God didn’t just set Israel free from Egypt, he freed them for a life with him. He does the same for us!
“Cross” is a short word of only five letters, but break it apart and it contains the whole story of the Bible. C.R.O.S.S.—Creation, Redemption, One nation, Separation, Salvation. The story of the Bible is our story, too, and each of these stages helps us get the “big picture” of our life in Christ.
Read the previous post here.
My husband stood at the foot of my bed in the hospital room, cradling our two-day-old daughter as we prepared to take her home. I watched as the joy and wonder evident on his face fought with unease that bordered on panic. Finally he asked the question that bothered both of us: “Where’s the instruction manual?”
Babies don’t spring from the womb ready to face life. In a similar way, Israel didn’t spring out of Egypt ready for life in the Promised Land. Redeemed from slavery through the Red Sea as though through a birth canal, the children of Israel had to learn how to be who they now were: the free children of God.
God had special plans for this new people. If they would obey the Lord, God promised that they would be his “treasured possession among all peoples … a kingdom of priests, a holy nation” (Exodus 19:5). Their relationship is reflected in the names Israel is called in the Old Testament: sometimes “son” or “child;” at other times, “bride.” For them God is both “father” and “husband.” Theirs is the intimate, exclusive relationship that springs from strong family ties bound by love.
Bound together in love
Their relationship is sealed in a solemn, binding ceremony at Mt. Sinai. Israel meets God there and hears his voice and becomes his people. And there, God gives them:
- The Ten Commandments. These are rules to help them live in freedom, but there’s also a sense in which they’re like wedding vows. Israel enters an exclusive relationship with God, and in the process agrees to stay away from other “loves”: the false gods of pride, power, and pleasure. This initiates them into a life that’s ordered around rest and worship and love.
- The Tabernacle. This portable “tent of meeting” is a kind of home where God will live with them! Not since the Garden of Eden has there been such a place on earth. In the tabernacle and through the liturgy surrounding it, the invisible God will be tangibly present with them wherever they go.
At Mt. Sinai, the people give their solemn “I do.” But they are fickle. When Moses is getting instructions from God for the tabernacle, the people get tired of waiting. They build a golden calf to be their “god” and dance around it. Moses intercedes and God reveals his mercy. Later they grumble when they are hungry and they panic when water runs out and enemies threaten. But God comes through again and again, with food, water, healing, direction, and protection. When they don’t trust him to take them into the Promised Land, they wander another 40 years in the desert. But still, God fights their battles, feeds and clothes them, gives direction. The desert’s like a boot camp where they learn to trust God.
Looking for a leader
At last God takes them into the promised land. Led by Joshua, they conquer most of Canaan but they don’t pass on their faith. The next generation doesn’t know the Lord—and they begin to intermarry with the locals and worship their gods. They abandon God and fall prey to their enemies. At last they cry out to God and repent. He raises a judge to save them, but when that person dies, the cycle begins again. And again. And again. Finally they demand a king so they can be like the other nations (1 Sam 8:20). God gives them Saul, who unites the fractured tribes into a single kingdom. He disobeys God, who has David—“a man after his own heart” (1 Sam 13:14)—anointed king in his place.
Building a house for God
David’s chief desire is to build a temple for God—a permanent “house” to replace the Tabernacle. God says that instead, he will build a “house” for David: a dynasty that will last forever.
That dynasty begins with David’s son Solomon. Known for his wisdom and wealth, Solomon builds a magnificent Temple in Jerusalem. On its dedication, the Lord’s presence visibly fills the Temple. The promised “kingdom of priests” is poised to draw other nations to God.
Notice thay God freed Israel not simply as individuals but to be his family, united under him: the original “one nation under God,” if you will. That “one nation” became, by God’s design, a kingdom that set the pattern for the Kingdom of God we know as the Church. As we continue the story, we’ll see how that came about.
Where are you in the Story?
The children of Israel found that liberation from slavery through the Red Sea was just the beginning of learning to live as the free children of God. In a similar way, being freed from the power of sin at Baptism is just the starting point for Christians. The life of Christians on the way to heaven, like the life of Israel on its way to the Promised Land, is a day-by-day process of learning how to trust God and how to live in true freedom by the power of the Spirit.
Spend a few minutes in God’s word, meditating on these passages about freedom. Which speaks most to you? How?
- Psalm 119:44–45 (what we can do to walk freely)
- Romans 6:20–23 (the reward of freedom)
- Galatians 5:13 (how to use freedom)
- Hebrews 2:14–15 (Jesus sets us free from the fear of death)
- 1 Peter 2:16 (how to live in freedom)
© 2016, 2021 Sarah Christmyer. This series on finding the “big picture” of the appeared originally on the American Bible Society’s leadership blog. Some editorial changes have been made.
+ + + + + + +
You may also like these posts :
- You Have Freedom to Choose: Be Careful!
- How do we use our Freedom? Two Letters from Jail
- Or a series on God’s plan in Scripture, which starts here: God Has a Plan!
Finally, Get the “big picture” before you study the Bible with The Great Adventure Catholic Bible Study program. You can read the story of Scripture and journal as you go with The Bible Timeline Guided Journal.