The Prophet (Part 5 of 5)
In many ways this week has been spent at the feet of the greatest prophet and leader of the Old Testament: Moses. And yet, by way of his role in writing the Law Moses has been doing his best impression of John the Baptist: pointing forward to ONE who would be greater and more powerful than himself! Nowhere does Moses point more squarely to the ONE who would come after him, who would be like him and beyond him, than in Deuteronomy 18.
Deuteronomy is the “swan song” of Moses, a final series of sermons and messages that Moses delivered to the Israelites shortly before his death on the east side of the Jordan River. In Deuteronomy 18, Moses speaks of a prophet “like me from among you, from your brothers” (v.15) that would come after him.
For someone to come like Moses would be an astounding thing: Moses had led the people of Israel for 40+ years in the wilderness, worked mighty miracles with God’s power, and beheld “the form of the LORD” while speaking with God (Num. 12.8). As a result of his time spent in God’s presence the face of Moses “shone” and had to be veiled for the people’s sake (Ex. 34.30)! To say that a prophet is coming in the pattern of Moses implies that this prophet has incredibly large shoes to fill, and that his word must be heeded, as this Prophet would speak on God’s behalf as Moses did.
Not only would Israel need to listen to this Prophet’s words, but the people were instructed to have the same level of attention to heed the Prophet’s words as they did with Moses on Mt. Sinai. Moses says in Deut. 18.15b-16: “it is to him you shall listen—just as you desired of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God or see this great fire any more, lest I die.’” In that epic scene described in Exodus 20, the LORD, God Himself, spoke from Mt. Sinai and directly addressed the Israelites with the famous Ten Commandments (v.1-17). Overwhelmed with terror, they begged Moses to go and speak with God and then tell them what He said, solemnly pledging to heed the message that was returned: “You speak to us, and we will listen” (v.19a).
The Prophet of whom Moses spoke of was none other than Jesus.
In the same way that Moses led the people of Israel, Jesus would lead His followers on earth and then even beyond the grave from the right hand of God (Mark. 16.19-20). In the same way that Moses worked mighty signs and wonders by God’s power, Jesus worked many miracles by the power of God (Mk. 3.22-30). It was Jesus who not only spent time in God’s presence but left Heaven to come to earth and be born as a human being (Phil. 2.5-7). In the same way that Moses’ face was changed by God’s presence, Jesus transformed Himself into a full-body version of this same phenomenon, and in the process was seen speaking with Moses and Elijah! (Mk. 9.2-8). In that context, the thrust of Moses’ words in Deut. 18 is reinforced by God’s own voice in Mark 9.7: “This is my beloved Son; listen to Him.”
Those who understood who Jesus was remembered the words of Moses:
“Philip found Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.’” (Jn. 1.45)
“Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago. Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you. And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.’ And all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those who came after him, also proclaimed these days.” (Acts 3.19-24)
The fundamental requirement for responding to a prophet of any sort is to listen to them, to heed their message, to act on their blessing and/or warning. This was true of Moses, and it is more so true of Jesus. Jesus is the Prophet of whom Moses wrote: “And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him.” (Deut. 18.19).
Get this in your mind: God will judge us based on how we listen to Jesus. This elevates what Jesus says beyond suggestion, beyond opinion, all the way to the level of commandment. In fact, when Jesus spoke on earth this was what shocked the crowds most of all: “And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at His teaching, for He was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.” (Mt. 7.28-29).
So then, are we listening?
“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mk. 1.15)
“Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” (Mk. 16.15-16)
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (Jn. 14.15)
“Salt is good, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is of no use either for the soil or for the manure pile. It is thrown away. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” (Lk. 14.34-35)