of explicit salvation language lies a coherent worldview in which the exodus from Egyptian bondage, followed by entry into the promised land, forms the most important paradigm or model. . .

The complex of events of the exodus was so central in Israel’s experience and memory that it decisively shaped much of the Old Testament, becoming the lens through which salvation in understood.[61]

These events are paradigmatic and exert tremendous influence upon our understanding of redemption. Indeed as we will see later it does much to expound upon God’s intentions in His promise to Abraham and His unflinching commitment to His intent in creation as well.

God had decisively triumphed over their enemies and liberated them from their oppressors Israel had been set free. “God’s purpose, however, was not simply to deliver Israel from Pharaoh’s yoke. It was to bring them under His yoke. God demanded that Pharaoh let the people go that they might serve Him.”[62] As Arthur F. Glasser explains,

The Hebrews were now free to worship their God in a spontaneous, joyous, and caring fashion because of their unbelievable sense of having been redeemed by him from Egypt. They now belonged uniquely to God and God alone. And the Passover feast provided them with a divinely authenticated way to celebrate the beginning of their national existence in the years that followed.[63]

Israel’s redemption is holistic it touches every aspect of reality this is clear both in the immediate narrative and the covenant itself,

The texts portray at least four dimensions of the bondage that Israel suffered in Egypt – political, economic, social, and spiritual – and goes on to show how God redeemed them in every one of these dimensions.[64]

And God’s intent here will be reinforced later within the Mosaic Covenant itself.

C. The Mosaic Covenant (19-24)

Will someone please read the beginning of the Mosaic Covenant in Exodus 19:3-6?

William J. Dumbrell emphatically states the importance of correctly understanding the Mosaic Covenant explaining that,

A correct understanding o f these verses which summon Israel, as a result of Sinai, to its vocation, is vital. T he history of Israel from this point on is in reality merely a commentary upon the degree of fidelity with which Israel adhered to this Sinai-given vocation.[65]

Prior to examining the covenant’s content the first possible misstep would be to assume the covenant’s conditionality based upon the requirement of Israel’s obedience (Exodus 19:5).

It is true that the Mosaic Covenant was the most conditional of all the biblical covenants. Of all the covenants, it dealt specifically with how the people of God should live. The fulfillment of the promises and blessings of any of the covenants for any particular individual or generation was dependent upon their obedience to God’s revelation. Disobedience annulled the blessings of God for that individual or generation in his/her/its own time, but disobedience did not invalidate the unconditional terms of the covenant.[66]

This, the unconditional nature of the covenant, will become increasingly clear as we move through Deuteronomy and see the overarching eschatological and covenantal thrust of the entire Pentateuch.

From your knowledge of the Old Testament what might it mean for Israel to be a treasured possession, a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation?

Peter J. Gentry and Stephen J. Wellum explain that the literary structure of this verse points to “a treasured possession” and “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” as being two sides of the same coin. “In other words, both statements are saying the same thing, but each does it in a different way and looks at the topic from a different perspective.”[67]

After a lengthy discussion of the terms they summarize the purpose of the covenant as follows:

Although the language is different from that of Genesis 1:26-28 and Genesis 12:1-3, we can clearly see that the covenant at Sinai achieves and administers in the Iron Age, through the nation as a whole, the purposes of the promises given to Abraham. God is establishing his kingdom through covenant. The covenant entails relationship with God on the one hand and relationship with the world on the other hand. Israel will model to the world what it means to have relationship with God, what it means to treat each other in a genuinely human way, and what it means to be good stewards of the earth’s resources. As priests, they will mediate the blessings of God to the world and will be used to bring the rest of the world to know God.[68]

Just as God’s redemption of Israel was holistic so too are His covenantal purposes. The covenant stipulations that follow in Exodus 19-24 with the giving of the Ten Commandments and the case law, or judicial precedents, expound upon Israel’s responsibility in light of God’s covenantal intent. J. Richard Middleton is particularly helpful in linking these two together,

. . . obedience completes the salvation begun in the exodus. . . Deliverance from bondage must now be matched by conformity to the creator’s will, which will require substantial changes in the way of life of God’s people. Salvation thus cannot be limited to deliverance from external circumstances; it must include what we might call ‘sanctification.’ The Torah given at Sinai constitutes God’s instructions for holy living, meant to direct the life of the redeemed community toward justice and righteousness, that they might be restored to flourishing.[69]

Or simply stated the covenant stipulations are “the foundation of true justice and the basis of what it means to be a son or daughter of God, an Adamic figure, i.e. truly and genuinely human.”[70]

The covenant is then ratified as they offer burnt offerings and peace offerings and Moses takes the blood of those offerings and throws half upon the altar and half upon the people of Israel and in a ceremony most similar to that of a wedding Israel is united by blood in covenant with God.[71]

D. The Tabernacle (25-40)

Building upon the these themes of Israel’s freedom to worship God, the restoration of true humanity and true human flourishing and wedding together of God and humanity in restored relationship Stephen G. Dempster explains, “the goal of the Exodus is thus the building of the Edenic sanctuary so that the Lord can dwell with his people, just as he once was Yahweh Elohim to the first human beings.”[72]

The tabernacle parallels the Garden and the Cosmos; indeed it represents a new creation a new Eden where man may dwell with God. The structure of the garden, is found in the structure of Israel at Sinai, and in the tabernacle itself pointing to God’s purposes for their relationship with the surrounding world. This as we will see here, and in Leviticus, is an ever present reminder of the intent of God’s covenants with Adam, with Abraham, and the Mosaic covenant. Below is a chart which illustrates these parallels.

Tabernacle Chart

Linking this structure to creation Gentry and Wellum conclude, “just as Adam was to fulfill his mandate by devoting himself to worship as a priest in the garden sanctuary, so Israel as a new Adam is to fulfill her mandate by devoting herself to worship as a priest in the tabernacle.”[73]

The Passover serves as a continual reminder of God’s redemption and the service in the tabernacle as a continual reminder of God’s mission for His image bearers to subdue the earth and fill it with His glory. They are to be both blessed and a blessing a picture of a renewed humanity living in the new creation in restored relationship with God.

The people have been redeemed from their bondage in Egypt, wed in covenant to their Lord, and have received instruction for the creation of the tabernacle where the people can meet with God. How does Israel respond? What happens in Exodus 32?

Looking at 32:12 what promises does Moses plead as he intercedes on behalf of Israel?

From this point Moses continues to intercede for Israel and is so bold as to ask Yahweh to see His glory. The text focuses less on what Moses sees and rather on what he hears. Would you read Exodus 34:5-7? What kind of God is Yahweh?

After further instruction the tabernacle is erected and the glory of the Lord fills the tabernacle that His people may dwell in His midst.

II. Exodus as Eschatology

“Later when the psalmists sing of God as Redeemer, they make the Exodus their theme. And when the prophets speak of a new covenant beyond the covenant of Sinai, they expect God to act in an even greater way for the redemption of human-kind and yet to be consistent with his actions at the Exodus (Jer. 31:31-34). It is for this reason that God’s deliverance during the Exodus, Israel’s wandering in the wilderness, and the conquest of the Promised Land are as significant for the New Testament as for the Old. It is in the New Testament that ‘One greater than Moses’ makes possible a liberating and redemptive Exodus, one which leads to a more lasting inheritance (Deut. 18:15-19).”[74]

Conclusion

Where in the Exodus did you see parallels between and hints towards the fulfillment of the covenants to Adam, Noah, and Abraham? How do you see Israel’s mission shaped and informed by that Mosaic covenant?

[59]Stephen G. Dempster, Dominion and Dynasty: A Theology of the Hebrew Bible, New Studies in Biblical Theology (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 93-94.
[60]Ibid., 99.
[61]J. Richard Middleton, A New Heaven and a New Earth: Reclaiming Biblical Eschatology (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2014), 79-80.
[62]Edmund P. Clowney, The Unfolding Mystery: Discovering Christ in the Old Testament (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 1988), 97.
[63]Arthur F. Glasser, Announcing the Kingdom: The Story of God’s Mission in the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003), 76.
[64]Christopher J. H. Wright, The Mission of God’s People: A Biblical Theology of the Church’s Mission, Biblical Theology for Life (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010), 99.
[65]William J. Dumbrell, Covenant and Creation: A Theology of the Old Testament Covenants (Grand Rapids, MI: BakerBook House, 1984), 80.
[66]William D. Barrick, “The Mosaic Covenant,” in The Master’s Seminary Journal 10 (1999): 223.
[67]Peter J. Gentry and Stephen J. Wellum, Kingdom through Covenant: A Biblical-Theological Understanding of the Covenants (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012), 316
[68]Ibid., 326.
[69]Middleton, A New Heaven and a New Earth, 87-88.
[70]Gentry and Wellum, Kingdom through Covenant, 356.
[71]Gentry and Wellum, Kingdom through Covenant, 349-354.
[72]Dempster, Dominion and Dynasty, 100.
[73]Gentry and Wellum, Kingdom Through Covenant, 322.
[74]Glasser, Announcing the Kingdom, 75.

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