Years ago I saw a cartoon in a religious magazine that showed a small boy standing on the doorstep of a large church. Apparently he has just knocked on the ornate door, for the door stands open and a clergyman with his hand on the doorknob is looking down at him. The little boy, neck craned upward, asks, “Is God home?”
How cute, ay. Who but a child would expect God to actually be at home in the house of God. But… out of the mouth of babes, right?
So let me ask a question. Why did God save you and me? Most likely we answer that He saved us because we needed salvation; we realized we were bound in sin and about to get our wages (death).
And that’s true. But let me ask another question. Why did God save Israel out of Egypt? We need to know this, because the story of the children of Israel coming out of Egypt and entering into the Promised Land is one of the Bible’s great building blocks. It’s this prophetic story by which God builds our understanding of His great plan of eternal salvation in Christ. There are other building blocks, but as we read our New Testament we discover that this one is certainly a major one. Paul tells us that “Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us” (1 Cor. 5.7), and this is of course a reference to the night Israel was delivered from Egypt by the Passover lamb. Peter has the same event in mind when he tells us we have been “redeemed… with the precious blood of Christ as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Pt. 1.19).
Then on one occasion in the wilderness when the people were bitten by poisonous serpents, God directed Moses to set up a serpent of brass on a pole. Whoever looked up at the brazen serpent was delivered from the poison at work in his system. One moment they were on their way to the land of the dead; the next they were in the land of the living. Jesus Christ selects this event to open our eyes to Himself, telling us that “even so must the Son of man be lifted up (on the Cross of Calvary), that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life” (Jn. 3.15).
And so with Israel’s salvation story, God opens our eyes to our own salvation story.
Which is why I asked those questions. Why did God save you and me? But why did He save them? Once we discover the answer to why He brought them out of Egyptian bondage we will have a better understanding of His objective in our own salvation.
So let’s read what God had in mind by delivering Israel from Egyptian bondage. Here are three verses in which we have God’s reasons from His own mouth.
I am the LORD your God, which brought you forth out of the land of Egypt, that ye should not be their bondmen; and I have broken the bands of your yoke, and made you go upright (Lev. 26.13).
This is the reason that most usually comes to mind when we think of why God brought them out of Egypt. The Israelites in Egypt were under the grievous yoke of slavery. They cried to God in their bondage and He sent a deliverer to set them free. By the blood of the Passover lamb He redeemed them from “the house of bondmen” (Dt. 7.8), and they were happily on their way to the Promised Land. This was their gospel—their good news. And here we have a close parallel to our own Gospel, the Good News of our redemption in Christ Jesus, our salvation from the bondage of sin by the blood of Christ our Passover. We have been redeemed, we are free! But free to do what? Here’s another verse:
For I am the LORD that bringeth you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God: ye shall therefore be holy, for I am holy (Lev. 11.45).
This second verse tells us that God brought them out of Egypt to be their God. What did He mean by this? Wasn’t He their God in Egypt? Yes, but bowed down in the yoke of bondage they were not free to worship Him. He wanted to be their God… and He explained what being their God implies. If God is to be their God, they must be holy—separated unto Him. This they could not be while serving Pharaoh in the iron furnace. God liberated them to the intent that they could worship and serve Him unhindered. And since He is a holy God, this would mean holiness on their part, something that the New Testament writers enjoin on us as well. Peter calls us to holiness, quoting the same words God commanded Israel when they came out of Egypt.
Be ye holy, for I am holy (1 Pt. 1.16, Lev. 11.44).
This brings us to another verse. And to get the impact of it let’s put ourselves back there in Egypt. We have known nothing but grinding slavery all our lives, and it would take an absolute miracle to be free. But one day there is good news making the rounds among the slaves. And suddenly the impossible miracle is actually happening! Oh, what a Name this mighty God is making for Himself! He judges Egypt and brings us out of Egypt and parts the Red Sea and brings us through and utterly destroys our enemies… and we are on our way to the Promised Land rejoicing!
And we come to Sinai, and… what is Moses asking? During the time of the giving of the law at Sinai God tells Moses we are now to bring Him an offering—gold, silver, bronze, blue, purple, scarlet, fine linen, rams skins dyes red… oil, spices, onyx stones…. What’s this all about? We are on our way to our Canaan inheritance, but what does this great God who has delivered us have in mind?
And let them make Me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them (Ex. 25.8).
Do we see open mouths and wonder on the faces of those around us? I am sure this would have been a real jaw dropper back then. These people had a long history with God. He was the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. But now what’s this? He wants to dwell in their very midst? This is something utterly unheard of. Never before had this great God of their fathers mentioned anything like this.
But this, He says, is why He brought them out of Egypt.
And they shall know that I am the LORD their God, that brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, that I may dwell among them; I am the LORD their God (Ex. 29.46).
What a wonder. Here they are, the Red Sea behind them, hearts full of expectation about the promised inheritance before them. And how wonderful to think that the God of their fathers who just made for Himself an everlasting Name by bringing them out of Egypt would bring them into the promised inheritance. What more could they ask?
But this was not enough for God. He wanted to dwell in their midst on the way there. He wanted a Sanctuary—a Holy Place—so that He the Holy God could dwell in their midst.
Fellow Christian, let us lay this to heart. The great God who accomplished for us so great a salvation in Calvary’s cross is not content to just save us so we can live out our lives and then go happily to Heaven.
He wants to dwell in our midst on the way there.
So I can’t help asking one more question, and I wish more were asking it. Oh, how thankful we are for the salvation we have in Christ Jesus our Lord. But… is God getting the desire of His heart among the saved these days? Is God finding His Sanctuary, His Dwelling Place in our churches? Is God actually home?