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Jesus saved a people out of Egypt – The Story of Exodus [Repost]

Jesus... saved a people out of the land of Egypt. (Jude 5)

That's Exodus in 10 words.

Let me give a more expanded but less inspired version.  I will focus on the who of Exodus rather than the what.  My attention will not be on Moses or Pharoah or the plagues or the Red Sea or the law or the tabernacle - that can be for another time.  I happen to think there's a more fundamental issue to tackle: Who is the LORD who redeems Israel?  Given that this is precisely how the God of the Old Testament defines Himself  - 'the LORD who brought you up out of Egypt' - getting this question right will be absolutely crucial.

We begin at the non-burning bush - Exodus 3.

burning bush

Here the Angel of the LORD (v2) confronts Moses. This Sent One from the LORD is "the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob" (v6).  (Note that Jacob agrees - the God of His fathers is the Angel: Gen 48:15f).  The Sent One calls Himself “I AM WHO I AM.” (v14)

Note: When Jesus, in His incarnate ministry, calls Himself “I AM” (for e.g. John 8:24,28,58; 13:19; 18:5-8) He is not saying that He's closely related to the God of the Exodus.  He is the God of the Exodus.

This is important to note because verse 12 may just be the book's theme sentence:

He said, "But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain." (Ex 3:12)

The Angel does not say “God will go with you and you will worship God.” Nor does He say “I will go with you and you will worship Me.”  No, the Angel is the saving LORD (see Judges 2:1-5) and He relates the people to Another.  Jesus saves a people and brings them to worship God on the mountain.  The Son redeems a people for the Father.  That is what Exodus is all about.  And the rest of the book is the playing out of this truth.

pillar cloudAs the people come out of Egypt - there He is in the pillar of cloud/fire.  At one point He's called the LORD (13:21,22) at another, 'the Angel of God' (14:19,20).  The Sent One who is God is the redeeming LORD.

When He carries them on eagles wings to the mountain (as promised) He makes sure they are prepared to meet the LORD:

"The LORD [who carried Israel on eagle's wings - v4] said to Moses, "Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments and be ready for the third day. For on the third day the LORD will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. And you shall set limits for the people all around, saying, 'Take care not to go up into the mountain or touch the edge of it. Whoever touches the mountain shall be put to death."  (Ex 19:10-12)

Here the LORD is on the mountain warning the people about how dangerous it will be when the LORD meets them on the mountain.  If this were some unitarian god it would be strange talk indeed but we know that the divine Angel is the LORD who is bringing them to meet God (the Father) on the mountain (Ex 3:12).

As Deuteronomy 4 and 5 underline, the encounter on Sinai was utterly unique (e.g. Deut 4:15; 5:26).

giving law

No-one had ever heard 'the living God' speaking out of fire on the mountain as they did on that third day.  Of course Moses had heard the I AM speaking out of fire on that very mountain (Exodus 3).  But this is different.  This is the unseen LORD.  This is the Most High God and it has taken 70 chapters of the bible - and the mighty redemption of the Angel - to make this kind of encouter possible.

And just when you thought Exodus might finish in chapter 19, the people don't actually go up the mountain at the trumpet blast (Ex 19:13).  Instead Moses goes up on their behalf (cf Deut 5:27).  Everything will now be presented by intermediaries, shadows, types.  For the second half of the book it's mainly Moses on the mountain, in the cloud, receiving the law and the tabernacle blueprint from the unseen LORD.

Attention turns to the future as the unseen LORD promises Moses that the Angel will continue to deliver them (Ex 23:20-23).  They can trust Him because the name of the unseen LORD is in Him (Ex 23:21).  The Angel commands, leads and forgives the Israelites.

Perhaps Moses wasn't listening at this point because in 33:12 he says:

"See, you say to me, 'Bring up this people,' but you have not let me know whom you will send with me."

The unseen LORD replies: "My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest." (v14)  The word 'Presence' is the word for face and it recalls a very memorable phrase from the same chapter.

In Exodus 33:7-11 we hear about what used to happen.  We leave the mountain-top briefly to be told how Moses used to meet with the LORD down on ground level.  At that time he'd go to the tent of meeting and speak with the LORD "face to face as a man speaks with his friend."

That was the 'face to face' LORD at ground level.  But when Moses is on the mountain, the unseen LORD reassures Moses that the Face (Presence) would continue to go with them.  Moses considers this to be absolutely essential - if the Presence doesn't go with them he'd rather just perish in the wilderness (v15).  Give me Jesus or give me death!

Having been encouraged greatly, Moses is now bold enough to ask something with echoes of Philip's request in John 14.  Now he wants to see the glory of the unseen LORD (v18)!  The LORD’s reply is very telling: He would pass in front of Moses, He would proclaim His name, but, v20, "you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live." Again in v22 He emphasizes “my face must not be seen.”

Now Moses is not an idiot.  He's just recounted the incident in the tent of meeting (33:7-11) for a reason.  He's deliberately distinguishing the ground-level appearing LORD with the mountain-top unseen LORD.  But distinguishing them so as to intimately relate them.

Because as soon as Moses hears the name of the Unseen LORD (Ex 34:5-7) he exclaims:

"If now I have found favor in your sight, O Lord, please let the Lord go in the midst of us." (Ex 34:9)

When he hears the name of the Most High God he asks Him to send the Lord in their midst.  The name of the LORD is in the Angel who is in their midst (Ex 23:21).  So when Moses hears this gospel character he knows he's experienced this very name in the Angel.  The seen LORD is everything that the unseen LORD proclaims when He reveals His name.  And so Moses asks the Father to send the Son in their midst - the redeeming Lord-from-Lord.

Moses’ plea of 34:9 is granted and, at the end of Exodus, the Glory / Presence / LORD fills the tabernacle and directs all their travels (40:34-38).

pillar cloud tabernacle

We see throughout the Old Testament that this promise of the Presence of the LORD being in the midst of His people was kept. Numbers 9:15-23 is one example of many showing the seen LORD going in the midst of His people.  Number 14 tells us that even the surrounding nations knew that the Face-to-Face LORD travelled with the Israelites and fought for them (v13ff).  When Solomon finally builds a Temple for the Name of the LORD, the LORD fills it in exactly the same way as He filled the tabernacle in Exodus 40. This LORD appears to Solomon in 1 Kings 9 and to Isaiah in chapter 6. If we were in any doubt as to who this Divine Person is, the Apostle John settles all dispute: “Isaiah said this [Isaiah 6] because he saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about Him.” (John 12:41)

In the fulness of time this LORD - this Angel of the covenant, this sought after and desired Redeemer - would come in a definitive judgement and salvation (Mal 3:1ff).

Jesus has always been the saving, ground-level, appearing LORD.  He has always perfectly mediated the saving plan and character of His Father.  Jude was speaking absolutely plainly and straightforwardly - Jesus is the LORD who brought the Israelites out of Egypt.  In other words He is the God of the Old Testament.  Exodus is a wonderful demonstration of this foundational truth.

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14 thoughts on “Jesus saved a people out of Egypt – The Story of Exodus [Repost]

  1. Derek

    That's a great summary, Glen.

    I've neglected to take you up with your offer on discussing your insights into the OT since you welcomed me to your blog. Partly because I agree with so much of what you say - so many of these insights are things that I have noticed over the years, but didn't piece together.

    One thing to add - Isaiah praises God for his Exodus salvation in Isa 63:7-14, mentioning the 'Angel of His Presence', and adds the Holy Spirit into the mix. Do you think he is confusing the two?

  2. Chris W

    Derek,

    I think that Isaiah is identifying the spirit as the spirit of the Angel. But hey, I could be wrong!

    Glen,

    What do you make of the idea the the holy spirit is the Glory of the LORD?

  3. Glen

    Hi Derek, Isaiah is probably the clearest biblical writer on the trinity - old or new testaments. No-one gives a better picture of the inter-relation of the Three. Whether it's Isaiah 11, 42, 48 or 61 he's always showing us how the Most High equips the Servant-King with the Spirit. I don't think he's forgotten that interaction in chapter 63. As Chris says, it's the Spirit of the Angel who is grieved (and right there you have the personhood of the Spirit proved as clearly as anywhere in the Bible).

    Hi Chris, I think the Glory of the LORD is the Son - His cloud is the Spirit (Ex 16). I reckon The Shekinah is the presence of the Spirit in whom the Son moves in deliverance (this Shekinah filling the tabernacle in chapter 40). The Spirit also appears under the title of the Name which dwells in the Angel (Ex 23; cf 1 Kings 8). Edwards has lots of stuff on this somewhere, I'll see if I can find it...

  4. Dave Bish

    Obviously the post helps, but I find people baulk at the version of Jude you're using - saying it's a minority report among translators... I assume our best defence is to say "when it says the Lord saved them out of Egypt" we ask "who is that Lord" - any tipcs?

  5. Si Hollett

    I'm not sure that verse 4 referring to Jesus as our only Lord is clear enough Glen ;)

    Speaking of translators - the footnote in the Good News Bible is "Jude 1:5 the Lord; some manuscripts have Jesus, which in Greek is the same as Joshua." Translators really don't like the idea of Christ working in the OT, do they? Yes, Jesus and Joshua are the same word, but I can't see the mention of that as anything other than an attempt to imply that the son of Nun is what these other manuscripts mean - which makes the verse sound bizarre and if the author didn't know the story of the Exodus.

  6. Steve

    Great summary! You only have to read John to establish that Jesus is the Angel (or Sent One) from the Father.

    Loving the Exodus 33 stuff. The seen LORD and the unseen LORD - that's exactly why Paul writes that Jesus is the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1) and exactly why John writes that no-one has ever seen God, but Jesus has made him known (John 1:18) - it's the same distinction that we find the whole way through the OT!

    Do you think that the name I AM WHO I AM was known before Exodus 3:14? Otherwise the Israelites wouldn't have known who Moses was talking about?

  7. Si Hollett

    Digging up the manuscripts discussion again, NA28 is going with Jesus. http://www.koinoniablog.net/2012/11/jesus-is-back-in-jude-monday-with-mounce-164.html

    Though this is a telling thing "The committee did not think that Jude would talk about Jesus being active in the Exodus. But it seemed to us that the external evidence was stronger for ᾽Ιηοῦς, and we had no theological problem with this reading." and probably explains why it was "lord" in NA27 - while they weren't theologically opposed to it, they weren't theologically for it, nor did they understand it so played it 'safe'.

  8. Pingback: All Exodus Posts | Christ the Truth

  9. andyharker

    Really love this Trinitarian stuff in Exodus. Just wondering though... are we saying that the LORD/presence who dwelt above the ark in the tabernacle was Jesus? I can see that in Exodus 33:11 and Isaiah 6. It's just that in Exodus 25:8 and 29:46 it seems to be the top-of-the-mountain-LORD speaking and he says that he himself will dwell with them. Is Exodus 33 pre-tabernacle construction? By the time you get to Leviticus 16:13 it seems that the glory above the mercy seat is to be unseen. Any ideas on Ex. 25:8 and 29:46? Is there possibly a distinction between the cloud/LORD (Jesus) and the glory/LORD at Exodus 40:34-38? Or will the Father dwell in the Tabernacle through the Son in a John 14 sort of way? I'm a bit confused!!

  10. andyharker

    Just read one of your earlier posts on the tabernacle.. Is it fair to say that Jesus dwelt in the tabernacle cloud and was in some way mediated through the bread, priest and sacrifice, while the Father dwelt (or touched down in some way) at the mercy seat (Ex. 25:22)?

  11. Glen

    Hi Andy, I think it's a case of the Unseen Father meeting His people in the Visible LORD enthroned between the cherubim. So when we hear about the Most High speaking about going with the people or meeting them in the tabernacle, it's very much like John 14 - the Son doesn't leave them as orphans because He sends the Spirit, and in this way *He* is said to be in them (even though He's leaving). We get that theology explicitly in Exodus 33-34.

    The preincarnate Christ plays the part of the Most High in the tabernacle system, just as the High Priest plays the part of Christ. In Christ therefore, the Father is encountered.

    Sorta thing.

  12. andyharker

    Thanks Glen. That's really helpful. I particularly like the HP=>Christ, Christ=>Father thing. So in the earthly tabernacle you've got the HP/Moses going into the presence of Christ while in the heavenly tabernacle there is just going to be Christ The HP going into the presence of the Father. Have I got it?

  13. Glen

    Totally. And I think that's another example of Calvin's comment:

    "The fathers, when they wished to behold God, always turned their eyes to Christ. I mean not only that they beheld God in his eternal Logos, but also they attended with their whole mind and the whole affection of their heart to the promised manifestation of Christ." (Commentary, John 1:18)

    They knew the Most High in the LORD enthroned between the Cherubim. They also hoped in what He'd do as the ultimate Aaron.

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