Summary: Christ has done what Moses could not do. He has "made atonement" for the sins of God’s people. Jesus took our guilt upon himself. Jesus received the punishment we deserved because of our sins.
In the Old Testament lesson for this Sunday we heard how Moses served as a sign to God’s people. He symbolized a greater prophet who would appear some time in the future. For forty years Moses filled the role of God’s voice among the Israelites. Remember they had asked for that arrangement after they heard God himself speak his Commandments from the top of Mt. Sinai. With God’s voice shaking the mountain, which was surrounded in thunder, lighting, and smoke, the people were filled with fear. They said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.” (Exodus 20:19) The arrangement of Moses speaking for God worked well for all the years that the Israelites wandered on their way to the Promised Land. But before he died Moses spoke the prophecy we heard in the Old Testament lesson. God had told Moses, “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 command him.” (Deuteronomy 18:18)
The promised prophet would be like Moses, and yet he would also be very different from Moses. This great prophet would be a flesh and blood brother to God’s people. He would be born as one of their own, speak their language, and live among them. But from other portions of God’s Word we learn that this prophet would be extraordinary in every sense. He would speak directly for God because he would be God in human flesh. He would speak with the authority and power that belong to God alone because it would belong to him.
Of course the Old Testament lesson for this Sunday was fulfilled by Jesus. He is the ultimate speaker for God because he is God. In the Gospel lesson for this Sunday we heard about him teaching with authority. He also performed a miracle to identify himself as the great prophet sent by God.
In the Word of God that we will consider for our sermon Moses will direct us to another truth about Jesus. As a living prophecy Moses gave God’s Old Testament people small glimpses at the life of Jesus. We direct our attention to Exodus 32:15-35. Those verses are printed on the back of the worship folder if you would like to follow along as I read them. The specific verses that point us to the work of Christ are underlined. (Read text.) In the aftermath of the Golden Calf incident Moses tried to make things right again between God and the Israelites. He offered to take their guilt on himself and even receive their punishment. Through the eyes of faith the Holy Spirit will lead us to see in Moses’ actions a picture of our Savior. May he also lead us to find what Moses could not give his people. May we:
“FIND ATONEMENT IN GOD’S INTERCESSOR”
I. Jesus took the guilt of our sins upon himself
II. Jesus received the punishment we deserved
Moses was understandably angry at his people. The Israelites had experienced God’s love. With mighty miracles God had freed them from slavery in Egypt. They could recall the Ten Plagues, the dry path on the bottom of the Red Sea, the destruction of Pharaoh’s army, the pillar of cloud by day and fire by night, and other amazing wonders. And their own ears had heard God say, “You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them.” And yet there they were dancing around a golden calf giving it the worship the LORD deserved. In his righteous anger Moses literally broke all the Commandments at once as he smashed the stone tablets God had made. After destroying the golden calf, after hearing his brother Aaron’s lame excuses, and after restoring order in the camp, Moses turned his attention to making things right between God and his people. “30 The next day Moses said to the people, “You have committed a great sin. But now I will go up to the LORD; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.” We don’t know what Moses had in mind to do but he obviously was counting on God’s mercy.
So what exactly is “atonement”? What did Moses have in mind when he set out to “make atonement” for the sins the Israelites had committed? The Hebrew word that Moses used had the idea of covering sin, pacifying someone who has been offended, or even the paying of a ransom to set someone free. Our English word “atonement” comes from two words “at” and “one.” Two people who have a right relationship with each other have been brought to a state of “at-one-ment.” But Moses couldn’t cause atonement to occur between God and the Israelites. That could only be done by the Messiah. Psalm 49 states the fact clearly, “No man can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for him— 8 the ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough—9 that he should live on forever and not see decay.” A sinner taking the place of a sinner does neither any good. Although Moses had good intentions he couldn’t make atonement for the Israelites. He had nothing to offer God that would make things right again between him and his people.