The Promised Prophet
Text: Deuteronomy 18:15-20
4 Epiphany, B
An acquaintance tells you they have received a vision from the Lord. The couple at your doorstep tells you that God has revealed the truth to them that the Bible only hints at. The man on TV proclaims that vaccine passports are the mark of the beast from Revelation. Your pastor stands before Sunday after Sunday, declaring “Thus says the Lord.” This world has no lack of prophets. But which are True and which are false? How do you know?
This was exactly the situation Israel would soon face. In Deuteronomy, Moses is speaking to God's people one last time. One last message from the great prophet himself, to guide and prepare the people who would go on without him. They would soon enter the promised land, but he would remain behind, buried in obscurity on a lonely mountaintop. Yet even though this prophet would not be going on with them God would not leave His people without guidance and rescue. He would send another prophet, many more prophets to lead His people in the ways of the Lord, to guide them faithfully until the coming of the One who would be without equal – the Prophet without peer – the Promised One of God.
18I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. 19And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him. Notice, here, some of the very clear things God declares about this promised prophet. First, He will be lifted up from among Israel – in other words he will be a true son of Israel. A flesh and blood Israelite man, from an Israelite family. Yet at the same time He is their brother He will be Raised up by God Himself. He will not speak merely as a man but He will speak with divine authority. In other words, this Son of Israel will also be The Son of God!
As far as promises go this makes very little sense. Yet it is exactly what we see fulfilled in the opening words of the Gospel reading this morning: 23And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, 24“What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” Jesus of Nazareth, of the family and lineage of David, a fellow Jew and true Israelite, yet notice what the demon grudgingly calls Him. The Holy One of God. True God and true Man in one Prophet beyond compare!
For while this Jesus is a prophet like Moses He is at the same time the very Lord of Moses! 15“The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers — it is to him you shall listen — Hear that again. This promised Prophet should be listened to! Why? Because He is not only God’s messenger, and spokesman, but our mediator too! And He can be our mediator because he is not just a prophet, but our priest and our rightful King as well. There is simply no one like Him, nor could there ever be.
10And there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face, 11none like him for all the signs and the wonders that the LORD sent him to do in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land, 12 and for all the mighty power and all the great deeds of terror that Moses did in the sight of all Israel.
As Luther pointed out, “Here Moses clearly describes his own end, and he yields his mastery to the Prophet who is to come.” Jesus doesn’t just know God – He IS God. Signs and wonders? Jesus is the author of them all. His mighty power and great deeds, like the healing in the synagogue, come not just from God, but because He IS God. Jesus doesn’t just speak for God. He speaks AS God. That’s why you should listen!
22And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes. 27And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” 28And at once his fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee.
But even more important for us than what Jesus said (and that is very very important) is what Jesus did. For this long promised prophet is the Mediator of the New and Eternal Covenant! 16just 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.’ 17And the Lord said to me, ‘They are right in what they have spoken. Back in Moses’ day the people recognized their need for a mediator (lest they would be consumed in the presence of God!) That need still has not changed to this day.
And so it was that Jesus long promised came to earth to preach and teach and heal and hold. He came to call sinners and forgive the unlovable. He came to live the perfect life not even Moses could attain. And He did it all so that He could be nailed to our cross and die for our shame and guilt. Lay in our tomb and pay the full cost of our every sin. And having come back to life on the third day He continues to serve as the mediator between God and men. Blessing us in the continued gifts of His Word and Blessed Sacraments, and His never-tiring work of bringing our prayers before the throne of the Father. This is why you should listen to Him. Praise Him. Trust Him. Look to Him alone for prophetic fulfillment.
There are plenty of other people out there ready to tell you what God thinks. There is only one who did what God asked, even to the point of dying in your place. There is only one who stood in God’s stead, even as He stood in yours. There is only one who is fully divine and truly human together in the Holy One of God. There is only ONE worth listening to because His words are Life and Truth. Words that are backed up by miraculous deeds like dying and rising again. Don’t be fooled by anyone else with any other message, no matter what authority they claim to hold or special privilege they assume to work from. As Jesus this long promised prophet Himself declared: Luke 10:16 "The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me."