Christians sometimes have an odd relationship with the Old Testament. Some simply avoid it, due to its particularly nasty depiction of humanity (well deserved at that). Others moralize it, treating everything as an object lesson. “David overcame his giant, what’s yours,” and that sort of thing. And still others seek to discover where the Old Testament bears witness to Christ. as He Himself said it did (cf. John 5:39; Luke 24:13-35). From the first word of Genesis to the last word of Malachi, it’s all about Jesus.
That includes the exodus. This momentous event in the history of the Jewish people became the archetype of God’s saving work as the writers of Scripture in both Testaments referenced it again and again. Indeed, Pastor Mike Wilkerson writes, “When it comes to understanding redemption, the key back story in the Bible is the exodus” (p. 33). But what does the Exodus tell us about Jesus—and how does reading it help me, practically? In Redemption, Wilkerson offers thoughtful answers as he examines the exodus account and shows us how through it Jesus frees us from the shame of sin and the futility of idolatry.
The challenge with many books of this nature is that it’s very easy for solid, biblical answers to some of life’s toughest questions to ring hollow.
“If God is really good, why did this happen to me?”
“Why does God feel so far away?”
“I thought this addiction was behind me—why does it keep coming back?”
“Do I really have to forgive him?”
“Am I destined to be alone for the rest of my life?”
Our anger at others, our anger at God, our frustration over besetting sin… these are not subjects handled lightly. It’s easy to say, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life,” but what do you do when you have a stepfather who treated you as something less than human (see Sarah’s story, pp. 41-53)? In a situation like that, it’s difficult to see God’s love, despite the reality that “whether our misery is big or small, we all find ourselves under the fountain of God’s mercy” (p. 43).
The Israelites, who suffered as slaves under Pharaoh, couldn’t see it either. Yet, even in the midst of their suffering, God was not unaware of their suffering. He was facing it.
He heard, saw, and knew their suffering. He invites us to do the same. The problem isn’t that God has abandoned us in our pain, but that sometimes we refuse to face it with him. (p. 49)
Like Israel, God’s “firstborn son” (Ex. 4:22), and like so many of us who are adopted as sons (cf. Gal 4:5), God the Son experienced great suffering, yet He did not turn away. Instead, He faced it with God the Father, and in doing so purchased our redemption.
For those who have trusted in Christ, who have suffered greatly, facing our pain is a great struggle, something we must be careful not to minimize. Yet face it we must if we are to be free of our wounds and our idols. But, like Jesus, we can be confident that God will deliver us.
As Wilkerson examines the exodus account, he weaves in the personal stories of men and women who have suffered from various forms of abuse—sexual, physical, mental, and chemical. Some were victims, others victimized themselves. But in each and every circumstance, they experienced redemption through faith in Christ. It didn’t make everything better; they still had to face the consequences of sins committed by and against them, but they were able to walk into their new life in Christ, confident in God’s steadfast love. He had redeemed them and He would never leave them, nor forsake them.
These stories tell readers that, ultimately, Redemption is about one thing: Renewed worship. In the fall, we turned from worshipping the Creator to worshipping His creation, and it ruined everything. Every problem that exists in the world, every injustice committed, every person defiled by abuse, every marriage that is devastated by adultery… all of it is a worship issue.
Yet so often, even after we have been redeemed, we find ourselves volunteering for slavery to idols. Like the Israelites in the wilderness who built for themselves the golden calf, we build for ourselves functional saviors and deceive ourselves every day. For example, many men (and an increasing number of women) are enslaved to pornography—an idol of their own making. Yet even in the midst of our voluntary enslavement, we are not without hope. Just as Moses interceded for the people of Israel, Jesus intercedes for us. And, “if it were not for this intercession on our behalf, we would not even have the opportunity to repent” (p. 130).
Genuine repentance, moving us from conviction of sin to, ultimately, rejoicing in God’s favor, persevering day by day in faithfulness, is a great gift of redemption. It allows us to “trade hates and loves, hating the sin you once loved and loving the God you’ve hated by your sin. It trades the lie of idolatry for worship in spirit and truth” (p. 133). No matter how grave my sin, it is not too big for Jesus to forgive. No matter how deep the idol, it’s not so deep that Jesus can’t uproot it.
And He will do it.
The exodus was God’s redeeming act of calling out a people from the land of Egypt so that they might worship and obey Him. In Jesus, the greater exodus has come; from among all the nations of the earth, God is saving for Himself a people that will worship Him by faith in Jesus Christ, whose death on the cross paid the great price for the redemption of their sins. With new hearts and new desires, we have been redeemed, freed from our idols, freed from the stain of sin, freed to see God as our promised land. Redemption is a wonderful reminder of all of these great truths.
Churches, married couples and individuals will greatly benefit from reading Redemption and wrestling through its questions and implications. Individuals will be greatly challenged and blessed as they do the same. Let this book’s insights minister to you and free you to minister to others.
Title: Redemption: Freed by Jesus from the Idols We Worship and the Wounds We Carry
Author: Mike Wilkerson
Publisher: Crossway/RE:Lit (2011)
A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes by the publisher.