Moses is born while the Israelites are oppressed and enslaved in Egypt. They are numerous so Pharaoh puts them to forced labor and orders them to kill their baby boys. Moses’ mother has compassion on him and sets him in a basket among the reeds on the bank of the Nile River. Pharaoh’s daughter, a princess finds him and raises him as her son.
When he is forty, he sees an Egyptian beating an Israelite slave. He kills the Egyptian and (fearing for his life) flees to Midian where he becomes a shepherd, gets married, and has kids. After forty years God speaks to Moses from a burning bush. He sends Moses back to Pharaoh to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. Moses rescues his people and leads them through the wilderness for forty years.
You can read his story in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, or Stephen’s quick summary of his life in Acts 7.
Moses and Jesus
At the base of Mt. Sinai, the Israelites are scared of God and ask Moses to speak to them in His behalf. God likes this request and promises Moses, “I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers” (Deut. 18:18). In Jesus’ day, the Jews are expecting this prophet (John 1:21). The crowds are sure Jesus is the prophet (John 6:14; 7:40) and Peter confirms this by quoting Deuteronomy 18 in reference to Him (Acts 3:17-23). Jesus says, “Moses wrote about me” and rebukes the religious leaders for their disbelief (John 5:45-47).
Jesus seems to present Himself as a second Moses. He explains to Nicodemus that He must be crucified “just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert” (John 3:14). He tells the crowds that just as God gave their fathers manna, so He is the bread of life from heaven (John 6:32-33). The author of Hebrews says He is “worthy of greater honor than Moses,” for “Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s house…but Christ is faithful as a son over God’s house” (Heb. 3:1-6). Jesus isn’t just a second Moses; He’s a better Moses!
God promises to “raise up for them a prophet like you.” How is Jesus like Moses? Six similarities show how Moses is a preview of Jesus:
- Intimacy with God. God speaks with Moses “face to face” in the Tent of Meeting. Jesus knows God so well that “no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him” (Matt. 11:27).
- Miracles. Moses performs miracles; his most amazing are the Ten Plagues and parting the Red Sea. Jesus performs miracles; His most amazing is rising from the dead.
- Lawgiver. Moses receives the law from God on Mt. Sinai and gives it to Israel. Jesus fulfills the law by giving its full meaning to the crowds during the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:17).
- Mediator. Moses puts himself between God and Israel and asks God to forgive them. Jesus puts Himself between God and us and pays the penalty for our sins on the cross (1 Tim. 2:5-6; Heb. 9:15).
- Deliverer. Moses rescues the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. Jesus rescues people of every nation from slavery to sin, death, and eternal condemnation.
- Tabernacle. Moses receives instructions for building the Tabernacle and oversees its construction. This “sanctuary…is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven,” the “greater and more perfect tabernacle” where Jesus offers the sacrifice of Himself (Heb. 8:5; 9:11).
New Testament Perspective
Moses is an Old Testament person but as Christians we must see him from a New Testament perspective. His exploits and accomplishments are great. He’s probably the nation of Israel’s greatest leader! But he’s more than an Old Testament hero. All he does in behalf of Israel foreshadows all that Jesus does in behalf of the church. His career is a preview of the saving ministry of Jesus Christ.