Welcome to OCBC. We’re in the midst of the Christmas season - it is getting closer. We just finished a long walk through the book of Genesis and the lives of the Patriarchs, and we ended last week with the last words of Joseph, the last verses of the book of Genesis, and one thing I remarked last week was how surprised I was that the Book of Genesis ends with a Christmas text. Here it is in Genesis 50:24-26:
24 And Joseph said to his brothers, “I am about to die, but God will visit you and bring you up out of this land to the land that he swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.” 25 Then Joseph made the sons of Israel swear, saying, “God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here.” 26 So Joseph died, being 110 years old. They embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt.
Now obviously this text sets us up for God’s deliverance of the Israelites in the Book of Exodus, the next book of the Bible, but I think it points to something more, particularly in the context of the book of Genesis, in the Pentateuch as a whole, and in the context of the whole Bible; specifically, that it is a text that points us to Christmas, for the reality of Christmas is that God has literally visited his people in the person of Jesus the Emmanuel - “God with us” - Jesus, so named because he will be the one to save his people from their sins. I was intrigued because I knew that Deuteronomy also, the last of the five books of Moses, also ended in its closing verses with a statement pointing to Christmas, and so that made me wonder - does every Book of Moses end with a statement pointing us to Christmas? And I found out, “No” . However, what I found was very interesting, and I thought it would be appropriate to share it with you this morning, especially as some of you have asked me what I’ll be preaching on after Genesis and whether I’ll just continue going through the Old Testament. Well that is not my plan, but during this Christmas season I do think that a it might be appropriate to follow the storyline a bit more, specifically as the Old Testament points us to Christmas, and the coming of our Lord to visit us.
It’s definitely appropriate to read the Old Testament this way as Jesus himself taught his disciples to read the Old Testament with Christmas in mind. After he raised from the dead, Jesus taught his disciples:
Luke 24:44 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.”
And so this morning we’re going to quickly walk through the Law of Moses, the first five books of the Bible, sometimes referred to as the Pentateuch: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, and I think we’ll see how each Book of Moses contributes a key theme, like a piece of a puzzle that together provides for us an astounding picture of who Jesus is, why he came to dwell among us, and the nature of his ministry. Obviously we’re going to move quickly as a study like this can only be a general overview, but I hope this helps your Bible reading and that you can dig deeper into these texts and study on your own.
Genesis: We Await God's Deliverance through the Offspring of the Woman/Abraham
Offspring of the woman who will crush Satan and restore Eden. This promise is given in response to the serpent tempting of the man and woman God had made into sin. Though God had declared that on the day that humanity sinned, we would die, instead, in his grace, God gave us a promise, that the human race would not only continue, but that a deliver would come through the offspring of the woman, a deliver who wold crush Satan’s head and restore our life with God in paradise. After this promise is given, Adam names his wife Eve, for she would be the mother of the living. And that begins the search in Genesis - who will be the offspring of the woman to crush the serpents head?
Awaiting the Lord’s Promise: Adam and Eve look to their sons as potential delivers, yet in the fist generation, the violent, wicked son, kills the faithful son, and it looks as though the serpent is gaining the upper hand. So they name their third son Seth - appointed (like they are trying to force God’s hand. But he’s not the son either, and so finally they realize this might take a while, and they begin to call on the name of the Lord, praying to God, calling out to him, to save and send the deliverer.
Offspring of Abraham who will be a blessing to the nations: In Genesis 12, the story of Genesis and the search for the savior really pick up as God reveals himself to Abraham, a idol worshipping Mesopotamian man married to barren wife, and says that he will take him from his land into a land that he will show him, and the he will bless him and make him a great nation, with descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky, and that in his offspring, all the nations of the earth will be blessed. Abraham passes on this promise to his son Isaac and grandson Jacob, and ultimately his great-grandsons, which lead us back to the verse we started with:
God will visit you and deliver you: Joseph, Abraham’s great-grandson, is depicted in the book of Genesis as the greatest picture of the saviour, deliverer, the son of Abraham, who blesses the nations - however the book ends with him dying, outside of the land of promise - so he is not the one. in fact a few chapters earlier we are told that it will be from his brother, Judah, that the deliverer/saviour/king will come. So as we’ve already seen Joseph points us forward, surprisingly not to a deliverance that will come by means of a mere human descendent, but for God himself to visit and save.
Exodus: God Himself Delivers His People Through a Great Prophet to Be Their King. God remembers his people. Through a man named Moses, who God speak to and through as a great prophet, God redeems his people. Moses goes to Pharaoh king of Egypt and speaks for God telling him, “let my people go” and Pharaoh says “no” and God visits a series of plagues upon Egypt, the final plague being the death of all the firstborn sons, the Passover. During that final plague, the children could be spared by means of applying the blood of a lamb over the doorposts of their homes, saved by the faithful observance of a substitutionary sacrifice. God brings the people of Israel out into the the wilderness, where at Mount Sinai he forms them into a nation with Himself leading them as their king, giving them his law, first in the form of 10 Commandments, and then through other commands. The book ends with God giving Moses instruction for how to build his Tabernacle, his tent of dwelling, in which God himself would tabernacle among the Israelites, living among them. There is a problem however, the shows itself in the last verses of Exodus.
After they build the temple, and God’s glory fills it, Moses - the great prophet of God, could not enter into the tent of meeting because the glory of the Lord was unapproachable. So that’s the problem - God wants to dwell with his people, but the people cannot approach him,
Leviticus: We Need a Priest to Deal With Sin & Represent Us Before God The entire book of Leviticus has two messages- One is be holy for I am Holy, which is a theme of the book, but the second connects it with the problem the Exodus ends with - because we are not holy, in and of ourselves, how can we approach a holy God. And the answer the book of Leviticus gives s that we can only approach God through a mediator, a priest standing on our behalf with an appropriate sacrifice that cleanses both the priest and ourselves. The idea of the passover lamb, a substitutionary sacrifice, is played over and over again through the sacrificial system and the rules regarding holiness and unholiness, cleanliness and uncleanliness, and the picture is that we don't only need and Exodus from Egypt - the world around us, but we need an Exodus a cleansing of our sin. God is Holy, sin requires death, but God in his grace has provided a priesthood to mediate between us, and a sacrifice that cleanses. Only through the tireless work of representational priesthood can God dwell with man
And the system seems to work. At the beginning of the book of Leviticus, God speak to Moses
from the tent of meeting. However, look at how the next book, the book of number begins,
Num. 1:1 The LORD spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the tent of meeting, on the first day of the second month, in the second year after they had come out of the land of Egypt, saying, 2 “Take a census of all the congregation of the people of Israel, by clans, by fathers’ houses, according to the number of names, every male, head by head.
And so Leviticus is all about our need for a representational priesthood.
Numbers: We Need a King to Lead Us & Protect Us From Our Waywardness. Numbers is all about The failure of the Israelites to obey and trust God. They continue to rebel, not only against God, but against Moses. The overview of the book is all about their failure to trust, failure to follow and failure to enter into the land of promise.
In climax of the book, as Israel is approaching the land a second time, we have this very interesting episode with a Canaanite prophet named Balaam. Balaam is hired by this Canaanite king Balak, to curse Israel as they approach the border. And Balaam begins to curse Israel, and instead, God puts his words in Balaam’s mouth, and Balm blesses Israel instead! Balak is furius and says, “What am I paying you for? Do it right this time” and Balaam tries again, and again he blesses Israel. Three time he does this and Balak, getting more and more angry, and Balaam says, I can only say what God puts in my mouth and let me tell you what is to come:
25:17 I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near: a star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel; it shall crush the forehead of Moab and break down all the sons of Sheth. 18 Edom shall be dispossessed; Seir also, his enemies, shall be dispossessed. Israel is doing valiantly. 19 And one from Jacob shall exercise dominion and destroy the survivors of cities!”
And while the Israelites again immediately rebel against God and Moses, the message of the book of Numbers could not be more clear, that though we continue to rebel, God will send a king, a son of Jacob, to lead us, and exercise dominion and to protect us. Again, a Christmas promise.
Deuteronomy: We Need a Prophet to Teach Us God's Ways and Change Our Hearts.
A series of sermons: We think of Deuteronmy as the giving of the law, but most of Deuteronomy is a series of sermons, which set the law in context. your inability to keep the law, and need for a new heart.
While most of Deuteronomy sounds negative, there is a promise that one of the most hopeful in all of the books of Moses - that there will be an ultimate restoration - a second exodus, in which God’s people are not only brought back from the lands in which they are scattered in exile after breaking the law, but that God will spiritual restore his poeple, changing their hearts so that they may love him and serve him and live with him.
Deuteronomy 34:4 If your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there the LORD your God will gather you, and from there he will take you.... 6 And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.
So Deuteronomy looks forward to a day in which God dwells with his people in spiritual intimacy, a second and greater exodus
Deuteronomy ends with and interesting statement set in by someone after Moses has died, “10 And there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face, 11 none like him for all the signs and the wonders that the LORD sent him to do in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land, 12 and for all the mighty power and all the great deeds of terror that Moses did in the sight of all Israel.
Some people think that these verses were written much later, by someone looking back on Israel’s history and waiting for another prophet like Moses to come. Why is this singificant?
18:15: Moses prophesied that a prophet like himself would arise: Deut. 18:15 “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen— 16 just as you desired of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God or see this great fire any more, lest I die.’ 17 And the LORD said to me, ‘They are right in what they have spoken. 18 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. 19 And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him.
Thus the five books of Moses end with us looking forward to a Second and greater Exodus, a Second and greater Moses. And putting all the pieces together, this brings us to Jesus.
the Offspring Genesis promised: Gal 4:3, Gal 3:16
the Deliverer Exodus foresaw: Gal 1:3
the Priest Leviticus prescribed: Hebrews 9:11
the King Numbers needed: Matt 2:1-4
the Prophet Deuteronomy awaits: John 1:14-18; John 1:12
We ask: What do you want for Christmas. The Law tells us what we need for Christmas
we need Christmas because we need a deliverer
we need Christmas because we need a priest
we need Christmas because we need a king
we need Christmas because we need a prophet
we need Christmas because we need a new heart
That is Christmas in the Law of Moses.