What We Believe
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Exodus Old and New: A Biblical Theology of Redemption, by L. Michael Morales. InterVarsity Academic, 2020, 207 pages, $22.00, paper.

Michael Morales has done it again: he has written a thought-provoking, stimulating, and well researched book on biblical theology. The work has made a fine contribution to the growing number of books on the exodus theme in Scripture. It is well written and very accessible, but not at the expense of intellectual rigor. In short, the reader will grow in their appreciation of this important theme in Scripture and be better equipped to see the broad rubric that this theme provides for analyzing the atoning work of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Morales shows great sensitivity to philological and literary structural details throughout. Moreover, the publisher (IVP) and editors are to be commended for producing a handsome but inexpensive volume, one in which there are no typographical errors as far as I could discern.

The book has three major sections: the historical exodus out of Egypt, the prophesied second exodus, and the new exodus of Jesus the Messiah. Most of the chapters occur in the first section where Morales focuses on the plight of humans as “exiled” from the garden before the actual historical exodus. He also develops the important theme that the deepest longing of humans is for relationship with their Creator. This becomes an important leitmotif for Morales. For Morales, the atonement becomes the central focal point of the Pentateuch, and consequently, the rest of Scripture. The so-called “recognition formula” (i.e., then they will know that I am the Lord) is pervasive in Exodus (and Ezekiel) and Morales recognizes this and develops it. This formula becomes important then in the four chapters that occur in the second section with a focus on the second exodus in the Prophets and answering the particular and very important question of who the servant of the Lord is, especially in the book of Isaiah. Finally, the third section contains three chapters with a study of the exodus pattern in the Gospel of John followed by two summary chapters that draw matters together and address the significance of the pattern that has been traced throughout the rest of the book.

One way in which Morales distinguishes himself in this book (and others he has written) is engaging the so-called mythical motifs, especially the so-called combat motif which is a subplot of the divine warrior motif in Scripture. In this, God is presented as a king who conquers the tumultuous waters, or sea dragon of chaos, and proceeds after gaining victory in this cosmological battle to build his kingdom. Morales does not fall into the anti-historical mentality that so many commentators do when they are dealing with the influence of these themes upon the Scripture.

Chapter five deals with the important theme of the Passover. Of course, this theme could not be neglected in a book dealing with exodus patterns. Indeed, Morales picks up this matter later in the book in the chapter devoted to the Gospel of John. Again, substitutionary atonement moves into the foreground as Morales covers this important theme. There, Morales claims that Jesus instituted “the Eucharist as the Passover meal of the new exodus” (160). Morales makes the significant point that “John’s Gospel [is] where one finds the deepest meditation on the new exodus” in Passover, and that “Jesus the Son of God is the true Passover Lamb” (160). My wish here is that Morales had emphasized discontinuity between the New Covenant institution of the Lord’s Supper vis-à-vis Passover: The Lord’s Supper is not to be identified with the Passover of the Old Covenant and its regulations. The celebration of the Passover by our Lord and his disciples provided the occasion for the institution of the New Covenant perpetual ordinance, but it is not to be identified with it. Afterall, Jesus fulfilled the entire sacrificial system in addition to the Passover. This point needs to be made and bears repeating considering the continued assumption by so many Christians that the Lord’s Supper is merely a New Covenant practice of Passover; however, this is not so. Moreover, the practice of paedocommunionists (which is against our confessional standards) continues in some Reformed and evangelical churches.[1]

Chapter six of Morales’s book emphasizes Moses as the servant of Yahweh. This is a helpful chapter that can strengthen our appreciation of Moses as a unique prophetic figure in the Old Testament economy (cf., Hebrews 4), who was a servant over God’s Old Testament economy. One can grow in their interpretation of Moses as type of the Messiah to come. Nevertheless, it is here that this reviewer wanted Morales to be perfectly clear about the role of Moses as mediator as a type of Christ. Moses is a mediator in so far as he is a type of Christ. Ursinus, who is acknowledged far and wide as the best commentator on the Heidelberg Commentary, notes in his own day that some say that Moses was the Mediator of the Old Covenant.  However, in the opinion of Ursinus, and this reviewer’s as well, the better opinion is that Moses “was Mediator only as a type of Christ, who was even then already Mediator, but is now the only Mediator without any type; for Christ having come in the flesh, is no longer covered with types.”[2]

In Part 2 of the book, Morales begins to treat the second exodus theme that is so pervasive throughout the Protestant canon of Scripture. Overall, Morales demonstrates that he is up to date on the scholarship and thoughtful in his reflections. The focus here should be his treatment of the Mosaic covenant. First, it is helpful when discussing this difficult and complex subject to distinguish between the Mosaic covenant and the Mosaic administration. Confessional scholars, who adhere to the Westminster Confession of Faith (hence WCF, 7:5–6), should, without equivocation, affirm that the Mosaic Covenant is part of the administration of the unfolding Covenant of Grace throughout redemptive history. Nevertheless, Morales identifies Mosaic covenant as a “gracious covenant” (120, 130) and one that was intended to bring the Gentiles out of their estranged relationship with God (this side of being exiled out of the garden) and back into fellowship with their God. But it bears repeating that the Mosaic Covenant was made with one nation only: Israel. Noticeably absent was any discussion of a typological works principle embedded during the Mosaic administration. Furthermore, although the covenant of grace is continuous throughout redemptive history, and although the covenant initiated at Sinai—in its substance—is part of the administration of the covenant of grace; nevertheless, the Mosaic Covenant and Mosaic “economy” need to be distinguished. Afterall, the same WCF, for example, uses the term law to refer to the Sinai covenant-administration by way of synecdoche (in which the part is taken for the whole).[3] The Mosaic Covenant could not accomplish the promises of the Abrahamic Covenant. But a Messiah who would perfectly fulfill the works principle embedded in the Mosaic Covenant could and did. Therefore, we see that the Westminster divines did not shirk from recognizing the forensic foundation of the covenant of grace. There is a conspicuous absence of Scriptural texts in this book that refer to the Mosaic Covenant as a “ministry of death” (cf., 2 Cor. 3:10). Although it would be an error to magnify this Pauline point to the exclusion of others, this important emphasis cannot go unregistered.

The best chapters of Part 2, in my opinion, were ten and eleven where Morales does a very able and eloquent job. There is much grist for the mill here on how to preach and teach these important chapters. Part 3 shifts to the New Testament. A creative and stimulating discussion of the exodus motif in the Gospel of John occurs in chapter twelve. The final two chapters tie everything together, and Morales really brings it to bear upon the reader. Indeed, the edifying, almost evangelistic tone in the end of the book reinforces that this sadly neglected theme—the exodus motif—is the warp and woof of salvation grammar throughout Scripture.

The last point that needs to be made is that this reviewer wishes that Morales had taken pains to distinguish between “pattern,” “motif,” and “theme” throughout the book. They are not the same, but they are often used almost synonymously throughout the book. That would have strengthened Morales’s overall excellent presentation. Aside from the criticisms mentioned above, the book deserves careful attention and a wide reading because Morales has ably discussed a complex and very important motif in our Bible.

Endnotes

[1] See Bryan Estelle, “Passover and the Lord’s Supper: Continuity or Discontinuity?” in Children and the Lord’s Supper, edited by Guy Waters and Ligon Duncan (Fearn, Ross-shire, Scotland: Christian Focus, 2011).

[2] The Commentary of Dr. Zacharias Ursinus on the Heidelberg Catechism (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R), 99.

[3] See WCF 25.2, 7:5–6, and WSC 27.

Bryan Estelle is a minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and serves as professor of Old Testament at Westminster Seminary California in Escondido, California. Ordained Servant Online, December 2021.

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Ordained Servant: December 2021

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