From idols to God
“I am the God of your father—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look upon God. 7 And the Lord said: “I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows. 8 So I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and large land, to a land flowing with milk and honey … (Exodus 3:6-8)
While Moses was tending sheep in the wilderness, God appeared to him in the miraculous sight of a bush that burnt but was not consumed by the fire. As Moses turned aside to have a closer look, God spoke to him out of the fire, revealing Himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the forefathers of the nation of Israel. He tells Moses that He has seen the suffering of His people in Egypt and promises to deliver them out of slavery.
Half a century earlier, Jacob’s sons had sold their brother Joseph into slavery out of jealously. However, God had turned his situation around by making him the most powerful man in the land of Egypt besides Pharaoh. Through his position Joseph was able to provide for his family during a great famine in the land of Canaan, where they had dwelt (Gen. 45:5-7). God spoke to Jacob in a dream, telling him to go and settled in Egypt where He would make them into a great nation until, one day he would lead them back to Canaan (Gen. 46:3-4), the land He had promised to Abraham for his descendants (Gen. 15:19-20).
However, while the Israelites lived in Egypt, a new Pharaoh came into power, who did not know of Joseph. Under his rule, the Israelites were enslaved for 400 years during which they lost not only their freedom but also their knowledge of the Almighty God who had called their ancestor Abraham out of idolatry to serve Him. Yet God had not forgotten them.
This God appeared to Moses at Mount Horeb, revealing Himself as the eternal I AM and calling him to lead His people out of Egyptian slavery to the land promised to Abraham so long ago. He would be their God and would make them a special people for Himself. He displayed His power over the pagan idols of Egypt through great signs and wonders before leading them through the Red Sea and the desert to Horeb, the same mountain where He had appeared to Moses. There they were to meet the God of the promise before they could enter into the land of His promise.
At Mount Horeb, God revealed Himself to the people and gave them His Law that would distinguish them from all other nations. This divine Law would govern their worship and every aspect of their daily lives. At the centre of it would be the reminder that He was their deliverer and they were to worship Him alone. Thus the Ten Commandments begin with the words (Exod. 20:2-3): “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me.” Israel’s exodus from Egypt was not only their deliverance from bondage to a place of blessing but also a call to be a new people dedicated to God alone. Thus they would be an example to all nations.
Now just as God called the Israelites out of Egypt, He has called us from this world into His kingdom. We are a new people chosen and redeemed by Him. Therefore we are to leave behind the idolatrous ways of this world and worship Him alone. And we are to be a witness to those around us by our example and by proclaiming the gospel message of deliverance and new life, as the apostle Paul wrote to the Thessalonian church,
… you became examples to all in Macedonia and Achaia who believe. For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place. Your faith toward God has gone out, so that we do not need to say anything. For they themselves declare concerning us what manner of entry we had to you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come. (1 Thess. 1:7-10)
What about us? Have we turned from the idolatrous ways of this world to the living and true God? Does He take the first place in our lives? Are we an example to those who are lost without knowledge of Him? Does the message of God’s salvation sound forth from us?