I. The Exodus
1. Israel in Egypt
Nearly four centuries passed after the Israelites came to Egypt in the days of Joseph. “And the children of Israel were fruitful and increased abundantly, and multiplied, and waxed exceeding mighty; and the land was filled with them. Now there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph” (Exodus 1:7–8). The new Pharaoh set harsh taskmasters over the Israelites and set them at hard labor in the fields and in constructing cities and walls. But the more the Egyptians afflicted the Israelites (Hebrews), the more the Israelites multiplied and grew. God was preparing them for the great exodus from Egypt back to their promised land of Canaan. The deliverance of Israel from bondage illustrates God’s plan of redemption for fallen humanity. First Corinthians 10:1–11 teaches that we can use the flight from Egypt as an example for us today.
2. Forty Years in Egypt
a. The Birth of Moses
Pharaoh became fearful that the Hebrews would rise up and overthrow the Egyptians, so he commanded the midwives to kill every newborn male Hebrew at the time of birth. “But the midwives feared God, and did not as the king of Egypt commanded them, but saved the men children alive” (Exodus 1:17). Then Pharaoh commanded all his people to destroy the baby boys by throwing them into a river (Exodus 1:22). After Moses was born, he was hid three months by his parents, Jochebed and Amram. When they could no longer hide him in their home, his mother made an ark of bulrushes and waterproofed it with slime and pitch. She hid him each day in the reeds along the river. His sister, Miriam, watched the baby Moses from the shore. One day while on her way to wash herself at the river, Pharaoh’s daughter found the ark among the reeds. She had the ark brought to her, and when she opened it, Moses wept and Pharaoh’s daughter had compassion on the small baby. She determined to take the child and bring him up in the palace. Miriam offered to contact a Hebrew woman to nurse the child for the daughter of Pharaoh. “And Pharaoh’s daughter said unto her, Take this child away, and nurse it for me, and I will give thee thy wages. And the woman took the child, and nursed it” (Exodus 2:9). The woman, who was Jochebed, took the child to her home, nursed him, and received wages for nursing her own baby. “And the child grew, and she brought him [Moses] unto Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son” (Exodus 2:10). The same river that could have been the means of destruction of Moses became his salvation, just as Jesus becomes our Savior instead of our Judge if we follow His plan of salvation for us. At the crisis of the Civil War, a New York farmer was drafted into the army. His wife had died, leaving him as the sole supporter of a family of little children. He was wondering what to do, when a young man of the neighborhood who had no one depending upon him came to his house and offered to go in his place. For the sake of his children the farmer accepted the offer. The generous friend marched off to war. In the first engagement he was shot and killed. The news filtered back to the New York farm. The man took his horses from the field and drove to the scene of battle. There he sought until he found the body of his friend.
He carried him back to his home and laid him tenderly in a grave in the village churchyard. From the hills he hewed a stone and cut upon it these words, “He died for me.”
b. Moses’ Choice
When Moses was grown, he went out one day among his brethren and saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew. He killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. The next day he saw two Hebrews fighting and attempted to separate them. One of them said, “Who made thee a prince and a judge over us? Intendest thou to kill me, as thou killedst the Egyptian?” (Exodus 2:14). Because Moses had acted out of God’s will, his efforts to lead were rejected by the people. He was unprepared at this stage for the task that he would later perform. (See also Hebrews 11:23–29.)
3. Forty Years in Midian
Moses realized that his deed was known, and fearing revenge by Pharaoh, he fled to the land of Midian. There he met and married Zipporah, a daughter of the Midianite priest Jethro.
a. Moses’ Call
One day as Moses was tending sheep, he beheld a bush burning. Upon closer examination, he was amazed when he saw it was not consumed with the fire. God called to him out of the midst of the bush, giving him his call for his life’s work. God told Moses that He had heard the cries of the people and that He would use him to deliver them from bondage and lead them to their promised land.
b. God Proves Himself to Moses
Moses expressed doubts that he could do the job, so God had him cast down the rod he held in his hand. When he did so, the rod changed into a serpent. God had him pick it up by the tail, and it turned back into the rod. God then told Moses to put his hand into his bosom. Moses obeyed, and when he took his hand out it was white with leprosy. Then Moses was told to thrust his hand back into his garment. When he removed his hand, this time it was healed. Thus he was shown that God could make him victorious over everything that would confront him. Likewise God’s people today can totally trust in the Lord, knowing that He will bring triumph over the devil, the world, and the flesh.
4. Moses the Deliverer
a. Moses before Pharaoh—Ten Plagues
Moses obeyed the Lord, returned to Egypt, went to Pharaoh, and told him that God had said, “Let my people go.” Pharaoh desired to keep the Hebrews in bondage and rebelled against God’s will. Disaster came to Egypt in the form of ten plagues from God. Significantly, God used the things the Egyptians worshiped—frogs, cattle, the sun, and the Nile River—to demonstrate His great power. After each of the first nine plagues, Pharaoh agreed to let the Israelites go, but in each instance, he later had a change of heart. His deceit set the stage for the most dreadful plague yet to come.
b. Passover—Deliverance by the Blood
The Lord told Moses to speak to the congregation and tell them to take a male lamb of the first year without blemish for each household. He instructed them to kill the lamb and to apply its blood to the two doorposts and the lintel of each house. They were then to roast the lamb and eat it that night, along with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. They were to eat in haste with shoes on their feet, belts on their waist, and a staff in their hand, because it was time to leave Egypt. At midnight the Lord passed through the land of Egypt and killed the firstborn of every household that did not have blood upon the doorpost. When He saw blood on the doorpost, He passed by that house and the inhabitants inside were safe. Salvation in this age is dependent upon the blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ. “For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us” (I Corinthians 5:7). If the Lord did not find blood applied to the doorpost, instant death resulted. The blood of the innocent lamb is symbolic of the blood of the Lamb of God that delivers us from spiritual bondage.
Israel at Sinai -- The Time of the Law
II. From Deliverance to the Law
1. Deliverance through the Red Sea
Pharaoh at last agreed to let the Hebrews go. The Lord led them out of Egypt with a pillar of fire by night and a pillar of cloud by day (Exodus 13:21). After the people left Egypt, Pharaoh changed his mind again and sent his army after the Israelites. God led the Israelites to the Red Sea. When the people saw Pharaoh’s chariots closing in on them, they cried out against Moses. Moses told the people, “Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD which he will shew to you to day: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to day, ye shall see them again no more for ever” (Exodus 14:13). Moses lifted his rod, and the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night (Exodus 14:7–21).The people miraculously crossed over upon dry ground with the waters as a great wall on either side. In every situation the Lord will always make a way of escape for His people. (See I Corinthians 10:13.) The Egyptians were in pursuit, but as soon as the Israelites got across, the Lord had Moses stretch out his hand over the sea. The waters fell on the Egyptians and they were all drowned. “And Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the sea shore” (Exodus 14:30). Salvation is the whole process by which Christ rescues people from sin and makes them children of God. Let us imagine a scene in which a house is burning. There is a violin in it, a Stradivarius. A music lover, knowing that the valuable violin is in the burning house, rushes in at great risk and saves it. That is salvation. The violin, however, is damaged by the heat. The music lover then takes the damaged violin to an expert craftsman. He repairs it, for he knows its value. Now the violin is not only saved from the fire, but its damage is repaired. A great violinist takes it, tunes it, and causes it to speak to us. That is salvation! The complete salvation of the violin consists of its rescue, its repair, and its restoration to the function for which its creator designed it. Jesus Christ rescues from sin and death; He restores the soul, and He puts a new song into the heart. Egypt represents a type of bondage, or sin. The Red Sea is a type of baptism for “all our fathers . . . were baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea” (I Corinthians 10:1–2). A future lesson will show that entering the Promised Land is a type of receiving God’s promise. There were battles to be fought, giants to face, and walls to bring down. Thus we see God’s plan of salvation: repentance (leaving Egypt), baptism (crossing the Red Sea), and moving into the promise of God (the Holy Spirit).
2. The Ten Commandments
Moses brought Israel from the Red Sea into the Wilderness of Sinai. When they came to Marah, they found bitter water, unsuitable for drinking. When the people murmured against Moses, God showed him a tree. When Moses cut it down and cast it into the water, the water became sweet. Sometimes life may be bitter, but Jesus is the tree that can sweeten every life. After three months on their journey from Egypt, they arrived at Mount Sinai. The people remained there for a period of one year. What took place at Sinai marked the beginning of Israel’s national history. The covenant God made with Abraham and confirmed to Isaac and Jacob became a national covenant. At Mount Sinai, God gave Moses the Law, which included the Ten Commandments as well as other moral, ceremonial, and civil laws. God intended for Israel to live by the Law until Jesus came in the fullness of time. “The law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith” (Galatians 3:24). The Law pointed out sin and the shortcomings of all human efforts to live holy without God’s indwelling Spirit. God also gave Moses the plan of the Tabernacle, which was the physical dwelling place of God’s Spirit in the midst of the people of Israel.
3. The Tabernacle
When the Lord gave Moses the plan of the Tabernacle on Mount Sinai, He admonished Moses to follow His specifications in its construction to the letter (Exodus 25:1–9). The Tabernacle was more than just a place to worship while in the wilderness. Its design and layout was a shadow of the redemptive work of Jesus, as well as a pattern of the salvation experienced in the present church age. There was only one entrance into the courtyard of the Tabernacle. Likewise, there is also only one way of salvation—through Jesus Christ (John 10:9). Inside the courtyard was the brazen altar, the brazen laver, and the Tabernacle itself. The Tabernacle consisted of the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies. These two rooms were separated by a veil of blue, purple, and scarlet. In the Holy Place was the golden candlestick, the table of showbread, and the altar of incense. In the Holy of Holies was the Ark of the Covenant. There abode the Spirit of God between two golden cherubims located on the lid of the ark, which was called the Mercy Seat. Of course, God is omnipresent, or present everywhere, but He manifested His glory there to show His covenant relationship with Israel. God has always desired to dwell with His people, but sin has always separated humanity from God.
From the Day of Pentecost, fifty days after the death of Christ, God has dwelt in the hearts of His people in a new and wonderful way. “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” (I Corinthians 3:16).
From the Tabernacle to the Cross
III. From the Tabernacle to the Cross
1. The Altar of Sacrifice
The priest approached the Tabernacle first by way of the brazen altar, and there he offered the sacrifice for sin. It was a place of death and shedding of blood. It represents the death of Jesus, which purchased our salvation. It also points to repentance, which is our identification with the death of Jesus and our personal death to sin and self-will. Everyone must approach God through repentance. Jesus said, “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3). It was not merely the altar that gave the worshiper access to the Holy Place, by the putting away of his sins; there had to be a sacrifice upon the altar. Without the brazen altar, all else, no matter how magnificent, was useless. Everyone had to come to God by the way of the altar. All the priests, their garments, the sacred vessels, and everything else were unfit for service until the blood shed at the brazen altar touched and sanctified them. Here is the story of the cross of Christ, Calvary. There is no pardon, no righteousness, no peace, no grace, no blessings, and no salvation without the sacrifice of the Cross. The altar represents the shedding of blood and the death of Jesus. And without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins (Hebrews 9:22). The fire upon the altar was never to go out (Leviticus 6:13). There is no hour, day or night, that a transgressor cannot find
the atonement of Calvary.
2. The Laver of Water
Just before the door of the Tabernacle stood the brazen laver, where the priest was required to wash his hands and feet. God told them to wash “that they die not” (Exodus 30:21). At their initial consecration to the priesthood, the priests were washed completely. The laver points to the cleansing from sin we have in Jesus—the initial washing at water baptism, which is for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38), and the continual cleansing we have thereafter (I John 1:7). When we are baptized, God washes away our sins (Acts 22:16). Jesus said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved: but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:16). “Baptism doth also now save us” (I Peter 3:21). “But ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus” (I Corinthians 6:11). (See also Exodus 30:18–21.) In the New Testament experience of salvation, repentance comes first, which is a death with Christ, a death to sin. Then comes water baptism, which is a washing and a burial with Christ (Romans 6:3–4).
3. The Holy Place
In the Holy Place was the golden candlestick (lampstand), the table of showbread, and the altar of incense. These pieces of furniture point to Jesus Christ and to our life in Christ through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
a. The Golden Candlestick
The candlestick was of pure gold, with seven branches coming forth from the stand. It provided the only light in the Tabernacle. It points to Jesus, who is the true Light. Just as the candlestick was of beaten gold, so Christ was first beaten before we could receive His light.
The priest had to have the light to guide him in his priestly duties, just as we must be led by the light of the Spirit in true worship. (See Exodus 25:31–40.)
b. The Table of Showbread
The table of showbread was approximately three feet by eighteen inches and was twenty-seven inches high. It was made of acacia wood overlaid with pure gold. On the table of showbread were twelve loaves of unleavened bread, which were eaten by the high priest and his sons in the Holy Place. The showbread provided sustenance for the priest. It points to Jesus, who is the Bread of Life, and to His Word, which is food for the soul. Just as the table exhibited the bread, so the Christian life shows forth Jesus to a dying world. (See Exodus 25:23–30.)
c. The Altar of Incense
The altar of incense was also made of acacia wood overlaid with gold. It represents prayers to God (Revelation 5:8). The incense was offered to God each morning and evening. Likewise, we should pray each day. The aroma of the incense went up when the incense was put on the fire. Likewise, God hears the “effectual fervent prayer” of the righteous person (James 5:16). The fire for the altar of incense came from the brazen altar of sacrifice, signifying that before there can be true prayer and praise (worship) there must first be death to sin and self. The altar was located before the veil that separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies. Prayer is the beautiful experience that draws us into the very presence of God. (See Exodus 30:1–10.)
4. The Holy of Holies
Behind the veil at the west end of the Holy Place was the Holy of Holies, which was the dwelling place of God. In the Holy of Holies was the Ark of the Covenant, which contained Aaron’s rod that budded, the tables of stone (Ten Commandments), and a golden pot of manna. The Holy of Holies represents the presence of God Himself, which we enjoy in our lives today by the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The budding rod is a type of Christ in that it showed the miracle of new life. Live buds and almonds sprang forth from Aaron’s dead rod to establish his priesthood (Numbers 17:8). The golden pot of manna was a reminder of God’s ability to provide miraculously for the needs of His children during their journey through the wilderness. The law written upon tables of stone gave God’s direction to the nation of Israel. Resting on the top of the Ark was the Mercy Seat, made of pure gold.
The Mercy Seat was stained with the blood of an innocent sacrifice. It represents the redemptive work of Christ’s death. “According to his mercy he saved us” (Titus 3:5). The Mercy Seat was God’s throne to His people. The Tabernacle was located in the center of all the tribes of Israel. God, the church, and His will must be in the center of our lives as well. When Israel was traveling, the Ark was carried before the people, just as we are to follow the Lord in our walk with Him. At the death of Jesus, the veil of the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom, opening the approach to the throne of God. The torn veil represents two things: each person now has direct access into the presence of God, and God’s glory is now revealed so that everyone can be filled with the Holy Spirit.
5. From the Tabernacle to the Cross
“The law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith” (Galatians 3:24). The mission and the object of the Law was the Cross. The things shown to Moses point to the One who was to come, even Jesus. In particular, every aspect of the Tabernacle points to Jesus and His atoning work for our salvation. In the court stood the brazen altar, the first object approached by the priest as he started toward the Holy Place. The brazen laver stood between the altar and the door of the Tabernacle. Upon entering into the Holy Place, the priest saw the golden lampstand with its seven branches on one side of the Tabernacle. Directly opposite the golden lampstand was the table of showbread, and behind them, in the center of the Tabernacle and in front of the veil, was the altar of incense. The altar of sacrifice represents Jesus Christ as the sacrifice for our sins and reminds us that we must die with Him in repentance. The laver represents the cleansing from sin that Jesus provides, which we experience at water baptism in His name. Although He was sinless, He was baptized to provide our example for
us to follow.
The Tabernacle itself stands for the presence of God in the midst of His people. Jesus was literally God tabernacled in flesh, God coming into this world to be our Savior (Matthew 1:21, 23). Through His death, we can receive the Holy Spirit and thereby become a tabernacle in which God dwells today. The lampstand signifies Jesus as the Light of the world, and by extension, our position today as lights in the world. The showbread signifies Jesus as the Bread of Life, and by extension, His Word, which is our daily spiritual bread. The altar of incense represents prayer—first, the prayer of Jesus as He submitted to the will of God in dying for us and as He interceded on our behalf, and second, our daily life of prayer. Finally, the Holy of Holies, the Ark of the Covenant, and the Mercy Seat teach us that Jesus fully atoned for our sins, thereby instituting the new covenant, giving us direct access to the throne of God, making the presence of God fully available to us by the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and enabling us to enter into a life of holiness.