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One of  my favorite verses in all of Scripture is Romans 8:23.

“And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.”

One day God will transform our lowly bodies. Paul calls this future day our “adoption as sons.” Have you ever noticed that there is a past Old Testament event that illumines what Paul is talking about in this verse? It actually sets this future aspect of our adoption firmly within the larger context of redemption’s story.

The word “redemption” is hint number one of the past event that illumines what is taking place here. Back in the first century, anyone familiar with the Bible’s story would have immediately thought “exodus” upon hearing the word “redemption.” Their minds would have recalled what God did to redeem Israel out of Egyptian bondage. This exodus was the redemptive event within Old Testament times.

In Romans 8:23, Paul’s telling us that there is a future exodus, and it has everything to do with the finalization of our adoption. It has everything to do with the glorification, the transformation of these bodies. That’s the first hint.

The second hint is found Romans 8:14-15. Let’s see if you can hear exodus-echoes from the text itself: “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” God leads his sons.

Verse 15, “For you did not receive the spirit of (notice this next word) bondage again to fear, but you received the spirit of adoption, whereby you cry ‘Abba, Father.’” Paul’s point in these two verses is that God leads his sons out of bondage. He leads his children out of slavery.

Think of how Israel’s exodus unfolded. God commands Moses to say to Pharaoh, “Israel is my firstborn son. Let my son go that he may serve me. That he may worship me” (Exodus 5:1). And then after ten plagues, God delivers Israel, His firstborn son, out of Egypt. What does God do next? He leads His sons out of slavery by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. God is the God who delivered Israel in order to lead them out of slavery into the freedom of worship.

Both of these hints tell us that the Old Testament event that is behind what Paul is talking about in Romans 8:23 is the exodus. The larger context behind this text is what God did to deliver Israel out of Egypt. There is a strong connection between what God did back then, and what God’s going to do in the future when he finalizes our adoption.

This connection tells us that what God did for Israel back then foreshadowed what God did in Jesus through his death and resurrection, and what He will do yet through Jesus in the future. God is the God who leads out of slavery. God is the God who leads out of bondage.

One day God will free His children, all of us, from our bondage to decay. When this happens, the created world “will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Romans 8:21). The created world will be renewed.

Have you ever thought about how the truth of Romans 8 should inform our understanding of James 1:27? The story of the Bible is the story of God visiting us in our affliction, like He visited Israel in its affliction (Exodus 4:31), in order to deliver us from it. If any group of people should be passionate about visiting orphans in their affliction in order to deliver them from it, it should be the children of God. There is no other group of people that should be more easily mobilized to care for orphans. Period.

This is one reason why the church needs to rehearse and rejoice in the story of redemption over and over again. It is our story and it is what will move us out in mission to visit orphans in their affliction.

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