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Posts Tagged ‘Old Testament’

It’s popular to speak of Genesis 12 as the interpretive crux of the Hebrew Scriptures.  God’s blessings pronounced on the seed of Abraham are said to be the centre-piece of Old Testament  hope.  Wherever you are in the Law or Prophets you can, supposedly, bring it back to Genesis 12… and then move it on to its (eventual and, humanly unforeseen) fulfilment in Jesus.

Mostly, when I hear someone assert Genesis 12 as the centre, I shrug my shoulders and think “Odd choice, but each to their own.”  But more and more I’m thinking it’s a problem.

Firstly, you have to ask the question Why?  Why Genesis 12?

The answer comes back: Because Paul points to it in Galatians 3:6-8.  Well, maybe.  Or maybe he’s pointing to Genesis 18, or maybe to Genesis 22.  (He certainly references Genesis 15, which would be a wonderful focus for a bible overview.)  But even if we were certain that Paul was referencing Genesis 12 – why are we privileging Galatians 3:8?  Especially when that same chapter is so clear on the Christocentricity of this promise to Abraham.  As verse 16 declares – the Seed which is promised is not plural, it’s singular.  It’s Christ.  For Paul, Christ is not the surprising fulfilment of Israel’s more general hopes.  He is the source and substance of them from the beginning.

Yet, for those who make Genesis 12 their crux interpretum, that’s not generally the argument.  First they concern themselves with the seed plural (Israel) then the Seed singular (Christ).   So even as they claim apostolic warrant for this focus, they go about it in an unPauline way.

On the other hand, listen to Luther on Galatians 3:6-8:

All the promises of God lead back to the first promise concerning Christ of Genesis 3:15.  The faith of the fathers in the Old Testament era, and our faith in the New Testament are one and the same faith in Christ Jesus…  The faith of the fathers was directed at Christ…  Time does not change the object of true faith, or the Holy Spirit.  There has always been and always will be one mind, one impression, one faith concerning Christ among true believers whether they live in times past, now, or in times to come.

To understand the nature of God’s promises concerning the Seed, of course we should go back to Genesis 3:15.  That seemed obvious to Luther.  And it has seemed obvious to many other Christians too!

But I can’t help thinking that a preference for Genesis 12 over Genesis 3 represents a desire to be Israelo-centric before we are Christo-centric.  In short, it disregards what Paul actually says in Galatians 3, i.e. that the Seed is singular.

The second problem with a focus on Genesis 12 is this: It’s almost always set forth as part of a framework where Christ Himself is not the source and centre.  He’s only the climax.  That which binds the Scriptures together becomes “blessings” and “land” and “people” and “rule”.  Certainly, on this understanding, Christ is important – crucially important – as the Fulfilment of these realities.  But the foundations of faith have been laid.  Christ comes later and works within an existing arrangement.

In all this, the unifying principle of the bible (and it is a principle) is progress towards Christ.  Not Christ Himself.  Progress towards Christ.  The difference is hugely significant.

When a new believer is introduced to a principle of biblical unity there’s usually a grateful shout of joy.  “Ah I see!” they exclaim, “these 39 books really do belong with the other 27.  They all tell the one story of God’s rule and land and people and blessings.  Wonderful!  Oh, and Jesus fits that pattern too.  Hurray!”

Their sense of excitement may last weeks.  But probably not much longer.  When anyone learns a system there is a sense of cognitive wonder.  Previously unexplained data now fits.  Good.  But a system cannot sustain joy.

On the other hand…

I still remember finally surrendering to the inevitable on Genesis 3.  Of course the LORD who walks in the garden is Christ.  I’d fought it for months, but no – it’s obvious.  He is the One against Whom we have sinned.  Of course the sin that condemns is rejection of Christ – that was the original sin.  And He is the One who pursues us – the Hound of Heaven from the beginning.

I still remember the goosebumps of meeting Christ in Genesis 15 – the divine Word of the LORD in Whom Abram exercises justifying faith. Of course this is Paul’s example of saving faith.  Of course Abraham is our father in the faith.  Surely Paul could only say that if Abraham trusted the same Person!

I still remember crying – and still cry today – to see how clearly the death of Christ was proclaimed in Genesis 22.  They even knew the mountain on which the true Son – the Atoning Lamb – would be killed.  For centuries they were saying “On the mountain of the LORD, God will provide Himself the Lamb!”

That’s not just cognitive rest.  That’s meeting Jesus in the Scriptures.

There’s a world of difference between mastering a system and meeting the Son.  I fear that privileging Genesis 12 centres us on the system and not the Son.

My third reason for questioning an emphasis on Genesis 12 is this: It skews our hermeneutics towards a theology of glory.

If it’s all about God’s rule and people and land and blessings, then Christ comes to uphold God’s rule, to be an obedient Covenant Partner, to be the Firstfruits of the new creation and to share the blessings He’s enjoyed from eternity past.  All of those things are true and good.  But… where’s the cross?

You can work it in for sure.  But it probably won’t come naturally to a person raised on the system we’re discussing.  Instead, the rule of God will be the dominating theme.  Sin will be understood primarily as rebellion against this rule.  And Christ’s coming will be to establish again the rule of God.  His dying will certainly be explained – and explained as vital.  But it’s vital in order to clear a path for rebels to submit again to God’s rule.

As the cross is explained, there’ll be phrases like “Jesus died so that all those who turn, put their full trust in Him and submit their whole lives to His rule, will be spared the judgement that otherwise belongs to them.”  The cross serves a pre-determined understanding of God’s rule.  It doesn’t radically shape that understanding.  The wonder of the Lord reigning from the tree is not allowed to blow our minds as it ought.  Instead Jesus dies so that, later, He can reign.

But what if a verse like Genesis 3:15 was preferred as a crux interpretum?  Here we begin with the crushed Crusher, the struck Striker.  Here we have the One who would join wicked sinners like us to defeat an enemy we’d brought on ourselves.  Here we have One who loves us to incarnation, death and resurrection.

With this promise in view we can make perfect sense of Jesus’ and the Apostles’ interpretations of the Scriptures:

Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.  (Luke 24:46-47)

I am saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass: that the Christ must suffer and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles. (Acts 26:22-23)

Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories.  (1 Peter 1:10-11)

Jesus, Paul and Peter thought it was perfectly obvious that the Old Testament was about the sufferings and glories of Christ.  I’ve noticed that those who highlight Genesis 12 are also those who struggle to see this reality.  I’ve heard many who simply deny that OT believers could have anticipated a suffering Christ.  But the inadequacy is not in the OT believers – it’s in a system which effectively makes every Hebrew saint a theologian of glory.

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Genesis 12 is, without doubt, a vital passage in the Hebrew Scriptures.  Abraham clearly has an exalted place in the history of salvation.  But just make sure you’re not privileging Israel over Christ, a system over the Son and glory over the cross.

Let the crux be the Crux.

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I’m preaching on Ecclesiastes on Sunday so I’ve been listening to some other preachers.  They pretty much all preach Ecclesiastes as the futility of atheism.  And of course when you preach it like that, what’s the solution?  Good old theism.  Yay theism.

And one or two preachers have even suggested that Christian theism gives the most amount of meaning.  So yay Jesus too.  (Although the last preacher I listened to — BIG NAME —  was way too excited about theism to get around to that Jesus nuance.)

Anyway, just thought I’d state something that’s pretty darned obvious but it seems like it needs saying.  The Teacher aint no atheist.  He’s a hard-core theist.  Check it:

Ecclesiastes 1:13; 2:24-26; 3:10-22; 5:1-7, 18-20; 6:1-2; 7:13-14; 18,20; 8:2, 11-17; 9:1,9; 11:5,9; 12:1-14;

Here’s just a sample of what he says:

God has set eternity in the hearts of men…. He’s done it so that men will revere him… Stand in awe of God… God made mankind upright but men have gone in search of many schemes… I know that it will go better with God-fearing men who are reverent before God… God will bring you to judgement… Remember your Creator… Fear God and keep his commandments.

He’s a theist right?  A pretty ardent one.

But what do you expect from a son of David, a king of Jerusalem? (Ecclesiastes 1:1)  Here is a christ – an anointed king.  But, here’s the thing, he’s not the King of Heaven.  He’s a king under heaven (notice how ‘under heaven’ and ‘under the sun’ are parallel 1:3; 3:1).  He’s not the One full of the Spirit without measure, instead he seeks to shepherd the Spirit (or chase the wind, e.g. 1:14) while he must receive his teachings from the true Shepherd (12:11).

The teacher is self-consciously not the Messiah (he’s a very naughty boy!).  He’s not the Christ with a capital C certainly. But he is a christ with a small c.  And so he embarks on a sustained meditation of life in which the king is subject to all the forces that we are.  This christ is also under the sun and therefore under the powers that enslave mankind and even nature itself.  This king, for all his wealth and power and wisdom cannot pierce through the shroud of sin, law, judgement and death.   And so what hope is there?  None!  Not with this king.  Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die.  And then we are judged – by the God is who is ever-present in Ecclesiastes.  But ever-present as Judge.  And who knows how we will fare under His judgement.

That’s life under the sun.  Here’s what we can expect if the Teacher is our christ.

But if that’s the problem, what’s the solution?  The glories of theism?  The truth that God knows us and has a wonderful plan for our lives?  The thought that my actions have eternal significance?  The Teacher knows all these things and declares them utterly meaningless.  Our only hope is Christ.  The true Christ.  The Christ from Heaven.  The Christ who conquers sin and law and judgement and death and bursts through into resurrection hope.  That’s the answer to Ecclesiastes’ meaninglessness.

Any other solution is vanity of vanities.

 

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I’ve been asked to give some talks to teenagers on Christ’s “mission impossible” – that’s the name of the camp they’re on.  They suggested I do it from the OT.

I thought at some point in each talk I’ll address a sneaking suspicion that Christians have deep down that eats away at our faith.  So, something like:

Jesus and Adam (Genesis 3) – “Jesus can’t be that important.”

Christ is the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and End, the world’s only hope.

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Jesus and Abraham (Genesis 22) – “The bible’s weird and sometimes shocking.”

The bible is not a rule-book, but with Christ at the centre it makes sense.

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Jesus and Moses (Exodus 3) – “I can’t believe in God in a suffering world.”

The LORD meets us in suffering to lead us out.

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Jesus and David (1 Samuel 17) – “I’m too weak for Jesus.”

The gospel is not, do it for Jesus, it’s: Jesus did it for you.

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Jesus and Isaiah (Isaiah 53) – “I’m too sinful for Jesus.”

Jesus’ mission is for sinners – He’s for you!

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Anyone have any ideas for good youth-friendly video clips or jazzy stuff.  I’m not the youthiest, jazziest speaker ever!

 

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Following on from last Thursday’s post – Psalms are about Christ.   They tell of the interaction between the LORD, the King through Whom He rules, the righteous who hide in Him and the wicked who rebel.

These interactions are pictured from many angles.  But one key perspective is for the King Himself to speak.  This most often happens in the Psalms ‘Of David’.

Of course all the kings reigned under the knowledge that they were simply throne-warmers for the King to Whom universal tribute was due. (Gen 49:10)  But David was the most idealized of these kings.  The Messiah is often spoken of simply as David.  (e.g. Ezekiel 34:23f; 37:25).  And David himself is aware of his idealized role.  Just before his death he said: “The Spirit of the LORD spoke through me; His word was on my tongue.” (2 Sam 23:2)  He didn’t speak better than he knew, but he certainly spoke better than he lived. In the Psalms the king most often spoke as The King.  The anointed one spoke most often as The Anointed One.

Peter confirms this for us in Acts 2.  Even when David spoke in the first person he was speaking the words of Christ (see Acts 2:25).  Quoting Psalm 16, Peter makes it clear that David was not describing his own experience. (Paul underlines this in Acts 13:36-37).  Rather, David “was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. Seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the resurrection of the Christ” (Acts 2:30-31).

Does this mean that such Psalms have no application to David?  No of course they do – but such application runs from Christ to David rather than David to Christ.  This is the nature of the whole of David’s life –  from shepherd boy to rejected ruler, to reigning king to his death, he is a shadow of the Coming King.

This is my understanding anyway.  Whether you take the Psalms from David to Christ or Christ to David, I hope we can all agree that the emotions and experiences of ‘The King’ are ultimately taken up and owned by Christ.

All of this is just a precursor to what I really want to discuss…  What do we do with the Psalmist’s intense desire for the LORD?

On one level that’s simple – copy it.  Be challenged by it.  Be inspired by it.  Seek it for yourself.

Well, yes, ok.  But here’s the question – what do I do when I don’t earnestly desire the LORD?  Because maybe once or twice in your life your white hot devotion to God has dipped below the zeal of the Psalmist.  What do you do then?

Here’s the first level of my response:  When I don’t desire God, first I need to see that Christ does.  And He does so for me.

What do I mean?

Well take a favourite Psalm of mine: Psalm 63

Here the Psalmist says:

1 O God, you are my God,
earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you,
my body longs for you,
in a dry and weary land
where there is no water.

2 I have seen you in the sanctuary
and beheld your power and your glory.

3 Because your love is better than life,
my lips will glorify you.

4 I will praise you as long as I live,
and in your name I will lift up my hands.

Now be honest, doesn’t some part of you go “Really?  Have I really beheld His power and glory?  Really?  Have I in the past and will I in the future praise Him so wholeheartedly?  Really?  As long as I live?  Am I perjuring myself here??”

But friend, read on to the final verse…

11 But the king will rejoice in God

These are the words of the king – the king on whose lips are the words of The King.  And He has beheld the power and glory of the LORD in the ultimate sanctuary.  He is the ultimate, white-hot Worshipper of God.  These words are not a guide to human worship so much as a window onto divine worship.

So what should be our response?

Sit back and be awed by The King’s desire for the LORD.  You don’t yet feel such intense passion.  Well alright.  In the deepest sense you never can match His devotion.  But let the King’s worship be enough for you.  Don’t despise his devotion like Michal (2 Sam 6:16).  Simply allow your King to offer what you cannot summon up yourself.  Know that He offers in your place a worship you could never initiate.  And if the Praise-Worthy does not elicit your praise, let the Praise-Giver show the way.  In ourselves we could never work up the right response.  In Christ we see what reckless and joyful abandon to God looks like.

He is like the first Dancer onto the floor, moved by the Music, laughing and clapping and dancing as we never could.  The more you watch Him dance, the more your foot starts to tap, then you start clapping.  Pretty soon you’ll link arms and join in.  The Music itself should get you on the dance floor.  But in fact the Music never does – not really.  It’s the Dancer who inspires, who links arms and who leads.

Read Psalm 63 again.  And add your own Amen.  For now that is enough.  If these words were simply the prayer diary of an ancient near eastern ruler, your Amen would mean nothing.  If these were just passionate words from an inspired and inspiring devotee they could only judge your apathy.  But they’re not.  This is the worship of The King.  Your King.   This is Christ your Substitute, your Priest, your Vicarious Worshipper.  He bears your name on His heart as He comes before the LORD in joyful abandon.  For now just allow Him to offer the praise you cannot find in yourself.  In time you’ll join the dance.

For more on Christ offering worship on our behalf, here’s a half hour talk I gave recently.

 

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From Professor Mike Heiser, Academic Editor of Logos Bible Software and author of website, The Two Powers:

For the orthodox Israelite, Yahweh was both sovereign and vice regent occupying both ‘slots’ as it were at the head of the divine council. The binitarian portrayal of Yahweh in the Hebrew Bible was motivated by this belief. The ancient Israelite knew two Yahwehs one invisible, a spirit, the other visible, often in human form.  The two Yahwehs at times appear together in the text, at times being distinguished, at other times not.

Early Judaism understood this portrayal and its rationale. There was no sense of a violation of monotheism since either figure was indeed Yahweh. There was no second distinct god running the affairs of the cosmos. During the Second Temple period, Jewish theologians and writers speculated on an identity for the second Yahweh. Guesses ranged from divinized humans from the stories of the Hebrew Bible to exalted angels. These speculations were not considered unorthodox. That acceptance changed when certain Jews, the early Christians, connected Jesus with this orthodox Jewish idea. This explains why these Jews, the first converts to following Jesus the Christ, could simultaneously worship the God of Israel and Jesus, and yet refuse to acknowledge any other god. Jesus was the incarnate second Yahweh. In response, as Segal’s work demonstrated, Judaism pronounced the two powers teaching a heresy sometime in the second century A.D.

Here’s his video on ‘The Two Powers’ in the Hebrew Bible

There’s quite a bit on my own blog about this:

The Angel of the LORD part 1

The Angel of the LORD part 2

The Angel of the LORD part 3

Trinitarian passages in the OT

Some multi-Personal passages in more depth – Genesis, Exodus, Isaiah

But Professor Heiser says it a lot better and with a lot more learning behind him.

His website on The Divine Council is also fascinating.

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This guy really rocks!

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Before this sermon I wasn’t entirely sure about that Paul Blackham fellow.

And then on Christmas Eve 2000, everything changed…

I’m hoping the picture quality will improve over the next 12 hours (it did with my previous uploads).

Download Paul’s original sermon here

And here’s an older sermon jam I did of Paul’s Philippians 3…

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This is Calvin’s preface to the French Bible.  He wrote it a year after his conversion!  It’s full of some wonderful things but I’ll just quote him on the promises and then the patterns of Christ in the OT.

Notice that Calvin considered the Old Testament saints to have consciously understood these promises and patterns.  Do read the whole thing here.

Promises of Christ:

Also from the very beginning, the world was not without the hope of recovering the loss suffered in Adam. For even Adam, in spite of his incontinency after his ruin, was given the promise that the seed of the woman would crush the head of the serpent; which is to say that Jesus Christ born of a virgin would strike down and destroy the power of Satan.

After that, this promise was renewed more fully to Abraham, when God told him that all the nations of the earth would be blessed in his seed. This meant that from his seed would come Jesus Christ according to the flesh, by whose blessing all men of every land would be sanctified. And the same promise was renewed to Isaac, in the same form and in the same words; and after that it was announced often, repeated and confirmed by the testimony of the various prophets, so as to state plainly, and most reliably, of whom Christ was to be born, at what time, in what place; what afflictions and death he was to suffer, and with what glory he was to rise from the dead; what was to be his Kingdom, and to what salvation he was to bring his own.

In the first place, it is foretold for us in Isaiah, how he was to be born of a virgin, saying: Behold, a virgin shall conceive and shall bear a son, and you shall call his name Immanuel (Isa. 7:14). The time is described for us in Moses, when good Jacob says, The scepter shall not be taken from the line of Judah, nor the government from his hand, until the coming of the One who is to be sent; and the same is the expectation of the nations (Gen. 49:10). And this was verified when Jesus Christ came into the world; for the Romans, after having divested the Jews of all government and rule, had, thirty-seven years before [the coming of Christ] ordained Herod king over them, whose father was Antipater the Edomite and his mother an Arabian; he was therefore a foreigner. It had happened sometimes before that the Jews had been without a king; but they had never before been left as they were now without counselors, rulers, and lawgivers. Another numbering [of the time of Christ’s birth] is given in Daniel, by the reckoning of the seventy weeks (Dan. 9:24). The place of his birth was given us clearly by Micah, who said, And thou Bethlehem Ephrata, thou are the least among the thousands of Judah; but from thee shall come for me the One who shall reign over Israel; and his coming shall be for all the days of eternity (Micah 5:2). As for the afflictions he was to bear for our deliverance and the death he was to suffer for our redemption, Isaiah and Zechariah have spoken of those matters fully and with certainty. The glory of his resurrection and the nature of his Kingdom, and the grace of the salvation he was to bring to his people – these things were fully treated by Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Zechariah.

Such promises, declared and testified to by these holy men who were filled with the Spirit of God, have been the comfort and consolation of the children and elect of God, who have nourished, supported, and sustained their hope in these promises, waiting upon the will of the Lord to show forth what he had promised. Many kings and prophets among them have desired greatly to see its accomplishment, never ceasing all the while to understand, in their hearts and spirits by faith, the things they could not see with their eyes. And, God has confirmed his people in every possible way during their long waiting for the great Messiah, by providing them with his written law, containing numerous ceremonies, purifications, and sacrifices, which were but the figures and shadows of the great blessings to come with Christ, who alone was the embodiment and truth of them. For the law was incapable of bringing anyone to perfection; it only presented Christ, and like a teacher spoke of and led to him, who was, as was said by Saint Paul, the end and fulfillment of the law.

Patterns of Christ:

Similarly, many times and in various seasons, God sent his people kings, princes, and captains, to deliver them from the power of their enemies, to govern them in peace, to recover their losses, to give them flourishing reigns, and by great prowess to make them renowned among all the other peoples. He did all this to give them a foretaste of the great miracles they were to receive from this great Messiah, who was to be endowed with all the power and might of the Kingdom of God.

But when the fullness of time had come and the period foreordained by God was ended, this great Messiah, so promised and so awaited, came; he was perfect, and accomplished all that was necessary to redeem us and save us. He was given not only to the Israelites, but to all men, of every people and every land, to the end that by him human nature might be reconciled to God. This is what is stated plainly in the next book (the New Testament), and set forth there openly. This book we have translated as faithfully as we were able according to the truth and the style of the Greek language, to enable all Christians, men and women, who know the French language, to understand and acknowledge the law they ought to obey and the faith they ought to follow.

Oh, and this bit is just awesome:

Without the gospel everything is useless and vain; without the gospel we are not Christians; without the gospel all riches is poverty, all wisdom, folly before God; strength is weakness, and all the justice of man is under the condemnation of God. But by the knowledge of the gospel we are made children of God, brothers of Jesus Christ, fellow townsmen with the saints, citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven, heirs of God with Jesus Christ, by whom the poor are made rich, the weak strong, the fools wise, the sinners justified, the desolate comforted, the doubting sure, and slaves free. The gospel is the Word of life and truth. It is the power of God for the salvation of all those who believe; and the key to the knowledge of God, which opens the door of the Kingdom of Heaven to the faithful by releasing them from sins, and closes it to the unbelievers, binding them in their sins. Blessed are all they who hear the gospel and keep it; for in this way they show that they are children of God. Woe to those who will not hear it and follow it; because they are children of the devil.

Go and read the whole thing.

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When we confess that Jesus is our Substitute most people mean this:

Jesus stands in our place – living the life we should have lived, dying the death we should have died

I wonder though how many also have this understanding of Jesus’ substitution:

He sits on the bench for the first half before the Coach brings Him on as match-winner in the closing stages.

I find that many Christians, though believing in the pre-existence of Christ, function with an understanding akin to this latter belief.

Though we shout from the roof-tops the centrality of Christ, we affirm His exclusivity, His supremacy, His full deity – in practice our gospel has Jesus coming late to the game to solve a problem He’s had nothing to do with.  We insist that He is the crux, the ultimate, the final, the greatest, the fulfilment but somehow lose that He is the Beginning, the Author, the Logos, the Creator, the Head etc.

In such theology Jesus becomes the Kappa and the Omega, the Middle and the End.  The foundations are laid.  God is defined (monadically).  Humanity is defined (apart from the true Man).  The God-man relation is taken for granted (according to these Christ-less definitions).  Sin, law, wrath, sacrifice, blessings, hope etc are slotted into place.  And then Jesus comes to find His place within this pre-fab mould.

But we know this can’t be right.  Jesus is not merely the cherry on the cake.  He is the flour, eggs, sugar, butter and everything else besides.  We know this because we have come to experience life in Christ.  And it is not the experience of Jesus-the-bridge-to-something-else.  He has not taken us by the hand to another reality (heaven, glory, forgiveness, God), He Himself is our all in all.  All those other things find their meaning in Him and only in Him.

Now it seems to me there are three ways that this christocentricity can be argued:

  1. Systematically
  2. From the New Testament back
  3. From the Old Testament forwards

Systematically we point to verses like Matthew 11:25-30 or John 1:18 or Colossians 1:15 and say Christ is, was and ever shall be the one and only Mediator of the Father in revelation and salvation.  This, when grasped, opens our eyes to see that all of history, all of theology and all of God to His very depths is truly trinitarian and christocentric.  Glory!

But of course, people will soon ask you to show it in biblical-theology terms.  So we could appeal to the New Testament.  Jesus was constantly saying things like He was the One who spoke with Abraham (John 8:56), He was the One the prophets persecuted (Matt 5:11-12), He was David’s Lord (Matt 22:42-45), He was the One who kept pursuing Jerusalem (Matt 23:37).  Or Paul would say Christ accompanied Israel in the wilderness (1 Cor 10:4,9), Hebrews insists Moses trusted Christ (Hebrews 11:26), Jude asserts that Jesus saved Israel out of Egypt (Jude 5).  And this gets people excited.  For a while.

And then someone says: “Ahhh, with what freedom the Apostles imposed christocentricity on the Hebrew Scriptures.”  And all of a sudden you get odd things asserted like: “It’s ok for Apostles to retrospectively award a Christ-focus to the OT even though the Jewish authors intended nothing of the sort.”  And thus a rarely substantiated but practically unimpeachable maxim is born: “They spoke better than they knew.”

Well let’s put to one side the lack of Scriptural warrant for this ‘spoke better than they knew’ theory. Let’s set aside the ethical conundrum of Apostles modelling such dodgy hermeneutics.  And let’s set aside the logical absurdity of post-humously granting OT saints encounters with Christ.  Instead let’s move to the third argument.  Because if I can show that the OT by itself proclaims Christ then all such claims will be shown to be completely unnecessary.

So here’s my assertion that I will seek to unpack over a long series of posts: The OT on its own grounds, in its own context, according to its own intention is a plain and understood revelation of Christ.  I will seek to argue that,

  • Christ is active pre-incarnation
  • He is the Mediator in Old Testament times as well as New
  • He Mediates as a distinct Person, divine and yet differentiated from God Most High
  • He was trusted by (the faithful) OT saints as their LORD and as the One who was to come to save
  • In this way the object of saving faith has always been Christ
  • And in this way the experience of true faith has always been irreducibly trinitarian and christological.

Here’s how the posts developed:

The Angel of the LORD part 1

The Angel of the LORD part 2

The Angel of the LORD part 3

Trinitarian passages in the OT

Some multi-Personal passages in more depth – Genesis, Exodus, Isaiah

Christ in the Psalms

Eleven reasons this stuff matters

Quotes from Justin Martyr and Irenaeus

Quotes from Martin Luther and John Calvin

Quotes from John Owen and Jonathan Edwards

NT’s handling of OT part 1

NT’s handling of OT part 2

Conclusion?

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Nick Martin-Smith loves Jesus.  He’s a teacher and if you talk to him for longer than 30 seconds he’ll get you playing touch rugby. Ask him about starting sports outreach ministries in your church.  He the man.

We are in the midst of a dramatisation of Jesus’ Gospel of Salvation (the version ‘starring’ the Pharaoh, with God’s words being spoken by Moses and Aaron).  We’re at the bit in the story where God is showing his enemy and the watching world the wonders of his power, his righteous judgements, his grace, and his steadfast love.

Moses has already received three signs in chapter 4 to authenticate his ministry.  Then in chapter 7:8-13 Aaron seems to sum up these authenticating signs into the one sign of his serpentine staff.  Traditionally people then say that 10 signs follow.  Yet if we simply read the flow of the narrative from when they are enslaved without hope to when they are free (i.e. chapter 7-15) then actually we have twelve signs.  And the 12th – the Red Sea – is crucial to their deliverance and has massive significance in the bible.

Perhaps then it’s useful to think of the 12 signs against Egypt and it might be helpful to think of them as six pairs of signs.  They develop from signs to Pharaoh, then to Egypt and then to the whole world (see Exodus 15:14; Joshua 2:10 etc, etc).

Each pair shows ‘faithless sin’ followed by ‘fatal judgement’.  And in each pair we have the death of innocents rather than the guilty (think of how God’s prophets die in pursuit of the lost) and we have the symbolic death of ‘sin’ rather than the sinner (think of the substitutionary sacrificial system).

In the LORD’s grace, this pattern of innocents dying for the guilty is repeated again and again until we get a final judgement.  At the Red Sea we finally have the death of the guilty and life for those whose guilt has been taken by their Lamb, the LORD Jesus.

It’s an interesting question to ask who was affected by these signs.  As far as I can tell the effects of at least five (if not nine … if not all) of God’s signs fell on Egypt alone.

Let’s examine them individually.

The first pair:

First, Aaron’s rod becomes a serpent (symbolising ‘sin’). The scribes and magi do likewise but their rods (i.e. what they lean on – and therefore their labours and hopes) are entirely consumed … yet the scribes and magi themselves are not consumed in this spectacle of flying fangs and venom!

Next, Aaron’s serpentine rod smites the waters (symbolising the Holy Spirit’s work in creation) of Egypt to produce blood (symbolising ‘life’ and ‘soul’ in the body, or ‘death’ out of the body).  When sin blemishes the work of the Spirit, death results.   Again, the scribes can also replicate this act, but are unable to reverse it.

Meaning?

The witness of this initial sign ‘pair’ appears to be that the one upon whom Aaron depends to stand is made sin in order to destroy the wages of sin for his people, but sin in the face of God results in death.

Then Aaron’s stretched out rod brings frogs out from the river; when God’s angels (‘messengers’) intercede, they die and their ‘stink’ is revealed. ‘Frogs’ symbolise the spirits of demons: ‘false gods’ who go to the kings of the earth to unite them against Jesus; a ‘stink’ is symbolic of the death that is the result of Man’s works in unity with false gods, rather than with God’s word (John 11:39, Isaiah 50:2, Joel 2:19-22, Ecclesiastes 10:1, Exodus 16:20).

So the work of the Holy Spirit in Egypt is to reveal the hordes of false gods ‘watering’ Egypt.  At God’s hand there will be an ultimate death, both for them and for all who drink in their lies. Again, the scribes seem to be able to replicate this, bringing yet more ‘unclean spirits’ onto the land (crazy!), but they are not able to rid themselves of them.

The second pair:

Aaron’s rod then strikes the land, the dust of which becomes gnats.  The scribes cannot replicate this sign, and confess God. ‘Dust’ is the frame of Man, to which our soul cleaves and the spirit is given (Psalm 103:14, 119:25, Ecclesiastes 12:7).  It symbolises mortality.

Having tried to devour the Man of the dust, the serpent is cursed to ‘go’ on his belly and devour the dust of the earth: dust is the tiny, insignificant, broken end-result of God’s destructive work of judgement (Deuteronomy 9:21). Gnats also symbolise mortality, as well as a perverse focus on the less ‘weighty’ things of God’s Law (Isaiah 51:6, Matthew 23:23-24). So the one on whom Aaron leans originally brought life up from the dust but, if that life’s subsequent means are false, its end is death.

Meaning?

The Holy Spirit’s work among the wicked is to reveal the false teaching that the wicked live by, Jesus’ authorship of life, and the ultimate death of false spirits and false men alike.

The third pair:

Here God uses Aaron and Moses to speak but not to signal – there’s no casting, smiting, or stretching of any rods: God sends and God is.

And God separates: briefly, first there’s the ‘grievous’ beetles (Youngs Literal Translation) sent to consume and corrupt the land of Egypt, but not Goshen.  Goshen is ‘separated’ and ‘divided’ from Egypt.

Then God’s hand is ‘a pestilence very grievous’ that consumes the land-creatures of Egypt, whilst the ‘cattle’ of the sons of Israel are ‘separated’.

Meaning?

Up until now, God’s prophet has spoken and shown signs of death – this time God speaks and shows actual death.

Each pair of signs symbolically shows ‘faithless sin’ followed by ‘fatal judgement’.  ‘The wages of sin is death’ … but Romans 6 goes on: ‘the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus’.

Through judgements Jesus divides and separates ‘His People’ from ‘Not His People’, protecting us from true spiritual death. This is what these signs were pointing to.

Tomorrow, we’ll start to look at the second half of the six pairs of signs.

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Paul Huxley should blog more (as I’m sure you’ll agree when you read this).  You can read more of his stuff at his blog: Theologymnasium.
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God’s covenant people, from whom will eventually come the serpent crusher, who will bless all nations, are in Egypt. Like Abram, their father, they entered Egypt due to famine (Genesis 12:10), they are brought out through great plagues (Gen 12:17), and they will plunder the Egyptians (Gen 12:16, 20).

But right now, the situation’s not looking good for the Israelites. They are slaves, being treated ‘ruthlessly’ (Ex 1:14). Although Pharaoh’s initial attempt at Eugenics failed (Ex 1:17), the blood of Israelite boys was surely spilled in the Nile, after Pharoah commanded ‘all his people’ to murder the young Hebrew males (Ex 1:22). They have been crying out for 80 years (2 x 40, 2 periods of testing), and now God answers definitively.

So Moses and Aaron bring about the first plague; the water of the Nile, and then the rest of the land is turned into blood. As we’ve seen, there was no shortage of blood for the LORD to use, but the sheer quantity is remarkable. Whose blood is it? It seems to be the LORD Jesus creating blood cells ex nihilo (out of nothing). And as the Egyptians take this ex-water in their wooden and stone vessels (v19) they find that it stinks, and they cannot drink. This is a cup of judgement.

Contrast this with Jesus much later, at the Wedding in Cana (John 2). That time, he created grape cells out of nothing, and it tasted like fine wine. That was a cup of blessing. Later still, Jesus’ blood would be poured out like wine, and to those who received it in faith would receive blessing, and those who profaned it drunk judgement on themselves (1 Cor 11:29).

Back with Moses, and despite seven days of foul stench across Egypt, Pharaoh’s heart remains hard (Ex 1:22). A week passes, and the day of the LORD comes again (you can call it the LORD’s day if you like). Pharaoh has failed to respond to the word he received last week, and it’s time for another cup of judgement.

This time, the curse comes up from the water in the form of frogs. Frogs are ‘creeping things’ if you use Biblical categories. Like the serpent who was made to crawl on his belly (Gen 3:14) the frog is unclean. My wife has a minor obsession with frogs, thinking that they are green and cute, which is why we have a frog-shaped CD rack. But frogs in the Bible are always associated with judgement.

That’s certainly how Egypt took them. Although Pharaoh was impressed when his magicians replicated the water into blood routine, when his magicians filled the land with even more frogs (Ex 8:7), Pharaoh starts to repent (v8). He sets a deal up with Moses. Make the frogs go, and I will let your people go. But when the LORD took the plague away, and everything settled down, Pharaoh once again, hardened his heart, changed his mind, and kept the Israelites as slaves, just ‘as the LORD had said (v15).

All that the LORD has said through his prophet Moses, is coming true. His mighty hand is being stretched out across Egypt to rescue his people. Although Pharaoh seems to have outsmarted the LORD, and got away with breaking his promise, there is yet more judgement to come.

Pharaohs, MPs, vicars, husbands, parents make promises to us; very often that under their leadership, we will receive great blessing. But the LORD is the only one who can promise blessing, in the full knowledge that He will surely do it (1 Thessalonians 5v24).

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Paul Blackham writes here and you can find his All Souls sermons here and Farm Fellowship sermons here.

Exodus 7:14 – 10:29

Most people remember the story of the plagues from their childhood.  We are allowed to enjoy so many of these great Hebrew stories when we are young before we ‘learn’ not to spend so much time in the Scriptures.

Naturally we won’t waste any time on the bizarre attempts to tie the plagues together into a set of meteorological co-incidences!  [The flooding of the Nile plain stirring up red silt [which would have stunned the ignorant Egyptians who had never seen red silt before!], which encouraged the frogs to leave the river and invade the houses… the dead frogs decay and produce gnats… and… I forget how this is supposed to continue.  I can’t remember how the boils produced the hail and the locusts… but I’ll remember in a minute.  This proposal is supposed to make the Bible easier to believe for outsiders so I’m sure there is a really good explanation of the boils, hail and locust… and why the Egyptians didn’t understand about red silt… ? ..! …?  If only the BBC would produce one of those excellent TV series at Easter…. They always get ‘Bible experts’ to explain all these things.]

The general truth in these plagues is clear enough: The Angel of the LORD is more powerful than Pharaoh, his mighty magicians and the various gods of Egypt.  Yet, each of the plagues displays a different facet of the fact that Jesus is LORD.  The plagues have a progression as they circle in around the first born humans.  They begin at arms length and then get closer and closer.  Plenty of warning is thereby given… yet the terrible and suicidal nature of our selfish hearts is revealed by the fact that we insist on going on to the bitter end in our rebellion.

The plagues serve as an important demonstration of the great and terrible judgements the Lord must exercise in order to redeem us from slavery.  It would be so ‘pleasant’ to imagine that salvation and renewal could be achieved from the comfort of an armchair or in that lovely, gentle spirituality of self-improvement and meditation on how divinely glorious we all really are.  Yet, the shadow of the Cross falls across redemption, from start to finish.  Salvation comes after judgement; glory after suffering.

We are not the desperately grateful victims of a tragedy who cheer the arrival of the emergency services.  No, we are the hardened criminals holed up in the building, shooting at any emergency services that try to get near.  When we are saved, so many of us are kicking and screaming as we spit in the face of Jesus.  Until we see Him as He is and our old humanity is finally destroyed, this is always in us, always making our rescue messy and painful and full of judgement.

The empire of Egypt was comfortable and successful.  The Nile made them the breadbasket of the Mediterranean world.  Even hundreds of years later when the apostle Paul is sailing to Rome we read that he caught a lift on a boat full of Egyptian grain.  Egypt had fabulous wealth and stunning treasures which still capture popular imagination even today.  The gigantic tombs and embalming practices of that ancient past [given to Joseph at the end of Genesis] presumably made them imagine that even death was under their control.

Turning from the Divine Angel who Joseph and his family had worshipped, who had brought such wealth and power to Egypt, they plunged into the sewage of these ‘gods’ who had forsaken their proper habitation.  Far from ordering the nations to the worship of the LORD God through whom all had come to be, they had enthroned themselves as the masters of the universe.  Sin in the heavenlies always looks just the same as sin in the earthlies!

This comfortable and prosperous Egypt has no fear of the Living God!  They had no time for these ancient superstitions from the uncivilised slaves!  They could chart the stars and build the pyramids; they could feed the world and conquer the nations; they could deal with the gods and defy death itself.  Why would they need to listen to a Word that would turn all their security upside down, who would force them to choose between their luxuries and Him?

Into that self-assured arrogance, shown so graphically in Pharaoh as the embodiment of it all, the real world of the Most High God comes crashing down.  Onto the playground of the Egyptian gods, the meteorite of reality explodes – revealing their impotence, judging their rebellion, dethroning their power.

We are told that the Lord is making His Name known to the Israelites (6:7), to Pharaoh (7:17), to all the earth (9:16), and to the Israelite descendants to come (10:2).  This of course includes us.  We too come to know the Name of the LORD Jesus through these plagues, though these judgements.  We learn that Jesus does not issue empty threats.  When He tells us of a coming judgement, it will certainly come to pass.  When He tells us how to escape that coming judgement, His words must be followed to the letter.

How have we accepted certain limits on the power of Jesus?  In that day we assume that the Egyptians took it for granted that Jesus could not control the Nile – and yet He did!  Perhaps they assumed that the demonic frogs or flies were beyond His power – but they were not! The blood of judgement over the Nile; the demonic revelation of the frogs; the creation of new life from the very dust; the proof that Baalzebub is not the true LORD over the flies; the taking of the breath of life from animals; the diseases of the human body; the destruction of human society and production… until finally the light itself goes out.

Think of all the stories in the Bible where the power of Jesus is shown in impossible ways.  Do we really believe that He is capable of acting in that way right now?  Do we honestly believe that He could judge the empires of this day and age in that way?

I always fear that I have mentally so domesticated the LORD Jesus that I don’t really think of Him as the Angel of Death and Judgement who brought these plagues of judgement upon ancient Egypt.  It is not that I don’t know the right words to say [I have all too many of them].  Rather, when I look at the way that I live… is the fear of the LORD Jesus the beginning of my life?  Is the fear and trembling present, the terror of the LORD that drives me to prayer and action, to sacrifice and engagement?

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Jacky has his christological commentary of the whole bible here.  He’s up to to 2 Samuel at the moment.  His collected posts on the Pentateuch are here.

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Read the verses here

“Behold, I am of uncircumcised lips. How will Pharaoh listen to me?”

Moses’ words ring true of his temporary role as the mediator on behalf of Israel.  He is a man of uncircumcised speech (v.30).  Some have taken the liberty to interpret this as if Moses had a physical speech impediment, but the LORD’s response in chapter 7 which reveals Moses’ true concern – that he is unable to speak words which will convince the Pharoah to bring the people out of Egypt (v.26-27).

This is the reason why the LORD replies by ordaining Moses as like elohim to Pharoah, just as Aaron is made Moses’ prophet.  Notice how in chapter 7v.2 the LORD states that both Moses and Aaron will be speaking to the Pharoah, ignoring the interpretation that Moses is worried about his speech impediment, or that Aaron is a more “suitable” choice as a speaker before Pharoah.  Rather, the LORD’s choice is for the purpose of showing to Pharoah the dynamic between God and His prophet – through Moses and Aaron respectively.  Where Moses speaks, Aaron repeats Moses’ words and acts in execution: a pattern which re-occurs throughout the plagues.  The Word of God, once spoken, evokes immediate response and action: and the one Word which the Father wishes to speak of concerns the Son.  The Father’s Word is Jesus Christ.  In his framework series, Paul Blackham says,

“…the Word of God confronts us with the plain fact that our minds are as deeply fallen and wicked as our feelings, our bodies and our wills. In fact Colossians 1:21 tell us that because of our sinful behavior, our enmity against God, resides in our minds. However brilliant our reasoning may be, until we have been reconciled to God, our thinking always militates against the gospel. It will always rebel against the truth.”

Such a fundamental truth should not escape the purpose behind the LORD establishing an elohimprophet dynamic before Pharoah to present to him in clarity the intercessory nature of salvation:  the procession of the Spirit from the Father to the Son; from the Son to men; from men to other men; and the glory ascending through the Son and back to the Father.  For what is a prophetes, a nabiy, other than (literally defined as) a Spirit-inspired man?  And what Word does the Triune God wish to speak in the Third Person?

Yet, before we move onto describing this ‘word’ which the LORD wishes Moses to speak and Aaron to act upon, the LORD immediately reveals the conclusion in vv.3-4:

Exo 7:3-4  But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt,  (4)  Pharaoh will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and bring my hosts, my people the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great acts of judgment.

It is easy to immediately assume that we are handling a case of double predestination – of predestined reprobation of the Pharoah.  Yet, let us be mindful of the greater analogy of the history of Pharoah versus the Angel of the LORD; the story of Exodus is not merely dealing with the salvation of an individual Egyptian king.  It is displaying the grander scheme of the LORD’s salvation through The Prophet, whose uncircumcised lips meant that no word is uttered other than the Word from the Father:

Deu 18:15-20  “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers–it is to him you shall listen–  (16)  just as you desired of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God or see this great fire any more, lest I die.’  (17)  And the LORD said to me, ‘They are right in what they have spoken.  (18)  I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.  (19)  And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him.  (20)  But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.’

Here, we should notice two things:

  • Though Moses is seen as a ‘god’ before Pharoah and Aaron is his prophet, this is to display the dynamic of elohim and His prophet before the pagan king
  • Furthermore, Moses is seen in Deuteronomy 18 as referring to himself as a prophet – and that a ‘prophet like [him]’ will be raised who will speak the words of the Father.  Aaron is no longer in the picture as a ‘prophet’, but his role becomes that of the first priest of the tabernacle (Exodus 31:10).

This Prophet is the One Sent (John 7:18, ch.8) from the Father to speak of the Father’s glory (c.f. Matthew 11).  Moses is not the prophet; neither is Aaron; yet through the arrangement laid out in Exodus 7, we see the Father speaking and the Son acting; and this is placed before the Pharoah to display him as something more than a mere individual pagan king, the same way that Ezekiel looks at the king of Tyre.  This king is no mere ruler of foreign lands – but he is taken to be the anointed guardian cherub in Eden, destroyed for his pride (Ezekiel 28:13-19).  Only by seeing this greater picture in Exodus 7 can we then come to understand how Pharoah’s heart comes to be hardened, and the picture of the serpent-staff seen already in Exodus 4 as the first thing witnessed of the LORD’s power which granted Moses confidence, and re-iterated once more in chapter 7 as the first thing witnessed by the Pharoah which further hardened him.

At this point, it is important we take a step back to consider the greater picture of what is being said concerning the Pharoah’s relationship with Moses and Aaron; concerning Satan’s relationship (or lack of) with the Triune God.

Allow me to make a lengthy quotation of Karl Barth in his Church Dogmatics.  Its relevance will be seen shortly:

“At any rate as they are systematised in Leviticus 14 and 16 it is obvious that the following form is common to both.  Two creatures which are exactly alike in species and value are dealt with in completely different ways.  The selection of the one for this and of the other for that treatment, seems to be a matter for the priest in Leviticus 14:15f, while lots are cast in Leviticus 16:8.  In both cases it is obvious that the selection is inscrutable, and that it is really made by God Himself.  It is also obvious with what special purpose and meaning these two acts accompany the history of Israel, and to which special moment of this history they refer as sign and testimony of the divine intention.  We obviously face the special aspect of this history according to which it is the history of the divisive divine election of this and of that man.  What these choices mean, or what it is to which the whole history of Israel points as a history of such choices, is attested by these particular rites, the witness being given a fixed and permanent form by the detailed legal regulations.

…Yet we must observe that the second goat is also ‘placed before the Lord’, that the treatment meted out to him and the tragic record of his unusability also form an integral part of the sign and testimony set up on the Day of Atonement.  Cain is just as indispensable as Abel, and Ishmael as Isaac.  For the grace which makes an elect man of the first can be seen only from the second, because the first, the elect, must see in the second, the non-elect, as in a mirror, that from which he was taken, and who and what the God is who was delivered from it.  It is only as one who properly belongs to that place that God has transferred him from it.  Because election is grace, the unused belonged to the used, the sacrificed goat to the goat driven into the wilderness, the non-elect to the elect…

…The ceremony described in Leviticus 14 obviously runs in exactly the opposite direction… The treatment of the first bird speaks of this necessary presupposition of his purification.  The bird is slain, its blood is shed and then made ready for what follows, as in the case of the first goat in Leviticus 16.  But this time everything really depends on what follows… The healed leper is sprinkled seven times with this blood, while simultaneously the second bird is allowed to fly away ‘into the open field’… to freedom… The purpose, and the only purpose, in the death of the one bird, the separation and reservation of the one man, is that the other may live.  But how comforting it is for all who are separated and reserved that, according to Leviticus 14, it is to the second bird, which has no part in the accomplishment of the decisive action, and which is unusable in the sense of Leviticus 16, that the benefit of the sacrifice of the first and usable bird accrues.  That which was done to the first turns to the advantage of the second… The recipient of the fruit of election is obviously for the non-elect.  How can we fail to see that Cain and Ishmael and Esau are now given yet another right than that which is remotely visible in Leviticus 16?  They are witnesses to the resurrection reflected in Leviticus 14.  The promise addressed to the men on the right hand is manifestly fulfilled in those on the left.”

The explanation of the picture of Satan and Christ in Exodus 7 should not end with Barth’s lengthy quote, for the narrative is designed to explain the dichotomy of the Angel of the LORD and the rebellious anointed cherub through the battle of the serpents:

Exo 7:10-12  So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did just as the LORD commanded. Aaron cast down his staff before Pharaoh and his servants, and it became a serpent.  (11)  Then Pharaoh summoned the wise men and the sorcerers, and they, the magicians of Egypt, also did the same by their secret arts.  (12)  For each man cast down his staff, and they became serpents. But Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs.

Yet, why is the imagery of the serpent, such a wicked imagery (Revelation 20:2), used to defeat the other serpents?  This recalls the same imagery of the brazen fiery serpent set on the pole (Numbers 21:5-9; John 3:12-15) which can heal those who see it despite being bitten by other serpents.  Such a peculiar picture of serpents against serpent repeated in the story of Moses can be explained in Barth’s observation of the sacrifices in Leviticus 14 and 16 – the dichotomy of Christ and Satan, the dichotomy of the Elected Head and the Rejected Head.  The raising of the brazen serpent equivalent to the ascension of the Sent One (c.f. John 3:12-15).  This is sweetly summed up in the words of Habbakuk:

Hab 3:13-14  You went out for the salvation of your people, for the salvation of your anointed. You crushed the head of the house of the wicked, laying him bare from thigh to neck. Selah  (14)  You pierced with his own arrows the heads of his warriors, who came like a whirlwind to scatter me, rejoicing as if to devour the poor in secret.

Exodus 7:1-13 lays up the scenario for Pharoah’s destruction, which in turn leads to Egypt becoming an increasingly threat-less kingdom throughout the rest of history.  A once prosperous nation benefiting from the mediation of the Christ-like Joseph falls in the hands of Pharoah, Herod, Cain, Ishmael, Esau, all types of he who is the ‘head of the house of the wicked’ (Habbakuk 3:13).  Yet, it is by the serpent that the serpents are crushed; it is by the sting of death that death is defeated; it is by the wicked capital punishment of the cross that the wickedness of death is eradicated – and so the arrows of Satan piercing Christ’s side did not leave Christ dead; but from His side birthed the church (c.f. Genesis 2:21) born-again from the victorious blood and water which in turn defeated the bites of the fiery serpent, swallowing up the serpent-ry of ‘wise men’ (c.f. 1 Corinthians 1:19) and ascending once again as the beautiful staff of Aaron:

Num 17:5-8  And the staff of the man whom I choose shall sprout. Thus I will make to cease from me the grumblings of the people of Israel, which they grumble against you.”  (6)  Moses spoke to the people of Israel. And all their chiefs gave him staffs, one for each chief, according to their fathers’ houses, twelve staffs. And the staff of Aaron was among their staffs.  (7)  And Moses deposited the staffs before the LORD in the tent of the testimony.  (8)  On the next day Moses went into the tent of the testimony, and behold, the staff of Aaron for the house of Levi had sprouted and put forth buds and produced blossoms, and it bore ripe almonds.

What a beautiful picture of Christ’s death in becoming the rejected serpent by taking upon the sins of mankind, yet through his death on the cross he had swallowed up the death of men to bring about new creation birth!  Yet, the glory does not cease with the staff restoring to its original form – but that upon the Israelites’ salvation from Egypt, the same serpent-staff sprouts and puts forth buds and produces blossoms, bearing ripe almonds.  Upon the taste of this new creation life far greater than a mere restoration to the Garden of Eden, still (v.13) the Pharoah’s heart was hardened.  The outstretched arms of the Son on the cross has not led Pharoah to repentance (Romans 2:4), prompting the necessary salvation from Egypt.

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Read the verses here.

When do people tend to make promises – when they are in power or out of power?

Usually we make promises when we’re out of power.  We may beg for money, drugs, sex, our lives, re-election by making endless promises.  But for us, the promise is a substitute for power.  Give us power, and the promises dry up.

Not so with the LORD Jesus.  He is God Almighty (Ex 6:2) and yet He is the One who makes endless promises to the powerless.

They are promises that define and fill out what it means for Him to be “LORD” – ‘I am the LORD’ begins and ends them (v2,8).

They are promises grounded in indicatives – “I am the LORD”, “I established my covenant”, “I have heard”, “I have remembered.”  (v2-5)

They are promises grounded in actual history (v13-27).  Looking back on their fulfilment to date will give great confidence for the future.

They are promises that are, at times, too much for His people to absorb in their discouragement (Ex 6:9).  Yet nonetheless they are to be proclaimed over them.

They are too much for the preacher as well given the “uncircumcision” of his lips (Ex 6:12).  Yet nonetheless the power is not in the preacher but in the promise.

They are promises that prove a watershed – to one side they fall as blessings, to the other as curses.  For the Egyptians these very same promises are in fact their judgement (Ex 6:11).  Those who are not aligned with the promise find themselves enemies of the God of promise.

And what are these promises?  Today, no matter what your discouragement, your burdens, your feelings of slavery to sin – hear the sevenfold promise of the LORD:

“I am the LORD

and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians

I will free you from being slaves to them,

and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment.

I will take you as my own people,

and I will be your God.

Then you will know that I am the LORD your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians.

And I will lead you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob.

I will give it to you as a possession.

I am the LORD”  (Exodus 6:6-8)

Glory!

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Read the verses here

“Let me go”, says Moses.

Jethro, the shepherd-priest, gives a very different answer to the one Pharaoh will give: “Go, and I wish you well!” (v18)  If only Pharaoh had the Spirit of Jethro!

Pharoah will not let them go and the LORD knows it.  In chapter 3:19 He says:

But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless compelled by a mighty hand.

Literally this is a “hand of strength” or a “hard hand”.

In Exodus 4, the hand of Moses has been made strong/hard – see the three signs he was given earlier in the chapter and the staff that he now carries in his hand (v20).  And so the hardness of the LORD’s hand (through Moses) will prove stronger than the hardness of Pharaoh’s heart (v21).

It’s a battle of between two kinds of strength (hardness).  The strong/hard hand of the LORD (probably a title for the Spirit) working through His humble servant (Moses) versus the strong/hard heart of Pharaoh and his mighty host.

But this is not a fair fight.  Viewed from the flesh it looks like its unfairly stacked against Moses and the Israelites.  But seen from the perspective of the Mighty Spirit of the LORD, Pharaoh is shown to have no power of his own.  Even the strength of Pharaoh is a derived strength.

Verse 21 is emphatic: the LORD says “I, even I will harden/strengthen Pharaoh’s heart.”  Even the strength of the LORD’s opposition comes ultimately from the LORD Himself!  The pretensions of the world’s mightiest man are only a parasitic perversion of Christ’s own power.  And the strengthening that happens is only the handing over of Pharaoh to his own much-desired self-will (cf 3:19).

Exodus 4:21 is the first mention of the hardness of Pharaoh’s heart.  As events unfold the hardening is spoken of as follows:

Pharaoh’s heart was hard/strong (7:13)

Pharaoh’s heart was heavy / unyielding (this is also the word for ‘glory’) (7:14)

Pharaoh’s heart was hard/strong (7:22)

Pharaoh made heavy his heart (8:15)

Pharaoh’s heart was hard/strong (8:19)

Pharaoh made heavy his heart (8:32)

Pharaoh’s heart was heavy (9:7)

The LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh (9:12)

Pharaoh made heavy his heart (9:34)

Pharaoh’s heart was hard/strong (9:35)

The LORD made heavy Pharaoh’s heart (10:1)

The LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh (10:20)

The LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh (10:27)

The LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh (11:20)

There is an interplay of Pharaoh’s hardening and the LORD’s but again we must be clear that the LORD does not hand Pharaoh over to anything which he does not actually want himself. (cf. Rom 1:24,26,28)

And all of this reaches a climax in 14:16-18 where “hand”, “harden” and “heavy/glory” are combined:

16 Lift up your staff, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, that the people of Israel may go through the sea on dry ground. 17 And I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they shall go in after them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, his chariots, and his horsemen. 18 And the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I have gotten glory over Pharaoh, his chariots, and his horsemen.”

The strengthening of the heart in opposition to the LORD emboldens them to pursue their own glory.  But the strength of the LORD’s hand is proved when this very thing is turned to the LORD’s glory – the salvation of His people.

Here is the power of the cross.

26 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed’  27 for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy Servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. (Acts 4:26-28)

It is the glory of the LORD to make His enemies serve His saving purposes.   The ultimate show of this is the cross, but Pharaoh is a powerful foretaste.

Verses 22 and 23 reveal what’s at stake in the battle of these two kinds of strength:

`This is what the LORD says: Israel is my firstborn son, 23 and I told you, “Let my son go, so that he may worship me.” But you refused to let him go; so I will kill your firstborn son.’

It’s a battle of the sons.  One is set to inherit the throne of the world’s greatest super-power, the other is a down-trodden slave.  But because of the LORD’s mighty hand, God’s son will inherit all the promises and Pharaoh’s son will die under divine judgement.

Of course the very Speaker of these words is the True Son (who is also the Avenging Angel!) and He will die as a Lamb under the divine judgement.  God’s Son, the LORD Jesus, will suffer as Pharaoh’s son so that God’s son, Israel will be saved.  But one way or another there will be blood.  Which is what the next section is about.

In v24-26 we see that Moses has been careless with the bloody sacrament of circumcision.  And this matters a great deal to the Lord!   He would be the Son – the Seed – cut off as a Lamb under divine judgement.  And the people were meant to cut this covenanted promise of salvation into their bodies – to very nearly cut off their own seed in this bloody sign.

Well Moses is about to go and enact this great Old Testament foreshadowing of the cross to save God’s son Israel – and he hasn’t even put the Old Testament sign of the cross on his own son.   The Lord is angry.  He will not have Moses enact these gospel prophecies without taking the gospel promises seriously.  These signs matter to the Lord and He’s angry enough to kill the man He’s just commissioned to lead the people!

Thank God for his Midianite wife who performs the emergency procedure and touches his feet with it.  And surely the “his” refers to the Lord’s feet.  The Lord is the great Bridegroom of Blood.  He cuts the marriage covenant with His people in His own blood.  That’s what these signs point towards – the Lord’s own blood.  It’s His bloody death that wins a bride.  When Moses and Zipporah own this truth in the sacrament, the Lord lets them alone.

In v27 we see the fulfilment of 4:16, “you shall be as God to him.”  Moses is God, Aaron is his prophet.  And all of Moses’ words and deeds will be spoken and performed by his prophet.  (Of course this sets us up for Deuteronomy 18:18f).

And so naturally – just as the God of Abraham met Moses on Sinai, now Moses (as God) meets Aaron on Sinai.

They go to the people and pass on the good news:

when they heard that the LORD was concerned about them (lit. “had visited them”) and had seen their misery, they bowed down and worshipped.

Isn’t that wonderful?  The LORD Jesus doesn’t just visit us – He sees our misery.  This reminds us of those wonderful verbs in chapter 2 – God heard, God remembered, God saw, God knew. (v24-25)

He looks on His people as the son He loves, as the bride He bleeds for.   He will use all His might to crush our oppressor, to remove our shackles and lead us to a spacious place.  When we hear about the compassion of our redeeming Lord Jesus then we really bow down and worship.

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Paul’s wonderful sermons can be heard from All Souls, Langham Place and from Tarleton Farm Fellowship where he currently ministers.

Exodus 4:1-17 – Paul Blackham

How does the Living God identify Himself to us?

What are the unmistakable signs of the LORD Jesus, sent from the Father in the power of the Spirit?

I remember years ago when I was in a bank and my identity needed to be confirmed.  They rang the branch in my home village and asked them to describe me.  They referred to the scars on my head and then I was told to speak down the phone so that they could confirm my voice… and my identity was confirmed.

How would your own identity be confirmed?  What is unmistakable about you?  Are there things you might do that would conclusively prove your identity to anyone who really knew you?

Moses was faced with a problem.  There are always plenty of people who claim to speak in the name of ‘God’.  History is littered with such claims.  Even throughout the Christian church there are more ‘prophets’ than ever who claim to have been told things by the LORD God.  Others simply claim to have been given messages from this Living God and expect us to receive them as if we were being addressed by the LORD Jesus Himself.

Moses realises that not all the saints in the Egyptian church would be ready to listen to his claims to speak for the LORD Jesus.  Why should they?  What distinguishing signs or actions could he present that would unmistakably identify the One who had sent him?

The LORD Jesus saw an immediate solution.  Moses was carrying a wooden pole, designed to support him.  As the LORD Jesus saw this anointed man leaning onto this wooden pole, He could see a strong way to reveal His own identity to the Egyptian church.  Just as He Himself would one day be supported on the wood, lifted up in order to crush the Serpent… so Moses could be given the profound privilege of enacting that future victory before the very eyes of the ancient church.

Verse 3 shows us the profoundly godly reactions of the great apostle Moses.  The very sight of the snake causes him to recoil in horror.  He knew what happened when Eve got drawn into a conversation with such a creature [whether Moses was skilled in parsiltongue we may well doubt].  Better to run from such a confrontation… or so he thought.  Rather than run from the devil, giving him the power of fear over us, the LORD Jesus shows Moses that in His Name the saints may have victory over that ancient dragon.

Rather than teaching Moses special snake catching techniques, rather Moses is commanded to treat the power of the snake with disdain.  Rather than catch it around the head, to prevent it from striking, Moses is to calmly take it by the tail, allowing it to bite and threaten all it can!  Yet, when grasped by this servant of Jesus, the snake is transformed back into the wooden staff.

This reminds us so much of Acts 28 when that much later apostle, Paul, also showed how the snake is crushed by Jesus.  The snake lashed out and pumped out its poison into Paul’s veins.  Holding it up, without fear, for all to see, the great apostle calmly passed judgement upon it casing it into the fires of destruction.  It is no wonder that the islanders were utterly amazed, assured of a divine presence among them!

The same moment of recognition was predicted by Jesus for Moses when he would perform this sign:

“This,” said the LORD, “is so that they may believe that the LORD, the God of their fathers — the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob — has appeared to you.”

My favourite sign is the second one.  Moses is to put his hand over his heart and draw it out.  The diagnosis is serious indeed – a heart diseased and desperately wicked.  Surely such a holistically corrupted heart is beyond cure!  Surely nobody can cure a heart whose putrefaction extends out to the whole body, spirit and mind!

Yet, when Moses puts his hand back over his heart, as instructed by the Divine Physician, the disease is impossibly healed.  Throughout the Scriptures the unmistakable proof of the divine identity is His ability to save.  Only one of the ‘gods’ is able to bring new birth and new creation.  When the saints in Egyptian captivity saw this sign, they would have fallen on their knees with shouts of praise and worship to the Divine Angel – the very One who was on His way to deliver them.

The final sign is solemn and fearful.

The Nile was [and still is] the great river of life, making Egypt into the great bread basket of North Africa.  If the Egyptian gods needed to exercise their power over anything at all then it had to be over the Nile.  Surely this was the very heart and soul of the Egyptian Empire.

Yet, even here they could not withstand the Living God.  His total power over His creation is demonstrated in His ability to turn the river of life into the river of death.  Blood flowing through our veins is our life, but when we see the blood before us, poured out, then it is the sign of death.

It hardly need be said that we must laugh at or be enraged at the ludicrously offensive suggestions that the blood is nothing more than the stirring up of red silt.  To those who have lived with and worked with the Nile, viewing all its colours and silts throughout the seasons, it would hardly have caused any alarm to see some water poured onto red coloured silt.  Anybody who would have been deceived by such a simple ‘conjuring trick’ would hardly be worth convincing of anything at all.

No, in turning the water into blood the LORD Jesus was pronouncing a judgement on the empire of the Nile.  Before this story had finished, the land of the Nile would feel the fatal judging hand of the Divine Angel Himself.

Moses was richly equipped to bear witness to the unmistakable identity of the LORD Jesus – the sign of the snake, the leprous heart and the blood would all reveal His identity in wonderful ways.

Yet, Moses was still full of nervous fear.  As an 80 year old man he was looking forward to retirement on a Mediterranean island, with his yacht and villa.  He had tried to offer redemption to the ancient church 40 years before and they had not been ready to receive it – Acts 7:24-25.  Now it was time for others to speak up and take responsibility.  Moses had spent 40 years [the symbolic time of testing] far from the civilised and cultured realms of human society.  He had spent his time at the Mountain of God, leading Jethro’s sheep to safe pasture.

How could this have prepared him in any way for this impossible challenge of leading his Father’s flock to safe pasture in a promised land!?

No, as far as Moses was concerned, he was not, and never had been, capable of doing this.  To speak to the leader of the world’s super power, it was clearly necessary to have strategic connections, academic qualifications, rhetorical training!  How could one man, trusting only in the power of the Almighty Spirit, be able to make any difference?

Verse 11:

The LORD said to him, “Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”

What is striking about this rebuke to Moses is not only that the Cosmic Christ is clearly the source of all human ability, but that He is also the one who makes us deaf, mute and blind.  Yes, even our lack of ability is also under His control.  This could open up a whole Pandora’s Box of pointless questions if we allowed it to go in a useless direction, but rather we should see the point He is making to Moses.  Even if it were true that Moses had little ability, even this is entirely under the control of the LORD Jesus.  In fact, the very lack of power in the flesh may be a necessary precondition for the power of Jesus to be displayed.  Could we really see His identity and glory if a brilliant and renowned speaker were to deliver His mighty message?  Do we not see and hear Him so much more when the clueless, mumbling saint speaks nothing but the pure Word of God?

Not many with degrees, still less with PhD’s; not many rich, still less ‘successful’; not many gifted and strategic, still less admired and loved…

Those of us who have read or listened to someone like Joni Eareckson Tada can see this so well.  How could it possibly be an occasion for divine glory for her to be denied so much physical ability?  Yet, how many thousands of people have been drawn to Jesus’ glory precisely because His own power and majesty have been able to shine through her unhindered by the thick clouds of human ability?

Natural ability can be given or withheld by Jesus, the LORD over the whole creation.  Do we trust Him when He denies us the abilities we wish we had?  Are we ready to do what He asks us especially when we are convinced we do not have the ability to do what He asks us to do?

The LORD Jesus sends Moses away.  Aaron has plenty of natural ability and would be eager to use it in this opportunity.  Yet, with hindsight, as we review their two careers – who was most useful?  Who brought most glory to Jesus?  Were the leadership gifts and eloquence of Aaron well-used in Exodus 32:1-6?

Moses would have to train this apprentice – verse 15.  This was a ticking timebomb.  The fire and passion of Jesus’ glory was filling Moses’ heart and mind – Hebrews 11:26.  As soon as Moses began to instruct Aaron on what he had to say, Moses would be overcome with zeal for Jesus.  We see this happen so that it is not long before Moses pushes Aaron aside and takes up the responsibilities that Jesus had given him to do.

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Tom Rout is a minister in training at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford University and all round good egg.  This is an adaptation of a recent talk he gave on Exodus 3.

Exodus 3 Lent meditation (read Exodus 3 here)

As we’ve seen over the last few days, the situation for God’s people Israel looks bleak at the beginning of Exodus. But the closing verses of chapter 2 suggested that help might be on its way…

Today in chapter 3, we discover how the Lord will save his people from their slavery, a historical story teaching us the way He would ultimately deliver people all over the world from their slavery to sin.

With that background in mind, let’s pick up the story in chapter 3:7-8.

“The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt.  I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering.  So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey.”

What fantastic news for the Israelites! The Lord God of Abraham, of Isaac and of Jacob has come down from heaven to take up their cause. This is such a crucial lesson for us to take in.  In the Bible salvation is something the Lord takes responsibility for. His people aren’t expected to fix the problem of slavery to sin themselves. What a relief! The Lord has taken this most important of all matters – our salvation – out of our feeble hands and steps in among us to sort it out Himself! He’s the reason we’ll be rescued.

Exodus 3 tells us more about this God who has come down from heaven to save his people.

It’s a well-known story. Moses’ days living in Pharaoh’s palace are long gone.  Now he is just a simple herdsman, looking after sheep that belong to his father in law. It’s another ordinary, lonely day in the desert with no-one but the sheep for company… UNTIL!

Suddenly Moses sees this amazing sight.  A bush, ablaze, on fire… but strangely not consumed. Just burning, burning, burning.

So over he goes to take a closer look. But he’s in for a shock. As if the burning bush wasn’t enough of a surprise – there’s someone inside it! But who?

This is one of the real treasures of Exodus.

According to verse 2 it’s a figure called ‘the angel of the Lord’

As we read on, though, it’s clear that this ‘angel of the Lord’ is no ordinary angel. Verse 4 says that God called to Moses from within the bush. And in verse 6 this figure claims “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” This angel is a divine being. (In the Bible people who meet God are told to take their sandals if they haven’t fully grasped that they are in God’s presence!  Compare vs. 5 with Joshua 5:13-15)

Some of us will be wondering whether this angel can really be God?

Maybe we have verses like John 1:18 in our minds, which says that ‘no one has ever seen God.’ But think for a second. That verse continues in a very interesting way:

‘No-one has ever seen God but God the one and only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.’

Can this angel really be God?  Yes he can.

If we’re confused, the answer is found in the Trinity.

The Bible makes clear that God the Father is never seen by human eyes. But it also tells us that God the Son can come down be seen by humans. So the divine figure who Moses met in the burning bush is the fully divine Son of God.

The name ‘angel’ shouldn’t trouble us. Angel simply means ‘messenger’, or ‘sent one’.  And the Son of God is the one supremely sent from heaven to do the will of God in the world.

Just a few weeks back at Christmas we used all sorts of Old Testament names for the Son of God: Remember the famous line from Isaiah chapter 9: ‘He will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace’.  These were all special names for Jesus, the Son of God. That’s how we should think of ‘The angel of the Lord’ It’s one of the Old Testament’s favourite names for Jesus who came and had dealings with men and women many times before he was finally born as a baby at Christmas time.

It is this divine figure, the Son of God, who has come down from heaven in Exodus 3 to lead the people of Israel out of their captivity. Another great lesson: In the Bible salvation is a work that Jesus came down from heaven to perform for us.

As we go through Exodus over the next few weeks we will see this divine Angel leading the Israelites through the Red Sea and journeying with them across the wilderness, guiding them to the promised land, in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.

Exodus 3 is well known for one other thing.  It’s the chapter in which Moses is commissioned to lead Israel out of Egypt (3:10).

The question is, why did the divine Angel appoint Moses to lead the people, when Moses was clearly so reluctant to be used? (See 3:11+13; 4:1,10 + 13) Why didn’t the Angel just do it himself? After all, he is the Son of God, the one appointed to save God’s people from slavery.  Did he need to use a man like Moses?

It seems the Divine Angel appointed Moses to deliver Israel out of slavery in Egypt to teach us about the way in which He would one day go about delivering the world from its slavery to sin.

When Jesus came He would not come in his divine glory or exercise his sovereign power.  Instead he lived as a man just like us who shared all our human weakness. Even as a grown man serving God’s purpose in the world, he never relied on his own strength. Instead he trusted completely in God. The gospels tell us that Jesus the man performed His miracles in the power of the Holy Spirit. In John’s gospel Jesus says some remarkable words, ‘I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself, he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son does also… by myself, I can do nothing.’ (John 5:19, 30) In all things Jesus learned to lean on his Father and ultimately entrusted himself to God to deliver him from death.

Maybe that’s why Moses is appointed in human weakness and in dependence on God’s strength.  Because it teaches us how God would deliver the world from slavery to sin: by sending his Son to become a weak and humble man, someone who didn’t rely on his own strength, but relied in all things on His Father.

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Read Exodus 2 here.

Moses is a true Levite (v1).  Which tells you, among other things, that he’ll be a man of violence (v12! cf Gen 34:25ff; 49:5-7).  He is not the Judah-ite King (Gen 49:8-12) to whom the nations will bow.  The LORD’s Glory will not be united to his company (Gen 49:6).

Moses is not himself the Saviour.  His name (v10) means ‘saved’.  This is not the One Jacob looked for (Gen 49:18) whose name means “salvation” – i.e. Jesus.

But he will share many traits with Him.  He will be a priest for the people, acting on their behalf, declaring the word of the LORD.  And like a new Noah he will come through waters of judgement (v3 – the ‘basket’ is simply the same word as ‘ark’).  And his salvation will mean salvation for all who follow him.

After 400 years of ‘radio silence’ from God, he leaves his father’s company, survives a genocide aimed at eradicating the male seed and is raised by his natural mother in a foreign land.  He enters their condition (Acts 7:22) and becomes “great” (lit. v10 and 11).  He is set as prince and judge of his people (v14) and this is for their redemption (though they don’t see it).  But in the Lord’s wisdom this redemption won’t come through earthly might (v15).

Moses’ first 40 years (Acts 7:23) were spent ‘becoming great’ in Egypt.  Imagine it – the greatest empire the world had known.  And he was at the centre of it all.  He had become wise in all the ways of Egypt and was mighty in word and deed, as Stephen’s speech declares.  And yet, as Hebrews 11 says:

24 By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25 choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. 27 By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible.

For all its appearance by sight, Egypt offered only ‘the fleeting pleasures of sin.’  Moses ‘saw’ something else.  Or rather someOne else – the visible Image of the invisible God.  And reproach with and for Christ is a greater wealth than all the treasures of Egypt.  ‘Seeing’ and ‘considering’ this, he refuses his royal identity and sides with his oppressed people for the sake of Christ.

This Levite found a truth that a Benjamite would later describe:

7 But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ–the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. 10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.  (Phil 3:7-12)

Moses too has fellowship with Jesus in suffering.  And, as with Paul, it conforms him to Christ’s likeness.  Moses’ second 40 years will be spent becoming a saviour shepherd (v17ff) who waters the flock, defending and winning his bride.  This second 40 years was very different to the first.  But it’s so important.

Redemption will not come through Moses’ power politics.  He will not ‘play the game’ and become an inside man in the Egyptian system.  And neither will he simply be the insurrectionist bringing redemption through earthly violence. Both forms of worldly power are taken out of the equation.

From v23 the camera focuses in on the Israelite’s only hope – not their ‘great’ man, but their gracious God:

the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. 24 And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. 25 God saw the people of Israel – and God knew.  (ESV)

God heard.  God remembered.  God saw.  And God knew.  What wonderful verbs!  Meditate on these today.

And what an awesome Subject for these verbs – repeated every time for emphasis.  It is God’s action that will bring about redemption.  And He is not a callous or indifferent God.  The Father Almighty is not deaf, forgetful, blind or ignorant.  The cries of His children ‘come up’ to Him.

We may question His rejection of earthly power and the intollerable wait.  But Exodus 2 teaches us something crucial: Though our Father does not redeem according to our wisdom or timing, He does redeem according to His own – according to His own covenant promises and character.

And His response – so typical! – is to send His Angel (chapter 3), the true Saviour and Hero of the Exodus.

More on this tomorrow….

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