by Fylvia Fowler Kline
I am God, your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of a life of slavery. Exodus 20:1, 2
By the first chapter of Exodus, several hundred years and a few generations have passed since Israel’s bondage had begun. That’s a long time to be in a foreign land. Strange customs, strange gods; pretty much everything is unfamiliar and different.
After the first couple of decades, the lines were getting blurred—traditions were being forgotten, promises broken and fuzzy compromises made. They were only human, without a leader and probably feeling very detached from a once tangible God.
So when God and Moses paired up to lead them out of bondage and into the Promised Land, I imagine they needed an intense orientation session to rediscover their identity—to figure out who they were, where they were going and what they were called to do. Hence the 40 years of wilderness wanderings were the lessons in I am Your God 101.
The exodus from Egypt to Canaan makes a lot of sense when you look at it from this perspective. Yet what impresses me the most about this story is what happens in chapter 20 when God finally spells out the terms of the contract between His people and Him.
He could have handed out copies of the Ten Commandments the night the people of Israel left Egypt. Perhaps the tablets could have been carved into each dining table as families gathered to eat the meal of unleavened bread. Or maybe He could have inserted a copy into every packed bag that stood in the bloodstained foyer, ready for the journey. Or tattooed it on their forearms. That night of grand departure was the perfect time for God to hand out His policies and procedures, His do’s and don’ts. That would certainly have eliminated the chapter after chapter of bad decisions, misunderstandings and a whole lot of whining.
Yet God waited 19 long chapters before He chiseled His law into stone. This long wait says so much about our God. Before He gave them the Law on Sinai, God rescued them from slavery. Before God expected obedience, God poured out his saving grace.
In God’s order of things, His grace is the horse that comes before the cart. His grace is the force that pulls us into salvation.