Exodus begins with the patriarchs mentioned at the end of Genesis passing away. They join their fathers, and a new generation arises. This new generation is not only Hebrew, but the Egyptians also are passing over from the memory of Joseph to a new day where history is long in the past. A Pharaoh who does not know Joseph is center stage, and he begins to oppress the Hebrew people. The story goes that Moses sees his people being mistreated, and he attempts to stand up for them. This is to no avail.
Moses flees, and I’m sure you all know the story. We come to Exodus 2:23-25 where God hears the cry of the Israelites, and He will not allow that cry to go unanswered. Something within the heart of God always hears the cry of the oppressed – especially when it comes from His children. Thus, God sends Moses back to Egypt after 40 years of living on the ‘backside of the desert’. God sends plagues upon Egypt, and when the Egyptians cry out to their gods, there is no one to hear their cries.
We see in the book of Exodus a contrast being made. There is the God of the Israelites, then there are the gods of Egypt. The LORD’s spokesman is Moses; the gods of Egypt have Pharaoh. Pharaoh holds in his hand a shepherd’s crook to show that he has absolute power over the people of Egypt – like a shepherd over the sheep. Moses is told to use his staff – the shepherd’s crook – when performing miracles before Pharaoh. There is a war between two kingdoms, between two representatives, between two staffs. Who is God? Is it Yahweh – the God of the Hebrews? Or are the Egyptian gods truly Lord? Who is indeed the representative of the gods? Pharaoh, or Moses? Is the rod of slavery and oppression, that rod Pharaoh bears, truly the source or power? Or is Moses’ staff, the meekness of a broken shepherd the source of power?
Within this we find two wisdoms. There is the wisdom of the age that tells us force, coercion, threat, intimidation, and political power are truly the greater forces. An opposing wisdom, which cannot be comprehended by they who subscribe to the powers of the air, states that sacrifice, mercy, humility, and love are victoriously powerful. Which triumphs? Mercy, or judgment? Oppression or liberation? Force or humility? Intimidation or sacrifice? Violence or love?
Have you settled that issue in your own mind?
Moses goes unto Pharaoh and tells him, ‘Thus says the LORD: Let my people go!’ The reply is, ‘Thus says PHARAOH’. The plagues commence. At first, we would expect that God is plaguing the Egyptians for their cruelty. Yet, God says in Exodus 7:5 that the Egyptians shall experientially know the Lord. So, God must be sending these plagues against Pharaoh. Yet, in Exodus 7:17 God says that Pharaoh shall experientially know the Lord. So, who exactly is being targeted with these plagues? Notice Exodus 12:12. God says, “I will execute judgment against all the gods of Egypt“.
And all the people of God said… woah.
When Israel left Egypt, and when Pharaoh then pursued after them, it was not by God performing miraculous works among the Egyptians. It was by God plaguing the very kingdom of darkness, and by showing their power to be bankrupt. Don’t forget that before Elijah has a showdown with the prophets of Baal on Carmel that there were 3 1/2 years of drought. Baal was the rain god. Why didn’t he have power to reverse the command of Elijah? Here the Egyptian gods were supposedly powerful. Why could they not hear the cry and answer when the Egyptians called?
In the book of Revelation, many of the ‘plagues’ (judgments) are similar to the Egyptian plagues. We see water turned to blood, the fish die, the sun, moon, and stars are darkened, there are boils given to the beast and his followers, we see locusts, and we even see frogs in the book of Revelation. There is a reason. A ‘new exodus’ is taking place at the end of the age. The ‘new Egypt’ is identified as the Antichrist kingdom, which has its epicenter in Jerusalem (Rev 11:1). That marriage of the Antichrist and Jerusalem is identified later as ‘Babylon’.
Eventually we come unto Sinai, where God gives the Ten Commandments. It is at Sinai that we also find the glory of God first appear. Though the glory of God is manifest in Exodus 40, we also see His glory in Exodus 19. Thus, even within this first half of Exodus, the whole point is to go from bondage to freedom to glory. This is the progression of Exodus. It is the story of us all. God has redeemed us, and He has sealed us with His Spirit as a deposit for our inheritance with Israel at the resurrection. Let us begin to now break down some of the pieces further, until we finally come to each individual chapter and passage with fresh understanding.