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"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)

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  • « Regeneration: The Key to Believing the Truth | Main | Review: Reformed Worship »

    Images of the Savior (25 -- The Intercession of Moses)

    And Moses returned unto Yahweh and said, “Alas, this people has sinned a great sin, and they have made for themselves gods of gold; but now, if you will forgive their sin! but if not, blot me out, I ask, from your book which you have written.” – Exodus 32:31-32

    Of all the offices and ministries that the Son of God has undertaken to enter into for his people, one of the most precious and comfortable is that of his unceasing intercession for those who belong to him. What troubles may not be vanquished, what doubts may not be dispelled, what fears and misgivings may not be put to flight, when the most desperate criminal but glimpses the Savior standing before the holy Father and pleading with him, “Let this sinner be forgiven! For I was indeed blotted out from the land of the living, that he might not be forever.”? Of this most precious office of Christ Jesus our Savior, the most outstanding type is Moses; and in this typical role, he shines the most brilliantly in his activity immediately following Israel's great sin with the golden calf.

    Let us reflect upon the ways in which Moses was suited to prefigure the mediatorial and intercessory ministry of Christ Jesus, as evidenced by this and the surrounding events. First, we notice that Moses spoke with God face-to-face, both when he met with him on the mountain top to receive the decalogue (Exodus 19:19-21), and when he conversed with him in the tabernacle (Exodus 33:9-11), and most especially when he was hidden in a rock, to glimpse the back parts of God's glory (Exodus 33:18-34:8), about which we will speak more clearly a little later. Now, it is most evident that, in order to discharge his duty most satisfactorily, a mediator must have a direct and intimate access to both parties. Moses was able to plead for the people on the basis of his familiar audience with the holy and offended God; but how much more is our Savior well-fitted to plead for us on this score? Eternal God of eternal God, forever dwelling in a most blessed inter-trinitarian covenant of love with the Father, sitting always at his right hand, now that he has ascended again on high, he is able to speak for our forgiveness most directly, and he is always heard immediately, and answered from a heart that is one with his own, and according to a will that is most perfectly united with his. See what a strong reason for consolation we have when our case is taken up by Christ, who is at one with the Father in all the counsels and thoughts of his heart?

    We see as well a foreshadow of the coming of Christ in this, that because of Moses' audience with God, his face shone as with God's own glory, so that he had to veil it before the people (Exodus 34:29-35). Now, this circumstance reminds us of the Word of God, who radiates all the glory of the godhead, and is the exact representation of the Father's essence (Hebrews 1:1-4). Just as Moses, shining forth with the glory of God, put a veil on his face that he might not overwhelm the people to whom he was bringing God's words, so Jesus, that he might not overwhelm us with the terrible brightness of God's glory, when he brought to us the true nature of the godhead, he veiled that glory in a body of human flesh, that we might look upon it and not be undone. So the shining of Moses' face, and the veil he put upon it, was a type of the incarnation. But this type also signified the essential insufficiency of Moses' mediation, and underscored the need for a more perfect revelation of God: for when Moses showed the glory of God to the Israelites, it was but a momentary and incomplete reflection, that was fading away; and even into this incomplete display of God's character, they were not strong enough to look steadfastly, so that a veil was required. But if the people of God could not even look upon this fading glory, who then could prepare them to behold the fullness of glory, which was yet to come? Ah, how much greater is the Son of God than Moses, for when he brought the glory of God to his people, he not only reflected that glory in a perfect and unfading manner, which was far greater than the shining of Moses' face; but he also poured forth his Spirit into their hearts, so that they might see his glory and live, and be strengthened to understand and reflect that same image of the matchless God. The veil has been done away by the Spirit of the Lord, who opens our eyes to see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, strengthens our spirit to endure that brilliant radiance, and changes our whole nature, so that we begin to reflect in our own lives that which Jesus radiates forth from his hypostatic person, of the glory of God (2 Corinthians 3:7-18).

    As we continue to look into Moses' ministry of mediation and intercession we see that, even as he himself saw God face-to-face, so he brought others into God's presence that they might see him too. Thus the seventy elders, when they went up into the mountain with Moses, saw the glory of God as a radiant pavement of sapphire (Exodus 24:9-11). This was a foreshadow of the Mount of Transfiguration, when Jesus brought the first elders of his newly reconstituted Church to see the glory of God, as it radiated forth from his changed body (Matthew 17:1-9). And this occasion itself was only a foretaste of what he would do henceforth for all his people, dwelling with them forevermore in the New Jerusalem, with a glorified body that sheds forth the light and brilliance of God across the whole earth (Revelation 22:3-5).

    Now, as we approach the event of Moses' intercession for the people after their great sin, we must notice all the things that prepare for it, by setting forth the twofold reality of God's justice and his mercy, which would serve as the foundation for that climactic plea of Moses, in which he cries out for God's mercy, and hopes to satisfy his justice by a principle of substitution for those with whom he is identified. This is the very heart of the nature of Christ's intercessory ministry, and the typological role of Moses in several ways foreshadows this great truth. First, after Moses had brought down the Law of God to the people, he sprinkled it and the people with the blood of the Covenant (Exodus 24:1-8), signifying thereby that, when the decalogue was broken, the price would be paid in blood, and those beneath its demands must be sprinkled with that blood, which alone could satisfy it, if they would continue to live after failing to fulfill it adequately.

    Second, in the events immediately following Israel's great sin, Moses again displayed this twofold reality, viz., that the condemnation of the Law must be exacted, and that its reward must be perfectly won, if the people of God should find favor, and if their intercessor should make to bear a satisfactory plea. In the respect to the first, Moses displayed most graphically the people's failure to keep the Law, and the consequences that must ensue, when he shattered it immediately after coming down the first time from the mountain, upon seeing Israel in an idolatrous revelry. In the same way, as soon as God declares his Law, we show ourselves immediately to be law-breakers, scorning God's commandments and chasing after the pleasures of gold and false securities and illicit pleasures. In this way, we not only break, but completely shatter the whole gamut of God's commandments, which truth Moses demonstrated by shattering the decalogue on the mountain, at the very moment that he first brought it down from God. Then, when he ground the golden calf into powder, and made the children of Israel to drink it, he was upholding the righteousness of the Law by demonstrating that its penalties would be exacted, and those that turned aside to false gods would be made to feel their effects, and drink down, as it were the awful consequences of the false gods they had lusted after. Also, the fact that they were made to ingest their god into their bowels, and then to defecate it into the latrines, showed that their idolatry was innate and deep-seated, and that it was exceedingly filthy and corrupt, and that out of the abundance of their dirty hearts they had brought forth this abominable display (cf. Mark 7:14-23). So then, Moses first revealed the people's utter corruption, and upheld the demand of the Law for punishment; just as Jesus would later prove most poignantly the deep-seated evil of the people, and the fearful demands of justice which they had hanging over them, before he ever showed the remedy (cf. for example Matthew 9:12-13; 19:16-23).

    But after Moses had broken the first tablets of the Law, he went back up and brought down from God new tablets, which should not be broken at all. This teaches us that, when we had broken the Law, so that it could never be whole again, Jesus then fulfilled it anew, so that it would remain unbroken, and demand no further penalty. When the first set of tablets was immediately shattered, Moses then provided a perfectly whole set of tablets. And when we had immediately obliterated all of God's holy commandments, by our lives of abominable idolatry, then the antitype of Moses, Jesus Christ, came down from heaven and upheld them all completely, so that an unbroken Law might continue in our midst, and pronounce us righteous before the Father.

    This twofold reality was shown nowhere more fully than in God's response to Moses when, as a proxy and substitute for the people, he offered up his own life in exchange for theirs, if he would but forgive them. Although God rejected Moses' offer, in a sense, not accepting to blot out his name from the book of life (as it was quite apparent that even the name of Moses was not sufficient to satisfy the demands of the offended Law); yet what he did say in response held forth in a shadowy enigma the most solemn promise of a coming mediator and intercessor who would repeat the offer of Moses, and be accepted, and triumph indeed. For immediately thereafter, God promises that his Angel would go before them, and take them into the promised land (Exodus 32:33-34; 33:1-3). Now, this Angel was he of whom God had just before spoken, when he first gave Moses the Law, and said of him that “my Name is in him” (Exodus 23:21). Now, this is only Christ, the Angel of the Lord; and so God is here saying, “although my people has sinned, my Christ will find a way to bring them into my presence”.

    Furthermore, God was likewise pleased at that time to reveal more fully than ever before the wondrously diverse and excellent qualities of his character, which served to indicate the marvelous nature of the person and work of this Angel, that is of Christ, who should accomplish the salvation of the people of God. For God then brought Moses up into a cleft in the rock, and declared his name before him; and his name was bounded by two most excellent and perfect qualities, which were a marvel and a mystery to behold together, existing without contradiction: and those were, that God does not acquit the guilty, and that he is gracious, merciful, and faithful to his people throughout their generations (Exodus 34:5-7). How could God be both righteous, refusing to acquit the guilty; and faithful to his covenant promises, being merciful to these people who had just shown their great shame and guilt? This diverse excellency seemed an impossibility; but nevertheless, both truths had to exist together, for God had here declared it; and to effect his marvelous promise, and bring together these glorious truths without any contradiction, he would send his Angel to bring his sinful people into his presence again.

    Ah, children of Abraham, just as the Israelites of old, no sooner had we heard of God's commandments, than we were proven to be law-breakers, filthy and corrupt in our inmost being. How desperate is our need, if we would come again to God! We need someone to bring God's grace to bear without the compromise of his justice; to cause mercy and righteousness to spring up together; to uphold and exact the condemnation of the Law and at the same time provide an unbroken Law to plead for our reward; in short, we need a perfect Substitute to satisfy the Law's curse, win the Law's reward, and offering himself up in our place, make a perfect and final intercession for us, speaking with God face-to-face and bringing us up into his presence. Who is sufficient for all these things? Thanks be to God for Jesus Christ our Mediator, who has given us the victory!

    Posted by Nathan on September 26, 2008 10:35 AM

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