Moses - Prince and Priest: Our Model of What It Means To Be a Child Of God
We all remember, and no doubt love Mark Twain's delightful story 'The Prince and the Pauper'. Perhaps you remember it’s a story of a young boy from the streets who finds himself elevated to a great position of power and influence simply because he looks like the Prince who has gone missing.
The story of Moses has a similar beginning; Moses is snatched from the uncaring waters of the Nile and raised in the royal palace and for 40 years he lives the life of a prince and then, when he sees his people being unjustly treated and kills an Egyptian guard, he is thrust out of that privileged life and lives the next 40 years with a price on his head. Fortunately for Moses there were no bounty hunters prepared to go as far into the desert as Moses was and so he was never brought back to face Egyptian justice.
In the book of Exodus chapter 3 it says that 'Moses… led (his) flock to the far side of the desert and came to Horeb the mountain of God.
Moses had clearly embraced his condition; he was not only living in the desert but he was prepared to go to the furthest extent of this humbling experience – he was prepared to go to 'the far side of the desert'. The Prince had most certainly become the pauper. This is the key to understanding how God works in the heart of every believer. The Lord is looking for his children to embrace the conditions that will shape their character and so make them usable in his hands.
And it was on the 'far side of the desert' that Moses came to the mountain of the Lord and to the place of the divinely scheduled encounter. Both Peter and James in the New Testament tell us that the Lord 'gives grace to the humble but opposes the proud' (James 4:6, 1 Peter 5:5) and so it was in the Old Testament; the Lord was looking for humility in the life of Moses because he had a great supply of grace that he wanted to give for the great task he wanted Moses to fulfill.
Just like with Moses, our 'desert' experiences will always produce humility and this in turn will always be the means by which God chooses to pour out a plenteous supply of grace.
Moses was to return to Egypt not as a prince but as a priest. He had encountered the Lord and now as a priest he would represent the people to God and represent God to the people. His position as priestly intercessor would prove far more significant in the life of Israel than a princely insurgent. But fascinatingly Moses clearly understood the role of priesthood – for himself and all God's people – to be something more than merely ceremonial there was still the hint of royalty about it.
When Moses had brought the people out of Egypt to meet the Lord at Mount Horeb this is what the Lord instructs him to say to the people,
'"You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on Eagles wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation."' (Exodus 19:4 – 6)
Of course the conditions of this covenant – fully obeying the Lord – were never met by the people of Israel but to our great joy they have been met in the Lord Jesus. When we belong to him and he belongs to others, our covenant with him means that we receive all of the benefits that are his by right.
Moses became a prince and then became a pauper and then became a princely priest, you and I are a kingdom of priests through the saving work of Jesus and the relationships that we have with him. And we come to a greater experience of the grace of that amazing status and position as we learn the humility that is fashioned in our desert experiences.
After the Fall, the way was blocked; yet, God built a bridge, in Covenant, back to us. In Jesus, that Covenant was fulfilled, as on the cross, he offered himself as the ultimate blood sacrifice.
The Bible is meant to be read and understood. But many people struggle to interpret Scripture. I believe that Covenant and Kingdom offers the simplest framework of interpretation as we read the Bible for ourselves. These are the guiding coordinates, the latitude and longitude, that orient us as we read the Bible.
By understanding Covenant and Kingdom, we unlock the keys of interpretation that help us read the Bible for ourselves. While this approach cannot and should not replace in-depth Bible study, engaging the Bible through its largest themes remind us anew that the Bible is a book about God and us. This guide helps us begin to see and understand the double helix of Covenant and Kingdom that run throughout the Bible.