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 James T. Dennison, Jr.
The Exodus of Israel from Egypt was
the
great act of redemption of the Old Testament. By his electinggrace, the Lord brought his chosen out of the iron furnace. With a mighty hand and an outstretched arm,God delivered an enslaved people from a powerful taskmaster. The Exodus was salvation for a peopleoppressed, liberation for a people in bondage. The tyranny of a foreign lord [
dominus
] was broken andIsrael went out free!God’s instrument of deliverance — the mediator in this drama of salvation — was Moses his servant[
 Ex 
14.31;
Josh
9.24;
Neh
9.14;
Ps
105.26], his chosen or elect one [
 Ps
106.23]. This fugitive shepherd was commissioned in connection with a theophany [Ex 3.1-12] and authenticated as divine spokesman by supernatural signs and wonders [
 Ex 
4.1-9]. The Mosaic kerygma is the proclamation of liberty to thecaptives [cf.
Ex 
3.7,
8,
10; 5.1; 7.16; 8.1, 20; 9.1, 13; 10.3]. Preludes to liberation are the ten plagues, whichserve: [1] as apologias for the might of Jehovah, the one true God [
 Ex 
6.1, 2; 7.5]; and [2] as judgmentsagainst principalities and powers, the strange gods of Egypt [Ex 12.12;
Num
33.4]. By the finger of God [
 Ex 
8.19], the dominion of the alien lord is broken. God delivers his people from the hostile powers [
 Ps
106.10;107.2].PromptingJehovah’smightyactwastheelectionofIsraeltoauniquepositionandrelationship:‘Thussaiththe Lord, Israel is my son, even my firstborn: and I say unto thee, Let my son go, that he may serve me. . .’ [
 Ex 
4.22, 23]. Yet God’s son must not only be emancipated, Jehovah’s first-born must be ransomedfrom the destroying angel through the blood of a substitute. The transition from slavery to freedom must be matched by a transition from death to life. On the night when death stalks the land of Ham, a lamb’s blood is the sole difference between life for the sons of God and death for the sons of Egypt. The blood of an innocent victim without spot or blemish purchased life, and death passed over.The Passover ratifies a change in masters. Because Israel belongs to Jehovah, he exercises his right of possession via redemption. Thus Israel is the possession of God, not only by elective birthright, but by ransom or formal purchase price. Foreign lordship is replaced by Divine Lordship. Withthechangeofmasters,thesonsofGodbeginanewexistence.Exodusistheinaugurationofanewwaof life for the people of God. In their new life they are pilgrims, and in the wilderness they find themselvesin between what they have left behind and what lies ahead. They are in between slavery and settlement; bondageandblessedpossession;EgyptandCanaan.Inbetweenisthedesertalandofwandering,testingand dependence.The new life is inaugurated by a water ordeal. At the Red Sea the people of God pass through the watersand leave the old life behind — the bitter servitude, the cruelly oppressive taskmasters, the threat of ever-imminent death. The old life is swallowed up — drowned! The past is behind them. Before them God opensa way into the wilderness, a highway stretching to the land of milk and honey.During the wilderness sojourn, Israel is tested for forty years. It is a time of probation for God’s son. He isattacked byhisenemies. Amalekites, Amorites, Edomites, Moabites, Ammonites, allassault himduring hissojourn, and he passes or fails the probation according to his dependence upon or rejection of the word of God.In the wilderness, God shepherds his people — light by night; cloud by day; manna from heaven; waterfrom the rock.
 
 As they sojourn, the people of God live in temporary dwellings — in tents, a habitation befitting a pilgrim,and as yet unsettled people. God identifies himself with his people, for he too, pitches his tent in theirmidst. The condescension of God is marked by his tabernacling with his people. At the tabernacle, or tentof meeting, God and people meet through sacrificial blood.In the wilderness, Israel’s new master, his suzerain, formally establishes his rule by imposing a covenantupon his servant. At Mt Sinai, the servant-people solemnly declare their loyalty [i.e. their new obedience]to the God who redeemed them from slavery. Legal stipulations are set in the context of gracious action [cf.
 Ex 
20.2]. Israel is redeemed for covenant obedience [Exodus precedes Sinai]. The covenant-making eventis marked by an awesome theophany: thunder, lightning, smoke, fire, earthquake, the mighty voice, thesound of the trumpet. Truly a dreadful day of the Lord! All the terror of this event is solemnly ratified incutting — cutting bulls to death [
 Ex 
24.5-8]. Yet, the covenant results in fellowship; the representatives of the people eat a meal before the Lord [
 Ex 
24.11]. At last, the pilgrims enter their inheritance. Conquering and occupying Palestine, via Jericho, Israel wentup to permanent settlement in the land of milk and honey.Exodus, passage of the Red Sea, wilderness sojourn, covenant ceremony, entrance into Canaan: this wasthepatternofIsrael’shistory.Theyrehearsedit;theymemorialized it;theysangaboutit.
 Deut 
25;
 Josh
24;
 Neh
9;
Psa
78, 105, 106, 136: all look back to the history of the Exodus. The people of God look back to thegreat redemptive act of Jehovah.But with the dawn of the age of the prophets, the Exodus assumed new significance. For the prophets,the history of the exodus-people was a failure, for they returned to the strange gods of the nations by prostituting themselves in the groves of Baal and Astarte. They enslaved themselves under the yoke of alien suzerains and forsook the covenant of Jehovah. They despised the presence of God in their midst by forsaking the temple for the golden calves of Bethel and Dan. And for all this, God sent his servantsthe prophets to utter woe upon woe against Samaria and Jerusalem. They proclaimed judgment upon thepeople of God. Specifically, the judgment was the end of that disobedient generation. Ironically, the
end 
of that disobedient generation is depicted as
a return
to the point where Israel’s redemptive history 
began:
‘they shall return to Egypt’ [
 Hos
8.13 cf. 9.3]. Prophetic judgment is announced in terms of redemptive-historical reversal. Back to Egypt, back to bondage, back to oppression, back to ‘Lo-Ammi’ [‘not my people’
Hos
1.9]. Yet, in the midst of wrath, God remembers mercy. The critical announcement of a return to the point of the beginning becomes the vehicle of the prophetic eschatology. The prophets are messengers of hope.Specifically, their eschatological hope is rooted in the promises of God for a new beginning — a fresh start— a time when the former things would pass away and all things would become new [cf.
Isa
42.9; 43.18,19; 48.6]. Israel returns in judgment to the place where her redemptive history began. Yet from that point, behold, God will do a new thing — the reversal [of judgment] will be reversed [in salvation].Consequently, the most significant element in the prophetic eschatology is the projection of the historicalpast into the prophetic future. The prophets reflect upon the glory of the past, the failure of the present,and anticipate a future in terms of a new exodus, new passage of the sea, new sojourn in the wilderness,new covenant, new entrance into the land [cf. also new creation, new David, new temple, etc].In Hosea, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, but especially in Isaiah, the exodus of the past is projected into the future.Isaiah speaks of a new beginning — a new exodus more glorious than the old exodus from Egypt. The firstexodus is the prototype for the eschatological exodus.IsaiahdescribesthefuturegreatactofredemptionfortheelectpeopleofGodinthefollowingway.Theneexodus brings liberty to the captives: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because the Lord hath anointedme . . . to proclaim liberty to the captives and the opening of the prison to them that are bound’ [61.1].This kerygma of emancipation will be proclaimed by God’s chosen instrument of deliverance for the new exodus, i.e. the Servant of Jehovah, the elect of the Lord: ‘Behold my servant whom I uphold; mine electin whom my soul delighteth’ [42.1]. As at the burning bush, the agent of the new exodus is commissioned
 
 by One bearing the theophanic name [41.4; 43.10, 13; 48.12; 51.12]. Vicarious suffering will be the ransom-price of the people of God in the new exodus [53]; only here the lamb is the Servant-Mediator himself!In the new exodus, the people of God will once again inaugurate their sojourn by passing through the sea:‘thus saith the Lord, which maketh a way in the sea, and a path in the mighty waters . . . When thou passestthrough the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee’ [43.16, 2; cf.44.27; 50.2; 51.9-11, 15; 63.11, 12]. The new exodus will bring a return to the wilderness for the Israel of God. In the land in between, the pilgrim people of God will sojourn: ‘Behold I will do a new thing . . . I willeven make a way in the wilderness’ [43.19; cf. 40.3;
Ezek
20.35, 36;
Hos
2.14; 13.5].God will once again provide water in the desert for the pilgrims: ‘I will give waters in the wilderness,and rivers in the desert, to give drink to my people, my chosen’ [43.20; cf. 41.17, 18; 35.6b, 7; 48.21].The new exodus brings the pilgrims to the mountain of the Lord [56.7; 65.25]. Here, the eschatologicalsuzerain [41.21; 44.6] once again comes down to meet with his people [64.1; cf.
Joel 
3.17;
Ezek
43.7,
9; Zech
2.10; 8.3]. He comes awesomely and terribly [29.6; 30.27-33; 50.3; 64.1-3; cf.
Joel 
3.16;
Zech
9.14], but also condescendingly, graciously tabernacling in the midst of his people [4.6; 7.14; cf.
Ezek
37.27,28]. The Lord enters into a new covenant with the eschatological pilgrims [cf.
Jer 
31.31-34; compare theeschatological meal in
Isa
25.6-8 with
Ex 
24.11]. At last, the new exodus will conclude with the entranceinto and possession of the land [49.8, 9; cf.
Hos
2.15]. The emancipated captives will settle permanently inthe eschatological land of milk and honey.The pattern of prophetic judgment: a reversal and a return of the old Israel to the place of redemptive— historical beginning. The pattern of prophetic eschatology: from the point of the old beginning, a new  beginning — a new exodus, a new passage of the sea, a new sojourn in the wilderness, a new covenant, anew entrance into the land.The law and the prophets witness to Jesus Christ [
 Lk
24.27, 44, 45]; he comes as the one who fulfils thehistory of redemption [
 Matt 
5.17]. The eschatological hope of the prophets finds its accomplishment in theperson and work of Christ. We should not be surprised to find that the great act of redemption in the New Testament is described in terms of exodus imagery. The failure of the redemptive history of the former agenecessitates the advent of One whose history is marked by obedience, righteousness, success and victory.In these last days, God has sent his true Son to perfect all that was wanting in his former ‘son’ [
 Ex 
4.22-3 with
Hos
11.1]. The history of Jesus is the history of the true Israel of God; he embodies and recapitulatesin his history the history of Israel. Both personally and corporately [or federally], he undergoes an
exodus
[
 Lk
9.31] on behalf of the Israel of God [
Gal 
6.16] of the end time.The pattern of gospel fulfilment is a marvel of redemptive — historical continuity. Did the old Israel, God’sson of the former times, conclude its history by returning to the point of beginning? So too, the true Israel,God’s Son of these last times, begins his history by going down into Egypt. In the ‘exodus’ of Jesus fromEgypt, the new age has dawned; the fulness of time has arrived. Matthew’s insight is a stroke of inspiredgenius [2.15 — ‘out of Egypt have I called my son’]. Because
the
Son comes up out of Egypt, the new exodushas arrived.Jesus not only comes up out of Egypt, he comes to the wilderness of Judaea in the days of John the Baptist.The wilderness too had been a place of failure for the old Israel. Here, in the desert, a new beginning must be made [cf.
Isa
40.3 and
Mk
1.2, 3]. Jesus passes through the waters ‘to fulfil all righteousness’ [
 Matt 
3.15]. The former age in the history of redemption has been left behind; the old age of failure, disobedienceand judgment has been swallowed up — drowned! Jesus returns to the wilderness to submit to the assaultsof the enemy. For forty days and forty nights, the true Israel is attacked by the Adversary. Again, a new  beginning is made. In God’s true Son, the desert becomes a place of victory. The assaults of the tempterare resisted and the new Israel emerges triumphant. The call of the Baptist to return to the wilderness isfulfilled in the One who comes to the wilderness to inaugurate a new beginning for his people.The eschatological finality and eschatological newness of the age which dawns in Christ is depicted instill more exodus imagery. Jesus comes as the eschatological Servant of the Lord. As the Mediator of salvation, he is commissioned via theophany [
 Matt 
3.16, 17;
Mk
1.10, 11]. Yet remarkably, he himself bears

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