The heart of Exodus is the revelation of the person of Jesus Christ. This is the central theme of my book Burning Bush, Burning Hearts: Exodus as Paradigm of the Gospel. Exodus is a divine love story in which God reveals through object lessons his plan for our redemption. God embeds signs and symbols within Scripture to foreshadow the coming of Christ and his atoning sacrifice to save us from sin and death. The coming of the Messiah is foretold not just in Old Testament prophecies, but he is also revealed in unspoken symbology within Scripture. These signs and symbols are typologies that point always to Christ and his Church to come. Typologies are prophetic actions, situations, people, events, and objects. They are a kind of unspoken prophecy—a symbology that manifests a future reality. The Apostles and the early Church Fathers understood well the typologies of the Old Testament that pointed to the coming of Jesus Christ. For example, St. Paul writes, “These are only a shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ” (Colossians 2:17). The Old Testament type is the shadow, and the New Testament fulfillment in Christ is the reality.
This dynamic is most profoundly true of the Exodus. The Israelites practiced in sign and symbol in the Old Covenant what we experience as a fulfilled reality in Christ in the New Covenant. The typologies of Exodus are numerous and profound. The book serves as the preview of the Redemption. The typologies reveal through sign and symbol the coming of the Messiah, who will be the new Passover Lamb, of a new and greater Exodus, that will free us from the bondage of sin and death, and lead us into the Promised Land of heaven. Christ, the Church, and the sacraments are patterned to such a degree after Exodus, that the Gospel could very aptly be called the New Exodus, or the Second Exodus.
The Old Testament type always gives way to the greater and more glorious New Testament fulfillment in Christ. The typologies of Exodus are expressed most profoundly in its central character Moses, and then later, in Joshua. The miraculous in Exodus becomes the supernatural and sacramental in the New Covenant and the Catholic Church. The typologies of Christ are found in all of the central events of Exodus: in the sacrifice of the Passover lamb, in the Column of Cloud and the Pillar of Fire, in the crossing of the Red Sea, in the manna from heaven, in the water from the rock, in the bronze serpent on the pole, in the bitter water of Marah made sweet, in the oasis at Elim, at the theophany at Mount Sinai, in the Tabernacle, in the priesthood, in the sacrifices, and in the feasts. In all of these, God is preparing humanity, through sacred object lessons, for the arrival of His Son. Exodus is the preview of the Redemption. It is the preparation for the Incarnation and the sacrifice of Christ to come.
Watch for the next post in this series, appearing on on Monday, March 7th.
Brian Kranick is the author of Burning Bush, Burning Hearts: Exodus as Paradigm of the Gospel. He has a master’s degree in Systematic Theology from Christendom College and writes about theological issues at sacramentallife.com. He resides with his family in the Pacific Northwest.
Burning Bush. Seventeenth century painting by Sébastien Bourdon in the Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg