When our Bible study focuses intently on each passage, one after another, we may find it difficult to step back and see how they fit together. But we must remember the Bible is a work of literature. It was not written to be scrutinized in bites; it was written to be devoured in gobbles. We should remember to read the Bible as we’d read any other book: moving through it at a reasonable pace and recognizing ongoing themes, climax, resolution, and character development. When we hit milestones in the text, we should take the opportunity to survey where we’ve been and how it fits together.
So, now that we’ve hit the end of Exodus’s first act with a climactic song of praise, it’s a good time to catch our breath. From this point in Exodus, we’ll see God rebuilding his people as a new nation in covenant with himself. But where have we been so far?
Let me list the main points I’ve proposed for each passage in this section:
- Exodus 7:8-13: This will be a mighty showdown between God and Pharaoh.
- Exodus 7:14-8:19: Yahweh is the only judge of all the earth, who both executes and removes judgments.
- Exodus 8:20-9:12: Yahweh is the divider of peoples, vindicating and elevating those who are his and casting down those who are not.
- Exodus 9:13-10:29: Yahweh glorifies his name in all the earth by executing ultimate judgment on evil.
- Exodus 11:1-12:28: When Yahweh finally strikes his enemies, he will provide a way for his people to be spared.
- Exodus 12:29-13:16: Yahweh strikes his enemies and blesses his people to show he owns all the people of the earth.
- Exodus 13:17-14:31: The all-powerful God employs his power to separate and rescue his people so they might fear and believe him.
- Exodus 15:1-21: We must sing to Yahweh, for there is no other god who can cast down his enemies and raise up his people.
In addition, my overview of the whole book led me to this overall main point:
Who is Yahweh, and why should you obey him? He is the God who 1) demolishes the house of slavery (Ex 1-15), 2) prepares to rebuild (Ex 16-18), and 3) builds his house in the midst of his people (Ex 19-40).
And the main idea of Part 1 (Ex 1:1-7:7) was: Yahweh appoints a mediator and ensures he is fully qualified and trained for the task of deliverance.
Pull It Together
Now what do these things show us about the flow of thought in chapters 7-15?
- Exodus 7:8-13 sets up the mighty showdown that will take place in three waves.
- Wave 1: The Plagues
- Round 1 (Ex 7:14-8:19): This is not an equal battle between good and evil, ying and yang. Yahweh reigns supreme.
- Round 2 (Ex 8:20-9:12): Yahweh will not lose his people to the battle. The wheat will not be pulled up with the weeds.
- Round 3 (Ex 9:13-10:29): God’s enemies will come to a fiery, eternal end.
- Wave 2: Passover
- Scene 1 (Ex 11:1-12:28): Yahweh is able to provide a way of rescue…
- Scene 2 (Ex 12:29-13:16): …because he owns all the people of the earth.
- Wave 3: The Red Sea
- Scene 1 (Ex 13:17-14:31): God’s deliverance causes his people to fear him…
- Scene 2 (Ex 15:1-21): …and they can do nothing but sing.
These chapters show us it is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God, regardless of whether you are his people or his enemies. Some will fear the death he deals, and others will fear the life he brings. But all will fear him. God’s deliverance, accomplished only by God’s appointed mediator, shapes his people into the delicious paradox of fearful joy.
We can flesh out our outline of the book a little further:
Act I: Yahweh demolishes the house of slavery (Ex 1-15).
Introduction: Nobody can prevent Yahweh from keeping his promises, but we’re not sure how he’ll do it (Ex 1).
Part 1: Yahweh appoints a mediator and ensures he is fully qualified and trained for the task of deliverance (Ex 2:1-7:7).
Part 2: Yahweh delivers a deserved destruction to his enemies and a frightful joy to his people (Ex 7:8-15:21).
Act II: Yahweh prepares to rebuild (Ex 16-18).
Act III: Yahweh builds his house in the midst of his people (Ex 19-40).
Gaze Upon Jesus
Jesus is the ultimate fulfillment and embodiment of God’s deliverance. On the cross, “steadfast love and faithfulness meet” (Ps 85:10). On the cross, the Lord cast down his enemies and raised up his people once for all. And, while this gives us great joy, it should also terrify us:
For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off. (Rom 11:21-22)
Jesus is now King of kings and Lord of lords (Rev 19:16). He cares for his people and preserves them to the end of the age, when he will “gather out of his kingdom all cause of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace” (Matt 13:41-42). He has full ownership and all authority in heaven and on earth (Matt 28:18). He has brought down the mighty and exalted those of humble estate (Luke 1:52). He was appointed for the fall and rising of many, and a sword pierced even the souls of those closest to him (Luke 2:34). He fills his people with both inexpressible joy (1 Pet 1:8) and healthy fear (1 Pet 4:12-13).
Head: Did you expect Christianity to be a big party? It certainly includes parties, whenever we gather to worship the risen King of kings. But the way to get invited is scary indeed. Does it feel good to discover you’re not good enough? Does it tickle your fancy to find yourself in a pickle that’s not possible to escape on your own? Do you appreciate having everything you hold most dear die, so you can be reborn to new life? You now belong to your king. There is joy ahead, however frightful it may be. But that’s okay, because nobody can snatch you out of your King’s hand.
Heart: Please don’t choose between fear and joy in your walk with Christ. Always incubate both in your heart. The combination will thrill you indescribably and satisfy you unbelievably.
Hands: Sing to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever. Let us never stop telling the glorious of the frighteningly delightful deeds God has done for us in Christ (Ps 78:1-4).