Deliverance – Exodus 12:13
The Bible is, at the heart, a story of deliverance.
It’s the story of God’s people crying out from under the yoke of oppressive taskmasters. And it’s the story of a God who goes to great lengths to deliver His people from their bondage.
That’s the central story of the Exodus. But more than that…it’s the central message of the Gospel.
The descendants of Jacob made it to Egypt – that’s where we left off last week. Many years pass between the end of Joseph’s story and the beginning of our story; several hundred years, actually. A Pharaoh who knows nothing of Joseph comes onto the scene. The Bible says, “he knows not Joseph.” And because he doesn’t know the story of Joseph, he doesn’t know anything about the God of Joseph, the God of Jacob.
As we’ll see throughout this year, there is always great danger whenever the story is forgotten.
Maybe that’s why this story was told so often. From this point on, the OT is constantly looking back to this moment as a moment of identity. Who is Israel? They are the ones who were liberated from Egypt. Who is YHWH? He is the God who brought Israel up out of Egypt. Identity forming for both Israel and God.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. We were talking about Pharaoh and how he had forgotten the story. He doesn’t know about what Joseph was able to do for Egypt. Instead, he sees the Israelites as slave labor.
Exodus 1:11, ESV: Therefore they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with heavy burdens.
Taskmasters are icons of the empire, icons of oppression. Let me ask you a question this morning: Are you free? Are you really free? Or are you enslaved to something?
Oh, our knee jerk reaction is to say, “I’m free.” After all, this is the land of the free, home of the brave. Freedom is one of our most highly prized ideals. But are you really free? Are you sure there aren’t any taskmasters in your life?
Financial freedom? Maybe you’re having a hard time paying your bills; maybe that’s not you, maybe you’re doing quite well, better than you ever dreamed. And yet, you’ve found that financial freedom is something altogether different than financial prosperity. You used to think, “Boy, if I only made $XXX, then I wouldn’t have to worry about anything.” Only now that you’re there, you’ve found that your worries haven’t gone away; they’ve only changed. You find that your life is consumed with money market rates and securing your investments and the fact that the Dow Jones is picking up! That’s all well and good, but just ask yourself: Is this what freedom really looks like?
Or let’s talk about sex. Are you enslaved sexually? Is there a fantasy life that has become a taskmaster for you? A 2011 Newsweek study estimated some 40 million Americans log onto a pornographic website at least once a day. Have you gotten so caught up in this world that it’s become an all-consuming passion for you? If so, then you have a taskmaster.
Or we could talk about taskmasters that are less illicit, but no less damaging. For many of us, our relationships can become oppressive taskmasters, and we don’t even have the eyes to see it. Maybe there’s some guy you’re dating and that relationship has now taken up the prime space in your heart, space that’s supposed to be reserved for God alone.
You see, we live in Egypt, folks. We’re Israel. We’re surrounded by taskmasters. And like Israel, we cry out from under the yoke of these taskmasters, these things that enslave us. We cry out for deliverance. We long for true freedom.
Exodus 2:23-25 – The people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. And God heard their groaning and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God saw the people of Israel – and God knew.
Four different Hebrew words are used to describe the crying of the people in these verses. Conveys a sense of intense, continuous agony. And how does God respond? God hears their cry; He sees the oppression; and, most comforting of all, it says that God knew — the idea is that God understands!
In our oppression, when we cry out for deliverance, we can take comfort that God sees, God hears, God knows.
NIV, last line of v25 – God was concerned about them. Word conveys intimate knowledge; same word is used elsewhere to describe the intimacy of the marriage relationship. So it’s not just that God has mild concern for the Israelites; God has intimate knowledge of their situation because He’s heard and He’s seen it for Himself.
So God calls one man to the task of liberating His people, to free them from oppression, from their taskmasters.
A man we know as Moses.
Moses is probably my favorite character in the Bible. When I was a kid, I would seriously beg my parents to read me the story of Moses every night. No joke. Halloween 1984 — all my friends dressed up as Michael Jackson or Luke Skywalker. Not me. I was Moses for Halloween. Wore this bathrobe and an old walking stick of my granddad’s. Ring the doorbell, instead of “Trick or Treat” I’d say (in my best Charlton Heston impersonation) “Let my people go!”
It’d be really easy for us to be drawn in to the story of Moses here, to tell the story of Moses, because it’s fascinating. And he certainly has his part to play. But as fascinating as his story is, Moses doesn’t receive top billing here. What’s truly amazing is the heart of God for His people. Look in Exodus 3:7-10
7 The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. 8 So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey… 9 And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. 10 So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”
Key phrase: I have heard them crying…this prompts everything that follows. I have heard them crying out, therefore I’m going to deliver them.
Do you think it’s possible that God hears you crying out from the taskmasters of your life and that He wants to deliver you in much the same way?
God could’ve chosen any means possible to liberate His people. He could’ve instantaneously transported Israel back to the homeland; He could’ve just struck Pharaoh dead as soon as he refused to let the people go. But He chooses to act in a way that tells us a great deal about His character.
Look at the person God chooses to head up this operation. God could’ve chosen anyone He wanted for this task. But what does it say about God that He chooses an 80-year old shepherd with a rap sheet, a convicted felon with a speech impediment? “You’re the man for the job!”
To me, it says that God is really into redemption stories.
The people who say the Bible is just a bunch of man-made stories…you can’t make this stuff up. Only God would write a redemption story like this.
And so God sends Moses back to Egypt with a message: Let my people go! And the next few chapters follow the same pattern: God sends a plague upon the land and then Pharaoh says, “Okay! Just make this stop and I’ll let you go!” And Moses prays to God to stop the plague and when He does, Pharaoh double crosses him and says, “I’ve changed my mind.” Either that or sometimes these plagues come and it just causes Pharaoh to dig in his heels even more.
In fact, in several places, it says that God hardens Pharaoh’s heart.
Now why would God do a thing like that?
Exodus 11:9-10, The Lord had said to Moses, “Pharaoh will refuse to listen to you – so that my wonders may be multiplied in Egypt.” Moses and Aaron performed all these wonders before Pharaoh, but the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let the Israelites go out of his country.
I believe God hardened Pharaoh’s heart out of theological necessity. He hardened Pharaoh’s heart in order to liberate His people through the blood of the lamb.
God has one final plague to send, one final act that will fully liberate His people. And this is the critical part of the story for Israel.
The Israelites are told to slaughter a year-old lamb; take the blood of this lamb and spread it across the doorposts of their homes. Exodus 12:13, The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you.
And so the story culminates in this dramatic scene: the Israelites eating in haste, with blood dripping down their doorposts. And on this night of nights, the Lord God moves through the land and the firstborn is slain in every home not marked by the blood. God passes over His people, delivering them into freedom as their oppressors suffer.
In the end, this is our story, too. It’s the story of the same God who liberates us from our bondage and our oppression, who frees us from the sin that so easily entangles. The Exodus story points beyond itself to something greater, to the story that would find fulfillment centuries later in the sacrificial death of the Lamb of God, the one who now cleanses us from sin.
Are you bound to certain taskmasters in your life? I believe we all are.
Is God trying to write a redemption story in your life? I believe so.
The blood has been shed for you. All you have to do is apply it.
It is His blood — it is only His blood — that is powerful enough to deliver you from these taskmasters that plague you.