Taking things slow and looking at the Bible one verse at a time, one word at a time is incredibly valuable. But just as important is seeing the big picture of each book of the Bible. The goal of this series is to cover the ‘big picture’ meaning of each book of the Bible in 500 words or less.
The book of Exodus is named after one of the most memorable events in the Old Testament, the mass departure of Israel from Egyptian slavery through the power of God. Most of us are familiar with the first half of Exodus, but not so much the second. Taken as a whole, Exodus is a powerful tale of two stories.
Part 1: God delivers Israel from slavery
We start with the familiar. Israel had suffered for hundreds of years as slaves in Egypt. Through all their pain and suffering, however, they were not alone. God knew (Ex. 2:25). God called Moses and sent him to Egypt to lead the Israelites out of slavery, and what followed was the greatest display of God’s power the world had yet seen. Through nine awe and fear inspiring plagues God beat upon the hard heart of Pharaoh. Through it all God’s aim was two fold; to free Israel and to show the Egyptians that he is the Lord (Ex. 7:5). The culmination of God’s deliverance came in the tenth and final plague. Every firstborn in the land of Egypt would die. God would spare Israel, but in order for the wrath of God to pass over them, the blood of a lamb had to be spread over their door posts (Ex. 12). Finally Pharaoh was broken and Israel was free. Though it all God showed his power and he pointed forward his plan to save mankind. Humanity could be free form the curse of death, but it would take the blood of a sacrifice for it happen.
Part 2: God shows Israel that they are slaves to sin
Around chapter 15 the second story of Exodus starts. The Israelites are no longer slaves in Egypt but everything is not right. The people grumble about food and water, and at Mt. Sinai Israel falls short of God’s desire that, “you shall be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Ex. 19:6). And so God makes a covenant with Israel, and for nearly twenty chapters, beginning with the ten commandments, Israel is given the law. It’s not until we come to the New Testament that God’s purpose in giving the law becomes clear. Paul tells us that “The law came in the increase the trespass” (Rom. 5:20). God gave the law to show Israel just how sinful they were. Why? Because the Israelites were still slaves. They weren’t in Egypt, there were no more taskmasters, no more brutal labor, but like everyone else the Israelites were still slaves to sin. The deliverance in the first half of Exodus didn’t provide the ultimate freedom that Israel and the rest of humanity needed. There was a greater enemy than Egypt, an enemy in the heart of every person, and to be delivered from this slavery would take an even greater miracle.