It was a rather audacious command. The children of Israel had suffered cruel bondage for hundreds of years as well as the horror of infanticide. Truly it was a desperate, helpless, horrible time to be God's chosen people. Even as they cried out to the Lord in their suffering they must have surely wondered if He saw their afflictions or heard their cries. Exodus 2:23-25 tells us He did see and He did hear and He remembered His promise. In Exodus 3 He meets with Moses at the burning bush and makes the following promises:
I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. And now, behold, the cry of the people of Israel has come to me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt...I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain. (Ex. 3:7-12)
So Moses and his brother Aaron go before Pharaoh and demand he let the people go. Not only that but Moses is clear that Pharaoh is to let the Lord's people go so that they may serve Him. Consider the following:
The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, sent me to you, saying, “Let my people go, that they may serve me in the wilderness. (Ex. 7:16)
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go in to Pharaoh and say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord, “Let my people go, that they may serve me. (Ex.8:1)
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Rise up early in the morning and present yourself to Pharaoh, as he goes out to the water, and say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord, “Let my people go, that they may serve me. (Ex. 8:20)
Exodus 9:1, 9:13, 10:3, and 10:7 all repeat the familiar refrain: "Let my people go, that they may serve me."
Think on this: mere freedom from bondage is not the Lord's purpose. Yes, He will redeem His people with mighty wonders and an outstretched arm, but He does not do so for their sake alone. The children of Israel were saved to worship. The Lord sovereignly works in the Exodus to save a people not just because they need saving--and they desperately do--but He does so to set apart a people for Himself, for His own glory.
In The Message of the Old Testament: Promises Made Mark Dever writes "Exodus directly challenges the idea that God does everything for humanity’s sake. Human are not the ultimate purpose of creation. God’s own glory is!"
Hello, it wasn't about the Israelites. It's not about you. And it's not about me. WE are not the ultimate purpose!
We see this same truth in the New Testament. In fact the Exodus of the Old Testament provides a striking picture of the spiritual exodus proclaimed in the New Testament. Apart from Christ we are in bondage, slaves to sin, and desperately unable to save ourselves from the cruel oppression and condemnation of sin. Yet the Lord sent a deliverer, His Son, Jesus, and when the Son has set you free, you are free indeed!
But it is not only our freedom at the heart of the Lord's purpose to save. There are benefits aplenty inherent in belonging to Christ--yes and amen--but we are not saved for ourselves. We are saved to the Lord, for His glory. The theme of Exodus is the theme of the Bible, Old and New: the Lord redeeming a people for Himself and for His glory. We see this truth beautifully expressed in Ephesians 1:3-6,
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.
Paul, the author of Ephesians, continues the thought by reminding his readers that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory...sealed with the promised Holy Spirit...to the praise of his glory (Eph. 1:12-14).
I was once a part of a Bible study that encouraged participants to recite who they were in Christ based on Ephesians 1: adopted, redeemed, forgiven, chosen, and so on. It is a good exercise to remember my identity in Christ, indeed it is, so long as I also remember it is not for my sake alone I am adopted but to the praise of His glorious grace. I am not only forgiven because my sin is heinous and horrible and I need forgiving--it is and I am--but also so I will praise and worship and serve the Forgiver.
Dever continues his thoughts on Exodus,
According to Exodus, God sovereignly saves a special people for his own glory. That is why God brought the Israelites through the circumstances in their lives, and that is why he brings you through the circumstances of your life too. You are not dead yet. The story of your life is not over. You could be at the same time in your life that the Israelites were as they toiled away in that year before Moses came. Do not give up hope! Do not give up faith in the promises God has spoken. [May] you too learn to fear him alone and to serve and love him alone—not to your glory and fame, but to his. His glory was seen in the Exodus; it is shown even more clearly in Christ; and today it is displayed in the lives of his people. What a responsibility! What a privilege! Why else would we live?Why else indeed? I am saved, glory to God!