Sermon – “The Five Books of Moses”

Sermon for Sunday, November 22nd, 2020 at First Presbyterian Church at Unionville, NY (BPC)

Old Testament reading:

[Exo 6:2-3 ESV] 2 God spoke to Moses and said to him, “I am the LORD. 3 I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty, but by my name the LORD I did not make myself known to them.

New Testament reading:

[2Co 3:12-18 ESV] 12 Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, 13 not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. 14 But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. 15 Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. 16 But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

Gospel reading:

[Luk 16:19-31 ESV] 19 “There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20 And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21 who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. 24 And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ 27 And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house– 28 for I have five brothers–so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ 29 But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.'”

 

INTRODUCTION

As I’ve noted in the Pastor’s corner in the bulletin, I intend to have my next Sermon series on the book of Exodus. But with the desire to do more study of that book ahead of time, and with 5 Sundays prior to Christmas, I’ve decided to give a few topical sermons. These sermons will also help us remember how many weeks there are until Christmas because of their titles.

Today I’ll be preaching on “The Five Book of Moses.” And, Lord willing in the upcoming weeks I’ll preach on “The Four Gospels,” “The Three Sections of the Old Testament,” “The Two Testaments,” and finally “The Unity of the Scriptures.”

Today we look at the Five Books of Moses.

I. The Pentateuch

To the Greek-speaking Jews these books became known as “the Pentateuch” – the five scrolls. You, of course, know that a Pentagon has five sides. Well, the Pentateuch has five scrolls or books: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. And these are grouped together as five.

These are titles given to the books also in Greek. The Hebrews did not call the Five Books of Moses by these names. Rather than Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, they referred to each book (or scroll) by the first word in it.

Genesis was “Bereshit” or “in the beginning”

Exodus was “Shemot” or “names”

Leviticus was “Vayikra” or “and He called”

Number was “Bamidbar” or “In the wilderness”

and

Deuteronomy was “Devarim” or “Words”

While the Jews accepted all of the Old Testament, the Samaritans were only sure about these five books. So these books had universal acceptance among the religious people in the land of Israel.

These books set the stage, they are the foundation for the rest of the Bible. If we summarize the Scriptures with the themes Creation, Fall, Redemption, we find that the first two—creation and fall—are heavily emphasize in Genesis. Redemption also begins there with the promise of the gospel in Genesis 3:15 that the Son will crush the serpents head. The rest of the Bible then completes the story of redemption.

II. The Torah

While Creation, Fall, and Redemption figure in the Pentateuch, these books have a considerable focus on the law. Thus, they are called Torah, the Hebrew word for law. Not only the laws themselves in these books are called Torah, but the entirety of the five books is Torah.

The Torah in one sense is the entire Old Testament, but more specifically and more often is just these first five books of Moses.

Torah, more accurately translated is not so much “law” but “teaching.”

The Torah teaches us much about God, this world, and us as human beings. Integral to understanding who you are is understanding where you came from. And the Torah teaches that God created man. Man was created Male and Female, with a body and a rational soul. And the Torah teaches us that when man was created God said his creation was “very good.” But the Torah also teaches us that man fell from sin in the Garden of Eden. So our identity today as human beings is that of created and fallen beings. But that is not all the Torah teaches.

Torah teaches us much else as it points to Christ, and as we find our ultimately identity in Him. And we’ll look at that later in this sermon. But first I want to discuss the Error of JDEP, so we can be more confident that these truly are the Five Books of Moses.

III. The Error of JDEP

When it comes to the Five Books of Moses, it is important to speak against what is called the Wellhuasen Hypothesis or “JDEP.”

This was the idea—rejected by all true Biblical scholars—that these Five Books were not written by Moses but by some collection of Jewish persons. The German “scholar” Julius Wellhausen named these persons “J” for Jahwist, “D” for Deuteronomist, “E” for Elohist, and “P” for Priestly Source. And then he cuts up the books of Moses, claiming that certain parts were written by J, others part by D, yet others by E, and lastly other parts by P. It is supposed that there is a Jahwist tends to use the name Yawheh for God, an Elohist tends to use the name Elohim for God, a Deuteronomist who wrote the book of Deuteronomy, and a Priestly writer or writers who wrote Leviticus.

We might call this “the German Error” though in theology that hardly narrows it down. For some centuries the German Universities were on the forefront of Biblical studies. But, to get a degree you had to write a thesis, and you had to say something new. In theology, “something new” is usually something heretical.

There are a number of problems with the JDEP idea.

For one, this sort of dividing up of the text has no end, and various alternative ways of dividing it up have been put forth.

The JDEP theory is highly speculative.

And there is no historical evidence of such various sources. All history has always known Moses as the author.

But more, importantly, the Bible itself teaches that these books were written by Moses.

In various places (Joshua 8:31, 23:6, 2 Kings 14:6,) in the remainder of the Old Testament there is reference to “the Book of the Law OF MOSES” and even just “the Book of Moses” (Ezra 6:18, Nehemiah 13:1). It is even said (2 Chronicles 35:6) that this is the “the word of the Lord BY MOSES.”

Also, there are a number of New Testament verses that prove that Jesus and the disciples believed that Moses himself wrote the Five Books. (Luke 16:31, Luke 24:27, Luke 24:44, John 1:17, John 1:45, John 7:19, Acts 28:23, Hebrews 10:28)

Most clearly we have Jesus saying:

[Jhn 5:46 ESV] 46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for HE WROTE of me.

And Paul saying,

[2Co 3:15 ESV] 15 Yes, to this day WHENEVER MOSES IS READ a veil lies over their hearts.

So those who promote JDEP are saying exactly what Satan said in the garden. “Did God really say?” Did God really say that Moses wrote these books?

When it comes to deciding between the various opinions of men, and the word of God, we should at every occasion reject man and approve God. The Bible really says that Moses wrote these Five Books, and therefore we believe that Moses wrote these Five Books.

[Exo 6:2-3 ESV] 2 God spoke to Moses and said to him, “I am the LORD. 3 I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty, but by my name the LORD I did not make myself known to them.

The Lord spoke to Moses.

And he wrote down what the Lord said.

Now, I admit, not every word of the “Books of Moses” was written by Moses. For example, in Deuteronomy 34:7, Moses did not write of his own death.

But in general these Five Books are the Books of Moses and referred to as such in the New Testament.

IV. Redemption in the Five Books of Moses

I mentioned earlier that the “The rest of the Bible completes the story of redemption.” But this does not mean that there is no redemption in the Five Books of Moses.

The very existence of these five books is owing to redemption. We have these books because God did not visit Death upon the people. He kept them. God has a plan of salvation, and it because in the Pentateuch.

1. In Genesis – we find redemption in the Protoevangelion or first evangelical message. Genesis 3:15.

[Gen 3:15 ESV] 15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

The Christ will bruise Satan and win the victory.

Paul later alludes to this passage when he says in Romans 16:20:

[Rom 16:20 ESV] 20 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

2. Then in Genesis – we find redemption when Abraham is asked to give up his own son Isaac upon the altar. But salvation is of the Lord. He provides the lamb. [Rom 8:32 ESV] 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?

3. Also in the Pentateuch – in Exodus – we find redemption in is the story of the Exodus itself. The people rescued from slavery, not from their own actions but from the grace of God. And when they came out of Egypt, they did so under the sign of the blood of the lamb on the doorposts at Passover. The Lord provided a substitute for His people, pointing to Jesus Christ, the true substitute for the sins of all God’s people.

These are just three examples of redemption in the Torah. There are many others. But even these three should help us to see that these books are not all about the law, nor are they irrelevant to us. Our creation, fall, and redemption are spoken of in these books.

CONCLUSION

That is what I want you to take away from this sermon today. Not only must we clearly say and defend that these books truly are the Five Books of Moses, but that they are the Five Books about God’s people, in which we learn our origin and identity and see for the very first time that God is a gracious God, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and that He provides a messiah as the substitute for the sins of man.

If you are dwelling on your sins and feel helpless, I call on you to look to salvation in Jesus Christ, and I pray that the Holy Spirit works in your heart to believe in the word of the Lord and to know the peace that surpasses all understanding.