My guess for the date of the Exodus is 1447 BC, and after 34 centuries Jewish people still celebrate the freeing of their nation from slavery every year at Passover. So let's see some of the aspects of faith that were involved. I have called it Exodus Faith.
Faith to foresee (Hebrews 11:22) "By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the Exodus of the Israelites and gave instructions for his burial". This was no chance happening. Four hundred years before the time the Lord had said to Abraham. "Know this for certain, that your offspring shall be aliens in a land that is not theirs, and shall be slaves there, and they shall be oppressed for four hundred years (from that present time) ; but I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions" (Genesis 15:13-16).
During a terrible famine Jacob had moved into Egypt to be under the protection of his son, Joseph, who was in charge of food distribution in that land. On Jacob's deathbed he said "I am about to die, but God will be with you and will bring you again to the land of your ancestors" (Genesis 48:21). He was embalmed and taken to be buried next to Sarah and Abraham in Hebron (Genesis 50:13 ). Similarly when Joseph was dying he said "God will surely come to you, and bring you up out of this land to the land that he swore to Abraham, Isaac, and to Jacob." And he gave strict instructions "When God comes to you, you shall carry up my bones from here"(Genesis 50:25-26). 146 years later Moses obeyed these instructions exactly in the Exodus (Exodus 13:19).
Last week we looked at the Abrahamic faith which looks forward to the city of God. But faith for one's family and the work one leaves behind is also important. It is not just Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph who had the faith to foresee God's blessing in the future. Most of you knew Al Timpson and his long painful struggle with his crippling disease. I was very moved by how Donna Timpson described his death. When he knew the time had come, the whole family was gathered around his bed in hospital. They all prayed and committed Al and themselves to God. Then Donna asked Al if he was ready to go, he said yes he was, and in prayer they let him go. He died shortly after. Sometimes death takes us totally unexpectedly, and I feel I am ready for that. But if I die with my family gathered around I hope my mind will be clear and I can remember the Exodus faith that looked forward with excitement to what God still has in mind for my family and the world-wide family of the church throughout the world.
Faith to care about children (Hebrews 11:23) "By faith Moses was hidden by his parents and they were not afraid of the king's edict." When we live in terrible times, it is good to reread the Exodus story. Pharaoh "became ruthless in imposing tasks on the Israelites, and made their lives bitter with hard service in mortar and brick and in every kind of field labor." And then a program of genocide was ordered. Every boy that was born was to be killed. "But the midwives feared God; they did not do as the king commanded them, but they let the boys live . . . So God dealt well with the midwives" (Exodus 1:13-20). But then after the birth Moses parents needed faith to hide this baby boy, and neighbors also had the faith not to report him to Pharaoh's soldiers.
In a way every good mother has faith to care about her children. All over the world women cry out to God for help in the desperate situations of sickness, war, and famine. Perhaps this is what Paul had in mind when he wrote "she will be saved through childbearing" (1 Timothy 2:15). Jesus certainly made it clear from his example and his words that children have a very important place in the Kingdom of God.
This is why child abuse is such a serious crime. "If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea" (Matthew 18:6). That does not mean that everyone who has hurt or abused a child ends up in hell, but it certainly means that God assigns terrible consequences for such behavior.
The opposite of child abuse is anything that is done by way of child rearing, schooling, and protection, to free children to grow healthy and happily into all that God has in mind for them. That is important encouragement for teachers and child care workers. They could just work for the money, but they could also do it for the Lord. Last week I mentioned the work of George Muller in providing homes for orphaned children, and Amy Carmichael of Dohnavur in saving children from temple prostitution. Shaftesbury and others fought to make it illegal to employ children to work in the coal mines. As a result of the work of these, and many others, in our day even those with no faith in God agree that children must be cherished and protected. But political situations can change overnight, and we never know when we will be called upon to fight, as did the midwives and the parents of the baby Moses, for our children.
Faith to care about the freedom of others (Hebrews 11:24-26) Moses was saved from being eaten by the crocodiles of the river Nile, and raised in the royal palace. Some think he rose to become the Commander in Chief of the Egyptian army. Faith often begins, as in Moses' life, when we are willing to risk our own skin for the freedom of others. The ungodly person cares only for his or her own freedom, and a mercenary is willing to fight because he is paid. But Moses was not going to be paid to free his people. He chose "to share ill-treatment with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin" (11:25). It is not that Moses was particularly sinful, but until that point he cared only for his own pleasure. Sin would have been refusing to engage in the work of liberation. Now he was committed to a great and very dangerous movement to free a whole people from terrible slavery.
Jesus said "If the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed" (John 8:36). He spoke of ransoming which means freeing someone who has been kidnapped. "You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord is over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them (enslaving them). But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant" (a good servant's concern is to free his master to do his work). Then Jesus added "For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many" (Mark 10:42-45).
Similarly redemption is the freeing of someone from slavery. Christian hymns have focused on the price Jesus paid on the cross for our salvation, and what he paid was certainly horrendous. But we have failed to note that his purpose was to free people everywhere and from every kind of bondage. And history reminds us that again and again the Lord King Messiah Son of God intervenes, as he did in the Exodus, to free people.
Paul explained that the whole of creation is waiting for the glorious liberty of the children of God. "The creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God . . . the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God" (Romans 8:19-21). When we find our freedom as children of God, nature around us is also changed and freed. That is what this world is really about.
But behind all human freedom and human freeing of others is the love of God. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit each in their own way love us so much that they work for us to be free. Exodus faith will care, as Moses did, for the freedom of others. And that kind of faith begins in our family. Genuine love cares for the freedom of the loved one. Loving parents long for their children to grow up free to make their contribution in our world. A happy marriage is where each partner cares about the freedom of the other.
But Exodus faith reaches out in many other directions. We noted the faith of George Muller that brought freedom to orphan children. Lord Shaftesbury freed children from working in the mines. Thousands of missionaries have worked among primitive animistic tribes to free them from evil spirits. Martin Luther King cared about the civil rights of his black brothers and sisters. Others work for the freedom of others closer to home. Many who are freed from alcoholism through AA give themselves to helping others into freedom. It takes much sacrifice to free drug addicts, those enslaved by the sex trade, and those in bondage to depression. The work of a Christian church is to free people through the Word of God. Jesus himself said "If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free" (John 8:31-32).
A good way to begin is to pray for the freedom of someone that God lays upon our heart. Rather than merely praying "God bless so and so," our love is focused on his or her freedom. That makes prayer very specific, and we can see the results as the person begins to find the joy of freedom. It was very costly but eventually Moses saw the freedom of his people as they moved towards the promised land.
Faith to act (Hebrews 11:27). Moses certainly had faith to commit himself to the freeing of his people, but he was hasty, and too confident that he could achieve this by his own strength. Before he could be ready he had to spend 40 years in the wilderness minding his father in law's sheep (Exodus 2:15-22). And when God's time had come his Exodus faith had evaporated.Perhaps this is why Moses' faith struggle is left out of this great chapter on faith. The way the Lord helped him back into faith is described in Exodus. First Moses noticed a desert bush that was on fire but was not getting burned up by the flames (Exodus 3:2). When Moses became curious the Lord spoke to him, and said he was being sent back to Pharaoh to deliver his people from slavery (Exodus 3:7-10).
We then have Moses' five Exodus faith objections. "Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh?" (Exodus 3:11), and the Lord's answer was "I will be with you." The next question was theological. "When I say the God of your ancestors has sent me to you, and they ask me 'what is his name?" what shall I say?" (Exodus 3:13). The answer was I AM has sent me to you (the Hebrew verb is eheyeh, which means HE IS. The third person of this verb is yiheyeh which means HE IS, and that became the name Yahweh (Jehovah in the King James version). But this name was viewed as too sacred for Jews to pronounce, and it is usually replaced by The LORD in Bible translations).
Moses' third objection was "But suppose they do not believe me or listen to me?" (Exodus 4:1), and the Lord told him his staff (rod) would work miracles. Perhaps this was the staff of authority that Moses had in Egypt, but now it becomes the staff or rod of authority, God's authority. Then Moses came back with "I have never been eloquent, but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue" (Exodus 4:10) and the Lord said to him "who gives speech to mortals? Who makes them mute or deaf, seeing or blind? Is it not I, the LORD?" Finally Moses said "O my Lord, please send someone else" (Exodus 4:13), which made the LORD very angry, and he told Moses that his brother Aaron could function as his mouthpiece. That had terrible consequences. As the story unfolds, Aaron became a thorn in the flesh in Moses'leadership. The first thing he did with his authority as spokesman for Moses was to order people to take off their gold rings, and he cast them into the shape of a golden calf (Exodus 32:2-6). Soon after Aaron and his sister began a civil war against Moses, which was quickly terminated by the Lord's intervention (Numbers 12:1-9).
In spite of Moses' lack of faith, the Lord was able to restore him and bring him back on track (as he did with Peter) and he was able to give the Exodus faith and leadership that was needed to lead the people out of slavery.
Faith to keep Passover (Hebrews 11:28) Now we go back to the heart of that first Exodus. Two weeks ago in the story of Abel we saw that when an animal was killed for a family meal they would say "This animal is dying so we can eat." And we noted that the fat had to be burnt and they pictured their prayers going up to God as incense. Nor were they allowed to eat the blood in any form. It had to be sprinkled on the altar. Now for their last meal before moving out of slavery in their haste they were unable to bake unleavened bread (which would have gone bad during the first few days of their journey. In India we called this bread chappatis, in it is called Hebrew mazoth). They were also to kill and cook a lamb for this meal, and consume it all (for health reasons) before they moved. The fat would be burned and the smoke would picture their prayers for God's deliverance. Then the blood of each family's lamb was to be put on the door frames of the house.
Again we notice the word "lamb" as in Abel's offering, and Abraham's words to Isaac "God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering." John the Baptist pointed to Jesus and said "This is the Lamb that keeps taking away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). And the Book of Revelation tells us that in the fight against Satan "they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony" (Revelation 12:10-11). And this goes right back to "the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb" (Revelation 15:3). Exodus faith is therefore putting oneself under the protection and power of the Messiah King Shepherd Lamb of God.
Our communion service is a celebration of our Exodus faith. As Paul
said, "Our paschal lamb, the Messiah, has been sacrificed. Therefore let
us keep the festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and evil,
but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth" (1 Corinthians
5:7-8). So it becomes clear that when Jesus took bread and said "This
is my body" he was referring back to the unleavened bread of the Passover,
and "This is my blood," refer back to his own blood as Lamb of God that
would be sprinkled on the cross at the same time as the Passover lambs
were being killed in the temple. The communion service therefore nourishes
our faith in his purpose to free us and lead us into every kind of liberation
of others in his name.