Exodus is the second book of the so called Torah (law or instruction), the first five books of the Bible. The word exodus means a going out, or departure. The book Exodus is partly narrative and another part is devoted to laws and instructions how to build the tabernacle.
In the book of Exodus we learn about God’s faithfulness. Back in Genesis, God had promised Abraham that his seed would be like the sand of the sea or the stars in the sky (Genesis 15:5; 22:17). In Exodus, we read about the descendants of Abraham, how they came to Egypt and multiplied greatly (Exodus 1:7). They became a strong people, so much so that the king of Egypt, Pharaoh, became scared of them and forced them to do slave labor.
When that did not help to diminish their numbers, Pharaoh started killing their newborn sons (Exodus 1:10, 22). God had also promised Abraham land for his offspring (Genesis 17:8). And again God is faithful to His promise. He raised up a leader, Moses, who was one of the Hebrew people, but who grew up in the palace of the Pharaoh (Exodus 3-4). Pharaoh refused to let the people of Israel go, but in the end he could not stand up to God’s great power (Exodus 5-13). Eventually, the people were allowed to go and leave the country of Egypt and head to the promised land that God had prepared for them (Exodus 12:29-32). We can learn from this narrative that we never need to doubt the promises God has given us in His word. He is both faithful and powerful.
From chapter 19 onward, we read about the covenant relationship that God established between Himself and the people of Israel. Again, this is the fulfillment of an earlier promise given to Abraham (Genesis 17:7). In this covenant, God promised to take care of His people and be true to all His promises; in return, God expected them to be faithful to Him and to obey His commandments. Exodus 20 shows God giving the famous Ten Commandments to His people so they would know how to live.
From this we can learn that God wants a relationship with His people. He makes this relationship also very practical, by giving clear rules so we know what is expected from us. These rules reflect the nature of God, they can be summarized by the following words: “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Mark 12:30-31). The main verb is ‘love’, and this shows us the character of God. After all, His dealings with the people of Israel were also driven by love.
The people of Israel were a rebellious group of people. When there was no food or water, they grumbled against Moses their leader (for example: Exodus 16:2-3; 17:1-4). One time, when Moses was gone for a long time to be with God and receive instructions, they even made a golden calf to worship that. This was a terrible sin and God wanted to destroy the Israelites (Exodus 32:9-10). However, Moses pleaded on behalf of the people and God relented (Exodus 32:11-14). We can learn from this that God does not take sin lightly but that He is still merciful.
Building of the tabernacle
God also gave instructions for the building of the tabernacle (Exodus 25:1-31:17), a tent-like construction that would serve as the ‘dwelling place’ of God amongst the people. God appointed Moses’ brother Aaron and his sons as priests to serve Him (Exodus 28:1). The priest had to bring animal sacrifices to atone for the sins of the people. This shows us that God has a desire to be close to His people. However, it also teaches us about His holiness: only the priests could fulfill their duty in the tabernacle and serve as mediators between the people and God.
God wants to be close to us
Today, God still wants to be close to us. Jesus Christ has made this possible through His sacrifice on the cross that is sufficient to pay for our sins once and for all (Hebrews 9:11-12). And He comes into our hearts by the Holy Spirit and makes them His dwelling place (John 14:23,26), if we open the door to Him when He knocks (Revelation 3:20).