The Exodus offers us a beautiful picture of Salvation. This event in history was so gripping that almost every Biblical author after it incorporated it into their narrative frame work. It was the paradigm of the Deuteronomist, the Prophets, and the Apostles. So in light of our recent law/gospel conversations, I think it is worthwhile to examine this Gospel of the Exodus to see where the law fits into its salvational scheme. I will then show how the New Testament mirrors this relationship in couple different ways
It is clear that salvation in Exodus begins with being saved from Egypt. God heard the cry of His Covenant people and he remembered them (Exodus 3.7). He sent His servant Moses to deliver them. He the wrath of God passed over His undeserving people because of the sacrificial blood of the lamb painted over the doorways (12). He made them rich off the plunder of Egypt (13.36) . He crushed their soldiers under waters of judgment (14). All this was grace and it was not because they earned anything. They were helpless. The blood of the lamb showed their need for mercy beyond what they could merit. Its awesome display of God’s grace to His people.
God’s grace doesn’t end there. The pinnacle of Exodus is what they are saved to. Part of their salvation was being saved to the mosaic covenant which included the Law. He wasn’t saving them to something bad but something good. The law was given to them in Grace. It was their covenant with God and they were to keep it in faith. (Ex. 19-24) So here are some scriptures that are important:
You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.”
Here we see (via suzerian treaty) that God saved them from Egypt to the covenant promises/obligations. With out the law they could not have been a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.
Then there is the beginning of the ten commandments:
“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of Slavery. You shall have no other God’s before me.” (Exodus 20.2-3)
Again, it is the same motif. They are saved to the law that is just the law. In this instance there is not any punitive punishment involved. It is the law given to guide His people. It is His love for His people. It is their restoration unto being the image of God.
And Moses took the blood and threw it on the people and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words.” Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up, and they saw the God of Israel. There was under his feet as it were a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness. And he did not lay his hand on the chief men of the people of Israel; they beheld God, and ate and drank.
This is the ratification of the Law. The climax of accepting this covenant is eating in God’s very presence. The law is clearly good and it is clearly grace and it was meant to lead them into the very presence of God.
This is a very short presentation of the exodus paradigm. I don’t have time to go into further. If I had time I would go into Deuteronomy and other areas of the OT. Next, I want to show how the NT builds of this paradigm.
All the Gospels point towards the gospel being the new Exodus in one way or the other, but I want to use Matthew because I think it is the easiest to demonstrate. Jesus is clearly represented as the new Moses. In the story an evil King tries to destroy all the firstborn but the savior child escapes. Jesus comes out of Egypt. Jesus passes through the waters via Baptism. Jesus was lead into the desert like the Israelites were lead by the pillar of fire. He endures the wilderness temptations. Then just like Moses he comes and preaches the Law to his people on the mountainside. This mountain is the new Sinai.
I believe we need to examine Jesus’ use of the law in the context of the Exodus Paradigm. Was Jesus’ primary reason giving of the law here to show the need for grace? Was he keeping the Law/ Gospel distinction? I would say no. That could be a secondary way We use the text but I don’t think that is the main thrust of the sermon of the mount. Lets look at some key parts of it.
“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
This text mirrors the above passage in Exodus 19.4 about being a kingdom of priest a holy nation. Jesus is saying that in reality the Church should be keeping covenant. Being a light unto the world. It is active participation.
For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus is clearly not talking about forensic righteousness here. We cannot read Paul into this section. Sanctification calls for a true righteousness that is better then the Pharisees. We need to understand Christ has a positive view of the law here. He his not using the law/ gospel distinction. He exhorting his followers and the Church who is reading this to show obedience in faith.
Why else would he end all of his teaching with the whole scheme of building their lives on the His Word. “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” (7.24)
And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.
This again mirrors the Exodus 24 passage above. Jesus is initiating a new covenant ratification ceremony. This covenant is for the forgiveness of sins. This is beautiful picture of the elders/apostles of Israel eating once again in the very presence of God. They were celebrating God’s faithfulness over them and simultaneous reaffirming there covenant status. Christ is giving them the command to remember God’s Grace.
I just want to point out that Jesus gives us the law and says it is a good thing to follow. We in his covenant of Grace still should have a positive view of the law. In fact, Matthew tells us that law is part of the Gospel.
Lastly, I am going to briefly point out that Paul shared this paradigm. There is common consensus that the book of Ephesians is built on the structure of Exodus. I just want to examine one verse.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
The exodus paradigm summed up. Just as Israel was saved by Grace to good works. So are we saved by Grace to good works. Their is no strict Law/Gospel distinction. Part of Salvation is producing good works. We can’t boast about them but the law is good and we are to follow it.
We are saved from our sins to God by Grace.
We are saved unto good works by God by Grace.