What if you only had the book of Exodus to read from?
What gospel or good news would you find?
If Exodus was a book all by itself, it would be a very strange book. Stranger than it is now for sure. If Exodus was a book, not as part of the Bible, but of itself, it would seem very unorthodox compared to other literature. Think about it. Where would you put Exodus on your book shelf, other than right beside the book of Genesis? Would it be with the Greek mythology, like the Odyssey or the Iliad? Or would it be better suited to sit with the history text books you had to buy for your Intro to Middle Eastern Affairs class? But it could also be a philosophy book, seeing as it is filled with life lessons and unique understandings as to how the world works. So where do you put it?
By itself, a separated book of Exodus doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense. Or maybe it does? The direction and purpose of the book isn’t self evident and only works in the context of the corresponding books, no? I don’t know. I thought so when I sat down to read the book of Exodus. But upon reading it, I found that there were amazing nuggets of truth that needed to be shared. Some were things I was already aware of but didn’t realize they had their origins so far back in the biblical narrative. Others I had never noticed before.
There are more than this, but I noticed three truths in the book of Exodus that can stand on their own feet. Three truths that all believers should know and understand in their hearts. Three life altering realities that Exodus has to share with us, things that we would be able to hold onto if Exodus was the only gospel book we ever read.
1. God is Holy
While God doesn’t really show up for the first few chapters of this book, it is obvious when He does that He is different. He is the “other” to the whole of humanity. He is someone that is unique in the universe. This God stands separate from the people of Israel and Egypt. Holiness is defined as being set apart, and that is who this God is. He is set apart.
Where this God goes, the ground is suddenly holy (Ex. 3.5). His presence, the shine of His holiness, is so pure and good that it could not be seen by even the most righteous of men. For to see this God and all of His holiness, it would kill anyone (Ex. 33.20). God’s holy presence was so fear and awe inspiring that after being freed from four hundred years of slavery and captivity, Israel didn’t want to see or speak to their Savior (Ex. 20.18-21). His presence caused earthquakes and thunderstorms. There was fire and smoke in His wake (Ex. 19.18-19; 20.18). His holiness changes the appearance of man into a more glorious form , too wonderful to look upon(Ex. 34.29-35).
No creature on earth has this power. No being can boast in this might and authority. No individual is so “other”, so unique in who they are. No one but this holy God of Israel.
Who among the gods
is like you, Lord?
Who is like you—
majestic in holiness,
awesome in glory,
Exodus 15.11 NIV
2. Human devotion is fleeting.
With a God like this, so powerful and holy, leading a nation, how could they ever doubt or question the “I AM WHO I AM” (Ex. 3.14)? With a protector that defeated the mighty nation of Egypt, with a provider that opened the Red Sea for Israel to walk through on dry ground(Ex. 13.17-14.31), who would willingly leave the LORD, their warrior, for any other god (Ex. 15.3)?
The answer is Israel, the representation of humanity. Their devotion to this Almighty God lacked any depth. Not three days after the parting of the Red Sea, Israel complains against God and his lack of provision (Ex. 15. 22-27). Not long after that, the children of Israel wish they were back in slavery, under the Egyptians’ rule, because this God had seemingly brought them out to their deaths. They would starve if they didn’t have food, and they assumed that there wasn’t any way of getting some (Ex. 16.1-3). Over and over again, Israel, the example of people in relationship with God, doubted Him and His ability to provide. They complained and whined that they have been forgotten by a God that remembered them (Ex. 2.24-25). They even went so far as to reject Him for a golden facsimile (Ex. 32).
There were those that trusted God and did their very best to have a relationship with Him. But even the best of them, including a man that God talked to like a friend talks with his friend, Moses would abandon God and His way (Ex. 2.11-15, Num. 20.1-13).
This is a sad truth. Even in the face of the Divine, we as humanity will rebel and do whatever selfish thing fills our hearts. We will not remain loyal to the One who Saves but will give our devotion to anyone or anything else in a heart beat.
3. God keeps His Word.
I don’t think that I would respond with kindness when my chosen people rejected me to my face. I wouldn’t handle that well, as I’m sure most people wouldn’t. But this God of Exodus is not like us. He is not thrown off His game by the Israelites’ actions and attitudes. Nor does he go back on what He said He would do. While we might go back on our word as a way of repaying an injustice against us, God doesn’t. In fact, He remains true to His word.
From the beginning of Genesis God had promised that Israel would find a new home in the land of Canaan. God continues that promise in Exodus 3 with an announcement to Moses that it is time for Israel to come home. This is a huge promise and God is moving towards honoring that. This may be the biggest example of God keeping His word, which does span more than the book of Exodus, and it is not the only place this truth can be found.
Standing before the depth of the Red Sea, with the Egyptians in pursuit of their runaway slaves, Israel cries out to God. He replies in a mighty way, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still (Ex. 14.13-14).” Not only does God part the Red Sea but stations an angel between Israel and Egypt to protect them (Ex. 14.19-20). Later God would bring victory to the Israelites over the Amalekite army (Ex. 17.8-16). Time and time again, God provides for the Israelites with food, water and shelter because He said He would (Ex.15.22-17.7).
This God of Exodus keeps His word.
If the Book of Exodus was a book that was totally separate from the rest of the Holy Bible, it would be a strange book for sure. There would be no explaining who these Israelites are or why they were living in Egypt in the first place. That would make it more difficult to read, but there would still be some undeniable truths for any reader to latch onto, that God is holy, that human devotion is fleeting, and God always keeps His word.
Read the Gospel According to Genesis here.
Photo Credit: Reg Rivett