Are We There Yet?

Just because you’ve been liberated from oppression doesn’t mean you’re already walking in freedom.

Like an insidious poison seeping through veins, oppression didn’t just rest on the skin of the Israelite slaves—it infiltrated their spirits, paralyzing hearts and sterilizing hopes. After 400 years, when deliverance finally dawned on the horizon in the form of Moses, God’s people learned that freedom is more than simply fleeing oppressors. It’s a journey into the unknown.

 

Read

To get the most out of this study, read Exodus 11-17. But first, ask the Holy Spirit to guide you into the truth available in these chapters. Give yourself permission to ask questions that may not have answers. Wonder aloud, imagine the scene, and take note of anything that surprises, confuses, or even offends you. Above all, trust the Lord. He’s the best teacher.

Key Passage: Exodus 13:1-22; Exodus 14:1-31

 

Background

Back in Genesis 15, God told Abraham that his descendants would be “enslaved and oppressed four hundred years” in a foreign land, but afterward they would “come out with many possessions” (Gen. 15:13-14). In the book of Exodus, we find the fulfillment of that prophecy (Ex. 12:23-36) and details of the Israelites’ supernatural rescue. But even after their stunning liberation, there are many lessons for the former slaves to learn on the road to liberty and nationhood.

 

Reflect

Freedom is not free, nor is it a “one and done” experience. It’s a process of choosing to trust God to lead us into unknown territory, a journey that may cost us our comfort and security.

  • In Exodus 6:2-3, God informs Moses that not even the patriarchs knew Him as Yahweh. Why do you think God chose this moment in the Israelites’ timeline to reveal His name?

  • Consider the situation from the Israelites’ perspective: They’ve been enslaved for centuries and assume that God has ignored their cries for deliverance. And now He shows up on the scene, telling them they should flee from their oppressors and make their home in a foreign land across the desert. If you were in that same situation, would you easily trust God? With that in mind, read Exodus 10:1-2. How was the Lord building trust with His people?

  • Think about your own history with God—times He showed up for you in miraculous ways, big or small. How does having a collection of past testimonies impact the way you trust Him now? What stories can you pass on to future generations to inspire hope in God’s faithfulness?

 

Continuing the Story

Trust is built incrementally, and often in unexpected ways.

Trust is built incrementally, and often in unexpected ways. God was about to lead the people to Pi-hahiroth (Ex. 14:1-2), a dead-end that appeared to mean certain annihilation by Pharaoh’s pursuing army. However, the Israelites would not only be miraculously rescued there, but they would also see their enemies destroyed supernaturally.

  • In Exodus 13:17, Moses notes that the path God chose for the Israelites was not the most efficient, but it was the most strategic. Remembering that later in Scripture the Lord identifies Himself as Israel’s shepherd, how would you say this verse reveals the tender way He accommodates our limited capacity to face conflict?

  • Note that God routes them away from potential conflict even though Ex. 13:18 specifically states the “Israelites went up out of Egypt ready for battle” (NIV). Why do you think He had them prepare for combat?

 

Reflect

Though the Israelites’ bodies have been liberated from slavery, the mindset of oppression lingers in their actions and attitudes.

  • Look at Exodus 14:10-12, Exodus 16:1-3, and Exodus 17:1-3. In terms of their reaction to adversity, how would you describe the Israelites’ pattern of behavior?

  • The Israelites have a history with God that is burgeoning with deliverance, miracles, and supernatural intervention on their behalf.

  • Keep in mind that by the time the Israelites face each of these hardships, they already have a history with God that is burgeoning with deliverance, miracles, and supernatural intervention on their behalf. Why, then, do you think trusting Him is still so challenging for them?

  • Reread Exodus 14:10-12 and Exodus 16:3. Why do you suppose the tension of the present situation leads the former slaves to romanticize their past in Egypt? Have you ever found yourself turning to nostalgia and fantasy when the present feels too difficult to face?

  • Consider that if the Israelites had returned to Egypt, it’s very likely they would have experienced even harsher oppression in retaliation for their rebellion. How does knowing this inform your perspective on the capacity of nostalgia to distort reality and any related danger?

  • In what ways does pressing into freedom require courage? Trust? Perseverance? Consider what freedom would look like without structure. How does law relate to liberty?

REMEMBER Freedom obeys.

 

Revisit

Over the next several weeks, use this section to review the study and consider how its message applies to your life.

Galatians 5:22-23 defines the fruit of the Spirit as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control—all qualities we long to have in increasing amounts. Or are they? On closer analysis, chances are that self-control is everyone’s least favorite of the bunch. Frankly, it sounds like the opposite of freedom, a laborious and boring exercise in saying “no” all the time. But in reality, self-control is the expression of the very freedom that accompanies the Spirit’s presence in our lives (2 Corinthians 3:17).

Freedom is a process of choosing to trust God to lead us into unknown territory, a journey that may cost us our comfort and security.

  • What thoughts come into your mind when you think about self-control? What’s the opposite of self-control, and how would you describe it? Think about circumstances or aspects of your life that felt outside your control. When you were dealing with those situations, did you feel free? How would surrendering to God have changed your experience?

  • As you reflect, consider the apostle Paul’s words in Romans 6:16-18. How does he understand freedom in terms of slavery to either one master or another? Note that there are only two options and both involve obedience to an outside entity: sin or righteousness.

  • Self-control as spiritual fruit can seem at odds with Paul’s picture of bonded service to a master. How do you reconcile that freedom expresses itself both as independence (self-control) and submission (slave to Christ)? In what ways do these seemingly opposed ideas actually rely on each other?

  • Remember that freedom isn’t about living without a master. Rather, it involves willing submission to the One whose goal is our increasing independence from the bondage of abuse, insecurity, addiction, and sin.

 

Illustration by Adam Cruft

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1 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,

2 Sanctify to Me every firstborn, the first offspring of every womb among the sons of Israel, both of man and beast; it belongs to Me."

3 Moses said to the people, Remember this day in which you went out from Egypt, from the house of slavery; for by a powerful hand the LORD brought you out from this place. And nothing leavened shall be eaten.

4 On this day in the month of Abib, you are about to go forth.

5 It shall be when the LORD brings you to the land of the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Amorite, the Hivite and the Jebusite, which He swore to your fathers to give you, a land flowing with milk and honey, that you shall observe this rite in this month.

6 For seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there shall be a feast to the LORD.

7 Unleavened bread shall be eaten throughout the seven days; and nothing leavened shall be seen among you, nor shall any leaven be seen among you in all your borders.

8 You shall tell your son on that day, saying, `It is because of what the LORD did for me when I came out of Egypt.'

9 And it shall serve as a sign to you on your hand, and as a reminder on your forehead, that the law of the LORD may be in your mouth; for with a powerful hand the LORD brought you out of Egypt.

10 Therefore, you shall keep this ordinance at its appointed time from year to year.

11 Now when the LORD brings you to the land of the Canaanite, as He swore to you and to your fathers, and gives it to you,

12 you shall devote to the LORD the first offspring of every womb, and the first offspring of every beast that you own; the males belong to the LORD.

13 But every first offspring of a donkey you shall redeem with a lamb, but if you do not redeem it, then you shall break its neck; and every firstborn of man among your sons you shall redeem.

14 And it shall be when your son asks you in time to come, saying, `What is this?' then you shall say to him, `With a powerful hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt, from the house of slavery.

15 It came about, when Pharaoh was stubborn about letting us go, that the LORD killed every firstborn in the land of Egypt, both the firstborn of man and the firstborn of beast. Therefore, I sacrifice to the LORD the males, the first offspring of every womb, but every firstborn of my sons I redeem.'

16 So it shall serve as a sign on your hand and as phylacteries on your forehead, for with a powerful hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt."

17 Now when Pharaoh had let the people go, God did not lead them by the way of the land of the Philistines, even though it was near; for God said, The people might change their minds when they see war, and return to Egypt."

18 Hence God led the people around by the way of the wilderness to the Red Sea; and the sons of Israel went up in martial array from the land of Egypt.

19 Moses took the bones of Joseph with him, for he had made the sons of Israel solemnly swear, saying, God will surely take care of you, and you shall carry my bones from here with you."

20 Then they set out from Succoth and camped in Etham on the edge of the wilderness.

21 The LORD was going before them in a pillar of cloud by day to lead them on the way, and in a pillar of fire by night to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night.

22 He did not take away the pillar of cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people.

1 Now the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,

2 Tell the sons of Israel to turn back and camp before Pi-hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea; you shall camp in front of Baal-zephon, opposite it, by the sea.

3 For Pharaoh will say of the sons of Israel, `They are wandering aimlessly in the land; the wilderness has shut them in.'

4 Thus I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and he will chase after them; and I will be honored through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD." And they did so.

5 When the king of Egypt was told that the people had fled, Pharaoh and his servants had a change of heart toward the people, and they said, What is this we have done, that we have let Israel go from serving us?"

6 So he made his chariot ready and took his people with him;

7 and he took six hundred select chariots, and all the other chariots of Egypt with officers over all of them.

8 The LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and he chased after the sons of Israel as the sons of Israel were going out boldly.

9 Then the Egyptians chased after them with all the horses and chariots of Pharaoh, his horsemen and his army, and they overtook them camping by the sea, beside Pi-hahiroth, in front of Baal-zephon.

10 As Pharaoh drew near, the sons of Israel looked, and behold, the Egyptians were marching after them, and they became very frightened; so the sons of Israel cried out to the LORD.

11 Then they said to Moses, Is it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you dealt with us in this way, bringing us out of Egypt?

12 Is this not the word that we spoke to you in Egypt, saying, `Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians'? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness."

13 But Moses said to the people, Do not fear! Stand by and see the salvation of the LORD which He will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you have seen today, you will never see them again forever.

14 The LORD will fight for you while you keep silent."

15 Then the LORD said to Moses, Why are you crying out to Me? Tell the sons of Israel to go forward.

16 As for you, lift up your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, and the sons of Israel shall go through the midst of the sea on dry land.

17 As for Me, behold, I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them; and I will be honored through Pharaoh and all his army, through his chariots and his horsemen.

18 Then the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD, when I am honored through Pharaoh, through his chariots and his horsemen."

19 The angel of God, who had been going before the camp of Israel, moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud moved from before them and stood behind them.

20 So it came between the camp of Egypt and the camp of Israel; and there was the cloud along with the darkness, yet it gave light at night. Thus the one did not come near the other all night.

21 Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the LORD swept the sea back by a strong east wind all night and turned the sea into dry land, so the waters were divided.

22 The sons of Israel went through the midst of the sea on the dry land, and the waters were like a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.

23 Then the Egyptians took up the pursuit, and all Pharaoh's horses, his chariots and his horsemen went in after them into the midst of the sea.

24 At the morning watch, the LORD looked down on the army of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and cloud and brought the army of the Egyptians into confusion.

25 He caused their chariot wheels to swerve, and He made them drive with difficulty; so the Egyptians said, Let us flee from Israel, for the LORD is fighting for them against the Egyptians."

26 Then the LORD said to Moses, Stretch out your hand over the sea so that the waters may come back over the Egyptians, over their chariots and their horsemen."

27 So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to its normal state at daybreak, while the Egyptians were fleeing right into it; then the LORD overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea.

28 The waters returned and covered the chariots and the horsemen, even Pharaoh's entire army that had gone into the sea after them; not even one of them remained.

29 But the sons of Israel walked on dry land through the midst of the sea, and the waters were like a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.

30 Thus the LORD saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore.

31 When Israel saw the great power which the LORD had used against the Egyptians, the people feared the LORD, and they believed in the LORD and in His servant Moses.

13 God said to Abram, Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years.

14 But I will also judge the nation whom they will serve, and afterward they will come out with many possessions.

23 For the LORD will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when He sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the LORD will pass over the door and will not allow the destroyer to come in to your houses to smite you.

24 And you shall observe this event as an ordinance for you and your children forever.

25 When you enter the land which the LORD will give you, as He has promised, you shall observe this rite.

26 And when your children say to you, `What does this rite mean to you?'

27 you shall say, `It is a Passover sacrifice to the LORD who passed over the houses of the sons of Israel in Egypt when He smote the Egyptians, but spared our homes.'" And the people bowed low and worshiped.

28 Then the sons of Israel went and did so; just as the LORD had commanded Moses and Aaron, so they did.

29 Now it came about at midnight that the LORD struck all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of cattle.

30 Pharaoh arose in the night, he and all his servants and all the Egyptians, and there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was no home where there was not someone dead.

31 Then he called for Moses and Aaron at night and said, Rise up, get out from among my people, both you and the sons of Israel; and go, worship the LORD, as you have said.

32 Take both your flocks and your herds, as you have said, and go, and bless me also."

33 The Egyptians urged the people, to send them out of the land in haste, for they said, We will all be dead."

34 So the people took their dough before it was leavened, with their kneading bowls bound up in the clothes on their shoulders.

35 Now the sons of Israel had done according to the word of Moses, for they had requested from the Egyptians articles of silver and articles of gold, and clothing;

36 and the LORD had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have their request. Thus they plundered the Egyptians.

2 God spoke further to Moses and said to him, I am the LORD;

3 and I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as God Almighty, but by My name, LORD, I did not make Myself known to them.

1 Then the LORD said to Moses, Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants, that I may perform these signs of Mine among them,

2 and that you may tell in the hearing of your son, and of your grandson, how I made a mockery of the Egyptians and how I performed My signs among them, that you may know that I am the LORD."

1 Now the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,

2 Tell the sons of Israel to turn back and camp before Pi-hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea; you shall camp in front of Baal-zephon, opposite it, by the sea.

17 Now when Pharaoh had let the people go, God did not lead them by the way of the land of the Philistines, even though it was near; for God said, The people might change their minds when they see war, and return to Egypt."

18 Hence God led the people around by the way of the wilderness to the Red Sea; and the sons of Israel went up in martial array from the land of Egypt.

10 As Pharaoh drew near, the sons of Israel looked, and behold, the Egyptians were marching after them, and they became very frightened; so the sons of Israel cried out to the LORD.

11 Then they said to Moses, Is it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you dealt with us in this way, bringing us out of Egypt?

12 Is this not the word that we spoke to you in Egypt, saying, `Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians'? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness."

1 Then they set out from Elim, and all the congregation of the sons of Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after their departure from the land of Egypt.

2 The whole congregation of the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness.

3 The sons of Israel said to them, Would that we had died by the LORD'S hand in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat, when we ate bread to the full; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger."

1 Then all the congregation of the sons of Israel journeyed by stages from the wilderness of Sin, according to the command of the LORD, and camped at Rephidim, and there was no water for the people to drink.

2 Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, Give us water that we may drink." And Moses said to them, Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the LORD?"

3 But the people thirsted there for water; and they grumbled against Moses and said, Why, now, have you brought us up from Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?"

3 The sons of Israel said to them, Would that we had died by the LORD'S hand in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat, when we ate bread to the full; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger."

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,

23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.

16 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?

17 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,

18 and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.

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