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  • Pastor Jason

What's the Theme: Exodus

What exactly is the theme of Exodus?

I wouldn't blame you if you said "freedom." After all, the book of Exodus is the story of God setting his people free from captivity in Egypt and the beginning of their journey to the Promised Land - the Biblical nickname for the land God had promised Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in Genesis. Exodus plays heavily into liberation theology precisely because of the themes of slavery, deliverance, freedom, and promise. This is also how I have generally tended to preach Exodus. So, freedom is definitely there!

If you're reading along with my 1-year Bible reading plan, I'm also hoping that you'll see a handful of other things happening as we go along...especially in the OT, and even more so with the first 5 books (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy), known collectively as the Pentateuch. In my post introducing Genesis, I described these early books as something like a Biblical origin story. Although we kicked off the year reading Job, it's the Pentateuch that lays the theological foundation for how Judaism and Christianity understand God.

In Genesis, we are introduced to a God who is presented as the supreme being. This God existed before anything else came into being and created all that we know (and don't know) to exist today. As Creator, God reserves absolute authority and sovereignty over all things; there is no greater God than the God who reveals himself in the opening verses of the Bible.

If we stick with this introduction and foundation-laying concept, there's another major theme present in Exodus, beyond freedom. In Exodus 3, we have the story of Moses and the burning bush. Here's what we read (Ex 3:13-14)...

Moses said to God, "Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, 'What is his name?' Then what shall I tell them?"
God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I AM has sent me to you.'"

From this point on, roughly slightly more than once per chapter, some version of "and then they will know that I am the LORD" is made. This is directed at both the Egyptians and the Israelites.

Up to this point in the Biblical story, people only knew God as "the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob." With Moses, our relationship with God enters a whole phase: we now know his name. God doesn't want to remain some faceless, no-name sky being; his plan is for his people to have a personal relationship with him. And without something as basic as knowing each other's names, a personal relationship will never happen.

There's also an even more fascinating thing happening here that's rooted in ancient near-eastern culture: to know someone's/something's name is to have a certain amount power over them. We see this at work in the early chapters of Genesis when Adam names all the animals - doing so grants him authority over the animals because he's the one who gave them their names. God has authority over man because God called man "Adam." Names are a highly protected commodity throughout the OT. Then we have Moses at the burning bush and God gives Moses God's name, and tells him to share it with everyone else! And Exodus keeps saying that certain things happened so that people would know God.

Lot's of introductions going around and God making it clear who he is. If God's people (Israel, us) are going to worship God, they absolutely must know who God is. That's a big piece of the overall picture, and absolutely critical for continuing to lay the foundation that we continue to build on today.

One last thing: In John 14, Jesus is giving his own farewell speech to the disciples at the last supper. He drops this mind-blowing little detail (John 14:13-14)...

And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

A few thousand years later, Jesus (God) once again reaffirms the personal relationship God initiated in Exodus and the - albeit greatly limited - authority we have in the relationship, because God has granted us permission to use his name. All because a escaped Israelite slave and adopted grandson of Pharaoh stumbled across a burning bush someone on the Sinai Peninsula, YOU now have the ability to pray directly to God, by name, with authority, and the promise that God WILL hear you and answer your prayer!

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