“The Old [Testament] is in the New revealed and the New is in the Old concealed.” –Augustine
As we continue our study of the Ten Commandments in the Old Testament book of Exodus, I thought it might be helpful to provide some background thoughts that compel me as a Bible preacher to connect all of Scripture, including the Old Testament, to Jesus Christ. This approach is uniquely Christian and helps us to avoid moralizing, which is simply turning the Bible into a lengthy list of “do this” in one column and “don’t do that” in another column apart from new life in Christ.
Interpreting the Old Testament
Appearing to his disciples following his resurrection:
“Then he said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.’ Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.’” Luke 24:44–49
In this stunning pronouncement, Jesus proclaims that the gospel, his life and ministry, is the quintessence of Mosaic Law, prophetic promises, and psalmistic worship that can only be seen in the Old Testament if he opens our minds to make his mysteries known.
Jesus clearly articulated the center and heart of the Old Testament foreshadowing to be his person, coming, and ministry. While walking on the road to Emmaus following his resurrection from the dead, Jesus joined a dialogue about his life and death. In this amazing event:
“And he said to them, ‘O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself . . . They said to each other, ‘Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?’” Luke 24:25–27, 32
Therefore, any Scripture, including the book of Exodus, is to be interpreted through Jesus, just as he instructed.
This Christocentric interpretation of Scripture is also affirmed in a number of other Scriptures. Hebrews 1:1–2 says, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son.” This scripture clearly affirms that all of the Old Testament was in some way (i.e. types, promises, foreshadowing, etc.) most clearly revealed in Jesus Christ.
In Matthew 5:17, Jesus clearly declared that he is the fulfillment of both the Law and the Prophets, thereby demanding that any interpretation of the Law and Prophets be related to him.
In John 5:39–40, Jesus said, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.” In this occurrence, Jesus clearly demanded that that Old Testament be interpreted in light of revealing him, and that true understanding is not available unless we come to him by faith.
In an effort to demonstrate some of the ways in which Exodus should be interpreted Christocentrically, commentator Terence E. Fretheim has said, “Jesus, like Israel, is ‘called out of Egypt’ (Matt. 2:15) and tempted in the wilderness (Matt. 4:1–11). He not only celebrates the Passover (Mark 14:12–25; Matt. 26:28) but, in a radical theological extension, is himself identified as the ‘Passover lamb’ (1 Cor. 5:7; 11:25) and the supernatural Rock who followed Israel in the wilderness (1 Cor. 10:4). He assumes the role of a new Moses—or is it the instructing God of Exodus 20?—as he teaches his disciples from the mountain (Matt. 5–7). And, in the most remarkable move of all, Israel’s God ‘tabernacles’ in his very person (John 1:14).”
Moses and Jesus
The relationship between Moses and Jesus Christ is evidenced in a number of places and ways throughout the Scriptures. In Deuteronomy 18:18, God said to Moses “I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.” Over a millennium later in Acts 3:17–22, Peter quoted Deuteronomy 18:18 and applied its fulfillment to Jesus Christ. Therefore, the relationship in this instance includes that Jesus’ eventual coming was promised to Moses, that Jesus and Moses both occupied the office of prophet, both Jesus and Moses were Hebrews, and both Jesus and Moses spoke the words given to them by the Father.
Hebrews 3:1–6 says, “Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession, who was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses also was faithful in all God’s house. For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses—as much more glory as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself. (For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.) Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.”
In this section we find that Jesus and Moses were faithful to the Father’s leading, but that Jesus is worthy of greater honor because he is much greater than even Moses.
And, in one of the more mysterious verses we find that Jesus Christ was the motive and inspiration for Moses. Hebrews 11:26 says, “He [Moses] considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.”
The gospel in Exodus
The gospel of Jesus Christ is clearly and repeatedly foreshadowed throughout the Exodus story. It begins with God making a promise to elect a people as his own. His people are then taken into slavery and ruled by a godless and cruel lord (foreshadowing Satan/sin). Unable to save themselves, God himself intervenes to redeem them from slavery and deliver them into freedom to worship him alone by his miraculous hand (foreshadowing Jesus’ death and resurrection). After taking his people out of Egypt, God’s work with his people continues as he then seeks to get Egypt out of his people (foreshadowing sanctification). Resisting God’s continuing attempt to lead his people as he desires, the people grumble against Moses and long to go back to Egypt (foreshadowing the believers’ wrestling with their flesh).
But, God’s faithfulness persists and he continues to lead his people and provide for their needs out of his love, as he leads them on a journey to a land of rest and promise (foreshadowing heaven). God’s interaction with his people is clearly that of a living God who speaks, acts, loves, declares his laws, judges sin, delivers, redeems, provides, and is present with them. The central picture of the gospel in Exodus is one of redemption, as seen in Exodus 6:6, “I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment,” and Exodus 15:13a, “You have led in your steadfast love the people whom you have redeemed.”
The Bible is not a bunch of stories. The Bible is one story with a bunch of chapters.