4-1-3 Moses And Paul
If Moses is the central, inspirational figure of the Old Testament scriptures
and the Old Covenant, Christ is of the New Testament and New Covenant.
And yet Christ was especially manifested in his matchless servant Paul.
Paul seems to have consciously modelled his life upon that of Moses; he
evidently saw Moses as his hero. The evidence for this is quite compelling:
" His letters, say they (Paul's
detractors in the new Israel) are weighty and powerful;
but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible...though
I be rude in speech...Christ sent me...to preach the Gospel:
not with wisdom of words (mg. speech)" (2 Cor. 10:10;
11:6; 1 Cor. 1:17).
Paul says he was " taught according to the
perfect manner of the law of the fathers" by Gamaliel,
receiving the highest wisdom possible in the Jewish world;
but he uses the same word as Stephen in Acts 7:22, describing
how Moses was " learned" in all the wisdom
Paul earnestly asked three times for his " thorn in
the flesh" to be removed (2 Cor. 12:9).
" I am not eloquent (mg. a
man of words)...I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue"
(Ex. 4:10); this is how Moses felt he would be perceived,
although actually he was formally quite fluent when in the
court of Pharaoh (Acts 7:22). Paul would have remembered
Stephen saying how Moses was formerly full of worldly wisdom
and " mighty in words" . Paul felt that he too
had been through Moses' experience- once mighty in words
as the rising star of the Jewish world, but now like Moses
he had left all that behind in order to try to save a new
Israel from Judaism and paganism. As Moses consciously
rejected the opportunity for leading the 'world' of Egypt,
so Paul probably turned down the chance to be High Priest.
God maybe confirmed both him and Moses in their desire for
humility by giving them a speech impediment (the "
thorn in the flesh" which Paul was " given"
, 2 Cor. 12:7).
Moses asked at least twice (maybe three times?) for him
to be allowed to enter the land (Dt. 3:25; Ps. 90); but
the answer was basically the same as to Paul: " My
grace is sufficient for thee" . The fact Moses had
been forgiven and was at one with his God was so great that
his physical entering the land was irrelevant. And for Paul
likewise, temporal blessings in this life are nothing compared
to the grace of forgiveness which we have received (Ex.
" Therefore let us keep the
feast (the breaking of bread, the new Passover), not with
old leaven...of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened
bread of sincerity and truth" (1 Cor.5:8).
Paul's selfless relationship with Corinth was inspired
by that of Moses with Israel. Thus Paul warns Corinth not
to be unequally yoked with unbelievers (2 Cor. 6:14), or
else he would come to them and not spare.
In similar style, Paul warns the Hebrews to " serve
God acceptably with reverence" because " our God
is a consuming fire" (Heb. 12:29).
This is echoing Moses' command
to keep the Passover feast without leaven (Ex. 12:15; Dt.
16:3). Paul saw himself as Moses in trying to save a generally
unresponsive and ungrateful Israel.
He is quoting the LXX of Num. 25:3 concerning how Israel
joined themselves to Baal-peor, resulting in Moses commanding
the murder of all those guilty- just as Paul later did to
He is quoting the very words of Moses in Dt. 4:24.
Paul saw visions of God which were
impossible for him to explain (2 Cor. 12:1-5).
Moses saw the greatest visions
of God of any man in the Old Testament; visions which he
could not repeat; he only repeated the words of command
which he was given. He did not tell Israel what he saw in
Paul several times calls himself
" a servant of God" (e.g. Tit. 1:1).
Paul is surely alluding to the
frequent descriptions of Moses as God's servant.
The Lord Jesus seems to have encouraged
Paul to see Moses as his hero. Thus he asked him to go and
live in Arabia before beginning his ministry, just as Moses
did (Gal. 1:17). When he appeared to Paul on the Damascus
road, he spoke in terms reminiscent of the Angel's commission
to Moses at the burning bush: " I have appeared unto
thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness
both of those things which thou hast seen, and of those
things in the which I will appear unto thee; delivering
thee from the (Jewish) people, and from the Gentiles, unto
whom now I send thee, to...turn them from darkness to light,
and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive
forgiveness of sins, and inheritance...Whereupon...I (Paul)
was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision" (Acts
Moses was promised that he would
be protected from Pharaoh so that he could bring out God's
people from the darkness of Egyptian slavery (" the
power of Satan" ); going from darkness to light is
used by Peter as an idiom to describe Israel's deliverance
from Egypt, which the new Israel should emulate (1 Pet.
2:9). Moses led Israel out of Egypt so that they might be
reconciled to God, and be led by him to the promised
inheritance of Canaan. As Moses was eventually obedient
to that heavenly vision, so was Paul- although perhaps he
too went through (unrecorded) struggles to be obedient to
it, after the pattern of Moses being so reluctant.
Paul " counted"
(Phil. 3:8) the riches of this world as dung, that he might
have the honour of sharing the sufferings of Christ. He
was motivated in this by the example of Moses in rejecting
the rulership and riches of Egypt in order to share "
the reproach of Christ" .
The same word is used in Heb. 11:26
concerning how Moses " esteemed" the
reproach of Christ greater riches than those of Egypt.
Paul looked at Moses' example and was truly inspired to
utterly despise worldly advantage, and to appreciate the
sheer honour of sharing the sufferings of Christ.
The height of this calling should make our wealth or poverty
in this world utterly irrelevant. And we too should be inspired
by Moses as Paul was. For Moses is specifically intended
as our example.
He describes Epaphroditus as one
of those " that ministered to my wants" (Phil.
The Greek for " ministered"
is used in the LXX concerning the priests (and Joshua) ministering
to Moses in practical things.
Paul warned the new Israel that
after his death (" after my departing" , Acts
20:29) there would be serious apostasy. This is the
spirit of his very last words, in 2 Tim. 4.
" Take heed therefore unto yourselves" (Acts
To help them combat this apostacy, and to set them an example
in faithfulness to the word, Paul pointed out that "
I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of
God" (Acts 20:27).
" I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you,
but have shewed you, and have taught you publickly"
" Of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse
things" (Acts 20:30).
" Now, brethren I commend you to God, and to the word
of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give
you an inheritance" (Acts 20:32).
" I have coveted no man's silver, or gold, or apparel"
This is exactly the spirit of Moses'
farewell speech throughout the book of Deuteronomy, and
throughout his final song (Dt. 32). " After my death
ye will utterly corrupt yourselves" (Dt. 31:29).
" Take heed unto yourselves" is repeated so many
times in Deuteronomy (e.g . Dt. 2:4; 4:9,15,23; 11:16; 12:13,19,30;
Exactly as Moses completely revealed all God's counsel
to Israel (Acts 7:33; Dt. 33:3).
As Moses shewed God to Israel and publicly taught them.
As Moses likewise warned in his farewell speech that false
prophets would arise - and should be shunned and
dealt with (Dt. 13:1).
This is the spirit of the whole of Deuteronomy, Moses'
farewell warning: love the word, be obedient to it, because
this will lead you to inherit the promised land for ever.
He pleaded with them to " take heed to thyself"
that they kept God's word and taught it to their children,
so that they would enter the land (Dt. 4:1,9). These words
are alluded to by Paul in 1 Tim.4:16, where he says that
attention to the doctrine of the new covenant will likewise
save us and those who hear us.
This is the spirit of Moses in Num. 16:15: " I have
not taken one ass from them" . Paul maybe had these
words in mind again in 2 Cor. 7:2: " We have wronged
no man...we have defrauded no man" .
" Neither count I my life
dear unto myself" (Acts 20:24). " I could wish
that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my
kinsmen according to the flesh" (Rom. 9:3). Paul is
here rising up to imitate Moses at perhaps his finest hour-
willing, at least in principle, to give up his eternal life
for the sake of Israel's salvation. The extent of Paul's
love for natural Israel does not come out that strongly
in the Acts and epistles; but this allusion to Moses says
it all. The RVmg. renders Rom. 9:3: “I could pray…”, more
clearly alluding to Moses’ prayer that the people might
enter and he be rejected. Yet Paul perceived that God would
not accept a substitute offering like that; and hence he
says he could pray like this. In essence, he had
risen to the same level. Likewise he wrote in 1 Thess. 2:8
RV that he was “well pleased [i.e. theoretically willing]
to impart unto, you not the gospel of God only, but our
own souls, because ye were dear unto us”. He perceived the
difference between mere imparting of the Gospel in preaching,
and being willing to give ones’ soul, ones salvation, because
of a heart that bleeds for others. No wonder Paul was such
a convincing preacher, with such love behind his words.
" My heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is,
that they might be saved" (Rom. 10:1).
This was the spirit of Moses, in
being willing to give his own physical and eternal life
for the salvation of Israel (Ex. 32:30-32).
Who else prayed like this for Israel's salvation? Only
Moses. He tried to match the intensity of Moses' prayers
for Israel on Sinai.
Throughout 2 Cor. 3:15-4:6, Paul
comments on how Moses' face shone with God's glory, and
yet he spoke to Israel through a veil, with the result that
Israel did not appreciate God's glory.
He speaks of him and all preachers of the true Christian
Gospel as " able ministers of the new testament; not
of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth,
but the spirit giveth life" (2 Cor. 3:6)- clear allusion
to Moses as the minister of the old, inferior covenant.
Paul uses this to explain why Israel
did not respond to his preaching; " if our
preaching be hid, it is hid to them that are lost"
(2 Cor. 4:3). Paul therefore saw himself and his fellow
preachers as like Moses, radiating forth the glory of God
in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, to an Israel which had the
veil upon their heart. This allusion must have so angered
the Jews- to suggest that Christian preachers were like
These copious similarities raise an interesting point: if we love
the word, if we enter into the spirit of the characters we read
of there, should we not model ourselves upon some of them? If the
word is a living word, surely we should be able to sense the spirit
of these characters in our own experience of life, they should drive
us onwards. Paul's conscious emulation of Moses is not the only
example of this. He himself invites us to see him as a similar role
model. We have shown elsewhere how Jonathan and Saul both seem to
have had Gideon as a hero (1). It is
also possible to show that Jeremiah saw Job in the same role (just
glance down the marginal references to Job in Jeremiah). There are
times when Jeremiah quotes the very words of Job as being relevant
to his own experiences. The point of such conscious emulation is
that we are copying the spirit of Christ as it was displayed in
these men. Thus Paul asks us to copy him so that we might
more accurately reflect the pattern of the Lord Jesus; he was "
a Christ-appointed model" to this end.
(1) See David and Jonathan.