I. The Promises of God in the Exodus: Some have rightfully observed that the event of the Exodus is a treatise on the identity and character of God. We certainly can see this is the proclamation of Jehovah in response to Moses’ question, who shall I say has sent me, what is His name? (3:13) and Pharaoh’s obstinate response, who is the Lord that I should obey His voice? (5:2) God is not like any other. God reveals himself to His people is a unique way, and performs many mighty proofs of His power and sovereignty.
Therefore, the advocacy of Moses and the plagues were designed to convince Israel as well as the Pharaoh. To be redeemed and delivered they must trust Jehovah and follow Moses. Jehovah intended more than just a deliverance of His people from oppression. He was inviting them into a covenant relationship. This covenant, agreed upon at Sinai, after the exodus, rested upon the intentions and promises of God for His people, Israel. (If you obey my law, I will bless you.) Burton Coffman asserts that God “entices Israel to their own advantage by his loving promises.” (from Coffman’s Bible Commentary).
A. The Promises: What are the promises of God in the Exodus? The account of the Exodus event contains several important promises of God. In fact, there are more than we can catalogue here. But notice how God’ promises tell the whole story.
1. To Moses, at his commission: Ex 3:12 – “I will certainly be with you.”
2. To the Israelites at Moses’ first appearance – Ex 3:17 – I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land of the Canaanites Ex 3:21-I will give this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians; and it shall be, when you go, that you shall not go empty-handed. …. 22 – So you shall plunder the Egyptians.
3. To Moses in response to his reluctance to speak to Pharaoh – Ex 4:15 – I will be with your mouth and with his mouth, and I will teach you what you shall do.
4. To Israel again after Pharaoh increases their burdens – Ex 6:6-8 – I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. 7 I will take you as My people, and I will be your God. Then you shall know that I am the Lord your God who brings you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. 8 And I will bring you into the land which I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and I will give it to you as a heritage: I am the Lord.'”
5. To Israel after the commands concerning the Passover preparation: Ex 12:23 – The Lord will pass over the door and not allow the destroyer to come into your houses to strike you. These promises and assurances were the foundation of Moses’ confidence and courage. They were also a call for faith from all of the people. Their deliverance depended on God keeping these promises.
B. In the time we have left I want to consider God’s promise to His redeemed people made at Sinai. These words depict the inauguration of the covenant God made with Israel at Sinai. The promises contained here describe for us the intentions of God for His people. Read Ex 19:1-6 – …4 ‘You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself. 5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. 6 And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.”
1. “I bore you on eagles’ wings, and brought you to Myself” – God’s initial words to Israel, in this preface to the covenant itself, is to remember what God had done for them.“You see what I did...” Nothing that was to follow in the promises of the covenant would have been possible without God’s unilateral deliverance of the people from Egypt. He describes His work of deliverance as bearing them on eagle’s wings. The consensus interpretation of this image is that it reflects the action of the mother eagle. When the young eaglets have reached a time when they should fly, the old mother eagle stirs up their nest and forces them to begin the experience, supporting their first attempts by flying under them when they are about to fail, thus bearing them upward and enabling their first flight! (JFB commentary). Moses utilizes this image again in Deut 32:10-11 as he describes God’s care for Israel – “He found him in a desert land And in the wasteland, a howling wilderness; He encircled him, He instructed him, He kept him as the apple of His eye. 11 As an eagle stirs up its nest, Hovers over its young, Spreading out its wings, taking them up, Carrying them on its wings,
a. “brought you to myself” – this points to the intention of God in this great deliverance. It was more than just a rescue mission. God purposed to bring Israel into a relationship with Him – a covenant. He would not deliver them from the Egyptians just to abandon them in the wilderness. Our covenant relationship with God begins is the same manner. We are called first to see what God has done in our behalf. He has delivered with the intention of bringing us to Himself. We are called to be His people.
2. “If you will indeed obey my voice and keep My covenant…” – It is not difficult to see that this covenant and the subsequent promises were conditional on the obedience of the people. They immediately agree to obey, but we know that their commitment does not last long.
3. “You shall be a special treasure to Me above all people” – This passage certainly voices the special place Israel was given among the other peoples of the world. What does this term mean? The NIV says “treasured possession”. The term references something is owned (a moveable possession) but especially a possession valued by the owner. Do you own something that you would never sell? It will not be abandoned or thrown out, but protected and guarded. God was not only describing their status among others, but more appropriately, He is promising His mercy (hesed) towards them. Again, we recognize that this special status was conditional on their obedience to His commands.
a. Later, as Moses is giving the people instructions on keeping the covenant, and not allowing themselves to influenced by their idolatrous neighbors, he references their special place in God’s plan. Deut 7:6 – For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth. What we notice here is that this “treasure status” is 1) defined in the context of being a people for Himself” (to serve His purposes, in covenant relationship with Him) and 2) connected with their holiness. They are to be a holy people. We will consider this in just a moment. What we recognize is that Israel was special because God intended to make them special.
b. “Although the whole earth is mine” – God is not Israel’s God because of where they live, or how they make a living, or the type of government they live under. Jehovah is not like the localized gods of the Egyptians and Canaanites. He has created all people, and it all belongs to Him. But He chose Israel to be His special people, to serve His purposes.
4. “You shall be to Me a kingdom of priests” – The terminology used is fascinating. One translation says “My kingdom of priests”. The term kingdom points to the nation that was being formed, as well as the theocracy of God as their king. But it goes beyond the physical nation of Israel that developed. This kingdom is characterized as a kingdom of priests. The Levitical priesthood of the Law had not yet been formed. When it is formed according to God’s directions, not every Israelite is a priest. So what did this promise mean? I am convinced that these words (and the ones that follow) depict God’s spiritual intention for Israel. They were not fully realized in the physical Israel, but were later consummated in the spiritual Israel, the church.
a. What is a priest? A priest is an intermediary – one who intervenes in behalf of man toward God. Two specific tasks are involved:
1) We learn for the later established Aaronic priesthood that the job of the priest is to offer sacrifices. Vine says a priest is “one who offers sacrifice and has charge of things pertaining thereto.” Through his work in the tabernacle (God’s dwelling place) the priest was to bring glory to God.
2) Priests were also given the task of teaching God’s commandments. They were to “distinguish between the holy and the common, and between the unclean and the clean, and you are to teach the people of Israel all the statutes that Yahweh has spoken to them by Moses” (Lev. 10:10-11). “For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and people should seek instruction from his mouth, for he is the messenger of Yahweh of hosts” (Mal. 2:7).
b. Under the covenant at Sinai, the priesthood was a segregated and special group. So how did God fulfill this promise of a “kingdom of priests” to His people? The Israelites were so filled with fear at the giving of the Law that they asked for a mediator between them and God (Deut. 5:23-27), and some suggest Israel forfeited its general priesthood by rebellion and lack of faith.
c. Although the Aaronic priesthood was established to represent the people to God, messianic prophecies foretold of a more general priesthood. In Isa 6, a prophecy that Jesus utilized in the synagogue of Nazareth to proclaim His arrival as the Messiah, speaking to the people of God the prophet says… v. 6 But you shall be named the priests of the Lord, They shall call you the servants of our God. Isaiah 66:18-21 speaks of men of other nations would be taken “for priests and for Levites”
d. The fulfillment of this promise to Israel seems to rest in the work of Jesus, the Messiah, and the preaching of the Gospel in the NT. Consider Peter’s use of this OT text: Speaking to the Christians of the first century, he says in 1 Peter 2:5-9 you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture, “Behold, I lay in Zion A chief cornerstone, elect, precious, And he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.” 7 Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, “The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone,” and “A stone of stumbling And a rock of offense.” They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed. 9 But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; Peter sees this promise consummating in the church, new Israel.
e. In this light we are function as priests, not in a ritualistic sense, but through practical obedience to God – doing the work of God – offering sacrifices.
• Hebrews 13:15 – 15 Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.
• Hebrews 13:16 – 16 But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.
• Ephesians 5:2 – 2 And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.
• Romans 12:1 – 12 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.
f. In the Same manner, as priest we are given the responsibility to teach the people to obey the law of God. We are meant to distinguish between the unclean and the clean (2 Cor. 6:14-18), taking no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead exposing them (Eph. 5:11). We are the salt of the earth, meant to teach others the ways of God (Matt. 5:13). When a priest fails to teach others God’s commands, God does not view that lightly. In Hosea 4:6, God reveals His feelings toward priests who have neglected their God-given task of teaching: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me.” We would not want to hear similar words on the Day of Judgment for neglecting our own priestly duty to teach our fellow man God’s commandments.
5. “And a holy nation” -God promised to make Israel a Holy nation. The word holy has two connected meanings in the scriptures (developed through the OT).It means 1) bright, pure and secondly it means 2) separated, sanctified.
a. The priests of the Mosaical covenant went through a length process to be made pure, robed in white garments, in order to come before God. Their sanctification and separateness were essential to their work and position. As a nation God called Israel to holiness. To be His own special people, serving no other Gods.
b. “Be you holy, for I am Holy”. – often repeated by God in the law concerning the purification of the priests, the distinguishing of clean and unclean animals, and the keeping of the law. Again Peter connects this OT promise to Israel to the church. 1 Peter 1:13-16 – Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 14 as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; 15 but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.”
Conclusion: The promises of God in the Exodus story are part of our deliverance story as well. We are called to see what God has done for us at Calvary, and become a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.