What began as opportunity eventually became misery for God’s people, Israel. Having moved to Egypt to be saved from famine, they soon need to be saved from Egypt and its oppression.
As the Egyptians are killing off all the Israelite baby boys, one in particular is saved and hidden away. Being unable to hide him any longer, his mother places him in a basket floating on the river Nile, with his older sister looking on. The Egyptian Princess comes along and finds the baby, yet takes pity on him and saves him, giving him the name Moses, and allowing his mother to nurse him.
As Moses grows up, he has a righteous anger for his people’s oppression, on one occasion resulting in murder and a life on the run. But then, God meets with him and commissions him with the task of leading God’s people in deliverance.
So Moses goes to Pharaoh to ask for his people’s freedom. Naturally, Pharaoh isn’t too keen and says no, resulting in a series of ten plagues sent by God to demonstrate his dominance. Eventually, in the tenth plague, every Egyptian firstborn male in the land, both people and animals, is killed. The Israelites escape this plague by placing the blood of a lamb on their doorposts so that God would pass over their house and not take their firstborn. This was to be commemorated in the festival of Passover and finds its fulfilment in Jesus whose blood was shed so that God may pass over us.
As a result of this final plague, Pharaoh allows Israel to leave Egypt. Led by God in a cloud and fiery pillar, he takes them to the Red Sea. But having changed his mind, Pharaoh is now there with an army. God demonstrates his saving power and parts the waters allowing his people to travel on dry ground. As soon as they’re all through, the sea crashes down upon the following Egyptians, killing them all.
Having freely saved his people, it’s time for God to establish the relationship in his grace. He leads them to Mount Sinai, where he calls Moses to come and meet with him. God gives the Israelites his rules for life and how they are to live in covenant relationship with God.
Despite feeding them with miraculously provided bread, meat and water, the Israelites don’t believe that God will lead them to the Promised Land so God delays their journey by 40 years to allow another generation to rise up who will trust in him. God leads Joshua (who replaces Moses as leader) into the Promised Land, victoriously conquering Jericho and Ai on the way.
But the Israelites don’t quite conquer the whole land as God had commanded so as they take their territories according to the twelve tribes, these remaining people groups become a snare to the people of God, leading them into sin.
After Joshua’s death, judges are appointed to lead the Israelites. During this time, whenever the people sin, God would bring some kind of discipline, such as famine or war. This would cause them to recognise their desperate need and so cry out to God, recognising their sin and pleading for deliverance. God, in his mercy, raises up a saviour each time who is empowered by God to save them. But the saviour doesn’t last forever, and when he dies, the people return to their sinful ways.
What God’s people need is a king. More than that, they need a king who would save them, lead them in the right ways, and never die.
Next in this series: Empire »