The Potter’s House 2/10/2013: The Gospel According to Moses; Part 1
Yesterday, I was invited to teach at Church of the Messiah which is a Christian movement that seeks to rediscover our Judeo-Christian roots. Since we are deeply invested in the subject of law and gospel right now via the book of Romans I thought it would be a good supplement.
The more we study through the Scriptures we realize that there is little difference between the Old Testament and New Testament. Believers of Old looked toward the cross; we look back to the cross. The ministry of the Holy Spirit is fundamentally the same. I think the primary variance is marked by the inclusion of the Gentiles into the commonwealth of Israel. But at any rate, believers of Old understood all of the salvific implications of Messiah’s arrival:
Luke 2:22 – And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) 24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” 25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27 And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, 28 he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,
29 “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; 30 for my eyes have seen your salvation 31 that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” 33 And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed 35 (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”
36 And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, 37 and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.
Christ chastised Nicodemus for not comprehending the new birth which is normally thought of as a New Testament element of salvation:
John 3:1 – Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” 3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
9 Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? 11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
Also, when we look at Old Testament covenants, we must be careful to give diligent study because it seems that many of them are relevant now and will continue to be:
Ephesians 2:11 – Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
Notice that “covenants” is in the plural and the Gentiles were alien to these covenants. Also note that they are called “covenants of promise.” The covenants are still in place until the promise attached to any given covenant is fulfilled.
Exodus 19-24 was used by the apostle Peter to write his first letter. How different is the Sinai event from the fundamental principles of the New Testament gospel? Not much. As we shall see, the relationship of obedience, law, death, and resurrection is no different.
I ask you to now take note of our first illustration that we will be utilizing:
Israel arrives at Mt. Sinai three lunar moons after leaving Egypt (three months). Between Egypt and Sinai, it was the Lord’s flight school:
Exodus 19:4 – You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.
This is a reference to how eagles teach their young to fly. They drop them from a great height and then fly under them before they hit the ground, and the events leading up to Sinai look very much like that.
When Israel arrives, God calls Moses up to the mountain; there, He proposes a covenant:
Exodus 19:5 – Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; 6 and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.”
The covenant is based on three things: obedience, kingdom of priests, and holy nation. At some point this happens—God gets what He wants. We know this because that’s what we are right now according to Peter:
1Peter 2:9 – But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
This is very likely a direct reference to Exodus 19:5 by Peter. More than likely, this is consummated at Sinai and has always been reality. Therefore, we begin to see inappropriate dichotomies between the Old and New Testaments.
Moses then returns and informs the people that God wants to make a covenant with them. Interestingly, they agree to commit to whatever covenant God draws up. The key word here is commitment. The Israelites didn’t do anything to earn the right to enter into a covenant with God; rather, they committed to trust him: “we will do” is future tense. Even the writers of the Jewish midrash recognize that it is a matter of trust (The Jewish Study Bible: Jewish Publication Society; Oxford University Press 2004, p.162). This reminds of how Christ often called people to salvation: “Follow me.” Following doesn’t save you; the commitment to follow saves you. Trust is also belief.
When the people agree to the covenant, God calls for three days of consecration and sends Moses back down to lead the people in preparation for His arrival and the covenant ceremony. God’s form of theophany terrifies the people, and God recites the Book of the Covenant to Moses which includes the Decalogue (the Ten Commandments). The Decalogue is probably a sort of table of contents for the Book of the Covenant. The Book of the Covenant, though not precisely, seems to follow the Decalogue’s line of thought.
Once Moses receives the covenant, he rehearses it to the people. This brings us to our next illustration:
Interesting: Moses doesn’t take time to write it all down in a book until the people agree to the details. He then begins early the next morning in preparation for the ceremony. He has young men slaughter the appropriate sacrifices and throws some blood on the alter while procuring the rest in basins. But the ceremony begins with a peace offering—this is key. The fact that we were enemies makes the call to be reconciled with God paramount and is the theme of many gospel presentations in the New Testament. Our ministry is one of reconciliation:
2 Corinthians 5:18 – All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Ephesians 2:15 – by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near.
So far, we have two critical elements to include in our gospel presentations: trust (commitment: “follow me”), and reconciliation (peace with God).
Moses then read the Book of the Covenant which would be Exodus 20:22-23:33. When the people once again agreed to obey, he threw the remainder of the blood on them. Again, at this point, no law from the Book of the Covenant has yet been obeyed, but the commitment to do so resulted in the sprinkling of blood. Peter makes a direct reference to this as well:
1Peter 1:22 – Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart,
The Israelites were purified by obedience—that’s what brought the covering of blood. And this is a critical third element to any gospel: obedience—the willingness to obey “truth.” The Book of the Covenant, like the rest of God’s canon is “truth.” And only truth sanctifies:
John 17:17 – Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.
A commitment to the truth saves (2Thessalonians 2:10), the law then informs our sanctification. But “I will obey” brings the blood. Trust, reconciliation, obedience. Not necessarily in that order. In the application of the blood of Christ, the old self dies with Christ and is no longer enslaved to sin, but is now enslaved to the law by nature (Romans 7:25). We are enslaved to the law by nature because of the new birth made possible by Christ’s resurrection. We are endowed with the same power that raised Him from the dead (Ephesians 1:19, 20). Once again, 1Peter 1:1, 2 is a direct reference to this Old Testament passage:
To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.
Moses and the other pre-designated individuals go up the mountain to meet God after the ceremony. The scene is inescapably eschatological. Eating a meal with God during this encounter points to the marriage supper of the Lamb in my book. In regard to the cup that symbolizes the new covenant in His blood, Christ said He would not drink of it again until that supper in His kingdom. The remembrance was instituted at what is commonly known as the last supper (Mark 14:22-25).
Not only does Matthew 4:4 and 2Timothy 3:16 state that ALL Scripture is efficacious, some estimate that 25% of the Bible is eschatological. And as we have seen in our Romans series, eschatology is gospel. The paramount questions on this wise are, how many resurrections, and how many judgments? The answers to these questions should match our gospel and thus reveal it. Being mindful of what we have learned in Romans, you can relate this to the third illustration:
Peter’s gospel emphasis is seen in the Sinai event. And our gospel should always include trust, commitment, reconciliation, obedience, and the death, burial, and resurrection demonstrated in Christ’s blood. Christ’s obedience to the cross should also be explained in relationship to our death and freedom from the law as well as our enslavement by nature to law through the new birth that endowed us with the Spirit’s resurrection power.