If when you hear the word, “Exodus,” you picture Charlton Heston in a shepherd’s robe bearing two stone tablets, you are not alone. But that is also far from the whole story. If you are younger, you may envision the cartoon Prince of Egypt movie that debuted in the 90s, featuring music by Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey. But I don’t think it happened quite like that either. Perhaps it’s the glamour of the Hollywood, or the focus on the ten plagues, and the respective ten commandments that makes it seem like the main point; but most of Exodus has nothing to do with plagues or rules…
In the beginning of the book of Exodus, God declares a promise to the Israelites who are suffering under oppression at the hands of the Egyptians. God promises deliverance, relationship, and a home. In theological circles, the idea of Exodus can be summed up in the words, “grace precedes law.” But phrased another way: before God delivers an oppressed people from slave owners, before God requires anything of them, before God decrees rules to live by or commands allegiance, God promises to come through for the Israelites and be their God.
The underpinnings of our faith are not that we are so delightful that God wants to be in a relationship with us, but that God chooses relationship, love, and restoration before requiring anything of us. God puts skin in the game before we do anything to deserve that love.
Perhaps, the most telling part of Exodus is the early years in the desert, after the Israelites have been delivered out of Egypt, but haven’t yet arrived in the promised land (Exodus 15:22-17:16). Like most of us, the Israelites dwelt on what they didn’t have, rather than what they did have. The people, having been delivered out of the tortures of enslavement and given freedom from oppression, complain about not having food, about the quality of food, the lack of diversity in their diet, about the water…on and on and on.
And what does God do? When they complain about not having food, God provides sustenance. When they complain about the lack of diversity in their diet, he provides quail to accompany their manna. When they lack water, God quenches their thirst. And just in case this wasn’t enough, God provides enough during the week, that they still get a day in which to rest.
God’s love pours forth unconditionally, without anything being required in return. Like a parent, holding a kicking and screaming child, God nourishes and comforts, provides for, and loves. It is only later that rules are put in place for the good of the child, never as a contingency for love.
Consider what it means to be loved unconditionally. In what ways have you resisted God’s love?