Advent: God Came to Israel

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 If you’ve been following our Advent sermon series, you’ll know that we’ve been talking quite a bit about God’s transcendence and immanence. Put briefly, God, as the creator of the universe, is great (transcendent) as well as involved in his creation (immanent). We’ve been tracking these two ideas through the Old Testament: first in the story of Adam and Eve as well as the story of Abraham. In each story, God reaches down into his creation in order to draw people to himself, looking forward each time to the coming of Jesus Christ. 

After Abraham, the next big step God takes into human history happens in the story of Moses and the Exodus. The great nation that God promised Abraham found themselves enslaved in Egypt for hundreds of years. Even though God had been close to their forefathers, it seemed like he had abandoned the Israelite people to toil in obscurity.

The story that follows is one of the greatest ever told. It has inspired cinematic masterpieces like The Ten Commandments and The Prince of Egypt. But the story of the Exodus is more than just a tale of deliverance; it is the story of God entering a relationship with his people. Scripture often uses the word “redeem” or “purchase” when describing Israel’s deliverance from Egypt. This doesn’t mean that God paid Pharaoh to let his people go, but rather that God made a show of strength – spared no expense – to see his people freed.

Israel’s first stop after escaping Pharaoh’s army was at Mount Sinai. There, God introduced himself to his people: “I am the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt.” God has redeemed his people, and he was about to show them who he is.

God gave Israel the law, often summarized in the Ten Commandments. We often think of the law as merely a list of rules that God gives us. While this is true, the law is better seen as God showing his people how to live in relationship with him. God is a good god who values holiness and love for others. He wants his people to share these values as well. Part of this law taught the people of Israel how to approach him in worship. For the first time since the Garden of Eden, God’s full glory came down to dwell with humanity, albeit behind a curtain. Only the high priest could enter this most holy place, but only in God’s prescribed way and only once a year.

Just as the story of Adam and Eve and the story of Abraham looks forward to Christ, we can see Jesus foreshadowed in the Exodus story in a number of ways as well. It became clear that no one could keep the law that God gave, so we needed a human to keep the law on our behalf. God’s presence was mediated by the sacrificial system, but one day a great high priest would enable us to boldly enter God’s presence. Perhaps most importantly, Christ’s death and resurrection would bring about a new exodus, in which God’s mighty works once again bring about a people to enter into a relationship with him. God had come to Israel, but God would come in even greater ways still.

If you want more in our Advent series, you can listen to our previous sermons here.