The Exodus journey is the central story of the Old Testament. This ancient adventure teaches us many relevant lessons about walking with God in the postmodern era.
After Moses overcame his personal reluctance to accept God’s call, God inflicted a series of plagues on the ancient Egyptians even as Moses began a diplomatic series of communications with Pharaoh. At the culmination of these disasters, Moses confronted Pharaoh and negotiated the release of the children of Israel.
However, shortly after this emancipation agreement, Pharaoh reneged on his promise and initiated a hot pursuit of his recently freed slaves.
This process of leaving Egypt, crossing the Red Sea, wandering through the wilderness and sojourning to the land of promise constitutes the Exodus, the central story of the Old Testament.
In a real sense all people of faith are on journey, a journey that may take us around various obstacles and through the wilderness, en route to the ultimate land of promise.
Perhaps a careful consideration of Israel’s experience will better prepare postmodern communities of faith for their spiritual journey.
Lesson 1: Most worthwhile ventures begin with a step of faith. Departing Egypt and traveling toward the sea was an act of faith. When we willingly take a step of faith, unexpected and unanticipated acts of grace tend to disengage the obstacles that block our path.
Lesson 2: Be prepared for some to want to go back.Not long after the decision was made to go forward, some asked Moses, “Were we not better off in Egypt?” Churches may invest too much time and energy attempting to reinvent the past rather than proactively embracing the future. Although change produces anxiety, fear and tension, progressive change is necessary to advance God’s kingdom.
Lesson 3: God leads people of faith through unexplored territory.God often leads communities of faith to do new and unexpected things.The great stories of the Bible are not repeat performances. Trying to repeat the triumphant events of yesteryear may prohibit you from realizing today’s blessings.
Lesson 4: The Lord uses a variety of resources and resourceful people.Just as the Lord provided manna, quail and water to sustain the people, the Lord still provides resources for the journey. Just as the Lord used stuttering and reluctant leaders, the Lord still employs individuals whose skills are far less than perfect.
Lesson 5: Avoid placing confidence in social and cultural idols. Perhaps the most daunting challenge of the journey was not the army’s pursuit, crossing the Red Sea, the remoteness of the wilderness or the fortress-like walls around Jericho. It was the manufacturing of the golden calf that distracted the community from its allegiance to God and led it to put confidence in a symbol of fertility and affluence, a temptation that still permeates our postmodern culture.
As postmodern communities of faith dare to embark on a journey of mission and ministry, these lessons from the Exodus may instill courage and confidence for the challenges of our day.
Barry Howard is senior minister of First Baptist Church in Corbin, Ky.
Pastor at the Wieuca Road Baptist Church in Atlanta. He also serves as a leadership coach and columnist for the Center for Healthy Churches.