"In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed. In your strength you will guide them into your holy dwelling" (Exodus 15.13, RSV).
Contrary to a popular, and persistent, myth God's grace was not a new revelation in the New Testament. Israel looked upon the Exodus from slavery in Egypt in the same way Christians do the Cross of Calvary. The comparison of Exodus and Cross shows jus how crucial deliverance from bondage is to biblical faith. In the text quoted above from Exodus 15 notice that it is God's "unfailing love" that leads and redeems Israel. The Hebrew word lying behind "steadfast love" is hesed which is a difficult word to translate into English. It is a powerful word that perhaps means what we understand as grace and unending love compounded together ... and much more.
It is absolutely alien to the Hebrew Bible that Israel somehow earned or deserved to be God's People. According to the First Testament, the Exodus was an act of utter grace on Yahweh's part. Moses wrote in Deuteronomy that God "did not set his affection" on Israel because they were powerful, numerous "for you were the fewest of all peoples." No it was not because Israel was the prize of the Ancient Near East rather they were nomadic nobodies! Moses likewise obliterates any notion of Israel's self-righteousness. The Prophet says it was simply that God "loved you and kept his oath he swore to your forefathers that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you" (Deuteronomy 7.7-9).
The Exodus is often undervalued by Christians but it was the greatest act of God's grace (after Creation) and was not surpassed until the incarnation of the Word. Some even call the Exodus the "Old Testament Gospel." This is not far from the mark in my view. Israel knew beyond a doubt that she existed solely because of Yahweh's love and grace. If we read the Hebrew Bible carefully we will notice dozens of references to the Exodus in the narratives, the Prophets and the Psalms (see Joshua 24; Psalms 106-107; 114; 136, etc).
God's grace to Israel is the foundation of his grace to you and me. Our relationship with God is based upon grace, not law, just as it was in the Hebrew Bible. God redeemed Israel through the Exodus and then invited them into a covenant of love with him at Sinai. This progression is essential for understanding biblical faith in either Testament. God redeems us through the blood shed at Golgotha and then invites us to covenant with him. In both cases God's grace is prior to and establishes ground for our human response. God acts; we respond. Exodus comes before Sinai; Calvary comes before Pentecost; Grace comes before faith; It always has and it always will.
Rejoice over God's grace.