Isaiah 43.16, 18-19:
16 Thus says the Lord,
who makes a way in the sea,
a path in the mighty waters…
18 Do not remember the former things,
or consider the things of old.
19 I am about to do a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.
The exodus was God’s grand display of his mighty arm. He drowned the world’s greatest army, Egypt, in their own sea and rescued his people who had been their slaves for 400 years. Israel had been redeemed, and this language permeates both Testaments. However, I myself have missed most of these connections. The idea here is the same as that in Bryan Estelle’s Echoes of Exodus (review): show how the biblical writers incorporated exodus imagery into their stories, psalms, and praises. But Roberts and Wilson take a different tactic in this book. Instead of showing how one or two ideas are seen throughout a particular passage, the authors take the whole image of the exodus and apply it to different passages of Scripture.
Many find the Bible to be dissonant. Stories are boring, they don’t make sense, the heroes are hardly heroic, and the Big Man Upstairs has it out for the humans. The authors present the analogy of the Bible as a song. Some notes seem to be out of place. Some are sharped. Some are flattened. Some are repeated over and over. “You can’t prove logically that West Side Story is based on Romeo and Juliet. The echoes cannot be proved, any more than you can prove that a joke is funny. Rather, they have to be heard” (13). The exodus, like a song, and like a joke, must be heard. It cannot so easily be explained, but it must be understood for Israel’s story is ours (1 Cor 9.10; 10.11; Luke 9.31). The authors express our generation’s desire for freedom. But yet despite all of the liberation, people continue to fall into bondage, often by their own doing (Prov 26.27). The Church needs to understand that the God who redeemed Israel, and who has redeemed his Church through the blood of Christ, has played exodus riffs all throughout his story.
This book is really only about 150 pages, yet it took me a long time to read. Once I came to the First Movement: Out of the House of Slaves, I pulled my Bible out ready to take notes. Little did I know, this would not be a quick read. Adam and Eve were to be fruitful and multiply, extending the garden for the King. But they were out-crafted by a serpent. In Egypt, God’s people are fruitful and multiplying, yet they are building a kingdom for the serpent-king. Moses is put in an “ark,” passes through the water, and is saved by the serpent-king’s daughter, just as Israel will be saved from the waters. When Israel passes through the Re(e)d Sea, the waters divide and they walk on dry land, just as at creation when the waters above and below divided and dry land came to be (Gen 1.6-10). Jesus, the one who tabernacled among men, housing the presence of God, walked through the Jordan just as Israel had done before. Sinai brought national apostasy; Pentecost brought national blessing. Instead of 3,000 people dying at Sinai, 3,000 are cut to the heart at Pentecost and repent.
Missionary progress in the second half of Acts is a continued exodus cycle. Believers are forever leaving cities—often where they have been suffering—before venturing off into foreign lands, flourishing and succeeding, incorporating Gentiles in their number, and returning in triumph. More specifically we have Peter, who was going to be killed at Passover by the wicked king, waking up at nighttime, being told by the angel of the Lord to get dressed and put on his sandals, escaping captivity, and passing through a gate that opens for him “of its own accord” (Acts 12:10)… And in the final chapters, as Paul approaches Rome, we have yet another echo of the exodus: Paul escapes from the chains of captivity, goes on a journey for which we have an unusual level of geographical detail, and plunges into the sea, before emerging vindicated on the far side, revealing the healing power of God, and continuing toward his final destination. (140)
There is so much more to say, but so little space.
There are four movements. In the first, Israel moves from Egypt to the wilderness to the promised land. In the second, we see the exodus in Genesis in the lives of the patriarchs (see especially the wonderful section on Lot). The third movement leads the reader through Israel’s prophets and writings: Ruth, Samuel, Kings, the prophets, and Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther. In the fourth movement, the reader is brought through the greater work of God—the second exodus.
The Spoiled Milk
If there’s a downside to all of these connecting webs, it’s that some are hard to believe. Perhaps because there are too many connections between the stories, but cross-references really would have helped. Although perhaps that would have caused the book to feel more like a chemistry book than a concept album. Regardless, some connections are too difficult to find in the text. Commenting on Abraham & Co’s journey in Genesis 12-14, the authors state, “As they move from the north to Shechem in the center, then down to Bethel and Ai, and finally into the Negeb in the south, they are doing what Joshua will later do, and claiming the land for the Lord” (67). I tried searching for the terms, but, without a map, I just couldn’t see how this worked.
Speaking about the man of Judah and Jeroboam in 1 Kings 13, the authors note that “as the man from Judah is killed by a lion, so the Lion of Judah will be killed by men” (103). This seems to have been placed here more as a convenient fit than because it is a real connection. There are others for sure, but for the majority of the time I looked at what they said and searched my Bible to see if I could find it. If I did, my pen was ready. Already in the Prelude the authors have tipped their hats that their readers won’t agree to everything. Sometimes it may feel like they’re reaching, but sometimes some over-extending needs to be done to get us to use our imagination.
I highly recommend this work. I was baffled that I had neither seen nor heard of too many of these exodus riffs. Yet nonetheless, here I was hearing many of them for the first time. And for those riffs which were not new to me, I could listen and hum along as they were played. Echoes of Exodus brings out the story of the Bible. This won’t revolutionize the way you read the Bible, but it will give you a greater appreciation for the artistic ability of the biblical authors to subtly reveal how God has woven his exodus redemption into the lives of his people—both past and present.
- Authors: Alastair Roberts/Andrew Wilson
- Paperback: 176 pages
- Publisher: Crossway (March 31, 2018)
Disclosure: I received this book free from Crossway. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.