A sermon preached at Covenant Presbyterian Church of Fort Smith, Arkansas before the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper on January 6, 2019.
The next day Moses sat to judge the people, and the people stood around Moses from morning till evening. When Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, “What is this that you are doing for the people? Why do you sit alone, and all the people stand around you from morning till evening?” And Moses said to his father-in-law, “Because the people come to me to inquire of God; when they have a dispute, they come to me and I decide between one person and another, and I make them know the statutes of God and his laws.” Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “What you are doing is not good. You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you. You are not able to do it alone. Now obey my voice; I will give you advice, and God be with you! You shall represent the people before God and bring their cases to God, and you shall warn them about the statutes and the laws, and make them know the way in which they must walk and what they must do. Moreover, look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. And let them judge the people at all times. Every great matter they shall bring to you, but any small matter they shall decide themselves. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you. If you do this, God will direct you, you will be able to endure, and all this people also will go to their place in peace.” So Moses listened to the voice of his father-in-law and did all that he had said. Moses chose able men out of all Israel and made them heads over the people, chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. And they judged the people at all times. Any hard case they brought to Moses, but any small matter they decided themselves. Then Moses let his father-in-law depart, and he went away to his own country (Exodus 18:13–27).
If you have ever been involved in a legal mediation, you know that a mediator is appointed to serve as a go-between in settling a dispute. The objective of the mediator is to reconcile the dispute, to make peace between two conflicting or estranged parties. That human relationships can become so contentious that they require mediation is no surprise to anyone. That every human’s relationship with God is so severed that apart from mediation there can be no reconciliation between God and man is unknown by most.
Apart from God’s redeeming grace, everyone is hostile toward God (Rom. 8:7), rebelling against God’s moral law written on the heart of every man, woman, and child. By virtue of our rebellion, we are due God’s wrath. Yet, as we witness in Exodus, God has chosen to act in redeeming a people for Himself. For example, God redeemed Israel from Egyptian slavery, giving them a codified law, and placing them in a Promised Land, revealing His steadfast love for His chosen people. It was not because of the righteousness of this chosen people but because of the mercy of their covenant-keeping God. Therefore, so great was the chasm between God’s covenant people and their covenant-keeping God that God chose the child of a Levite to serve as an imperfect mediator for Israel, Moses, a chosen mediator.
A Chosen Mediator
Born under the oppression of Pharaoh, the child of slaves, God providentially protected him in a basket made of bulrushes in the river Nile. Drawn out of the water providentially by Pharaoh’s daughter, he was named Moses, and lived as a prince of Egypt. Despising the pleasures of his royal raising, he murdered an Egyptian task master for the sake of justice for his kindred. Fleeing Egypt for the wrath of Pharaoh, he married and settled in Midian, living life as a common shepherd. But, He who providentially protected Moses and sustained him, He who chose Moses to lead Israel, called Him from a burning bush.
God would use Moses to destroy Egypt and redeem Israel, as His chosen mediator. Limiting Moses’ role as a mediator to our passage, we witness some of the early duties of this chosen mediator: “Moses sat to judge the people, and the people stood around Moses from morning till evening.” Describing this judging to his father-in-law, Moses explained, “Because the people come to me to inquire of God; when they have a dispute, they come to me and decide between one person and another, and I make them know the statutes of God and his laws.” He was a man like you and me, a sinner like you and me, imperfect like you and me, but God chose him to serve as His imperfect mediator, and so he served albeit imperfectly.
In the providence of God, Moses married a woman with a wise father, and in the providence of God her father witnessed Moses’ work, and like most fathers he found his son-in-law’s work lacking wisdom. Like most father-in-laws he offered his counsel whether Moses wanted it or not. Moses receives words of wisdom, and without surrendering His appointed role of mediator he learns the art of delegation, serving in a sense as a delegating mediator.
A Delegating Mediator
Moses’ father-in-law explains a form of government in which Moses would continue to serve as mediator between God and Israel, representing them, warning them, and teaching them. Under Moses would be appointed “able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe.” These men would be assigned differing populations, serving as judges under the authority of Moses. Only the hard cases would be brought to Moses, delegating the rest to these elders of Israel.
Following his father-in-law’s advice, Moses witnessed the benefit of good government, things done decently and in good order. So also he realized, as we witness, God’s use of means to accomplish His ministry. It is here, however, that the example of Moses falls short. Though chosen by God, he was only a temporal, fallen, and imperfect mediator, a foreshadow of an eternal, sinless, perfect mediator.
A Perfect Mediator
That Moses was God’s chosen mediator was true; that he delegated responsibility was wise, but he was far from perfect. His father-in-law cautioned, “You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you. You are not able to do it alone.” While this caution speaks of Moses’ delegation, it applies to his mediation as well. As an imperfect mediator, Moses himself needed a perfect Mediator. The writer of Hebrews explains it this way: “Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son” (Heb. 3:5-6a).
Moses was born of Jochebed, the son of Amram, receiving the seed of Adam and sin nature. Jesus was born of the virgin Mary, the Son of God, circumventing the seed and sin nature of Adam. Moses was a fallen man, even a murderer, yet walked humbly with God. Jesus knew no sin (2 Cor. 5:21) from conception to his murder, walking humbly as fully man and fully God. Moses died and was buried (Deut. 34:7). Jesus died and was buried and resurrected from the dead.
Moses served as an imperfect mediator between God and man longing to hear: “there is one God and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all (1 Tim. 2:5-6a). While God used Moses to redeem His people from slavery in Egypt, giving them a law, and a homeland, God sent His only Son to redeem from slavery to sin, fulfilling the law, and giving us an eternal homeland. Therefore, by God’s grace alone through faith in Christ alone we have been justified, restoring peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:1).
And as our perfect Mediator, our Lord “lives to make intercession” for us (Heb. 7:25), insuring that our continued fellowship with our heavenly Father is always according to His will. So also as our Perfect Mediator, He has chosen to delegate the means of His ministry through the Church. Ministry in the church, as it was in Israel, is carried out by those serving not as but under a mediator. As the Apostle Paul explains, in the church God “gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of the ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:11-12). As we worship today, we are beneficiaries of this delegation. It is right for God’s people to serve the Lord, as they are called, as ambassadors ministering under a mediator. And all the more glorious to serve as ambassadors for Christ!
So, as we celebrate the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper today, we look not to a temporal, fallen, and imperfect Mediator but to our eternal, sinless, perfect Mediator, our Lord Jesus Christ. In this Supper we witness the testimony of His once for all mediatorial sacrifice offered for God’s elect without distinction. Whether rich or poor, male or female, parent or child, king or servant, we are nourished in communion with Christ, our perfect Mediator.