Images of the Savior (19 -- The Call of Moses)
The deliverance of the children of Israel from their bondage in Egypt would become the greatest redemptive act of God in all the Old Testament, and so would serve as the great illustration of Israel's peculiar blessedness throughout the rest of her history, and be the act of covenant love which she would remember more ardently than any other, and cling to as an immovable assurance of her future salvation, no matter what trouble she was in (see, for example, Deuteronomy 15:15; Psalm 66:5-6; 74:10-15; 78:13; 105:26-38; 106:7-12; 136:10-15). In fact, it was not until the coming of the Messiah himself that a greater deliverance would be accomplished, which should forevermore eclipse the glory of this one; and so it clearly stands as an unsurpassed type of the final redemptive work of Christ (see Jeremiah 16:14-16). It is therefore most appropriate that the circumstances surrounding this particular event, more especially than almost any other event in the life of Moses, should be filled with glimpses of the coming Savior; and so in fact we find, from the time when Moses was first called out by God to deliver his people from Egypt, that he confirmed and illustrated his calling with many notable and instructive signs, upon which we will now reflect.
First, the history of Moses prior to God's call holds forth in a figure the coming of the Son of God: for he was at the beginning exalted to the right hand of the king, and there felt much sympathy and compassion for his own people, and so desired to deliver them; but before he could do so, he was driven out to the desert for forty years, and immediately thereafter, he returned to save his people indeed. In this history, we are reminded of the like history of Christ, who in his compassion for his people humbled himself and left his place at the right hand of the Father; and at the beginning, when he went about to save his people, he was driven by the Spirit into the wilderness for forty days, and then returned to work his salvation (Luke 4:1-15). And also, at this time, Moses became a shepherd, and drew out water for the gentile peoples of that place, and indeed became married to one of them, and named his son by Zipporah, to whom he was married, â€œGershom,â€ which means, â€œstrangerâ€ (Exodus 2:15-22). In these things, as well, we see the work of Christ foreshadowed: for he likewise came down to this wilderness to become a shepherd for his people (Isaiah 40:11; Ezekiel 34:23; 37:24; Zechariah 13:7; John 10:11; 1 Peter 2:25; 5:4; Hebrews 13:20), and he went to foreign lands and there drew out the water of life for those who had been strangers to the covenant, as when he brought salvation to the Samaritan woman (John 4:1-42); and then he married his church, whom he called forth out of many gentile lands (Ephesians 5:25-33), and all those whom he caused to be born again by his Spirit unto a new and living hope he called to be strangers and pilgrims on this earth (Leviticus 25:23; 1 Chronicles 29:15; Psalm 39:12; 1 Peter 2:11; Hebrews 11:13), even as Moses called his son a â€œstrangerâ€.
Second, when Moses was first called by God to deliver his people from Egypt, he was then confronted with one of the most admirable and manifold types of the Messiah anywhere to be found in the Old Testament, the burning bush. Now consider: this bush appeared in Horeb, which is desert country and means â€œdrynessâ€; and in this bush, which sprang up out of the ground and was a lowly plant, there burned an unquenchable fire, which nevertheless did not consume the bush; and from the midst of this burning bush there came out the Angel of the Lord, who called Moses to deliver his people, and told them his name, â€œI AMâ€. In the same way, the Christ was born of a human, out of the race which God had formed of the earth, and thus he truly sprang up from the ground, inasmuch as he came from Adam, the first man, whose name in fact means â€œearthâ€. And then, it was said of him that he should be a root out of a dry ground, a lowly plant, etc. (Isaiah 53:2; see also Isaiah 11:1; Jeremiah 23:5; Zechariah 6:12), even as this bush was a lowly shrub; but although he was human and lowly, he was also immortal God, which was signified in this bush by the presence of the Angel of the Lord in its midst, which is an Old Testament designation for Christ himself; and so the bush was a very poignant representation of the joining of the human and divine natures in the person of Christ. Now, just as the fire burned in the bush implacably, but did not consume it, so God poured out all of his implacable wrath on the Christ, and he was still not consumed, but lived again, having satisfied all the fire of God's wrath. And just as the bush sprang up in a dry land, so Christ came into a world that was a dry and barren wilderness, without the life-giving water of God's word; and thus the state of the world in its misery and sinfulness is often compared in the prophets to a dry and thirsty land (e.g. Psalm 63:1; isaiah 32:2; 35:7; 41:18). And most strikingly, when Jesus came to this barren earth, joined his divine nature to that of a lowly man, and suffered the wrath of God to deliver his people, he did so for the sole purpose of revealing to them the name of God, that is, of showing them his true nature and glory, the knowledge of which is life indeed and every good blessing (John 17:1-3, 6, 24-26; see also John 1:14, 18; Hebrews 1:1-4); and so, when the Angel of the Lord, out of the midst of the burning bush, revealed to Moses the name of God, that sacred name by which he would be known to his people forevermore, which is Yahweh, the I AM, he was doing in earnest that which he would do in full some day later, when the type of the burning bush should be finally fulfilled.
Third, it was prophesied of the Messiah that the world would resist and oppose him, and that God would harden the people's hearts against him, but that he would bring much treasure and many blessings to his own people (Isaiah 6:9-13; 53:1-3; John 12:37-41; Psalm 68:18; Ephesians 4:7-8; Isaiah 61:3); and so God prophesied to Moses that he would harden Pharaoh's heart (Exodus 4:21), but that he would enrich his people, and bring them out with the spoils of the land (Exodus 3:21-22).
Fourth, when God called Moses, he gave him three miraculous signs, all of which demonstrated the nature of the later work of the Christ. First of all, when he cast his staff on the ground, it became a vicious serpent; but taking it again by the tail, it became once more a rod. In the same way, the serpent's vicious and cruel work against the Messiah, which he spewed out against him on the cross, Jesus then took and used as a rod of deliverance and protection for his people, by his cross saving them forevermore. So the cross was a place of the serpent, for there all the serpent's venom and sin of the world was heaped up, and the serpent raged as never before against the Son of God; but it was also a staff of salvation, saving all who looked upon it in faith. Thus the rod of Moses, in which was found both a wicked serpent and a staff of deliverance, was a type of the cross of Christ. And it is notable, therefore, that it was of this staff that God said he would later work all the signs of deliverance (see Exodus 4:17); just as it was through the cross that God accomplished all those things which those manifold signs typified, things of victory and peace and salvation and life, which were all worked by Moses through his shepherd's rod.
The second sign that God gave to Moses was likewise very instructive: for he first put his hand into his bosom and it became leprous; and then he thrust it in again and it became wholesome and pure. Now this signifies that the Messiah would save his people by taking all their filth and sin, of which leprosy is a very graphic type, into his own bosom; but then, he would overcome all that impurity and make their sins as white as snow, even as Isaiah later prophesied of him (Isaiah 1:18).
The third and final sign, in which Moses poured out water upon the ground and it became blood, was likewise instructive; for in this case, the means by which all life is sustained was shown to be blood, inasmuch as the water was turned into blood; and thus there was a hint of that truth that Christ's blood would be as water indeed, so that all who drink of it should find eternal life. But most especially, since it was not blood that became water, but rather water that became blood, which was most unwholesome and undrinkable, it rather signified God's judgment upon his enemies, so that all their hopes of sustaining their lives, through their violence against the Christ and his people, would be utterly turned against them; as it was later said of the wicked world that God would make them drunk with the blood of his saints, that is, he would turn their evil designs upon their own heads, and reward them with a double portion of the wickedness and violence that they thought to do to Christ and his people (Revelation 16:3-7; 17:6; 18:4-6).
Fifth, when God sent Moses to save his people, he promised him that he would teach him what to say, and he also sent Aaron to be as a mouth to Moses, and to say all that Moses should tell him (Exodus 4:14-16). In these circumstances, we are reminded again of Christ, who stated most emphatically that he could say nothing but what God his Father should tell him, and revealed to his people only the words of God (John 5:30; 8:28; 14:10); and in the functioning of Aaron, the mouth of Moses, we encounter a type of the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus sent forth to teach, not his own mind, but everything which Jesus had said (John 14:25-26; 15:26; 16:12-15).
Sixth, the fact that Moses had first fled for his life from the wrath of the king, but that when God called him back to save his people it was with the assurance that, â€œall the men who were seeking your life are deadâ€ (Exodus 4:19), corresponds to the like circumstance in Jesus' own history, when he fled to Egypt from Herod's wrath, but returned to save his people when Herod was dead (Matthew 3:19-20).
Seventh, when God sent Moses to bring out his people from Egypt, he said at once that he would save his own firstborn, that is Israel, but that he would judge the firstborn of Pharaoh, who typifies the devil; which in fact he did in the tenth plague, just before he brought Israel out from Egypt. In the same way, God sent Christ both to save his own people, who are the children of God, and also to destroy the people of the world, who are the children of Satan (see John 5:21-29; Acts 17:30-31). And thus his redemptive work has both a positive and a negative aspect to it, which was foreshadowed by the deliverance that Moses wrought: negatively, he destroyed all his enemies and the enemies of his people; and positively he saved his people and gave them life; and this is also true of how Jesus judged sin in the flesh, and destroyed the wicked works of our bodies, but through that destruction delivered us into eternal life and joy (see Romans 8:3-4).
The call of Moses, then, was surrounded by many notable and instructive signs and types, which whispered even to the people of his own day of a far better and more encompassing deliverance that was yet to come, wrought by a far greater and more glorious Deliverer, who should reveal the very nature of God to men by joining that nature in all its ineffable glory to the form of a lowly man. How great the deliverance of Moses was, and how fearful the judgment that he brought down in fury upon the enemies of God's people, is almost too much to express; what then shall we say of the glory of God's greater deliverance, when he spoke not through a mere prophet, but by his own Son (Hebrews 1:1-4); delivered his people not from a mere pharaoh, but from the old Serpent who empowered the pharaoh, and even from their own sin and guilt which the Serpent's temptations had cast them into (Hebrews 2:14-15); revealed not just the back parts of God's glory, but made manifest all the glory of the Godhead bodily (Colossians 2:9); and brought them out, not just into the fruitful land of Canaan, but into the New Jerusalem, whose eternal and unfading light is the Lamb, and where the Lord dwells in peace with all his people, flooding the nations with peace and joy from his holy throne (Hebrews 12:22-24; Revelation 21:1-22:5)?