Sermon on the Mount
The Sermon on the Mount is the sermon that Jesus gave in Matthew chapters 5- 7. Matthew 5:1-2 is the reason it is known as the Sermon on the Mount: "Now when He saw the crowds, He went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to Him, and He began to teach them..." The Sermon on the Mount is the most famous sermon Jesus ever gave, perhaps the most famous sermon ever given by anyone.
The Sermon on the Mount covers several different topics. It is not the purpose of this article to comment on every section, but rather to give a brief summary of what it contains. If we were to summarize the Sermon on the Mount in a single sentence, it would be something like this: How to live a life that is dedicated to and pleasing to God, free from hypocrisy, full of love and grace, full of wisdom and discernment.
Matthew 5:3-12 - The Beatitudes
Matthew 5:13-16 - Salt and Light
Matthew 5:17-20 - Jesus fulfilled the Law
Matthew 5:21-26 - Anger and Murder
Matthew 5:27-30 - Lust and Adultery
Matthew 5:31-32 - Divorce and Remarriage
Matthew 5:33-37 - Oaths
Matthew 5:38-42 - Eye for an Eye
Matthew 5:43-48 - Love your enemies
Matthew 6:1-4 - Give to the Needy
Matthew 6:5-15 - How to Pray
Matthew 6:16-18 - How to Fast
Matthew 6:19-24 - Treasures in Heaven
Matthew 6:25-34 - Do not worry
Matthew 7:1-6 - Do not judge hypocritically
Matthew 7:7-12 - Ask, Seek, Knock
Matthew 7:13-14 - The Narrow Gate
Matthew 7:15-23 - False Prophets
Matthew 7:24-27 - The Wise Builder
Matthew 7:28-29 concludes the Sermon on the Mount with the following statement: "When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at His teaching, because He taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law." May we all continue to be amazed at His teaching and follow the principles that He taught in the Sermon on the Mount!
To understand the nature of God's communication to us, and ours to Him, we need to start with a few key precepts. The first is that God only speaks truth. He never lies, and He is never deceitful. Job 34:12 declares, “It is unthinkable that God would do wrong, that the Almighty would pervert justice.” The second precept is that the Bible is God's very words. The Greek word for “Scripture,” graphe, is used 51 times in the New Testament to describe the Old Testament writings. Paul affirms in 2 Timothy 3:16 that these words are literally “breathed out by God.” The word graphe also applies to the New Testament, specifically when Peter calls Paul's epistles “scripture” in 2 Peter 3:16, and also when Paul (in 1 Timothy 5:18) quotes Jesus' words as found in Luke 10:7 and calls them “scripture.” Thus, once we establish that a New Testament writing belongs in the special category “scripture,” then we are correct in applying 2 Timothy 3:16 to that writing as well, and saying that that writing also has the characteristics Paul attributes to “all scripture.” It is “God-breathed,” and all its words are the very words of God.
Why is this information pertinent to the subject of prayer? Now that we have established that God only speaks truth and that the Bible is God's very words, we can come logically to the following two conclusions about communication with God. First, since the Bible says that God hears man (Psalm 17:6, 77:1; Isaiah 38:5), man can trust that when he is in a right relationship with God and he speaks to God, God will hear him. Second, since the Bible is God's words, man can trust that when he is in a right relationship with God and he reads the Bible, he is literally hearing God's spoken word. The right relationship with God that is necessary for healthy communication between God and man is evidenced in three ways. The first is a turning from sin, or repentance. Psalm 27:9, for example, is the plea of David for God to hear him and not turn away from him in anger. From this, we know that God does turn His face away from man's sin and that sin hinders the communication between God and man. Another example of this is found in Isaiah 59:2, where Isaiah tells the people, “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.” So, when there is unconfessed sin in our lives, it will hinder communication with God.
Also necessary for communication is a humble heart. God speaks these words in Isaiah 66:2, “This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.” The third thing is a righteous life. This is the positive side of turning from sin and is marked specifically by effectiveness in prayer. James 5:16 says, “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”
Our speech to God may be vocal, in our minds, or written. We can be confident that He will hear us and that the Holy Spirit will help us to pray what we ought to pray. Romans 8:26 says, “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.”
As far as God's method of communicating back to us, we should be looking for God to speak to us primarily through Scripture, rather than trusting that God will always put thoughts directly into our minds in order to guide us to specific actions or decisions. Because of our capacity for self-deception, it is not wise to accept the idea that any and every thought that enters our minds is from God. Sometimes, regarding specific issues in our lives, God does not speak to us directly through Scripture, and it can be understandably tempting to look for extra-biblical revelation in those instances; however, at such times, it is wisest— in order to avoid putting words in God's mouth and/or opening ourselves to deception—to find answers by referring to biblical principles that He has already given us.
It is also advisable to pray earnestly for the wisdom to come to the right conclusions, for He has promised to give wisdom to those who ask for it. “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (James 1:5). How is prayer communicating with God? Prayer is our speaking from our hearts to our heavenly Father, and, in return, God’s speaking to us through His Word and guiding us by the leading of His Spirit.
Fear vs. Faith
Faith and fear cannot exist together. Faith is described in Hebrews 11:1 as being "certain of what we do not see." It is an absolute belief that God is constantly working behind the scenes in every area of our lives, even when there is no tangible evidence to support that fact. On the other hand, fear, simply stated, is unbelief or weak belief. As unbelief gains the upper hand in our thoughts, fear takes hold of our emotions. Our deliverance from fear and worry is based on faith, which is the very opposite of unbelief. We need to understand that faith is not something that we can produce in ourselves. Faith is a gift (Ephesians 2:8-9) and is described as a fruit (or characteristic), which is produced in our lives by the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22). The Christian's faith is a confident assurance in a God who loves us, who knows our thoughts and cares about our deepest needs. That faith continues to grow as we study the Bible and learn the attributes of His amazing character. The more we learn about God, the more we can see Him working in our lives and the stronger our faith grows.
A growing faith is what we desire to have and what God desires to produce in us. How, in day-to-day life, can we develop a faith that conquers our fears? The Bible says, "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God" (Romans 10:17). The careful study of God's Word is of primary importance in developing a strong faith. God wants us to know Him and completely rely on His direction in our lives. It's through the hearing, reading and meditation in the Scriptures that we begin to experience a strong, confident faith that excludes worry and fear. Spending time in prayer and quiet worship develops a relationship with our heavenly Father that sees us through even the darkest of nights. In the Psalms we see a picture of David, who, like us, experienced times of fear. Psalm 56:3 reveals his faith with these words: "When I am afraid, I will trust in you." Psalm 119 is filled with verses expressing the way in which David treasured God's Word: "I seek you with all my heart" (v. 10); "I meditate on your precepts" (v. 15); "I have hidden your word in my heart" (v. 11). These are revealing words, which speak wisdom to us today.
God is kind and understanding toward our weaknesses, but He requires us to go forward in faith, and the Bible is clear that faith does not mature and strengthen without trials. Adversity is God's most effective tool to develop a strong faith. That pattern is evident in Scripture. God takes each one of us through fearful situations, and as we learn to obey God's Word and allow it to saturate our thoughts, we find each trial becomes a stepping-stone to a stronger and deeper faith. It gives us that ability to say, "He sustained me in the past, He'll carry me through today and He'll uphold me in the future!" God worked this way in David's life. When David volunteered to fight against Goliath, he said, "The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine" (1 Samuel 17:37). David knew the God who had sustained him through dangerous situations in the past. He had seen and experienced God's power and protection in his life, and this developed within him a fearless faith.
The Word of God is rich with promises for us to take hold of and claim for ourselves. When we face financial trouble, Philippians 4:19 tells us, "And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus." If we are anxious about a future decision, Psalm 32:8 reminds us that God will "instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you." In sickness we can remember that Romans 5:3 says, "Tribulation works patience." If someone turns against us, we can be comforted by the words in Romans 8:31, "If God is for us who can be against us!" Throughout life we will continue to face various trials that would cause us fear, but God assures us that we can know a calm peace through every situation, "the peace of God, which transcends all understanding”, which He has promised will “guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:7).
Dealing with Temptation
The three temptations by Satan in the wilderness were not the only temptations our Lord ever suffered on Earth. We read in Luke 4:2 that He was tempted by the devil for forty days, but He was undoubtedly tempted at other times (Luke 4:13; Matthew 16:21–23; Luke 22:42), and yet in all this He was without sin or compromise. Although some have suggested that the Lord’s period of fasting compares with that of both Moses (Exodus 34:28) and Elijah (1 Kings 19:8), the main point is how the Lord deals with temptation in the light of His humanity.
It is because He is human, and made like us in every way, that He could do three vital things: 1) destroy the devil’s power and free those who were held in slavery by their fear of death (Hebrews 2:15) become a merciful and faithful High Priest in service to God and atone for our sins (Hebrews 2:17); and 3) be the One who is able to sympathize with us in all our weaknesses and infirmities (Hebrews 4:15). Our Lord’s human nature enables Him to sympathize with our own weaknesses, because He was subjected to weakness, too. More importantly, we have a High Priest who is able to intercede on our behalf and provide the grace of forgiveness.
Temptation is never as great as when one has made a public declaration of faith as did our Lord when He was baptized in the Jordan (Matthew 3:13–17); however, we also note that, during this time of exhaustive testing, our Lord was also ministered to by angels, a mystery indeed that the omnipotent One should condescend to receive such help from lesser beings! Here is a beautiful description of the ministry that His people also benefit from. We too are aided by angels who are ministering spirits sent to those who will inherit salvation during times of testing and trial (Hebrews 1:14).
Jesus’ temptations follow three patterns that are common to all men. The first temptation concerns the lust of the flesh (Matthew 4:3–4). Our Lord is hungry, and the devil tempts Him to convert stones into bread, but He replies with Scripture, quoting Deuteronomy 8:3. The second temptation concerns the pride of life (Matthew 4:5–7), and here the devil uses a verse of Scripture (Psalm 91:11–12), but the Lord replies again with Scripture to the contrary (Deuteronomy 6:16), stating that it is wrong for Him to abuse His own powers. The third temptation concerns the lust of the eyes (Matthew 4:8–10), and if any quick route to the Messiahship could be attained, bypassing the passion and crucifixion for which He had originally come, this was the way. The devil already had control over the kingdoms of the world (Ephesians 2:2), but was now ready to give everything to Christ in return for His allegiance. The mere thought almost causes the Lord’s divine nature to shudder at such a concept and He replies sharply, “You shall worship the Lord your God and serve Him only” (Deuteronomy 6:13).
There are many temptations that we sadly fall into because our flesh is naturally weak, but we have a God who will not let us be tempted beyond what we can bear; He will provide a way out (1 Corinthians 10:13). We can therefore be victorious and then will thank the Lord for deliverance from temptation. Jesus’ experience in the desert helps us to see these common temptations that keep us from serving God effectively. Furthermore, we learn from Jesus’ response to the temptations exactly how we are to respond—with Scripture. The forces of evil come to us with a myriad of temptations, but all have the same three things at their core: lust of the eyes, lust of the flesh, and the pride of life. We can only recognize and combat these temptations by saturating our hearts and minds with the Truth. The armor of a Christian solider in the spiritual battle of life includes only one offensive weapon, the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God (Ephesians 6:17). Knowing the Bible intimately will put the Sword in our hands and enable us to be victorious over temptations.
Each of you is at a critical stage in your life decision making because you are moving into a season of independence. The purpose of this note is to provide a Biblical framework for decision-making in so that you can avoid consequence of pursuing cultural rationale. The Bible offers principles to aid the process of decision making that honor God:
Samuel Meets David
The author is anonymous. We know that Samuel wrote a book (1 Samuel 10:25), and it is very possible that he wrote part of this book. Other possible contributors to 1 Samuel are the prophets / historians Nathan and Gad (1 Chronicles 29:29). Originally, the books of 1 and 2 Samuel were one book. The translators of the Septuagint separated them, and we have retained that separation ever since. The events of 1 Samuel span approximately 100 years, from c. 1100 B.C. to c. 1000 B.C. The events of 2 Samuel cover another 40 years. The date of writing would be sometime after 960 B.C.
First Samuel records the history of Israel in the land of Canaan as they move from the rule of judges to being a unified nation under kings. Samuel emerges as the last judge, and he anoints the first two kings, Saul and David. Key verses:
“But when they said, ‘Give us a king to lead us,’ this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the LORD. And the LORD told him: ‘Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king’” (1 Samuel 8:6-7).
“’You acted foolishly,’ Samuel said. ‘You have not kept the command the LORD your God gave you; if you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time. But now your kingdom will not endure; the LORD has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him leader of his people, because you have not kept the LORD's command’” (1 Samuel 13:13-14).
“But Samuel replied: ‘Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has rejected you as king’" (1 Samuel 15:22-23).
The book of 1 Samuel can be neatly divided into two sections: the life of Samuel (chapters 1-12) and the life of Saul (chapters 13-31).
The book starts with the miraculous birth of Samuel in answer to his mother’s earnest prayer. As a child, Samuel lived and served in the temple. God singled him out as a prophet (3:19-21), and the child’s first prophecy was one of judgment on the corrupt priests.
The Israelites go to war with their perennial enemies, the Philistines. The Philistines capture the Ark of the Covenant and are in temporary possession of it, but when the Lord sends judgment, the Philistines return the ark. Samuel calls Israel to repentance (7:3-6) and then to victory over the Philistines.
The people of Israel, wanting to be like other nations, desire a king. Samuel is displeased by their demands, but the Lord tells him that it is not Samuel’s leadership they are rejecting, but His own. After warning the people of what having a king would mean, Samuel anoints a Benjamite named Saul, who is crowned in Mizpah (10:17-25). Saul enjoys initial success, defeating the Ammonites in battle (chapter 11).
He then makes a series of missteps: he presumptuously offers a sacrifice (chapter 13), he makes a foolish vow at the expense of his son Jonathan (chapter 14), and he disobeys the Lord’s direct command (chapter 15). As a result of Saul’s rebellion, God chooses another to take Saul’s place. Meanwhile, God removes His blessing from Saul, and an evil spirit begins goading Saul toward madness (16:14).
Samuel travels to Bethlehem to anoint a youth named David as the next king (chapter 16). Later, David has his famous confrontation with Goliath the Philistine and becomes a national hero (chapter 17). David serves in Saul’s court, marries Saul’s daughter, and is befriended by Saul’s son. Saul himself grows jealous of David’s success and popularity, and he attempts to kill David. David flees, and so begins an extraordinary period of adventure, intrigue, and romance. With supernatural aid, David narrowly but consistently eludes the bloodthirsty Saul (chapters 19-26). Through it all, David maintains his integrity and his friendship with Jonathan.
Near the end of the book, Samuel has died, and Saul is a lost man. On the eve of a battle with Philistia, Saul seeks for answers. Having rejected God, he finds no help from heaven, and he seeks counsel from a medium instead. During the seance, Samuel’s spirit rises from the dead to give one last prophecy: Saul would die in battle the next day. The prophecy is fulfilled; Saul’s three sons, including Jonathan, fall in battle, and Saul commits suicide.
The prayer of Hannah in 1 Samuel 2:1-10 makes several prophetic references to Christ. She extols God as her Rock (v. 2), and we know from the gospel accounts that Jesus is the Rock upon whom we should build our spiritual houses. Paul refers to Jesus as the “rock of offense” to the Jews (Romans 9:33). Christ is called the “spiritual Rock” who provided spiritual drink to the Israelites in the wilderness just as He provides “living water” to our souls (1 Corinthians 10:4; John 4:10). Hannah’s prayer also makes reference to the Lord who will judge the ends of the earth (v. 2:10), while Matthew 25:31- 32 refers to Jesus as the Son of Man who will come in glory to judge everyone.
The tragic story of Saul is a study in wasted opportunity. Here was a man who had it all—honor, authority, riches, good looks, and more. Yet he died in despair, terrified of his enemies and knowing he had failed his nation, his family, and his God. Saul made the mistake of thinking he could please God through disobedience. Like many today, he believed that a sensible motive will compensate for bad behavior. Perhaps his power went to his head, and he began to think he was above the rules. Somehow he developed a low opinion of God’s commands and a high opinion of himself. Even when confronted with his wrongdoing, he attempted to vindicate himself, and that’s when God rejected him (15:16-28).
Saul’s problem is one we all face—a problem of the heart. Obedience to God’s will is necessary for success, and if we in pride rebel against Him, we set ourselves up for loss.
David, on the other hand, did not seem like much at first. Even Samuel was tempted to overlook him (16:6-7). But God sees the heart and saw in David a man after His own heart (13:14). The humility and integrity of David, coupled with his boldness for the Lord and his commitment to prayer, set a good example for all of us.
Battle of Jericho
The story of the walls of Jericho falling down, recorded in Joshua 6:1–27, is one that vividly demonstrates the miraculous power of God. But more than that, the utter destruction of Jericho teaches us several grand truths regarding God’s grace and our salvation.
The people of Israel had just crossed over the Jordan River into the land of Canaan (Joshua 3:14–17). This was the land of milk and honey God had promised to Abraham over 500 years earlier (Deuteronomy 6:3, 32:49). After spending forty difficult years wandering in the desert of Sinai, the people of Israel were now on the eastern banks of the Jordan. Their challenge: take the land of Canaan, the Promised Land; however, their first obstacle was the city of Jericho (Joshua 6:1), an unconquerable, walled city. Excavations there reveal that its fortifications featured a stonewall 11 feet high and 14 feet wide. At its top was a smooth stone slope, angling upward at 35 degrees for 35 feet, where it joined massive stonewalls that towered even higher. It was virtually impregnable.
In ancient warfare such cities were either taken by assault or surrounded and the people starved into submission. Its invaders might try to weaken the stonewalls with fire or by tunneling, or they might simply heap up a mountain of earth to serve as a ramp. Each of these methods of assault took weeks or months, and the attacking force usually suffered heavy losses; however, the strategy to conquer the city of Jericho was unique in two ways. First, God Himself laid out the strategy, and, second, the strategy was a seemingly foolish plan. God simply told Joshua to have the people to march silently around Jericho for six days, and then, after seven circuits on the seventh day, to shout.
Though it seemed foolish, Joshua followed God’s instructions to the letter. When the people did finally shout, the massive walls collapsed instantly, and Israel won an easy victory. In fact, God had given the city of Jericho to them before they even began to march around its walls (Joshua 6:2, 16). It was when the people of God, by faith, followed the commands of God that the walls of Jericho fell down (Joshua 6:20).
The apostle Paul assures us, “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4). The description of the complete obliteration of Jericho was recorded in Scripture in order to teach us several lessons. Most important is that obedience, even when God's commands seem foolish, brings victory. When we are faced with seemingly insurmountable odds, we must learn that our Jericho victories are won only when our faithful obedience to God is complete (Hebrews 5:9; 1 John 2:3; 5:3).
There are other key lessons we should learn from this story. First, there is a vast difference between God’s way and the way of man (Isaiah 55:8–9). Though militarily it was irrational to assault Jericho in the manner it was done, we must never question God’s purpose or instructions. We must have faith that God is who He says He is and will do what He says He will do (Hebrews 10:23; 11:1).
Second, the power of God is supernatural, beyond our comprehension (Psalm 18:13–15; Daniel 4:35; Job 38:4–6). The walls of Jericho fell, and they fell instantly. The walls collapsed by the sheer power of God.
Third, there is an uncompromising relationship between the grace of God and our faith and obedience to Him. Scripture says, “By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the people had marched around them for seven days” (Hebrews 11:30). Although their faith had frequently failed in the past, in this instance the children of Israel believed and trusted God and His promises. As they were saved by faith, so we are today saved by faith (Romans 5:1; John 3:16–18). Faith must be evidenced by obedience. The children of Israel had faith, they obeyed, and the walls of Jericho fell “by faith” after they were circled for seven straight days. Saving faith impels us to obey God (Matthew 7:24–29; Hebrews 5:8–9; 1 John 2:3–5).
In addition, the story tells us that God keeps His promises (Joshua 6:2, 20). The walls of Jericho fell because God said they would. God’s promises to us today are just as certain. They are just as unswerving. They are exceedingly great and wonderfully precious (Hebrews 6:11–18; 10:36; Colossians 3:24).
Finally, we should learn that faith without works is dead (James 2:26). It is not enough to say, “I believe God,” and then live in an ungodly manner. If we truly believe God, our desire is to obey God. Our faith is put to work. We make every effort to do exactly what God says and keep His commandments. Joshua and the Israelites carried out the commands of God and conquered Jericho. God gave them victory over an enemy that was trying to keep them out of the Promised Land. So it is with us today: if we have true faith, we are compelled to obey God, and God gives us victory over the enemies that we face throughout life. Obedience is the clear evidence of faith. Our faith is the evidence to others that we truly believe in Him. We can conquer and be victorious through life by faith, a faith that obeys the God who gives us that faith as a free gift (Ephesians 2:8–9).
The Ten Commandments (also known as the Decalogue) are ten laws in the Bible that God gave to the nation of Israel shortly after the exodus from Egypt. The Ten Commandments are essentially a summary of the 613 commandments contained in the Old Testament Law. The first four commandments deal with our relationship with God. The last six commandments deal with our relationships with one another. The Ten Commandments are recorded in the Bible in Exodus 20:1-17 and Deuteronomy 5:6-21 and are as follows:
1) “You shall have no other gods before me.” This command is against worshipping any god other than the one true God. All other gods are false gods.
2) “You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.” This command is against making an idol, a visible representation of God. There is no image we can create that can accurately portray God. To make an idol to represent God is to worship a false god.
3) “You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses His name.” This is a command against taking the name of the Lord in vain. We are not to treat God’s name lightly. We are to show reverence to God by only mentioning Him in respectful and honoring ways.
4) “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” This is a command to set aside the Sabbath (Saturday, the last day of the week) as a day of rest dedicated to the Lord.
5) “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.” This is a command to always treat one’s parents with honor and respect.
6) “You shall not murder.” This is a command against the premeditated murder of another human being.
7) “You shall not commit adultery.” This is a command against have sexual relations with anyone other than one’s spouse.
8) “You shall not steal.” This is a command against taking anything that is not one’s own, without the permission of the person to whom it belongs.
9) “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.” This is a command prohibiting testifying against another person falsely. It is essentially a command against lying.
10) “You shall not covet your neighbor's house. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” This is a command against desiring anything that is not one’s own. Coveting can lead to breaking one of the commandments listed above: murder, adultery, and theft. If it is wrong to do something, it is wrong to desire to do that same something.
Many people mistakenly look at the Ten Commandments as a set of rules that, if followed, will guarantee entrance into heaven after death. In contrast, the purpose of the Ten Commandments is to force people to realize that they cannot perfectly obey the Law (Romans 7:7-11), and are therefore in need of God’s mercy and grace. Despite the claims of the rich young ruler in Matthew 19:16, no one can perfectly obey the Ten Commandments (Ecclesiastes 7:20). The Ten Commandments demonstrate that we have all sinned (Romans 3:23) and are therefore in need of God’s mercy and grace, available only through faith in Jesus Christ.
The importance of the parting of the Red Sea is that this one event is the final act in God’s delivering His people from slavery in Egypt. The exodus from Egypt and the parting of the red sea is the single greatest act of salvation in the Old Testament, and it is continually recalled to represent God’s saving power. The events of the exodus, including parting and crossing of the Red Sea, are immortalized in the Psalms as Israel brings to remembrance God’s saving works in their worship (e.g., Psalm 66:6; 78:13; 106:9; 136:13).
God prophesied to Abraham that his descendants would become slaves in a foreign nation for 400 years, but God promised to deliver them: “But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions” (Genesis 15:14). The prophecy came to fulfillment when, many years after the death of Joseph, a Pharaoh came to power in Egypt who afflicted the people of Israel and enslaved them (Exodus 1:8–11). It wasn’t until after the birth of Moses that we read God “heard” the cries of His people and prepared to deliver them (Exodus 2:23–25).
The rest of the story is well known. Moses was commissioned by God to be the deliverer of His people. He went before Pharaoh and requested the people to be let go so they may worship the Lord. Pharaoh refused (“he hardened his heart”) and began to oppress the people of Israel even more. Then began the cycle of the ten plagues. Moses requested that Pharaoh release his people, Pharaoh refused, God sent a plague, Pharaoh “repented,” and God removed the plague. After the final plague (the death of the firstborn), Pharaoh finally agreed to let the children of Israel go. But then he had another change of heart and chased after them with his army. That’s when the great scene of deliverance occurred as God parted the Red Sea, allowing the children of Israel to pass through safely, but drowning Pharaoh and his army under the sea.
Now we may be tempted to think that this is a wonderful story of God’s miraculous saving power on display, and leave it at that. However, we would be missing the bigger picture in the story of redemption. The Old Testament prepares the way for the New Testament, and all of God’s promises find their “yes” and “amen” in Christ (2 Corinthians 1:20). The exodus from Egypt, though a real, historical event, prefigures the saving work of Christ for His people. What God did through Moses was to provide physical salvation from physical slavery. What God does through Christ is provide spiritual salvation from a spiritual slavery; however, our slavery isn’t like that of the Israelites in Egypt. The Israelites were slaves in Egypt, but we are all slaves to sin. As Jesus said to the Pharisees, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:34, 36).
The passing through the Red Sea is symbolic of the believer’s identification with the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul says, “For I want you to know, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ” (1 Corinthians 10:1–4). Paul is giving the exodus from Egypt a Christological reading; he is making the connection between the exodus from Egypt and salvation in Christ. Notice how Paul says “all were baptized into Moses.” Just as the Israelites were “baptized into Moses,” so too are Christians baptized into Christ: “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4).
So the parting of the Red Sea not only finalized God’s redemption of His people from slavery in Egypt, but it also prefigured the greater spiritual reality of God’s redemption of His people from slavery to sin through the work of Christ.
The word “exodus” means departure. In God's timing, the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt marked the end of a period of oppression for Abraham's descendants (Genesis 15:13), and the beginning of the fulfillment of the covenant promise to Abraham that his descendants would not only live in the Promised Land, but would also multiply and become a great nation (Genesis 12:1-3, 7). The purpose of the book may be expressed as tracing the rapid growth of Jacob's descendants from Egypt to the establishment of the theocratic nation in their Promised Land.
Key Verses: Exodus 1:8, "Then a new king, who did not know about Joseph, came to power in Egypt."
Exodus 2:24-25, "God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob. So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them."
Exodus 12:27, "'It is the Passover sacrifice to the LORD, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when he struck down the Egyptians.' Then the people bowed down and worshiped."
Exodus 20:2-3, "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me."
Brief Summary: Exodus begins where Genesis leaves off as God deals with His chosen people, the Jews. It traces the events from the time Israel entered Egypt as guests of Joseph, who was powerful in Egypt, until they were eventually delivered from the cruel bondage of slavery into which they had been brought by "...a new king...which knew not Joseph" (Exodus 1:8).
Chapters 1-14 describe the conditions of oppression of the Jews under Pharaoh, the rise of Moses as their deliverer, the plagues God brought upon Egypt for the refusal of their leader to submit to Him, and the departure from Egypt. God’s sovereign and powerful hand is seen in the miracles of the plagues—ending with the plague of death of the firstborn and the institution of the first Passover—the deliverance of the Israelites, the parting of the Red Sea, and the destruction of the Egyptian army.
God dedicates the middle portion of Exodus to the wandering in the wilderness and the miraculous provision for His people. But even though He gave them bread from heaven, sweet water from bitter, water from a rock, victory over those who would destroy them, His Law written on tablets of stone by His own hand, and His presence in the form of pillars of fire and cloud, the people continually grumbled and rebelled against Him.
The last third of the book describes the construction of the Ark of the Covenant and the plan for the Tabernacle with its various sacrifices, altars, furniture, ceremonies, and forms of worship.
Foreshadowings: The numerous sacrifices required of the Israelites were a picture of the ultimate sacrifice, the Passover Lamb of God, Jesus Christ. The night of the last plague on Egypt, an unblemished lamb was killed and its blood applied to the doorposts of the houses of God’s people, protecting them from the angel of death. This foreshadowed Jesus, the Lamb of God without spot or blemish (1 Peter 1:19), whose blood applied to us ensures eternal life. Among the symbolic presentations of Christ in the book of Exodus is the story of the water from the rock in Exodus 17:6. Just as Moses struck the rock to provide life-giving water for the people to drink, so did God strike the Rock of our salvation, crucifying Him for our sin, and from the Rock came the gift of living water (John 4:10). The provision of manna in the wilderness is a perfect picture of Christ, the Bread of Life (John 6:48), provided by God to give us life.
Practical Application: The Mosaic Law was given in part to show mankind that they were incapable of keeping it. We are unable to please God by law keeping; therefore, Paul exhorts us to “put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified” (Galatians 2:16).
God’s provision for the Israelites, from deliverance from captivity to the manna and quail in the wilderness, are clear indications of His gracious provision for His people. God has promised to supply all our needs. “God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful” (1 Corinthians 1:9).
We are to trust in the Lord, for He can deliver us from anything. God does not allow sin to go unpunished forever. As a result, we can trust Him in His retribution and justice. When God removes us from a bad situation, we should not seek to go back. When God makes demands of us, He expects us to comply, but at the same time He provides grace and mercy because He knows that, on our own, we will not be able to fully obey.