In Exodus, God catalyzes a “people
This differs from “disciple making movements” or
“church planting movements” (CPM). In fact, I have argued elsewhere that there are no CPMs in in the Bible.
In Exodus 13, we see God in the early stages of
planting a royal priesthood and a holy nation (cf. Exod 19:6). From these
Israelites, the Lord would grow a people who are called by His name.
Out of a desire to see people saved, we face the temptation
to compromise by yielding to pragmatism, especially in church planting
methodology. Instead, we should be mindful that the Bible has something to say
about our methods, not only our message.
How does God plant His people?
Faithful, not Fast
In Exodus 13:1–10, 19 explicitly remind us
of God’s promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This is why Moses took
the bones of Joseph with him, for Joseph had made the sons of Israel solemnly
swear, saying, “God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones with
you from here.” (v. 19)
It took around 400 years for God to fulfill
His promises to rescue Israel from slavery. One can almost understand why some
people might think the Lord had forgot them. What are we to learn from this?
The Lord is faithful.
The Lord keeps His promises to His people. He will
save them and build them up. However, it may take longer then we think. His
plan might cause us to suffer more than we would like.
This raises a few relevant questions.
Are we willing to take measures or make plans for
the long term? Are we willing to stay and be buried in the places we're serving?
Ask yourself, “What do we call ‘home’?” Your passport country or the
country in which you serve?
Not Always Right
Notice how Exodus 13:17–18a contrasts much
of modern mission thinking,
let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines,
although that was near. For God said, “Lest the people change their minds when
they see war and return to Egypt.” But God led the people around by the
way of the wilderness toward the Red Sea.
Here is a key idea for us: the Lord does not always
want us to take the fastest route.
God prioritizes His
reputation, not rapidity.
The Lord’s will does not always make sense to us.
Why? In part, we often are quite unaware of the true condition of our heart.
The Israelites’ hearts were not ready for the “faster” route.
In view of Exodus 14:17–18, the Lord had a
greater plan, one that gave God glory in Israel and among all
And I will
harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they shall go in after them, and I
will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, his chariots, and his
horsemen. And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I have
gotten glory over Pharaoh, his chariots, and his horsemen.”
What do we learn about God’s “people planting
movement” (i.e. the exodus)? It is about more
than Israel’s salvation; it primarily concerns God’s glory.
more “efficient” path often is not most glorifying to God.
Our goal is to magnify and only then to multiply.
We shouldn’t confuse the two. They are not necessarily the same thing.
Here are a few application questions:
- As you
consider your ministry strategies, which of the
possible “slower” paths might actually be the one chosen by God
that will give Him glory and protect our hearts?
we intentionally reflect on ways that may be counter-intuitive,
immediately slower, but better in the long run?
God’s manner of leading in the past is at least
suggestive of how He might lead us in the present. The unfolding of salvation
history is testimony enough that the Lord is patient and less
concerned with speed than we are. There is a difference between urgency and
hastiness. The former entails intentionality; the latter is concerned foremost
As far as the Lord is concerned, it was more urgent that Israel know
more about the Lord than it was for them to
.... do what most rapidly led to
.... get to Sinai to receive the
.... be comfortable, finding
rest in the promised land.
This is a key point for those who minimize
theological education in a missions context.
There is a
What can we learn about the people within God’s
“people planting movement”?
Redemption is costly
even to those who are redeemed.
Why? They must give up their old ways in order to
follow the Lord and embrace their new way of life. Consider Exodus 13:12–15,
. . . you
shall set apart to the Lord all that first opens the womb. All the firstborn of
your animals that are males shall be the Lord’s. Every firstborn of a donkey
you shall redeem with a lamb, or if you will not redeem it you shall break its
neck. Every firstborn of man among your sons you shall redeem . . . . Therefore
I sacrifice to the Lord all the males that first open the womb, but all the
firstborn of my sons I redeem.
The people are redeemed through sacrifice
How often do people emphasize that salvation is
“free”? We really need to define “free.” The truth is, God’s people
must count the cost of following Him. Yet, I rarely see or hear people talking
about the cost of faith.
Tell people the
Conflict . . . Not from It
Finally, in Exodus 13:18b, we see one more
intriguing observation: And the
people of Israel went up out of the land of Egypt equipped for battle.
- They assume salvation
comes through conflict (not that salvation means freedom from
- God’s promises lead to preparation, not
As we serve God, do we have proper expectations?
God’s will is that we would glorify him by waiting for Him with patient
joy. How are we enduring the wait?
May Col. 1:11 be our prayer, “May you be
strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance
and patience with joy.”
Jackson Wu (PhD, SEBTS) teaches theology and missiology in a seminary for Chinese church leaders. Previously, he also worked as a church planter. He has just released his second book One Gospel for All Nations: A Practical Approach to Biblical Contextualization. In addition to his blog, jacksonwu.org, follow him on Twitter @jacksonwu4china.