From Adam to Jesus, Lesson 5: Moses

When we left Abraham in the last lesson, God told him that he would become a great nation, receive a “great name,” and become a blessing to the whole world.  The only problem was that it would take some time.  God had said so back in Genesis 15.

God warned Abraham that his descendants would become slaves.  But God promised that He would later deliver Abraham’s descendants from bondage and return them to the Promised Land (Genesis 15:14-16, 18).

All this happened because the grandson of Abraham, Joseph, was sold into slavery because of jealousy within the family.  With Jacob, we see the person of Israel before there was a nation of Israel.  God had renamed Joseph Israel.  And Israel had 12 sons, and these 12 sons become the fathers of the twelve tribes of Israel (and so we see the nation was named after the man).

Then tragedy struck.  When a new Pharaoh became the king of Egypt, he no longer honored the agreement that Egypt had made with Joseph and his descendants.  So, the twelve tribes of Israel, descendants of the man, Israel, became slaves.  Even more, Pharaoh set up a form of Hebrew population control: male Hebrew infants were to be killed!

–          Besides population control, what else could have been a motive of Pharaoh?


Along Comes Moses

Read Exodus 2:1-10

–          How did God spare Moses?


Read Exodus 2:11-15

–          What did Moses do?  Where did he flee?


In Midian, Moses met his wife and became a shepherd.  One day, on the far side of the desert, God appeared to Moses.

Read Exodus 3:2, 6-8

–          What does God plan to do with His people, the Israelites?


Read Exodus 3:18-22

–          Whom will God use to confront Pharaoh to begin this deliverance?


As the dialogue between Moses and Pharaoh continued, Moses said: “This is what the Lord says: Israel is my firstborn son.  I said to you, “Let my son go so he may worship me.”  But you refused to let him go.  Now I will kill your firstborn son! (Exodus 4:22-23)  But Pharaoh still refused.


The Battle of the Gods

Pharaoh refused Moses, time after time, plague after plague.  So, God responded to teach both the Egyptians and the Israelites who was the one, true God.  For the Israelites had lived in Egypt for 400 years.  The 10 plagues were just the beginning of God getting Egypt out of the Israelites.

And so the 10 plagues, one after the other, took down the Egyptian gods.  For example:

  • When God turned the Nile to blood, He showed His power over the Egyptian god Hapi, who governed the Nile.
  • With the plague of the frogs, God mocked the goddess of fertility, Hekhet.  For through that plague, the earth become all-too fertile and frog population became too large.
  • God judged the bull gods, Apis and Hathor, when He destroyed cattle of the land.
  • God even put, Amon-Re, the Egyptian’s almighty sun god in his place when the skies over Egypt went dark for three days.
  • Finally, even Pharaoh himself, was shown to be no god when he could not save his own son’s life.  (We skip over the Passover account because most of us know that well).

So, Pharaoh relented and let the people of Israel go.  Of course, we know that Pharaoh changed his mind and God had to save His people from Pharaoh’s army by using the Red Sea (literally “sea of reeds”).

God Makes a Covenant with Israel

The Lord brought His people to Mt. Sinai.  There, God revealed His full purpose for His chosen people: He wanted His firstborn son, His own people, to “be a kingdom of priests for me and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:6).

With earlier failures–Adam, Noah, and Abraham, and their descendants–God began anew.  Although they had failed God, He remained true to His promises.  With Israel, His firstborn, they will be His family, His royal heirs.

But we must not miss the big “if” in all of what God said to His people at Sinai: “if you will obey my voice and keep my covenant” (Exodus 19:5).  God’s covenant is conditional.  To experience its blessings, Israel must keep His covenant, obey its terms, which God spells out in Exodus 20-23, especially in the 10 Commandments.  If they didn’t keep His covenant, they could be “no people” at all, their number blotted from the face of the earth (see Deuteronomy 32:21, Hosea 1:9, and 1 Peter 2:10).

After listening to God’s words, Israel swore to keep the covenant.  “Then all the people responded together, ‘We will do everything the Lord has said.’  And Moses brought their answer back to the Lord” (Exodus 19:8; see also 24:3, 7).  Moses then built an altar with twelve pillars, symbolizing that all the tribes of Jacob (Israel) had approved the covenant (Exodus 24:4).

After that, Moses took the blood from the animals sacrificed and sprinkled it on the people, calling it “the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you” (Exodus 24:8).  Moses also took half of the blood and sprinkled it on the altar, the altar being the place of God’s presence for His people.

When Moses sprinkled the blood on the altar and the people, that meant that they now shared one blood.  God and the people were now family!  And God had condensed how they were to live as His family in the 10 Commandments.

–          Thinking ahead to the New Covenant, the Lord’s Supper, how does drinking Jesus’ blood continue to make us one in Christ?


Israel Breaks the Covenant

No sooner had Israel accepted its covenant with God, than the people fell into idolatry.  Moses had gone up to the mountain to receive more instructions from God, this time about the building and furnishing of the ark, the dwelling for God (Exodus 25-31).

While that was going on, the people became impatient and demanded to worship God through the false-god forms they had known in Egypt.  They used the form of Apis and Hathor, and began their false worship of God through that.

  • Exodus 32:5-6: When Aaron saw this [the golden calf], he built an altar before it.  Then Aaron announced, “Tomorrow will be a festival to the Lord [YHWH]!”  So, the next day the people rose early and sacrificed burnt offerings and presented fellowship offerings.  The people sat down to eat and drink, then got up to play.

“Getting up to play,” was a polite way of saying that the Israelites engaged in orgies associated with the worship of Apis.  They adopted those false worship forms and tried to sanctify if for the worship of Yahweh.  (Shame, shame!)

And how did God respond?  We must notice the shift in language.  No longer did God speak of the Israelites as His special people (Exodus 3:10, 5:1, and 6:7).  Instead, He told Moses that the Israelites are “your people, whom you brought up from the land of Egypt” (Exodus 32:7).

The first four chapters of Numbers tell us what happened after the golden-calf incident.  Moses took a census (from which the book gets its name as a book of “numbers”) and established the authority of the Levites.

Why the Levites?  They were the only tribe who did not to try to worship God through the form of an Egyptian false god: the golden calf.  So, Moses dedicated and ordained them as priests for the nation (Exodus 32:26-29).  Now, the firstborn son in each family would no longer inherit the father’s role as priest.  Instead, the Levites were chosen in place of the firstborn sons (Numbers 3:11-13, 45).

For the first time, God made a distinction between priest and lay people (He would not remove that distinction until the New Covenant).  Where as once every firstborn son was a priest (Exodus 13:2, 15; 24:5), now any non-Levite who performed priestly duties would “be put to death” (Numbers 3:10).


The New Covenant Fulfillment

When Moses took the blood from the animals sacrificed and sprinkled it on the people, he called it “the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you” (Exodus 24:8).  Jesus used those same words when He instituted His Supper, but added the word “New.”  Jesus said that by His blood shed on the Cross for many, God was making a New Covenant.

  • Mark 14:24: [Jesus said,] “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.”
  • Matthew 26:28: [Jesus said,] “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

So, what we went over from Exodus prefigures the New Covenant.  God’s covenant with Moses was only a partial fulfillment of His plan.  The ultimate fulfillment came with Jesus.  This New Covenant will be “for many” (which was from the Hebrew expression, “the Many,” which meant “for everyone”).

Jesus’ use of Moses’ words was not coincidental.  Jesus chose those words deliberately.

  • Like with Moses, it would be a real covenant.
  • Blood would also be involved this covenant.

But Jesus’ covenant was also different:

  • It was “new,” meaning it fulfilled the older covenant with Moses.
  • Instead of being only for the Israelites, it was meant for all (that is, it would even include Gentiles).
  • Instead of being a covenant of Law, which the Israelites had to obey to benefit, in the New Covenant, God offered “the forgiveness of sins.”



Read Exodus 25:9

–          What did God give to Moses?


Read Hebrews 8:5

–          What were the earthly tent and Temple meant to be?


Read Isaiah 6:3

–          What did Isaiah see?


Read Revelation, chapters 21-22, focusing on the heavenly temple.

–          How does what God reveals to us (in all the readings above) help us to understand worship?


–          Today, what are some of our “golden calves,” where we may want to worship God from our culturally derived idols?


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