Who would you regard as the most inspirational leader of the 20th Century? The person you would look to as a hero in your lifetime?
Mahatma Gandhi – Resisting Colonialism non-violently
Martin Luther King – Achieving civil rights for Blacks
Winston Churchill – Defeating Fascism in World War 2
Simon Weisenthal – A life time pursuing War Criminals
Nelson Mandela – Overcoming Apartheid in South Africa
And how about Tony Blair, Barak Obama or David Cameron? –
Apart from Jesus perhaps, who would be your hero in all of world history? Of all the Old Testament characters, Moses stands out as the greatest. He was a prophet, a politician, mediator, lawyer, historian and leader, all in one. Probably no name has ever stirred the heart of a nation as his has done. It is impossible to overrate the place of Moses in the Jewish nation. His Hebrew parentage; his forty years education in the Egyptian royal family, his forty years of solitude with God herding sheep in the wilderness. All these combined to prepare him to lead his people out of slavery in Egypt at the sprightly young age of 80 [Exodus 7:7]. Yes, 80 years old. And then what? The first 80 years equipped Moses to lead his people through the desert for the next 40 years before they entered the Promised Land.
And nowhere does the character of Moses shine out with greater dignity than in the Book of Deuteronomy. We see him at the end of a long life, still with unabated vigour, as God’s people are about to enter the Promised Land without him. Yet there is no trace of bitterness in his heart. Instead he rejoices that they will enter the land under the leadership of Joshua. The Lord’s final instructions to Moses come in Deuteronomy 32
“Go up … to Mount Nebo in Moab, across from Jericho, and view Canaan, the land I am giving the Israelites as their own possession. There on the mountain that you have climbed you will die and be gathered to your people, just as your brother Aaron died on Mount Hor and was gathered to his people.” [Deuteronomy 32:49-50]
But a greater honour awaited God’s faithful servant. Scripture records that Moses did subsequently visit the Promised Land. A day came when he stood with Elijah beside the Lord Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration, within the Land, and communed with his Lord on that greatest of all themes—
“They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfilment at Jerusalem. [Luke 9:27-31].
Our Sunday morning series is entitled ‘Christ in all the Scriptures’. First, in Genesis we considered the story of Abraham and Isaac, how the Lord provided a male lamb as a substitute for Isaac. This prefigured, in a wonderful way, how the Lord Jesus willingly became the sacrifice God provided in our place.
Then in Exodus we saw how God passed over his people on the night of judgement because they hid behind the blood of the lamb sprinkled on their lintels and door posts. We saw how Jesus became our Passover lamb when he died on the cross.
In Leviticus we learnt about the Day of Atonement. We saw how the High Priest became the mediator between God and his people.. How one goats was sacrificed for sin and one goat, the scapegoat carried their sins far away into the wilderness. We saw how the New Testament interprets this as a wonderful symbol of what the Lord Jesus accomplished as our mediator and scapegoat.
Then last week in Numbers 21 we considered the Bronze Snake which God instructed Moses to make so that anyone who looked at the snake would not die. Nowhere in the Hebrew Scriptures do we find a more striking type or symbol of the cross of Christ than in Numbers. Jesus confirmed the bronze snake to be a foreshadowing of His cross in a conversation with Nicodemus in John 3. Jesus identifies himself with the bronze snake Moses held high. In doing so, he predicted the manner and purpose of his death to save the world.
Today we come to the book of Deuteronomy. Where is Jesus Christ in Deuteronomy?
1. Jesus in Deuteronomy
This book is quoted, altogether, ninety times in the New Testament suggesting the early Church regarded it as very significant.
The Cities of Refuge (4:41 and 19:1-13), for example, remind us of Christ Jesus our refuge and hiding-place. When God’s people entered the Promised Land, the Lord designated six Cities of Refuge. If someone killed another person through ignorance or unintentionally, they could flee to for safety from retaliation. The image is suggested in Acts 3 where the Apostle Peter warns,
“You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead… Now, fellow Israelites, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders. But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Messiah would suffer.” [Acts 3:17-18]
The Jewish people have in one sense been fugitives ever since, unless and until, they recognise the one God sent to suffer in their place, to be their Hiding Place. In the next few verses, Peter quotes Moses to assure them God has indeed sent someone to rescue them.
“Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, … For Moses said, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you must listen to everything he tells you.” [Acts 3:19-22]
1.1 Jesus the Prophet
Peter is quoting from Deuteronomy 18 where God promises to send another Prophet like Moses.
|Moses the Prophet||Jesus the Prophet|
|“The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him. The LORD said to me: … I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites, and I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him.”
|“But do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set. If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?” (John 5:45-47]|
This is the most explicit reference to the Lord Jesus in Deuteronomy and the climax of the book. In what ways would Jesus like Moses? Moses was a type of Christ. The hand of God preserved his life as a baby, in his years of silent training, in his willingness to leave the palace of a king to deliver his people from bondage, in his meekness, in his faithfulness, in his work as a mediator between God and the people, in his communion with God face to face; in completing the work God has sent him to do, in all these he was a picture of the Son of Man who was to come.
Jesus the prophet.
1.2 Jesus the High Priest
A comparison may also be made between Jesus and Aaron.The Lord instructs Moses,
|Aaron the High Priest||Jesus the High Priest|
|“Have Aaron your brother brought to you from among the Israelites, along with his sons Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar, so they may serve me as priests.” [Exodus 28:1]||“For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God…” [Hebrews 2:17]|
Jesus the Prophet and Jesus the High Priest.
1.3 Jesus the King
|The Criteria for the King||Rejection of Jesus the King|
|“When you enter the land the LORD your God is giving you and have taken possession of it and settled in it, and you say, “Let us set a king over us like all the nations around us,” be sure to appoint over you a king the LORD your God chooses. He must be from among your fellow Israelites. Do not place a foreigner over you, one who is not an Israelite.” [Deuteronomy 17:14-15]||“Here is your king,” Pilate said to the Jews. But they shouted, “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!” “Shall I crucify your king?” Pilate asked. “We have no king but Caesar,” the chief priests answered.”
Jesus was Israel’s Prophet, Priest and King. That is why Peter insists,
“Anyone who does not listen to him will be completely cut off from their people.” [Acts 3:23].
Trusting in Jesus therefore becomes the sole criteria for membership of God’s people, not race, not keeping the Law, nor good deeds, nor circumcision nor any other religious practices. We have considered Jesus in Deuteronomy and how Moses is a type for Jesus. Let’s now develop this theme and see how Jesus understood his role in relation to Moses.
2. Jesus Associated with Moses
Like Moses, who spoke with God “face to face,” our Lord came from the presence of God. The irony is that when our Lord came to earth, claiming to be one with the Father, the Jews compared Him to Moses, and they found Him unacceptable. They first asked John the Baptist if he was “the Prophet,” and John said no:
“Now this was John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders sent to him priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” He confessed—he did not deny but confessed—”I am not the Christ.” So they asked him, “Then who are you? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” He answered, “No” [John 1:19-21].
Those whom Jesus first called to be disciples recognized him as the one Moses had promised:
“On the next day Jesus … found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” (Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the town of Andrew and Peter.) Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the law, and the prophets also wrote about—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph” [John 1:43-45].
After Jesus commenced His public ministry, it did not take some long to conclude that He was “the Prophet.” When He fed the 5,000, the crowd concluded that Jesus was indeed “the Prophet,”
“So when the people saw the miraculous sign that Jesus performed, they began to say to one another, “This is certainly the Prophet who is to come into the world.” Then Jesus, because he knew they were going to come and seize him by force to make him king, withdrew again up the mountainside alone [John 6:14-15].
Later on, when Jesus appeared in Jerusalem at the Feast of Tabernacles, some of the crowd began to say, ‘This is really the Prophet!’” (John 7:40). Others were not so sure (John 7:41-44).
Most of the Jewish religious leaders believed Jesus was an imposter. In part, this was because they failed to understand in what way “the Prophet” was to be “like Moses.” They expected “the Prophet” to agree with their interpretation of the Law, and He did not. Jesus had not come to reject the law as the Jews accused, but to fulfil it. The problem with the Pharisees was that they neither taught the law correctly, nor kept it. That is why they rejected Jesus despite his miracles and teaching. Jesus insisted that Moses testified of Him, and that it was Moses who would accuse them in the judgment:
“Do not suppose that I will accuse you before the Father. The one who accuses you is Moses, in whom you have placed your hope. If you believed Moses, you would believe me, because he wrote about me. But if you do not believe what Moses wrote, how will you believe my words?” [John 5:45-47]. The Pharisees repeatedly set Moses against Jesus (John 8:5).
“They heaped insults on him, saying, “You are his disciple! We are disciples of Moses! We know that God has spoken to Moses! We do not know where this man comes from!” [John 9:28-29].
Here is where the religious leaders went wrong. They expected Jesus to agree with their interpretation of the law of Moses. Because their interpretation was distorted, they constantly were in conflict with Jesus and Moses. But beyond this, the Jews failed to understand the significant ways in which Jesus was not “like Moses.” Jesus was vastly superior to Moses. We have seen Jesus in Deuteronomy and Jesus like Moses. Now lets conclude by seeing how Jesus was greater than Moses. This is the core of the message of the Book of Hebrews:
3. Jesus Greater than Moses
In the eyes of the Jews no one was as great as Moses. Moses was superior to all other men, for he had been used so greatly by God and had been so faithful to God. So the writer to Hebrews begins by comparing them, but insists we fix our eyes on Jesus not Moses.
3.1 Jesus Faithful Like Moses over God’s House
“Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest. He was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses was faithful in all God’s house.” [Hebrews 3:1-2]
The expression “fix your thoughts” (katanoeō) means to focus or concentrate your thoughts, your attention, your eyes upon Jesus Christ and learn from him. We can learn from Moses but we trust in Jesus, for he has come with the full authority and power of God. Jesus faithful like Moses over God’s House.
3.2 Moses the Servant in God’s House
“Jesus has been found worthy of greater honour than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honour than the house itself. For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything. “Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s house,” bearing witness to what would be spoken by God in the future. [Hebrews 3:3-5]
Moses pointed to Jesus. Moses teaching was not an end in itself. The Law exposed sin and the sacrifices temporarily covered sin. When people truly understood the message of Moses, they recognised Jesus to be the one Moses promised. All that we have learnt so far about the Lord Jesus from Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy was revealed first by God to Moses, so that he could help prepare people to recognise Jesus. Moses was a servant in God’s house.
3.3 Jesus the Son over God’s House
“But Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house. And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory.” [Hebrews 3:6]
And God’s House was not the Tabernacle or even the Temple. It was and is a building under construction, a building made of living stones in which Jesus is the cornerstone.
“As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house[a] to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” [1 Peter 2:4-5]
Jesus was faithful like Moses over God’s House.
Moses was the Servant in God’s House.
Jesus the Son over God’s House.
In his book “Improving Your Serve” Charles Swindoll tells a parable to describe the importance of what Christ has done:
“Think of yourself as living in an apartment house. You live there under a landlord who has made your life miserable. He charges you exorbitant rent. When you can’t pay, he loans you money at a fearful rate of interest, to get you even further into his debt. He barges into your apartment at all hours of the day and night, wrecks and dirties the place up, then charges you extra for not maintaining the premises. Your life is miserable. Then comes Someone who says, “I’ve taken over this apartment house. I’ve purchased it. You can live here as long as you like, free. The rent is paid up. I am going to be living here with you, in the manager’s apartment.” What a joy! You are saved! You are delivered out of the clutches of the old landlord! .
But what happens! You hardly have time to rejoice in your new-found freedom, when a knock comes at the door. And there he is – the old landlord! Mean, glowering, and demanding as ever. He has come for the rent, he says. What do you do! Do you pay him! Of course, you don’t! Do you go out and pop him on the nose! No-he’s bigger than you are! You confidently tell him, “You’ll have to take that up with the new Landlord.” He may bellow, threaten, wheedle, and cajole. You just quietly tell him, “Take it up with the new Landlord.” If he comes back a dozen times, with all sorts of threats and arguments, waving legal-looking documents in your face, you simply tell him yet once again, “Take it up with the new landlord.” In the end he has to. He knows it, too. He just hopes that he can bluff and threaten and deceive you into doubting that the new Landlord will really take care of things.
Now this is the situation of a Christian. Once Christ has delivered you from the power of sin and the devil, you can depend on it: that old landlord will soon come back knocking at your door. And what is your defence! How do you keep him from getting the whip hand over you again! You send him to the new Landlord. You send him to Jesus.” Fix your thoughts on Jesus. Or, as one song writer put it:
“Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
look full in His wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
in the light of His glory and grace.”
Sources used with thanks:
A.M. Hodgkin: Christ in all the Scriptures
Stephen Wright, “Better than Moses”
James Drake, “Jesus Christ is Superior to Moses”
Bob Deffinbaugh, “The Promise of the Ultimate Prophet”