Images of the Savior (48 -- Conclusion)
Dear ones in Christ, we have now finished our survey of the books of Moses, and we have had many weighty things impressed upon us. Let us now take a few moments to consider what we have heard, in order that we might be very careful not to drift away: â€œfor if the word which was spoken through angels was firm, and every transgression and disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape, having been careless of so great a salvation, which began to be spoken of by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by those who heard, God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders and diverse miracles and apportionings of the Holy Spirit according to his willâ€ (Hebrews 2:2-4)? But we trust that it will not be so, but rather, having witnessed the beginning of the gospel of Christ, which Moses testified to, we will run all the more assiduously to the fullness of the gospel in the broad daylight, which God has now spoken to us perfectly through his Son (Hebrews 1:1-4).
Let us remember, as we pause to consider the sum of those things we have heard, that the Pentateuch is foundational to the entire bible, the ground upon which the whole building is founded, and the root from which the entire tree springs up. We may recall that the ancients divided up the Hebrew scriptures into three portions: the Law of Moses, the Writings, which are variously called the Psalms by way of synechdoche, and the Prophets. Now, it takes very little reading to discover that the Psalms have a very deep affection for and indebtedness to the Law of Moses; and so the psalmists everywhere praise it in the highest of terms, in such places as Psalms 19 and 119. But it is also most evident that the prophets spoke no other thing than what God had already predicted through Moses, in Deuteronomy chapters 27-32, where he says that Israel will be cast off for unbelief, and that God will then regather his people from all the nations, and that, at that time, he will circumcise their hearts so that they love him and obey him; and in this same passage, he turns the people's hearts most earnestly to Christ, as we have already observed. But consider, if the prophets everywhere speak of the exile and restoration of Israel, and the expansion of God's people so that it includes representatives of every nation, and ultimately, of the cutting off and resurrection of Christ for the people, and of the New Covenant which he would establish with them, so that they will be given hearts of flesh to love the Lord and obey his laws, then are they not saying only what Moses had already said before in the Pentateuch? So we see then that the books of Moses are foundational to the entire Hebrew scriptures, which flow from and complete them.
But now consider further: what is the subject of Moses' Law, and hence the subject of the entire Old Testament scriptures? As Jesus declared in the passage above (John 5:45-46), Moses spoke about him; and hence, we may certainly conclude that the entire Old Testament spoke of him, as indeed our Lord himself most solemnly confirmed in several places, such as John 5:39-40; Luke 24:25-27, 44-48; and elsewhere. So then, as we leave our meditations, we must remember, first, the foundational character of the Pentateuch, and second, its utter Christ-centeredness, if we would use it aright, and be built up in our faith by it, and not just cast it aside and drift away, and so call down upon our heads the fierce judgments of the Law.
Let us then conclude our study by a brief remembrance of the various ways in which the books of the Law looked ahead to the Christ.
First, the Law contains very many explicit prophecies and promises of the coming Christ: for not only do we first meet him at creation, as the living and effectual Word by which light, and indeed all of creation, sprang into being, the Father meanwhile speaking and the Spirit hovering over the waters; but also, in the very first pages we receive our first clear promise that he by whom the worlds came into existence would one day be sent as a human, a true Seed of the woman, to redeem us, defeat our Enemy, and be our Immanuel (Genesis 3:15). And thereafter, the confirmatory and clarifying promises of the Christ are legion, God promising to raise him up from Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3; 13:14-17); and then speaking of him as Shiloh, who would spring up from Judah and wield the sceptre (Genesis 49:8-12); and promising to send him as a prophet like Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15-19), as the Star of Jacob (Numbers 24:15-19), and other such things.
Second, we may see the Christ in the various theophanies which we encounter in the Pentateuch; for in several instances, as a sort of foretaste and promise of what he would some day do finally, in his incarnation which God brought about in the fullness of the times (Galatians 4:4-5), he appeared in a physical body for the strengthening and encouragement of the elect; and so, we read of his appearing and eating with Abraham, before the destruction of Sodom (Genesis 18); and of his speaking face-to-face with Jacob (Genesis 32:24-30) and with Moses (Exodus 33:11; 34:29-35; Deuteronomy 34:10), and his going before the children of Israel as the Angel of the Lord, who sometimes assumed a visible form for the comfort of his people or the terror of their enemies (Genesis 16:7-14; 22:11-12; Exodus 14:19; Numbers 22:31-35).
Third, there is a great abundance of types of specific instances, in which we may learn many wonderful things about the Savior who was to come into the world: for God was pleased to foreshadow him in many different events, showing him forth as the ark which preserved Noah through the waters of his wrath; as the lowly bush which was springing up from the dry ground, which was burning with the fire of God's wrath and yet not consumed, and from which God revealed his name and his attributes; as the Rock which was smitten with the Rod of divine justice, and which henceforth flowed with lifegiving waters for his people; as the pillar of cloud and fire, the serpent lifted up in the wilderness, and many other such things which time now forbids us to enumerate.
Fourth, we may likewise glimpse the Christ very clearly in the types of constantly recurring things that God enjoined upon the people, so that they might remember him. For not only was he foreshadowed in specific, singular events, but also in every part of the Law by which God commanded an ongoing observance and remembrance of things significant of him. He is seen most clearly in the Passover and all the other festivals which the people were required yearly to remember; and also in the tabernacle, with all its services, in the many various sacrifices, in the sabbaths and the years of Jubilee, the laws of clean and unclean, the price of redemption, and in short, every feature of Israel's life, which continued from generation to generation, and so held forth the long-awaited and yearned-for Christ before the eyes of the people unceasingly, until he had come indeed to fulfill all the types.
Fifth, there are types of many persons of faith, whose lives foreshadowed the perfect life of Christ in some respect; so that we might say with some evidence, that even as our lives today as Christians are intended predominantly to show forth Christ in the world, our meek and unavenging suffering at the hands of our persecutors bringing many to God, inasmuch as it shows forth the passion of the Christ in a tangible and undeniable way; so it was too in the days of the patriarchs, all who demonstrated their faith in the promised Christ by showing forth his ministry in their own lives. They were persecuted and trodden down often, and wandered about in the desert, and were always very nearly overwhelmed by their enemies, but God in his mercy saved them from all their hardships. Who cannot see Jesus in the lives of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Bezaleel, Phinehas, and others? From Joseph's being sold into slavery by his brothers, cast down into the pit for no wrongdoing of his own, and then raised up to the right hand of the King, so that he might shower his brothers who had hated him with many good things, to Moses' being marvelously delivered at his birth, when the mad rage of the king destroyed every male infant around him â€“ in these and in a thousand other marvelous circumstances beside, we may see portraits of the Christ, shown forth in the lives of those who loved him.
Sixth, and most broadly, we see a very clear type of the Christ just in this, the history of Israel as a whole. For first of all, Israel was the personal name God gave to Jacob, but came to signify the entire people who had sprung from Jacob: so also, God promised to give to Abraham a â€œSeed,â€ which was ultimately only the person of Christ, but likewise came to be applied to all who are in Christ, and who have therefore become Abraham's seed by faith (Galatians 3:16, 26-29). And then, Israel was called the firstborn Son of God (Exodus 4:22-23), even though Christ is his true Firstborn (e.g. Hebrews 1:5-6); furthermore, the nation was born to the mad raging of a king who sought to spill the blood of all the male infants in the land (Exodus 1-2; Matthew 2); then, they went through a baptism in the Red Sea, after which they wandered for forty years in the wilderness, and then entered into the promised land of God's rest; and so also Jesus was immediately baptized upon his entrance into ministry (Matthew 3), fasted for forty days in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11), and defeated the devil, so that he might bring the people into the rest of God (Hebrews 2:14-18; 3:7-4:16). Moses prophesied of the exile and restoration of Israel, and afterwards their new, circumcised hearts (Deuteronomy 27-32); but Jesus was the true Israel who was exiled on Golgotha, restored in the resurrection, and then circumcised the hearts of his people, who died to their sinful flesh with him on the cross and were raised up to newness of life (e.g. Colossians 2:10-13; 3:1-4; Galatians 2:20; Romans 6:3-11). So we see then, that both in the wide perspective of the history of Israel, and in the narrow perspective of every event and person and ceremony and command, the testimony of the person and work of Christ is suffused throughout the Law, so that Jesus was fully justified when he told his disciples that Moses and the prophets said only that he should suffer and die and be buried, that he should rise again the third day, and that in his name repentance and the forgiveness of sins should be preached in every nation (Luke 24:44-48).
Oh, how Israel must have yearned to see him in earnest who had been promised and represented to them in every conceivable way! Oh, how the faithful must ever have been yearning for God's promised redemption, knowing that their every hope and blessedness rested in him, even as, so many thousands of years after He first made the promise of Christ, his servants Simeon and Anna were still in the temple awaiting God's redemption (Luke 2:25-38). Now he has come indeed and accomplished all that God had spoken by the mouth of Moses; and henceforth he has but to wait until the entire blood-bought throng is singing his praise before the throne (Revelation 5:8-14), and all his enemies are crushed beneath his feet (Hebrews 10:12-13). Hasten the day, O Lord! As you have come once in meekness and humility, so come a second time in power and great glory, to give us rest from all our enemies, and bring us into your house forevermore! Even so let it be, Lord Jesus.