Exodus Teaching - 01 - God's Covenant Relationship

Title: Exodus Teaching - 01 - God's Covenant Relationship
Category: Bible Studies
Subject: Exodus Study

Exodus Teaching Series #1

TITLE: God's Covenant Relationship



This is the first in a series of messages on the Exodus experience for the Children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (whose name was changed to Israel). I will begin with a confession. Andy and Jan Mercer visited with us in Louisiana a number of time and Dr. Jan Mercer guided my studies in the Creation/Evolution debate for some 25 years. I was her mother’s pastor and she and her family would come to church and then visit in our home from time to time. On one visit, Jan brought me a copy of the book, The Saving Life of Christ, by Major Ian Thomas. Jan signed the book and dated it, 1985. In another book Major Thomas allegorized the Book of Esther. I received a special blessing from The Saving Life of Christ, in which he dealt, as I recall, with the Exodus, the Wilderness, and Canaan (Possessing Your Possessions, I seem to recall). He compared the Exodus with deliverance from slavery and death, the wilderness with living in the flesh, and Canaan with the spirit filled life.

I do not remember how much of what I may say in this series of messages I owe to Major Ian Thomas, but I do know I am indebted to him for getting me started on a new line of study, and the more I study the Scripture on which these messages are based, the more I appreciate him for getting me started down that road. The British Major who was governor of Malta during World War II, saw the hand of God day by day, as allies got supplies to them from one thousand miles away. He looked, not just daily, but moment by moment to the Lord for His protection and for provisions Malta could not produce. They could produce nothing they needed to eat or to otherwise survive.

In this series we will be looking at the Exodus, Sinai, the Wilderness, and Canaan. I always love the hymn, On Jordan’s Stormy Banks, perhaps because in the little mission church in which I grew up, we didn’t sing many different hymns, but we really loved the ones we did sin and I still love those old hymns, like Amazing Grace, Leaning on the Everlasting Arms, and On Jordan’s Stormy Banks. Having said that, I have a confession: in my youth I pictured the Israelites standing on the eastern side of the Jordan, looking anxiously across the river to “Canaan’s fair and happy land...” Let me assure you, I don’t want to live in a Canaan that today lies in the cross-hairs of numerous countries all over that part of the world. I do, however, I do want you looked with a certain longing to that fair and happy place where we will live forever in a paradise called Heaven. At the same time, the Canaan to which we look and long is not in “the sweet bye and bye,” but where the Lord wants us to live and enjoy all the benefits of the Christ life today.

Now, I would like for us to look first at an overview of the Exodus, beginning with the call of Abraham.


A. Abraham Was Open to God’s Call and Obeyed Him.

God called Abraham to move to a distant land. “Go out from your land, your relatives, and your father’s house to the land that I will show you,” Gen. 12:1, HCSB). We may wonder whether Abraham was a believer in the God of Genesis 1:1 before the Lord called him to leave his home in Ur of the Chaldees and go to that distant land God promised him, or does the Scripture that tells us that Abraham believed God and it was counted unto him as righteousness refer to his trust in the Lord at the time of this call? Ancient traditions tell us that he was a believer as a youth, and that he worked in his father’s shop where idols were made and sold. In fact, those traditions tell us that he once attacked some of his father’s idols with a club and when his father rebuked him, he replied, “If they be gods, let them defend themselves.”

What we know for sure is that Abraham, who would become known as the father of the faithful, lived in Ur of the Chaldees and his name was Abram, meaning “exalted father.” God changed his name to Abraham, “father of a multitude.” The Lord called him to leave his home land and travel to a distant country and he was obedient to the voice of the Lord.

B. God Made a Covenant with Abraham.

“I will make you into a great nation, I will bless you, I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, I will curse those who treat you with contempt, and all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Gen 12:2-3, HCSB).

This covenant had a number of key parts: (1) a great nation would descend from Abraham (That is Israel). (2) God would bless him (Abraham ). (3) He would make his name great: after four thousand years his is still one of the best known names in the world. (4) God would give bless all the peoples of the earth through Abraham (that part is Messianic). His salvation is offered to any man or any woman who believes in God’s Messiah, Jesus Christ. Two thousand years later, Paul would explain that Abraham was justified when he placed his faith in the Lord.

As mentioned, God made a covenant with Abraham. We know about contracts today, so we may assume the covenant God made with Abraham was something like that, but Old Testament scholars tell us that the term used in the Bible is, “God cut a covenant” with someone. The idea is that two people entering a really serious covenant would kill a bullock and split it from head to tail so that they could lay the two sides opposite each other, with enough room for those entering the covenant to walk between the two halves. The covenant promised that, even though a bullock might be split into two pieces, the covenant bound those entering the covenant so that they could not be separated. This covenant was more binding than that which had held the two halves of the bullock together.

The Gospel According to Matthew begins with the Genealogy of Jesus. Luke is a distinctively Gentile Gospel, whereas Matthew is distinctly Jewish. Any genealogy that did not include Abraham and the Abrahamic Covenant, as well as David and the Davidic Covenant, would be questioned by the Jews. My good friend Dr. Bill Cooper of Middlesex, England holds that early records from his country indicate that the Gospel of Matthew reached his island within 10 - 12 years of the death of Jesus Christ. That is amazing, but early records prove that the Gospel reached Britain very early, earlier that we were once told.

C. God Promised Abraham His Descendants a New Land.

The Lord promised Abraham the land, and led them to it, but there was a catch. The land would be theirs, but they couldn’t live in it for 400 years!

“Then the Lord said to Abram, “Know this for certain: Your offspring will be foreigners in a land that does not belong to them; they will be enslaved and oppressed 400 years. However, I will judge the nation they serve, and afterward they will go out with many possessions” (Gen 15:13-14, HCSB)

Regardless of the dates we follow, the children of Israel were in a foreign country from the time of the famine in Israel when Joseph rescued his family until the Exodus. Then there followed the Exodus, Sinai, and the Conquest of Canaan, all of which were in God’s mind at the time he called Abraham, more than two thousand years before Christ. Tell me that is not amazing!

D. Abraham Moved into the Land, Built an Altar and Called on the Name of the Lord.

The Lord blessed Abraham and Sarah with a child in their old age. This child was a miracle, and prophetic of the Messiah in more than one way. Jesus was born of a virgin and that was a miracle. Isaac was placed on an altar and then taken up (Gen. 22); Jesus died on an altar, the cross, and on the third day He arose from the dead. Some believe that when Isaac’s life was spared and a ram was provided for the sacrifice we see a representation of substitutionary atonement, and Jesus is our Substitute, but the emphasis Paul places on it had to do with the Resurrection.

E. Abraham and Sarah Were Blessed with the Son God Promised.

Isaac was a miracle child, and the One who would fulfill the Abrahamic Covenant would be a miracle child, a baby born to a virgin. Abraham arranged for a wife for his son Isaac so that he would not marry a woman from the pagan nations around them. Her name was Rebekah, a relative from Paddan Aram.

Isaac and his wife Rebekah had twin sons, Esau, the first born, and Jacob, who deceived his brother and stole the birthright (Gen. 25) and blessing (Gen. 27). When it was feared that Esau would kill Jacob, “Isaac sent Jacob to Paddan-aram, to Laban son of Bethuel the Aramean, the brother of Rebekah, the mother of Jacob and Esau” (Gen 28:5). The Lord returned Jacob, whose name He had changed from Jacob (one who followed after another to deceive him) to Israel which means prince with the Lord. Jacob had twelve sons, but the obvious favorite was Joseph, which caused his brother to hate him with such passion that the ten older brothers plotted against him and sold him into slavery.


A. God Had Joseph in Egypt to Prepare a Place for his Brothers.

Joseph was sold into slavery by his older brothers, whose jealously was spawned and nurtured by Joseph’s dreams and the telling of them to his brothers (Gen. 37:1-11). His dreams clearly implied that they would one day bow down before him. Instead of respecting him and loving him they hated him, and when the opportunity presented itself they sold him to a band of Midianites, who in turn took him to Egypt and sold him to a prominent man named Potiphar (Gen 37:12-36). He excelled in everything he did and in time Potiphar eventually put him in charge of everything he had (Gen. 39:4). We know the story of his flight to escape temptation when Potiphar’s wife tempted him, and then lied and had him thrown into prison. The Lord miraculously delivered Joseph from prison after he revealed the meaning of a dream to Pharaoh. There would be seven years of abundant harvest, followed by seven years of severe famine. I worked my way through school working for the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service (ASCS), a department of the USDA. In one of our schools we were told that we were not to use the term surplus. It didn’t sound right! Say, “abundant supply.”

Because Pharaoh set Joseph over the entire nation to prepare for the famine, there was an abundant supply in Egypt for seven years. Storage buildings were built and grain was stored against the coming seven years of famine the Lord had revealed to Joseph.

B. The Great Famine Brought Joseph’s Brothers to Egypt looking for grain (Gen 42).

The famine was regional, effecting the entire area, including the Land of Canaan. When Jacob and his clan began feeling the effects of the famine Jacob sent ten of his sons down to Egypt to buy grain, keeping only his younger son Benjamin at home. No doubt, Joseph remembered his dream when his brothers bowed before him. He tricked them into bringing his brother Benjamin back down to Egypt with them the next time. The remarkable thing to note is that some of the brothers who had sold him into slavery now showed great concern for Benjamin. Perhaps they had seen how the report of the death of Joseph had affected their father.

Judah assumed a lot of responsibility in the next trip, persuading Jacob to let Benjamin go with them on their second trip to buy grain. When they arrived in Egypt they stood once again before Joseph, whose power was second only to that of the king. Joseph saw them and had a servant take them to his house.

“When Joseph came home, they brought him the gift they had carried into the house, and they bowed to the ground before him. He asked if they were well, and he said, “How is your elderly father that you told me about? Is he still alive?” They answered, “Your servant our father is well. He is still alive.” And they bowed down to honor him. When he looked up and saw his brother Benjamin, his mother’s son, he asked, “Is this your youngest brother that you told me about?” Then he said, “May God be gracious to you, my son.” Joseph hurried out because he was overcome with emotion for his brother, and he was about to weep. He went into an inner room to weep. Then he washed his face and came out. Regaining his composure, he said, “Serve the meal.” (Gen 43:26-31).

Joseph, no doubt remembering his treatment at their hands, prepared another test for the brothers and this time he trapped Benjamin and accused him of stealing his silver cup (1:2f). All his brothers fell on their face before Joseph, knowing he had the power of life and death over them. One of the most touching parts of this story is the way Judah pleaded for Benjamin’s life. He explained that Benjamin’s brother was dead and the loss of the youngest son would be too much for their elderly father. Judah said, “Now please let your servant remain here as my lord’s slave, in place of the boy. Let him go back with his brothers. For how can I go back to my father without the boy? I could not bear to see the grief that would overwhelm my father.” (Gen 44:33-34)

Joseph then revealed his identity to his brothers, which gave them quite a scare for a little while. We read, “Joseph could no longer keep his composure in front of all his attendants, so he called out, “Send everyone away from me!” No one was with him when he revealed his identity to his brothers. But he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard it, and also Pharaoh’s household heard it. Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still living?” (Gen 45:1-3).

C. Joseph Brought His Father Down to Egypt,

“When the news reached Pharaoh’s palace, “Joseph’s brothers have come,” Pharaoh and his servants were pleased. Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Tell your brothers, ‘Do this: Load your animals and go on back to the land of Canaan. Get your father and your families, and come back to me. I will give you the best of the land of Egypt, and you can eat from the richness of the land.’ You are also commanded, ‘Do this: Take wagons from the land of Egypt for your young children and your wives and bring your father here. Do not be concerned about your belongings, for the best of all the land of Egypt is yours.’” (Gen 45:16-20)

Far from forcing Joseph’s family into slavery, beating them, and killing them, this Pharaoh enthusiastically welcomed them and provided a place for them. He furnished the wagons to move his entire family from Canaan to Egypt. They would be there 400 years, during which time they would forget the promise of a land flowing with milk and honey. Sadly, they forgot Yahweh until the situation became desperate.


A. Joseph Settled His Family in a Fertile Land.

Joseph was a man of character and substance, a man whose life reminds us more of New Testament morality than most folks we read about in the Old Testament. This remarkable young man was sold to a man named Potipher in Egypt, where he proved himself to be wise, dependable, and trustworthy.
In time, Joseph revealed a dream and its significance to Pharaoh: There would be seven years of plenty, followed by seven years of famine. Joseph was put over the preparation for the famine, and in that capacity saw his brother coming to him to buy grain. The Lord brought them together and then Jacob was invited to move into the Land of Goshen, an area known for its fertility and productively.

B. Let’s Corrects Some Errors about Their Time in Egypt.

Some people believe they were immediately enslaved, forced to labor for the Pharaoh, beaten with whips, and tortured in other ways. But as we shall see, that was not the case at all. Joseph and the Pharaoh settled Jacob and his sons and their families in the fertile Land of Goshen, where they grew in numbers and prospered for generations. Sadly, many forgot the Lord and bowed to the false gods of Egypt. They grew from the original seventy to some 2 million people before a Pharaoh came to power who did not recognize the covenant that was made with Joseph, and seeing the large nation living among the Egyptians, and feared that if there has been a war against Egypt and the Israelites joined the enemy, they could help with food and grain for the horses and an army that might have numbered between 200,000 and 300,000 men. I have seen estimates that ran as high as 600,000, but that may be stretching it a little. They could help an invading force defeat the Egyptian army.

The Israelites were subjected to forced labor, they were oppressed, and horribly abused. To make things worse the Egyptians began killing their male babies when they were born. Remember that the Lord told Abraham his descendants would live in a foreign land for 400 years. Does anyone really believe they were checking off days on the calendar to see when they should pack their bags and head back to the Promised Land? I didn’t think so. In fact, they would not have thought about leaving the fertile Land of Goshen had the Lord continued to bless them there. What happened when Darius permitted the Israelites to return from Captivity to Judah? Only a remnant returned. Many had businesses, family, and friends and refused to return. It may well have taken the oppression to get them ready to leave Egypt.

C. Let Us Return to the Four Hundred Years Mentioned Earlier.

The Lord told Abraham his descendants would stay in a foreign land for 400 years. This points to the 400 years Israel spent in Egypt. The writer of Genesis tell us that “The time that the Israelites lived in Egypt was 430 years. At the end of 430 years, on that same day, all the Lord’s divisions went out from the land of Egypt.” (Ex 12:40-41). Paul wrote in Galatians that the period of time was 430 years. How should understand the apparent contradiction? The Bible Knowledge Commentary, OT, handles it like this:

“When did that lengthy period of time begin? Some have suggested it began with Abraham, in which case the 430 years included the Israelites’ time of about 200 years in Canaan and about 200 years in Egypt. The Septuagint supports this view, but this conflicts with the clear statement in Exodus 12:40 that the Egyptian sojourn was 430 years. Another suggestion is that the period began with the confirming of the Abrahamic Covenant with Jacob (Gen. 35:9-12). A third and perhaps best view is that the period began with the final confirmation of the covenant to Jacob (given in Gen. 46:1-4).” [BKC]

D. Now, Let Us recall Some Highlights of the Egypt Experience.

Jacob was welcomed by Pharaoh. He was reunited with his beloved son Joseph. He met Joseph’s two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim. He adopted the sons of Joseph and blessed them. When Israel was old and weak Joseph went with his sons to see his father. Let’s read what happened next:

“When Israel saw Joseph’s sons, he said, “Who are these?” And Joseph said to his father, “They are my sons God has given me here.” So Jacob said, “Bring them to me and I will bless them.” Now his eyesight was poor because of old age; he could hardly see. Joseph brought them to him, and he kissed and embraced them. Israel said to Joseph, “I never expected to see your face ⌊again⌋, but now God has even let me see your offspring.” Then Joseph took them from his ⌊father’s⌋ knees and bowed with his face to the ground.” (Gen. 8-12)

Ephraim, the younger son, received the greater blessing, as we shall see:

“Then Joseph took them both—with his right hand Ephraim toward Israel’s left, and with his left hand Manasseh toward Israel’s right—and brought them to Israel. But Israel stretched out his right hand and put it on the head of Ephraim, the younger, and crossing his hands, put his left on Manasseh’s head, although Manasseh was the firstborn. Then he blessed Joseph and said: The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day, the Angel who has redeemed me from all harm —may He bless these boys. And may they be called by my name and the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac, and may they grow to be numerous within the land.

“When Joseph saw that his father had placed his right hand on Ephraim’s head, he thought it was a mistake and took his father’s hand to move it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh’s. Joseph said to his father, “Not that way, my father! This one is the firstborn. Put your right hand on his head.” But his father refused and said, “I know, my son, I know! He too will become a tribe, and he too will be great; nevertheless, his younger brother will be greater than he, and his offspring will become a populous nation.” So he blessed them that day with these words:

“The nation⌋ Israel will invoke blessings by you, saying, “May God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh,” putting Ephraim before Manasseh.” (Gen. 48:14-20 )

Judah was the chosen tribe, and after the Northern Kingdom fell to Assyria in 722 B.C., the name Judah would become synonymous with Israel. After ten tribes rebelled against King Rehoboam, Epharim became the dominant tribe in the north, so much so that at times the Ten Tribes would be identified by the name Ephraim. I once heard a young preacher read a passage from one of the prophets, I believe it was from Isaiah 7, and after reading the text for the day he went on to say that he imagined Ephraim to be an old man with a long flowing beard. I thought, “If Ephraim was still around after some 1200 years he would have had time to grow a really long, flowing beard!”

The man whose name was changed from Jacob to Israel soon became feeble and when he knew he was going to die he called his family to him where he spoke to them:

“Then Jacob called his sons and said, “Gather around, and I will tell you what will happen to you in the days to come. “Come together and listen, sons of Jacob; listen to your father Israel: Reuben, you are my firstborn, my strength and the firstfruits of my virility, Excelling in prominence, excelling in power. Turbulent as water, you will no longer excel, because you got into your father’s bed and you defiled it—he got into my bed.

“Simeon and Levi are brothers; their knives are vicious weapons. May I never enter their council; may I never join their assembly. For in their anger they kill men, and on a whim they hamstring oxen. Their anger is cursed, for it is strong, and their fury, for it is cruel! I will disperse them throughout Jacob and scatter them throughout Israel.

“Judah, your brothers will praise you. Your hand will be on the necks of your enemies; your father’s sons will bow down to you. Judah is a young lion — my son, you return from the kill. He crouches; he lies down like a lion or a lioness—who dares to rouse him? The scepter will not depart from Judah or the staff from between his feet until He whose right it is comes and the obedience of the peoples belongs to Him. ” (Gen 49:1-10)

Jacob (Israel) died in the Land of Goshen. He was embalmed, which took40 days, and they mourned for 70 days. They then took his body back to the Land of Canaan where he was buried in the Cave of Machpelah, which Abraham (Gen. 50:14).


There was a time in America when, if a history teacher had understood what was taking place here, he might have incorporated it in his lessons on World History. My high school history teacher was by far the best history teacher I ever had, but I don’t believe he knew this story, and if he knew it, he didn’t connect it with anything other than church history. As my good friend Dr. Bill Cooper of Middlesex, England, has illustrated, Assyriologists have translated thousands of cuneiform tablets from ancient Nineveh, and there are hundreds of thousands left to be translated. Some of those tablets affirm that which is recorded in the Bible.

If the world could find any secular documents that provide as much history relating to some non-Christian nation they would be excited about it. It would be all over the news. Here we have far more than history, but it is history like no other ancient documents reveal. This effects every man, woman, and child in the world. The Bible is not just history, it is His story!

In this account of the life and works of Joseph, as well as the life of Israel, his father, we see the hand of the Lord upon the chosen people. The Lord brought Abraham from his home in Ur of the Chaldees to a new land, a land flowing with milk and honey. He gave the land to Abraham’s descendants, but then sent them into Egypt for an incubation period. In four hundred years the Israelites grew from a family of 70 to an estimated two million people.

The Lord had entered a covenant with Abraham and that covenant was especially significant. It is important to note that Israel never lived up to the conditions of that covenant. God, however, maintained the covenant and saw it fulfilled. At Calvary, Jesus wrote a new covenant, written in His blood, an eternal covenant, one which will never grow old, wear out, or become meaningless. It will never need to be amended or re-written. It is an eternal and it is free to all who call on Jesus for His great salvation. Let me sum it up for you: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16, NKJV).