Sunday, March 29, 2009
Exodus: a new humanity which is destined to restore creation blessing to the world
We're starting a sixteen part series in Exodus 1-20 with our church today. I'm preaching the 4th and 14th parts. As with Genesis, Stephen Dempster is incredibly helpful for seeing how the book fits into the bigger story of God. It's easy to read the book without the broader story, but if you're going to Preach Exodus, and therefore Preach Christ from Exodus you need the wide angle lense:
"The scene of exile in Egypt provides the geographical background for the next book, Exodus. The opening paragraph of the book (Exod. 1:1-7) links the material explicitly with Genesis and focuses on the genealogical aspect of the promise with a reference to the seventy members of the family, who came from Jacob's thigh (Exod. 1:5, Gen 46:27).
In addition with language that loudly echoes both the creation narrative in Genesis 1 and the promise to Abraham and the patriarchs, the seed of Israel dramatically multiplies (Exod.1:7). Fox aptly remarks, 'It is as if Israel's “becoming man” in Exodus fulfills the plan of history inaugurated at creation.' Before this can happen, however, some significant obstacles stand in the way.
What is viewed as creation blessing is perceived as political curse by the Egyptian authorities, no longer aware of the legacy of Joseph (Exod. 1:8). They oppress the Israelites harshly in order to reduce their population. When their plan fails, they take more drastic measures, requiring midwives to kill babies during parturition. After this plan is aborted, the Egyptians order the liquidation of all Israelite male infants (Exod. 1:8-22).
This background sets the scene for the birth of a saviour, Moses, but the larger background is also important. If Exodus is divorced from the canonical storyline, then the series of events happening to the Israelite people, in which there is a change in their political fortunes from prosperity to misery, has parallels in other cultures as well.
This can be viewed as part of a general pattern for exiled people groups. Or, another obstacle, although a major one, that is the Israelites faced on their journey to nationhood.
If, however, this text is viewed in the context of the geographical and genealogical dimensions of Genesis and in the wider context of that storyline as it it unfolds, there is a more profound reason why blessing for the Israelites is a disaster for the Pharaoh. The series of events leading up to Hebrew genocide is seen to work out the struggle between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman mentioned in Genesis 3. Just as there is a clear allusion to Genesis 1 in the opening paragraph of Exodus 1, and a 'fall' of sorts in the change of attitude of the Egyptians toward them, so also there is a battle between the 'seeds'. Israel is not just a national and ethic entity. It represents in itself humanity – a new humanity – with its seventy members, which is destined to restore creation blessing to the world."