Friday, 1 January 2010

4. that they may serve me.

The danger is that we think we know the Exodus story so well that we have stopped thinking about it. When Moses was arrested by the burning bush it led to a long conversation in which God expounded Moses' mission. Just what was the purpose of Moses' mission? The usual answer is something along the lines of 'he brought them out that he might bring them in'.Deut 6:23 but that is not the whole story. God's intention all along was to make them his own people. As part of that purpose he would 'bring them out' and as part of that purpose he would 'bring them in' but the purpose was to make them his own covenant community; the church of Jehovah - the 'qahal of Jehovah' Deut 23:1–3, 8; Judg 20:2; 21:5; 1 Chr 28:8

This theme comes through strongly in Exodus. Here is a KJV quotation from Moses' initial encounter with God at the bush; And he said, Certainly I will be with thee; and this shall be a token unto thee, that I have sent thee: When thou hast brought forth the people out of Egypt, ye shall serve God upon this mountain. Ex 3:12 KJV. I have opted for the KJV to illustrate a point obscured in all modern translations and to show it more clearly I have put the personal pronouns into bold font. Did you notice the switch from the singular to the plural? 'Thee' and 'thou' are singular and refer to Moses alone. 'Ye' on the other hand is plural and refers to Moses and the whole people of Israel. Moses was commissioned and promised that his mission would result in the whole nation being gathered to 'serve' God at Sinai. To get the sense in the NKJV we would have to put the word 'all' in between the words 'you' and 'shall' in the last sentence.

The theme continues in Moses appointments with Pharaoh; 'And the LORD spoke to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh and say to him, “Thus says the LORD: ‘Let My people go, that they may serve Me.' Ex 8:1. They were to be set free from Pharaoh's service to be engaged in the service of God. The message to Pharaoh is given in two slightly different forms; 'that they may serve me' Ex 8:1 and 'that they may hold a feast unto me'. Ex 5:1. This is not Moses telling a half-truth but simply an expansion of the full message. They would 'serve' God by 'holding a feast' for God.

So what is the purpose of the covenant community, the 'church of Israel'? It was to wait on God as his servants at a feast. Their prime task was not evangelism or even witness but simply to be a people available for God. Their deliverance from bondage and the inheritance of their own land were necessary as 'no man can serve two masters', (Matt 6:24) but God's intention was to have a people were separated from all other peoples so that they could be God's people... without distraction. Exodus 19:5-6.

The name under which this covenant was to be undertaken was that of Jehovah. Ex 6:3; that would be the 'signature' on the covenant document. In Exodus chapter 6 there is a 'mission statement' of God's intentions and at the heart of it lie the words..."I will take you as My people, and I will be your God... Ex 6:7.
The underlying purpose of Exodus was not Israel-centred it was God-centred. Yes, Israel would get their freedom and a promised land, but God would get a covenant community who would be available to him as his servants. What we have been calling the 'church of Israel' was in fact the 'church of God'.

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