The prophecy concerning the prophet like Moses has heavily influenced Jewish expectation of Messiah. The Prophet like Moses is regarded to be Messiah. For this reason, we find that Jewish literature casts Messiah in the pattern of Moses.
The life and ministry of Moses serve as a Messianic prototype which the ultimate Messiah is expected to reflect. The Midrash often refers to Moses and Messiah respectively as the First Redeemer and the Ultimate Redeemer. As a prophet like Moses, the life and work of Messiah must reflect the pattern set by Moses. Does our faith in Yeshua as Messiah hold up to this criteria? Does Yeshua meet these expectations? Is he a prophet like Moses?
"The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him." (Deuteronomy 18:15)
The story of Moses sets the pattern for the work of the Messiah. Judaism believes that Messiah is perfectly prefigured in Moses. Israel's Ultimate Redeemer must be like her First Redeemer.
As we look inside the Torah, we see that the old expectations hold up. There are many parallels between the story of Moses and the story of Jesus. Perhaps one of the most compelling of these parallels is found in their birth accounts.
Moses was born under Pharaoh's decree to cast the male children into the Nile. Pharaoh was paranoid that the growing Hebrew population would rise up in revolt against Egypt and overthrow his dynasty. When Moses was born, his mother Yocheved complied with Pharaoh's order by putting the baby in a basket in the Nile.
A similar story is found in Matthew's birth narrative of Jesus. Before Jesus was born, astrologers from the East saw his star in the sky and followed it to Judea. In Judea they inquired of King Herod. They explained to him that, according to their astrological projections, the Messiah-King of Israel had already been born. Herod, like Pharaoh, was paranoid. He knew his own kingship was less than kosher. He was afraid of anyone who might make a claim for his throne. In his paranoia Herod murdered scores of people, including his own family members. Small surprise then when the astrologers told him the Messiah had been born and the Sages told him that Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem, Herod had all the newborn babies of Bethlehem slaughtered to protect his throne.
The parallel between the two birth narratives becomes even sharper when we compare the ancient Jewish traditions about the birth of Moses. According to the Midrash, Pharaoh's astrologers foresaw the birth of Moses. Like the astrologers of Matthew 2, the astrologers of Egypt read in the stars that the redeemer of Israel was about to be born. "The astrologers told Pharaoh, 'The mother of Israel's savior is already pregnant with him!'" (Shemot Rabbah 1:18) When the astrologers told Pharaoh that Israel's redeemer was about to be born, Pharaoh issued the decree to have all the male babies cast into the river.
The Jewish writer of the book of Matthew and his Jewish readers would certainly have known this tradition well. As he told the story of Jesus and Herod and the astrologers from the east, his readers would have quickly connected those events with the events at the birth of Moses. They would see that the birth of Jesus followed the pattern set by Moses. They would see that Israel's Ultimate Redeemer was like her First Redeemer. Matthew's birth narrative is a direct allusion to Moses.
The parallels between the life and ministry of Moses and Yeshua are not limited to their birth narratives. Both Moses and Messiah are born in a time of national bondage. Both redeemers appear after Israel waits generations for redemption. Both redeemers are destined to break the bondage of Israel and lead her into the promised land. Both perform unparalleled signs and wonders to validate their ministry. Both act in the role of Law-giver and singular authority of Torah. Both fill the role of intercessor between God and the nation. Both do the work of reconciliation, renewing God's covenant relationship with Israel when that covenant is compromised.
Moses and Yeshua also share a pattern of being revealed and concealed before being ultimately revealed to Israel. The Midrash states it this way: "The future Redeemer will be like the former Redeemer. Just as the former Redeemer revealed himself and later was hidden from them, so the future Redeemer will be revealed to them, and then be hidden from them." (Ruth Rabbah 5:6)
There are further parallels between the work of Moses and the work of Messiah Yeshua. After leading the people through the Passover redemption and teaching them the Torah, Moses set about the work of constructing a Tabernacle so that God might dwell among Israel. So too, Yeshua achieved our redemption in order to build us into a tabernacle, a living temple, a dwelling place for God.
Even the very essence of Messiahship is demonstrated only in Moses and Yeshua. Moshiach, (Messiah) means anointed one. It is a title, not a name. It is a reference to an ancient Jewish ritual. In the anointing ritual, pure olive oil was poured over the head of the one being anointed. Someone who had received the anointing ritual was called an anointed one.
In ancient Israel, there were three, different career offices that required the anointing ritual: prophet, priest and king. A person entering one of those vocations was first anointed with oil. The olive oil was meant to symbolize the spiritual endowment necessary to fulfill the office. In ancient Judaism, any prophet, priest or king was called a Messiah, that is, an anointed one. But the ultimate eschatological Messiah was to be more than merely an anointed one, he was to be The Anointed One. The Messiah was to be the singular individual that would restore those three offices to Israel. Thus the Messiah, in some capacity, would have to be a prophet, a priest and a king. A man who was a prophet but not a priest or king could be considered an anointed one, but not The Anointed One.
Through the course of his ministry, Moses filled all three of these offices. He was a prophet. He was the quintessential prophet, speaking on God's behalf to the entire nation. In fact, none of the prophets of the Tanach attained the level of direct prophecy Moses functioned in. He was a priest. Moses served in the priesthood, sacrificing and performing the rites of a priest before Aaron and his sons were ordained. Even after their ordination, Aaron and his sons did not have the unlimited right of entry into the presence of God that Moses enjoyed. He was a king. As leader, judge and law-giver, Moses was king over Israel. Jewish literature frequently refers to Moses as a King of Israel based upon a Midrashic reading of Deuteronomy 33:5. The Midrash states, "Moses obtained Kingship as it is written, 'And he was a King in Jeshurun.'" Thus Moses can be regarded as filling the three offices of Messiah: Prophet, Priest and King.
As with the First Redeemer, so too the Ultimate Redeemer. Yeshua is Prophet, Priest and King. In his first coming and ministry Yeshua functioned as a prophet. He is a prophet. A prophet is a spokesman for God, and he spoke his Father's words. He is a priest. After his resurrection, Yeshua entered the role of High Priest. A Priest is someone who intermediates between God and Man. A priest brings people near to God. After his resurrection, Yeshua ascended before God to intercede for those who believe in him. As the High Priest before God, he is the only one by which God may be approached. He brings people near to God. He is a king. When he returns, he will come as the King of the entire earth. A King is a law enforcer and leader. Born from the line of David, Yeshua will rule as king over the world enforcing the Torah of God and leading the world in true peace.
Only Moses and Yeshua function in all three of these Messianic offices.
The most distinguishing attribute characterizing Moses, however, is his great level prophetic revelation. No other prophet attained the level of prophecy which Moses operated in. Regarding this, God himself said, "When a prophet of the LORD is among you, I reveal myself to him in visions, I speak to him in dreams. But this is not true of my servant Moses; he is faithful in all my house. With him I speak mouth to mouth, clearly and not in riddles; he sees the form of the LORD." (Numbers 12:6-8) By this we are to understand that Moses heard the voice of God directly and clearly, even audibly. Moses did not receive prophecy in oracles or visions. He simply heard the voice of God speaking, and what he heard he passed on to Israel. God spoke to all other prophets before and after Moses with more conventional methods of prophetic revelation: dreams, visions, oracles, and signs. By its very nature, conventional prophecy is obscure and subject to ambiguity. Not so with Moses. Moses was unlike all other prophets because when God spoke to him, he spoke directly to him: conversationally, without riddles or mysteries. Because of this unique level of revelation, when Moses spoke as a prophet, his voice was the equivalent of the voice of God.
In order to literally fulfill the prophecy of Deuteronomy 18:15, that is for a prophet like Moses to arise, the Messiah must achieve a level of prophecy equivalent to that of Moses. Messiah must be able to hear the voice of God directly. No visions, dreams, riddles or oracles. When the Messiah speaks as a prophet, it must be the direct words of God that he conveys. As we read the gospels, we find that this is indeed the case with Yeshua. In the Gospel of John he said, "I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me," and again, "I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it." (John 12:49) He speaks only what he hears. He is a prophet like Moses.
Perhaps one of the most tantalizing parallels between the First Redeemer and the Ultimate Redeemer is in their deaths. The redemption of Israel could not be completed until after the death of Moses. The greatest prophet of all time, the only man to have stood in the presence of God, to have worn His glory on his face, to have united God with a people, to have heard the voice of God in his ears, to have free access to the Holy of Holies, this man Moses had to die! Unbelievable! Only after he died was Joshua able to lead Israel into the land. The Midrash intuitively detects a cause and effect relationship between the death of Moses and the redemption of Israel. In the Midrash, when Moses pleads to enter the land with Israel, God answers, "I cannot listen to you, for I took two oaths: either you die here in the desert, or I destroy the Congregation of Israel. Do you wish to live on at the expense of the Jewish people's annihilation?" Moses replies, "Let a thousand Moshes perish rather than one Jew." (Midrash Tanchuma)
One tradition relates that the sun darkened at noon (the sixth hour) on the day Moses died. Another tells us that his time of death was at the time of Minchah, that is the evening sacrifice, typically during the 9th hour. (See Yishai Chassidah's Encyclopedia of Biblical Personalities.) As with the first Redeemer, so too the Ultimate Redeemer. These parallels to the death of our Master are stark and vivid.
Recognizing that Messiah must follow the pattern set by Moses, Jewish legends about the Messiah imagined a suffering Messiah that dies in the process of redeeming Israel.
The redemption of Israel could not be completed until after the death of Yeshua. The greatest prophet of all time, the only begotten of the Father, the only one to have seen God and to be of God, the man who not only heard the voice of God, but indeed was the voice of God, this man Yeshua had to die! Unbelievable. Only through his death could we enter the presence of God.
Does Yeshua meet the criteria? Is he a prophet like Moses? He is. Infact, he has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses. (Hebrews 3:3)