Exodus 1-15: “The Great Escape”

Exodus 1-15: “The Great Escape”

At the beginning of the book of Exodus it might appear that God’s covenant promises to Abraham have amounted to nothing.  However it is on the basis of these promises that God brings his people out of Egypt (2:23-25; 6:1-6).  In doing this he reveals his character as being one who is absolutely faithful to his covenant commitment.  He is the LORD, the covenant keeping God.

When I was a child I was fascinated by the film, “Escape from Alcatraz,” the story of one man’s bid for freedom from the famous island prison. More recently was the “Shawshank Redemption,” a film that is well worth watching. Perhaps the most loved film in this genre is “The Great Escape,” staring Steve McQueen, and based on a 1943 breakout from a Nazi prisoner-of-war camp.

In each of these films the escape depends on the ingenuity of the escapees and a certain amount of luck. The escape that we are looking at in this chapter is entirely different, it doesn’t depend on the escapees or on luck—God orchestrates the whole thing! As for the size of this escape, this is not about the freedom of just one individual or a small group but of a whole nation.

Introduction (Chapters 1-2)

In the last sermon we looked at the promise/covenant that God made with Abraham. There we claimed that this promise forms the backbone of the whole of the Old Testament. But as we read the opening chapters of Exodus we might think that God has forgotten this promise. Abraham’s descendants have not become a great nation (although they are multiplying in number) and they have not yet taken possession of the promised land, indeed they are not even in the promised land. As their stay in Egypt turned into slavery it must have seemed that fulfilment of God’s promises is becoming less and less likely.

Yet, as we noted in the last chapter, the circumstances that stand in opposition to God’s promises merely serve to underline that their fulfilment can only be achieved by the supernatural power of God. In the Exodus we will see the LORD free his helpless people with “an outstretched arm and mighty acts of judgement” (6:6).

The situation for the slaves goes from bad to worse when the Pharaoh orders the killing of all the Hebrew baby boys that are born. It is against this background that we read of someone who will have a special place in this story. Through the ministry of Moses God will redeem his people. In this sense the role he plays reveals and foreshadows the nature and work of Christ. When we read of how Moses was placed among the reeds, found by Pharaoh’s daughter, given to his mother to nurse, and later adopted by the princess we are witnessing the “overruling of the powers opposed to his kingdom so that they cannot hurt the one chosen to mediate God’s plan of salvation.”

Moses is given a Hebrew and an Egyptian upbringing in preparation for his ministry. The next stage of his preparation will be in Midian, where he takes refuge after killing an Egyptian. However, the end of chapter 2 brings us back to Egypt. Verse 23-25:

During that long period, the king of Egypt died. The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God. God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob. So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them.

Of course, this does not mean that God ever forgot the covenant, “but rather that he is about to act on the basis of these promises.” What we are about to witness in the book of Exodus is God’s covenant in action.

I AM WHO I AM (Chapters 3-6)

God begins the rescue operation by appearing to Moses in a burning bush at Horeb (another name for Sinai). He is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (verse 6)—who in grace made his covenant with them. He is about to act upon that covenant by freeing his people from Egypt.

He commissions Moses: “So now, go, I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt” (verse 10).

But what if the Israelites do not believe Moses when he returns to Egypt and claims to be God’s chosen for this task? God reassures him on two grounds. Firstly, Moses will identify the God who has spoken to him as “I AM” and as the God of their fathers (3:14-16). Secondly, Moses is given some miraculous signs which he will be able to repeat to persuade the Israelites of his mission (4:1-9).

Let’s think about this divine name for a moment. “I AM WHO I AM.” This is what you are to say to the Israelites: “I AM has sent you” (verse 14). While this affirms his existence, much more it means his active presence. But with what sort of action does God affirm his active presence? Verses 16-20—he is the God, who delivers his people, who keeps his promises and who overthrows his enemies.

Read More

Scroll to top