15. Redeeming Israel – the Exodus

PART THREE: Redeeming Israel

Reaching into Redemption Meditations: 15. Redeeming Israel – the Exodus

2 Sam 7:23,23 And who is like your people Israel—the one nation on earth that God went out to redeem as a people for himself, and to make a name for himself, and to perform great and awesome wonders by driving out nations and their gods from before your people, whom you redeemed from Egypt? You have established your people Israel as your very own forever, and you, Lord, have become their God

 Redemption and the Exodus: We are going to step back from considering individuals for a moment – we will pick up on individuals in the New Testament again later – so that we can see the big view of redemption in the Old Testament, specifically in the life of the whole nation of Israel. The verses above, about the Exodus, were spoken by King David in prayer and they show us that this idea was well established in the history of Israel. After the Exodus, Moses and Israel sang a song of victory in which we find, “In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed.” (Ex 15:13) in that they were following the terminology used by the Lord Himself before it all happened: Therefore, say to the Israelites: ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment.” (Ex 6:6)

Wider Application: Now normally when preachers speak about redeeming they focus on a price to be paid, which is natural when we consider Jesus dying for us on the Cross, but the greatest strength of this word is to do with ‘delivering out of’, so when the apostle Paul in the New Testament says, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law,” (Gal 3:13) he is using the word in the same way as it was used in the Exodus, to bring us out from living under the shadow of the curse that comes with failure to keep the Law. We have been delivered from that life. Using the Lord’s language in Ex 6, we might say, “Christ freed us from a life of slavery to guilt and shame in trying to keep all the Law and failing.”

Deliverance and Process: Now one of the points I have been seeking to make again and again in these studies so far, is that redemption is not only about the initial act of delivering out of the old bad way but is also about the ongoing process whereby God is working in our lives to make sure we stay delivered. For us as Christians, once we have been redeemed by Christ’s death applied to our lives at conversion, there is this ongoing work of the Lord to ensure the work continues.

The Lifeboat Illustration: Now I know I have used this illustration more than once over the years – and I don’t know where it originated – but I think the lifeboat story is possibly the best illustration of this I have ever encountered.  A ship is foundering out at sea. A lifeboat goes out to it and the passengers are transferred into the lifeboat. They are redeemed. Now the lifeboat turns away and makes the long journey back to the land. They are being redeemed. When they get to the shore they get off the lifeboat and are secure on the land. They are well and truly redeemed. Christ is the lifeboat. We are the passengers. The ship is our ‘old life’. When we get off it into the lifeboat we are now ‘in Christ’ and the journey back to land is our present life. The shore is heaven. We were redeemed, we are being redeemed and we will be well and truly redeemed.

The Deliverance from Egypt: The Exodus should have had three elements. What we tend to focus on and call ‘The Exodus’, the deliverance out of slavery, out of Egypt, was part one. Part two should have been of a few months duration, the travelling through the desert in the presence of the Lord, with Him providing for them as they travelled, culminating in them entering into the Promised Land (part three). Of course we know that part two was extended to forty years because Israel refused to enter the Land under the Lord’s guiding and so stayed in the desert until everyone over the age of twenty at that time, eventually died off and only the younger generation and subsequent generations growing up under them, were then free to go in and take the Land under Joshua.

The Deliverance from the Desert: Now I think many of us are so familiar with this story that we fail to see that what I have just described was God’s act of mercy in redeeming Israel.  How we take for granted these events but consider an alternative scenario: when Israel rebelled and grumbled, as they did a number of times on the journey from Egypt to Mount Sinai, the Lord could have wiped out a portion of them as a short sharp shock to bring them round, but instead, in that period, we find He is most lenient with them. It is like He treats them as an immature child who has yet to learn.

Sinai to the Land: At Mount Sinai they have amazing revelations of Him and yet even while they are still there, they rebel over the matter of the golden calf, but only those who appear to have been involved with it die, a very small percentage of the population. On the journey from Sinai, the level of discipline is higher; they have had revelation should know better. When they get to the border of the Promised Land they have had opportunity after opportunity to learn and to trust the Lord and so when they rebel, God could have wiped them all out with the exception of one or two faithful families perhaps. After all that was what the Lord had offered Moses on Sinai: my anger shall blaze out against them and destroy them all; and I will make you, Moses, into a great nation instead of them,” (Ex 32:10) yet Moses had realised that that was not what was really on God’s heart and spoke against that happening. But it could have if God were not a God of mercy and grace.

The Discipline of the Forty Years: So why did God allow forty years to pass, forty years in which only very slowly, by natural causes, the people over the age of twenty at the time of the Exodus died? The answer has got to be because the Lord works on the long-term redemption of Israel and that means preserving a remnant who will continue the name and continue the culture. That generation under twenty, and all those born in that forty-year period in the desert, would never forget the fundamentals of what is happening here, that the God with whom they are now related, is holy and requires obedience. The forty years is less for those who died and more for those who survived; they have to learn because they still have the taking of the Land in front of them.

Further Redemption: But can we see this, that the Lord’s intent is to redeem Israel from themselves!!!!! They are in a learning process, they have to grow up and mature, they have to change. He has redeemed them from Egypt and now He has to get Egypt out of them.  And here’s the thing, that is exactly as it is with us. He redeems us from our old life but now He is redeeming us and getting our old life out of us. When we are born again – with a new identity, cleansed from the past and forgiven, and empowered by the Holy Spirit, the past should have gone but when you look at some of the teaching of the New Testament, you realize it is an ongoing process.

Examples: Consider some of the teaching from the apostles. Paul’s teaching in Rom 6 is about the change we are to consider that has taken place in our life when we came to Christ, but he still instructs, Do not let sin control your puny body any longer; do not give in to its sinful desires.” (6:12) i.e. he recognizes that we still battle with sin, a hangover from the old life if you like. When he says, “do not” (twice) he is calling on us to make acts of the will to overcome the old tendency that lurks in the background.  Similarly the apostle John in his first letter says, “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.” (1 Jn 2:1) i.e. he too recognizes that we have a battle with sin and sometimes can fail. When the apostle Paul writes, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God, (Phil 4:6) by the very fact that he is writing this, he is acknowledging that sometimes life is tough, and we will give way to anxiety, and so he gives us the pathway to overcome it. Each of these three illustrations show us that life is an ongoing battle that we overcome with the grace of God, the help of Jesus at the Father’s right hand, ruling in heaven, and the Holy Spirit indwelling us.

Jesus’ Example: Now we have just said that this phase of our redemption is a process of change and so often we say that it is to change more into the likeness of Jesus. As the NLT says, the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.” (2 Cor 3:18) But perhaps we wonder, if Israel was being taught to trust the Lord more, and we are being taught to be transformed into Jesus’ likeness, how does that work? Well, let’s take three simple examples of things that go on in this process of change, where God seeks to ensure we are able to keep on and fully walk out our lives as His children, growing in grace. Remember, Jesus our example.

Learning to resist the enemy with God’s word and God’s presence: See Jesus being tempted. How does he overcome the enemy? With knowing God’s will through God’s word. What is the apostolic teaching: “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (Jas 4:7) That’s the order: draw near to the Lord and then you can resist the enemy in such measure that he will flee.

Learning to trust without seeing: Realise the basis of discipleship. Fairly recently I imagined a conversation between Jesus and one of his disciples when he first called him: Hi, I’m Jesus. Yes, I know, I’ve heard about you.  OK, well now I want you to leave what you’re doing and follow me. How long for? As long as I have to train you to carry on doing what I do. How long will that take? Come along and see. What will we be doing? I’ll show you when you follow me. How will we do it? I’ll show you when you follow me.   Do you see the point? It is when we have once started following Jesus that he will then show us the way. As the apostle Paul said, “we live by faith, not by sight.” (2 Cor 5:7)

Learning to do what Jesus did: Jesus’ teaching is scary: I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing.” (Jn 14:12) Now before you panic (“I don’t know how to cast out demons or raise the dead!!!!”) remember that we said this is a process, learning takes time and God knows how fast you can learn and won’t put you into circumstances beyond that which you can cope with, using His grace.

Redemption again: So there it is. Redemption is not only the original deliverance, it is also the ongoing process of change. The scary thing about the picture of Israel in the desert is that it shows us it is possible to resist God and you can stay there and fail to enter into the wonder of all the Lord has for you (the Promised Land = the kingdom of God?) which is why the writer to the Hebrews gave such a strong warning (Heb 3:7-19), warning against hardheartedness (v.8), holding on faithfully to the end (v.14), resisting disobedience (v.18) and unbelief (v.19).  Challenging and encouraging.

9. Confidence

Short Meditations in Philippians: 9. Confidence

Phil 1:19b   what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance and make me dwell in safety.

So here is Paul in prison writing to the saints in Philippi and, speaking about his own circumstances, declares he is able to rejoice, both in the circumstances because of the things that are happening while he is still in them, but also because he is sure he is going to be delivered out of them.

Let’s try and apply this to our own circumstances which are not always, it seems, truly glorious! Hold these two things from above. Are we able to rejoice both IN them and also because we have an assurance that we will be delivered OUT of them?

What is the key to these two things? I believe it is a sure confidence in who God is.  In my studies over the last few years, I am absolutely sure that the Bible declares three things about God. First, He is love. Second, He is good. Third, He is perfect (meaning He cannot be improved upon). Now these three characteristics apply to everything God thinks, says or does. Now having said those three things I have to admit there are times in my life when I may struggle to reconcile what is happening to me with these three things, but I have concluded that they ARE true; it is just that for the moment I cannot see how my present circumstances are going to work for good – mine or others, and it may be that these circumstances are going to work for the good of others as well as for me (somehow they WILL always work for MY good). It may take a time to see this – and that may be months or years  even – but it will eventually come through.

Now the more we experience this sort of thing and see that this is God’s intent, the more, when the next set of trying circumstances come along, we can declare by faith what we have learned previously: God will bring good IN this and He will deliver me OUT of it.

Now these sorts of things are real trials of faith. When you cannot see the way ahead, when it seems impossible for any change to come or any good to occur, it is a real declaration of faith to be able to say, “I don’t understand how this can bring good or can change, but knowing the Lord, I KNOW He will bring good in it and He will deliver me out of it.  Now don’t try and out-guess God. Don’t try and work out how God will do it, because in an impossible situation only HE can do it. When wine runs out at a wedding, only He can turn water into wine. When too many ‘guests’ turn up, only He can extend the limited resources to feed them all. When a blind person asks for sight, only He can bring it. When death confronts you, only He can bring resurrection. Jesus proved it. He is the grounds of our assurance.

14. God of Reassurance

Lessons from Israel: No.14 : God of Reassurance

Ex 6:6-8 “Therefore, say to the Israelites: ‘I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. 7I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. 8And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a possession. I am the LORD.’ “

In the previous meditation we focused on the fact of Moses’ surprise when Pharaoh refused him, despite the fact that the Lord had warned him exactly what would happen. Clearly Moses had not fully taken in what the Lord had told him and so now he is crying out: “Moses returned to the LORD and said, “O Lord, why have you brought trouble upon this people? Is this why you sent me? Ever since I went to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has brought trouble upon this people, and you have not rescued your people at all.” (Ex 5;22,23) Now if it had been us in God’s place I’m sure we would have rebuked Moses for being so slow witted, but the Lord doesn’t do that. Instead He reassures Moses in a variety of ways.

First of all He simply reiterates what He has said previously and implies that it is going to happen soon: “Then the LORD said to Moses, “Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh: Because of my mighty hand he will let them go; because of my mighty hand he will drive them out of his country.” (Ex 6:1) i.e. my plan has not changed since I first stated it to you. I observe that when the Lord brings an important prophecy to someone He usually brings it to them two or three times. He knows we need this continual reassurance.

But then the Lord identifies Himself again to Moses or, if you like, reassures Moses that He is up to the job! “God also said to Moses, “I am the LORD. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob as God Almighty.” (Ex 6;2,3) i.e. remember what I did for your ancestors and realise what I can do for you. But He goes further: “but by my name the LORD I did not make myself known to them. I also established my covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan, where they lived as aliens. Moreover, I have heard the groaning of the Israelites, whom the Egyptians are enslaving, and I have remembered my covenant.” (Ex 6:3-5) i.e. I Have revealed more of myself to you. I am the Eternal One, but I’m also the One who intervenes in history and because of what I have promised in the past, I will act now.

It is because of this that our verses above start with a ‘Therefore’. Because of the past I WILL do what I have said! Look at the things He says He WILL do:

  • I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. (v.6)
  • I will free you from being slaves to them,
  • I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment.
  • I will take you as my own people, (v.7)
  • I will be your God
  • I will bring you to the land I swore… to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob (v.8)
  • I will give it to you as a possession.

The first three are about deliverance and the next two are about an ongoing relationship with the Lord. The Lord doesn’t just deliver. Salvation comes through a relationship with Him. We aren’t called to stand on our own. The final two are about the inheritance that was to be their, the new land. Similarly the Lord doesn’t just deliver us out of the old life but He gives us a positive new life to live, to enter into.

But also in these verses three times He declares His authority for doing this: “I am the LORD” (v.6), “you will know that I am the LORD,” (v.7) and “I am the LORD.” (v.8). Each time He is saying, “I am the Eternal One” and (implied) because I am, I can do these things. That is enough for Moses and so he goes back to his leaders to pass on what the Lord has said. Note that the Lord doesn’t argue with Him or try to persuade him in any further way. The Lord has reiterated His plan, He had spelled it out again, and He has declared His authority and that should be sufficient. Moses senses that and argues no more at this point. He has questions further along the way but for the moment that is enough.

When it comes to our own lives we can keep on making excuses but actually God has said sufficient in His word to get us going. We shouldn’t need constant reiterating of what is already there and the fact that we so often do is a reflection on us and not the Lord.

4. God of Partnership

Lessons from Israel: No.4 : God of Partnership
Ex 3:9,10 9And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. 10So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.    11But Moses said to God, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” 12And God said, “I will be with you.

We are in this series, we said, looking at the lessons to be learnt from God’s dealings with Israel, going right back to Moses, and we have been seeing the initiating of contact by God, the Lord revealing Himself as the God of history who had had dealings with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob previously, and who was here now for Israel who were suffering in captivity in Egypt.

Now the previous meditation and this one are very closely linked. We saw in the previous one that the Lord sees all that happens on the earth and is moved to come to bring deliverance. Now we see HOW he will bring that deliverance. I think so far, Moses would be feeling first amazed at this experience, then in awe at the recognition of who it is who is speaking to him and then possibly very glad that God intended to come and deliver his people, the people he left forty years ago, out of the slavery in Egypt.  So far, so good! Indeed when the Lord reiterates what has happened, it’s still all right: “And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them.” (v.9). Yes, the Lord sees and knows, so it’s going to be all right now!

But then the bomb falls: “So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.” (v.10) What? Hold on! Hang about! I didn’t see that coming! Where did that come from?  Those are the various responses we might give today. Moses is not excited by this thought; in fact he thinks it’s definitely not a good idea: “But Moses said to God, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” (v.11) Moses is a smart guy. He’s been doing the maths on this in his head. Pharaoh, big powerful world leader, me, small insignificant shepherd. Power plus insignificance doesn’t work.  Well no, it doesn’t, but God’s going to balance up the equation: “And God said, “I will be with you.” (v.12). Pharaoh versus an insignificant shepherd = disaster (for Moses!). Pharaoh versus the insignificant shepherd + God = disaster (for Pharaoh!).

Now that is a completely different ball game – except Moses isn’t convinced yet, as we’ll see in the next mediation, because he really doesn’t yet know this One who is speaking to him out of a burning bush. He really doesn’t know if he can trust this voice and it’s all very well for that power to have been there centuries before to enable old Abraham to have a baby, but is that power big enough to deal with a seriously nasty ruler? It’s probable that those were the sort of things going round in Moses’ mind, because they are the sort of things that go round in ours, and Moses was no different from us.

So now we come to the crucial question that must be lurking in the back of any thinking mind: why does God want to bother to involve Moses? Why doesn’t God just get on and judge Pharaoh and just take Israel without asking? He’s got the power, so why not do it the easy way? Why involve an insignificant shepherd?

I suspect the answer is to do with communication and visibility. Communication is the fuel for relationships and the Lord is always looking to build relationships with the human beings that He has created. Love always wants to express itself and God wants to express Himself to whoever will listen, come near and get involved. He’s got Moses’ ear but perhaps Pharaoh would not be able to hear God, because he was so self-centred. By visibility, I mean God making Himself known. By the end of this whole episode in history we are going to have learnt a lot about God. The Bible is all about God communicating with people and revealing Himself to people by the way He acts. By the end of all this there is going to be a story to be told – a long story and a story that will get passed on and on, and every time it does, someone else is going to learn some significant stuff about God. So God is going to use an insignificant shepherd to bring the most powerful ruler around to his knees. oh yes, this is going to be a story worth telling – apart from what it is going it achieve, this is going to be important. Do you remember what Paul said? “But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.” (1 Cor 1:27)

In the New Testament, Paul refers to us as “God’s fellow workers.” (2 Cor 6:1) Today God continues to work alongside us, using US to bring about His purposes on the earth. Yes, He could do it all on His own but He chooses to reveal Himself through His people. Remember though, whenever He calls you to do anything, He doesn’t ask you to do it alone. The message is still the same: “I will be with you.” His power and presence is always with us. Indeed He’s said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” (Heb 13:5) which evokes the response, “So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.” (Heb 13:6) Let’s remember that.

God who Delivers

God in the Psalms No.4 

Psa 3:8 From the LORD comes deliverance.

So we have seen previously that the Lord reigns from heaven, and that He sees and acts, and the things He does affect us here and now. In fact David was able to say that God was a shield to him, as He came and stood between David and those who would harm him. Thus God was not ‘out there’ but ‘down here’ right now.

Now, at the end of that same psalm comes this claim, that from the LORD comes deliverance. This phrase is worth pondering upon because it is an extension of what we considered in the previous meditation. God doesn’t stand outside our affairs when people rise against us, but He stands between them and us. But He doesn’t just stand there, maintaining the situation as it was, He changes it, and He delivers us.

Do you remember the story of David and Goliath? When David came to his brothers at the battlefront, he found the two armies in a place of stalemate, or of stand-off. For forty days Goliath came out and taunted the Israelites and nothing happened (1 Sam 17:16). It needed someone to DO something, to change the situation, to deliver Israel from this place. You sometimes see it in a playground at school, two groups of children challenging each other, but no one actually wanting to provoke the situation further because they are unsure of the outcome. That’s what happens to us sometimes. Something happens and a bad situation forms. We want to do something about it but we don’t know how. We’d love to break through to change the thing but we feel powerless. We need delivering out of this situation, and that’s what the Lord does.

Paul conveyed the same sense in his letter to the Colossians: he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son (Col 1:13). We had been in darkness but God came and lifted us up and transferred – or delivered – us from that into a place of great light; in other words into Jesus’ kingdom.

The thing about deliverance, is that it is something we couldn’t do ourselves. Israel couldn’t get themselves out of slavery in Egypt (Ex 1:11 -14). Only God could do it – I have come down to rescue them (Ex 3:8). Peter couldn’t get himself out of prison (Acts 12:5) but as the church prayed, an angel from God came and rescued him (Acts 12:11). This is deliverance, being rescued from a bad place that you cannot get free from on your own, God stepping in and taking you out.

We couldn’t get free from sin (Rom 7:24) but Jesus came and, by his work on the Cross and by the power of his Spirit, he set us free (Rom 8:2). We couldn’t do it but he did. As Paul put it when writing to the Ephesians, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions (Eph 2:4,5). Paul says it was like we were dead (spiritually at least) when we lived self-centred lives, doing wrong. We were powerless to change that, but God came and delivered us by making us alive with Christ by the power of his Spirit, released in us simply because we accepted what Jesus had done for us.

Believing didn’t suddenly make us capable of change (like self-help courses suggest), but believing opened the door for God to come by His Spirit and empower us so that we were no longer spiritually dead, and we now had His power to live as His children (Jn 1:12). David knew that God, who was his shield, was also his deliverer. Deliverance is God’s business because He knows that we are incapable of delivering ourselves. Have you reached this same glorious conclusion?   Have you known this wonderful deliverance?