Let My People Go

The exodus from Egypt is the Bible's paradigm for salvation—the Torah's clearest picture of what salvation is and how it works.


PassoverApr 18, 2016

PassoverApr 18, 2016


The parting of the sea. (Illustration from the HaYesod study program, © First Fruits of Zion)

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Have you ever been to a Passover Seder meal? Did you know that the Last Supper was originally as Passover Seder meal? Christians call it the "Eucharist" or "Communion," but in the days of Jesus and the disciples, it was called Passover.

A Passover Seder Meal

Passover is the annual Torah holiday that celebrates the anniversary of the redemption from Egypt. In the Torah, God commanded the children of Israel to celebrate Passover every year with a commemorative meal called the Passover Seder. Jewish families come together around the table and eat unleavened bread and bitter herbs, just as God commanded. Throughout the course of the meal, the family drinks four ritual cups of wine. The Jewish people do not serve Passover lamb at Passover anymore because, without a Temple, there are no sacrifices today. Instead of eating lamb, everyone eats a small piece of unleavened bread in remembrance of the Passover lamb that used to be sacrificed.

The Torah calls this entire meal a "memorial"—a remembrance—of the Exodus from Egypt: "They shall eat the flesh that same night, roasted with fire, and they shall eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs ... Now this day will be a memorial to you."1

The real purpose of the Passover Seder meal is to be a remembrance of the Exodus from Egypt, and it gives a chance to retell the story to our children. The whole Passover meal is meant to inspire the children to ask questions.2 To help the family navigate through the steps and rituals of the Passover meal, and to help them retell the story of the Exodus, the rabbis composed a guidebook. It is a short liturgy called the Haggadah (הגדה). The word Haggadah means "Telling." It is a book for telling the story of redemption from Egypt.

This unit is a Haggadah, so to speak, which retells the story of Redemption—not just the redemption of the Israelites from Egypt, but also the story of how the Messiah has redeemed us from the kingdom of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of light.

Let My People Go

The exodus from Egypt is the Bible's paradigm for what salvation looks like. The salvation from Egypt is the Torah's clearest picture of what salvation is and how it works. In those events, God was planting a seed, foreshadowing the Gospel, showing us how it is that He saves His people. The exodus story sets up the pattern.

Everyone knows Moses' famous line, "Let my people go." Moses approaches the Pharaoh and says, "Let my people go." But in the Torah, there is a little more to it than that. He says, "Let my people go that they may worship me in the wilderness."3

The people of Israel in Egypt were in bondage. They were helpless to save themselves. God acted on His covenant faithfulness and saved them by a miracle.

As sinful, unredeemed human beings, we are in the same situation as the ancient Israelites in Egypt were. We have no power to save ourselves, nor do we deserve salvation. God saves us by a miracle; a direct intervention from heaven.

The wicked king of Egypt may be compared to Satan, and the kingdom of ancient Egypt may be compared to the kingdom of darkness. In a messianic sense, Egypt represents this present world, which is in bondage to the "god of this world,"4 and the "prince of the power of the air."5

In Romans 6:16, Paul compares our bondage to sin and death prior to our redemption through Messiah to the bondage of slavery:

Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?

In the Egypt of sin and death, we were driven by sin and ruled by the flesh. In the first chapter of Romans, Paul says that under the rule of the kingdom of darkness, we struggled beneath heavy burdens of sin, guilt, and shame. We were given over to impurity in the lusts of our hearts. We rejected truth and clung to lies. We worshipped and served anything and everything but God. We were given over to degrading passions, calling the unnatural "natural." We were filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, and evil. We were full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice, gossip, slander, hatred, insolence, and arrogance. We were hating God, inventing evil, disobeying parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, and unmerciful. Metaphorically speaking, we served Pharaoh. We were the slaves of the devil.

The redemption from Egypt corresponds to our redemption from the kingdom of darkness. Moses, the redeemer of Israel, corresponds to Messiah. The Passover exodus corresponds to Messiah's victory over the cross and the grave.

This is not merely an allegorical interpretation. In the traditional Jewish perspective, the redemption from Egypt is regarded as foreshadowing the final redemption. In Jewish consciousness, the sojourn in Egypt was prophetic of the Jewish exile. The suffering in Egypt is symbolic for all Jewish suffering. The redemption foreshadows the ultimate redemption. The story of the Exodus from Egypt is the Torah's way of telling us the story of salvation in Yeshua. Yeshua is our Moses. He is our Passover Lamb. He is our Liberator, Redeemer, and Savior.

But God did not take the Israelites out of Egypt just so they could continue on as Pharaoh's slaves in the land of Israel. He liberated them so that they would be free men, redeemed for the purpose of serving God and worshipping Him. After taking them out of Egypt, He took them straight to Mount Sinai and gave them His Torah: His instruction for how they were to serve Him.

Why did God save us? Did He save us so that we could continue to serve the devil, or did He save us for the purpose of serving Him according to His instructions? The exodus from Egypt was not the end of the journey for the Israelites; it was the beginning of their walk with God. In the same way, our salvation is not the end of our spiritual journey; it is a new beginning.

Slaves to Righteousness

The Bible says that before being redeemed, we are not able to lead lives pleasing to God:

Because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the [Torah] of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. (Romans 8:7-8)

When Paul says, "The mind set on the flesh," he is referring to the natural state of every human being. We are all simple human flesh. In our broken humanity, our mortal minds will not submit to God's Torah, and we cannot please God.

In this respect, we are like the Israelites in Egypt. So long as they were slaves in Egypt, the Israelites could not have accepted the Torah of God. They were Pharaoh's slaves. They could not choose to rest on the Sabbath day. They could not be selective about their food. They could not present offerings to God. Only after God saved the Israelites from slavery in Egypt were they able to carry out his will. That is why God did not give them the Torah until after He had already saved them from Egypt.

When the children of Israel came out of Egypt, they were set free from being slaves to Pharaoh, but they were not set free to wander off and do whatever they wanted. God redeemed them for himself. Leviticus 25:55 says:

For the sons of Israel are My [slaves]; they are My [slaves] whom I brought out from the land of Egypt.6

After their redemption from Egypt, the children of Israel were no longer slaves to Pharaoh. Instead they were slaves to God. In Romans 6, Paul alludes to this transformation. He says that before salvation, while we were still in the flesh, we were slaves to sin. After salvation, though, we became slaves to righteousness:

Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. (Romans 6:16-18)

Notice that Paul did not say we have been "freed from the Law," instead we have been freed from sin. In the next verse, the apostle goes on to say, "For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification."7

The Greek word which is translated here as "lawlessness" is anomia (ανομια). It is the opposite of the Greek word nomos (νομος) which means "law," or "Torah." If "nomos" is the Torah, then "anomia" is "Torahlessness." In Romans 6:19, Paul is saying that we were "slaves to impurity and to Torahlessness, resulting in further Torahlessness." But now we are "slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification."

When God rescued Israel from Egypt, He took the people away from Pharaoh. The Israelites no longer belonged to the Egyptians, but instead, they belonged to God. This transfer of ownership from Pharaoh to God and from sin to righteousness is what the Scripture means when it speaks of "redemption." When the Bible says that God "redeemed" us, it means that he "bought us back," transferring our ownership to himself. As our new owner, God has authority over us.

Paul employs redemption imagery in his letter to Titus. He says: "[The Messiah Yeshua] gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds."8 When Paul says that God redeemed us from "every lawless deed," the Greek word for "lawless" is anomia again. In other words, Messiah redeemed us from every "Torahless deed." He redeemed us as a "people for His own possession." He redeemed us so that "We would be zealous for good deeds."

Free from the Law?

We often hear Christians remark that, in Jesus, we are "free from the law." However, the redemption through Jesus does not free us from the obligations of the Torah. Paul's letter to the Romans says that we are free "from the law of sin and death" (Romans 8:2) and, "set free from sin" (Romans 6:18), but he does not say we are set free from God's commandments.

Paul says that Jesus came to redeem us, not from the Torah, but from "lawlessness," which is disobedience to the Torah. We were once like the ancient Israelite slaves, prevented from keeping the Torah because of our spiritual condition. But because of our redemption, we are now free from our slavery to sin.

Think about it like this. If the children of Israel enslaved in Egypt had to earn their salvation by keeping the Torah, they would never have been saved. Instead, God first saved the children of Israel by removing them from Egypt. Only after He had already saved them did He bring them to Mount Sinai and give them His Torah. We should never try to keep God's commandments or be "good enough" in order to be saved; we should keep God's commandments and be good people because we are already saved.

Endnotes
  1. Exodus 12:8, 14.
  2. Exodus 13:14.
  3. Exodus 7:16.
  4. 2 Corinthians 4 :4.
  5. Ephesians 2:2.
  6. The Hebrew word eved (עבד) in Leviticus 25:55 can be translated as "servant" or "slave." The meaning is the same in Hebrew.
  7. Romans 6:19.
  8. Titus 2:13-14.

Adapted from: HaYesod, The Foundation, a Bible study program by First Fruits of Zion that respectfully explores the Jewish foundations of Christianity..

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