The beginning of Exodus is really the whole book of Genesis.
One way to think about the books of Genesis are Exodus are like our own national history. Exodus is really the beginning of a new nation (although not the completion of it!). It is like our Declaration of Independence and beginnings of the Constitution of the United States. It tells why the Hebrew people left Egypt, how it all played out, and how they began to organize themselves as a new nation.
Genesis is like the beginning history of the American Colonies and Native Americans before 1776. That history helps us understand why we became this nation and how we were set up the way we are today. When the Hebrew Children would ask the question, “Why were our ancestors in Egypt, not in the Promised Land?” their parents would say, “Well, ‘In the Beginning, God created the heavens and the earth…’”. (Genesis 1:1)
So we are beginning our journey through Exodus with the very end of Genesis, which tells us that the Hebrew people were in Egypt, because their family patriarch, Joseph had lived and died there. Yet, as it says, even Joseph knew that their family would not always be there. He trusted that God would bring them all home. That was God’s part of the covenant. The mission of his children and their families was to take Joseph’s body back with them and bury him in their homeland, the Promised Land.
In every promise of God, we find an opportunity for response.
Joseph used this powerful deathbed request to push his family to move beyond the comfort of where they were, to the place that God intended them to be. Remember, at this point in the story, the Hebrew people were powerful and respected in Egypt. They had no desire to go anywhere. His family was quite content to sit and dwell in their blessing, growing their families in Egypt.
So Genesis ends with a promise from God and a mission for God’s people.
The beginning of Exodus will tell us what they did with God’s promise and their mission.
What promises has God made you? What response or mission has He given you in connection with that Promise?