“You must then say in the presence of the LORD your God, ‘My ancestor Jacob was a wandering Aramean who went to live as a foreigner in Egypt. His family arrived few in number, but in Egypt they became a large and mighty nation. When the Egyptians oppressed and humiliated us by making us their slaves, we cried out to the LORD, the God of our ancestors. He heard our cries and saw our hardship, toil, and oppression. So the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a strong hand and powerful arm, with overwhelming terror, and with miraculous signs and wonders. He brought us to this place and gave us this land flowing with milk and honey! And now, O LORD, I have brought you the first portion of the harvest you have given me from the ground.’ Then place the produce before the LORD your God, and bow to the ground in worship before him. Afterward you may go and celebrate because of all the good things the LORD your God has given to you and your household. Remember to include the Levites and the foreigners living among you in the celebration (Deuteronomy 26:5-11, NLT).
Stories are very important to our faith, for they serve as the medium through which we learn. If you read the Bible with story in mind, you’ll see there is a basic pattern that emerges: alienation, departure, and return.
Think about Abram. He left his native land and migrated to the land of Canaan. His pilgrimage was interrupted by a famine, causing him to migrate to the land of Egypt. There he was threatened by Pharaoh with regards to his wife. God enacted plagues upon Pharaoh until he called Abram and told him to go. As he departed, Pharaoh bestowed riches upon him. He left Egypt for the Negev, returning to Canaan where the land was divided.
Then there’s the house of Jacob. They travelled to Egypt because of a famine. Centuries passed and the Israelites grew stronger, so strong that Pharaoh enslaved the people. There was a threat to the males as the Pharaoh ordered the male babies to be cast into the Nile River. One was spared, named Moses. Moses presented himself to Pharaoh and demanded the release of the Hebrew slaves. Plagues ensued upon the land until Pharaoh called the leader and commanded him to leave. As the Israelites departed they were bestowed with gifts from the Egyptians. The nation began their journey by way of passing through the waters of the Red Sea as they journeyed toward the land of promise where they would divide the land. Along the way they are tested for a span of 40 years with regard to food.
When the reader enters the New Testament, another Joseph, who was also a dreamer, surfaces. He was called to take Mary and together they were to care for the Incarnate Word. There was a threat to the males as Herod commanded all the males under the age of two be slaughtered. They travelled south to Egypt, taking the gifts of the Magi with them. When the coast was clear they returned to the land of Egypt.
After Jesus passed through the waters of baptism, he travelled south to the Negev where he was tested with regards to food for a span of 40 days. He then returned to Israel where he began his earthly ministry.
This pattern of alienation, departure, and return occurs time after time in Scripture. If you look carefully, you’ll see it for yourself in places like Jacob’s flight from Esau and the Babylonian exile. Even Luke’s version of the Transfiguration (Luke 9:31) contains the language of departure (literally, “exodus”) as Moses and Elijah spoke to Christ about what was to come.
So what’s so important about this?
By understanding the story, we are able to see that salvation is more than getting our sins forgiven so we can go to heaven when we die. Our lives in Christ are part of a larger story that begins in Genesis 1:1. When we understand the story, we can enter into it and make God’s story our story.