This is that Moses, which said to the children of Israel, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up to you of your brothers…
How emphatic is the expression! "This is that Moses!" You have a similar expression where the object was to set a special mark on a guilty individual. "This is that king Ahaz." In our text the object is to fix attention on the fact that the Moses who had brought Israel out of Egypt, was the very same who had predicted the coming of a greater prophet. Even this Moses for whom, in their blind attachment, they were about to reject the Messiah, had told them of the Christ. In the whole line of prophets there was not one who could be regarded as closely resembling Moses. In tracing the correspondence here alleged let us consider Moses —
I. AS A LEADER AND LAWGIVER.
1. The condition of the Jews in Egypt depicted that of the whole human race given up for their sins to be the captives of Satan. And it could hardly fail to follow that, if our natural condition were thus imaged, some resemblance might be traced between the deliverers. Both Moses and Christ proved their commission by miracles. They both came to an enslaved race, and claimed authority to set free prisoners; and, when proof of their authority was demanded, they both wrought wonders which were beyond human power. There was much the same kind of opposition ranged against the one and the other — the magicians contending with Moses, and evil spirits with Christ. And the deliverance effected by the two was singularly alike. Moses broke off the yoke from the neck of a captive people, and Christ from the neck of the whole human race. But when Moses had made a passage for Israel out of Egypt the former tyrant pursued the freed tribes and sought to regain the ascendancy he had lost. And though Christ has redeemed us from the power of Satan, who knows not that evil spirits, eager to regain their former dominion, pursue those that follow the Captain of salvation? When Moses led Israel out of Egypt he did indeed tell them of a goodly land, but he did not at once put them into possession; but conducted them into a dreary wilderness, where they were exposed to continued trials. And. we also hear of a beautiful Canaan, reserved for the followers of the Redeemer, but there is no immediate entrance; a wild desert has to be traversed, set thick with snares and peopled with enemies, and it is only through much tribulation that we can take possession of our heritage.
2. As a lawgiver Moses bore striking resemblance to Christ. It was a main part of his office to restore amongst the Jews the decayed knowledge of Jehovah, to re-institute a pure worship, and to establish laws which might mark them off as a peculiar people. But was not the condition of our race similar to that of Israel? There scarce remained any trace of truth in the popular theology; the whole Gentile race was given up to idolatry, and Christ had to instruct this world in the very first elements of spiritual truth. Moses led the children of Israel through the waters of the Red Sea, and then formed them into a church, with means and ordinances for producing and preserving acquaintance with God, obedience to His will, and hope in His promises. And Christ now conducts men through the waters of baptism into fellowship with His mystical body, that they may be taught in duty and trained for immortality. Moses restores the altars of God, delivers laws, institutes sacrifices; and Christ erects a visible Church, with ordinances and sacraments, that those who are in error may be taught, and those who know the truth may be confirmed.
II. Moses AS A MEDIATOR. The Israelites were assembled round Sinai to receive the commandments and the law of their God. There was nothing of the sublime and the terrible which did not attend the publication of the law. Appalled by what they saw and heard, the rulers of Israel said to Moses, "Go thou near, and hear all that the Lord our God shall say, and speak thou unto us all that the Lord our God shall speak unto thee"; and as soon as this petition was offered, God said to Moses, "They have well said all that they have spoken"; thus signifying His approval of the consciousness that fallen creatures cannot approach Him except through an intercessor, and in Deuteronomy 18, the prediction of the text is there made to follow immediately on these words of approval. As much as to say, "They have asked a mediator, and a Mediator will I give them, in the fulness of time, who shall resemble thee in standing, as thou now dost, between God and man." And is it not a resemblance most accurate? — for is it not the law by whose terrors we, as well as the Israelites, are affrighted? and was it not to shield us from the law — condemning every human being to everlasting death — that Christ Jesus arose, a Mediator between God and ourselves? In cases of conversion, there is ordinarily enacted much of that scene which is described as occurring when the Israelites stood around Sinai. The Spirit when He handles the moral law makes a man perceive that there has been no moment of his life in which he has not infringed its commands, and that there is no infraction so slight but it entails punishment. Then, for the first time in his life, a man knows rightly the awfulness of God; and then will he exclaim, with the Israelites at the foot of Sinai, "This great fire will consume me: if I hear the voice of the Lord my God any more, then shall I die." Such a man will at once feel that he cannot stand in his own strength and his own merit face to face with his Maker. Therefore he has no alternative but that of leaving himself to be crushed beneath the weight of indignation, unless, indeed, he can find some being mighty enough and pure enough to rise up as an intercessor, and plead his cause with the Eternal One. Who will deny, then, that in respect of the mediatorial office, the prophecy quoted by Stephen had its fulfilment in Christ?
III. IN THE PARTICULARS OF HIS LIFE. Moses was wonderfully preserved when the male children of the Hebrews were destroyed; and thus also was Christ preserved when Herod slew all the children in Bethlehem. Moses fled from his country, and then there came a message, "Go, return into Egypt: for all the men are dead which sought thy life"; Christ fled, in like manner, and then there came a message in almost the same words. Moses contended with the magicians, and forced them to acknowledge his power — Christ contended with evil spirits, and obtained from them a similar confession. Immediately before emancipating Israel, Moses instituted the passover — immediately before redeeming mankind, Christ instituted the Lord's Supper. When Moses had to appoint elders, he appointed seventy — when Christ chose disciples, He chose seventy. Into the land that was to be conquered Moses sent twelve men as spies — when the world was to be subdued, Christ sent twelve men as apostles. How did Moses overcome Amalek? By extending both arms, and keeping them stretched out. How did Christ subdue all our enemies? By suffering that His hands should be nailed to the cross. As a prophet, it was specially of the desolations which should overtake the disobedient Jews that Moses made mention; and, as a prophet, it was of the destruction of Jerusalem that Christ chiefly spoke. Moses had to deal with a perverse generation, who were not to be won over to the obeying God, and who, consequently, with the exception of two, all perished in the wilderness. And was not Christ sent to an obdurate people, and who, therefore, within about the same space of forty years, were almost all consumed by the anger of the Lord? Moses had to endure injurious treatment from his own family — his brother Aaron and his sister Miriam rebelled against him; and we are told of Christ, "Neither did His brethren believe on Him." Moses fed the people miraculously in the wilderness; Christ fed thousands miraculously in the desert. And in lifting up the brazen serpent, did not Moses typify Christ? In making a covenant by blood between God and his people, did he not again represent the Saviour, who, by His own blood hath "brought nigh those who were sometime afar off"? It was not until Moses was dead that the people could enter the Promised Land; it was only by the death of Christ that the kingdom of heaven was opened to all believers. It was, in one sense, for the iniquities of the people, that Moses died. "The Lord was angry with me for your sakes." In the fulness of his strength, when "his eye was not dim nor his natural force abated," did Moses go up to die; and when Christ was yet in the flower of His age did not He go up to the summit of Calvary? Before he went up to die Moses comforted the disconsolate tribes with an assurance that God would raise them up another Prophet; before Christ went up to die He said to His desponding disciples, "I will not leave you comfortless; I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter." Moses was buried, but no one knew where his body lay; Christ was buried, and yet was His body in vain sought for by the Jews. Surely, if ever there was a wonderful resemblance, it is that which we thus trace in minute particulars, between Moses and Christ.
(H. Melvill, B. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: This is that Moses, which said unto the children of Israel, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear.