The Lord deter­mines a lofty posi­tion for Moses. He gives the prophet His com­mand­ments in the storm on Mount Sinai. He speaks with him face to face, the first time since the fall of man. This is the only time pri­or to His suf­fer­ings on Gol­go­tha that the Lord calls a human being, in the per­son of Moses, a friend. If there should be of you a prophet to the Lord, I will be made known to him in a vision, and in sleep will I speak to him. My ser­vant Moses is not so, he is faith­ful in all my house. I will speak to him mouth to mouth appar­ent­ly, and not in dark speech­es; and he has seen the glo­ry of the Lord (Num. 12:6–8, LXX) And the Lord spoke to Moses face to face, as if one should speak to his friend (Exo­dus 33:11, LXX). [Abra­ham is called a friend of God in the Old Tes­ta­ment as well (Isa­iah 41:8), not dur­ing his life­time, but many years after­wards]

We see how Moses employs his friend­ship with God for his most sin­cere love for his neigh­bor. He turns to Him with an auda­cious prayer in the hour of God’s anger at the sin of the Israelites: And now, [Lord], if thou wilt for­give their sin, for­give it; and if not, blot me out of thy book, which thou hast writ­ten (Exod. 32:32).

Moses becomes the instru­ment of the great works of God: through him peo­ple regain the law of God which they for­feit­ed through their sin in Eden. The pos­si­bil­i­ty of serv­ing God and par­tial­ly com­mu­ni­cat­ing with Him returns, and the earth is no longer a total stranger to heav­en. From this time on the process of the prepa­ra­tion of mankind for the accep­tance of the Son of God begins—not ful­ly, not per­fect­ly, in shad­ows, images and con­jec­tures. For this rea­son the Church sees the pre­fig­u­ra­tion of Christ in Moses and often chants hymns dur­ing fes­tal ser­vices which com­pares them one to anoth­er. For exam­ple, the Dog­mat­ic Theotokion of the 2nd tone reads: “The shad­ow of the law passed away when grace arrived… in place of the pil­lar of fire, the Sun of Right­eous­ness hath shone forth. Instead of Moses, Christ is come, the Sal­va­tion of our souls.”

How­ev­er, the Lord could not to ful­ly reveal Him­self in His Divin­i­ty to Moses. In the hour when the Lord calls him to His ser­vice, Moses obsti­nate­ly refus­es, ignit­ing the wrath of God: I pray thee, Lord, appoint anoth­er able per­son whom Thou shalt send (Exod. 4:13, LXX). He sins before the Lord by the waters of Merib­ah (Num­bers 20: 12) and at Kadesh in the wilder­ness of Zin (Deut. 32:51).

The Lord said to Moses: …Thou shalt see the land before thee; but thou shalt not enter into it (Deut. 32:52, LXX). The Promised Land was not only an earth­ly real­i­ty, but the pre­fig­u­ra­tion of God’s King­dom. God’s words to Moses were in ref­er­ence to both mean­ings of the Promised Land. The great holy right­eous God-seer Moses was vouch­safed to see “the deifi­ca­tion of human life,” the taber­na­cle of man and God, but he was not allowed to enter it.

Prophet Elijah
Russian icon of Prophet Elijah being fed by a Raven

The Holy Prophet Eli­jah Being Fed by a Raven.

The third lofty ide­al of the Old Tes­ta­ment is per­son­i­fied by the Holy Prophet Eli­jah. His biog­ra­phy is infused with a pow­er­ful and jeal­ous love for the Lord. Dur­ing the reign of the unright­eous Israelite King Ahab and Jezebel, who has come to rep­re­sent all that is most vile and repul­sive, there aris­es a mighty prophet who burns with great, pas­sion­ate zeal for the Lord. By God’s com­mand and by a sin­gle word, Eli­jah clos­es the heav­ens and for three years there is not a sin­gle drop of rain in all the land of Israel, as pun­ish­ment for the wor­ship of idols. Elijah’s zeal for God brings down fire from heav­en upon the sac­ri­fice to God in order to stop Israel from limp­ing on both knees and to wit­ness which of the two is the true God—Baal or the Right­eous Lord. In the unbri­dled but right­eous anger against the cor­rupters of God’s peo­ple, the servers of Baal and Astart, Prophet Eli­jah kills 450 prophets of Baal (and 400 prophets of the grove) with his own hand (3 Kings 18:22). [Astart or Astarte is the Greek form of the name Ashtart, who, along with Asher­ah and Anath, was one of the three great god­dess­es of the Canaan­ite pan­theon. In Canaan­ite reli­gion she was asso­ci­at­ed pri­mar­i­ly with fer­til­i­ty.]

One can­not reproach the holy and right­eous Prophet Eli­jah. His ded­i­ca­tion to God is no less than that of Abra­ham, his fore­fa­ther. How­ev­er, one does not find the like­ness of Abraham’s weak­ness­es in him. Eli­jah is also capa­ble of com­mu­ni­ca­tion with God, no less than Moses. To him, as to Moses, the Lord appears on Mount Horeb. In the New Tes­ta­ment, only the two of them out of all of the Old Tes­ta­ment were cho­sen to see the Light of Tabor, the man­i­fes­ta­tion of God’s divine ener­gies dur­ing Holy Trans­fig­u­ra­tion.

Per­haps one can rebuke Eli­jah for his fear of death as he runs away from Jezebel, who was pur­su­ing him. And Eli­jah feared, and arose and depart­ed for his life. (3 Kings 19:3, LXX) But to be fright­ened of death is too nat­ur­al a feel­ing, typ­i­cal for all men, and the Lord does not rebuke His prophet for this. There is noth­ing unlaw­ful in Eli­jah’ fear, for there is no defi­ance of God’s com­mand as in the case of the self-ini­ti­at­ed strikes upon the rock by Moses at the waters of Kadesh [Instead of sim­ply speak­ing to the rock, as instruct­ed by God (Num. 20:12, LXX)].  And it is only upon com­ple­tion of God’s mis­sion that Eli­jah flees from his pur­suer.

Yet even Eli­jah can­not be a wor­thy recep­ta­cle of the full rev­e­la­tion of God. His ele­men­tal, unbri­dled and unre­strained anger, his all-encom­pass­ing fire of zeal for God are of a dif­fer­ent char­ac­ter from the spir­it of the New Tes­ta­ment, the spir­it of the One Who is meek and hum­ble of heart. This is why, when the Apos­tles John and James insist that fire be brought down from heav­en as in Eli­jah’s day, the Lord pro­hibits this, say­ing: Ye know not what man­ner of spir­it ye are of. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them (Luke 9:54–56).

The Lord reveals this lov­ing­ly and del­i­cate­ly to His prophet when He appears to him.

And behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Eli­jah? And he said, I have been very jeal­ous for the Lord Almighty: because the chil­dren of Israel have for­sak­en thee; they have digged down Thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword: and I only am left alone; and they seek my life, to take it. (3 Kings 19: 13–14, LXX) And He [the Lord] said, Thou shalt go forth tomor­row, and stand before the Lord in the mount. Behold, the Lord will pass by. And, behold, a great and strong wind rend­ing the moun­tains, and crush­ing the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earth­quake; but the Lord was not in the earth­quake; And after the earth­quake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire the voice of a gen­tle breeze (3 Kings 19:11–12, LXX).

Eli­jah was the great and mighty wind which tore down moun­tains and crushed the cliffs before God, but not the soft and gen­tle breeze. This voice which was miss­ing in Eli­jah the Lord God wait­ed to find in mankind for many cen­turies to come. For the Lord Who brings about sal­va­tion with the par­tic­i­pa­tion of those cre­at­ed in His image and like­ness could not come to His cre­ation with­out this light and gen­tle voice, for He is found there­in, not in a mighty wind, an earth­quake, nor fire.

The Theotokos as Perfection of the Old Testament and Bridge to the New
Russian Orthodox icon of the Annunciation of the Most Holy Theotokos

“Behold the hand­maid of the Lord. Be it accord­ing to thy word” (Luke 1:38).

This gen­tle voice was final­ly man­i­fest­ed in mankind when the Lord sent the Archangel Gabriel to Nazareth (Luke 1:26–27). It sound­ed in response to the Annun­ci­a­tion, words more won­drous than were ever said to Abra­ham, words requir­ing more respon­si­bil­i­ty than those which were addressed to Moses and words by far more serene than those heard by Eli­jah. To these words there came a soft reply: Behold the hand­maid of the Lord. Be it accord­ing to thy word (Luke 1:38). It is with­in this moment that the Com­ing of the Son of God to mankind became pos­si­ble. At that moment it became real­i­ty, for the Almighty Lord, Who had wait­ed for so long for this instant, did not wait a sec­ond longer, but reunit­ed His cre­ation to Him­self, sev­ered from Him by sin but nev­er for­got­ten by His love. He renewed human nature, with­in the womb of the Ever-Vir­gin.

Yet Abra­ham, Moses and Eli­jah were vouch­safed par­tic­i­pa­tion in this process. The Holy Vir­gin was the off­spring of Abra­ham in both body and soul. It was for the sake of her appear­ance into the world that he left the cul­tur­al beau­ty and com­fort of Ur of Chaldea. From him, her fore­fa­ther, she inher­its sac­ri­fi­cial love for God, man­i­fest­ed in him through the sac­ri­fice of his son on Mount Mori­ah, shown forth in even lofti­er and pur­er form by her through par­tic­i­pa­tion in the suf­fer­ing of the Lord on the Mount of Gol­go­tha.

She was raised and edu­cat­ed in the Law giv­en by God through Moses on holy Sinai and was trained in the tem­ple erect­ed by Moses through the com­mand of God. She cor­rect­ed Moses’ insuf­fi­cien­cy which he dis­played at the Burn­ing Bush (her pro­to­type) by show­ing not a trace of doubt, no resis­tance to being cho­sen, but by reply­ing humbly: Behold the hand­maid of the Lord. The inap­pro­pri­ate indo­lence of Moses’ words send anoth­er was there­by erased.