In the book of Exodus we read of God’s people, the Israelites, and the terrible slavery they are facing by the Egyptians: “…The Egyptians made the Israelites their slaves. They appointed brutal slave drivers over them, hoping to wear them down with crushing labor…they made their lives bitter” (Exodus 1.11a, 14a). God had made a promise to Abraham that he would build a family and that through them the nations would be blessed (Genesis 12). God would remain faithful to his promises. So when the Israelites cried out to God, he heard them: “But the Israelites continued to groan under their burden of slavery. They cried out for help, and their cry rose up to God. God heard their groaning, and he remembered his covenant promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He looked down on the people of Israel and knew it was time to act” (Exodus 2.23-25).
So what did God do next? He sent them Moses, a redeemer of sorts. The Jews were promised that God would give them a land and Moses was the one who was to deliver them from slavery and lead them to the promise. They were delivered from their slavery as they passed through the waters of the Red Sea.
The story of the exodus is really a picture of an even greater act of God, a greater exodus. Baptism isn’t just a meaningless ritual (see Romans 6), on the contrary, it is a ‘symbol’ packed with rich theological truth. When a Christian passes through the water of baptism they stand parallel to the Jews, who in Moses’ day, passed through the Red Sea and were delivered from their slavery. All of humanity faces a greater enemy, an enemy greater than the Egyptians or the Romans; the enemy of evil, sin, and death. Now Jesus, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit (think the cloud in the wilderness), is leading his people to the true land of promise, the new earth. Jesus delivers his people from the ugliest slavery of all.