What usually gets our attention is that God delivers us out of trouble. But God has a bigger destiny for his people than just getting us out of trouble. He brings us into relationship with himself. As part of his covenant with Israel, God said, “I will take you for myself for a people, and you will know that I am YHWH your God” (6:7). The covenant relationship meant that YHWH was their exclusive God and they were YHWH’s exclusive people.
The Hebrew expression translated “take for oneself” was often (though not exclusively) used in relation to taking for oneself or for one’s son a wife (e.g., Exod 6:20, 23, 25, in this context; Gen 11:29; 12:19; 21:21; 24:3-4; 38:6), with whom the husband would become one flesh, a new family unit (Gen 2:24). The term for “knowing” here was used for many things, but among them was marital intimacy, something later prophets deemed a fitting image of the covenant relationship with his people that God desired (Hos 2:20). Israel’s greatest privilege would be a special relationship with the living God.
They would know God specifically as the God who delivered them from their hardship in Egypt (Exod 6:7). We don’t know God just in an abstract way, but as the God we have met in our experience with him, especially in foundational acts he has performed. When the now-famous mathematician Blaise Pascal had a dramatic encounter with God, he described it this way: “FIRE! God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, and not of the philosophers and savants!”
Nothing against philosophers and savants, but if I had to choose between studying about God and meeting him in person like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, I would definitely go for the latter. They were most likely illiterate in terms of the writing of the time, which was mostly confined to scribes. If you’re reading this, you’re not illiterate, and since I typed this myself (I didn’t use voice recognition software), neither am I. We can study and have a personal experience with God. But again, if I had to choose, I would choose with Blaise Pascal. Nothing matches the experience of God.
The Israelites experienced God’s dramatic deliverance in the exodus. God’s self-revealing acts in history didn’t stop there. God has now revealed himself climactically in the cross and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, a specific, concrete act in redemptive history. We who entrust ourselves to Christ have his Spirit working in our hearts, enabling us to call God, “Father!”