God the Deliverer

Exodus 1-12

February 5, 2006 | Brian Bill

Many years ago a two-month old baby girl was saved after being thrown into a lake in Brazil.  TV footage showed rescuers using a long tree branch to pull a black plastic bag out of the water.  When they opened the bag they found the baby wearing a pink dress.  This is an amazing story of redemption and rescue.  As we come to the Book of Exodus, we will see that rescue and redemption is its primary theme.  Moses, the main character, shared a similar experience with this little girl when he was thrown into the Nile River only to be delivered by the daughter of Pharaoh.  We’ll talk more about this in a moment but first let’s set the context for the book.

Exodus is really the sequel to Genesis and picks up after Joseph and all of his brothers have died.  Incidentally, in the New Testament only the Book of Psalms and Isaiah are referenced more often than Exodus.  Before I go much further I wonder if some of you are experiencing some Old Testament apathy.  Maybe you’re not all that excited about this series because while you’re familiar with the stories they frankly don’t have much to do with your life.  Having said that, I don’t think that describes many of you because I can see the light turning on for many of you.  I sense your eagerness to learn and apply these truths to your life.  Let me remind you that there is great value in studying the Old Testament.  Paul, when surveying all of Scripture, said this in Romans 15:4: “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” 

Are you ready to learn this morning?  Do you need some encouragement?  Need to have your hope restored?  I think you’ll be amazed at how much this section of Scripture has to say to each of us.  Let’s dig in, shall we?  We could say that the first half of Exodus is summarized with the word rescue and the second half of the book, which we will cover next week, is captured by the word response.  And, like we learned last week, God’s presence with Isaac, Jacob and Joseph now continues with Moses in Exodus 3:12: “And God said, ‘I will be with you…’”

All hope seems to be lost because the Israelites are in Egypt but then we read these words in Exodus 1:7: “But the Israelites were fruitful and multiplied greatly and became exceedingly numerous, so that the land was filled with them.”  Over the course of 430 years, God’s people had proliferated, numbering into the millions.  This was really the fulfillment of the first command given in Genesis 1:28: “Be fruitful and increase in number.”  After the flood these words were repeated to Noah in Genesis 9:1: “Be fruitful and increase in number.”  God then came to Abraham in Genesis 17:6 and said, “I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you.”  God had promised Abraham that his descendants would outnumber the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore and this promise was now coming true.

But there’s one problem.  God’s people are enslaved in Egypt; they’re not living in Canaan as conquerors.  They have received the promise of people but the promise of a place has not yet been fulfilled.  Things look pretty bleak when we come to verse 8: “Then a new king, who did not know about Joseph, came to power in Egypt.”  It’s been so long since Joseph was around that this new king could care less about him or his people.  This new guy is threatened by the large number of Israelites and so he decides to deal “shrewdly” with them because he doesn’t want their numbers to grow or for them to turn against him.  He then comes up with a plan and forces them to build two cities, hoping that this hard work will wipe most of them out.  This doesn’t work because verse 12 tells us that the more they were oppressed the more they multiplied and spread, which illustrates that we often grow best when things are the worst for us.  In fact, the church historically has grown the fastest when it faced the most persecution.  Just look at the church in China today.

When this didn’t work Plan B was put into place.  Pharaoh commands the Hebrew midwives, Shiphrah and Puah, to kill all the boy babies when they are born.  This plan failed because they both “feared God,” and did not do what they were told.  This is an amazing display of heroism and courage because the defied the most powerful man in the land.  Ortberg points out that while we don’t know Pharaoh’s name, the names of these wise women are recorded in Scripture for us.  We need to remember them, and to learn from them because they stood up for life.  Notice that a reverence for God leads to reverence for life.

As a result, the people increased in number again.  But now Pharaoh is really riled up and goes to Plan C, ordering that every boy be thrown into the Nile River in verse 22.  While Pharaoh urged the extermination of the Hebrews; God was preparing for their emancipation.  Think about what a precious gift a baby is and then try to picture the Egyptians throwing baby boys into the Nile River.  Hundreds maybe thousands of babies were cast into the Nile.  Out of this unthinkable genocide, one mother places her baby into a waterproof basket.  In an ironic twist, Pharaoh’s daughter finds the baby and raises Moses, whose name means “to draw out.”  Sharon Petersen sent me an email some time ago with two questions: 

  • Who was the greatest financier in the Bible?  Noah.  He was floating his stock while everyone else was in liquidation.  
  • Who was the greatest female financier?  Pharaoh’s daughter; she went down to the bank of the Nile and drew out a little prophet.

The daughter of Pharaoh needs someone to nurse him so Moses’ sister Miriam offers to get a Hebrew woman.  This is an amazing story because she brings her mother and baby Moses ends up back in the arms of his own mom.  On top of that, Pharaoh ends up paying her to raise her own son!  It’s important to note how many women God used to save Moses’ life: Shiphrah and Puah, Pharaoh’s daughter, her maid, Moses’ sister Miriam, his mother Jochebed, and later on his own wife.  

As the adopted son of Pharaoh’s daughter, Moses enjoys all the privileges of education and training and yet was always concerned for his people.  He was literally living in two worlds.  In Exodus 2:11-12, we read that Moses went out and watched how the Israelites were being mistreated by the Egyptians.  When he saw a fellow Hebrew being beaten, he looked “this way and that, and seeing no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.”  Notice that he looked to the left and the right but he didn’t look up.  This shows that he took things into his own hands without consulting God.  We often do the same thing when we look around but struggle to look up.  Some of you may think that if no one sees what you’re doing, that you’re OK.  Moses will find out that it doesn’t work that way.

Word of what Moses did hits the street and Pharaoh tries to kill him.  So Moses runs for his life and ends up living with the Midianites, where he marries his wife Zipporah and has a son named Gershom, which means “banishment.”  This is a tough time for Moses because he feels separated from his people and thinks he will spend the rest of his life as a shepherd.  But God is at work, as He always is.  Look at Exodus 2:23-25: “During that long period, the king of Egypt died.  The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God.  God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob. So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them.”

After tending sheep for about 40 years, God shows up in an unexpected way in an unexpected place.  While he’s on the “far side” of the desert, moping around on a mountain he saw a bush that was on fire and did not burn up.  He decided to go over and take a closer look.  When he got to the bush, verse 4 says that God called out, “Moses!  Moses!”  Moses replied, “Here I am.”  God then told him to come no closer and to kick off his sandals because the place where he was standing was “holy ground.”  Moses not only unlaced his sandals; he also covered up his face “because he was afraid to look at God.”  

God is holy and He is also very personal.  Look at verses 7-8: “The LORD [Yahweh] said, ‘I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt.  I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering.  So I have come down to rescue them…and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land…’”  Aren’t you glad that God sees our suffering and is moved by our misery?  As God hears the cries of His people He is not only concerned; He comes down.  And He comes down in order to bring them up.  And He brings them up so that He can bring them into the Promised Land.  Moses might have been thinking, “Go for it, God!  Right on!  It’s about time!”  But then he hears God say that He is planning to mobilize Moses for the rescue effort in verse 10: “So now, go.  I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”

In verse 11, Moses tries to bail on this assignment, claiming that he is “a nobody.”  He feels incapable and unworthy.  In the next chapter, Moses tells God that he is not eloquent enough to speak to Pharaoh (Exodus 4:10).  God responds in verse 12: “I will be with you.”  Moses was mortified by what he was being asked to do but God wanted him to know that He would be with him.  Then Moses describes the absurdity of this request by conjecturing in verse 13: “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is His name?’  Then what shall I tell them?”  Moses is wondering out loud why God’s people would listen to him so he’s asking God to reveal himself in a way that He had never done before.  

All he tells Moses is that He is who He is.  Look at verse 14: “God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM.’  This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”  These words can be rendered, “I will be what I will be.”  This name is from the Hebrew verb, “to be” and the four Hebrew consonants form the word Yahweh.  The one who has preexistence is also personally present with us.  He has existed in eternity past and He is present in the present.   The name Yahweh is used almost seven thousand times in the Old Testament and was so revered by the Jewish people that they wouldn’t even pronounce it.

Moses isn’t convinced that he will have any success when he appears before Pharaoh and he also doubts whether the Israelites will listen to him. God then gives Moses a couple signs.  He’s told first to throw his staff on the ground and as soon as he does, it turns into a snake.  Moses tries to run from it but God tells him to pick it up by its tail.  This doesn’t make much sense because the safest way to pick up a snake is right behind the head.  It’s as if God is saying to Moses: “You’re going to have some tough tasks in front of you and you’ll be faced with danger so you might as well start now by picking up the snake by its tail.”  Incidentally, this image should bring us back to Genesis 3:15 where we read that the serpent will ultimately be crushed by the offspring of Eve.  This was also significant because the Pharaohs wore a metal cobra around their neck.  When Moses grabbed the snake by the tail the Israelites would have been encouraged that Moses had authority to stand against Satan and Pharaoh.

The second sign had to do with a leprous hand which represented God’s power to bring the Israelites out of a defiling environment and heal them.  Moses’ hand was the symbol of his strength.  The third sign was turning water into blood which provided assurance that God would humiliate the Egyptians.  The Nile River was worshiped by the Egyptians and by this demonstration the people should have known that God had given Moses power over all the Egyptian gods.

These amazing signs should have given Moses courage and confidence.  Instead, he became afraid and claimed that he was too inadequate for the task.  He claimed he wasn’t a good speaker but his real issue was that he did not want to obey in Exodus 4:13: “O Lord, please send someone else to do it.”  We’re the same way, aren’t we?  God demonstrates his faithfulness to us, displays His power, and comforts us with His presence, and we say: “Count me out.  Get someone else to do it.”  God won’t take no for an answer and Moses eventually submits to his calling.  God then tells him that he will have to face Pharaoh.  Moses and Aaron then call a meeting with the Elders to tell them everything God had said.  Moses then demonstrates the three miracles before the people and the Bible says that they believed.  I love verse 31: “And when they heard that the Lord was concerned about them and had seen their misery, they bowed down and worshiped.”

Feeling pretty brave now, Moses boldly approaches the most powerful man in the world and says in Exodus 5:1: “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel says: ‘Let my people go, so that they may hold a festival to me in the desert.’”  Pharaoh does not want to see his labor force leave and so he tells them to get back to work.  On top of that, he tells Moses and Aaron that he doesn’t know the Lord and he could care less what He says.  Instead of letting the people go, Pharaoh decides to make them work even harder.  Now they had to go and gather their own straw for the bricks they were making and were still required to make the same quota.  After being beaten because they couldn’t keep up, the Hebrew foremen first complained to Pharaoh and then they came after Moses and Aaron, saying in verse 21: “May the Lord look upon you and judge you!”  

With God there is always hope

Moses then complains to God, who reminds him of His covenant.  When Moses goes back to the people with this message of encouragement, Exodus 6:9 says that they did not listen to him “because of their discouragement and cruel bondage.”  Discouragement can crush a human spirit and I’ve noticed that when people are feeling down they often don’t want to hear what God has to say.  This is unfortunate because it’s only God who can lift us out of despair and free us from the bondage we may be under.  If you’re bummed out right now, don’t let discouragement have the last word.  With God there is always hope.  If you’re feeling strong right now look around and be a blessing to someone who’s feeling blah.  As we will see, whatever deliverance you need, God always has the solution.

I like what D.L. Moody once said about Moses: “He spent forty years in Pharaoh’s court thinking he was somebody; forty years in the desert learning he was nobody; and forty years showing what God can do with somebody who found out he was a nobody.”  God now unleashes a series of ten plagues on Pharaoh and Egypt.  They come one right after another: blood, frogs, gnats, flies, livestock dying, boils, hail, locusts, darkness, and finally the death of the firstborn.  

A pattern develops with Pharaoh: the plague hits hard, he repents and asks for deliverance, and then his heart becomes hard again.  In Exodus 9:27-28 we see an interesting dynamic of the way deception works.  After the plague of the hail, Pharaoh seems to genuinely confess his sins: “This time I have sinned…The LORD is in the right, and I and my people are in the wrong. Pray to the LORD, for we have had enough thunder and hail.  I will let you go; you don’t have to stay any longer.”  This seems real because he admits that he has sinned, that God is right, and he even promises to change his behavior by promising to let the people go.  What’s happening here?  When the pain is too much to bear, he admits that he’s a sinner and that he will change.  But, when the pain goes away, his repentance evaporates too.  In verse 34, Moses prays, and God stops the hail.  And then we read these words: “When Pharaoh saw that the rain and hail and thunder had stopped, he sinned again: He and his officials hardened their hearts.”  

When life is falling apart, we cry out to the Lord for help; when life is good, we forget about God

Some of us do this as well.  When things are tough, we come back to church; when things are better we sleep in.  When life is falling apart, we cry out to the Lord for help; when life is good, we forget about God.  Pharaoh didn’t really repent; he was just doing pain control.  Here’s a good question for each of us to ask: “Am I repenting right now or am I just trying to do pain control with God?”  Ortberg writes: “If we see that our repentance is just a way to get quick relief but we have no intention of changing our behavior or attitudes, we are not truly repentant.”

The tenth and final plague is the most devastating of all.  God tells Moses that after this plague, Pharaoh would finally let them go.  In the meantime the Israelites are to ask for articles of silver and gold, which the Egyptians are happy to give them.  Then we read these words in Exodus 11:4-7: “This is what the LORD says: ‘About midnight I will go throughout Egypt.  Every firstborn son in Egypt will die, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh, who sits on the throne, to the firstborn son of the slave girl, who is at her hand mill, and all the firstborn of the cattle as well.  There will be loud wailing throughout Egypt — worse than there has ever been or ever will be again.  But among the Israelites not a dog will bark at any man or animal.’  Then you will know that the LORD makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel.”

Chapter 12 gives us some of the specifics related to the Passover Lamb.  Speaking prophetically, in Isaiah 53:7 we read that Jesus was “led like a lamb to the slaughter.”   It was John the Baptist who said of Jesus in John 1:29: “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”  This title of Jesus as the Lamb also appears no less than 31 times in the Book of Revelation.  Let’s walk through these details in order to draw some parallels to Jesus as the Lamb of God.  

  1. Calendar changes.  In verse 2 we read that this month is now going to be the first month of the year.  Likewise, our entire calendar system corresponds to B.C. (Before Christ) and A.D. (In the year of the Lord).
  2. Everyone is under judgment.  Everyone, from the richest to the poorest, deserves God’s judgment.  Remember, it is only the blood that caused the Angel of Death to “pass-over” the people.  That means that even the Hebrews would have had their first-born killed if they had not sprinkled the blood over the door of their house.  Quoting the Old Testament, Paul makes this statement in Romans 3:10: “There is no one righteous; not even one.”
  3. Everyone needs a lamb.  In verse 3, every family needed to have a lamb and every family today needs to know about the Lamb.
  4. The lamb must be shared.  According to verse 4, a smaller household was to look for ways to share the lamb with their nearest neighbor.  In the same way, we must share the Savior with those around us.
  5. The lamb must be a one-year-old male.  Verse 5 specifies that the lamb must be in the prime of its life, not too young or too old.  We know that Jesus was crucified in the prime of his life at the age of 33.
  6. The lamb must be without defect.  Verse 5 also makes it clear that the lamb must be perfect, without spot or blemish.  In order to serve as a substitute, the lamb could have not defects.  In 1 Peter 1:19, we’re told that we’ve been redeemed “with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.” Nothing but a perfect sacrifice could satisfy the requirements of God.  Think about this.  God spared their sons but He wouldn’t spare His own Son.
  7. The lamb must live with them first.  Verse 6 gives an interesting requirement: “take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month.”  God wanted them to get to know the lamb, to bond with it, and identify with it, even though it was singled out for death.  When it was no longer just a lamb but their lamb, it was time to sacrifice it.  Jesus lived among us as well but only so He could die for us.
  8. The lamb must be slaughtered.  Verse 6 adds that the lamb must be killed by the community.  In order for redemption to take place, death must happen.  Jesus was killed by an entire community as well.
  9. The lamb was to be killed at twilight.  Verse 6 ends with the phrase: “slaughter them at twilight.”  Commentator Albert Barnes sheds some insight here: “The Hebrew has ‘between the two evenings.’  The most probable explanation is that it includes the time from afternoon until sunset…The slaying of the lamb thus coincides exactly with the death of our Savior, at the ninth hour of the day (Matthew 27:46).”
  10. The blood must be applied.  Don’t miss the importance of verse 7.  The Lamb’s blood was shed when it was slaughtered but it didn’t provide redemption until it was personally applied to the doorframes.  Friends, Jesus died for you but it won’t do you any good until it is activated in your life.  A.W. Pink suggests that the slaying of the lamb looks at the God-ward side of the Cross while the sprinkling of the blood tells of faith’s application.  Propitiation took place when Jesus died but expiation doesn’t happen until it is applied to your heart.
  11. They were to eat the meat, the bitter herbs, and the unleavened bread.  They needed to taste the sacrifice and their sins.  God never wanted his people to forget the bitterness of their bondage in Egypt.  Likewise, we must see how repugnant our sins are to a holy God.
  12. This was to be done in one night.  In verse 10 we learn that they were not to “leave any of it till morning.”  Redemption has been accomplished.  There’s nothing more that needs to be done.  The sacrifice has been completed and therefore it does not need to be done again.  His death has been accepted as full payment for our sins.  There is no need for Jesus to be sacrificed over and over, like is done in some churches.  Hebrews 7:27 is very clear when speaking about Jesus: “Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people.  He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself.”
  13. This was the Lord’s Passover.  Verse 11 reminds us that this was God’s plan.  It was His idea to have the blood of a perfect and innocent lamb cover the sins of people so that their punishment could be passed over.
  14. They were to eat in haste.  I was always told to slow down when I ate as a boy but here God tells them to eat on the run.  Once they are redeemed, they are released.  Likewise, if you’ve been born again, God wants you to run the race with endurance, being ready at all times to follow Him, as you remember that your real home is in heaven (Philippians 3:20).  Related to this, we must live in light of the imminent return of Christ and be ready at all times for his appearing.  Too many of us are sitting when we should be sprinting.
  15. This was to be a lasting ordinance.  Verse 14 tells us that this festival was to be commemorated for generations to come so that the people would never forget.  Verse 26 gives instructions to parents to make sure that their children know about the importance of the applied blood and what the Passover sacrifice really means.  

In a similar way, we are given a couple lasting ordinances today.  One is called baptism, where we publicly declare that we are now identified with Immanuel.  It’s a picture of what it means to be rescued, redeemed and reborn.  If you are a believer and have not followed the Lord in baptism I urge you to do so. 

The other ordinance is called Communion.  We’re not going to have roast lamb this morning, but I do want to draw your attention to three symbols that we are going to taste.  In the Bible, eating signifies two things: appropriation and fellowship.  By eating we’re saying that we have received redemption and by consuming together we’re declaring that we are in community with one another and with the Lord.

  • Bitter herbs.  Bitter herbs symbolized the bitterness of bondage and the unpleasantness of a little lamb serving as our sin substitute.  These herbs were eaten intermittently during the meal, bringing a tear to the eye as a way to remind the redeemed of how repulsive bondage really is.  The Israelites would often use horseradish but for our purposes I’d like you to take a bite of the bitter herb that will be passed down each row.  When you take one and start chewing remind yourself of how repugnant your sins are to a holy God

Distribute Bitter Herbs

  • Unleavened bread.  Bread without yeast is a picture of a life free from sin.  In the Bible, leaven always symbolizes evil.  1 Corinthians 5:7: “Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast-as you really are.”  Take some time right now to confess any sins that have been piling up and repent for real, not like Pharaoh did.  When we had the Seder presentation here last Good Friday, I remember the presenter pointing out that the Matzo bread that is used is pierced and striped, which makes us recall what Jesus went through for us.  In John 6:35, Jesus declares that He is the Bread of Life.  

Remember that the last supper was really a Passover meal that Jesus celebrated with his disciples.  After eating a roasted lamb, they would have eaten some unleavened bread.   In 1 Corinthians 5:7, Paul says these words: “For Christ, our Passover lamb has been sacrificed.”  Keeping with the Passover tradition, Jesus would have followed the customs that they were accustomed to but then he surprised them when He held up the unleavened bread and said in Matthew 26:26: “Take and eat; this is my body.”

Distribute the Bread

  • Grape Juice.  We use grape juice instead of wine but this represents the blood of Jesus.  As we learned a couple weeks ago, covenants are sealed through blood.  Through His death, Jesus ushers in the New Covenant in His blood.  His blood has been shed.  Have you applied it to your life?

Jesus would have held up four different cups that night, each representing one of the “I will” phrases from Exodus 6:6-7

  1. “I will bring you out” (Cup of Sanctification).
  2. “I will free you from being slaves” (Cup of Plagues).  As a way to help remember the ten plagues, ten drops of wine were poured on a plate during the meal.
  3. “I will you redeem you with an outstretched hand” (Cup of Redemption).
  4. “I will take you as my own people and I will be your God” (Cup of Gathering).

It was after the third cup, the cup of redemption that Jesus said in Matthew 26:27-28: “Drink from it, all of you.  This is the blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”  Beth Moore believes that this is also the symbolic cup to which Christ referred only an hour or so later in the Garden when He asked God to “take this cup from me” (Luke 22:42).  This was a cup He could partake only with outstretched arms upon the cross.

Do you have any thoughts or questions about this post?