The book of Exodus is an epic within the story of Salvation History. The Israeli people of Exodus are in the midst of Egyptian oppression. Exodus starts where Genesis left off, listing the Genealogies of the Sons of Israel who came to Egypt with Jacob. Two particularly amazing religious experiences that stand out are the revelation of the name of God by the appearance of “the Angel of the Lord” to Moses in a burning bush (Genesis 3:2), and the Passover (Genesis 12:1), which included the lamb sacrifice that God ordered Moses and Israelites to offer as a perpetual ordinance. These experiences and principles contained within them are significant for the Christian today and can help to guide the lives of the faithful through difficulties of our modern life.
Moses and the Name of God
After Moses fled from Egypt he settled in the land of Median. He defended the daughters of a Priest of Median named Jethro, and was eventually invited to their home to “break bread”. Moses ultimately married one of the daughters, named Zipporah (Exodus 2:21). He was keeping the flock of Jethro and had led them to the “mountain of God”, called Horeb. The “Angel of the Lord” appeared to him out of a burning bush. A voice from the bush called him by name and spoke to him: “I am the God of your father; the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God Jacob” (Exodus 3:6). God revealed to Moses that He had heard the cry of His people and had come to deliver them. God instructed Moses that he must go to Pharaoh himself and tell him to let the Israelites go. Moses, uncertain of his worthiness, questioned God and asked him how he could confront Pharaoh with such a request. God reassured him that He would be with him. Moses asks God what he should call Him, when the Israelites ask for God’s name. “If I come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God then says to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM” (Exodus 3:14). The appearance of God within a flaming bush was something that was certainly astonishing to Moses, as the Israelites were afraid to even look toward the presence of God. His presence was seen as so powerful that it could kill them. This was an extraordinary occurrence: God gave the people His true name and told Moses that it shall be His name forever.
The deliverance of Israel
The Israelites migrated to Egypt at the end of the book of Genesis and initially were welcome because of Joseph’s position of authority over Egypt. After Joseph’s death and then the death of those who knew Joseph, the Israelites were no longer in a position of favor and became slaves to the Egyptians. God heard their cry and called Moses (as was previously mentioned), along with Aaron (Moses brother), to confront Pharaoh and ask for the release of the Israelites, that they may Worship God in the wilderness (Genesis 3:1-4:17). When Pharaoh refused to let the people go, God sent ten plagues on Pharaoh and the Egyptian people. For the tenth plague God sent the Spirit of Death on the Egyptian first born, to kill them. God instructed Moses to complete the Sacrifice of the Passover Lamb. The sacrifice included the instruction for the Israelites to sweep the blood of the Lamb over their doorposts in order for the Spirit of death to Passover them, and therefore spare the lives of their first born (Genesis 12:1-29). The Passover Lamb, when looking at it through the eyes of the Church and the New Testament scriptures, can now be seen as a foreshadowing of the Crucifixion of Christ, the final blood sacrifice for our salvation. To the Israelites the sacrifice of the Passover Lamb would be a celebration, through many generations. The deliverance of their people from the bondage of slavery. Eventually we would learn that the plan of God was our complete deliverance from that which truly binds. The bondage of sin.
Principles of Exodus Religious Experience and Significance for the Modern Reader
The principles we learn from the experiences of the Israelites can and do have significance for us today. We are constantly in turmoil due to modern technology and the constant noise and fast pace of our lives. The people of Israel lived very different lives than we are accustomed to in the modern world, yet they had the same hopes and dreams for their people as we do for our families today. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is the same God that came down to dwell among us and wants us to know Him. The same God came so that we may have life, and “have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). God personally introduced Himself to Moses in the burning bush and this was the beginning of the personal relationship that He wishes to have with us all. His love was shown by is continual attempts to reestablish a connection to the Israelites, though they broke that connection over and over again. Now we can see the same thing in happening in our lives and the lives of those around us. God reaches out to reestablish His relationship with us and no matter how many times we break that connection, He continues to wait for our return to communion with Him. The religious experience of the Israelites, saved from the Spirit of Death so they may escape the bondage they were in (which significantly included their consumption of the Passover meal), is the experience we should have every time we consume the Eucharist. No matter the place we find ourselves in, whether illness, job loss, or other problems we may face, the religious experiences of the Exodus show us that the God is with us. He loves us, and He wants us to be with Him. We, like the Israelites, are freed from the bondage of sin and death, and have been given a gift of the true presence of our Lord and Savior in the Eucharist. Ultimately the plan of God is for us to be one with Him. This is where we find our hope.