Appearances of Christ in the O.T. (3): Moses

Appearances of Christ in the O.T. (3): Moses

Appearances of Christ in the O.T. (3): Moses.

Starting with the Early Church, many biblical scholars have agreed that the mysterious Angel of the Lord, the Messenger of Yahweh, has been an earthly appearance of the pre-incarnate Jesus. No one can see the Lord face-to-face because of His intense purity and glory-fire. And no one can see God because He is a Spirit. So any visible manifestation of this unique Angel in the Hebrew Bible has been taken to represent an encounter with Jesus Christ. This Messenger of Yahweh has been reported in a large number of scenarios in the O.T., and this includes three times with Moses. Can you imagine the greatest prophet and leader interacting with Jesus? Well, actually, it’s not that difficult. About 1,500 years later, these same two people met on the mount of Transfiguration. I wonder if they talked about the burning bush. Here’re three examples of what it looked like when Moses encountered Jesus in the Hebrew Bible.

Jesus in the Burning Bush. In Exodus 3, Moses was simply minding his own business as a shepherd on the Sinai peninsula. He had been doing this humble work for 40 years, which makes him 80 years old at the time of this miraculous encounter with God. Moses witnessed an amazing sight there on Mt. Sinai, a big thorn bush that was burning but was not being consumed in the fire. Moses wondered at this inexplicable sight, so when he decided to investigate it, the Angel of Yahweh appeared in the midst of the fiery bush and spoke to him. ‘Moses, Moses!” said this Messenger in the middle of the fire. And Moses responded with the line that is music to God’s ears, “Here am I.” (3:4).  Moses at this point was convinced that this was indeed the Lord he was talking with, so he hid his face. He wouldn’t look directly into the fire because he was afraid to see God full in the face. This Angel, this Messenger of God, was certainly Jesus Christ. And could it be that this unusual fire was the shekinah glory from the Angel’s presence? Could it be that Jesus had brought this unique fire from glory? Moses and the Angel then engaged in an extended conversation, in which Moses received the Hebrew Bible’s version of the Great Commission. Moses was asked by the Lord to go to Egypt, liberate His chosen people from their slavery, and lead them into the Promised Land. Speaking the words of the Lord, the Messenger then told Moses God’s name, Yahweh. The ground near the burning bush was holy due to the presence of God. So Moses took off his sandals and bowed low. Speaking the mind of God, Jesus informed Moses of the whole scenario with Pharaoh, including the signs and wonders he will demonstrate to the Egyptians. To convince Moses that He could indeed perform these miracles, Jesus demonstrated a couple of quick miracles right on the spot. Moses’ staff turned into a snake and then back again to a staff. And Moses contracted leprosy, and then was immediately healed of that leprosy. If anything would encourage Moses to go on this adventure, the Lord is thinking, this should be sufficient. But Moses remained unconvinced, mainly because Moses felt he wasn’t equipped to be a spokesman for the Lord. He said he was slow of tongue, that he couldn’t speak well enough to represent the Lord in Egypt. So Moses stubbornly responded to God with, thanks but no thanks, please pick someone else. God became angry and accommodated Moses somewhat by picking his brother Aaron, a well-spoken man evidently, to be at his side throughout the interaction with Pharaoh. I will be with you and teach you what to say, so let this be the end to your resistance, the Lord says to Moses. Jesus the Messenger from the midst of the burning bush sent Moses on his way back to Egypt. And the rest is history.

Jesus At the Red Sea. In Exodus 14, the Israelites were on the run in the wilderness on the outskirts of Egypt. The sophisticated war machine of Egypt, complete with horses and chariots, were in full pursuit. The Israelites were no match, for they had no weapons, were not soldiers, and were on foot. As the Israelites were leaving Egypt, the Angel of God was before them, showing the way and defending them from danger. But now the Israelites are boxed in… the Red Sea on one side, and the powerful Egyptian army on the other side. There was much fearful complaining and grumbling from Israelites, of course. Who wouldn’t be afraid at this point? But Moses came right back at them with this… Quit your crying out to God in complaint! Stand still and see Yahweh win the day for you! (14:13-14). The Messenger of God, the Angel of Yahweh, then shifted from the front of the Israelites to the rear of them, standing between the escaping slaves and the fearsome army. (14:19). The pillar of cloud also shifted with Him to add to the protective barrier. The Angel remained at His post, holding off the army. And as darkness fell, the pillar of cloud turned into a pillar of fire. Yahweh then instructed Moses to raise his hand over the sea. Then the wind blew, and a pathway of escape was miraculously provided right through the Red Sea. There was a way when there was no way. Once the Israelites were across the Sea to the other side, Moses raised his hand with his staff once again, and the Egyptian army with all its chariots and horses were drowned as the sea returned to its normal height. The Angel, the incomparable Messenger of Yahweh, provided His presence to defend the Israelites. Jesus Himself stood between two opposing camps, and protected the Israelites from the Egyptians. The Messenger from heaven had a direct hand in the deliverance of God’s chosen people.

Jesus at Mt. Sinai. In Exodus 23, the Israelites have already been camped at Mt. Sinai, and Moses has received the words of instruction directly from Yahweh. The Ten Commandments have been declared, as well as much of the Law. The awesome majesty and power of Yahweh has been on full display to the Israelites, complete with a fire on the mountaintop, a loud heavenly shofar blast, flashes of lightning, billowing smoke, claps of thunder, and the very earth shaking underneath them. The people have agreed to follow the Lord’s commands, but they don’t want to hear the voice of Yahweh. They are panicked with fear, they are terrified, and they want Moses to be the intermediary. Yahweh now makes an astounding promise to the Israelites. He is sending a special Messenger, the Angel of Yahweh, to walk before them on their journey, to bring them into the Promised Land. Yahweh referred to this Angel when He said, “My name is in Him.” (23:21). This Messenger is to be obeyed, they are to follow His guidelines and direction. They are not to provoke the Angel in any way. “So you shall serve Yahweh your God, and He will bless your bread and your water.” (23:25). In other words, the Israelites will be serving Yahweh by obeying the Angel of Yahweh. This Angel is God’s representative throughout their journey. The Angel is acting on God’s authority. This Messenger is Jesus Christ, for He bears the name of Yahweh, the Great I Am. His role with us remains the same as it did with the Israelites… If we want to safely reach the Promised Land, we must learn to follow Him in our journey.