For the week of December 28, 2002 / 23 Tevet 5763
Torah: Shemot / Exodus 1:1 - 6:1
Haftarah: Isaiah 27:6 - 28:13; 29:22-23

We Too Were Slaves

So they put slave masters over them to oppress them with forced labor (Shemot / Exodus 1:11).

This week we begin the second book of the Torah. The Hebrew title, Shemot, means "names" and is taken from the first sentence of the book, where we read, "These are the names of the sons of Israel who went to Egypt with Jacob, each with his family." The popular English title, Exodus is from the Greek, "to go out," and is taken from the early Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, the Septuagint. The title Exodus refers to the story of the people of Israel's departure from Egypt that is contained in this book.

While the nation of Israel has its origins in Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, it is this event that most clearly defines their identity. Later, when God would give them the covenant at Mt. Sinai, he would say, "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery" (20:2). Israel's understanding of God and their relationship with him is eternally wrapped in their experience of being rescued from slavery. Throughout the Hebrew Scriptures this story would be referenced again and again.

This is carried over into the New Covenant writings. That which Israel experienced in the natural centuries ago is how we are to understand our own spiritual experience today. As the people of Israel were slaves in Egypt, so we are slaves to sin and the Evil One. Just as God sent a deliverer, Moses, to free Israel, so God also has sent the Messiah Yeshua as our Deliverer to free us from spiritual bondage.

That the Exodus is the central theme of the entire Bible is established by Yeshua himself. Perhaps the one most common tangible expression of New Covenant faith throughout history is actually an application of the festival of Passover. Passover is the commemoration of the Exodus. The Passover meal contains symbolic elements intended to remind us of this event.

It was during Yeshua's last Passover, shortly before his execution, that he took some of the elements of the Passover meal and applied them to himself. To his followers the association was clear: Yeshua was the greater Moses - the promised Deliverer, who had come to set them free.

Through the years Yeshua's followers have sought to heed his words, "Do this in remembrance of me" in various forms and by different names. Sadly the association with the Exodus has often been lost, with the focus exclusively being on what Yeshua did for us.

Yet the association with the older event was intended by God. Being set free from 400 years of slavery is the picture that God wants us to have in mind when we think of what Yeshua has done for us. As Israel was suffering under harsh taskmasters, so we have been under the ruthless control of the Evil One. Our deliverance in Yeshua is no less dramatic than the one experienced by Israel under Moses. It is also just as complete.

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