"For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ" (John 1:17). Was Moses ever acquainted with grace and truth? Did Jesus ignore the law? Did these two prophets — one the founder of Israel and mediator of the Old Covenant, the other the Son of God and Mediator of the New Covenant — have anything in common? Were they Jekyll and Hyde, or two of a kind? Were they opposites, or just alike? Contradictory or complementary? Let's get to know both Moses and Jesus better — the tale of these two prophets is fascinating!
Hard, strong, stern — does that describe Moses? Merciful, loving, longsuffering, meek, lowly, kind, forgiving, friendly — does that describe Jesus? Could both of these descriptions possibly fit and Jesus? both Moses Almost every Christian knows more about Jesus than he does about Moses. Let's become better acquainted with that man Moses. Let's look into the pages of Scripture and find out more about that prophet God used to begin the writing of His Holy Bible. Let's get to know that Moses who prophesied of Christ — that Moses who brought Israel from slavery to sovereignty (Acts 7:37 and Exodus 6:26, 27).
Behind the Scenes
Let's become personally familiar with the character and personality of that Moses who was "mighty in words and in deeds," according to Stephen, the first martyr of the Christian Church (Acts 7:22). Let's set aside all preconceived notions about that man Moses, and get to know him intimately. We can draw from history and tradition, but let's avoid bigotry at all costs. Let's go behind the scenes of plague and pestilence, behind the events of the parting of the Red Sea and the giving of the law, behind the stories of the building of the tabernacle in the wilderness and the establishment of the Levitical priesthood. Moses was a human being. He suffered frustrations from unfulfilled desires, misunderstandings of his motives by his fellow Israelites, self-doubts concerning his ability to perform the momentous tasks God required of him, family problems with his wife, sister, brother, in-laws and adopted parents. Let's get to know him better — he was really a pretty nice guy. Let's become Moses' friend — after all, God was! (Exodus 33:11.) Jesus descended from Judah. Moses came from Levi. Both were sons of Abraham. Jesus was a "babe in a manger." Moses was a babe in a boat. Moses was born a slave. Jesus was the single object of intense persecution by a king whom Satan inspired to exterminate Him while He was yet a child. Moses was adopted into Pharaoh's family and became a prince of Egypt. Jesus was the Prince of Peace. Moses was a general of the armies of Egypt. Jesus was Captain of the Host. Moses fled for his life into exile in Sinai, away from Egypt. Jesus was taken, to save His life, in exile into Egypt by His parents.
Years of Preparation
Moses' life spanned 120 years. Jesus' human life was only a little over thirty-three. Moses' life is easily divided into three distinctly different periods of forty years each. Eighty years passed before God called Moses to his most important remaining forty years. But Moses was greatly influenced by those eighty years of preparation. Let's look at them briefly. Whatever the arguments as to which is dominant in a man's life, two things shape the person: heredity and environment. Moses' great — grandfather was Levi, son of Jacob and Leah, and founder of one of the tribes of Israel. When Leah, Jacob's cousin on Abraham's side of the family, bore Levi she was very happy because he was her third son by Jacob. Leah was not Jacob's choice for a wife, but through deception by Laban, Jacob's uncle-come-father-in-law, she became his first legal wife. Jacob's choice was Rachel, Leah's sister. Therefore Jacob preferred Rachel and snubbed Leah. God saw Leah's problem and blessed her with the majority of Jacob's sons. At the birth of this third son, Leah felt things would be different: "Now this time will my husband be joined unto me, because I have born him three sons: therefore was his name called Levi" (Genesis 29:34). Levi, in Hebrew, means "joined." Although Leah's sentiment regarding her third son was personal, her choice of name for Levi later proved to be prophetic as well: the entire tribe of Levi "joined" the nation of Israel to God by fulfilling the offices of the Levitical priesthood! Beginning with Abraham, who married his half-sister, and continuing through Isaac, who took a cousin to wife, and Jacob, who also married a cousin, the custom of the family had been to maintain the genetic pool by intermarriage within the family. Many problems were created by this, but many strengths were also passed on. The record of the family shows wealth, education and brilliance. Until politically generated slavery in Egypt, via the first pogroms of history, thrust Abraham's descendants into a poverty so abject they didn't even own their own bodies, he and his offspring were wealthy beyond most modern concepts of riches. Educated in the finest institutions of learning in the centers of the civilization of their day as well as in the crucible of trade, commerce and animal husbandry, Abraham and his children were the cosmopolitan elite of their day. Contrary to popular opinion, the record seems to show that Abraham and his family brought culture to Egypt, rather than obtaining it there. As to brilliance: Abraham, blessed by God, managed to extricate himself from two politically tricky situations with the Pharaoh of Egypt and the king of Gerar — not only escaping the consequences of lying to them, but adding immensely to his already great riches in the process. Isaac maintained the family wealth and duplicated Abraham's political coup with a later king of Gerar. Jacob even outmaneuvered his own father and brother (with his mother's help), won both the birthright and the blessing from Isaac, outfoxed the very foxy Laban, his uncle, and established independent wealth for a family of twelve sons and a daughter! And of course we should also mention the brilliant success of Joseph, the half brother of Levi, in Egypt.
Faults and Talents
The purpose of all this is to show that despite the fact that Moses began as the son of a slave, he had inherent capacities in his bloodline which qualified him to be used to fulfill the unique commission God called him to accomplish. On the other hand, there were family characteristics many prefer to overlook in considering these holy men of the Bible. God doesn't leave them out, however. He tells the whole story and makes these giants much easier to understand by showing their entirely human faults as well as talents. The family had a streak of clever, scheming deviousness and used it to execute plots against each other as much as against the world around them. Strong, if not violent, tempers provided another common trait. Opinionated and of iron will, they were from time to time not even beyond arguing with God Himself — though the main thrust of their lives was one of faithful obedience. Another trait of Moses' heredity was a strong dominance among the women of the family. No second-class citizens, these women — they are only a bit overshadowed by even more dominant males in the family, by custom, tradition and the way God made things. Following the family tradition, Moses' father, Amram, married his own aunt, his father's sister — and together they produced Miriam, Aaron and Moses. All participated in the focus of this genealogy of strong traits. Living in more than difficult times, Amram and Jochebed, Moses' parents, gave birth to him in an impossible time for raising sons. By royal decree all boy babies were to be exterminated. The Egyptians feared a population explosion among their Hebrew slave class would endanger their national existence; hence infanticide by law! Using their national history of resourcefulness, and exercising faith, Moses' parents sent their as-yet-unnamed three-month-old son on a voyage down the river calculated to end at the feet of the frustrated, childless daughter of Pharaoh as she pursued her ritualistic ablutions in the waters of the Nile — god Egypt served. Clever Miriam spied on the event and reported all to mother Jochebed (both strong women). Even more clever, Jochebed managed to ingratiate herself with the royal daughter of Pharaoh and wrangle herself the position of wet nurse and governess for that blessed gift of the Nile, (named by this time) Moses! And in addition, she got paid! That fascinating interplay of human endeavor and God's intervention at times of crisis set Moses on a career unprecedented in history. Just as the innocent naming of Levi by Leah, drawing from the circumstances of his birth, was later prophetic, so was the naming of Moses by the daughter of Pharaoh. Viewing the child's miraculous appearance on the bosom of the god-Nile as an answer to her prayers, she dubbed him "Drawn Out" (Moses), because, she said, "I drew him out of the water" (Exodus 2:10). Later, as we all know, this Moses was to "draw out" the entire slave — nation of Israel, and in so doing destroy Egypt for generations.
First Forty Years
Paul tells us in Hebrews a peculiar thing about Moses: "Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible"! (Hebrews 11:26, 27.) This truth, inspired by the Holy Spirit, says Moses knew his heritage, his background, the promises and prophecies passed on from Abraham to Jacob to Levi to Amran, to Moses! The biblical record of Moses' first forty years covers just half a chapter, but the skeleton outline of events provides enough detail to flesh out most of the remainder from reason and tradition. Taught the truths Abraham received from God, Moses' first learning experience, his primary education, was received at the breast of Jochebed, the witty, clever, faithful mother-come-governess for the adopted, miraculous Gift of the Nile, the new Prince of Egypt! Built onto this basic foundation of truth was his royal education. Adopted into the very top social stratum of the greatest civilization of the day, nothing was spared to provide him with the very best available on earth in every facet of his life: history, perverted by political necessity of the time, as is the case of all history; mathematics from the accumulated intelligence of the unprecedented and, to this day, unduplicated excellence of pyramid builders; medicine from physicians performing delicate brain surgery unequaled until our present century; military tactics from the reservoir of the strongest army of the day; literature and the arts from one of the cradles of this most precious segment of life, in the human sphere of things; political science, engineering, horticulture, astronomy, the physical sciences, the social graces, government, law, protocol, jurisprudence... Forty years of the best education available on earth, including practical application — and, of course, all paid for from the royal treasury! And, most important of all, this entire process was God-guided. The Lord knew how He was going to use Moses all along. And, speaking of cleverness, wasn't God pretty clever, getting Satan and his deceived followers to provide a proper background for His boy Moses!?
Life Begins at Forty
Permeated with the truth of God taught him by his real mother, saturated with all the knowledge the royalty of Egypt could provide, Moses came to the first severe crisis point of his life. Seeking to destroy this spoiled gift of the gods, Moses' adopted siblings of actual Egyptian royalty must have precipitated his need to flee into exile when he slew that Egyptian in defense of his blood brethren. Well, they say life begins at forty! And for Moses, at least, a completely new life began at forty. Reared in the lap of luxury unimaginable, with unlimited funds to sustain his every need and whim, an unlimited supply of manpower always at his disposal to execute whatever project he might want to pursue; lauded, praised, honored and revered, protected, provided for and pampered — Moses now faced making his living with his own two hands! Fear-ridden and exhausted by his flight from Egypt, Moses met a Midianite mogul named Jethro-Reuel (which modest name, being interpreted, means "His Excellency, the Friend of God"). J.R. offered him a job as a shepherd for his flocks which wandered for sustenance all over the Sinai wilderness. Another forty years of Moses' continuing education lay before him: the rough life of a nomadic herdsman, forced to survive and thrive in the blast furnace of that impossible piece of geography — the Sinai Desert! What a comedown for the powerful Prince of Egypt. Penniless, wanted for murder by the most powerful nation on earth, son of a slave people, inexperienced in living by the sweat of his brow, Moses began a new life. Forty years and Moses had gone from rags to riches — and back to rags again! But don't feel too sorry for him — God was with him, and he knew it! He knew about Christ! He could picture in his mind's eye the fulfillment of promises made to Abraham about the first coming of Jesus that you and I can read about in the Gospels as recorded history. And beyond that, he could also picture the other promises of that second coming that hasn't happened yet: the Kingdom, the power and the glory of God on earth! Moses could see all that as if it had already happened. He was jealous in guarding in his heart and mind his own part in that Kingdom of God — and he well knew what kingdoms are all about. That knowledge, that faith, sustained him completely. Moses didn't miss a beat in picking up his new style of life in the desolate desert. He selected a rough, strong, hardwood stick and started herding sheep. It wasn't all bad news. J.R. had a supply of daughters that wouldn't quit — seven of them! He happily gave Zipporah, his eldest, to Moses for his wife, and promptly became a grandfather. Moses called his son "Stranger" (Gershom), because, he said, "I have been a stranger in a strange land" (Exodus 2:22).
Jesus' Enigmatic Statement
One thing we should understand thoroughly is that Moses was very personally acquainted with the One we call Jesus. The Jesus of the New Testament was the Lord of the Old Testament! Jesus frustrated the theologians of His day with this enigmatic commentary: "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad. Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham? Jesus said unto them,. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am"! (John 8:56-58.) Jesus the Word of God, who was God, and became flesh, always existed. He was the One who told us that no man had either seen or heard the Father. It was through Him that all things that are made in heaven and in earth were made. Jesus is the One who, in the prayer He made to His Father just before the crucifixion, asked that the glory He had formerly enjoyed with the Father be restored to Him, since He had completed the mission for which He came to earth. The doctrines of some would relegate Jesus to being a created being, having a beginning. Some think He is Michael the archangel. And of course some are of the opinion that He was just an outstanding human being of His day expounding social philosophies beyond the scope of His generation. And many deny Him altogether, even as a historical person, and feel He is the invention of whoever it was that started the Christian movement, an outstanding member of the mythical pantheon of Christendom. If we are to believe that John, Paul, Stephen, Peter, Luke, Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, etc., etc. were tellers of truth, then we must conclude that Jesus not only preexisted, but was indeed the God of the entire Bible, the Spokesman for the God family, the Word of the Lord, the Almighty God Elohim who spoke and there was light! This is not intended to be an establishment or defense of this truth — we have literature you can write for that does that — but merely an overview so you will understand the personal relationship the holy men of old had with the Son of God whom we worship. So when Jesus told the critics of His day, "Before Abraham was, I am," He was being neither grammatically nor factually incorrect. When Jesus trod this earth as the physical son of man, He was not only filled with compassion for the multitudes of His generation, but remembered intimately and with the depth of godly love all the spirits of just men made perfect in the many generations that had preceded His presence at Bethlehem. Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses were not just prophetically hoping about the coming of the Messiah in some future generation; they were direct recipients of personal promises from the One who became our Savior. They were not just empty, historical names Jesus had to learn about as a boy in Nazareth — to Him they were all old familiar friends to whom He had personally made eternal promises!
Old Familiar Friends
Besides the power of the Holy Spirit, the memories Jesus held of these men and women of the Bible who had all died in faith, believing in Him, must have sustained and inspired Him to fulfill His commission perfectly. Jesus anxiously looked forward to that day — yet to come — when He will call them from their graves to glory in His Kingdom. They may seem distant, almost unhuman characters to us, but to Jesus they were all old familiar friends, all of whom He loved enough to die for! And He did! Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever — Hebrews 13:8 — so Jesus, by any other name, is just the same! And He had MANY names! Moses knew Him — better then you know your closest friend — as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He knew Him as the Elohim-God who told Moses all the necessary details of those seven days of creation. Moses knew Him as El Shaddai-God Almighty — who sustained with His great power the forefathers of Moses. Moses knew Him as the God of the Covenants — YHVH, or Jehovah as some call Him — who made covenants with Adam, Noah and Abraham before He made His "Old Covenant" with Israel. Moses fore knew Him as Christ, his Savior, the Son of God — and he believed, and died in faith in Him! Jesus was no stranger to Moses — He was his Friend!
Moses the Octogenarian
After forty years of sheep tending on Sinai, being eighty years of age, Moses was at last ready to perform the commission for which he had been born. A commission that would take him yet another forty years to perform. The epic of the Exodus, the giving of the Law, the writing of the beginnings of the Bible, the establishment of the Levitical priesthood and the Tabernacle services in the wilderness — all this and so much more lay yet before Moses, the octogenarian. But Moses didn't volunteer for the job. In fact, he was quite adamant in refusing it. He so pursued his reluctance to serve in the capacity that means "Moses" to most of us that he argued with God to the point of making Him angry! Moses brought up every excuse to avoid the commission God had for him. He reasoned, he begged, he squirmed. he suggested alternates, he told God He'd picked the wrong man — all to no avail as we well know. But what a tale that is! Be sure to read it in the next issue of The Plain Truth. We all know Moses did the job — but the story of how it all happened will make you love that man Moses and that God Jesus so much more, you can't afford to miss it!
RECOMMENDED READING David Jon Hill has served in the ministry for twenty years. He holds a master's degree in theology and is Senior Editor of this magazine — The Plain Truth. He has also written several booklets. Among them are two specifically about the "Book that nobody knows" — the Holy Bible. The reader is invited to read "Read the Book" and "How To Study the Bible". Many thousands have benefited by the little-known information in these two publications: Come to know your Bible by reading these attractively printed booklets.