Morning Sermon: Exodus 15:1–18; Intro To Exodus: What Happened?

New Testament Reading: 1 Peter 2:1–12

“So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in Scripture: ‘Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.’ So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,’ and ‘A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.’ They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” (1 Peter 2:1–12, ESV)

Old Testament Reading: Exodus 15:1–18

“Then Moses and the people of Israel sang this song to the LORD, saying, ‘I will sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea. The LORD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him. The LORD is a man of war; the LORD is his name. Pharaoh’s chariots and his host he cast into the sea, and his chosen officers were sunk in the Red Sea. The floods covered them; they went down into the depths like a stone. Your right hand, O LORD, glorious in power, your right hand, O LORD, shatters the enemy. In the greatness of your majesty you overthrow your adversaries; you send out your fury; it consumes them like stubble. At the blast of your nostrils the waters piled up; the floods stood up in a heap; the deeps congealed in the heart of the sea. The enemy said, ‘I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil, my desire shall have its fill of them. I will draw my sword; my hand shall destroy them.’ You blew with your wind; the sea covered them; they sank like lead in the mighty waters. Who is like you, O LORD, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders? You stretched out your right hand; the earth swallowed them. You have led in your steadfast love the people whom you have redeemed; you have guided them by your strength to your holy abode. The peoples have heard; they tremble; pangs have seized the inhabitants of Philistia. Now are the chiefs of Edom dismayed; trembling seizes the leaders of Moab; all the inhabitants of Canaan have melted away. Terror and dread fall upon them; because of the greatness of your arm, they are still as a stone, till your people, O LORD, pass by, till the people pass by whom you have purchased. You will bring them in and plant them on your own mountain, the place, O LORD, which you have made for your abode, the sanctuary, O Lord, which your hands have established. The LORD will reign forever and ever.’” (Exodus 15:1–18, ESV)


Please excuse any typos and misspellings within this manuscript. It has been published online for the benefit of the saints of Emmaus Reformed Baptist Church but without the benefit of proofreading.


This morning we begin a sermon series through the book of Exodus.

The book of Exodus is very important, for it tells the story of the beginning of the kingdom of Israel.

Really, that story began in the book of Genesis with the call of Abraham. The book of Genesis has been described by some as a “prologue”, and I think that is right. The Old Testament scriptures are largely about the kingdom of Israel, and the book of Genesis functions as a prologue (that is, an introduction, or forward) which sets the stage for the drama of redemption. The Exodus of Israel from Egyptian bondage is the main event in the Old Testament story of redemption.  

So then, in the story of redemption, the book of Genesis functions as an introduction or prologue (it sets the stage, as it were). The book of Exodus tells us of the redemption that God accomplished for Israel to graciously bring them out of Egyptian bondage and into his presence. And this Exodus story, which we will be considering in detail in the months to come, is not to be forgotten by the people of God who live in subsequent generations. No, the Exodus of Israel from Egyptian bondage is to be remembered. In fact, it is to be viewed as a prototype or picture of the greater act of deliverance that God would accomplish for his people through the Messiah, Christ Jesus our Lord. This story is told in the New Testament. So the book of Exodus is to the Old Testament what the Gospels are to the New Testament.  Exodus in the Old, and the Gospels in the New, tell the story of the accomplishment of redemption. Through Moses God redeemed Old Covenant Israel from Egyptian bondage. Through Jesus Christ, God redeemed the true Israel of God from Satan, sin, and the power of death. 

So you can see that the book of Exodus is very foundational. The Exodus event was clearly foundational to the nation of Israel, the Old Covenant people of God. And the Exodus event is foundational for all who are in Christ, for the Christ emerged from Israel, and in the Exodus event, we find an earthly picture of the redemption that God has worked for us in Christ Jesus. The Messiah has redeemed us, not from Pharaoh, nor from Egyptian bondage, but from Satan, the power of sin, and from death. And I am saying that the experience of Israel in the Exodus was an earthly type, picture, or pattern, of the greater act of deliverance accomplished by the Messiah. It is because of this relationship between the redemption accomplished through Moses and the redemption accomplished by Christ — the one was a picture or type of the other — that the gospel of Jesus Christ is everywhere present in the book of Exodus. How is Jesus the Messiah present in the book of Exodus? The answer: through promises, prophecies, types, shadows.  

I pray this will grow ever more clear to you as we progress through this marvelous book of Holy Scripture together. For now, l may show you what I mean by using the Passover as an example. We know that the children of Israel were shielded from death by the blood of the Passover lamb applied to the doorposts of their home. At the same time, we know that that act of deliverance, and the Passover feast which was celebrated year after year, was a picture of Christ, of the shedding of his blood, and of the forgiveness of sins that is found in him. Christ is the Passover lamb. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 5:7, “Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed” (1 Corinthians 5:7, ESV). This is but one example of the ways that Christ is present in the book of Exodus. The book is in fact packed full of types and shadows such as these. 

This sermon series through Exodus will be substantial. I’m not sure how long we will be here. I’d rather not commit to a time frame before getting a feel for preaching through this book. I’m sure we will be here for a while, though. Maybe a year. And it is my custom to take a sermon or two to introduce large books of scripture like this one. I would like to take three sermons to introduce Exodus. 

In this first introductory sermon, I wish to provide you with an overview of the book itself. The title of this sermon is Intro to Exodus: What Happened? 

In the second introductory sermon, I wish to draw your attention to the connection between the book of Exodus and what happened before that as recorded in Genesis. Genesis and Exodus must be read together, for the story of Exodus is rooted in the story of Genesis. Genesis is the prologue, remember? That sermon will be entitled, Intro to Exodus: Its Relation To What Preceded.

And in the third introductory sermon, I wish to draw your attention to the way in which the scriptures, from the time of the Exodus onward, constantly refer back to the Exodus event and use its language and themes as prototypical of the work of redemption that God would accomplish through Jesus the Christ. In other words, it is the book of Exodus that provides us with the terminology and themes that we need in order to comprehend and speak of the great work of redemption that the Messiah would accomplish for us. I wish to tease that out for you a bit before diving headlong into the text of Exodus itself. That third introductory sermon will be entitled, Intro to Exodus: Its Relation to What Proceeded.    

The task that is before me today is to overview the book of Exodus. I wish to remind you of the marvelous story that is told here. And I wish for you to see that there is so much more to this story beyond the ten plagues and the parting of the Red Sea! No, the story that is told in Exodus is about bondage, deliverance, and reconciliation. This is a story about God rescuing his people out of darkness so that he might dwell in the midst of them, and they with him. Already you can see what I mean about the Exodus picturing our redemption in Christ Jesus, for God “has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13–14, ESV), but I’m getting ahead of myself. 


Structure: Exodus In Three Parts

For now, let us consider the structure of the book of Exodus. Recognizing the structure will help us to understand the meaning of this marvelous work. When Moses wrote this text under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he divided it into three parts (I should say that I’m indebted to the work of the Old Testament scholar, Alec Motyer, for the terminology): Part one, which runs from 1:1-13:16, tells the story of Israel in Egypt. Here God is portrayed as a savior. YHWH is Israel’s saving LORD. Part two, which runs from 13:17-24:11, tells the story of Israel at Mount Sinai. Here God is portrayed as a companion.  YHWH is Israel’s covenant LORD. And part three, which runs from 24:12-40:38, tells the story of Israel around the tabernacle. Here God is portrayed as an indweller. YHWH is Israel’s indwelling LORD. 

I would venture to say that Christians are most familiar with part one of the book of Exodus. This section contains the story of Egyptian bondage, of Moses’ birth, of his failed attempt at deliverance, of his journey into the wilderness, of the revelation of the Divine name at the burning bush, of the calling and commissioning at Moses and Aaron, of the ten plagues, the Passover, and the parting of the Red Sea. Part one is all about God’s deliverance of Israel from Egyptian bondage through Moses. That is the part that we are most familiar with, I would think.

But there is so much more to the book of Exodus. Not only did God free Israel from Egyptian bondage, but he also freed them to commune with him. God has set Israel apart to be his holy people. He entered into a covenant with them. He gave them his law and called them to walk in obedience. And he went with them to guide them and to defend them as a pillar of fire by night and a cloud of glory by day. The LORD fed Israel with manna in the wilderness, and he satisfied their thirst with water from the rock. So then, you can see that this is not only a story of deliverance, it is also a story of companionship and covenant. The LORD was Israel’s God, and Israel was God’s people. 

This story of redemption and companionship reaches its climax in the third part of the book of Exodus which describes the construction of the tabernacle, which would later become the temple. What is the purpose of a tabernacle, or temple? The tabernacle was the place where God dwelt in the midst of his people. There at the tabernacle, the people of Israel were invited to come and to commune with the LORD, their Maker, and Redeemer. The LORD was Israel’s God, and they were his people — and God dwelt in the midst of them. He indwelt the tabernacle. He indwelt the nation, therefore. God is everywhere present, this we know. And so when we say that the LORD indwelt the tabernacle, clearly we mean that his glory filled that place, and his presence was manifest there in a special way. God was gracious to Israel to set them apart as his people from all the nations of the earth, and to be present with them in this special way. 

The song of Moses which we read from Exodus 15 tells and celebrates this story. The majority of it rejoices in the deliverance that God worked for Israel to free them from Egyptian bondage, but listen to how the song concludes. The people sang, “You [God] will bring [your people] in and plant them on your own mountain, the place, O LORD, which you have made for your abode, the sanctuary, O Lord, which your hands have established. The LORD will reign forever and ever.” So then, the song celebrates deliverance, but also celebrates communion with God, and indwelling of God’s presence. 

This storyline should sound familiar to you. Not only is it the storyline of the Exodus, it is also the storyline of our redemption in Christ Jesus. In Christ, you have been freed from bondage. More than this, you have been reconciled to God in the Covenant of Grace. He is yours, and you are his. He is with you to guide, direct, and protect. And he has made his home with you. The Holy Spirit indwells the believer and the church. As Paul says, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19–20, ESV). The story of the Exodus and the story of our redemption in Christ are not the same story. They are different stories in very significant ways. But they are similar. The storylines are the same. God has delivered his people, he has entered into covenant with them to commune with them, and he has indwelt them by tabernacling amongst them. 

I’m so very tempted to get ahead of myself by looking back to Genesis and particularly to the situation in the garden before sin entered the world to compare what God did in the Exodus with that situation as it was at the beginning. This we will do next Sunday, Lord willing. For now, may I urge you to begin to think in that direction? Please consider that what God did with Israel at the time of the Exodus was a major step forward in regaining what Adam lost when he rebelled against his Maker. What did Adam lose? Well, he lost many things, the most precious of them being sweet communion with God in his garden temple, and the hope of consummate life and eternal glory. Here I am saying that the Exodus event — the deliverance of Israel from Egyptian bondage, the covenantal communion with God that was established then, and the indwelling of God at the tabernacle  — must be considered against the backdrop of Genesis chapters 1-3. At the Exodus, progress was made in God’s program of redemption. 

And I am also tempted to get ahead of myself by looking forward, beyond the book of Exodus and to subsequent revelation. This we will do in three Lord’s Day, Lord willing. But for now, consider how these Exodus themes are repeated in scripture. And not only are they repeated, they are also advanced and heightened. Yes, there was an Exodus in the days of Moses. But in the scriptures, we see that the people of Israel were to look forward to one greater than Moses, and to a greater Exodus in the future. The passage that I read from 1 Peter at the start of the sermon illustrates this point. When the Apostle Peter wrote to Christians (Jews and Gentiles alike) he used Exodus language to describe them. He called them “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession…” He stated that their purpose was to “proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” He referred to them as “sojourners and exiles”. He taught Christians that God was making them into “a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” This is Exodus language that Peter uses, but he applies it, not to Old Covenant, ethnic Israel, but to the Israel of faith, that is, to the church of Jesus Christ consisting of Jew and Gentile alike. 

We will look more carefully at what preceded the Exodus, and what proceeded from it on the next few Lord’s days. For now, notice the familiar storyline — deliverance, covenantal communion, and indwelling. 


Structure: Exodus In Chiastic Form

Before moving on to some application, please allow me to draw your attention to another structural feature of the book of Exodus. Not only is Exodus divided neatly into three parts — Israel in Egypt, Israel at Sinai, and Israel around the tabernacle — there is also a chiastic structure to the book wherein the first part of the book corresponds to the last, the second to the sixth, and the third to the fifth, with the fourth part being the heart of the book. 

You should get used to the idea that the scriptures are highly structured like this. It is not at all uncommon to find entire books of the Bible, or sections of books, being highly organized in this way. The literary structures themselves help to tell the story. 

So how is the book of Exodus structured chiasticly? 

Well, scholars have noticed that in part I Israel is in bondage and they are building for Pharaoh in that idolatrous nation, Egypt. Chapters 1-5 tell that story. But the book concludes in chapters 35-40 with Israel building, not for Pharaoh, nor for his idolatrous kingdom, but for God and for his kingdom. They are freely building God’s tabernacle. So then, the book begins with Israel serving Pharaoh, but it concludes with Israel serving the LORD. 

In chapters 6-12 we hear of the deliverance of Israel through the ten plagues. Everything comes to focus on the Passover and the Lamb of God. In the chiastic structure, this corresponds to chapters 32-34 with Israel worshipping the golden calf. So here we have another contrast, but it is a negative one. How does Israel respond to God’s redeeming grace? They fall almost immediately into idolatry. 

Next, in chapters 13-18 the emphasis is placed upon God being with Israel to guide, protect and provide. Israel is lead through the Red Sea and into the wilderness by the cloud and pillar. God feeds them with bread and gives them water to drink. God is their companion. And this does correspond to chapters 25 -31 wherein the instructions for construction of the tabernacle are described. At the conclusion of that section, God says, “I will dwell among the people of Israel and will be their God. And they shall know that I am the LORD their God, who brought them out of the land of Egypt that I might dwell among them. I am the LORD their God.” (Exodus 29:45–46, ESV)

This makes chapters 19-24 the heart of the book of Exodus. And it is here that God meets with Israel at Sinai to give them his law — the ten commandments and the laws that are based upon them. In chapter 24 Israel formally enters into covenant with their God. In 24:7 we read that Moses “took the Book of the Covenant and read it in the hearing of the people. And they said, ‘All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.’ And Moses took the blood and threw it on the people and said, ‘Behold the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words’” (Exodus 24:7–8, ESV). So then, it is the law of God and the covenant that God transacted with Israel through Moses that is at the heart of this marvelous story of redemption.


Conclusion and Suggestions For Application


I don’t know about you, but I find it helpful to consider these two structures found in the book of Exodus. 

The first is rather straightforward as we follow Israel’s journey from Egypt to Sinai, to the tabernacle. Considered in this way, we see clearly that God delivered Israel so that he might commune with them and indwell them. 

The chiastic structure is a bit more complex, but it helps us to see the contours and nuances of this story. When God rescued Israel from bondage he freed them from brutal slavery to Pharaoh so that they might worship and serve him as his redeemed people. Israel once built cities for idolatrous Pharaoh, but they were redeemed to build a house and kingdom for God so that God would dwell among them and be their God, and they would be his people.    

Brothers and sisters, the same is true for you and me. God “has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13–14, ESV). We have been freed from bondage so that we might willingly and freely serve the Lord. Friends, don’t forget about that aspect of our redemption. You have been set free… to serve the Lord. We have been “delivered from the hand of our enemies…” so that we “might serve [the LORD] without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days” (Luke 1:74–75, ESV). Many will walk the aisle at church or say a prayer to God because they wish to be delivered from their bondage and forgiven all their sins, but they forget that faith involves repentance, and a new life in Christ Jesus will produce a holy walk. To have Jesus as Savior one must confess that he is Lord. So yes, I pray that you would look to Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and deliverance from the domain of darkness and the power of the evil one. But having been led out of Egypt by the mighty hand of God, you are to walk with the Lord faithfully, follow him, and trust him as he guides you. He indwells you if you are his. And because he indwells you, you are to pursue holiness, for he is holy. No longer are you to build for the Evil One nor for his kingdom. Instead, you are to build for God and labor for the furtherance of his. 

God’s graciousness is also displayed in Exodus. God did not redeem Israel because of something worthy in them, just as he did not call Abraham hundreds of years earlier because of something deserving in him. This great act of deliverance is by the grace of God alone. And so it is with us. Why did he set us free? Not because we were worthy, but because God is merciful and kind. That Israel was unworthy, and God merciful and kind, is seen clearly in the juxtaposition of the Passover scene with the Golden calf scene. God delivered Israel and led them to his holy mountain. And what did they do? They were unfaithful. They committed idolatry. May our appreciation for the mercy and grace of God shown to us in Christ Jesus grow and grow with each passing day. 

And what shall we say regarding the centrality of the law of God and of the covenant that God transacted with Israel through Moses wherein the people pledged obedience to this law that God gave them?

I have two things to say:

One, we should acknowledge that, like Old Covenant Israel, we also relate to God and are made to be citizens in his kingdom through covenant. Remember how Christ said, this is the New Covenant in my blood. And do this in remembrance of me. So then, we share this in common with Old Covenant Israel. They were brought into the kingdom of God by way of covenant. It was the covenant that God transacted with them that established the terms of the relationship. The same is true for us. And concerning the giving of the law we must confess that we too have a law. At regeneration, the law of God is written on our hearts anew and afresh. So, covenant and law are central features of our relationship with God too. 

But hear this: the covenant that we are partakers of is not the same as the covenant as the one made with Israel Israel in the days of Moses, for that was a covenant of works, and we are under the covenant of grace. And connected to this, we must confess that the law which God imposed upon Israel in the days of Moses does not apply to us in quite the same way. 

So then, throughout our study of Exodus, I will constantly be drawing your attention to the similarities but also the differences between Old Covenant Israel’s experience and ours as we live in this New Covenant age. 

Here is one similarity: holiness matters as much now as it did then. God’s people are to be holy just as he is holy. Under the New Covenant, God has made us holy by the shed blood of Christ, his moral law is written on our hearts, and he has called us to be holy, as he is holy. May Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit, move us to obedience as we encounter God’s moral law, which is at the heart of this book concerning God’s work of redemption. 

Here is an important difference: we are not under this law that was given to Israel through Moses as a covenant of works. The covenant that God transacted with Israel was a covenant of works. We are under the Covenant of Grace. When Jeremiah the prophet spoke of the coming New Covenant he emphasized that it would differ from the covenant that God transacted with Israel in the days of Moses, saying, “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD” (Jeremiah 31:31–32, ESV).

So then, there are many similarities between Old Covenant Israel’s experience and ours, but there are many differences too. We must keep these similarities and differences ever in mind. 

Well, I think that is enough for today. We will continue with introductory concerns next Sunday, Lord willing, as we look back into Genesis to consider how Exodus is connected to what preceded it. 

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