The role of the Messiah is a complex subject, and like most complex subjects, you can often convey more information with a story than with a simple list of facts. And for this topic, just one story won’t do the trick. Fortunately, the Scriptures are full of them–Isaac, Joseph, David, etc.–like multiple shadows cast by the same man struck by light sources at different angles. Each character shows a different facet or role of who Messiah is supposed to be. Sometimes the same character plays several roles.
Moses and Joshua are two such types of the Messiah.
Moses set the people free from slavery, led them through the Red Sea after a three day journey, taught them from a mountain top, and guided them to the border of the Promised Land. He even told of another “prophet like me” to come.
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— 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.’ And the LORD said to me, ‘They are right in what they have spoken. 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.’ Deuteronomy 18:15-18
After Moses died, Joshua took the people across the Jordan River into the Promised Land. He led them in war and destroyed their enemies. He fulfilled the promises that God made to Abraham to give that land to his descendants. He even had the name of the Messiah: Yeshua (Jesus’ Hebrew name) literally means “salvation”, but it was a common diminutive form of the longer Yehoshua (Joshua’s Hebrew name), which means “YHWH saves”.
There is an interesting set of phrases in the anointing of Joshua as Moses’ successor in Deuteronomy 31. (There are a number of interesting things going on in the structure of that chapter. See here: A Chiasm in Deuteronomy 31.) Take a look at these two verses:
Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel, “Be strong and courageous, for you shall go with this people into the land that the LORD has sworn to their fathers to give them, and you shall put them in possession of it.” Deuteronomy 31:7
And the LORD commissioned Joshua the son of Nun and said, “Be strong and courageous, for you shall bring the people of Israel into the land that I swore to give them. I will be with you.” Deuteronomy 31:23
Notice that when Moses commissioned Joshua in verse 7, he said “You will go with this people,” but when God commissioned him in verse 23, He said, “You will bring the people of Israel.” It is a subtle difference that is easy to miss and even easier to dismiss as inconsequential, but there is a difference, so we know that there must be a reason for it.
Messiah ben Yosef comes to serve, to teach, and to suffer for his people, while Messiah ben David comes to throw off the yoke of foreign oppression and to lead his people to victory.
Moses’ told Joshua to “go with this people”. This implies that he must be one of them. He must not elevate himself above his fellow Israelites, but lead by example. Yeshua did exactly that. He lived among the people as a man, he experienced our pain and our temptation, spoke with us, ate and drank with us, he taught us how to live according to Moses’ instructions, and lived those instructions perfectly. Finally he died the most humble of deaths for us. As Messiah ben Yosef, the suffering servant, he truly “went with” his people.
God, on the other hand, told Joshua to “bring the people of Israel”. To bring a people anywhere requires authority and power. A commoner doesn’t bring his people anywhere unless he first earns or captures a place of influence over them. Yeshua didn’t need to take control, because the Father caused him to be lifted up (John 3:14). He was resurrected and elevated to the right hand of the Father, preceding his people into eternal life. He was made to be King, not only of Judah, but of the whole re-united Kingdom of Israel, wherever her people might be. He was the first across the River of Death and Resurrection into the ultimate Promised Land and will one day take the rest of us with him.
When Yeshua returns, Paul wrote that those who died believing in him will be resurrected (1 Thessalonians 4:16). Yeshua does not need to return to the grave to bring them out. He will command it, and they will rise because they are his subjects. He will also send fishermen to draw out those of Israel who are ready to receive him and hunters to flush out those who are hidden (Jeremiah 16:16). These too might have no choice in the matter, and it will not be a pleasant experience for all involved–there are sins to be recompensed and character flaws to be rectified–but they belong to the King, and he will not lose a single one of those whom God has given him.
Like Moses, Yeshua will lead his people out of bondage again, and, like Joshua, he will bring them back to the Promised Land as the Father promised through Moses and the Prophets. But he will not come again as the suffering servant. Our debt has been paid in full; his blood is fully sufficient to remove the stains of all our sins, and his resurrection has opened the way for us to follow.
Instead of him humbling himself to become like us, we will be exalted to become like him. Yeshua will always be our King, but by God’s grace, we will finally be made subjects worthy of him.
You can’t get on the Internet or turn on television without hearing the names Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. “Clinton is a liar and a traitor!” “Trump is a racist and misogynist!” Both candidates appear to be seriously flawed. Maybe all the accusations are true and maybe they aren’t, but we can be certain of one thing: This is the most important election ever!
Just like all the elections that came before it.
Don’t misunderstand me. I fully realize that the United States is in a precarious position due to multiple and prolonged errors, and the two major party candidates are saying (and might even do) very different things concerning some of those issues. There is a lot at stake.
And just like every other election, it still doesn’t matter. Here’s what I mean by that…
More than 2500 years ago, little Judah was caught between two powerful empires, Assyria to the north and Egypt to the south. They were bound to fight each other sooner or later, but the only road between them led right through Judah, and they weren’t simply going to pass through. They were going to conquer and pillage on the way. Israel had a long history with Egypt, so rather than try to fight two superpowers, the king tried to make an alliance with Pharaoh.
Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help and rely on horses and chariots, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel or consult the LORD! The Egyptians are mere men, and not gods, and their horses are flesh, and not spirit. When the LORD stretches out his hand, the helper will stumble, and you will fall with him. You will all perish together. Return to Him from whom the people have rebelled! (Isaiah 31:1-6 Paraphrased)
That was written to Israel and not to America, but the principle still applies. If we are trusting in men, guns, or votes instead of in God, then our trust is misplaced. It didn’t matter if Israel made an alliance with Assyria or Egypt because they had abandoned their alliance with God. And it doesn’t matter today if we vote for Clinton or Trump if we aren’t trusting in God for the outcome.
By all means, vote your conscience. Support the candidate that you believe most represents the best interests of America. But if America’s interests don’t align with God’s, then America is doomed and there is nothing that anyone can do about it. Clinton won’t protect women because she can’t. Trump won’t save America because he can’t. God will decide our fate, not politicians, and as long as we fear men rather than God and hold our own law above God’s, we will never amount to anything more than Assyria and Egypt.
Where are Sennacherib of Assyria and Shebitku of Egypt today? Exactly where Trump and Clinton will be 2500 years from today.
Deu 32:1-3 [Moses sang,] “Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak; and hear, O earth, the words of my mouth. My doctrine shall drop as the rain; my speech shall drop down as the dew, as the small rain on the tender plant, and as the showers on the grass; because I will proclaim the name of Yahweh, ascribe greatness to our God.”
Psalm 19:1 The heavens declare the glory of God; and the expanse proclaims His handiwork.
Luk 19:37-40 And when He had come near, even now at the descent of the Mount of Olives, all the multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works which they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King coming in the name of the Lord! Peace in Heaven and glory in the highest!” And some of the Pharisees from the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” And He answered and said to them, “I tell you that if these should be silent, the stones would cry out.”
(MKJV, more or less.)
God speaks first to the leaders. If they don’t listen, he speaks directly to the people. If the people don’t listen, God speaks to the whole creation, and it always responds. God wants to have a relationship with his creation through us, but he does not need to work through us. To God we are a luxury, something he goes out of his way to enjoy. He relates to us only because he so chooses.
God will have a relationship with his creation with or without us. His Word will always be proclaimed by someone or something and will always be heard. No objection, no legislation, no denial can ever change that. The question is, will we hear? Will we speak?