Worship in Old Testament History (Part 4)

THEME: Worship in the Old Testament, 7th in the series 

Volume 7, No. 4 (April 2012)

This month we turn to the worship implications of the Exodus from Egypt.

3.  THE EXODUS (Exodus 1–15): God’s Three Purposes

a.  To make His Name (reputation) great among the nations

“But for this purpose I have raised you [Pharoah] up, to show you My power, so that My name may be proclaimed in all the earth.” (Exodus 9:16) 

“And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, and the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD.”  (Exodus 14:4)

“Who is like You, O LORD, among the gods?
Who is like You, majestic in holiness,
awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?
You stretched out Your right hand;
the earth swallowed them.
You have led in Your steadfast love the people whom You have redeemed;
You have guided them by Your strength to Your holy abode.
The peoples have heard; they tremble;
pangs have seized the inhabitants of Philistia.
Now are the chiefs of Edom dismayed;
trembling seizes the leaders of Moab;
all the inhabitants of Canaan have melted away.
Terror and dread fall upon them;
because of the greatness of Your arm, they are still as a stone,
till Your people, O LORD, pass by,
till the people pass by whom You have purchased.” (Exodus 15:11-16)

Jethro said, “Blessed be the LORD, who has delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians and out of the hand of Pharaoh and has delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians. Now I know that the LORD is greater than all gods, because in this affair they dealt arrogantly with the people.” (Exodus 18:10-11)

[Rahab] “I know that the LORD has given you the land, and that the fear of you has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you. For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you devoted to destruction. And as soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no spirit left in any man because of you, for the LORD your God, He is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath.” Joshua 2:9-11)

There is none like You, O LORD, and there is no God besides You, according to all that we have heard with our ears. And who is like your people Israel, the one nation on earth whom God went to redeem to be His people, making for Yourself a name for great and awesome things, in driving out nations before Your people whom You redeemed from Egypt?” (1 Chronicles 17:20-21)

. . . who caused His glorious arm
to go at the right hand of Moses,
who divided the waters before them
to make for Himself an everlasting name. (Isaiah 63:12)

God was orchestrating a powerful plan to draw the the attention of the nations to Himself by their rescue and worship. . . .
God was singling himself out from. all the gods of earth. He was making an “everlasting name” for Himself at the Exodus (Isa. 63:11-14 and Neh. 9:9-10). He wanted everyone in Egypt and beyond to know that there was absolutely no god like the only living God. He wanted the world to watch a mob of slaves marching in procession to worship Him. God established his reputation as one greater and absolutely different (truly holy, not just holier) than every other deity ever dreamed up by man—an exquisite, almighty, resplendent God. The Exodus was to be a reference point for all subsequent revelation to the world of His character, His holiness, and His power. (Steven Hawthorne, “The Story of His Glory

b. To judge the false gods and false worship of Egypt

The Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring out the people of Israel from among them.” (Exodus 7:5)

For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the LORD. (Exodus 12:12)

They set out from Rameses in the first month, on the fifteenth day of the first month. On the day after the Passover, the people of Israel went out triumphantly in the sight of all the Egyptians, while the Egyptians were burying all their firstborn, whom the LORD had struck down among them. On their gods also the LORD executed judgments. (Number 33:3-4)

Declare His glory among the nations,
His marvelous works among all the peoples!
For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised;
He is to be feared above all gods.
For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols,
but the LORD made the heavens.
(Psalm 96:3-5)

Some scholars have noted that every one of the plagues of Egypt was either aimed against the false gods of Egypt or the oppressive power structures that were revered with fanatical zeal.5 Some Egyptian deities, such as the Nile River, or the great sun god, were embarrassed directly by plagues of blood and darkness. Other deities were indirectly shamed by exposing their complete inability to do what they were supposed to do. There were gods who were revered as being able to deal with infestations of insects or protect cattle from disease. The powerful religious elite was shamed. . . . God unraveled the system to show it for what it was at the core: dedicated to diverting or perverting worshipers coming to Him. Egypt made itself an enemy of God. (Steven Hawthorne, “The Story of His Glory“)

c. To form a unique worshiping people

“Let my people go, that they might worship [‘abad, serve] Me.” (Exodus 7:16; 8:1, 20; 9:1, 13; 10:3, cf. also 3:12, 18; 5:1, 3; 8:8, 27; 10:7, 8-9, 25-26)

“My chosen people,
the people whom I formed for Myself
that they might declare My praise.”  (Isaiah 43:20-21)

The plagues brought upon the land of Egypt served not only to demonstrate the inability of the king of Egypt, his priests and the people to resist the power of God, but it also served as a visual lesson to Israel regarding the worthlessness of idolatrous forms of worship. (John J. David, Moses and the Gods of Egypt, 90)

God had orchestrated the Exodus events so that He revealed His glory by establishing His name in a global way. Then, with the world watching, He drew the people to Himself to establish a way of worship that all other nations could enter. (Hawthorne, “The Story of His Glory”)

Having heard the cry of His chosen people, weak and suffering in their slavery He saved them from their bondage in Egypt and bound them to Him in the covenant. Through this experience it became clear that the god of Israel was first of all their Savior-God. He had taken the initiative in their redemption. Their worship was essentially a response of gratitude to Him.  (Robert Rayburn, Come Let Us Worship, 52)

The events of the exodus from Egypt bonded Israel together as a worshipping community.  (Andrew Hill, Enter His Courts with Praise! 35)

1 thought on “Worship in Old Testament History (Part 4)”

  1. Janice Russell

    I learn so much from your teachings. It had never occured to me that the plagues were specifically designed to shame the false Gods. It makes perfect sense now that you spell it out as God orchestrates every minute detail. Thank you for your heart, and thank you for sharing your teachings to all of us

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