In passing from the patriarchal to the Mosaic dispensation, there was no essential change or modification of the plan of redemption, only a greater revelation of its scope and fullness. The good news of human salvation remained the same. Neither was there any change in the divinely imparted gift of prophecy, save that it likewise was employed more fully. The Lord continued to communicate with His people in the same manner and by the same method followed through the long patriarchal age. In fact, it was very soon after the opening of the Mosaic dispensation that He made this important declaration: Hear now My words: If there be a prophet among you, I the Lord will make Myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream. Num. 12:6.
This statement makes clear the fact that the prophetic gift was to continue as God's method of communicating with His people. There was a prophet among the people of Israel when this statement was made. That prophet was Moses, the first prophet of the Mosaic dispensation, and one of the greatest prophets of all time. There arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, is the testimony of the Sacred Record. Deut. 34:10.
From the burning bush at the base of Mount Horeb, the Lord called unto Moses and said: Come now therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth My people the children of Israel out of Egypt. His response to the call, we gather from the incident: Moses and Aaron went in, and told Pharaoh, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Let My people go. Ex. 3:10; 5:1.
These events mark the end of the patriarchal dispensation and the beginning of the Mosaic dispensation, which continued to the first advent of our Lordabout fifteen hundred years.
While the great vital truths of these two dispensations are the same, their records, or histories, are very different. The
account of the patriarchal dispensation, a period of two thousand five hundred years, is covered in one book of about forty-six pages in our English translationa marvel of brevity, and yet composing a vast amount of information. On the other hand, the history of the Mosaic dispensationbut little more than half the length of the preceding periodfills thirty-eight books, seven hundred sixty-eight pages in my English Bible.
The history of the patriarchal age, was, of course, written after the people and events specified were all in the past, whereas the history of the Mosaic period was written while it was in the makingwhile the people were living and the events were taking place. Instructive details in large volume appear, therefore, in this record, whereas details of a similar character were left out of the account of the former dispensation.
In the history of the people and events of the Mosaic dispensation, the prophetic gift occupies a very prominent place. From the record of its manifold operations we learn much regarding its purpose. Its great value to the human family is made clear. Here for the first time in the Sacred Narrative the important truth is disclosed that the Spirit of God is inseparably and actively connected with the bestowal and the operations of the prophetic gift. Thus we read:
The Lord came down in a cloud, and spake unto him [Moses], and took of the Spirit that was upon him, and gave it unto the seventy elders: and it came to pass, that, when the Spirit rested upon them, they prophesied, and did not cease. But there remained two of the men in the camp, the name of the one was Eldad, and the name of the other Medad: and the Spirit rested upon them, and they prophesied in the camp. Num. 11:25, 26.
When this was reported to Moses, he said: Would God that all the Lord's people were prophets, and that the Lord would put His Spirit upon them. Verse 29. This statement recognizes, therefore, the fundamental truth regarding the relation of the divine Spirit to the prophetic gift. Let us note a few outstanding instances of its operation:
When the prophet Samuel told Saul that the Lord had chosen him to be king over Israel, Samuel said to him: When thou art departed from me, the Spirit of the Lord will come upon thee, and thou shalt prophesy . And the Spirit of God came upon him, and he prophesied. 1 Sam. 10:2-10.
Again, when Elijah was about to be translated, he said unto Elisha, Ask what I shall do for thee, before I be taken away from thee. 2 Kings 2:9. This was as much as to say, Elisha, I am now going to our Father in heaven. I shall soon be in His presence. What request shall I make to Him for you? Elisha answered, I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me. To this earnest request Elijah said, Thou hast asked a hard thing: nevertheless, if thou see me when I am taken from thee, it shall be so unto thee. 2 Kings 2:9, 10. Elisha obtained his desire. His request was granted, and through the Spirit's leadership and power, he became a great blessing to God's people.
The testimony of the prophet Ezekiel regarding the working of the Holy Spirit in his own case is: The Spirit took me up, and brought me in a vision by the Spirit of God into Chaldea, to them of the captivity. So the vision that I had seen went up from me. Then I spake unto them of the captivity all the things that the Lord had showed me. Ezek. 11:24, 25.
After the captivity, Nehemiah was commissioned to lead the people to rebuild the city of Jerusalem. In the midst of his difficulties and perplexities he said in his prayer to the Lord: Many years didst Thou bear with them [Israel], and testifiedst against them by Thy Spirit through Thy prophets. Neh. 9:30, A. R. V.
Further testimony regarding the relation of the Spirit of God to the prophetic gift is given in the New Testament by the apostle Peter. He says: Of which salvation the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when
it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. 1 Peter 1:10, 11.
Here it is declared that it was the Spirit of Christ in the prophets that revealed to them the prophecies they had written regarding the wonderful salvation Christ was to bring to the world, together with the plan of salvation that would follow. In harmony with this, the apostle further states that the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. 2 Peter 1:21. These passages, and many others, show that the Spirit of God was the active agent in giving the instruction through this gift.
Because of this very active participation by the Spirit of God in the working of the prophetic gift, that gift is very naturally and appropriately called the spirit of prophecy. Rev. 19:10. Fundamentally true it is, therefore, that it is through the agency of the Holy Spirit that God communicates with man.Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 405.
At the opening of the Mosaic dispensation, as we have seen, the prophetic gift was manifested in an extraordinary measure through the great prophet Moses. This manifestation continued through the forty years of the journeyings of Israel from Egypt to the river Jordan. During that time both Aaron and Miriam, upon whom the prophetic gift had likewise been bestowed, had died. Joshua, who was to take Moses' place as leader, had received the gift, as the following statement shows:
The Lord said unto Moses, Take thee Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the Spirit, and lay thine hand upon him; and set him before Eleazar the priest, and before all the congregation; and give him a charge in their sight. And thou shalt put some of thine honor upon him, that all the congregation of the children of Israel may be obedient. Num. 27:18-20.
When they had reached the Jordan, and Moses had surrendered his commission to Joshua, the word says: Joshua the
son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom; for Moses had laid his hands upon him: and the children of Israel hearkened unto him, and did as the Lord commanded Moses. Deut. 34:9.
This brings us to the end of Israel's long journey from Egypt to Canaan. It closes what is undoubtedly the greatest and most unique movement in the history of the human family. It was begun, carried forward, and finished under the visible leadership of a prophet. By a prophet the Lord brought Israel out of Egypt, and by a prophet was he preserved. Hosea 12:13.
This prophet was, of course, under the leadership of God, who, through the channel of the prophetic gift, gave the instruction, counsel, and direction necessary for the accomplishment of the task. Through this gift Moses was commissioned to deliver the nation of Israel from Egyptian bondage, and to lead them back to Canaan, the land of their forefathers. This, says M. G. Kyle, was the most appalling commission ever given to a mere man (Ex. 3:10)a commission to a solitary man, and he a refugeeto go back home and deliver his kinsmen from a dreadful slavery at the hand of the most powerful nation on earth.The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia, Vol. III, art. Moses, p. 2085.
The constant revelations and continual instruction received through the prophetic gift enabled Moses to meet triumphantly the stupendous difficulties that arose at every stage of the Exodus and of the journeyings that followed.
Through the prophetic gift there was given to Israel the ceremonial law, which clearly and impressively typified the atoning death of Christ for a lost world, and His subsequent ministry as the sinner's great high priest in the heavenly sanctuary, together with the final disposition of the sin problem. It was through the instruction given to Moses by means of the prophetic gift that the ancient church of God was organized and built up with marvelous perfection and efficiency.
Through his intercourse with God, this great prophet received and delivered to the world the immortal Decalogue, the principles
of which to this day constitute the foundation of the laws of all civilized nations as well as the charter of the church. The Decalogue is a moral miracle in ancient legislation, and retains its power in this day in all Christian lands.
Through this means of communication with God, Moses was directed to give to Israel civil laws and sanitary and health regulations equal to any that have ever been enacted in any succeeding legislation.
In government as well as in religion, Moses is still mighty after three thousand years. The laws of the Christian world are traced to his lips, and millions who recognize no religious fealty to him or his God are still influenced in their legal loyalties, tremendously and inescapably, by his ancient pronouncements in the shadow of Sinai.The Story of Religion, Charles Francis Potter, p. 33. Garden City, New York: Garden Publishing Company, Inc., 1929.
To the gift of prophecy as manifest through Moses, we owe, as expressed by another, that important portion of Holy Scripture, the Pentateuch, which makes us acquainted with the creation of the world, the entrance of sin and death, the first promises of redemption, the Flood, the peopling of the postdiluvian earth, and the origin of nations, the call of Abraham, and the giving of the law. We have, indeed, in it the early history of religion, and a key to all the subsequent dispensations of God to man.The Popular and Critical Bible Encyclopædia and Scriptural Dictionary, Vol. II, art., Moses, p. 1189.
There is, therefore, no sphere of human life today in Europe or America where the influence of Moses is not overwhelmingly felt . If Moses has been so immeasurably important to the human race, why is it that some scholars have questioned his historical existence? It is a strange and interesting fact that the greater a man is, the more probable will be the denial, some centuries after his death, that he ever existed at all.The Story of Religion, Charles Francis Potter, p. 35.
Bible expositors and commentators are prone to point to the genius of Moses, and to his scholastic and military training in the royal family of Egypt, in accounting for his great achievements.
They enlarge upon his great gifts as statesman, organizer, administrator, and writer, implying, if not directly stating, that the great accomplishments accredited to him were the natural products of extraordinary human gifts lavished upon him by nature and training.
But this was not the view held by Moses himself, nor is it the representation set forth in the Scriptures of truth. That word declares that Moses endured, as seeing Him who is invisible. Heb. 11:27. He lived, moved, thought, and acted through fellowship with Christ. He kept in close touch with his divine Leader, and through the revelation of the Holy Spirit received divine instruction and guidance in all that he attempted to do. The great accomplishments of his life were, therefore, the product of this instruction. He was God's prophet, God's ambassador to men. To him the prophetic gift was imparted in the highest and fullest degree. Kyle estimates the man Moses correctly when he says:
The career and the works and the character of Moses
culminate in the prophetic office. It was as prophet that Moses was essentially
leader. It was as prophet that he held the place of highest eminence in the
world until a greater than Moses came
. Moses' revelation of God ever
transcends the speculations of theologians about God as a sunrise transcends a
treatise on the solar spectrum. While the speculations are cold and lifeless,
the revelation is vital and glorious
. Such was the Hebrew leader,
lawgiver, prophet, poet; among mere men, the foremost man of all this
world.The International Standard Bible
Encyclopaedia, Vol. III, art., Moses, pp. 2090,