Image credit: Rijksmuseum, Netherlands
This is the sequel post to another post, When History is Made Prophecy.
Jacob entered Egypt with his sons and their families, but Moses would depart Egypt with a nation of people (cf. Genesis 15:13-14). That people—redeemed from Egypt—does not merely begin a journey to a new residence; they then begin their journey to a place that God promised and established for them—the land of Canaan. But again, Canaan was no mere habitation for that people; the LORD himself would lead and accompany his people there; he would also abide with them in that land. In this way, several seemingly separate ideas—sanctuary, work, and worship—find a unifying center in the idea of the temple.
Those who read the Bible sometimes misunderstand the concept of temple because they confine its meaning to its Old Testament, Jewish expression. Others, of course, think of temple only in relation to its pagan counterfeits. Those who regard the temple in its Old Testament form might mistake the temple as a structure built to chiefly serve the purpose of redemption, but that is less than its meaning. Still others, paying little concern for the aims of the Old Testament temple at all, see all temples similarly, as a development of mere religious aspiration.
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The pagan idea of temple persists unto this day, if only because men still hope that their will on earth will be approved and sanctioned in heaven. Accordingly, men house, appease, and flatter images to obtain their own earthly desires. The deities represented by those images—which the Christian understands to be at best devils (1 Corinthians 10:20, Leviticus 17:7)—obtain from the idolater the worship that they cannot otherwise obtain from a man. The deity must grant an idolatrous wish to receive idolatrous worship; it obtains no adoration from the devotee for its own sake. It is thus important to see that idolatry consists of an order in which both the idol and the idolater find their relationship in their mutual exploitation of one another. Neither love nor worship (properly speaking) can be a part of that kind of pagan service. The rituals, form, and building of the pagan temple serve selfish human interest, which devils leverage for their own praise.
The Biblical idea of temple, however, originates in a higher purpose altogether. It is rightly remembered in relation to God’s redemptive work, but it does not have its origination there. Rather, the elements of Jewish temple worship both precede and succeed the occasion when Moses first pitched a tent in the wilderness. Accordingly, we must see the temple for what it is—the LORD’s revelation of an already existing and heavenly order (Hebrews 9:11, 24). Plainly, the heavenly reality existed ever before its earthly types.
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Hebrews 9:24 speaks of holy places that are made with hands, referring to the tabernacle and temple that were the spheres of Old Testament worship. However, we also read in that same place that the holy places on the earth are merely figures of the true—heaven itself. Accordingly, when the LORD instructed Moses in the design of the tabernacle (Exodus 25:40), that design apprehended a place much greater than Moses could imagine and invent. It is also greater than common perceptions.
The earthly tabernacle was only one iteration of the heavenly order. Its various figures on the earth—the tabernacles and temples of scripture—are divine patterns that reveal something different than we would or could imagine. In this way, the pagan idea is refuted. Heaven is not servant to the affections of earthly men. It then becomes the Christian’s privilege to observe how that heavenly order is revealed in scripture and redemptive history, serving to enliven the believer’s hope in what God has accomplished through his Son. The Son obtained for the believer something better than Eden. History indeed serves prophecy and its fulfillment.
These facts find significance in the context of Exodus’ first chapter because there we see but a counterfeit to true temple worship. In Egypt, Pharaoh had arranged for the building of cities for his own glory. There, the Hebrew people toiled in a way that finds its contrast to Adam’s work in the garden of Eden. The Egyptian treasure cities were places where Pharaoh’s sanctuary and worship was effected by Jewish service. For this reason, God called and delivered the children of Israel for his own service in the wilderness (Exodus 12:25).
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It is written that the land of Canaan would become the sanctuary of God (Exodus 15:17). The people whom God redeemed from Egypt are, by the Exodus, moved to the sphere of their intended earthly vocation, God’s sanctuary in the Canaan. Work, associated with toil and Pharaoh’s worship in Egypt, is accordingly reacquainted with worship in God’s chosen sanctuary. Work is thus reunited to its first and fundamental association with the worship of the Almighty God within the circle of his revelation.
Significantly, redemption obtains one of its earliest references at this same time (Exodus 15:13), for Israel is delivered from Egypt to serve their LORD. It is in this context that redemption also obtains its fundamental association with sanctification. Those who were redeemed from Egypt were set apart as a nation of priests (Exodus 19:6).
In this way, a redeemed people are brought to the privilege and purpose of God’s service. Israel becomes a pilgrim people, but is led and accompanied by the LORD, who makes this pilgrimage with them (i.e. Exodus 23:20). God and men mutually participate in a pattern of worship that points to a greater reality than the earthly sanctuary.
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One consequence of this pilgrimage is that the Exodus is eventually seen for the typology and prophecy for which it was always intended. The Gospel of Matthew, then, will necessarily take on the familiar form of what transpires in Exodus; and yet, Matthew’s gospel will extend the events of the Exodus into a greater salvation than that from Egypt.
Exodus, of course, records how that Moses eventually leads the Hebrew people out of Egypt. Later, Hosea recounts this fact in Hosea 11:1, for there the LORD calls Israel a son that he has called out of Egypt. (This is, of course, a reference to the LORD’s description of Israel as his firstborn in Exodus 4:22-23). That said, it is Matthew who takes the Hosea reference and applies its redemptive and prophetic significance to the Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 2:15). Upon this plain foundation, other Exodus references find their significance and fulfillment in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ: Israel crosses the Red Sea; it is tested in the wilderness; it is led to the promised land. It is easiest to consider these by a list. The similar presentations of Exodus and Matthew are obvious:
- Exodus begins with an account of Jacob’s family, who entered Egypt with him (Exodus 1:1-6). Similarly, Matthew begins with a genealogy of the Lord Jesus.
- Exodus describes Israel as a son (Exodus 4:22), and he is called out of Egypt. Matthew makes the Lord Jesus the Son called out of Egypt (Matthew 2:15).
- Exodus next tells of Israel passing through the Red Sea, which Paul calls a baptism (1 Corinthians 10:2), while Matthew next recounts the baptism of the Lord Jesus (Matthew 3:16).
- After its crossing through the Red Sea, Exodus records Israel’s testing in the wilderness. Likewise, the Lord is also tempted in the wilderness, immediately following his baptism (Matthew 4:1). The Spirit leads him that way, just as Israel is led through the wilderness by a pillar of cloud and fire.
- Israel then travels to Sinai, where it receives the Law (Exodus 20). Matthew 5-7, significantly, next records the Sermon on the Mount, where the Lord interprets the Law and affirms himself as the lawgiver. This proceeds from a mountain in Galilee.
- In Matthew 8, the itinerant ministry of Jesus Christ begins.1Especially note Matthew 8:18-22 in this regard. The Lord was the consummate sojourner, having no place to lay his head. A group of disciples eventually gathers about him and follow him to the day that he is crucified.2It is not lost on the reader that this is only eventually true. The 12 disciples forsook the Lord the night before his crucifixion and, consequently, did not follow Jesus until the very end of his earthly ministry (Mark 14:50). This is analogous to the way in which the 12 spies failed to enter the Canaan for reason of their unbelief (Numbers 14:1-10, Hebrews 3:15-19). Nevertheless, the disciples’ Savior—their “Joshua”—would suffer for them, obtaining their salvation and eliciting their faith after his resurrection. Exodus, on the other hand, records the design, raising, and journey of the tabernacle—led by the cloud, which is a symbol of the Spirit (Exodus 35-40, 40:33-37). In the same way that Exodus’ last pages are concerned with the building of the tabernacle, Matthew recalls the earthly ministry of Jesus. He is the New Testament tabernacle, leading a mixed multitude to entrance into eternal rest that is provided for by his crucifixion, burial, resurrection, and ascension.
In retrospect, we must see how that the Israel’s sojourn lay between the time of God’s covenant promise to Abraham and the giving of the Law by Moses. That is, there was long delay between promise and deliverance from Egypt by Moses.3A good discussion of the time periods associated with these events is available. See Floyd Nolan Jones, The Chronology of the Old Testament (Green Forrest, AK: Master Books, 2005), 49-60. That said, insofar as Israel’s sojourn in Egypt also preceded its typological redemption from Egypt, Egyptian afflictions suffered during that time served to prepare Israel for the deliverance that God would provide through Moses. In other words, those afflictions—apparently tied to the curses of Adam—served the same preparatory function that the Law would later serve for the Jewish nation in those years after it was established at Sinai (cf. Galatians 3:23-24). The Exodus deliverance recalls and relates the Adamic curses in Eden to Israel’s experience in Egypt. Only after that fact is established, does the Exodus narrative move Israel and all of mankind closer to a deliverance that far exceeds Israel’s deliverance from Egypt. It is impossible to understand Matthew without taking account of Exodus; but then again, the Bible was arranged so that we could so just that.
Notes & References
|↑1||Especially note Matthew 8:18-22 in this regard. The Lord was the consummate sojourner, having no place to lay his head.|
|↑2||It is not lost on the reader that this is only eventually true. The 12 disciples forsook the Lord the night before his crucifixion and, consequently, did not follow Jesus until the very end of his earthly ministry (Mark 14:50). This is analogous to the way in which the 12 spies failed to enter the Canaan for reason of their unbelief (Numbers 14:1-10, Hebrews 3:15-19). Nevertheless, the disciples’ Savior—their “Joshua”—would suffer for them, obtaining their salvation and eliciting their faith after his resurrection.|
|↑3||A good discussion of the time periods associated with these events is available. See Floyd Nolan Jones, The Chronology of the Old Testament (Green Forrest, AK: Master Books, 2005), 49-60.|