Old Testament Fulfillment Series: Moses the Great Deliverer

Deut. 5:6-21; Acts 3:17-26; Matt. 5:17-20

The theological structure of the Old Testament serves to prefigure Christ, Who is the subject of redemptive history.

We have begun to see a great redemptive trajectory with Christ as the second Adam. The Fall was the fellowship of the rebellion; “Not Your will, but mine be done.” The fruit in the Garden of Eden was an anti-sacrament. The second Adam, Christ, in the second Garden, Gethsemane, said, “Not My will, but Yours be done.” This is the fellowship of the redeemed.

Then Abraham provides several layers, which Christ fulfills and completes. Christ is the fulfillment and keeper of the Covenant (Genesis 12:1-3; 15:1-9). Paul boldly declares in Galatians 3:8 that “God was announcing the gospel in advance to Abraham.” Just as Romans 5 reveals Christ as the second Adam, so Hebrews 7 presents Christ as the fulfillment of the great High Priest according to the order of Melchizedek. Genesis 22 tells us the story of Abraham’s call to sacrifice Isaac which, according to Romans 4, prefigures the sacrifice in which God Himself provides the substitute and becomes our Jehovah Jireh. Abraham is confirmed as the father of faith, and Christ becomes the author and perfector of our faith.

We are beginning to see the great contours of redemptive history unfold as Christ, in the fullness of time, becomes Second Adam, Keeper of the Covenant, Sacrifice, Prophet, Priest, King, New Lawgiver, New Israel, and Suffering Servant. We still have a long way to go in this journey, but we are beginning to see the great redemptive trajectory.

We move to the third of our four figures, Moses. An unlikely leader, Moses becomes the great deliverer and lawgiver of Israel, a prophet unlike any other, whom the Lord knew face to face (Deut. 34:10). Moses was born in a miraculous way, saved from Pharaoh’s decree that all baby boys born to the Hebrews be thrown into the Nile. He’s placed into a basket, rescued by Pharaoh’s daughter, and raised in the very courts of Pharaoh. He was given the best education and training, but he never forgot the suffering of his people in slavery to the Egyptians. One day, he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew slave, one of his own people. Moses glanced to the left and to the right, and then he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand (Exodus 2:11). 

Even though Moses was being prepared to be a deliverer, he thought he could exercise that longing in his own way. By killing the Egyptian, he tried to make it happen through his own strength, resources, and ingenuity. So God took him to school: the desert.

Recall that God laid tracks for Abraham, preparing him for his role as the father of faith, culminating in Genesis 22. Likewise, for 40 years, Moses lived in the wilderness of Midian while God humbled him and prepared him to be His true deliverer. Only after 40 years is Moses ready, and God finally appears to him in the burning bush and formally calls him to deliver Israel. God is the one who takes the initiative this time. He reminds Moses that He also has seen the misery of His people and heard them crying out because of their slave drivers. He cares more than Moses ever could about their suffering, and He has come down to rescue them. Moses’ three responses demonstrate that he has indeed changed during his years in the wilderness. God’s school has truly taught him his own inadequacy to deliver the Israelites through his own power. First, Moses asks, “Who am I that I should go?” God’s response reminds him and us that this is God’s unfolding plan. It is not about who Moses is; the Lord declares that it is about who “I AM.” Moses’ second response is, “What if they don’t believe me?” God’s answer is the staff in Moses’ hand, which miraculously turns into a snake. With this, God reminds Moses that the authority of the Lord goes with him. Third, Moses argues, “I am not eloquent of speech!” God answers that it is He who gave man his tongue and that He will teach Moses what to say. He will give Moses His words. Equipped with the name of God, the authority of God, and the word of God, Moses is prepared to become Israel’s leader in order to deliver them out of bondage, through the Red Sea, and eventually to Mt. Sinai where they are given the Ten Commandments that represent the covenant between Yahweh and Israel. The Passover and Red Sea sequence becomes the great paradigm of deliverance for Israel – the birth of Israel as the people of God in covenant with Yahweh, not just as a group of freed slaves.

The rescue from Egypt is a very long narrative from Exodus 7-12, culminating in the 10th and final plague, the death of the firstborn sons of all Egypt. Israel, too, would suffer this judgment unless they sacrificed the blood of a spotless lamb and placed that blood over the tops and sides of the door frames. If the blood was there, the death angel would “pass over” their home and they would be spared from judgment. Exodus 12:11 uses a very interesting phrase: “It is the Lord’s Passover.” He doesn’t say, “It is your Passover,” but rather that it is Yahweh’s Passover. The term “Passover” at this point does not refer to a festival, although in this chapter the festival called Passover is instituted. Passover is focused on the victim of the night, which is the lamb. This is why it is the Lord’s Passover – He is directing the entire basis for the deliverance in very detailed terms. The spotless lamb is the Lord’s designated sacrificial victim. It is His night where He acts to deliver His people. 

I had the privilege of growing up in an Orthodox Jewish community in Atlanta. Unless you have really lived with Jewish people, it is hard to fully appreciate how Passover is understood to the present day. Our whole neighborhood lived within the rhythms of the Jewish year. For example, all through my growing up years I remember eating unleavened bread at school during the Passover, or watching my friends construct booths on their front lawn for the Feast of Booths (Sukkot) and living outside for eight days. I thought that was really cool. But the Passover was a solemn night. They gathered annually to remember God’s mighty act of deliverance. The Passover and the Exodus become the defining identity of the people of God. Everything else flows from this central act of redemption. 

As Christians, we recognize that this is yet another way that God laid the tracks preparing us for the coming of Christ into the world. When Paul says in I Cor. 5:7 that “Christ our Passover Lamb has been sacrificed,” he is making a theological connection between the spotless lamb and the blood on the doorframes, and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and His blood that delivers us from God’s righteous judgment. Jesus Christ is the Passover lamb. He is the designated victim Who ultimately secures our redemption – the redemption of both Jew and Gentile. Later in chapter 10 of I Corinthians, Paul compares the passing through the Red Sea to baptism. This was their baptism – their inauguration into the changed status from slaves to the people of God, just as baptism for us marks our transition from people enslaved to sin to those who are partakers in all the privileges and promises of the people of God. The manna is Christ himself. Paul even says in 1 Corinthians 10:4 that the rock from which the water flowed in the wilderness was Christ. You see, just as Christ’s death and resurrection invades our present so that we too become caught up in His death and resurrection – we died with Christ, we were raised with Christ – you must also see that this great central act of redemption moves backwards through time as well. In the mystery of the gospel, Christ is in the Garden obeying; Christ is that Lamb that was sacrificed. It was His blood being placed on the door frames. It was He who led them through the Red Sea. He is the cloudy pillar by day and the fiery pillar by night. You see, it is Christ alone who redeems the world. The early Jews who embraced Christ never had to leave the central act of Passover behind in order to embrace Christ. Rather, they saw that the new central historical act of redemption, the Cross and Resurrection, all become part of the great plan of redemption. Rather than the Passover being left behind, it is instilled with new significance and becomes part and parcel of the great act of redemption.

This explains one of the early debates about the opening line of the Apostles’ Creed: “I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of Heaven and earth.” Some patristic Christians believed that it did not sufficiently connect the church to the larger narrative. Instead, they felt that the first line should read: “I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of Heaven and earth, who led Israel up out of Egypt.” Though that line is not present in the earliest version of the Roman Creed from which the Apostles’ Creed emerges, it is certainly implied, since the God who created the world and later sent His Son into the world is the same God who led Israel up out of Egypt.

There are not multiple plans of redemption, but one great unfolding plan. Notice the redemptive movement that is taking place. In Genesis 12, God lays out from the start the ultimate vision, which is the reconciliation of all the families and nations of the earth. This is the whole foundation of the covenant with Abraham, which is repeated to Isaac and Jacob. But God redeems the world by first electing Israel as the one redeemed nation, the first fruits of His plan of global redemption. But Israel is not faithful. Israel forsakes the covenant. But God is the greater keeper of the covenant. So we move from all nations, to Israel, to a remnant of Israel. But the remnant is also unable to keep the covenant. So in God’s plan, Jesus Christ becomes the new Israel. Christ alone becomes the Redeemer of the nations, including the redemption of Egypt. The covenant says, “all nations,” and that must include the peoples of Egypt. Yet, Egypt is the nation that held Israel in bondage and enslaved them. Throughout the Prophets, the idea of going back to Egypt is a sign of trusting in human strength, human resources. So if you are an Egyptian, you can only imagine how difficult it is to find your place in the narrative of redemption.

But remember in Matthew’s gospel that, immediately following the visit of the Magi, Matthew records the relocation of Joseph, Mary and Jesus to Egypt (2:13-15). This is, of course, significant, as Jesus reenacts the Exodus whereby the children of Israel came up out of Egypt. Matthew, in his gospel, even boldly declares that Jesus coming up out of Egypt was in fulfillment of Hosea 11:1: “Out of Egypt I called my son.” Jesus is physically reenacting the Exodus in the same way that, in the Garden of Gethsemane, He reenacted the original temptation in the Garden of Eden. However, it should not be overlooked in Matthew’s gospel that we find the transformation of Egypt from a symbol of oppression and bondage to a nation that now protects and provides safe haven for the Messiah.[1] Egypt is now found not oppressing God’s people and thwarting God’s plan, but rather Egypt becomes a critical player in God’s plan and is the protector of the very life of the Messiah. Egypt’s role as a haven for the Messiah is not only theologically powerful but also helps to invigorate Israel’s historical memory of the time long before their painful Egyptian bondage, when Egypt provided a haven for Abraham (Gen. 12:10). It is a refreshing testimony to the power of the gospel to reconcile all nations.

The vision for all nations, including Egypt, is reaffirmed. The movement from all nations, to Israel, to a remnant of Israel, to finally just one man, Jesus Christ, Who alone acts to redeem the world, is the basis for building the new people of God, the church of Jesus Christ, which then preaches the gospel to all nations. This culminates in the fulfillment of the original promise to Abraham to bless all nations, which is realized in Rev. 7:9, where John sees men and women from every tribe, tongue and people worshipping before the Lamb. Most of you know what a chiasm is – we see this with Abraham. He leaves his land, his relatives, and his father’s house. And then from the faith of Abraham, God brings forth the blessing – blessing Abraham, then bringing forth a great nation, and finally all nations will be blessed through him. Well, the Genesis text is mirroring and laying the tracks for the great chiasm of redemption. All nations will be redeemed, beginning with Israel, then a remnant of Israel, then one man, Jesus Christ, then the church, and ultimately all nations. Jesus becomes the new Israel and the new Moses. He comes out of Egypt as the new Israel. Then, just as Moses was faithful as a servant over his house, so Jesus Christ is faithful over His house, but as a Son rather than a servant. So, the Passover-Exodus narrative prefigures the deliverance and sacrifice of Christ himself. He is the spotless lamb Whose blood is shed for the redemption of the world. He comes out of Egypt, He lays His life down, and is the final sacrifice. And through that one sacrifice, He leads His peoples out of the bondage of sin and, in the process, redeems the world! Jesus is the great deliverer, the Passover Lamb sacrificed for our exodus out of the land of slavery. As Jesus said just before the famous John 3:16 passage, “For just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up so that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life.” Jesus is the High Priest and the Sacrifice, the Paschal Lamb and the Deliverer, the Victim and New Moses. Col. 2:15 says, “He disarmed the powers and authorities, making a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them through the power of the cross.” We find John weeping in Revelation 5 because no one was found worthy to open the scroll and break the seal, unfolding the history of redemption. Then one of the elders says to John, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.” John looks up to see the Lion, and what does he see? He sees a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain. You see, the power of the Lion is in the Lamb. He is both Sacrifice and Deliverer!

What does this mean for us? This helps us to see the gospel through a more missional lens. We are participants with God Himself in this grand plan to redeem the world. It is the church of Jesus Christ that stands between the central act of redemption and the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham to bless all nations. We are to embody the good news of the gospel for a world that clings to a false narrative. You see, once we lose the grand narrative and the great stream of redemption and the eschatological hope toward which we are all moving, we become tone deaf when God summons us. The world seems to believe that this life is all that there is. The only eschatology that they have is their own retirement. The glorious eschaton has been replaced by a good IRA and a golf course. Today, hope for a happy retirement has replaced the entire eschatological hope of eternity. The great tragedy of this world is that they live in a very small universe – a thimble sized universe. We have the joy and privilege of proclaiming through word and deed that God is redeeming the world. The great tragedy in the church today is that we have decoupled the church from the mission of the church. We go to church for our own fulfillment rather than to engage with God’s great redemptive plan. This, after all, is what it means to be elected by God: not to revel in our being saved but instead to bring the gospel to the world. We have a great message: the Triune God is putting an end to sin. He will crush all rebellion. Human trafficking will finally be overturned. Broken lives will be made whole. The first will be last, and the last first. God will speak the final word. All injustice will be righted. Every tear will be wiped away! The glorious banquet will be served. The door of the Father’s house will be flung open! Satan, the roaring lion, will be silenced. Death will be vanquished, the nations will be redeemed, and God will be all in all. 


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