Evidences of Faith
Delivered From Slavery
The story of Israel's son Joseph begins in the thirty seventh chapter of Genesis, and continues through the end of the book. It is a familiar story: Joseph's brothers sell him to some traders, who bring him to Egypt and sell him as a slave; he rises to be the head of his master's house, but his master's wife falsely accuses him, so he is thrown in prison; in prison, he demonstrates his God-given ability to interpret dreams, by interpreting for Pharaoh's chief butler and chief baker; two years later, the chief butler remembers Joseph, and commends him to Pharaoh, who has had a dream which his wise men are unable to interpret; Pharaoh sends for Joseph, who interprets his dream correctly - there will be seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine; Pharaoh places Joseph in authority over all Egypt, excepting only himself; when famine comes, and Joseph's brothers come to Egypt to buy food, Pharaoh hears of it:
Thus, Israel and his twelve sons and their families came into Egypt as the honored guests of Pharaoh. But this blessed state was not to last forever.
The book of Exodus opens by recounting the names of the sons of Israel, and telling us that they were fruitful in the land of Egypt, and the family grew to be such a large number that "the land was full of them" (Exodus 1:7). So, when a Pharaoh arose "who did not know Joseph" (Exodus 1:8), he feared the Israelites because of their great number, and made them slaves. Pharaoh made the Israelites' burden very heavy, but they continued to multiply. Pharaoh then commanded that every male born among the Israelites was to be killed, but the parents of the baby Moses set him in a basket in the river, and Pharaoh's daughter found him. She raised him as her own. He grew to manhood, and went out among his own kinsmen, to see one of his relatives being beaten by an Egyptian. Moses killed the Egyptian, and when he realized that it had become known, he fled to Midian. There he married and worked as a shepherd.
God appeared to Moses in a fire in the midst of a bush, and commanded him to return to Egypt and lead his kinsmen to freedom. Moses went before Pharaoh and asked him to let the Israelites go. Pharaoh refused, and at God's command Moses performed miracle after miracle to demonstrate that the God of Israel was no man-made idol: but Pharaoh hardened his heart. Finally, God killed all the firstborn among the Egyptians, but spared the Israelites. (More on this part of the story in a future issue!) So, at last, Pharaoh sent the Israelites out of Egypt. God led them in a pillar of cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night. But they were still not in the clear.
When the Israelites got as far as the Red Sea, Pharaoh and his army overtook them with the intention of bringing their slaves back. The Israelites were trapped between the sea and the army of Pharaoh. The pillar took a position between the Israelites and the Egyptians. Moses, at God's command, stretched his rod over the sea, and God parted the sea during the night. So, the Israelites crossed through the sea on dry ground, with the water forming walls on either side of them. The Egyptians followed, but God "looked down through the pillar of fire and cloud, and He troubled the army of the Egyptians" (Exodus 14:24). The Egyptians fled, and once all of the Israelites were safe on the opposite shore, God commanded Moses to stretch his rod over the sea one more time, and He closed the sea on the Egyptians, killing every one of them. The Israelites were finally free!
We may wonder why God chose this method to overthrow the Egyptian army, seeing as He could just as easily have killed them all, along with the firstborn. We are told that it was His intent that Pharaoh pursue the Israelites (Exodus 14:4), so it is not a mere accident. But if we picture the event as it is described, we can begin to understand. Remember, the Israelites passed through the sea, with water on both sides of them. Moreover, we know that God "looked down through the pillar of fire and cloud", so the cloud must have been above them. So, the Israelites were, in essence, immersed in water. The event that ultimately freed them from their bondage to the Egyptians was an immersion in water. Before they passed through the water, they were still within the sphere of the Egyptians, to whom they were enslaved; after they passed through, they were free.
Let us now turn to the books of the New Testament, written some 1400 years later. Let us remember that Jesus said that "whoever commits sin is the slave of sin" (John 8:34). That covers just about everyone, insofar as we have all sinned (cf. Romans 3:23). So, with the understanding that we have all been enslaved to sin, let us look at the sixth chapter of the Roman epistle:
So then, the point at which we pass from our slavery to sin into our freedom in Christ is the point that we are immersed in water. Or, as Ananias said to Paul:
So, just as the Egyptian slavemasters were washed away in the waters of the Red Sea, so also our slavemaster, sin, is washed away in the waters of baptism. And just as the parting of the sea would have been impossible without God, so also the power of baptism is in the fact that it is God's ordinance.
These parallels are no accident. In the tenth chapter of the first letter to the Corinthians, we are told that the things which happened to the Israelites were an example to us, and:
As you will remember, the Israelites were not immediately allowed into the promised land, the land of Canaan. They were forced to wander in the wilderness for forty years because of their rebellion against God. So, after their deliverance from bondage, the people became pilgrims, waiting for the day when God would see fit to bring them to the home He had promised them.
As Christians, we too are waiting for the day when God will see fit to bring us home:
Meanwhile, we are temporary residents, on a journey through a wilderness of sin and suffering:
But we do not journey alone. We have an entire nation of spiritual brethren traveling with us:
So, just God as took a large family and made them into a nation, His people under Moses, God has taken us from among the world and made us into a nation of brothers and sisters: His people in Christ.
The parallels between the passing through the Red Sea and baptism into Christ are extensive. This is just one more example of why this volume of sixty-six books written by over forty authors over some fourteen hundred years, cannot be a mere collection of interesting stories. The writings work together as a whole to give us one all-important story: the story of God's love for man. If you have not yet learned of this love,have not yet allowed it to change your life, won't you consider it now?
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