In this article I will explain the importance of the Old Testament, then, its significance of God’s plan of Salvation. I will look at the spiritual senses which will deepen our understanding of the passage we have chosen. Below is my attempt to explain that through choosing the first 15 chapters of the Book of Exodus.
I the Importance of the Old Testament
The Old Testament is like a library of 46 books, full of prose, poetry, history, prayers, stories, and laws. But the Church accepted it as a sacred and canonical books, whole and entire (Dei Verbum 2). She believes that it’s the true word of God preserves a lasting value (DV 14). Reader can find in it imperfect and provisional matters, but they show us authentic divine teaching (DV 15). And, there is an essential unity with New Testament (DV 16). The Old Testament gives expression to a lively sense of God, sound wisdom on human life, treasury of prayers, and faithful finds the mystery of our salvation.
The Old Testament is like the introduction to the New Testament. The people of God were meditating for centuries on the patriarchs and the prophets’ sayings. Researcher can simply find many Jesus’ titles in the Old Testament; for example, Christ, the Son of David, the Son of God, the Son of Man, the Suffering servant, the Prophet. Moreover, it’s easy to find many important symbolic words in the both Testament, like: the vine, Zion, water, and Spirit.
We believe that God the Father has prepared and trained His People for the day of Jesus Christ to enter His Kingdom. They were like pilgrims on their way aiming to achieve there goal by fulfilled with Jesus Christ. This was despite being sinners, weak and impatiens.
The Old Testament is the best mirror for our life: The Book of Job discusses the problem of suffering; the Book of Ecclesiastes shows how much our life is tampered; the Book of Song of Songs expresses the bridegroom’s love to bride; the Psalmist tries to send his feelings through psalms. All are like a mirror one should read it and meditate upon it. We all want freedom; the book of Exodus is like an epic for people who seek that. And prophets who were crying for justice and the respect of the poor, all are like experiences for our life.
The gospel according to Luke (Chap. 24) is a good example for how much important it is to read and meditate on the Old Testament. Two disciples were going to the village called Emmaus, and ‘they were conversing about all the things that had occurred. Jesus himself drew nearer and walked with them, but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him.’ He said to them, ‘Oh, how foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and enter into his glory? Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them what referred to him in all the scriptures.’
St. Paul, also, declared clearly that lives of the People of God are an example for us (1 Cor. 10: 6-11). So, the time of the Old Testament is for promise, waiting for the Good News (Luke 4: 18).
II the Book of Exodus (1:1- 15: 21): The Significance in God’s Plan of Salvation
The Book of Exodus shows clearly, God’s intervention for His oppressed and suffered People in Egypt. They were enslaves by Pharaohs for hundreds of years. The People of God were like strangers living in a strange land, waiting for someone who will be sent by God of Abraham to get them to the Promised Land.
The Book has many symbols for Jesus Christ and the New Testament which are very important to realize the significance in God’s Plan of Salvation:
• People of God were growing rapidly in Egypt, and Pharaoh was worried about that. (Chap. 1). Also, across history, despite its persecution, the Church is grown rapidly. The point being, that during persecution, God hears His people and helps them.
• Always, remembering the People of God who cried to God to save them from Pharaoh (Chap. 2) encourages us to cry to God to save His people because of the persecution.
• Seeing Moses the burn Bush over the mountain, where Yahweh was presented (Chap. 3), is a symbol or significance of Church now as the Holy place where the Word of God is proclaimed.
• God being mighty in Israel’s People (Chap. 3) and Jesus Christ being present in the nation’s midst indicates being Emmanuel as God said: ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’. He is not the God of the dead but of the living.” (Matt. 22: 32). Moreover, when God, the Father, reveals His name (Yahweh יהוה) which means to be or to become (Chap. 3) His name has been fulfilled by Jesus Christ as Our Father.
• Moses’ hesitation of accepting the mission. (Chap. 3) teaches us how much we are sometime weak as Christians, hesitating in accepting preaching the Gospel.
• Moses was the mortal Mediator (Chap. 3). But, Jesus is the Divine Reconciler and Mediator.
• Moses was a mortal savior to enter the Promised Land (in Canaan) (Chap. 3), while Jesus Christ is the divine savior to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
• Moses sought for justice (Chap. 4), while Jesus Christ fulfilled God’s law when He desired love and mercy (Matt 9: 13).
• In Chap. 12 God said to Moses and Aaron to tell the whole community of Israel to procure for every family a lamb. Lamb has been a symbol for sacrificing of His Son Jesus Christ and establishing the Holy Eucharist where He becomes the Lamb of God. (John 1: 28). Sacrificing of the Passover, lamb in the Old Testament, has been fulfilled in Christ (1Co 5: 7).
• Moses ascended to Mount Sinai and departed his people from Egypt to the new earthly life. (Chap. 12) God has the same plan where Jesus leads His people to the Mount of Gethsemane, departing them from being old people to the new life.
• In chap. 15 people sang a thanks giving hymn for God’s Salvation. This has become significance for us, the Church’s Liturgy is like a thanks giving bouquet to Jesus Christ.
What God had promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob He achieved as (Israel been His Son) and freed from Egypt. This was fulfilled with His Son Jesus Christ on the Cross to save His new people (the Church).
III Deepening Our Understanding
In every verse or text of Scripture, there are two senses: the Letter which speaks of deeds and the Spiritual sense. The Spiritual sense has three steps:
1- the allegory one which explains the event from the faith point of view.
2- The moral step where the events reported in Scripture ought to lead us to act justly. They were written “for our instruct
ion” St. Paul says (CCC117).
3- And the leading sense (the anagogical), which is the goal of the reading.
In the Spiritual sense, the faithful is able to touch and follow signs of faith when practicing faith every day. We have been saved and redeemed by our Lord. This is a significant point to read Scripture carefully in order to deepen our faith.
Reading the first 15 chapters in the book of the Exodus enriches our spiritual knowledge: The text of Scripture shows that God (the Father) has a plan to unite all people with Him. The realities and events in Egypt and Palestine explain this unity. With the allegorical sense we can deepen our understanding of the events when we recognize ultimate meaning in Christ.
The Exodus actions were signs of faith; Faith in the love of God which means trusting in His promises across history. God is personal one, encountered believers like Abraham, His people in Egypt, and His Holy Church.
From the history of God’s plan, we find how much the members of the Church will continue to grow over the world despite evil that fight her sons (Matt. 13: 24- 30).
God, the Trinity, always hears our prayers especially when celebrating the liturgy of the Church ‘so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.’ (John 3: 16). We found how Moses has hesitated when he met God (Ex. 3:11) while faithful is full of zeal like our Lord “Zeal for your house will consume me.” (John 2: 17).
The reconciliation of Jesus encourages us to accept our brothers and sister in Christ despite our broken body. Jesus being the Lamb of God is for all believers to celebrate the Passover while remembering Him every time we come together and show thanks giving. The Mounts of Sinai and of Gethsemane are today, symbols for our cross which we have to hold in order to be worthy of the resurrection by Jesus Christ.
We have seen how much the first fifteenth chapters in the Book of Exodus are important in God’s Plan of Salvation. We can’t approach that without firstly, to act justly with mercy and love with our brothers and sisters (the moral sense), then to work for charity. Every verse is to instruct us how to deal with life; to join the horizontal relation with people with the vertical one with God.
1. The New Jerusalem Bible, Pocket Edition published (1990), Darton, Longman & Todd Ltd.
2. The Holy See (2007), Catechism of the Catholic Church, Geoffrey Chapman.
3. Maryvale Institute (2007), Introduction to the Old Testament, Birmingham. Chap. 1.
By Fr (Archbishop) Habib Jajou