Christ in All the Scriptures
by A.M. Hodgkin
- II. Christ in the Pentateuch
5. Deuteronomy --
- Of all the Old Testament characters, Moses stands out as the greatest.
He was a prophet, legislator, historian, ruler, all in one; and in the world's history, probably no name has ever stirred the heart of a nation as his has done. It is impossible to overrate the place Moses held in the Jewish nation. He laid the foundation of its literature, and no appeal has ever been made by the Jews from his laws, or from any word that he wrote. His Hebrew parentage and training, his learning in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and his forty years of communion with God in the solitude of Horeb, combined to fit him for his leadership of the people and his authorship of the books.
Nowhere does the character of Moses shine out with greater dignity than in the Book of Deuteronomy. We see him at the close of his long life, with still unabated vigour, about to take leave of the people with whom he had borne patiently through all their provocations, with the one exception for which he was not allowed to enter the Promised Land. Yet, there seems no bitterness against them in his heart for this; instead, he rejoices in the prospect of their entrance into the land under the leadership of Joshua.
The word of the Lord came to Moses, ''Get thee up into Mount Nebo, behold the land, and die'' (Deu 32:49-52), and with meekness he showed the same obedience in death as he had in life. ''So Moses, the servant of the Lord, died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord'' (34:5). But a greater honor awaited God's faithful servant than even the honor of leading the chosen people into the land. A day came when he stood with Elijah beside the Saviour on the Mount of Transfiguration, within the Land, and communed with his Lord on that greatest of all themes-- His decease which He should accomplish at Jerusalem [Luke 9:27-31].
In the Book of Deuteronomy, Moses rehearses the wanderings and disobedience of the children of Israel, and recapitulates the Law. That Law had been given nearly forty years before at Mount Sinai [as recorded in Exodus], with special reference to the condition of the Israelites in the wilderness; now it was given with reference to their life in the land they were about to enter. In both instances, the moral law was given greater prominence than the ceremonial law. The Ten Commandments were uttered by the voice of God to all the people from Mount Sinai. The instructions about the making of the Tabernacle were given to Moses, alone, in the Mount. Practical laws of purity and holiness in daily life were interwoven with the laws of the sacrifices as related in Leviticus and Numbers. In Deuteronomy, Moses addresses all the people, and the main point that he insists on is the duty of obedience.
- Obedience is the Key-note of the Book of Deuteronomy, as it is also the key-stone of blessing in the Christian life. This book brings out, more than any other in the Bible, the blessedness of obedience. ''Oh that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear Me, and keep all My commandments always, that it might be well with them and with their children for ever!'' (5:29). This is God's yearning over His people amidst the terrors of Sinai. Again and again, they were told that these laws and this demand of obedience are ''for our good always'' (6:24, etc.)
Moreover, it is made clear that this obedience is not in order to purchase the favor of God, but it is demanded because they already enjoy His favor. They are not called to purchase their redemption by obedience, but to obey because they are already a redeemed people. Again and again, they are told that the Lord chose them because He loved them, that He has redeemed them out of bondage with a mighty hand, and that therefore, they are an holy people unto the Lord, a special people unto Himself, and that for this reason they are called to keep His laws with all their hearts and to serve Him with joyfulness.
What a message this contains for us today! How many are still thinking that they have to earn God's salvation by their obedience, instead of seeing that they must first accept His salvation as a free gift in order to enable them to obey. It is summed up for us in Titus 2:13,14: ''Our Saviour Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.'' He redeems us from the bondage of sin and the world in order that He may bring us into a good land, a land of victory and of joy in the Lord. But how many of His redeemed children come short of this good land, through want of faith and want of obedience. ''They entered not in because of unbelief'' [Heb 3:17-19].
If any such read these lines, God's message to you is one of hope. The Law cannot lead you into the Promised Land. Moses' act of sin was the actual thing which kept him out of it, but the fact that he could not bring the children of Israel in was typical. Moses was the embodiment of the Law, and the Law cannot bring us into the fulness of the blessing of the Gospel of Christ. That is reserved for Jesus, our Joshua, as we shall see in our next study.
- But as the first step towards this blessing we, who know that we have been redeemed by the precious blood of Christ, can yield ourselves absolutely to Him in an act of unreserved surrender, as Israel did in the plains of Moab. Only let it be as definite as Israel's surrender was, so that the Lord may be able to say to you, as Moses said to Israel: ''Thou hast avouched the Lord this day to be thy God, and to walk in His ways, and to keep His statutes, and His commandments, and His judgments, and to hearken to His voice: and the Lord hath avouched thee this day to be His peculiar people, as He hath promised thee, and that thou shouldest keep all His commandments... and that thou mayest be an holy people unto the Lord thy God, as He hath spoken'' (Deu 26:16-19).
The same act of surrender is pictured in the servant who might have gone out free in the year of release, but chose rather to serve his master for ever. Blessed are they who have thus let the Lord bore their ear in token of surrender (Deu 15:12-17; Ex 21:5,6).
- The Promised Messiah.
- But the climax of the Book of Deuteronomy is when the majesty of the coming Messiah bursts upon the vision of Moses. ''The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto Him ye shall hearken'' (18:15). Here, again, the necessity for the Incarnation is brought out, as it is in each part of Christ's threefold office as Prophet, Priest, and King. Even under the old dispensation each office had to be filled by a brother-- one of the same flesh and blood.
As Priest -- God said: ''Take Aaron, thy brother, that he may minister unto Me in the Priest's office'' (Ex 28:1). And of Jesus we read: ''In all things it behoved Him to be made like unto His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest'' (Heb 2:17).
As King -- If, when they came into the land, they should desire a king, the command was: ''One from among thy brethren shalt thou set king over thee; thou mayest not set a stranger over thee, which is not thy brother'' (Deu 17:15).
''A Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me.'' [Deu 18:15]
In many points, even in his outward history, Moses was a type of Christ. In his deliverance from violent death in infancy, in his years of silent training, in his willingness to leave the palace of a king to deliver his people from bondage, in his meekness, in his faithfulness, in his finishing the work God gave him to do (Ex 40:33; Joh 17:4; 19:30). In his work as a mediator between God and the people, in his communion with God face to face; in all these he was a picture of the Son of Man who was to come.
But in how much the picture fell short! ''Moses was faithful in all God's house as a servant, but Christ as a Son over His own house'' [Heb 3:5,6]. Moses sinned under provocation. Christ was without sin. Moses was not able to bear the people alone. Christ has borne the burden of our sins in His own body on the tree, and invites us to cast the burden of all our cares upon Himself. Moses was not able to die for the sin of the people. ''Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures.'' Moses was not able to bring the people into the Promised Land; Christ is able to bring us in, and to give us an inheritance among all them that are sanctified by faith that is in Him. In all these things, He is ''declared to be the Son of God with power'' (Rom 1:4).
Moses' word was law, because it was God's word. He said, expressly: ''Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you'' (Deu 4:2). If the word of God, spoken by the servant, was authoritative, how can we question the word spoken by the Son? ''I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren like unto thee, and will put My words in His mouth; and He shall speak unto them all that I command Him. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto My words, which He shall speak in My name, I will require it of him'' (Deu 18:18,19).
How exactly was this fulfilled by Christ! He said: ''He that rejecteth Me, and receiveth not My words, hath One that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day. For I have not spoken of Myself; but the Father which sent Me, He gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak'' (John 12:48-50). Our only safe course is to believe Christ's words absolutely. The problem before us today is not one simply of authorship of certain books of the Bible, but of the reliability of Christ's testimony. We have already seen that each time our Lord answered the tempter, it was with the words, ''It is written'' [Mat 4:1-11], and the passages quoted were from the Book of Deuteronomy.
This book is quoted, altogether, ninety times in the New Testament. In Deuteronomy 31:9,24-25, the authorship is distinctly ascribed to Moses, and the whole book gives us to understand that it was written by him. Moses bore witness to Christ and said, ''Unto Him shall ye hearken.'' Christ bore witness to Moses, and said, ''If ye had believed Moses, ye would have believed Me, for he wrote of Me.'' [John 5:46]
Peter had been an eye-witness of the glory of Jesus in the Mount [of Transfiguration] when He talked with Moses and Elias [ie. Elijah]. He had heard God's voice from heaven proclaim, ''This is My beloved Son, hear Him.'' Well might Peter call the attention of the people to the fact that He whom they had denied and put to death was the Prophet whom Moses had foretold, and whom they were to hear in all things (Acts 3). Well might the woman of Samaria say, ''Come, see a Man which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?'' [John 4]. Well may we too recognize Him and cry with Thomas, ''My Lord and my God'' [John 20:27,28].
We see Christ again in Deuteronomy 6:4,5. The Rev. John Wilkinson, in his book Israel My Glory, points out that in the original Hebrew, this passage brings out the truth of the Trinity. ''Hear, O Isael: the Lord our God is one Lord.'' The literal translation of this would be: ''The Lord our Gods the Lord is One.'' Here the name of God is mentioned three times, and the word translated one (echad) expresses a compound unity, as in the expressions ''one cluster of grapes,'' ''the congregation was assembled as one man,'' and again, ''All the men of Israel were gathered against the city, knit together as one man.'' The Hebrew word one (yacheed), which expresses absolute unity, is never once used to express the unity of the Godhead. The next verse calls upon man's threefold nature to love his triune God. ''Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy might.''
There are other passages in Deuteronomy which speak to us of our Saviour. The Ten Commandments are repeated (5:6-21), and this reminds us of His summing them up into two-- ''to love God with all our heart, and our neighbor as ourselves.'' [Mat 22:36-40]
- Cities of Refuge.
- The Cities of Refuge (4:41 and 19:1-13), and the Rock (32:4,15,18,30), remind us of Christ Jesus our Hiding-place. God commanded that when His people came into possession of the land, six Cities of Refuge should be appointed, to which he who slew a man, through ignorance or unintentionally, might flee from the avenger of blood, who, according to Eastern custom, would pursue and kill the man-slayer. These six cities were so placed, three on each side of Jordan [River], that some one of them was always within reach. So has the Saviour placed Himself within the reach of all, even of such as are in the utmost peril of vengeance. High roads led to each city, and their gates were always open. Jewish tradition declares that there were posts at the cross roads with ''Refuge! Refuge!'' [written] upon them, pointing out the way, and that runners, learned in the law of God, were stationed to guide the fugitives to the place of safety. If this were so, they would be a fit picture of the evangelist, whose feet should be swift to lead souls to Christ, and whose lips should be filled with God's truth.
In the City of Refuge, the manslayer was tried by the judges, and if found innocent, he was allowed to dwell in the city as a refugee until the death of the High Priest. But with the accession of a new High Priest, he might return to his own city and take possession of his property. This was God's provision to maintain His land guiltless of innocent blood.
But while we have, in the Cities of Refuge, a picture of the sinner finding salvation in Christ, there is a yet fuller application in reference to God's people Israel. Israel was the man-slayer who shed innocent blood on Calvary. As we read in Acts [3:12-26]: ''Ye killed the Prince of Life... Now, brethren, I [know] that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers.'' Israel has been a fugitive ever since, his possession [was] forfeited and to all appearances lost. But the High Priest dwells within the veil in the heavenly sancturary, and one day He will come forth, the Heavenly Priest, and Israel shall receive forgiveness and be restored to his heritage.
The law concerning a man hanged upon a tree takes us to Calvary. The margin says: ''He that is hanged is the curse of God'' [Deu 21:23]. ''Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the Law, being made a curse for us'' (Gal 3:13). As we read the terrible curses of the Law in chapters 27 and 28, how it should deepen our gratitude to Him who bore the curse and fulfilled the Law for us.
- The Urim and Thummim.
- ''Of Levi He said, Let thy Thummim and thy Urim be with thy Holy One'' (Deu 33:8). These were placed in the breastplate of the High Priest and he was to bear them before the Lord when he sought to know His will on solemn occasions. It is vain to speculate what these were; it is enough to know that the judgment of the Urim was always a true judgment (Num 27:21). In Hebrew, the words mean ''Light and Perfection.'' Our Lord Jesus Christ is the true Light; He has promised to give light to all who follow Him [Joh 1:4,5,9; 8:12]. He alone is the Perfect One. In Christ Jesus, our High Priest, are ''hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge'' [Col 2:3].
Moses was not able to bear the burden of the people, but we have seen that Christ is able. There are several verses in Deuteronomy which speak of the Lord's power to bear us. ''The Lord thy God bare thee, as a man doth bear his son'' (1:31); ''As an eagle beareth them on her wings'' (32:11); ''The beloved of the Lord shall cover him all the day long, and he shall dwell between His shoulders'' (33:12). These verses remind us of the Good Shepherd carrying the sheep; but those who come to God through Him, know what it is to hide as His little ones in the bosom of the Father. ''The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms'' (33:27). Therefore, ''As thy days, so shall thy strength be.''
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see the related chapter in OT Reflections of Christ, by Paul Van Gorder.
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