New York City pastor, Tim Keller, is famous for his “true and better” phrases that compare and contrast central Old Testament figures with Jesus. This is not just to show that Jesus is right when humans are wrong, but that Jesus is the figure to whom the entire Bible points. Here are some examples: “Jesus is the true and better Joseph who, at the right hand of the king, forgives those who betrayed and sold him and uses his new power to save them . . . Jesus is the true and better Job, the truly innocent sufferer, who then intercedes for and saves his stupid friends . . . Jesus is the true and better David whose victory becomes his people’s victory, though they never lifted a stone to accomplish it themselves.”
What Keller is doing is not new. Even the New Testament uses the true and better theme, although it is less “on the nose” than Keller. One must dig a little deeper to uncover these things, but once we do, these themes are there staring us in the face. One of the most prevalent NT themes is that Jesus is the true and better Moses.
Searching for the True Moses
As we were sitting in sermon planning for last week’s sermon, this true Moses theme stood out so plainly to me that I couldn’t think about anything else. Bryan and Randy’s sermon about Zechariah’s prophecy made it clear that the Israelites in Zechariah’s day had been waiting 400 years to hear from God. There had been 400 years of silence. But if we are careful Bible readers, that 400 number should trigger our Old Testament memory.
Here is what God told Abraham in Genesis 15:13: “Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there.” This is God telling Abraham about the 400-year Egyptian captivity of the Israelites. I can imagine that being 400 years in captivity would feel that God had turned his back on his people. The silence would be deafening. Yet, God sent Moses to free them from their oppression under the Egyptian Pharaoh, so that they would eventually worship God in the Promised Land.
It is really no wonder that the Exodus story was a prominent theme in the Jewish culture at the time of Jesus. Zechariah’s ancient context in Luke 1 was not too different from the time of Moses. There was not a prophet who carried the true word of God for 400 years. Israel had continued to be subjugated by different foreign governments and were, at the time, under the rule of the Roman Empire. Pharaoh was now Caesar. The connection of the Jesus story to that of the Old Testament Exodus seems clear enough, but diving deeper will substantiate this view.
In Zechariah’s prophecy in Luke, he proclaims that God in Christ has visited his people and brought salvation “that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear”(1:45). Now that may not signal anything to you, but someone who read this along with the story of the plagues in Exodus, might have ringing in their ears. What they would be hearing are the resounding echoes of the phrase “that they may serve me” (found in Exodus 4:23; 7:16; 8:1, 20; 9:1, 13; 10:3).
Now, there are two main words for “serve/worship” in Greek, and the same Greek word is used in Luke and in the ancient Greek version of the Old Testament which was probably used by Luke. For example, Exodus 8:1 says, “Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go in to Pharaoh and say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord, “Let my people go, that they may serve (latreuein) me.” Luke 1:45 says, “that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve (latreuōmen) him without fear.” For those that don’t know Greek, that is the same verb for “to serve/worship” in different forms.
The Bible Is about Jesus
Here’s the point: Zechariah is prophesying that Jesus is the true and better Moses who will lead his people out of the slavery to their true enemies (sin and death), that they may serve him. Jesus is the true fulfillment of everything that the exodus from Egypt pointed to. As Keller would say, “The Bible is not about you.” It’s about Jesus, and there are countless examples like this to prove it.
-Alex Nolette (Community Groups/Equip Coordinator)
 Timothy Keller quoted by Justin Taylor here: https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justin-taylor/keller-gospel-centered-ministry/