Thursday, November 7, 2013

Sank Like Lead

The Exodus is the great picture of the Hebrew Bible. No event is more referenced in the history of God's people than their delivery from slavery in Egypt. Throughout the prophets and poetry books, God's identity as the deliverer is front and center.

However, when we read the Hebrew scriptures through the eyes of the Gospel of Jesus Christ suddenly this story takes on a whole new dimension. This is not just a grand historical account. This is not just a highlight displaying God's attributes of love, sovereignty, and faithfulness.

No, the Exodus becomes a direct picture of the life of those who call on the name of Christ.

Just like Israel, called out of slavery in Egypt, God's people in Christ have been called out of slavery. But not a temporal slavery to a nation, instead we have been called out of eternal slavery to sin. We have been called to appropriate the overcoming of sin and death, by the great work of the true and better Moses, Jesus Christ, our deliverer.

I love this reality.

So, when I read the Hebrew scriptures through these eyes, it changes everything.

Here's, perhaps, my favorite example.

Give Exodus 15:1-21 a read. It is the Song of Moses and the Song of Miriam. I'll wait. Really, go read it. Pick you translation: NIV, ESV, NLT, the Message. Any of them.

Curious, no? Do Moses and Miriam seem a bit preoccupied in these poems?

By my count Moses' poem has 10 references to the death of the Egyptians in just 18 verses. And Miriam only wrote two lines and one of the two is about the death of the Egyptians.

Check it out:

  • "Horse and rider hurled into the sea" (vs 1)
  • "He has hurled into the sea" (vs 4)
  • "The best of Pharaoh's officers are drowned in the sea" (vs 4)
  • "The deep waters have covered them; they sank to the depths like a stone." (vs 5)
  • "Shattered the enemy" (vs 6)
  • "You threw down those who opposed you" (vs 7)
  • "It consumed them like stubble." (vs 7)
  • "The sea covered them." (vs 10)
  • "They sank like lead in the mighty waters." (vs 10)
  • "The earth swallowed them." (vs 12)
  • "The Lord brought the waters back over them." (vs 19)
  • "The horse and rider he has hurled into the sea." (vs 21)

There is a seeming obsession with death. From a historical point of view one may claim this is a war song, a victory song, or a fight song like those of many colleges, just with much higher stakes. 

But, here's the problem. While the Egyptians were certainly God-hating, slave-owning, wicked oppressors God has told us in no uncertain terms that he "takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked" (Ezekiel 18:32). So, this is not a case of God's people lauding and celebrating death and destruction. That story doesn't add up.

What are we to do with a passage like this? Further, with the eyes of the Gospel, how do we read these two songs?

Romans 6 unlocks the passage for us. Romans 6 unlocks a lot of things for us. I recommend reading it also (I recently read it every single day for two months).

In Roman 6, we see the unconditional declaration of the death of our non-Egyptian slavemaster: sin. Paul makes this blatant. 

Verse 2: We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?

Verse 6: For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin.

Verse 11: In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

These are present tense. These are an invitation to follow a new path. Further, these are a parallel to the Exodus.

Just as the Egyptian oppressors are at the bottom of the sea, just as they sank like lead, just as they were shattered, so too is the power for sin for those who belong to Christ. 

Anyone who is in Christ is dead to sin.

This is a profound truth. And honestly, I know that it does not feel true. I very clearly feel that sin is alive. But the Bible doesn't say that sin is alive. Nor does it say sin is weakened or that it is on the run.

The Bible says that sin is dead. Dead as a coffin nail. Powerless. So, while it may not feel true, if we are pitting my feelings against the Bible, I'm siding with the Word of God.

So, Moses and Miriam? Yes, Egypt is gone and not coming back, but even more so, sin is dead. It's at the bottom of the sea. It's not coming back. It cannot defeat us, even if we get scuba gear and try to pull it back up, it is dead.
Hallelujah, the waters overcame sin and death.
Hallelujah, the earth swallowed them up.
Hallelujah, sin was thrown down and sank like a stone.
Hallelujah, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.