Images of the Savior (18 -- The Birth of Moses)
In all the Old Testament scriptures, there is perhaps no more notable and central person than Moses, the giver of the Law, the prophet who spoke with God face-to-face, the author of the Pentateuch, which serves as the foundation of all the bible, and the key figure of all that portion of it which follows Genesis (see Deuteronomy 34:10-12). It is to be expected, then, of so central a character, that his life should especially show forth the coming Messiah, who is in actual fact the central Person, not just of the Pentateuch, but of all the scriptures, in both the Old and New Testaments. And indeed we find, that when Moses was about to die, and was giving his final words of exhortation to the Jewish people, just before they crossed over into the land of Canaan, he promised them that God would raise up a prophet like himself, but vastly superior (Deuteronomy 18:15-19); and so he made that very role which most exceptionally marked him as an unsurpassed hero in God's redemptive works to be but a foreshadow of a greater Hero who should come. This prophecy was of course fulfilled in the coming of the Son of God, the eternal Word, who revealed God so much more fully than Moses had, that it could be said of him that he alone brought grace and truth to the people of God (John 1:14-18; see also Hebrews 1:1-4). As we turn to the book of Exodus, therefore, and examine the life of this man Moses, let us be careful to consider what we may learn thereby of the life of Christ, which it anticipates and typologizes.
From the beginning, and even in the unusual circumstances surrounding his birth, childhood, and early manhood, it is clear that in many ways Moses lived a life which prefigured the earthly life and accomplishment of the Savior. Let us consider first the condition of the people of God, immediately prior to Moses' birth; second, the striking characteristics of his birth and deliverance from the Pharaoh; and third, the outcome to which this deliverance fell out, in the first stages of his life only, before he became Israel's great deliverer, about which period we will enquire in later lessons.
In regards to our first point, the birth of Moses took place just after Israel had come to maturity as a great and mighty nation, but was still in bondage in the land of Egypt, oppressed by a terrible tyrant and desperately crying out for God's deliverance, in accordance with his promise to the fathers. In the same way, the birth of our Savior came â€œin the fullness of timeâ€ (Galatians 4:4), when God had brought his people to full maturity, so that Paul could say of the people of God before the coming of Christ, that they were as a child, still in bondage to the law, which served as a pedagogue until the Christ should come and bring them into their full maturity as a free heir and possessor of all the promises (Galatians 3:23-4:7). And also, at that time, God's people were oppressed by Rome, and crying out for deliverance; but more to the point, and more precisely what the birth of Moses was intended to signify, they were oppressed by their sins, and unable to bear the yoke of the law (Acts 15:10) or find freedom and life in its demands (Galatians 3:10-14, 21-22), and so they were crying out for a Savior from their sins most of all (cf. Luke 1:67-79; Matthew 1:21). Furthermore, the coming of Christ was also in accordance with the promises of God, and in fact, all the promises of God, as many and staggering as they are, found their â€œyesâ€ in Jesus Christ alone (2 Corinthians 1:20).
Then, we see also that the more the people of Israel were oppressed and afflicted, the more they multiplied and spread throughout the land, so that the Egyptians feared and hated them, and oppressed them yet the more, but all to no avail. Now, this condition is typical of the growth of the Church in all ages, for the more she is oppressed and persecuted, the more she grows and thrives and spreads across the earth, of which truth we see many examples in Acts, and may read of many other examples even in places where Christians are being persecuted today (see Acts 8:1-8; 11:19-26). But most particularly, this condition was typological of the suffering work of Christ himself, who was more oppressed and afflicted than any man, but through his affliction, he worked much fruitfulness in true life and righteousness, just as a grain of wheat which, when it dies and is buried in the ground, then springs up in new and fruitful life, and gives birth to a thousand other grains just like it (John 12:23-24).
Second, we see in the features of Moses' birth itself very many foreshadows of the later birth of Jesus. For first of all, he was born at just the time when a wicked and cruel ruler had commanded the slaughter of all the young male children of the Israelites, which was an action so barbarous and unnatural that it seems most unlikely that such a thing should occur again; but it was later prophesied of the Messiah that, when he was born, there would be the bitter wails of Rachel weeping over her slain children (Jeremiah 31:15), which actually came to pass when Herod ordered the slaughter of all the male infants in Israel (Matthew 2:16-23), so that Jesus was forced to flee to Egypt for deliverance. Now, this bespoke the cruel rage of the devil against all God's people, and his Messiah in particular, and of how the Savior would come into a world most helplessly subject to death and the fear of the devil (see Hebrews 2:14-15), and how he alone would be triumphant against this fierce enmity.
Then, we may glimpse in Moses' passing through the water of the Nile in an ark, another striking image of the Savior: for water is very frequently given in scripture as a symbol of God's wrath and judgment (e.g. Genesis 6:17; Job 27:20-23; Psalm 88:7), and so it was prophesied of the Messiah, that he should bear the full brunt of God's wrath, and pass through the waters of his judgment (e.g. Psalm 69:1-3, 14-15). And this was also signified at the Jordan river, when Jesus underwent John's baptism, and so identified himself with sinners, and solemnly dedicated himself to doing what baptism signifies, viz., passing through God's judgment in death, and coming out again victorious over death (Matthew 3:13-17). So then, Moses' baptism in an ark of bulrushes was a very fitting type of Jesus' own baptism, and of the reality to which that baptism pointed, which was accomplished at the cross and then in the resurrection from the dead. And very strikingly, this first baptism of Moses, he underwent by himself, and then later, at the crossing of the Red Sea, he brought the entire nation through another like baptism (Exodus 14); which is instructive of how Christ underwent his baptism of suffering the wrath of the Father alone, and then brought all his followers through another baptism by which they are joined to Christ and made to partake of the fruits of his death and resurrection (see Matthew 20:22 [Byzantine text]; Romans 6:3-4).
Third, the outcome which this miraculous deliverance of Moses had is also typical of the life of the Messiah: for Moses, having passed through the waters of judgment, in a figure, was then exalted to the right hand of the ruler of the world; and this is just how the Messiah, after passing through his baptism on the cross, was then exalted to the right hand of the Father. And moreover, Moses was eager to use his position for the good of his own people, and to deliver them, as we may infer from the account of his slaying the Egyptian who was abusing a Jewish slave. In the same way, Jesus was exalted to the right hand of the Father so that he might give gifts to his people (Ephesians 4:8), and deliver them, and always intercede for them and provide them with salvation (Hebrews 7:24-25). And so we see that this first phase of Moses' life was most evidently a type of the life of the Christ; and later we shall observe how the next phase as well, in which Moses' leaves his place of exaltation at the side of the king, and goes into the desert for a time, and then comes out to deliver God's people, is yet another foreshadow of what Jesus would later do when he left his throne on high, was tempted in the desert, and having passed this test victoriously, then went about delivering the people that God had given to him.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, let us not fail to apply these truths to our own hearts! For oh, how miserable we were before the coming of our Savior: we were in hard bondage, enslaved to our sins, ruled over by that bitter master, the god of this world, under the curse and penalty of death; but then God, who is rich in mercy, saw our affliction, remembered his promises, and sent forth his Son to pass through death so that we might be given life. If Moses was a mighty deliverer, and preserved a nation from the cruel wrath of Pharaoh, so that the Jewish nation for many centuries have loved and respected him, of how much more love and respect is the Christ worthy, who underwent deep and inexpressible sufferings to save us from a fate a thousand times worse than that of the Israelites under Pharaoh, and to give us rich blessings ten thousand times sweeter than the greatest gifts that Moses could ever bestow? Though Moses might be worthy of respect, there is only One who is worthy of everlasting worship and adoration; and that is Jesus Christ, the incomparable Savior of his people from all their sin and guilt.