MOSES PROPHET OF THE PROMISES
Jesus gave this answer to his opposition: “But do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set. If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say” (Jn. 5:45-47). The answer is not just what Moses said but what the people asked for. “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet (spokesman) like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him. For this is what you asked of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said, ‘Let us not hear the voice of the Lord our God nor see this great fire anymore, or we will die.” The Lord said to me, “What they say is good. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers; I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I commanded him. If anyone does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name, I myself will call him to account” (Deut. 18:15-19). How did Israel do and how did Moses’ prediction turn out?
Israel became characterized as a rebellious and stiff-necked people (Ex.32-34). Her pledge to obey the Conditions of the Covenant was quickly broken (Ex. 19: 3-8; 20: 1-17; 24: 1-8). A second set of Law-Tablets and a renewed Covenant was issued to Moses (Ex. 34). Severely strict punishments for transgressions and disobedience were set up (Lev. 20, 26). One of the punishments warned that Israel would be scattered among the nations (Lev. 26:33). Obedience, however, would result in many blessings and national security (Ex. 26:1-8). Unfortunately, the pleading of Moses, not to rebel against the Lord God, fell on deaf ears. In Numbers 14, all those who rebelled and questioned the integrity of God were told that they would die in the desert and not see the Promised Land, including Moses (Num. 20:12). Even the threat of death did not distract Korah, Dathan and Abiram from rebelling and bringing doom on their families (Num. 16). At one point the religious state of mind was so bad that a bronze snake was set up to rescue the people from annihilation (Num. 21:4-8). Israel’s finest, 24000 died because of Moabite idolatry and sexual immorality (Num. 25). Sexual impurity is not a modern sin.
At the end of forty years, just across the river Jordan from the Promised Land, Moses delivered God’s final demand to the people. We know it as Deuteronomy or the Second Law. Basically, it was a summary of the events that led God to a rigid stand on Israel’s behavior in the desert. The nation’s life or death would depend on how well it complied with the Conditions set forth in the Covenant that would sustain the theocracy. Over and over, Moses held before them all the times they had sinned before God and were punished for their disobedience (Deut. 1-2). He urged his people to obey and teach the Lord’s Commandments (Deut. 4-8). Moses summarized it thus: “And now, O Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the Lord’s Commands and Decrees that I am giving you today for your own good” (Deut. 1012-13)?
From Mount Ebal, Moses made his final appeal by saying, “Be silent, O Israel, and listen! You have now become the people of the Lord your God. Obey the Lord your God and follow his Commands and Decrees that I give you today.” Then he proceeded to back God’s claim with curses and blessings. The curses included the dissolution of the Covenant and the disgracing of Israel among the nations and the blessings would be the rewards for obeying the Conditions of the Covenant or the Promises (Deut. 27-28). That same day, Moses exacted one more pledge from the people. He had them renew the Covenant and set before them life and death, prosperity and destruction (Deut. 29-30). Destiny was now in the hands of the people. Their obedience or disobedience would ultimately determine their role and relationship to the Promises of God. After this, Moses turned over the leadership to Joshua, had his last glimpse of the Promised Land from Mount Nebo and died (Deut. 31-34). Moses died with apprehension, fearing that Israel would not remain faithful to the Conditions of the Covenant. In the distant future, the people would need a prophet like him to lead them back to God and to another Land of Promise (Deut. 18:18). And how was He received?
Moses was the first to talk about Israel’s last hope and John he Baptist was the last. Jesus made this distinction, “For all the Prophets and the Law have prophesied until John” (Mt. 11:13). Jesus marked the end of the disobedient earthly Israel and the beginning of the new spiritual Israel or kingdom of God. He predicted the final scattering of the Jewish people among the nations (Mt. 24:1-2). In 70 AD, the Romans dissolved the state of Israel; that is, it no longer existed. The devastation inflicted by the Romans on Israel was predicted by Moses in Deut. 28 and experienced by Josephus the Jewish historian that lived during that time. It is not complementary reading but curses that became real for the conditions Jesus depicted in the Gospels (Mt. 24; Mk. 13; Lk. 21). The Babylonians did not end Israel’s existence. They merely replaced kings and governors. After seventy years of captivity, Israel was being assisted in rebuilding it as a bumper state friendly toward her benefactor. It was in the best interest of the Medes and Persians to have small but strong states as allies. The Northern kingdom of Israel or the Ten Tribes that began with Jeroboam and ended with Hoshea were taken away and were disseminated among the nations.
According to Moses, “I said I would scatter them and erase their memory from mankind” (Deut. 32:26). And the Lord said to Moses: “You are going to rest with your fathers, and these people will soon prostitute themselves to the foreign gods of the land they are entering. They will forsake me and break the covenant I made with them. On that day I will become angry with them and forsake them; I will hide my face from them, and they will be destroyed” (Deut. 31:16-17). All the nations will ask: “Why has the Lord done this to this land?” And the answer will be: “It is because this people abandoned the covenant of the Lord, the God of their fathers, the covenant he made with them when he brought them out of Egypt. They went off and worshipped other gods and bowed down to them, gods they did not know; gods he had not given them” (Deut. 29:24-26). “The Lord will bring a nation against you from far away, from the ends of the earth, like and eagle swooping down, a nation whose language you will not understand, a fierce-looking nation without respect for the old or pity for the young. They will devour the young of your livestock and the crops of your land until you are destroyed” (Deut. 28:49-51). “The Lord will drive you and the king you set over you to a nation unknown to you or your fathers. There you will worship other gods, gods of wood and stone. You will become a thing of horror and an object of scorn and ridicule to all nations where the Lord will drive you” (Deut. 28:36-37).
The Jehovah Elohim covenanted with Israel first at Horeb and then in Moab, “See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess. But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess” (Deut. 30:15-18). Moses entrusted the Lord God’s message to the Levites and his office to Joshua. He was not allowed to enter Canaan nor was he allowed to have his grave marked for posterity. With the foreknowledge that God disclosed to Moses regarding Israel, death could hardly have been a content passing into eternity. The man had done so much for a people that would not continue to seek the life God had offered.