On Friday, December 12, Sir Ridley Scott’s Exodus: Gods and Kings will debut in theaters nation-wide. The film is Hollywood’s latest attempt to turn the Bible into a visual epic of green-screen magnificence. Honesty, however, should compel the movie’s advertisers to bold, italic, underline, and all-cap BASED ON the book of Exodus, with perhaps a (loosely) preceding the disclaimer.
It irks me when unbelieving filmmakers attempt to bring the Bible down to the level of Lord of the Rings. But, truth be told, the Hobbit movie trilogy is about as faithful to the book as Noah and Exodus are to the Pentateuch. The Bible, in other words, is being subject to Hollywood’s customary maltreatment, which is probably the most disconcerting commentary on our culture.
The Bible tells the story of God’s redemption through Jesus Christ, and the book of Exodus stands tall on the skyline of God’s revelatory panorama. The recorded events of Exodus are as real as they are redemptive. So, whether you eventually watch the movie or not, I recommend we think about this movie as a redemptive opportunity—i.e., that we prepare ourselves to turn discussions about it into evangelistic conversations. That may seem awkward, or even self-righteous at the water cooler, but perhaps a one-on-one conversation will surface for you to capitalize upon.
The good news is this: Exodus is rich soil. You can transition just about any Exodus discussion into an invitation for an evangelistic Bible study. Furthermore, when we study Exodus, we’re peering into historical events that still resonate with the LORD who initiated them. Like the historical fact of Jesus’s resurrection, God broke through time and space to save His people from bondage. If these facts matter to God (and they do), they should remain paramount in our thinking.
Below are three potential Bible studies. Each study is a major theme from Exodus with an application to the New Testament. These studies are, of course, incomplete, but space permits only the raw materials for a good starting point. Also, several other studies are possible, like the law’s preparation for the gospel. Let your sanctified imagination take it from here.
The Knowledge of God
Three themes drive the Exodus narrative: God knows; God makes Himself known; God will transform that knowledge into worship. First, the LORD saw the plight of His people and knew their suffering (2:25; 3:7); He knew that Pharaoh would not let the people go without a fight (3:19); and God knew that Moses was, at best, a timid leader (4:14). Second, the LORD was determined to make Himself known to His people (6:7; 16:6); to the Egyptians (7:5); to Pharaoh (7:15-17), who sets up the whole narrative by dismissing the knowledge of the LORD (5:2); and to the whole earth (9:16). Third, God reveals Himself to these people specifically, so they will worship Him (7:16) for His utter uniqueness (9:14) and absolute sovereignty (9:20). The movie highlights the visually stunning; God highlights Himself.
The New Testament expands on God’s compassion for people. Even though we are dead in the trespasses of our sins, God makes us alive together with Christ (Eph. 2:5), which is the message of the New Covenant. And although we await the ultimate fulfillment of that New Covenant, we enjoy certain benefits already. The New Covenant promises the internal indwelling of the Holy Spirit so that we know the voice of our Savior (John 10:4), know that we have eternal life (1 John 5:13), and know God Himself (Phil. 3:10).
When Moses approached Pharaoh, he was far from the dashing figure cut by Christian Bale. On the contrary, he was a fearful, murderous, and elderly exile. Many years earlier, Moses killed an Egyptian and hid the body (2:12ff), an action that changed the arc of his life. After fleeing to Midian and serving his father-in-law, Moses became plagued by self-doubt (4:10) and self-will (4:13). Yet, God systematically refused every excuse and began to transform him to the point that Moses not only interceded before God in behalf of those stiff-necked Israelites, but he violently defended the uniqueness of God before the nation he had just saved from annihilation (ch. 32). How do we explain that transformation? “The LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.” (33:11). Hollywood bestows fame and fortune on the bold and beautiful; God delights to use the foolish things of the world to confound the wise (1 Cor. 1:27).
New Testament believers can know God even more intimately than Moses did (2 Cor. 3:18) by the indwelling presence of His Holy Spirit (Romans 8). You want to know God face to face—as a friend? Be born again by the Spirit of God and draw near; you are no longer a condemned enemy deserving death, but a redeemed child of God (John 3; Ephesians 1-2).
God Delivers with a Mighty Hand
The LORD remembered the covenant He made with the Patriarchs by delivering His people with a series of miraculous events made all the more spectacular by God’s habitual predict-then-fulfill formula. You’ll plunder Egypt? Check (3:22; 12:36). You’ll see my redemption? No problem (6:6; 12:1-13:15). You’ll have food and provision for your journey? Here you go (16:4-15). You’ll see and know that the LORD God, Yahweh, the End and the Beginning fights for you? Just watch (14:1-28). By contrast, at one point in the movie, Moses says to God, “Nice of you to show up.” I have no retort for that nadir of biblical ignorance.
Exodus proves over and again that God will do what He says. And God’s greatest joy is to keep His word in mighty deliverance. So, are you worried that your sins may be too great for God to pardon? “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13). God said it; He’ll do it. The same mighty God that parted the sea and sent the locusts promises this: “he who begun a good work in you will bring it to completion until the day of Jesus” (Phil. 1:6).
For the believer who thinks that seeing these Biblical scenes displayed visually will help his faith …
God designed this earthly sojourn to be one of faith. Even the Israelites who saw these signs first hand refused to walk by faith. Further, our God is able to do exceedingly above all that we can think, which includes our imagination—even an imagination as robust as Sir Ridley Scott’s.
If you want to deepen your faith, study God’s Word. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ (Romans 10:17).