Today we will be looking at the topic of integrity, and how the passionate faithfulness of past generations during their exodus experiences can lead us to a life of integrity. Striving after their constant pursuit of righteousness provides a context for our own personal and collective spiritual exodus in our generation.
Psalm 86:11 – Teach me your way, O Yahweh, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name.
Psalm 143:10 – Teach me to do your will, for you are my God! Let your good Spirit lead me on level ground!
The person of integrity is one who intently seeks to know the truth of God. They desire to walk in that way, to conform their lives to what God desires of them. They have made seeking God the passion of their life, hungering to know him more and to know the correct way. They will not rest until they have heard a word from God, until he has shown them the next steps on their path.
Matthew 5:6 – “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”
In one sense, this teaching of Yeshua is a fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah.
Isaiah 49:8-12 – Thus says Yahweh: “In a time of favor I have answered you; in a day of salvation I have helped you; I will keep you and give you as a covenant to the people, to establish the land, to apportion the desolate heritages, saying to the prisoners, ‘Come out,’ to those who are in darkness, ‘Appear.’ They shall feed along the ways; on all bare heights shall be their pasture; they shall not hunger or thirst, neither scorching wind nor sun shall strike them, for he who has pity on them will lead them, and by springs of water will guide them. And I will make all my mountains a road, and my highways shall be raised up. Behold, these shall come from afar, and behold, these from the north and from the west, and these from the land of Syene.”
It is also a reference to the wanderings in the wilderness which Israel experienced, and how God provided for them. They neither hungered nor thirsted, they were protected from the scorching sun by the cloud that covered them, and he had pity on them and led them by springs of water. In a physical way, they were experiencing what would ultimately be fulfilled within the spiritual kingdom of God, when believers would “come from afar,” as Isaiah predicts, even “from the north and from the west.”
This is a recurring theme throughout the Bible, a theme of exodus. While we may recognize the word exodus as the name of the second book of Moses, the word itself was attached to the book as a descriptor of the main topic of the book.
Now, in the original Hebrew, the name of the book is not Exodus but Shemot, meaning “names.” The Hebrew convention of book naming was through using the first words of a book as its title, and the book of Exodus begins with a list of the names of the tribal leaders, the sons of Jacob, who went to Egypt.
Exodus 1:1 – “These are the names of the sons of Israel who came to Egypt with Jacob, each with his household…”
But the name Exodus was assigned to the book in later years when the Greek and Latin manuscripts were produced. Exodus comes from a combination of the Greek prefix exo, meaning “out of,” and hodos, meaning “way;” it literally means “the way out.” While the names of the books are not necessarily inspired text, this is an apt description of the main topic of the book, the exodus of the people of Israel out of Egyptian slavery and through the wilderness to the land that God promised them. This event is the pivotal event in the history of Israel and is recounted and referenced time and time again.
It is the very beginning of the Ten Commandments:
Exodus 20:2 – “I am Yahweh your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery” (Exod 20:2)
Other references include:
Numbers 20:14-16 – Moses sent messengers from Kadesh to the king of Edom: “Thus says your brother Israel: You know all the hardship that we have met: how our fathers went down to Egypt, and we lived in Egypt a long time. And the Egyptians dealt harshly with us and our fathers. And when we cried to Yahweh, he heard our voice and sent an angel and brought us out of Egypt. And here we are in Kadesh, a city on the edge of your territory.
Joshua 24:17 – for it is Yahweh our God who brought us and our fathers up from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, and who did those great signs in our sight and preserved us in all the way that we went, and among all the peoples through whom we passed.
Psalm 78:13-16 – He divided the sea and let them pass through it, and made the waters stand like a heap. In the daytime he led them with a cloud, and all the night with a fiery light. He split rocks in the wilderness and gave them drink abundantly as from the deep. He made streams come out of the rock and caused waters to flow down like rivers.
Micah 6:3-4 – “O my people, what have I done to you? How have I wearied you? Answer me! For I brought you up from the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of slavery, and I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam.
As Stephen was making his defense before the Sanhedrin, he also provides a detailed retelling of these events to bolster his position of how God was the architect and overseer of the Exodus event:
Acts 7:35-36 – “This Moses, whom they rejected, saying, ‘Who made you a ruler and a judge?’–this man God sent as both ruler and redeemer by the hand of the angel who appeared to him in the bush. This man led them out, performing wonders and signs in Egypt and at the Red Sea and in the wilderness for forty years.
The apostle Paul also connects with Exodus imagery:
1 Corinthians 10:1-4 – For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Messiah.
This exodus event is when God proved himself as a protector and provider of his people. This is how the Israelites could be assured that Yahweh is the one true God. This is the essence of Hebraic thought, woven into all of their storytelling and tradition. It is the theme of the Passover recounted in the Haggadah, or the “Telling” of this story, to each generation, year after year. They have done this for thousands of years since the original events took place, because the story is so powerful and pervasive as a main theme in the Bible. If you’ve ever seen the movie, “The Prince of Egypt,” you have experienced the power of this Exodus narrative.
In a moment, we will take a look at how some of the New Testament writers drew from this well of the exodus story to illustrate the power of the gospel of the Kingdom and how a life of integrity is illustrated by the desire to come out of slavery and darkness into freedom and light.
Based on this consistent theme of the exodus story, we can see how the biblical writers drew from this resource time and again to provide spiritual application of the exodus story in other contexts. In these passages, this theme of providing a way out is constantly recycled; an exodus from darkness to light, from slavery to freedom.
John 8:34, 36 – Yeshua answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. … So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
Titus 3:3-6 – For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Yeshua Messiah our Savior…
Isaiah 9:2 – The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.
Isaiah 42:16 – And I will lead the blind in a way that they do not know, in paths that they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground. These are the things I do, and I do not forsake them.
Ephesians 5:8 – for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light
1 Peter 2:9 – But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
This exodus theme is representative of how God calls a person or people to himself, they seek him out and desire to follow him through wilderness experiences, and he provides for them along the way. In this way, the way out, it is represented as a life of integrity, of seeking after the one true God. As we have just seen, it is demonstrated over and over to teach us how to apply these simple principles in our own lives.
Unfortunately, we tend to complicate this powerful theme by over-religiousizing the Exodus text, to coin a phrase. We try so hard to discern the micro-application of tiny details and rules and regulations that were given to the Israelites during their wilderness journeys that we lose sight of the bigger picture of what God was doing with them holistically, as a people called out for his purpose. This is not in any way to diminish those rules or Torah of God, but to say that to truly understand how they should be applied, we need to see and understand the larger context of the biblical theme.
Additionally, throughout the biblical narrative, the ancestors or fathers are referenced as having experienced the intimacy with God through their own exodus journeys, an intimacy that was to be further carried on by each successive generation.
Genesis 48:15-16 – And he blessed Joseph and said, “The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has been my shepherd all my life long to this day, the angel who has redeemed me from all evil, bless the boys; and in them let my name be carried on, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.”
1 Kings 3:14 – And if you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days.”
Even Paul refers to his faithful forbears:
Acts 24:14 – But this I confess to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the Law and written in the Prophets…
This desire to do what is right and to follow the right paths that God has laid out are exemplified in the deepest expressions of the people of God. The Psalms are especially filled with this type of pleading to God for guidance, for pouring out praise to God and outwardly declaring a desire for righteousness in speech and in actions.
Psalm 5:1-3, 7-8 – Give ear to my words, O Yahweh; consider my groaning. Give attention to the sound of my cry, my King and my God, for to you do I pray. O Yahweh, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch. … But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love, will enter your house. I will bow down toward your holy temple in the fear of you. Lead me, O Yahweh, in your righteousness because of my enemies; make your way straight before me.
Psalm 25:4-5, 8-10, 12 – Make me to know your ways, O Yahweh; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long. … Good and upright is Yahweh; therefore he instructs sinners in the way. He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way. All the paths of Yahweh are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies. … Who is the man who fears Yahweh? Him will he instruct in the way that he should choose.
Psalm 51:6, 10-12 – Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart. … Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.
Psalm 119:24, 27-29 – Your testimonies are my delight; they are my counselors. … Make me understand the way of your precepts, and I will meditate on your wondrous works. My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to your word! Put false ways far from me and graciously teach me your law!
As believers, we identify with the passionate expression of these principles of our faithful spiritual ancestors because we are ignited with the same Spirit. We desire to share in the exodus experience that they have given voice to over the centuries and millennia as these words were collected and compiled into our Bibles. The kindred longings and desires of our hearts beat in unison with those faithful who have gone before and expressed their deepest secrets which are immortalized among the pages of Scripture. The integrity that lived and breathed in them inspires us to learn of their ways and mimic their faithfulness.
Like the writer of Hebrews, we have the privileged opportunity to step back and view the entirety of the faithful ancestors who followed God and learn to copy their exemplary lives:
Hebrews 12:1 – Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.
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