I’ve been thrown a curveball. It has been my intention to press on and continue with my series “Jesus and the Law,” but while studying my eyes have been opened up to a theme that undergirds all of Old/New Covenant theology. This theme is referred to in many places in the Bible, but I feel that it needs to be highlighted and elaborated upon in a much bigger way, impacting much of our ideas about the Gospel and also our eschatology. So I am going to adjust, put my current series on hold, and begin to lay out what I am starting to see.
The theme I am talking about is the theme of a “second exodus” or “New Exodus.” Right now we are at the very end of this end-of-the-ages exodus that began with the New Covenant sealed in the blood of Jesus, and is finally finished at the Second Coming of Jesus. To explain this we need to examine the first exodus that began with Moses that involved God’s covenant with Israel established at Mt. Sinai. As I talk about the Old Covenant you will see how everything about it points to the New Covenant.
So let’s go back to that quaking and burning mountain in the desert and to Deuteronomy 18:15-22. Here is repeated the story of how the Israelites were awestruck at the voice of the Lord on Mt. Sinai (also known as Mt. Horeb), and because of this they asked Moses to go up and approach the Lord alone to receive the Law. Moses explained that the Lord understood the apprehension of the Hebrews and said, “They have spoken well” (Deu. 18:17). Yet it seems that somehow this is related to God’s prophecy that He would one day send another “prophet like Moses” (v.15, v.18) who would speak the word of the Lord, just like Moses did. Then the Lord commands the Israelites telling them that they must listen and obey this future prophet. We all understand that this “prophet like Moses” was Jesus.
It seems that because the Israelites were afraid to approach God on Mt. Sinai He then came to earth as Jesus and approached Israel to speak with His people face to face. In the New Covenant the Sermon on the Mount is the counterpart to the Old Covenant experience at Mt. Sinai. In the Old Covenant the people said to the Lord, “Stay away, or we will die” (Deu. 18:16), but in the New Covenant Jesus calls forth the people saying, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart” (Matt. 11:28-29).
The Old Covenant was confirmed between God and the children of Israel with Moses as the mediator. Israel was promised blessings for following God’s law, and warned of curses for breaking God’s law, as given in Deuteronomy 27-29. In fact, the sad thing is that it was prophesied that Israel would eventually utterly fail in keeping their obligations of the covenant, and that because of this Israel would be judged and exiled from their land once again. Deuteronomy speaks of this future reality, and declares that once this happens, if Israel truly repents and turns back to God, then He will have mercy on Israel again and bring about a “second exodus.” But this will not be an exodus from one nation (Egypt) as it was in the past, but will be Israel’s return from exile from all the nations of the earth and from the ends of the earth (30:4). It is at the time of this “second exodus” that God will then reach out to Israel and “circumcise their hearts” (30:6) and thereby give them true life.
We have to always remember that the New Covenant was made with Israel. It was announced at the last supper by Jesus to His twelve Jewish disciples and confirmed by His death, resurrection, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. It started with Israel but it was always intended that the new and expanded definition of “Israel” in the New Covenant would also include Gentiles. Yes, as this second and spiritual “New Exodus” takes place, the Lord is gathering both Jews and Gentiles. We find this truth repeated throughout that most important evangelical section of Isaiah in chapters 40-55, including here:
Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you, I give men in return for you, peoples in exchange for your life. Fear not, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, and from the west I will gather you. I will say to the north, Give up, and to the south, Do not withhold; bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” (Isaiah 43:4-7)
The reality of this New Exodus including Gentiles is announced by Jesus right after He gives His Sermon on the Mount that sets forth the new “heart-based” commandments of the Kingdom of Heaven. In Matthew 8 Jesus first heals a Jewish leper and tells him to go to the priests, and then Jesus heals the servant of the Roman centurian. This was the man who had faith in the authority of Jesus to heal, and so Jesus responds to this pagan Roman with these remarkable words:
When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith. I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 8:10-12)
This “coming from east and west” is a specific reference to Isaiah’s “New Exodus” theme that originates, as explained earlier, in Deuteronomy 30. Moses did not specify that this “second exodus” would include Gentiles, but Isaiah did, repeatedly. For instance, in the amazing prophecy of Isaiah 49:
And now the LORD says, he who formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob back to him; and that Israel might be gathered to him– for I am honored in the eyes of the LORD, and my God has become my strength–he says: “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” Thus says the LORD, the Redeemer of Israel and his Holy One, to one deeply despised, abhorred by the nation, the servant of rulers: “Kings shall see and arise; princes, and they shall prostrate themselves; because of the LORD, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.” (Isaiah 49:5-7)
Then you will say in your heart: ‘Who has borne me these? I was bereaved and barren, exiled and put away, but who has brought up these? Behold, I was left alone; from where have these come?'” Thus says the Lord GOD: “Behold, I will lift up my hand to the nations, and raise my signal to the peoples; and they shall bring your sons in their arms, and your daughters shall be carried on their shoulders. Kings shall be your foster fathers, and their queens your nursing mothers. With their faces to the ground they shall bow down to you, and lick the dust of your feet. Then you will know that I am the LORD; those who wait for me shall not be put to shame.” (Isaiah 49:21-23)
The theme of a “New Exodus” appears throughout Isaiah 40-55 because at this time judgment was on its way for the both the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom of Judah. Isaiah was alive for the exile of Israel at the hands of Assyria, and about a hundred years later Judah was defeated and led into exile by Babylon. Isaiah knew that this judgment of “exile to the nations” in fulfillment of Deuteronomy 30:1 was coming, so he looked forward to the regathering through a “second exodus” as predicted in Deuteronomy 30:3-5. It is the very next verse, 30:6, that speaks of the future “heart circumcision” of Israel in connection with this “New Exodus.”
Yes, this is the theme that Paul picks up on in Romans 2:29 about the New Covenant based on spiritual “heart circumcision” as opposed to the fleshly circumcision of the Old Covenant. What Paul teaches is that this “New Exodus” that would involve a “heart circumcision” of both Jews and Gentiles (equally united in one family: the Kingdom of God) was a process that began with the coming of Jesus, His death on the Cross, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
This is a tremendously exciting study for me, because the theme of a New Exodus helps us to understand a lot of previously (at least for me) unintelligible Scripture, both in the Old Testament prophets, and in Revelation. You see, we are in the New Exodus right now! We are in the wilderness trying to make our way to the Promised Land. While in this wilderness our only hope is Jesus Christ. He is the “good shepherd” introduced in Isaiah 40 right after the “voice crying out in the wilderness” (John the Baptist) is predicted. He is the only One we should follow. It is dark at night in the wilderness but Jesus is the Light. We get thirsty in the wilderness but Jesus has the Living Water that we need. We get hungry but He is the “Bread of Life” that gives eternal life (unlike the manna during the first exodus of Moses’ day that still brought death – John 6:46).
What I plan to show is that Scripture’s code word for the “wilderness” of this present world is “Babylon.” That’s why in Revelation 17:3 we see that the Great Harlot Babylon is pictured “in the wilderness.” This name, “Babylon,” is Isaiah’s code word for the immorality and idolatry of the pagan nations. That’s why Isaiah can tell Israel to “Come out of Babylon” in Isaiah 48:20 at a time 100 years prior to the Babylonian exile! Secular scholars say that this proves that Isaiah 40-66 was written after the Babylonian exile and could not have been written by the prophet Isaiah. They claim that it was written by an anonymous prophet they name “Second Isaiah.” Nonsense! It was all written by Isaiah, but when Isaiah called for Israel to “come out of Babylon” he was speaking figuratively! Every pagan nation traces back to Babylon, and therefore Babylon represents the nations of the world and the kingdom of darkness under bondage to the devil as a whole.
Babylon is the wilderness that Isaiah connects with the New Exodus involving the new heart-circumcised Israel that also includes multitudes of God’s people taken from the nations of the world. The first Exodus involved one nation coming out of Egpyt, but the New Exodus of the New Covenant involves all the nations coming out of Babylon! The end result of this New Exodus of all the nations coming out of the “wilderness” of Babylon is pictured in Revelation 7:
(9) After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands,
(10) and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
(11) And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God,
(12) saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”
(13) Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?”
(14) I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
(15) “Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.
(16) They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat.
(17) For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
Take a look again at those last two verses. This is “New Exodus” imagery! When you are lost in the wilderness you are always looking for food and water (just like Israel in the “First Exodus”), you are looking for a way out and for someone to guide you, and you are often at the mercy of the scorching sun. This is a picture of a great multitude that has passed through the wilderness and made it to the Promised Land. Jesus is our guide. He gives us Living Water and is our Bread of Life. Without Him we would all be dead sheep! The Great Multitude of Revelation 7 is a picture of this New Exodus theme that finally culminates in Revelation 21-22 with the description of the Promised Land, our New Jerusalem. This glorious city is the Zion predicted by Isaiah that is the destination of the people led by God in the New Exodus.
I’ll be back with some more thoughts later, but in the meantime I suggest reading Isaiah 40-55 while looking out for evidence of this New Exodus “through the wilderness” theme. The first exodus was great, and it will soon once again be presented on the big screen in a Ridley Scott directed film due to come out in December of 2014, probably accompanied by a lot of hype and fanfare. But the first exodus was nothing compared to the GREAT EXODUS involving all nations that is being led today by Jesus!
In Jesus’ Name,