I once taught children’s Sunday school and was given a curriculum to use about the Exodus story. The gist of the lesson was that Pharaoh disobeyed God, so God punished Egypt with plagues. Therefore we should obey God unless we really like frogs. I ignored the curriculum and told the class of thirteen kindergarten boys the story of God revealing his glory to the world.
Ancient Egypt was the most powerful kingdom in the world at the time. And Pharaoh was the most powerful man on earth. Egypt had the strongest military and the most wealth. They had enslaved whole people groups, like the Hebrews. It seemed no one could defeat or diminish Egypt.
Yahweh, the God of the Hebrews, told Pharaoh through Moses to let his people go. Pharaoh would have scoffed at letting such a large part of his workforce go. Who would make him?
As an answer, God sent a series of plagues to dismantle the image of power Egypt had created for itself. Each plague showed God’s dominion over something the Egyptians worshipped or drew their power from. The Nile, both an object of worship and their source of agriculture, was turned to blood. Their cattle died. Locusts ruined their crops. The sun went dark.
The Lord was shouting to everyone in Egypt, from Pharaoh to the lowliest slave, that He was greater than the gods of the strongest kingdom on Earth.
Anytime Pharaoh seemed to relent, God would harden his heart. He was not done yet. He had more false gods to dethrone.
Salvation Through a Lamb
Then God foretold the tenth plague. The firstborn in every household would die unless they obeyed God’s command to spread lamb’s blood on the doorposts of their house.
Pharaoh lost his son and heard the grief of his people. He relented. He let God’s people go.
But the story did not stop there. Once again, God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he regretted what he had done and sent his military to stop them. The strongest military in the world chased down a group of recently freed slaves including elderly people, children and animals. Pharaoh could be assured of his success.
Except God had just defeated all of Egypt’s gods. Except God had destroyed Egypt’s crops, and shown His might over and over and over through a stuttering shepherd and his younger brother.
Even so, Pharaoh sent his armies. And God showed the world that he could protect his people from the mightiest army in the world.
God is Mighty to Save
If we make this a story simply about obeying God or else he will destroy you, we miss what the story is teaching about God. Yes, God sent plagues to Egypt in response to Pharaoh’s hardness of heart. But he did it for a reason: to show the world his glory.
His power to save was made known throughout the surrounding nations. Everywhere the Hebrews travelled, kings had heard of what Yahweh had done for his people. They heard that He had rescued His people and believed that He could do it again. The world heard that the God of the Hebrews was mighty to save.
He also did it to fulfill his promise. He had promised that he bring his people out of Egypt and into the promised land. The God of the Israelites is not a capricious God. He does what he says He will do.
In the middle of showing his glory to the world, God offers salvation through the blood of a lamb. God would continue to use the imagery of blood on wood as a means of salvation until it’s ultimate culmination in Christ’s death on the cross.
In short, the story of Exodus shows that God is mighty to save.