Sometimes you wish you had more time to dig more into a particular portion of Scripture. This is one of those times for me. There’s a lot that could be said, to great benefit, about how Jesus is our Prophet and He surpasses all other prophets, as well as the way that He still is our Prophet even after His ascension to the right hand of God, but…there’s only so much time to prepare. So this is what I preached, more or less.
If you wanted to, you could trace the thoughts of this verse through all Scripture. Threads that tie in to it run through Acts (in the apostles’ preaching), throughout the Gospel of John (wherever Jesus avers that He only speaks what He hears from the Father) and through the Epistle to the Hebrews (especially the start of chapter 3, where Jesus is demonstrated to have surpassed Moses.) Moses got to do a lot, but he would be fine with Christ surpassing him — all true ministers are. John the Baptist’s words ring true: “He must become greater, I must become less.” Too, you could bring in all the passages where Jesus sends out ministers or where He institutes or defines the office of the holy ministry (Ephesians chapter 4, etc), because those are the instances of Jesus acting as Prophet for us now. Those threads run through Hebrews as well. It’s frustrating at times to see such rich veins of gold running away from you deep into the mine, glinting in the light of your one little lamp, and you don’t have the time or the equipment to mine them and dig out the gold. Some day….
At any rate, God’s Word is still powerful and it still is never without effect, as He Himself has promised — even despite a callow and green-as-the-grass messenger. May God richly bless you through His Word this Adventide.
“The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him.” (deuteronomy 18.15 niv)
It’s not always easy to find a successor. Some people are not easily replaced. If someone has been a great leader or a valuable member of a team, to find someone to take their place can be hard. Every year the sports headlines are full of speculation about which coaches will be jettisoned by their teams and who will be hired where. Quarterback controversies regularly rile up fans of certain teams. If your favorite team isn’t one of them, that’s good, but that only lasts so long. Just ask Brett Favre.
In our text for tonight, Moses is describing his successor. The children of Israel are on the edge of the Promised Land, and Moses is giving them God’s counsel. Here Moses says that God would raise up a prophet that was greater than him. This was the one to whom they should listen. Who was this prophet and why should we listen to him? Moses tells us quite a few things about this coming Prophet in this one short verse. Let’s take a closer look.
First, this Prophet would be a prophet. That’s obvious, but it’s good to remember what a prophet is. A prophet is someone who speaks God’s Word, someone who was appointed by God to be His spokesman. Whatever a prophet said was not his own words or his own idea; God told him what to say. This prophet would reveal God’s will to his people. Second, this prophet would come from their own brothers. By that Moses means the nation of the Jews, the children of Israel. He would be physically related to the Jewish nation. That’s another thing about this coming Prophet. Thirdly, this Prophet would be like Moses. He would do things that Moses did. He would be recognizable as Moses’ successor or the one who completed or fulfilled what Moses did.
When we look at all these characteristics, we see that one person fulfills them all perfectly: Jesus Christ. Christ was a prophet sent by God. Christ came from the Jewish nation. Christ was like Moses. Several passages in the Book of Acts, and also the Gospel of John, among others, confirm this for us. Whenever we aren’t sure if we’re looking at a prophecy or not, or we’re not sure what the fulfillment of a prophecy is, we can always turn to the New Testament. Many times the apostles themselves will identify prophecies about Christ for us and explain their meaning. Then we don’t have to wonder. So this verse is a prophecy about Jesus.
But how is Jesus like Moses? That’s the part of the verse that’s perhaps the most important. It’s also the part that we might not be able to identify as easily as the other parts. Jesus is like Moses in several ways. Moses was a prophet. He revealed God’s will to His people – and Moses revealed more than any other prophet. He wrote the first five books of the Bible, after all. Moses was the pattern for every prophet that came after Him. As a prophet, Jesus is far greater! Moses spoke God’s message, but he wasn’t actually God Himself. Jesus is. Jesus taught us far more, and with greater authority, than Moses ever did. “The law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” Moses gave us God’s law. He taught us how to follow rules and be obedient. Jesus teaches us how to be saved, how to have a right relationship with God. Jesus teaches us that He is the only Savior, and that all who believe in Him will have eternal life. “The work of God is this: to believe in the One He has sent.” “Whoever believes in Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Jesus is a greater prophet than Moses.
Another similarity between Jesus and Moses is that they are both mediators. Moses interceded for the people when they sinned. Many times Moses went to God and pleaded for God to turn His holy wrath away, so that He would not destroy his people. He was able to intercede for the children of Israel because he had an uncommonly close relationship with God. God knew him face to face, and He spoke to Moses as a man speaks with his friend, Scripture tells us. Moses knew God intimately and spoke up in defense of the people when they sinned.
Jesus still intercedes for us today. He lives forever at the right hand of God, so we know that He’s always going to be right where we need Him, when we need Him. As soon as we sin, Jesus is there pleading for us, “Forgive them, Father – forgive them for My sake. I paid for that sin too!” Jesus intercedes for us based on His own holy sufferings and death. It’s not based on anything we’ve done, but rather on what Jesus has done for us. The blood He shed on the cross always cries out for mercy for us, and it will through all eternity. Jesus is continually covering over your sin with His mediation to the Father on your behalf. He keeps you in God’s love and spares you from God’s wrath through faith in Him.
Jesus, the Prophet whom Moses pointed to with this verse, is still is our Prophet today. Jesus continues to speak to us through His Word. When we hear God’s Word, we hear Jesus speaking to us. The Bible is not a dusty book full of old stories and hard-to-pronounce names. It’s the voice of the living God that does what it says and gives what it promises. Through the Word of Christ, we know Christ, the wisdom of God and the power of God. Jesus said, “These are the Scriptures that testify about Me” – including the book of Deuteronomy – and that’s still true today. Jesus reveals God’s will to us in Holy Scripture.
Just as God gave His people Moses as their appointed leader and guide, so God still gives His people men to lead them and guide them with His Word. The sheep need shepherds. God wants to protect His people against the attacks of the devil and against false doctrine. He wants to keep them from going astray or wandering away on their own, so He continues to give His church pastors who point people to Jesus and warn them about sin. That’s also part of how Jesus exercises His office as prophet now that He’s ascended into heaven. So what will we do, now that we know that Jesus is the Prophet of whom Moses spoke?
We’ll do what Moses says: we’ll listen to Him! We’ll hear His Word gladly and often. We’ll dive into it for ourselves and always seek to grow in grace and knowledge. We’ll value God’s Word as the treasure that it is and seek to hear it and ponder it whenever we can. We’ll believe what God’s Word tells us. That’s part of hearing it – to hear it with profit, to believe what it says and not just to let the words wash over us and we go away without them entering our ears or striking our hearts. Truly listening to God’s Word involves doing what it says. A mother asks her child to clean his room. She can tell that he listened if he does it. Whether or not he registered the words in his ears doesn’t matter if he doesn’t do what they say. So it is with God and His Word. We should always do what His Word says and believe that it’s true.
That will take some work. Our sinful nature is inclined to turn away from God’s Word. We’re always looking for something, anything else than what God has said. Just ask people what they think the church needs. You’ll get all sorts of answers, but only one of them is God’s answer: His holy Word that gives life and preserves His faithful. We need to guard ourselves so that we don’t take God’s Word for granted, because to close our ears to this message means that we lose Him. If we don’t listen, we no longer have Him. God keep us from that.
Advent is more than just the coming of just a King. It’s also the coming of the Prophet who was to come. That Prophet is God’s Son, the Christ, and He has come and told us everything the Father wanted Him to say. He still speaks within His Word, if we have ears to hear. God grant us ears to hear and hearts to believe, this Advent season. Amen.