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05 December 2018

The prophet like Moses.

Yeah, Moses meant any prophet. But this passage especially applies to Jesus.

Deuteronomy 18.15-19.

In the 15th century BC, God saved the Hebrews.

Their ancestors had moved to Egypt to ride out a famine, and settled in a land called Goshen. (Which we nowadays call the Sinai Peninsula, even though Sinai’s actually on the other side of the Dead Sea, in Arabia. Ga 4.25 If the maps in your bible say otherwise, the mapmakers oughta actually read their bibles.) But some years later the Egyptians decided to press the Hebrews into slavery, and that was their situation when Moses was born… and 80 years later when the LORD sent Moses to lead ’em out of slavery. Ten plagues later, Moses led the Hebrews across the Dead Sea into Arabia, and the LORD drowned the Egyptian army behind them. And that is what Jews today celebrate every Passover.

Moses tried to lead the Hebrews to a land the LORD originally promised to Abraham; they called it Canaan, Israelis call it Israel, Palestinians call it Palestine, and we call it whatever the folks we side with most call it. The Hebrews balked, so the LORD had that generation die off in Arabia. Forty years later, a dying 120-year-old Moses addressed the next generation who was now ready to invade Canaan, and reminded them what the LORD had taught their people in the Arabian desert. We call that address Deuteronomy, from the Greek for “second Law.”

In Deuteronomy Moses told the Hebrews to follow the LORD—who, contrary to popular pagan belief, does not speak through “signs” or fortune-telling or astrology. He speaks through prophets. Like Moses.

Deuteronomy 18.9-22 KWL
9 “When you enter the land which your LORD God gives you,
don’t even try to learn to do the revolting things these nations do.
10 Like one who passes their son or daughter through fire:
Such a person mustn’t be found among you!
Nor anyone ‘reading the cards,’ anyone ‘reading the stars,’ augury, spells,
11 good-luck charms, consulting the spirits, talking to the dead.
12 For anyone doing these things is revolting to the LORD.
These revulsions are why your LORD God is driving them away from your faces.
13 You must become flawless with your LORD God.
14 For these nations you drive out: They listen to those ‘reading the stars’ and ‘reading the cards.’
As for you, your LORD God doesn’t allow you to do so.
15 Your LORD God raises up for you, from within you, from your family, a prophet.
You must listen to them!
16 It’s like you asked of your LORD God at Khorév, on the assembly day,
saying, ‘I don’t want to hear my LORD God’s voice any more!
I don’t want to see this great fire any further! I don’t want to die!’
17 The LORD told me, ‘What they say is fine.
18 I’m raising up prophets for them, from among their family, like you.
I put my words in their mouth. They speak to the people everything I command them.
19 When anyone won’t listen to my words, which my prophet speaks in my name,
I myself demand accountability from them.
20 However, the prophet who presumes to speak in my name
what I’ve not ordered them to speak, or what was spoken in the name of other gods:
This prophet dies.
21 When you say in your heart, “How do we identify a word not spoken by the LORD?”:
22 When the prophet speaks in the LORD’s name, and it’s not my word:
It’s not something the LORD’s spoken; it won’t come to anything.
The prophet spoke it in pride. Don’t fear them.’ ”

Yeah, you probably know Jews and Christians who dabble in astrology, fortune-telling, good-luck charms, spiritualists, spells, and all that crap anyway. They shouldn’t be. God doesn’t talk through any of that. He uses prophets. Prophets wrote bible, so he uses bible. And that’s it. He doesn’t need to communicate any other way.

Many prophets like Moses.

By “a prophet like Moses,” naturally the LORD meant anybody who basically does as Moses did: Hears God, obeys God, and shares what they hear. Prophecy isn’t complicated.

Prophets might try to make prophecy sound or look complicated… for various illegitimate reasons which are meant to make them sound important. But since the Holy Spirit indwells every Christian, every Christian without exception can prophesy. Maybe not as our specialty, but any one of us can hear God, and every one of us oughta be listening.

Before the Holy Spirit started living within Christians, it appears he only indwelt prophets. Many Christians claim he didn’t really indwell Old Testament prophets: He only “came upon them,” 1Sa 10.6 KJV which is somehow different from when he “resteth upon” Christians. 1Pe 3.14 KJV Really it’s not. The difference between the Old Testament and the present day is the Spirit has been poured out on everyone so that everyone, not just a select few, can prophesy. Ac 2.17 God wants everyone to hear his voice. Always has.

So we can all be prophets like Moses. And should strive to be.

And in ancient Israel we see all sorts of prophets like Moses. Again, people who heard God, obeyed God, and shared what they heard. Prophets like Joshua, Deborah, Gideon, Samuel, David, Elijah, Elisha, and of course all the prophets with books named after ’em. The LORD expected these prophets to be heard, and held people accountable for not listening to them.

But you know how people can get literal about passages in the bible. People read what Moses had to say about the LORD raising up a prophet like Moses, and said to themselves, “Wonder whether he meant a prophet literally like Moses?” Someone who might have to free people from slavery, challenge an oppressive foreign king, call down plagues, lead people into the Arabian desert and have God feed them manna, and effectively be the second coming of Moses.

If this sounds ridiculous to you, you’re not alone; I likewise think it’s dumb. History doesn’t need to repeat itself. But I kid you not, some Pharisees really and truly did think this was a prophecy about a future prophet who would have to free the Hebrews from an oppressive regime—say, the Roman Empire—and lead ’em back into the desert and feed ’em manna. They even built it into their End Times timelines.

And—still not kidding—there are some Darbyists who think the very same thing. Somewhere in their End Times timelines, they figure God will raise up a second Moses to help rescue the Jews from the Beast. Yep, likewise with the desert and the manna. Yep, if history’s gonna repeat itself, it would have to be all the stupid parts. Such is human nature.

But no, the Deuteronomy passage isn’t a prophecy about a prophet who’s like Moses in every little way, down to the plagues and desert and manna. It’s about a prophet who’s like Moses in that he’s humble and obedient and follows God wholeheartedly. It’s about any prophet who grows just as close to God as Moses did.

Most importantly, it’s about heeding such prophets. God has messages for humanity. Sometimes they’re specific messages; often they’re the general message that he loves us and wants to save us, which is why he sent us Jesus.

And since we’re talking about Jesus’s advent, let’s finally get to the purpose of this piece: This prophecy likewise applies to Jesus.

Jesus, particularly like Moses.

Jesus is a prophet. But more than any mere prophet. Jesus doesn’t just have God’s message for us, but is God’s message to us. He’s the word of God. He’s both messenger and message: He explains God better than anyone, because everything he does demonstrates precisely what God does and who God is. Stands to reason, since he’s God.

So when Jesus teaches anything, which Jesus does anything, when Jesus demonstrates anything, we’re especially to pay attention to him. He’s like Moses. Or is it more appropriate to say Moses is like Jesus? Either way, he’s precisely the sort of prophet Moses’s statement is about. He’s the exemplary prophet-like-Moses.

As Jesus’s students quickly realized. Simon Peter preached,

Acts 3.19-23 KWL
19 “So repent! Turn around and get your sins wiped out,
20 so refreshing times can come from the Lord’s face.
He can send his chosen Messiah, Jesus, to you all,
21 who has to settle for heaven till the time everything gets restored.
So God said by the mouths of his saints in the prophetic age.
22 So Moses said: ‘Your Lord God will raise up a prophet for you.
Like me, out of your family: You will listen to him, to everything he might tell you.’ Dt 18.15
23 Every soul, when they don’t listen to that prophet, will be erased from the people.”

True, in loosely quoting Deuteronomy, Peter had to deal with all the cultural baggage deposited by the way Pharisees mishandled this passage. Too many Judeans expected the prophet-like-Moses to be an End Times Prophet who’d overthrow the Romans. They had to learn to set aside the Pharisee ideas and follow the prophet: Follow Jesus, follow his teachings on loving one’s enemies and making peace, Christianize the Roman Empire, and overthrow it that way. Jesus’s way.

Because Moses’s teaching particularly applies to Jesus, plenty of Christians claim it’s a “Messianic prophecy,” which foretells Jesus. It’s not really, and doesn’t really. There are other, better scriptures which point specifically at Jesus, and inform us he’s coming. This passage only tells us what any prophetic follower of God—and therefore by extension Jesus—oughta do. He’s gonna prophesy; everything he says is gonna come to pass; therefore we gotta follow him.

And we should pay attention to any other prophet who legitimately hears God. But especially to Jesus. We weigh those other prophets based on how consistent they are with what Jesus teaches. We listen to Jesus especially, and do everything he tells us. He fulfills Moses’s description better than every other prophet before and after him; better than even Moses did himself. Follow Jesus.