Moses Rising

Jacob brought his household to Egypt where they were incredibly fruitful, “so that the land was filled with them” (Exodus 1:1-7). There came a king over Egypt who saw a bad omen in the multiplying Israelites. So he enslaved them (vv.8-14) and killed their infant sons (vv.15-22). A Levite woman named Jochebed (6:20) refused to kill her newborn son, opting to smuggle him to safety in the best way she knew how (2:1-10). This boy, Moses, fled to Midian when he was grown (vv.11-25) and returned to Egypt at the command of God (3:1-4:31). By a series of miracles, God broke the spirit of Egypt and facilitated the freedom of Israel through Moses (5:1-14:31).

Moses Mediating

Moses held a unique position in Israel, evident even in passing references: “Israel saw the great power that the LORD used against the Egyptians, so the people feared the LORD, and they believed in the LORD and in his servant Moses” (14:31, emphasis mine). He was a servant of God placed in a special position between God and Israel. God had a relationship with Moses that He did not have with other Israelites.

When Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent, and the LORD would speak with Moses. And when all the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance of the tent, all the people would rise up and worship, each at his tent door. Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.

33:9-11

Moses interacted with God “face to face,” which meant God was forthright, honest, undisguised, and unveiled before Moses.[1] This was a special honor that no other Israelite enjoyed. “There has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face” (Deuteronomy 34:10). Most significantly for Israel, this meant that Moses was a “go-between” for God and His people. God interacted directly with Moses, and Moses took God’s message to the people. God’s endorsement of Moses as leader, prophet, and mediator of Israel is demonstrated in Numbers 12.

Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had married, for he had married a Cushite woman. And they said, “Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? Has he not spoken through us also?” And the Lord heard it. Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth. And suddenly the Lord said to Moses and to Aaron and Miriam, “Come out, you three, to the tent of meeting.” And the three of them came out. And the Lord came down in a pillar of cloud and stood at the entrance of the tent and called Aaron and Miriam, and they both came forward. And he said, “Hear my words: If there is a prophet among you, I the Lord make myself known to him in a vision; I speak with him in a dream. Not so with my servant Moses. He is faithful in all my house. With him I speak mouth to mouth, clearly, and not in riddles, and he beholds the form of the Lord. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?” And the anger of the Lord was kindled against them, and he departed.

vv.1-9

Moses Failing

For all his blessed responsibilities, his personal piety, and his honorable intentions, Moses was still a son of Adam, ruined by sin and in need of redemption. One of the more disappointing transgressions Moses made against God was at the waters of Meribah-kadesh. He treated God as unholy by striking a rock in anger, and God disciplined him by refusing him entrance into the Promised Land (Numbers 20:11-13; 27:14; Deuteronomy 32:48-52). Moses was an unrighteous man.

He understood this, too, and that his unrighteousness bore consequences for his work. If he was imperfect, then his work as a leader, prophet, and mediator would be imperfect, too.

The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen— just as you desired of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God or see this great fire any more, lest I die.’ And the Lord said to me, ‘They are right in what they have spoken. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him.

Deuteronomy 18:15-19

The immediate fulfillment of this passage came with Joshua, who filled Moses’ shoes after his death (Joshua 1:1-2). However, Joshua (and every prophet after him) was also a sinner, and the same insufficiencies involves with Moses’ tenure would certainly apply to Joshua. Moreover, the Israelites recognized their need for a perfect mediator lest they “die” in the midst of God’s holiness (Deuteronomy 18:16). Unrighteous mediators could only be a covenantal, typological tool and never a substantive, actual fix. In the midst of Moses’ working, Israel was already longing for something greater.

Christ Rising

Jesus, born of the virgin Mary in Bethlehem (Luke 2:1-7), was a great cause of concern for Herod, king of Judea (1:5). Threatened by this new “king of the Jews” (Matthew 2:1-8), Herod ordered the death of all male children up to two years old in the region of Bethlehem (vv.16-18; cf. Jeremiah 31:15). God sent Jesus’ family to Egypt to avoid the massacre (vv.13-15). When Herod died, they returned and made Nazareth home (vv.19-23). Jesus grew into a man (Luke 2:52), lived a righteous life (Hebrews 4:15; 1 Peter 3:21-23; 1 John 3:5), died an atoning death (Matthew 27:45-56; Romans 3:21-26; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 3:24-25), and rose triumphantly from the grave (Matthew 28:1-10; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:21; 1 Peter 1:3). 

Christ Mediating

The first Old Covenant parallel in Matthew 2 is between Christ and Israel. “And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I called my son’” (vv.14-15). Matthew quotes from Hosea 11:1, “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.” Israel was God’s son: “Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the LORD, Israel is my firstborn son, and I say to you, “Let my son go that he may serve me.” If you refuse to let him go, behold, I will kill your firstborn son’” (Exodus 4:22-23). Moreover, Israel was God’s unfaithful son (Deuteronomy 32:6; Jeremiah 3:4-5). Christ came to obey God perfectly, to fulfill His law, which is something Israel never did.

The second Old Covenant parallel in Matthew 2 is between Christ and Moses. Herod perceived a Jewish threat to his throne, as did Pharaoh (vv.1-12; cf. Exodus 1:8-10). Herod ordered that all male infants be put to death, as did Pharaoh (Matthew 2:16-18; cf. Exodus 1:15-22). Jesus went into and out of Egypt at the command of God, as did Moses (Matthew 2:13-15; 19-23; cf. Exodus 4:19; 13:19-22). Jesus was saved from infanticide by the providence of God and the efforts of his family, as was Moses (Matthew 2:13-15; cf. Exodus 2:1-10). “Philip found Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph’” (John 1:45, emphasis mine).

This correlation is built on top of the previous. It is one thing for Christ to be the true and greater Jew, and quite another for Him to be the true and greater Moses. He does not simply obey God’s Law; He mediates between God and His lawbreaking people. He knows God “face to face,” and so He can effectively intercede as a Mediator (Hebrews 8:1-13).[2] He is the faithful Son Who pays the debts of his faithless brothers: “With weeping they shall come, and with pleas for mercy I will lead them back, I will make them walk by brooks of water, in a straight path in which they shall not stumble, for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn” (Jeremiah 31:9). Christ, like Moses, mediates between God and Israel.

Christ Succeeding

In their coming and in their role, Moses and Christ may be similar, yet in the execution of their work we find no similarities. Where Moses failed, Christ succeeds tenfold. Christ does perfectly what Moses merely typified.

Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago. Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you. And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.’ And all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those who came after him, also proclaimed these days. You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.’ God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness.”

Acts 3:19-26; cf. 7:37

Christ fulfills Moses’ promise that “God will raise up… a prophet like me” (v.22) and “every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed” (v.23). From the work of this true and greater Moses, Peter can call out, “Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (vv.19-20). Thus, Scripture presents Christ as not simply the mirror of Moses, but the antitype. Jesus is the perfect Mediator between God and man.

For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.

1 Timothy 2:5

…and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

Hebrews 12:24

For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses – as much more glory as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself…. Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son.

Hebrews 3:3, 5-6; cf. John 8:25-28

In His perfect mediation, Christ facilitates an exodus of His own. He delivers God’s people from slavery to sin. Whereas beforehand we were under the rod of lawlessness, bound to obey its whims (Proverbs 5:22; John 8:34; Romans 3:9-18; 2 Peter 2:19), now we are released from bondage by the work of our Mediator. “We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin” (Romans 6:6). By the work of Christ, we may refer to our slavery in the past tense (Titus 3:3).

“Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery” (Hebrews 2:14-15). Why was God the Son incarnate (“partook of the same” [i.e. “flesh and blood”])? To destroy the taskmaster and deliver the captives. He takes away the sting of death (1 Corinthians 15:55) so that His people do not have to live forever in the shadow of death (Psalm 23:4).

If, therefore, we have been delivered from “lifelong slavery” (Hebrews 2:15), then why should we return to our old taskmaster? Why go back to Egypt? Why return to the plantation? Instead, “let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1).

Christmas is when we remember the exodus from a foe greater than Egypt, led by a leader greater than Moses. Christmas is a festive Passover, where we commit ourselves never to forget the One Who became flesh and blood to set us free. Christmas reminds us that there is only one mediator, and if we are at odds with Him, we are at odds with God (Numbers 12:1-16). Heed, therefore, the words of Paul: “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).


[1] In Hebrew, “face to face” could be used in literal or figurative ways. The significance of the phrase is almost always meant to imply a direct, clear, unveiled interaction. As God is Spirit and by nature immaterial (John 4:24), He has no face. It is possible that He manifested Himself in a temporary, bodily form to Moses for each “face to face” interaction, but this seems unlikely as the explicit physical manifestation in such cases is described otherwise (e.g. “pillar of cloud” [Exodus 33:9]). Greeks shared a similar idiom, prosopon pros prosopon, which implied direct, personal interaction (See also stoma pros stoma, “mouth to mouth” (2 John 12). Not to be confused with kata prosopon, “according to face” [Acts 25:16; 2 Corinthians 10:1; Galatians 2:11]). “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face [prosopon pros prosopon]. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:12). To speak with someone “face to face” is to veil nothing, to disguise nothing, and to speak in a forthright, honest manner.

[2] Notice the juxtaposition between Christ and Moses in this passage, particularly with regard to the covenants they administer.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s