Echoes of Exodus: Tracing Themes of Redemption Through Scripture by Alastair J. Roberts & Andrew Wilson
Like a music lover hearing an orchestra for the first time, this book ignited my love and passion for the story of redemption in the Old Testament. Alister J. Roberts and Andrew Wilson realize that a picture paints one-thousand words when they say, “We hope to convince you that Scripture contains all sorts of connections, riffs, and themes that you may not have noticed, but we hope to do this by showing rather than by telling.” Though I already believed the story of redemption is woven through the entire scriptures, their unique method of show-and-tell brought the story to life in a new way.
Echoes of Exodus: Tracing Themes of Redemption Through Scripture is perhaps one of the best non-fiction books I’ve read lately. Its relatively short and concise chapters help move through its content with a quick and encouraging pace. I often forget how tiring reading theology can be despite the fascinating content. It takes a good writer to care for their reader well enough that they don’t burden you with an esoteric, inaccessible vocabulary or unnecessary words. Roberts and Wilson are an excellent example of caring for their reader. Though it is accessible and concise, it is not condescending or, worse, watered-down. They wrote this book for exactly the person I’d recommend this to—the person in the pew. They hit their mark in a few ways. First, by keeping the chapters succinct in scope and focused in content. Secondly, but capping off each chapter with good review and thought questions. And lastly, by tracing the themes through the sections of our bible chronologically.
Their first chapter sets the stage for the remainder of the work: “Scripture is music.” The themes, characters, circumstances, and so forth, are all orchestrated by God and are woven together in masterful and grand set of harmonies which compose the story of redemption we find in scripture. The consistent use of the “music” metaphor throughout the book implicitly does some heavy lifting for them. Certainty everyone on the planet is familiar with music. It transcends across cultures, nations, and the ages to speak to something both about the character of humans and the character of the grand conductor. Thus, I think this metaphorical language is extremely beneficial to explain how the bible looks at itself. They reveal that the exodus is not only the key redemptive event of the Old Testament, but the key event which is repeated and rehearsed as it alludes to a greater and fuller redemption found in Christ. Remarking on their chosen use of metaphor they write, “A musical approach to Scripture encompasses a number of aspects, each of which can help us see Scripture in a fresh light.”
To that end, the book is formatted in a way which reflects a larger piece of music. The introduction is called “The Overture” and the subsequent sections are labeled “movements,” like a symphony with four major sections. Those movements are divided as follows:
First Movement: Out of the House of Slaves
This movement walks through the exodus itself, but begins before the exodus. Roberts and Wilson underscore an important revelation: Moses had experienced two exoduses himself. This is something I had never considered. The first is observed in an echo of Eden, where:
the serpent-like king is tricksy, and he attacks the women, with a view to destroying their male descendants. Yet in contrast to the garden story, the women outmaneuver him. First the midwives, then Moses’s mother, and finally his older sister, Miriam, use their wisdom to beat the serpent at his own game, and preserve the seed of the woman.
The second story is when Moses meets with God on Mount Horeb, the same place Moses would later meet with God again to receive the Decalogue after the exodus. In both instances, Roberts and Wilson note, “both involve an invitation to approach mingled with a warning not to come too close, both are accompanied by fire, both cause people to hide their faces, both are accompanied by miraculous signs, both summon Moses and Israel to respond in obedience, and both take place on the same mountain.” This kind of imagery brought to the reader’s attention are just a sampling of the rest of the book.
Second Movement: The Exodus in Genesis
In the Second Movement, upon the foundation of the actual exodus, Roberts and Wilson closely investigate Genesis 6. The focus centers on the foreshadowing and anticipation of another exodus, a redemptive event to rectify the circumstances to which they were enslaved.
Third Movement: The Re-echoing of Exodus
Probably my favorite section of the book, this re-echoing comes on the heels of Joshua, and in the time of the Ruth, and ends with Ezra and Nehemiah. Thus, the entire Old Testament history after the exodus rests in this movement.
Fourth Movement: The Great Deliverance
Lastly, the exodus themes are retraced to the climax of divine redemption for humanity—Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. Lest we think this is the conclusion of the symphony, we walk further into the Recapitulation (the return and resolution of the original theme) through themes resonated in Acts, Romans and finally in Revelation.
A final attachment is made, labeled The Coda, where the themes of the exodus are applied to some practices in the church. This was the only area of the book which needed expansion. Nothing they suggested was wrong, per se, it just wasn’t enough. They covered how the major themes of redemption apply to our celebration of the sacraments, our weekly worship, and finally, as a reminder that we live our lives in a kind of daily wilderness. We are trusting in God for provision, subverting idols, and unbelief. It is ultimately the reader’s responsibility to wrestle with how each respective section applies to their lives.
Pedagogically, this is a feature that more books would benefit from. Some attempts to include discussion questions as a last-minute amendment to the book to boost its marketability often end up falling short. This was not one that skimped on quality or lacked thought in their composition. I found a good mix of review questions which helped for reflection and memory retention as well as pointed questions which were more concrete, going beyond the abstract. Because they have done the work for the reader of developing good questions, I can see this book being used well in small-groups, Sunday School, and even in a classroom setting.
Though it may have been a secondary or peripheral intent, I could not help but think the Westminster Confession of Faith’s statement on the harmony of scripture in Chapter 1:
We may be moved and induced by the testimony of the Church to a high and reverent esteem of the Holy Scripture. And the heavenliness of the matter, the efficacy of the doctrine, the majesty of the style, the consent of all the parts, the scope of the whole (which is, to give all glory to God), the full discovery it makes of the only way of man's salvation, the many other incomparable excellencies, and the entire perfection thereof, are arguments whereby it does abundantly evidence itself to be the Word of God: yet notwithstanding, our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts.
When exposed to the imagery and repeated themes of the exodus throughout the bible, one cannot help but have their heart strengthened by the truth of God’s Word. When it comes to Robert’s and Wilson’s treatment of this subject, I cannot think of a better on-ramp to introduce others to the beauty and harmony of scripture than this book.
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I agreed to review this book in exchange for a free copy from Crossway.