Today, we are back in Exodus. At this point, the Israelites have been freed from slavery to the Egyptians. They saw the mighty hand of God save them and deliver them and defeat an army. They have seen water come from a rock, bread come from the sky, a miraculous victory over the Amalekites, and even some much needed structure added to their leadership.
Somewhere about 2–3 months since these slaves have walked away from their oppressors, we see them at Mount Sinai. Sinai, however, is the opposite direction from the Promised Land.
When I was young, my dad would go on trips to visit churches as a part of his job. I had the opportunity to join him most of the time. He had a TomTom GPS, and there were a couple times that it got things very wrong for some of the more country churches. We would get to a spot and realize that we were being led in the opposite direction of where we should be going. So we’d have to regroup and on occasion, ask for directions.
Unlike that TomTom, God wasn’t leading them wrongly. He was leading them to a place that they desperately needed to be before they could enter the Promised Land. They needed to meet with God for long-term direction and guidance before they could ever hope to take the Promised Land. The days ahead were going to be long and hard. They needed to meet with the Lord.
Exodus 19 states, “On the third new moon after the people of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that day they came into the wilderness of Sinai. They set out from Rephidim and came into the wilderness of Sinai, and they encamped in the wilderness. There Israel encamped before the mountain, while Moses went up to God. The LORD called to him out of the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the people of Israel: ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel” (vv. 1–6).
Here’s the main idea:
Because of what God has done, we are to respond in joyful obedience as we receive and use His blessings for His glory, for our good, and for the good of those around us.
God Saves from Utter Destruction
“You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself” (Ex. 19:4).
There is such care here in reminding the Israelites of God’s work. And this is the making of a covenant that is happening. A specific kind of covenant, called Suzerain, where a ruler party makes an agreement with the ruled party. God is starting it off by showing them His faithfulness. A faithfulness that He promised them all the way back in Egypt in Exodus 6, this is a recurring theme in Exodus as well. He is fulfilling His word:
“Say therefore to the people of Israel, ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. I will give it to you for a possession. I am the Lord’ ” (Ex. 6:6–8).
What did He do to Egypt?
The plagues are such an interesting story. Can you imagine being an Israelite in the midst of these things? The plagues were affecting the whole land, except for the land where they lived, in Goshen. The firstborn of Egypt died in the night and wailing happened across the entire kingdom, but all who obeyed the Lord in faith were spared.
Egypt, their slave drivers, were being destroyed in front of them. All because the Pharaoh refused to let them go. God did amazing wonders. Yes, it caused greater issues in the meantime. Pharaoh was more harsh on them at first, but God proved faithful.
How did He bring them out?
Like caring eagles who rescue fallen young on their backs and fly them back to the nest. This same language is used later in the Deuteronomy like this:
“He found him in a desert land, and in the howling waste of the wilderness; He encircled him, He cared for him, He kept him as the apple of His eye. Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, that flutters over its young, spreading out its wings, catching them, bearing them on its pinions …” (Deuteronomy 32:10–11).
God Himself in a pillar of cloud by day and fire by night led them out. He was with them and kept them all the way to Sinai.
And what is the goal of this?
It is not simply to give them freedom, but to bring His people to Himself. God had more in store than temporary things. He was establishing a relationship with them.
God saves us from utter destruction. Is this not our story? As we’ve said and will continue to see, Exodus provides the language for salvation used in the rest of the Bible.
What did God do to our sin?
He nailed it to a tree. Christ bore the weight of our sin on the cross. He absorbed the wrath of God for sin, the wrath that we deserve. If you have feelings of guilt over past sin, I beg you to look at the cross.
In Paul Bunyan’s Pilgrim Progress, when Christian was at the foot of the cross, his burden fell from his back. Let this be you right now. Christ has paid for your sin. It isn’t supposed to remain a shadow over your life any longer.
Yes, our past sins can be helpful to remember, but only insofar as they help us prepare for possible areas of temptation in the future. Or only insofar as remembering those sins causes a greater thankfulness for the grace of God in our lives. He had brought you out!
How did He bring you out?
Certain aspects of every salvation story are the same, but so many details vary from person to person. It is wonderful to see the different ways that God has accomplished the work of salvation in each of our lives.
This is one reason why I find biographies so enjoyable, specifically believers of the past. The Lord is amazing in His faithfulness.
I was the son of a preacher. I grew up in church, literally. If the doors were open we were there. And this was when Sunday services happened twice every Sunday, Wednesday had a service, there was SS and DT and choir. And the Lord had been working on me. Then one evening in a prayer time before falling asleep, the Lord saved a 6 year old James. And He hasn’t left me alone ever since.
By all accounts, I was a good, though mischievous, little kid. But each day that goes by gives me a greater appreciation for the work that He did in my life so long ago. What is your story?
Do you dwell, really remind yourself often, on how God continues to draw you deeper into relationship with Him and deeper into His people?
Instead of New Years Resolution, which most of us have dropped and failed at already, let’s have a New Years Reflection. What has God done in 2023 that brought you into a closer relationship with Him? How has He blessed you? In what ways do you see Him moving?
I believe one of the reasons that Christians are so distracted by the modern world around us is that we don’t take enough time to look at the handiwork of God in our lives.
Ultimately, the sin that has enslaved us apart from Christ ends in destruction. Jesus doesn’t just save us from sin, but from the eternal consequences of sin as well.
“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23).
We are saved from destruction.
This is what He has done. God has saved us from utter destruction. Next time, we will see how we are to respond to this glorious news of salvation.