By Russell L. Meek
The pastors at my church are preaching through Exodus this year. It is, in my opinion, one of the most fantastic books in the Bible. And a robust biblical theology makes it even better. Let me explain.
Jesus is the Better Moses
Moses’s story is incredible. Here’s a guy who was tossed in a river as a baby, raised by his mother in a foreign king’s court, and called by God (through a burning bush, no less!) to lead God’s people out of slavery and into the promised land. Just for good measure, he even murdered someone! We can read that story and see God’s goodness and faithfulness on display, and we would be right to do so. But biblical theology shows us deeper riches.
Moses leads God’s people out of bondage in Israel, and Jesus leads God’s people out of bondage to sin and death. In this life we have freedom from sin because of Christ’s sacrifice, and in the next life we have freedom from death. Unless Christ comes, we will all taste death, but Christ leads us through that death and into the true promised land—that new city where we will dwell with him forever.
Jesus is the Better Israel
The biblical story is the story of how a head crusher would one day come and destroy the serpent and restore right relationship between God and humanity (see Gen 3:15). Before we get to Moses and Israel, there are several candidates for the job of head crusher, but they all fail. Cain kills Abel; Abraham and Isaac are liar; Jacob, well, Jacob is the worst; and Moses is a murderer who can’t enter Canaan because he disobeys God.
In Exodus God establishes a covenant with Israel, whereby they become his kingdom of priests, a group of people who would show the rest of the world what it means to live in right relationship with God. Perhaps the nation itself is the head crusher? It doesn’t take long reading Exodus until we find out that’s not going to happen. Israel’s story is pretty hopeless—all that potential squandered away through idol worship, grumbling, complaining, and refusing to trust the God who rescued them. We could stop there and again see God’s faithfulness to Israel in the midst of their sin, be grateful for his grace, and we would be right.
Biblical theology lets us tie things together a bit tighter. If we keep reading the biblical narrative, we find out that Jesus is the better Israel. He does keep God’s commands. He does faithfully represent the Father to the nations. And he does show what it means to live in right relationship with God. Jesus is the True Israel who crushes the serpent’s head.
Jesus Makes a Better Covenant
When God brings Israel out of Egypt he makes a covenant with them on Mt. Sinai. He is their sovereign who delivered them from slavery and made them into a nation. This covenant makes it possible for God to once again dwell among his people, something that had not occurred since Adam’s and Eve’s sin in Eden. Keeping the commands will protect God’s people from dying in his holy presence, which is housed in the tabernacle.
This is good news indeed! God makes a way for his presence to be among his people. But we also know that the people don’t keep the commands, and God’s presence is still somewhat distant from them. It is not as it was in the garden; instead, they remain separated from God, even though they are much closer than before.
Biblical theology shows us that this covenant was superseded in a way we couldn’t imagine. Israel doesn’t obey the law, and they can’t stay in God’s holy presence without dying, so the Father sends the Son to finally and fully atone for sin. And in this new covenant believers house God’s presence—our bodies are the tabernacle, and God’s Spirit dwells within us! This trinitarian understanding of the better covenant far surpasses what we could understand about God and his relationship with humans if we were to stop at just reading Exodus.
These are just a few examples of how biblical theology enriches a preaching series on Exodus. It helps us to see the deeper, and more significant, meaning of the flight from Egypt, establishing of the covenant with Israel, and building of the tabernacle in Exodus. Those stories are our stories, and in Christ their true import is clear. Without a robust biblical theology, we’d likely be able to understand some of what God was doing in Exodus, but with a robust biblical theology we can enter into the grand, trinitarian narrative of redemption.
*Originally published at For the Church