Worshiping the God of the Exodus: 5 Quotes from Roberts and Wilson

When we hear the word exodus, we probably think about Moses and Pharaoh, Egypt and slavery, plagues and Passover, redemption and Red Sea. We think about the book that bears its name.

But if you think the exodus is just some story near the front of your Bible, think again. In their new book Echoes of Exodus: Tracing Themes of Redemption through Scripture, Alastair J. Roberts and Andrew Wilson want to convince you that the exodus theme is one of the most pervasive patterns in the Bible—a melody recurring again and again until it reaches its crescendo in the true Passover Lamb, who redeems his captive people and his groaning creation, leading the former and turning the latter into a land flowing with milk and honey.

I have a review of this book being published at The Gospel Coalition sometimes in the next couple of months, so stay tuned. For now, let me encourage you to read the book by sharing five quotes from it. They are somewhat lengthy, but very worshipful. So I would suggest using one per day with your morning meditation or quiet time.

The Riddle of True Freedom

“Our generation is confused as to the nature of true freedom. No matter how often we experience liberation from constraints, limitations, and oppression, we still find ourselves falling into new forms of bondage. We get free from boredom, and fall into slavery to distraction. We pursue liberty from prohibitions, and fall into bondage to addictions. We escape repression and become enslaved to lust. We are released from isolation, and fall captive to peer pressure and the power of the online mob. We pursue liberty from the constraints upon our natures, and fall into bondage to our untrained passions. We successfully break out of 1984, only to find ourselves in Brave New World. Or, in the imagery of The Hunger Games, we get free from fences and guns in the districts, only to find ourselves trapped by slavish banality in the Capitol. True freedom is more complicated than it looks.” (15)

You Gotta Serve Somebody

“Time and again…Paul uses the exodus  story not just to remind Christians of our liberty, but also of our responsibility…[This is something that] is actually at the heart of Christian discipleship: Israel was set free from serving one master in order that they might serve a new one. God’s purpose for the plagues  and the confrontations, the water-crossings and the fire, was not that Israel might be free to wander off and do their own thing, but that thye might “serve” him (Exod. 7:16; 8:1, 20; 9:1, 13; 10:3). The contrast in Exodus, in fact, is less between slavery and freedom, as we might expect, and more between slavery to Pharaoh…and service to the LORD. It is as if…service to nobody is not an option.” (145-146)

A  Musical Reading of Scripture

“As the Bible commences its overture, we hear a melody, and a regular rhythm begins. As things develop, various harmonies and counterpoints arise, some of which complement the melody beautifully, but some of which chafe against it, leaving us…to wonder what the Composer is doing…Then the melody returns…bringing a temporary sense of resolution…[The] rhythms of Scripture continue to be accented…But every bar, every bar…heightens the sense that the piece is still incomplete. Eventually, after an uncomfortably long silence, the score builds to a massive crescendo in Christ, as the various themes come together and resolve in a fashion that nobody could have imagined, bringing the audience to its feet. Yet even then, the piece does not end…Only at the finale, when the Christ-crescendo is recapitulated…do we ultimately see the full scope of the Composer’s vision.” (25-26)

The Mighty Arm of the LORD (a further musical reading)

(Here they are discussing Isaiah 52:10-53:12, with a particular reference to 52:10’s “the arm of the LORD.”)

“The arm of the LORD, as we know by now, is about strength, power, even violence: the mighty hand and the outstretched arm that rain hailstones like fists and split the ocean. So as Isaiah begins to celebrate Judah’s redemption, we are not surprised to hear that it comes about because “the LORD has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all the nations,” and that his servant will be “high and lifted up” (Isa. 52:10, 13). Here is comes: the violent showdown we have all been waiting for. We can hear Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries beginning in the background.

But the orchestra goes silent. Suddenly, the concert hall is deathly  quiet. No trumpets or horns sound; the strings are muffled, and the oboes have been gently put back on the floor. The only sound we can hear is a plaintive cry, and as we peer at the stage in astonishment, we notice that it is coming from a manger, or the graveside of a friend, or a hillside garden, or even a cross. It is the cry of one like a root out of a dry ground, with no beauty that we should desire him., despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief (Isa. 52:2-3). Here, we learn, is what the arm of the LORD actually looks like in person: one who bears our griefs, carries our sorrows, is pierced for our transgressions, and is crushed for our iniquities (53:5). That is how Israel will be accounted righteous. That is what causes barren women to burst into song and thirsty travelers from every nation to descend on Jerusalem for a free banquet (53-55).

We didn’t think the new exodus would look like that at all. We were so busy looking for God in the plagues  or chariots hurled into the sea that we missed him in the fragile baby drifting downstream in a basket, and in the lamb’s blood smeared across a doorpost, and in the two goats who face death and exile to take away the sins of the people. The God of the exodus is still high and lifted up, and he still redeems with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. But now he is high and lifted up on a cross, and his arms are outstretched sideways, and his mighty hands have nails in them. Isaiah is as surprised as anyone: “Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?” Who indeed?” (114-115)


The Grand Finale—The Exodus of Everything

“Every exodus in Scripture is incomplete, except the last one. The patriarchs leave the land and come back wealthy, but their descendants are enslaved. Moses leads the people out of Egypt,  but they die in the wilderness. Joshua takes them into the land, but the Canaanites remain. David and Solomon secure the Land and build the temple, but Israel divides. Exile is followed by return, but idolatry continues. Jesus goes into the depths and emerges victorious, and leaves when the conquest of the Land has hardly started. The church marches out in the power of the Spirit, but as the Epistles clearly show, the church is still in the wilderness, awaiting its final rest…Every time we think the melody is complete, there is further complication, another discordant note. Exodus, but. Exodus but,

Until Revelation…

It is the perfect way for the Scriptures to conclude…[By] ending with the exodus of everything, [Revelation] reveals to us what type of story we have been reading all along. The Bible is a redemption story. It is a cosmic exodus, stretching from Eden to New Jerusalem…When Adam sinned, we left our homeland, fell into captivity, and have been hoping to get back ever since.

So have the oceans. So have the forests. Paul’s teaching in Romans 8 is remarkable here. It is not just human beings who are awaiting redemption, but “creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption…”( v. 21). We are looking forward to the exodus of everything

And when our true and better Joshua returns to lead us across the Jordan, creation will come too. We will rise up from he riverbed followed by a multi-colored menagerie of flora and fauna, like a latter-day Noah emerging from the depths and blinking at the brightness, to find that the waters have receded and there is no longer any sea. There is a new heaven and a new earth, not just a new Jerusalem. The labor pains were worth it. Paul was right: the weight of glory makes our light and momentary afflictions seem trivial. Tolkien was right: everything sad has become untrue.  Lewis was right: the dream has ended, and this is the morning. Dostoevsky was right:

In the world’s finale, at the moment of eternal harmony, something so precious will come to pass that it will suffice for all hearts, for the comforting of all resentments, for the atonement of all the crimes of humanity, for all the blood that they’ve shed; that it will make it not only possible to forgive but to justify all that has happened.

Death has been swallowed up in victory. The enemy who once harassed us and threatened us has been obliterated, and his entire army with him, and the whole world looks different. High-rises have become orchards. Children no longer hidden indoors for fear of neighbors or potential predators, but are chasing and laughing and playing in the streets. The desert is in bloom. The mountains and the hills have broken forth into singing. The trees of the fields are clapping their hands. Death is no more, and neither is there any mourning, or crying, or pain, for the former things have passed away. Further up, and further in!

‘He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev. 22:20).

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