This ten-week Bible study in the popular Seeing Jesus in the Old Testament series completes Guthrie’s coverage of the Pentateuch, showing how to see Jesus in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.
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About the Author
Nancy Guthrie teaches the Bible at her church, Cornerstone Presbyterian Church in Franklin, Tennessee, and at conferences worldwide. She and her husband, David, are the cohosts of the GriefShare video series used in more than 10,000 churches nationwide and also host Respite Retreats for couples who have experienced the death of a child. Guthrie is also the host of Help Me Teach the Bible, a podcast of the Gospel Coalition.
Read an Excerpt
Teaching Chapter He Wrote about Me
I worked at a publishing company for a long time before my name ever appeared in a book. In their acknowledgments, authors often thanked people such as the acquisitions editor who contracted the book and the editors who worked on the manuscript — people they worked with prior to the book's publication. As the publicist, I usually didn't become active in the process until after the book was shipped off to the printer, so my name never seemed to make it into the published books. But, finally, after working there for about six years, an author put my name in his book. Max Lucado, one of the most gracious and authentic authors I've ever worked with, mentioned me in the acknowledgments in the front of his book The Applause of Heaven. I had a new claim to fame — proof that I not only knew Max Lucado, but, more importantly, he knew me. (Thanks, Max. I hope you'll like it that now I've put your name in my book.)
When someone people know and respect writes about a person, it makes us more willing to read or listen to what that person has to say. This is why we like to read through the endorsements on the covers of book jackets looking for names we recognize in the list of endorsers. When someone we respect has taken the time to read what a writer has written and offers an endorsement that commends it as worthwhile, we're usually more inclined to read the book.
Imagine if you could say that someone who lived hundreds of years before you, someone who wrote a book that everyone you know has read and reread and sought to live by, wrote about you. Imagine that you could say that the book he wrote not only mentioned you but was actually all about you — that you were the central character in all of his writings, the person whose identity had been kept hidden from all who had read his book throughout the centuries. That would be an astounding claim.
That's exactly the claim Jesus made. In an interchange with the religious leaders of his day who were questioning his right to assume authority that had always been reserved for God alone, Jesus claimed that the book written by the one author whom his questioners respected more than any other was actually all about him. 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. ... For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. (John 5:39–40, 46)
We can almost see them shaking their heads with quizzical looks on their faces, thinking, What do you mean, that Moses wrote about you? Where exactly did Moses write about you? These were A+ students of the book of Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Most of them could quote long passages from Moses's writings and did so on a daily basis. And here was Jesus telling them that what they had been reading and studying their whole lives was all about him, suggesting that there was a deep fault line, a huge blind spot, in their understanding.
This general lack of understanding about how to read the Old Testament was why, in the forty days between his resurrection and his ascension, Jesus sat down with his disciples — men who had grown up reading the Old Testament Scriptures — and taught them how to truly understand them, how to read them in light of their fulfillment. Luke tells us that, "beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself" (Luke 24:27). Jesus opened his disciples' eyes to see all the ways Moses and all of the other Old Testament writers wrote about him.
And this is what we want him to open our eyes to see. We don't want to be like the religious people of Jesus's day who regularly went to Bible study yet were so stuck in their long-held assumptions about the Bible, so bogged down by the long to-do list they derived from the Bible, that they completely missed what it was all about — namely who it was all about.
If you've done the previous study in this series, The Promised One: Seeing Jesus in Genesis, then you could probably list many of the ways Moses wrote about Christ in the first book of the Bible. When Moses wrote in Genesis 3:15 about the offspring of the woman who would crush the head of the Serpent, he was writing about Jesus. In his account of the ark in which Noah and his family found safety in the storm of God's judgment, he was writing about the nature of salvation found by those who hide themselves in Christ. When he wrote about God's call and promise to Abraham that in him "all the families of the earth shall be blessed" (Gen. 12:3), he was writing about the blessing available to people of every tribe and tongue through Abraham's future descendant, Jesus. When Moses took thirteen chapters to tell the story of Joseph, the beloved son of his father who was rejected by his brothers and became the one person all people in the world had to come to for salvation, he was writing in shadow form about the greater Joseph, Jesus.
We will see in this study, as we make our way through the rest of the writings of Moses, that he has much more to tell us about the Christ who would come fifteen hundred years after he wrote about him in his book.
* In Moses's account of his own life, as one who was born under the threat of death, left the royal palace to identify with his suffering brothers, and led his people out of slavery, we will see the shadow of Jesus, who left the halls of heaven to be born under Herod's murderous edict and lead his people out of their captivity to sin.
* In the unblemished lambs who died that first Passover night so that the firstborn son could live, we will see Jesus, God's firstborn, "the Lamb who was slain" so that we can live (Rev. 5:12).
* As we witness Moses leading his people through the waters of the Red Sea unscathed, we will see Jesus, who leads us through the waters of death into everlasting life.
* In the pillar of cloud and fire that guided God's people, the manna that fed them, and the rock that gushed with water for them to drink, we will see the light of the world, the bread of life, the living water — Jesus himself.
* As we listen to the law given by God on the mountain, we will hear its echo in the words of Jesus, who climbed up a mountain and spoke with authority about what it means to obey God from the heart.
* We will go over Moses's record of the design for the tabernacle in which God descended to dwell among his people, details that have no meaning apart from Jesus, who descended to dwell among his people.
* We will witness the establishment of the priesthood, those who were to be holy to the Lord and offer sacrifices for sin. In the priest's clothing and ceremonies and sacrifices we'll see that Moses was preparing his people to grasp the Great High Priest, the Holy One of God, who offered himself as a once-for-all sacrifice.
* We'll follow Israel's forty years in the wilderness where they repeatedly disobeyed and rebelled, seeing the contrast between them and Jesus, the true Israel, who went out into the wilderness for forty days meeting every temptation with perfect obedience.
We'll begin today by giving attention to something Moses wrote near the end of his last book, Deuteronomy, a prophetic promise and instruction for God's people as they prepared to cross over the Jordan and enter into the Promised Land. Here is what he said:
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. ... And the LORD said to me. ... "I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him." (Deut. 18:15–18)
This is interesting. Moses was a prophet — not so much in the sense that he foretold the future but in that he spoke for God to the people. God installed Moses as his first official prophet to Israel when the Israelites arrived at Mount Sinai because the Israelites were too terrified to hear God speak directly to them. They asked Moses to go up the mountain in their place and hear what God had to say and then relay it to them so they wouldn't have to hear God's thunderous voice. So Moses listened to God for the people and spoke to the people for God.
Evidently, the same Spirit who imparted God's word to Moses for the people also imparted understanding to Moses about himself — an understanding that God had woven into the fabric of his life a pattern that would also be seen in the Messiah's life. God sovereignly orchestrated Moses's life in such a way that it would one day become clear that his ministry had been a miniature version of the ministry of the coming prophet. Numerous aspects of Moses's life provided God's people with pictures of the Promised One, the Messiah whom God promised to send. If God's people would remember who Moses was and what he had accomplished and experienced, it would help them to recognize the Messiah when he came. He would be the one they would need to listen to even more intently than they listened to Moses.
So as we begin our study of these four books of the Pentateuch written by Moses, let's take a mini tour of Moses's life in order that we might see more clearly and listen more intently to the greater prophet God raised up from among God's people, who was like Moses.
Deliverer of an Enslaved People
When we read the story of the Israelites in Exodus through Deuteronomy, we cannot miss the fact that Moses was truly a great deliverer. He stood up to the greatest power in the world in his day and demanded that Pharaoh release his two-million-strong slave labor force. Moses delivered his people out of slavery in Egypt and through the Red Sea by the power of God and led them for forty years in the wilderness. But while he delivered them out of slavery, he could not deliver them into the Promised Land. He could only take them to its border. Moses could not go in. Oh, how this must have been an agony for Moses, who had invested his life and all of his hopes and dreams in delivering God's people into the land God had promisedto them.
Moses forfeited that privilege by dishonoring God near the end of the journey in the wilderness. We read about the incident in Numbers 20, an event that took place as the people of Israel stood poised to enter into the Promised Land. They had run out of water and had nothing to drink. Instead of going to God and asking him to provide, the people began to complain. But they did more than that. As they voiced their complaint about the lack of water, it was as if forty years of frustration rose to the surface so that all kinds of unresolved grievances against Moses and God came tumbling out.
And the people quarreled with Moses and said, "Would that we had perished when our brothers perished before the LORD! Why have you brought the assembly of the LORD into this wilderness, that we should die here, both we and our cattle? And why have you made us come up out of Egypt to bring us to this evil place? It is no place for grain or figs or vines or pomegranates, and there is no water to drink." (Num. 20:3–5)
Here they were, just about to enter the Promised Land, saying that they wished they had died with those who had rebelled against God and perished in the desert. They were frustrated because the wilderness had no grain or vines or fig trees or pomegranates — the very fruit the scouts had brought back with them from Canaan (Num. 13:23). In other words, "the people were blaming Moses and Aaron because the wilderness was not like the Promised Land that they had refused to enter!"
We might expect that God would have had enough by this point and that he would simply sink these grumbling Israelites into a pit in the desert never to be heard from again. But instead, he gave instructions to Moses and Aaron to provide water for them to drink:
Take the staff, and assemble the congregation, you and Aaron your brother, and tell the rock before their eyes to yield its water. So you shall bring water out of the rock for them and give drink to the congregation and their cattle. (Num. 20:8)
Moses and Aaron were to take the staff — the same staff that had summoned Egypt's plagues and divided the Red Sea. Perhaps when the people saw the staff they would remember God's past deliverances and provisions and put their trust in him.
Moses and Aaron were to speak to the rock. Perhaps the stark contrast between the rock's responsiveness and their own hardhearted unresponsiveness would shame them into repentance and faith. Moses and Aaron followed the first two steps correctly. They took the staff and assembled the people. But they did not "tell the rock" to yield its water. Instead Moses spoke to the people:
"Hear now, you rebels: shall we bring water for you out of this rock?" And Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock with his staff twice. (Num. 20:10–11)
Moses was supposed to speak to the rock; God had not told him to speak to the people. But Moses rebuked them, setting himself up as their judge, and himself and Aaron as their deliverers, by suggesting that they were the ones who would bring water out of the rock. And what was God's response?
And the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, "Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them." (Num. 20:12)
Whoa, we want to say, that seems incredibly harsh. After all that Moses has been through in the desert, after all of his faithful obedience and the difficulties of leadership, God is going to deny him the privilege of leading his people into the Promised Land? This hits us initially as an overreaction, a great unfairness to Moses. Yet we know God is just. So what is it that we may not be seeing on the surface of things?
Once before, long ago, Moses had set himself up as judge and deliverer of his people, when he saw an Egyptian beating an Israelite. Moses killed the Egyptian without being instructed to do so by the Lord. Now, here he was, years later, once again trying to deliver God's people in his own way through his own strength. Because the rock represented God himself — the source of water and refreshment to his people — when Moses struck the rock two times in anger, it was "nothing less than a direct assault on God." The sad irony was that in judging the people and seeking to deliver them in their own way, Moses and Aaron became exactly what they accused the people of being: rebels against the Lord. Therefore, their consequences were the same as those experienced by the entire generation that rebelled against God: they would not enter the land God had promised.
Clearly Moses was a great deliverer. But what was needed was a greater deliverer — one who would not rebel against God but submit to him, one who would deliver God's people, not just out of their slavery but safely into the land God has promised, one who was not just a servant, but a Son — who, when he sets people free, they are free indeed (John 8:36).
Mediator for a Sinful People
In addition to being a great deliverer, Moses was a great mediator. For over forty years he listened to the complaining of the people and pleaded their case before a God who felt and heard their complaints as a personal rejection. Moses entered into the cloud of God's presence on the mountain and brought down God's law to the people, gently explaining all of its provisions and applications. More than once Moses went to God with petitions for needed provision, and God heard and provided. And more than once God told Moses to take up his rod of judgment and mediate judgment on those who rebelled against him.
Perhaps Moses's finest moment as a mediator was on that day when he came down from Mount Sinai with two tablets on which God himself had written his law. Joshua, who was with him, thought he heard singing. And when they got down the mountain, they saw the golden calf and the people dancing around it. It was clear that though the people were no longer in Egypt, Egypt's idolatry was still very much in the people.
The next day Moses said to the people, "You have sinned a great sin. And now I will go up to the LORD; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin." (Ex. 32:30)
Perhaps Moses thought it through overnight and "remembered the sacrifices of the Hebrew patriarchs and the newly instituted sacrifice of the Passover. Certainly God had shown by such sacrifices that he was prepared to accept an innocent substitute in place of the just death of the sinner. His wrath could sometimes fall on the substitute."
So Moses returned to the LORD and said, "Alas, this people has sinned a great sin. They have made for themselves gods of gold. But now, if you will forgive their sin — but if not, please blot me out of your book that you have written." (Ex. 32:31–32)(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Lamb of God"
Copyright © 2012 Nancy Guthrie.
Excerpted by permission of Good News Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Before We Get Started: A Note from Nancy,
Week 1: A Prophet like Me,
Week 2: Slavery and a Savior (Exodus 1–4),
Week 3: Plagues and Passover (Exodus 5–12),
Week 4: Salvation and Provision (Exodus 13–17),
Week 5: The Giving of the Law (Exodus 19–24),
Week 6: The Tabernacle (Exodus 25–40),
Week 7: The Priesthood (Exodus 28–29),
Week 8: Sacrifice and Sanctification (Leviticus),
Week 9: In the Wilderness (Numbers),
Week 10: Love and Obey (Deuteronomy),
What People are Saying About This
“Nancy Guthrie has made the Old Testament come alive again. She connects the gospel dots from the Old Testament to the New, showing us the shadow and then the reality of Jesus Christ, who was the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. More than once I saw Jesus in a new and remarkably beautiful way. This study has grown my love for our Savior.”
Jessica Thompson, author, Everyday Grace; coauthor, Give Them Grace
“User-friendly, biblically reliable, theologically astute, enthusiastically sensible, encouragingly realistic, and deeply Christ-centeredall without losing sight of the fact that the Bible student is to be a disciplined ‘workman (or woman) who does not need to be ashamed.’ Once again we are deeply indebted to Nancy Guthrie for giving the church an outstanding Bible study resource to help us all grow in the grace, knowledge, and wisdom of God.”
Sinclair B. Ferguson, Chancellor’s Professor of Systematic Theology, Reformed Theological Seminary; Teaching Fellow, Ligonier Ministries
“I can think of few people who are better able to make the Old Testament come alive in as accessible, balanced, and Christ-centered way as Nancy Guthrie, and she has done it again! There is perhaps no greater theme in all Scripture than that of Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away our sin, and it is impossible to understand what that description means without seeing it through Old Testament eyes. Nancy helps us do this with her typical clarity and passionate sensitivity to the story line of the Bible. You will find your thinking stretched, your soul fed, and your heart thrilled by her work.”
Liam Goligher,Senior Minister, Tenth Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; author, The Jesus Gospel
“As the title says, this bookand the entire seriesis about Jesus. Instead of simply telling the stories of the Old Testament and teaching us how to be a better, more successful person, The Lamb of God points us over and over to the one who did it all for us. How refreshing and inspiring to bask in my Savior's love for meto be loved and accepted because of what Christ has done and not because of what I have done. Nancy’s exhaustive research, her facility in writing, and her thought-provoking questions make these studies both challenging and enjoyable. I cannot wait to lead the women in my group through each of her studies!”
Maureen Kyle, Redeemer Presbyterian Church, New York City
“Nancy Guthrie masterfully draws out from the shadows the rich, Christ-centered content and themes inherent in Exodus to Deuteronomy. This book provides a needed stepping stone for those seeking a gradual introduction into biblical theology. It is a rare thing to see an author combine such rich redemptive history, natural readability, and vital applicability, but The Lamb of God achieves just that.”
Jared Oliphint , Regional Coordinator, Westminster Theological Seminary; contributor, Reformed Forum
“In a warm, personal style, Nancy Guthrie opens up Old Testament books to reveal truths of salvation woven into every page. I am always looking for wonderful Bible studies to offer the ladies in our church, and I can’t wait to recommend this book!”
Liz Emerson, pastor’s wife; mother; grandmother
“Nancy Guthrie has provided yet another solid, practical, and thoroughly biblical study guide navigating the rich literature of the Pentateuch. We’ve used earlier volumes in this series at Parkside and have been encouraged to see people begin to connect the rich prophecies and narratives of the Old Testament to their great fulfillment in Jesus Christ. The layout of the book, the well-written studies, and the substantial questions make for a robust study guide that will challenge your people to truly see Jesus!”
Jonathan Holmes, Pastor of Counseling, Parkside Church; Executive Director, Fieldstone Counseling; Council Member, Biblical Counseling Coalition
“As a children’s ministry director who teaches a young women’s Bible study, I love the fact that Nancy teaches in adult language and application what we seek to teach our childrenthat even in the Old Testament stories we see how Jesus has been in the process of redeeming us. Nancy is a master storyteller and teacher who consistently helps us see the redemptive truth of Scripture and apply that truth where we live in the real moments of everyday life.”
Sherry Kendrick, Children’s Ministry Director, Covenant Church of Naples, Naples, Florida
“I am thankful to God to be able to offer Nancy Guthrie’s series Seeing Jesus in the Old Testament to the women of our church. For too long studies have led us only to see what we are to do. Now we can see through the pages of this series what Jesus has done! With Nancy’s help, the story of redemption jumps off the pages of the Old Testament, and the truths of the gospel are solidified in women’s hearts and lives.”
Jo Coltrain, Director of Women’s Ministry, First Evangelical Free Church, Wichita, Kansas