“God Points Us to His Chosen Prophet: Our Savior”
(Deuteronomy 18:15-20 – Epiphany 4 – January 28, 2018)
Deuteronomy 18:15-20 – “The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear, according to all you desired of the LORD your God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God, nor let me see this great fire anymore, lest I die.’ And the LORD said to me: ‘What they have spoken is good. I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him. And it shall be that whoever will not hear My words, which He speaks in My name, I will require it of him. But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in My name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.'”
Dear Redeemed in Christ Jesus, our great Prophet and Savior,
God revealed Himself in pretty amazing ways in the days of Moses. God first called Moses to be His prophet while he was tending sheep near Mount Horeb. God spoke to Moses from a burning bush, telling him that he was to go and speak to Pharaoh, and lead God’s people out of their slavery in Egypt. At that time God promised: “I will certainly be with you. And this shall be a sign to you that I have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain” (Exodus 3:12).
After that, God had revealed Himself in amazing ways to many people, through Moses’ words and actions. Through His prophet, God brought ten plagues on the Egyptians until at last Pharaoh let His people go. Then as they fled from Egypt, Moses lifted his hand over the Red Sea, and the waters parted for the Israelites to cross on dry land. When Moses again stretched out his hand the sea returned to its place, destroying the pursuing Egyptians (Exodus 14).
Then as God promised, the people did worship Him at Mount Horeb, where He had first appeared to Moses. Here again, God revealed His glory in an amazing way. As He descended on the mountain to give the Covenant of His Law to Moses, there was thunder and lightning. The mountain was covered with smoke, because the Lord descended on it in fire. The whole mountain trembled violently, and there was a sound of a loud trumpet. God called Moses up on the mountain, to give him the two tablets of the Testimony. When Moses came down, his face was radiant from having spoken with God. He gave the people of Israel as commandments all that the Lord had spoken with him (Exodus 19:16-20; 34:29, 32).
During the Israelites’ forty years of journeying through the wilderness, on the way to the Promised Land, Moses would go into the tabernacle, where the Lord’s glory was. There “the LORD spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend” (Exodus 33:11). In what amazing ways the Lord revealed His glory and gave His Word to the people through the prophet Moses!
Now, our text is part of Moses’ farewell address to the Israelites. The 40 years of pilgrimage in the wilderness have ended. They are in sight of the Promised Land which God is about to give them. Moses’ leadership is about to end with death. But here God makes a promise. He would continue to speak to His people through His prophets, as He had done through Moses.
But in particular, God promised that He would reveal His truth to His people ultimately through one special Prophet. This Prophet would be like Moses in many ways; yet, He would be far superior. Let us see how “God Points Us to His Chosen Prophet: Our Savior.” For in Jesus Christ, 1) He gives the ultimate revelation and 2) He provides the ultimate mediation.
1) He gives the ultimate revelation
Moses says: “The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst.” Let us consider how this promise would be fulfilled in Jesus as the ultimate Prophet. There are some similarities between Moses and Jesus, but also very important differences.
As Moses tells the people, this Prophet would be raised up “from your brethren.” When Jesus came from heaven, He did not descend in fiery glory as in the days of Moses. He came in humility, born of a Hebrew mother like Moses; the difference being that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit. As Philip announced to Nathanael: “We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote – Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph” (John 1:45).
Here God also says: “I… will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him.” Of all the prophets, Moses was the only one said to have spoken with God face to face. How much more this is true of Jesus. As God’s eternal Son, He spoke with His Father and received first-hand the words to preach to the people. Jesus said: “I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak” (John 12:49). In our Gospel lesson, we see Jesus in His prophetic office, preaching the Word of God to the people in the synagogue: “And they were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes” (Mark 1:22).
Again, as with Moses, Jesus’ authority was attested by miraculous signs. Our Gospel lesson gives one example. As Jesus preached in the synagogue, a man who had an unclean spirit cried out: “What have we to do with You, Jesus of Nazareth? Did You come to destroy us? I know who You are – the Holy One of God!” Jesus commanded the spirit to come out of the man, and it came out (Mark 1:23-26). As John remarks in his Gospel, when the people saw the miracles of Jesus, they said: “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world” (John 6:14).
While there are similarities between Moses and Jesus in their prophetic office, there is a very important difference. Moses revealed the glory of God by power outside of himself; but Jesus revealed the glory of God by the power in Himself. For He is God! He is one with the Father (John 10:30). He is the Word of God who became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:1-14)!
As the divine Word of God, and as the Lord of the Church, it always has been Jesus who sent His prophets and apostles to proclaim His Word (Ephesians 4:11). It was Christ the Lord who spoke to Moses in the burning bush. He is the eternal Lord who commanded Moses to tell the people: “I AM has sent me to you” (Exodus 3:14). It was Christ the Lord, the great “I AM,” who accompanied the Israelites through the wilderness, speaking to them through Moses. For it says in 1 Corinthians 10:3-4: “All ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.”
In Christ, the Word of God made flesh, we have the ultimate revelation of God’s glory. Hebrews 1:1-2 says: “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son.” God’s glory is revealed fully in the face of His eternal Son, who took to Himself our flesh and dwelt among us! More than just a Prophet, Jesus gives God’s ultimate revelation as our Savior.
Sometimes people say, “If only I could have lived in the days of Moses or Jesus, when God performed such great miracles among the people. Then I could see His powerful work in my life and know He is with me. Then I could be part of His revelation and hear Him speak to me personally. Then I could have a stronger faith.” Maybe we feel this way at times. We may ask, “Where is God now, as I’m dealing with this hardship, this sickness, this burden? Why doesn’t He reveal Himself as the powerful God and Savior, present with me right here and now?”
But Jesus would remind us that God is working powerfully in our life, revealing Himself to us in His Word. Consider the miracle of faith God works in our hearts. Remember when Jesus asked His disciples: “Who do you say that I am?” Peter replied: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus said: “Blessed are you… for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 16:13-17). No one can work faith in our heart except God. The reason we know Jesus as the Son of God and our Savior is because God has revealed it to us in His Word. He is working His miracle of saving faith in our heart.
In His office as Prophet, Jesus continues to speak to us in His revealed Word of Scripture, strengthening our faith by His Word (Romans 10:17). Like the Israelites, as we pass through the wilderness of this world on our way to the Promised Land of heaven, Christ accompanies us as the Rock of our salvation. He comforts us by His promise that He is always with us, working all things together for our good. He comforts us by His words of forgiveness and eternal life.
2) He provides the ultimate mediation
We thank God for providing the ultimate revelation in His Son, the Word of God who became flesh and dwelt among us. Not only that; as God’s chosen Prophet, our Savior provides the ultimate mediation for us sinners.
Again, there are similarities between Moses and Jesus in this regard. Moses was a kind of mediator. He acted as a go-between with God on behalf of the people. He often had to plead Israel’s cause, asking for the Lord’s mercy when they had sinned. For example, there was the time when they made a golden calf to worship while Moses was still on the mountain receiving the Law from God. Because of their sin of idolatry, the Lord was ready to destroy them. But Moses pleaded: “forgive their sin – but if not, I pray, blot me out of Your book which You have written” (Exodus 32:32). As a true mediator, Moses was willing to identify with his undeserving people, plead their cause, and even suffer the consequences on their behalf.
In our text, Moses reminds the people how he had acted as a mediator for them when God gave His Law on the holy mountain. When the people had seen the Lord’s glory, in thunder and lightning, and fire and smoke that covered the mountain, they had trembled with fear. They had asked Moses to go and speak for them, saying: “Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God, nor let me see this great fire anymore, lest I die.” So at the giving of His Law, God’s holy presence terrified the sinner’s heart. It burned to ashes any rags of human goodness they had prided themselves in. They trembled before the holy Judge, knowing that all they deserved for breaking His Law was His fiery wrath and condemnation.
Like the Israelites who stood at the foot of God’s holy mountain, we have broken His Law by our sins. His Law thunders: “You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy” (Leviticus 19:2). But we have lived with unholy thoughts and desires. We have lived self-centered and self-serving lives. We have broken His holy Law, not only by doing wrong and hurtful things we should not have done, but also by not doing loving and good things we should have done. We can try to focus on our good points and make excuses for the bad. But God’s Law still thunders: “Whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all” (James 2:10). We must tremble before the holy Judge, knowing that all we deserve is His fiery wrath and condemnation. Is there anyone to speak for us, anyone to be our mediator with God?
Thanks to God there is: the Prophet He sent to proclaim salvation to sinners! Jesus has acted as our Go-between before the consuming fire of God’s Law. Not only has He proclaimed God’s forgiveness and salvation to sinners, He has won it for us. As our ultimate Mediator, Jesus identified Himself with us undeserving sinners. He pleaded our cause, even though it meant Himself taking the consequences of our sins on the cross. He went between us and the holy Judge, to present His own sinless life in place of our sinful lives. He offered His own life on the cross as the once for all sacrifice to take away our sins. For the sake of His righteous Son, God now declares us forgiven and righteous in His sight. As our heavenly Mediator, “It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us” (Romans 8:34).
As the Prophet of prophets, Jesus continues to preach His Gospel to the ends of the earth. He reveals to sinners His peace of forgiveness and eternal life in His Word. We have received of His fullness and grace: “For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:16-17). Let us listen to Him who gives the ultimate revelation of God, and who provides the ultimate mediation on our behalf. Let us listen to God’s chosen Prophet: our Savior, Jesus Christ! Amen.