The two pictures of the cross
February 27, 2009
There are two great pictures of the cross in the Exodus story. The first picture is well known. The blood of the Passover lamb applied to the doorposts of the Hebrew houses is clearly understood to be a picture of the forgiveness we now have because of the blood of Jesus. The Hebrews applied the blood to the doorposts so that the death angel would see the blood and pass over the household. The Hebrews were thus spared and shielded from a terrible judgment.
Let us look at a simple but very important point here. The Hebrew firstborns were delivered from the judgment of the death angel for the purpose that they might live. The goal delivering them from death was so that they might live. Similarly, Jesus suffered death for us so that we might experience life. This life is in heaven and we get to experience measures of this life down here on earth. By faith we need to fight and contend for this life while here on the earth. The point being made is that life is the goal and purpose of being saved from death.
There is another equally significant and equally huge picture of the cross in the Exodus story. Just as the forgiveness we have through Christ’s death is depicted by the blood on the doorposts of the Hebrew households; so the Hebrews crossing the Red Sea is a picture of the deliverance from sin we have through Christ’s death. The Lord split open the Red Sea thereby making a way for the Hebrews to escape out of Egypt. His splitting open the Red Sea is a picture of the New Testament truth that we have been crucified with Christ. Therefore, because the Lord has made a way for us to come out of our sin and self-centeredness, we can walk out of it just like the Hebrews walked out of Egypt.
In this picture, living in the land of Egypt is like living in sin or self-centeredness. Pharaoh reigning in Egypt is a type of Satan reigning over those who live in sin or for self. Pharaoh’s soldiers are a type of demons. Egyptians are a type of the unsaved living in the world and sin. The Hebrews and mixed multitudes are a type of the church, Jewish and Gentile, which is called out. Interestingly, the Greek word for church, "ekklesia," means the "called out ones." Also, the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night are a picture of the Holy Spirit leading people out of sin (Egypt) to the cross (Red Sea opening) and then into all practical righteousness (their journey to the Promised Land).
What a glorious picture! Let me repeat. When God split open the Red Sea for the Hebrews to escape, He was also portraying Christ crucified. He was portraying the truth of the cross whereby "...if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him...."(2Corinthians 5:14-15) He was portraying the truth that "... my old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin." (Romans 6:6)
This picture gives us great insight into the cross. First of all, notice that the Hebrews and the mixed multitude were trying to get out of Egypt. They were strongly motivated to get out. This bee-line they were making straight out of Egypt is a great picture of repentance.
The opening the Lord made for them in the Red Sea would do them no good if they were not interested in getting out. If some just sat there on the shores of Egypt and enjoyed the view, they would not have experienced deliverance out of Egypt. Similarly, just knowing that you have been crucified with Christ, is not sufficient to experience deliverance from a sin or sins. The believer needs to have a genuine "want to" to have this truth of the cross help him in any specific area of sin. A half hearted desire or no desire to get out of some area of sin will prevent him from experiencing deliverance in that area. He needs prayer for the Holy Spirit to give him the desire. Also, God actually used Pharaoh, a type of Satan, to motivate His people to get out of Egypt. The devil, because of his cruelty and malevolence, can often times chase God’s people out of some area of sin.
I need to mention an important aspect of this Exodus picture. This picture applies to a new believer first coming out of sin and to a seasoned believer who has a particular sin problem. Whenever a believer is in some kind of sin, living in that sin is like living in Egypt. The Holy Spirit is seeking to lead him out through the cross. In other words, this Exodus picture is excellent for the new believer and the long time Christian.
This picture makes clear another huge problem in the body of Christ today. A person who wants to get out of a sin, might have no revelation or confidence that he is dead to sin because of the cross. Such a person, and there are millions of such people, would be like the Hebrews trying to cross the Red Sea without knowing that the Lord had already made an opening available for them to cross. Imagine them trying to build a bridge across, or trying to swim across, or imagine them trying to form a life chain to get across. Christians today have what they consider so many other options to get out of their sin problems other than the way the Lord has made. Psychological techniques, prescription narcotics (including marijuana!), and various self help formulas are just a few of an endless list of "cross substitutes."
Another aspect of this picture of our deliverance out of sin is how improbable this way appears to the natural mind. God’s opening of the Red Sea is hard for the natural mind to believe. Similarly, our being dead to sin because of Christ’s death is likewise hard for the natural mind to accept.
When the Hebrews were crossing the Red Sea, one conversation might have gone this way: "Tell me. Exactly what is holding this water up? My Egyptian physics friend told me that this cannot happen." The other might have replied, "All I know is that I am about forty five steps out into the Red Sea and I can still talk about it. God lives, aye?" In a like manner, a therapist might say to a simple minded believer, "What do you mean that you are dead to sin? Is that not a bit of a simplistic attitude towards your problems?" The believer might reply, "All I know is that I am a free person because of what Jesus did for me. I’ have been walking out of this stuff for weeks now and it is working."
Another aspect of this picture of the cross relates to how contagious this faith in our deliverance can be. As one person starts walking across, others gain confidence when they see him. As difficult as it might be for the natural mind to comprehend that a person is dead to sin in Christ; when they start walking directly out of their sin, onlookers gain confidence. Some new believers might have virtually no knowledge except the simple confidence that Jesus set them free because He died for them. This simple confidence is what the bread of the Lord’s Supper is all about.