Today’s text is special as we will be achieving two goals: a macro-goal that has to do with the structure of Exodus 11-13, and a micro-goal more specific to the text that explains the importance of “the Exodus”. How are chapters 11-13 designed, Why does this event have a special name that control the entire book, and how does it relate to the New Testament?
(A) The Exodus: from slaves to servants of the Lord (12:31-32)
If this is the first time you’re jumping into the text, you’ve joined in to witness Pharaoh’s surrender after the ten plagues. Ex 7:4-5 tells us Pharaoh surrendered because God’s strong, mighty hand inflicted terrible judgment on Egypt. These were no ordinary plagues - they were direct punches from God to Pharaoh's face which broke Pharaoh and Egypt. When Pharaoh said, “Up, go…”, Pharaoh said it as a crushed man. This is important, as it is a recount of God’s great triumph story, much akin to any great war story. It is filled with details which, when understood rightly, should make you say, “how wondrous are the works of God!” The main point isn’t that Pharaoh finally relents by saying, “Up, go…”. The main point is that he relents “as (Moses had) said.” Moses spoke for God, for God is a God who reveals Himself through speech. And when He speaks, His arm will follow. This is the amazing thing about the Bible! The Bible we have contains God’s very words, so you can trust that these words that we are reading will come to pass. God’s arm will follow where He has spoken.
We'll also need to know how today's passage fits into the larger narrative, and why the writer writes in this way. The image below will help us understand these things:
Why did God write it this way? The structure is meant to help us see what is important and to draw our attention to certain things. The author was also trying to help the readers understand certain things. For instance, we see that God is not the narrator but also a part of the story! God’s word moved things and made things happen! In giving the instructions for the Passover and the Feast, we are to see how the symbol and the story come together. The people could not participate in the ritual without understanding the story. They, and us, were not just meant to understand it intellectually but to feel and live it. This is incredibly powerful! This is God’s way of wrapping up identity in the Exodus. God lays a claim over His people and makes them His people by giving them signs and symbols that reinforce the story for them. Our application point is clear here. It means that Jesus Christ, dying on the cross and remembering Him in the symbols He instituted – Lord’s Supper and Baptism – are symbols for us to wrap ourselves up in.
By Exo 12:32, we see that the plague has changed Pharaoh's mind altogether. But before we move on, we can learn something important from this. We read of God’s complete victory over His enemies and in the process, transforms their status. Israel used to be slaves of Egypt, but are now servants of God. In the same way, we who believe in Christ have been set free from sin, we are no longer slaves to sin. We are no longer slaves to anything (c.f. Rom
6:20-22)! Are there incidents this week you can think of where you lived out of your old identity as a “slave” instead of as a “servant of the Lord”?
(B) The Exodus: from fear to favor (Exo 12:33-36)
In Exo 12:33, we read of how the Egyptians were “urgent with the people” because they were terribly afraid of them! The Israelites were also desperate to leave Egypt. One community was urgent because of fear, and the other was urgent because they couldn’t wait to get out. It is possible to fear God in 2 different ways – one through experiencing His judgment, the other through experiencing His protection.
The writer of Exodus also gives us one interesting piece of detail in Exo 12:35. The Israelites were slaves one moment, and the next moment, they were asking the Egyptians for “silver and gold jewelry and for clothing”. This was because God gave them favour (also goodwill, success). God shows His effective, transformative blessing on His people (Exo 12:36)! God told them to do it and made it possible! Their experience changes after their status changed! Suddenly they were protected, blessed, favoured. Their slavemasters who once had their feet on their necks now provided their needs.
Another book all about the favour of God is the book of Esther. In the late reformation period, Martin Luther did not like the book of Esther because it does not explicitly mention God. The book seems to be entirely about people, except for the word “favour”. Esther is successful in her mission because of God’s favour. It is a huge word to say that God looks upon a human being and blesses them. God who hates sinners and sin can also show favour on undeserving sinners. This is truly amazing, and perhaps we are more familiar with another word to describe this -- grace. People in the Bible seem to refer to the favour of God quite regularly. Moses in Ps 90:14-17 does so. But how do we get it? What will it look like for us? Exodus teaches us that the way is to obtain the blessing and favour of God is for Him to set you free! It's not primarily about material blessing and provision, but it is, at its root, a change in identity from being a slave to His servants.
Yet none of us can persuade God to do this for us. We do not earn it and neither do we deserve it. If you're a Christian, it's not just a profession of faith but it is also a matter of ownership. If you’re already Christ’s, you are already favoured. But how is it that we have the favour of God today? It is not measured in how many jewels drop in our laps. It is shown in how He punched our main enemy -- sin which leads to death -- in the face, set us free and made us His own such that now we belong to Him. The favour of God has been poured out on you and me when His wrath was poured out on His Son such that all we have now are His blessings. Eph 1:3-4 tells us without a doubt that We have all spiritual blessings in Christ. This is one of those verses we need to hang our heart on when we find our circumstances to be poor or undesirable. Hang our hopes and leave all our broken dreams down when we read Rom 8:32. Let the truth sink in today that if God gave us His best, He is not holding anything back from us today. This is how we know the favour and love of God, so let us not judge and measure it in terms of our circumstances. This also means that if we are called to suffer and carry some of His burdens, it is not a sign that He does not favour us. It is simply a sign that He has given us something to do. The gospel has made it such that we have perpetual favor with God. Is there anything causing you doubt that this is how God really feels about you?
(C) The Exodus: from sight to faith (Exo 12:37-42)
And so, the people finally leave. We’re given the scale of this movement – 600,000 men, not including the women and children (Exo 12:37). There were also people from other nations, as described by the "mixed multitude" (Exo 12:38).
The narrator also gives us an interesting detail. He reminds us of the amount of time the Israelites spent in Egypt (Exo 12:40). Moses tells us that they spent 430 years and this is special because earlier on in Gen 15:13, God had actually told Abraham about the future of Israel and how they will be afflicted for 430 years. This is why Moses kept going back to this. He was trying to tell the Israelites that this was already predicted. God keeps His word! This was also referred to in Acts 7:6, and shows us again and again God’s character.
The Exodus was also described as a "night of watching by the Lord". It is saying this – that the promises of God that are yet unfulfilled are not forgotten. God was watching and He knew everything, In the same way, God’s people should watch and remember His promises too. A 430 year-old promise -- who would remember this? Perhaps the Israelites had forgotten it but God did not. God was waiting for the right time. This is what it means to walk by faith and not by sight. Walking by faith is not a supernatural belief that defies logic. Walking by faith is clinging to God’s promises with all my weakness. God liberated His people from a life of familiarity in Egypt to depending on Him every step of the way. What would a life of “faith” look like for you?
What do we do with this passage on the Exodus? It shows us God's faithfulness, but also demands a response from us.
- Are we going to be the kinds of people that only care about the concerns in our life or will we care about God’s promises?
- Are we serving the Lord, or serving ourselves? Do we only do things for ourselves and based on what we feel? If God’s Word doesn’t shape us, we are slaves to sin.
- Are we always fearful, worried that the worst things will happen? Have you been set free and are you secure in the favour and love of God?
God set His people free from slavery in Egypt in this Exodus narrative. For Christians today, we have also been set free in a greater Exodus. God sent His Son to set us free from the bonds of sin and death. Today, if you are a Christian, we are no longer slaves to sin! Are you still in your sin? Don't be! Live as a freed servant of Christ! Don’t turn back to Egypt. Remember how miserable that was, and run back to Christ, and rest in His favour and blessing for "whom the Son sets free, oh is free indeed"!