Exodus: A Case Study in Separation



The Theme of Separation


From Genesis on throughout the entire Bible we can trace God’s great theme of separation as it plays out from generation to generation.  The six days of creation in Genesis 1 and 2 could just as well be called the six days of separation.  We see God separating the light from the darkness; the waters above from the waters below; the seas from the dry land; the day from the night (the seasons); the creatures that swim from creatures that fly; and finally, the man created in His image from all the other beasts of the earth – giving Adam dominion over the earth and every living thing in it.


In Genesis 3 Adam’s sin made a separation between him and his God and introduced a sin nature into the human race that continues to propagate from generation to generation.  God separated Himself from His own creation because His eyes are too pure to approve evil.  Yet He promised deliverance from the separation caused by sin through the coming of Messiah, the Seed of the woman, called in the New Testament the last Adam.  As the generations of Adam began to populate the earth, certain men began to separate themselves from their reprobate brethren, distinguishing themselves by their faith in God’s promise: Abel’s faith acquired him the testimony that he was righteous; Enoch’s faith acquired him the witness that he was pleasing to God; Noah’s faith enabled him to inherit the righteousness which is according to faith.


After the great flood in Noah’s days God began to separate out for Himself the line of the holy Seed who would fulfill His promise to end the separation caused by sin.  From among Noah’s three sons God separated out Shem, the ancestor of the Semites.  From among the Semites, God separated out Heber, the father of the Hebrews.  From among the Hebrews, God separated out Abram, calling him from Ur of the Chaldeans to a promised land which he was to receive as an inheritance from God, a heavenly country and a city prepared by God.  While God was thus separating out for Himself a people for His own possession, sin was continuing to take its toll on the generations of Adam - not only separating them from God, but also separating them from each other at the tower of Babel, from where the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.


God continued to separate out for Himself a people for His own possession: Abram’s (now Abraham’s) son Isaac from Ishmael; Isaac’s son Jacob from Esau; Jacob’s (also called Israel’s) son Joseph from his brothers; Joseph’s son Ephraim from Manasseh.  We find out in the New Testament that God was selectively separating out the lineage of the promised Messiah based on the faith of the men He chose.  Later in the history of the nation of Israel God continued the selection process: Judah from among the other eleven tribes; David from among the clans of Judah; and finally, the virgin Mary from among the descendants of David.  It was Mary who gave birth to the promised Messiah, the Lord Jesus, many thousands of years after God first uttered the promise back in Genesis 3.  The Holy Spirit came upon Mary, and the power of the Most High overshadowed her while she was still a virgin; and for that reason the holy Child was called the Son of God.


After He grew up, Jesus fulfilled His divine purpose as the last Adam in His death on Calvary’s cross.  Because He is God in human flesh, Jesus is exactly the kind of Savior we need; for He is holy and blameless, unstained by sin, undefiled by sinners, and has been given the place of honor in heaven.  So He offered Himself as a sacrifice for the sin that separates man from God; He bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that those who place their faith in Him might inherit the righteousness of God and no longer be separated from Him. 


It was faith in Him that distinguished Abel, and Enoch, and Noah, and Abram, and all the rest.  They were looking forward to what Messiah would do when He came; they didn’t know exactly how it would go down, but they trusted God that He had a plan.  We look back at the finished work of Christ on the cross, and our faith in Him is what saves us from the separation caused by our sin.  So now the separation between God and man can be healed, and the separation between man and man can be healed as well.  Christ’s sacrifice on the cross tore the veil in the temple that separated man from God in two (Matthew 27:51), and it also tore down the dividing wall of contempt that used to separate man from his fellow man (Ephesians 2:14).  For those who are in Christ, we can have true fellowship with one another now; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His son Jesus Christ (1 John 1:3).



Overview of Exodus


Slavery (chapters 1-11)

Separation (chapters 12-18)

Sinai (chapters 19-40)


In Exodus we see how God separated out for Himself a people for His own possession from slavery in Egypt.  God’s promise to make Abraham’s descendants into a great nation had been fulfilled, for the people increased and multiplied while they were in Egypt.  However, there eventually arose a king over Egypt who took shrewd advantage of the sons of Israel and pressed them into slavery.  God saw the affliction of the sons of Israel in Egypt and gave heed to their cry because of their taskmasters.  He revealed Himself to Moses as the great “I AM” who was sending him to bring His people out of Egypt.  When Pharaoh was reluctant to let the people of Israel go, God induced him to let them go by many wonders and miracles through which He displayed His awesome power.  In the course of the ten plagues which God brought on the Egyptians to induce them to let the Israelites go, by the fourth plague (swarms of flies) God began to put a division between the Egyptians and the sons of Israel.  From that point on the plagues fell on the Egyptians, but had no effect on the Israelites.  Thus God made a distinction between His own people and the people of Egypt who had oppressed them.


By the tenth plague (the death of the firstborn) God was ready to make the separation complete.  God had made it clear that a Passover lamb was to be sacrificed in each Israelite home and the blood applied to the lintel and the two doorposts.  When the destroying angel from God saw the blood on the Israelite homes, he passed over the door and did not smite the firstborn inside; it was only in the homes of the Egyptians that the firstborn died.  The Egyptians were so devastated by the death of all their firstborn that Pharaoh drove the sons of Israel out of Egypt in the middle of the night.  The Egyptians gave the sons of Israel articles of silver and gold, and clothing on their way out.  Thus was fulfilled the promise of God to Abram in Genesis 15:13-14, “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years.  But I will also judge the nation whom they will serve, and they will come out with many possessions.”


In Exodus 19:4-6 God articulated to Moses the purpose for which He separated out the sons of Israel as a nation: “You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, how I bore you on eagles’ wings, and brought you to Myself.  Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep my covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”  God authenticated His purpose for the Israelite nation by His very presence with them in a pillar of cloud by day to lead them on the way, and a pillar of fire by night to give them light.  He led them out of Egypt, parting the Red Sea before them, and leading them to the foot of Mount Sinai, where He gave them His law through Moses  - the ten commandments - and established His covenant of life and peace with them as a nation.  It was there that He revealed Himself to Moses in Exodus 34:6-7 as “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.”


At Sinai He also gave Moses the pattern for the tabernacle which would be a sanctuary for God, so that He might dwell among the sons of Israel.  Part of that pattern included a veil that separated the outer sanctuary from the Holy of Holies where the ark of the covenant and the very presence of God dwelt.  Even Moses was not able to enter into that Holy of Holies when the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle after its construction was completed.  That veil separating unholy man from the presence of a holy God became a fixture in every successive version of the tabernacle - from the semi-permanent structure at Shiloh, to Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem, to the temple built by the returning exiles under the leadership of Zerubbabel, to Herod’s temple in Jerusalem at the time of Christ.  It was that veil that was torn in two from top to bottom when Jesus cried out “It is finished!” and gave up His spirit on the cross at Calvary as our Passover lamb.  In Christ alone, the last Adam, can the separation caused by Adam’s fall from grace in the garden of Eden finally be resolved.  For those who are in Christ – both Jew and Gentile - we can finally have true fellowship with one another; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His son Jesus Christ (1 John 1:3).      


The book of Exodus ends thus: “For throughout all their journeys, the cloud of the Lord was on the tabernacle by day, and there was fire in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel” (Exodus 40:38).  Moses understood that the presence of God in their midst is what distinguished the nation of Israel from every other people on the face of the earth.  God has since moved on from His dealings with Israel and is now dealing with the Church as a new entity comprised of both Jews and Gentiles who have placed their faith in Christ (Romans 11:25).  As the Church we are the temple of the living God, living stones being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood.  Like Moses, we should recognize that it is the presence of God’s Holy Spirit in our midst that distinguishes us from every other people on the face of the earth.


1 Peter 2:9 calls the Church “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”  So we should take to heart Paul’s instruction in 2 Corinthians 7:1, “Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”  We should live lives of moral and spiritual separation from the defilements of the godless world around us, while stopping short of a “holier than thou” attitude that would keep us from even associating with the immoral people of this world (1 Corinthians 5:9-10).  And we should always stand ready to serve as priests and messengers of God Most High, who abides in and among us through His indwelling Holy Spirit.  As He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5) and “lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).


-stk, 3/17/2004