FBT – Deliverance and the Law
May 3, 2008
Returning to our study in Exodus 3:4-22, the call of Moses on at Sinai showcases a veritable theology of God. The God of the Hebrews is not a mere tribal God, for He is "I Am Who Am."
Egypt is the classical Biblical metaphor for oppression and worldliness. In our modern context, we, too, need to escape from the "bondage of Egypt." Christ has broken the shackles of our slavery to sin, the world, the flesh and the devil; we can further "despoil Egypt" if we adopt its wisdom for God’s mission (cf. Ex 3:22).
In Chapter 4, Moses questions his credentials to be God’s deliverer for Israel. To empower him on his mission, God gives him the power to show signs: the ability to turn his staff into a serpent, to spread and heal leprosy and to turn water into blood on dry land (4:2-9). When he protests that he speaks with a stutter, God permits Aaron to be Moses’ spokesman in a concession.
On his way to Egypt, Exodus 4:24-26 describes how God’s anger wells up towards Moses who has been putting off circumcising of his sons. Neither Moses nor his wife Zipporah were thrilled with the idea of their sons’ suffering, but the Midianite matron ends up circumcising her sons to honor God’s covenant (cf. Gen 17:1-14). This passage is an object lesson in not procrastinating and not taking God’s commands lightly.
Chapters 5-11 highlight Pharaoh and the plagues of Egypt. In some instances Pharaoh hardens his heart against God and in other instances God Himself hardens the Pharaoh’s heart. The plagues upon Egypt are symbolic reminders that juxtapose the Egyptians with the people of God, set apart and bought for a price.
In Exodus 12, God describes the Passover to Moses. Although the Passover meal has evolved over time, Catholics would do well to understand the Biblical depth of the Eucharist, which has many profound roots in the Passover.
As the Israelites depart from Egypt and approach the Red Sea, the theme of deliverance begins in full-throttle. A testament to the hearts of the people, almost immediately after the river pulls back the people begin to doubt and complain. All the strong men of Israel would die before entering the Promised Land.
In Chapter 19, the Israelites reach Sinai where they receive the Ten Commandments. Interestingly, Modern Jews and Christians tend to group these commands in different ways, sometimes out of a desire to highlight certain of theological principles. St. Augustine’s writings frame the current Catholic compilation which tends to group the ‘first’ and ‘second’ Commandments. A traditional Protestant enumeration would be a brief first commandment and a long second commandment that expounds on the decrees against worshiping graven images.
Regardless of the enumeration, we must strive never to take the Lord’s name, breaking any habits we may have adopted. It is also crucial not to work or pursue our own vain pleasures on Sundays (cf. Is 56, 58). Paramount is honoring our father and mother, for although they are not without error, we must respect those who represent the authority of God to a young child. If we keep this proper order, bowing before God and His Commands, we will be greatly blessed. Our study seeks only to open doors of the text, as it would take dozens of sessions to unwrap the treasures God gives His people at the end of Exodus and the ways we can learn from them.
The goal of the Law is Jesus Christ. God gave these Ten Commandments are to prepare man to receive God and for God to embrace us. They frame our morality and keep us from making concessions. Mindful of the fact that we are not Jews living under the Old Covenant, the Law and God’s regulations for Tabernacle worship are of great benefit in keeping a Christian steadfast to Christ on his journey out of Egypt into the Kingdom of God.