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The God who makes himself known

By W. Ross Blackburn
February 2013 | Review by Stephen Ford


The Lord's commitment to make himself known throughout the nations is the missionary theme that spans the Bible, and is the central theological concern of the book of Exodus. Countering scholarly tendencies to fragment the text due to theological problems, Ross Blackburn contends that Exodus can be read as a unified whole, and that an appreciation of this missionary theme in its canonical context is of great help in dealing with difficult issues that the book poses. For example, how is Exodus 6:3 best understood? Is there a tension between law and gospel, or mercy and judgment? How should we understand the painstaking detail of the tabernacle chapters? From a careful examination of Exodus, Blackburn demonstrates that: * the Lord humbles Pharaoh so that the world would know that only God can save; * the Lord gives Israel the law so that she might display his goodness to the world, and live in a state of order and blessing; * the Lord deals with Israel's idolatry severely, yet mercifully, for his goodness cannot be known if his glory is compromised. In the end, Exodus not only sheds important light on the church's mission, but also reveals what kind of God the Lord is, one who pursues his glory and our good, ultimately realizing both as he makes himself known in Christ Jesus.

  • Publisher: IVP
  • ISBN: 978-1-84474-573-9
  • Pages: 240
  • Price: 12.99
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Book Review

In this book, Dr Blackburn argues that the main theme of Exodus is God’s missionary purpose in the world. It is impossible to know God without his self-revelation in the Bible. In Exodus he shows his character, power and dependability to Israel, and also, through their experiences, to the surrounding nations.
    The evidence is compelling, leading to several of those ‘Dr Watson’ moments: ‘It’s so obvious, why didn’t I see that before?’!
    This is not a verse-by-verse commentary. It focuses on six main sections: deliverance from Egypt; protection in the wilderness; the relationship between the gospel and the law (in that order); instructions about the tabernacle; the golden calf incident; and finally, the construction of the tabernacle.
    Pharaoh had to discover that God can outstrip the greatest human power and is prepared to do so for the preservation of his chosen people. The chosen people had to learn that their deliverance from slavery was in order to be the servants of God, who had chosen and rescued them.
    They were to be his representatives on earth, co-operating with his expressed purpose given originally to Abraham, that ‘in you shall all the families of the earth be blessed’.
    God’s miracle-working favour towards Israel ought to have led them to trust him unreservedly, proving God’s faithfulness and encouraging other nations to turn to him in faith. This is the Old Testament equivalent of ‘let your light so shine before men’.
    Dr Blackburn is an evangelical and in the book spends time combating modern interpreters who dismiss the integrity of the Bible text. There is certainly a place for this, but I felt it was something of a distraction from the important missionary message, which is powerful enough to stand on its own feet. Some general readers may find this aspect tedious. However the book is good. It will repay careful study and pastors may feel a new impetus to preach from Exodus.
Stephen Ford

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