By Grant Marshall
The book of Exodus is commonly known through its Greek name, meaning ‘Way out.’ In Hebrew the word is ‘Shemot’; in its full meaning it is known as ‘Wa’elleh Shemot’ – meaning, ‘Now These Are The Names [Of The Sons Of Israel].’ The exiles of the Jews are many but there are two distinct themes of Exodus that are explicit within the timeline. There seems to be a swing from one to another. We begin in a sense with the calling out of Abraham from Babylon, onto the prophecy of God to Abraham regarding the exile of Israel into Egypt and then out of it, and then into Babylon again. We have among the associated names of the Sons of Israel, Abraham, Jacob, Moses and Judah. What is consistent in every exile is an exodus; the calling out from captivity of God’s people. The pattern of exile shows us that God dispenses the judgement with regard to His people’s disobedience. Each moment of exodus demands a new agreement and declaration. It also demands a complete heart change among the people, causing them to be committed to a new, dedicated and consecrated path.
According to the biblical calendar, Joseph was 39 years old when his father Jacob, aged 130, entered the land of Egypt. It is from this point that we can start the Israelite period of captivity in Egypt. The event on the biblical timeline puts the event some 250-290 years after the prophecy given to him by God. During the office of Joseph, Israel prospered and grew in number. It would be clear that such growth among a culture would affect the economy of a nation. Israel’s presence, therefore, had a clear impact amongst its host nation. Before we proceed with the crux of this study we must clarify that Jacob was brought to Egypt at a time of famine and drought in Canaan, the land that God had promised him that he would possess. The book of Exodus can be considered an anchor point in trying to work out some crucial dates, and of course a pattern that is perpetually echoed through the history of Israel and indeed the life every believer. Thus the pattern reflects a prophetic events calendar. In Genesis 32 the narrative tells us of the time when Jacob is alone and suddenly a man appears and starts to wrestle with him. The stranger can be considered as a result of Jacob’s response to be either an angel/Angel of God or God Himself. From the moment of Jacob’s defeat or indeed a victory, we are witness to the birth of a new man who would come to epitomise the nature of Israel as a nation. Jacob, and his new name, Israel, is used at times synonymously throughout scripture and peculiarly when God refers either to Jacob the man or Israel the nation. Understanding God’s dealing with one or the other defines God’s judgments. We can see in the imagery that the person, though divine, chooses to manifest himself as a man. The event is spontaneous and leaves the struggling Jacob with a memorial of the event for the rest of his life. This disability of the dislocated hip reflects in part our personal disability in our struggle with the Almighty. When we are born again, we begin struggling with God. This is pivotal in understanding the believer’s walk. Struggling with the man can be seen to be symbolic of struggling with ourselves but at the same time wrestling with God. But how does Jacob’s story parallel the life of every believer? Jacob, in essence, is the beginning of the nation to come. From him will come the 12 tribes. These are the projected descendants of Abraham. It takes 130 years for Jacob to leave his land but what is strange is that God causes a famine in that land that makes Jacobs only option, to save his family, is to go to Egypt which miraculously has escaped the calamity. For Now!
A Family Separated.
When we look closely at the family of Jacob, we fundamentally see a story of deceit and jealousy. Some of us may find ourselves blessed by having a believing family. But others may stand alone as a believer in our families. The latter can be a difficult place but I believe the hardest of all scenarios is one that can separate a married couple. In what should be the closest of human unions, division in marriage is particularly difficult. The narrative throughout scripture speaks purely about a divided relationship and that God’s desire and the prophetic plan is to unite His family. The Bible’s shadow picture is shown to us through the nation of Israel and the division of the house of Jacob. This picture reflects a deeper message of the separation of God and His bride and the division that occurred at the beginning of human time in the garden of Eden. Each call upon the believer is, in fact, a prophetic one – in other words, it is by an act of grace that each believer receives the message given to them. They are chosen from other members of the human race to carry the spark of light to an otherwise dying flame. The message within that light is that God is going to restore His relationship with His bride by setting in place a number of scenarios which will cause His bride to remember Him, desire Him and finally return to Him thus restoring the Kingdom. That fundamentally is the gospel of the kingdom.
Every believer should understand that the pure message of the word points to this fact. In order to bring to Himself His purified bride, she must be searched for and chosen from all humanity to be a separate and holy entity. In her perfected state, she will enter into union with her husband and become a high priest in the order of Melchizedek.
When we look at the position of those called out, from Abraham onwards, we see that a separation or distinction had to be made first. God chose unique individuals. He made them through the renewing of their minds to be chiefs/kings, priests and prophets. This dynamic or protocol has never changed. We see since the time of Adam that God has split families and siblings: Abel and Cain, Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau, Joseph and his brothers, Moses and Aaron, Judah and Ephraim.
The Wilderness Journey.
The extraction of Israel from Egypt is the story of that same principle of God calling out His people from the world. Leviticus 18 speaks about how we as believers are not to follow the ways of the nation we find ourselves among. When Israel and the mixed multitudes left Egypt, they were to leave behind their habits and traditions and would have to learn how to worship God in the way He decried and not in the way they thought. The giving of the Torah and the teaching of Moses and the elders would help them to change and transform their ways, renewing their hearts and minds. The story is familiar, but we must reflect on the fact that many did not finish the journey. God had to deal with a great deal moaning, arguing, disgruntled and not-so-happy people. These acts of rebellion and negative processes led the people to the state of disobedience and lack of trust in God, despite the many miracles He performed among them. There were even those who believed they could do the job of Moses better than he could. The number forty represents a time of maturing or of attaining wisdom. Obviously, many of those early pilgrims never progressed much further from that same intact state in which they left Egypt.
It is sad to say that for many believers today, their journey may seem to be over. They have not progressed in their maturity or in their knowledge of God because they have never sought wisdom but are content to be fed on what comes out of the religious media mincing machine. In truth, the Bible is not an easy book to read, let alone study, but understanding that God desires that we learn from it and want to hear what His letter to us has to say, should be part of every believer’s quest in trying to find out more about the divine family we belong to.
Boots on the Ground.
There is no way in which a believer can progress any further if they read the Bible alone. They must put their faith in action. That means that they must first want to draw near to God. Some see that that entails some kind of mission or a perceived calling. The church is eager in its zeal to propel people into ministry but often the lack of wisdom and preparation allows many to fail at the first hurdle. This is not to say that failure at the first attempt is due to some misunderstanding. No! It boils down to simply running before you can walk; pursuing the path before understanding the terrain or the road map.
God uses many models, allegories and metaphors to help us understand certain messages and patterns. Mainly, they fall into three types: military, agricultural and building/architectural. Scripture speaks of the military armour, which is an allusion to a warrior priest. It speaks to us of being men at arms; trained in the art of battle. The offices of the gifts are the leaders, captains and generals. Among them are the instructors and teachers. Included in them are the watchers and listeners. They survey the land and listen for the voice and commands of God. If we fail to follow their instruction and do not hearken to the leading of the Lord then we are on a slippery slope indeed. We will find that we make wrong decisions and presumptions, and veer off course, losing valuable time and wasting resources. If we are leading unwisely, disregarding the voice of the Lord and presuming that what God wants from us is what we’re giving, then we run the risk in bringing others. Unfortunately, today, because there is very little discernment among the body, many followers fail the question the person in the pulpit, regarding them as being beyond reproach.
Failure to Prepare
For the most part, failure comes through inadequate preparation or simply failing to understand clearly the course and route we are to take. In such times we can find ourselves giving up or turning back, simply because we have not prepared adequately.
The message of the Exodus is one that prevails in the life of each believer individually, corporately and jointly as a nation. The Exodus in its incremental parts spans over the life of Moses. The first 40 years represents the man and his life in Egypt. The second 40 represent his preparation by God for the task ahead of him. The final 40 years represent the call upon his life. Some of us may take the calling to the end of our lives; others may fulfil it or achieve it in part. We must be clear that God is sovereign and uses us as He wishes.
It is crucial in these days, therefore, that we draw near to God as Moses did, to find our own tent of meeting and gather with others with whom we find leadership and fellowship among our own tribe. Too many are looking at the conditions and not moving forward because of fear, or failure to gain clarity. Some are listening to echoes found among the false prophecies and listening to the esegesis of untrained teachers. Many also call themselves prophets but act as the echo chamber for other voices, never releasing the word of God given to them, if at all.
We must remember that the prophetic voices bring the charges of God, the warnings of judgement and the way out. They bring also the message of grace and of God’s love and hope for a future restoration. This was Moses’ message to Israel; Get ready, pack your bags and move when I tell you. God is making a way out and He will surround you and protect you if you listen to His voice. Friends, the message of the Exodus needs to be relearnt and we need to reacquaint ourselves with the voice of God, yield and desist from presumption. Before Moses, the man could take His people out, God had to take Moses, the person out of himself. The born again event is supposed to do this. Each new believer must desist from drawing back into the world they have left behind. That is the moment of embarkation. We do not look to the Exodus story as a distant example but look to it as our guide, the line on our own map to follow, allowing the Holy Spirit, our pilgrim partner to change us along the way.