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Jesus the Prophet - Deuteronomy 18:9-22

This is a sermon by Malcolm Peters from the Riverside Church service on 17th December 2006.

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Whatís going to happen in the future?    Itís a question thatís never far from peopleís minds.  Natural and social scientists spend hours modelling it, whether itís modelling future inflation or modelling climate change.  And science fiction has always been obsessed with the idea of time travel.  I havenít seen the Christmas TV schedules yet, but Iím sure Michael Fox will get another outing in Back to the Future.  And for the more specialised science fiction enthusiasts, thereís always Arthur C Clark. 

But itís not just science fiction thatís into the future.  Religion and spirituality often major on the future.  If you went to Hull Fair earlier in the year, you may well have come across Hullís version of Mystic Meg.  Come into my caravan and Iíll read your palm, my crystals or the tea leaves for you.  All for a price of course.  Because spirituality is big business these days.  If you go into Waterstones youíll still find a few Bibles.   But along with the Bibles, youíll find whole shelves of alternative spiritualities.    You name it, you can find it in Waterstones:  feng shuíi.  Thai, Chi.  Yoga.  Crystals.  The latest prophecies from David Ike.   Itís a Mystic Meg bonanza. 

And speaking of Mystic Meg, if people really could see into the future, whatís the one thing theyíd want to know?  If we did a survey round the [village/ estates] what do you think people would want to know.  Well itís the lottery numbers of course isnít it.  Because for lots of people in modern day Britain, their smorgasbord spirituality is simply a front for rampant materialism.    Their only real concern with God and the spiritual world is how it can help them live life in this world.   And thatís because in lots of ways, Western culture is reverting to its pre-Christian pagan days.  

Main talk

But actually people are no different in modern day Britain than they were in the time of Moses.  So if youíre not there already, letís have another look at that reading from Deut 18 on p [181/  302].  And look with me at v9:

Deut 18: 9 ďWhen you enter the land the LORD your God is giving you, do not learn to imitate the detestable ways of the nations there. 10 Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in [a] the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, 11 or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead.

The Israelites are on the edge of the Promised Land.  The Land that God had promised Abraham to give them.  The land of Israel.  God was about to drive out the nations who were already living there and give the land to His chosen people.   Moses had been the leader of Godís people for a long time now.  Moses had been the one God had used to lead His people out of Egypt.  Moses had been the one God had used to give His people the 10 commandments;  Moses had led Godís people through the desert for 40 years on the way to the Promised Land.  And here they were; about to enter.  But Moses knows his time was up.  Moses was old and soon he would die.  Even great and powerful leaders grow old and die.   It was time to pass the baton onto a new leader.  A new man of God.  A new prophet.    

And when the leader of Godís people changes, thereís often uncertainty and anxiety.  Will the new man be as good?  Will he look after us as well?    Will his sermons be as long?   Often when thereís a change of leadership, Godís people backslide;  they slip into negativity and gossip.  They loose sight of Godís big plan for the world and start arguing about trivia.  Or even worse, they slip away;  they slip away from good Bible teaching and get sucked back into the pagan world thatís all around. 

God knows about it.  And so did Moses.  Because He was the Lordís prophet.  And so before he dies and hands over the baton;  before Godís people enter the Promised Land, Moses gives them one last sermon.  A very long sermon.  The book of Deuteronomy. 

The book of Deuteronomy is Mosesí swansong.  Itís a restatement of the Law.  Thatís what the name means:  deutro Ė nomy Ė second Law.  Back in cpt 5, Moses had restated the 10 commandments.  In fact the whole book is an exposition of those 10 commandments.  An explanation of how those 10 commandments applied to a new generation in new circumstances. 

And that highlights Mosesí role as a prophet.  What comes to mind when I say the word prophet?  What does a prophet do?     Well let me guess that the answer that popped into you mind was the future:  a prophet foretells the future.  And of course the prophets did do that.   And we often look at many of those prophetic predictions about Jesus during the Christmas season.   

But that wasnít Moses main job.  No his main role wasnít to foretell the future;  no it was to forthtell the 10 commandments;  it was to apply the unchanging OT Law to the changing circumstances of each new generation;  to unpack the ancient text of the Bible and explain what it means today.  Mosesí main job was exactly what weíre doing now.  Grappling with Godís written word to see what His living Word is saying to us today.    That was a prophetís main job.  And thatís why modern day preachers need to be prophetic.  Prophetic in the sense that the Bibleís teaching needs to be applied.  If the sermons here at [SF/ Riverside] are not gripping you, then somethingís wrong.  It might be that thereís something wrong with my sermons Ė in which case come and tell me.  But the problem might be yours.    Look on with me to v14:

Deut 18:14 ďThe nations you will dispossess listen to those who practice sorcery or divination. But as for you, the LORD your God has not permitted you to do so. 15 The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him.

And onto v 17:

The LORD said to me: "What they say is good. 18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers; I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him. 19 If anyone does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name, I myself will call him to account.

Call them to account in the sense of judgement.  If Godís people donít listen to His voice through the mouths of His prophets, then there will be consequences.  There will be judgement.  And the sad story of the OT is that Godís people did exactly that.  Ignored the prophets and so ignored Godís voice.  Listen to these words of rebuke to God people through the prophet Stephen in Acts 7:

"You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit! 52Was there ever a prophet your fathers did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered himó 53you who have received the law that was put into effect through angels but have not obeyed it."

And thatís why the Church in England is in such a mess.  Because Godís professing people have largely been ignoring Godís word.  Go into many churches this Christmas and the Bible will get no more than a cursory nod.  But itís all too easy to point the finger out there.  We need to examine ourselves too.  As the apostle James reminds us, Godís true people are not those who regularly hear Godís word, but those who live by it.  When God rises up a prophet, we are to listen to him, listen in the sense of taking note and living out what we hear.  

And so the questing is:  who is this prophet who was to come.  With so many spiritual options on the market place, how can we tell the real McCoy from all the fake prophets? Well look at v21 back in Deut 18:

 21 You may say to yourselves, "How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the LORD ?" 22 If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously. Do not be afraid of him.

Weíre given 2 tests for false prophets here:

  • First in v20, if someone speaks in the name of a god other than Yahweh, the God of the Bible, then theyíre a false prophet.  In OT times, it was the prophets of Baal.  And today itís Allah, David Ike, the sacred Cow and the whole range of alternative spiritualities that donít even pretend to be rooted on the one true god. 
  • But there are plenty of prophets who do claim to speak in the name of Yahweh.   People like JWs and Mormons and even people in more mainstream Christian churches.  There isnít a shred of archaeological or literary evidence to back up the book or Mormon.  The JWs have prophesied the end of the world on numerous occasions, but weíre still here.   As v22 puts it:  If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously.  Donít believe him.

    So what about the prophet who was to come?  The prophet who was to be like Moses.  To replace Moses even?   Well in cpt 31, the Lord chooses Joshua to replace Moses.  And Joshua was a strong leader.  And the prophesies Joshua made came true.  He said that the walls of Jericho would come down as the people marched around them;  and they did.  So Joshua passes the test of Deut 18.  So was Joshua the prophet like Moses who was to come.  Well flip onto the end of Deut, to cpt 34 on p [198/  329] and look with me at v5. 

    And Moses the servant of the LORD died there in Moab, as the LORD had said.

    And onto v9:

    Now Joshua son of Nun was filled with the spirit of wisdom because Moses had laid his hands on him. So the Israelites listened to him and did what the LORD had commanded Moses.

     10 Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face, 11 who did all those miraculous signs and wonders the LORD sent him to do in Egyptóto Pharaoh and to all his officials and to his whole land. 12 For no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel.

    Joshua was a prophet;  a genuine prophet.  But he wasnít the prophet like Moses whoíd been promised back in cpt 18.  And so through the rest of the OT, every time someone claimed to be a prophet of the Lord, there were 2 questions to ask.  First;  is he a true prophet?  But then secondly, is he the prophet who was to come into the world;  the prophet like Moses? 

    As the OT era came to a close, Godís people still waiting for that prophet;  the prophet who was to come.  The prophet like Moses.  The one who would display mighty power and perform awesome deeds.  The one who would lead Godís people to a new Passover Feast.  The one who, following that Passover feast, like Moses, would lead His people safely through Godís judgement;  the one who would lead Godís people out of the land of spiritual slavery and into the Promised Land;  into a restored Eden that would be even better than the land of Israel.

    And of course, onto that scene comes Jesus.    A man who claimed to be a prophet.  A prophet who spoke in the name of Yahweh as weíve been looking at this term in Johnís Gospel.    And when you examine Jesus against the criteria in Deut, thereís no doubt Jesus was a genuine prophet.  As the Samaritan woman in Jn 4 put it:  ďSir, I can see you are a prophet.Ē   Why did she say that?  Well Jesus had just forthtold the intimate details about her life that only a true prophet would have known.  Even Muslims and the cults recognise that Jesus was a true prophet. 

    So Jesus was a prophet.  But what kind of prophet?  Was Jesus the prophet?  The prophet who would display mighty power and perform awesome deeds.  Well in Johnís Gospel weíve seen Jesus displaying might power and performing awesome deeds havenít we.  Weíve seen Jesus the prophet healing people with just a touch.  Weíve seen Jesus the prophet with Power and authority over nature as he multiplied a few tuna sandwiches into a meal for 1000s;  weíve seen his power and might deeds as he walked on water and calmed a storm;  a power that reminds us of the red sea being parted under Moses.  And supremely weíve seen Jís power and authority over death as he raised Lazarus from the dead.    But His greatest prophetic act was yet to come.  Because 3 times in the Gospel Jesus predicts his own death.  And then on Good Friday he died.  So does that make Him a prophet?    Well I could predict my own death and then go and commit suicide couldnít I?  Would that make me a true prophet?  Of course not.  But Jesus not only predicted His own death;  he also said that 3 days after His death, heíd rise again.  And of course, on the first Easter Day he did just that.  The test of a true prophet.  His prophecy came true. 

    So Jesus was a true prophet, but was he the prophet? Well listen to these words which came after Jesus has fed the 5,000 in Jn 6:

    14After the people saw the miraculous sign that Jesus did, they began to say, "Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world." 15Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.

    And after Jesus had been teaching in John cpt 7, the people say this:

    40On hearing his words, some of the people said, "Surely this man is the Prophet."    41Others said, "He is the Christ."

    And finally, turn back to that reading we had from Acts 3 on p [1017/ 1695] and look with me at v17: 

     17"Now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders. 18But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Christ would suffer. 19Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, 20and that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for youóeven Jesus. 21He must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets. 22For Moses said, 'The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you must listen to everything he tells you. 23Anyone who does not listen to him will be completely cut off from among his people.'

    The NT makes clear that Jesus is the prophet.  And so, as Moses commanded us, we should listen to Him;  listen to Jesus that is.    So what is prophet Jesus saying?   Well as weíve been discovering this term in Johnís Gospel, what Jesus is saying is this:  yes I am a prophet;  yes I am the prophet.  But actually Iím more.  Because in fact Iím God.  God with a human face.  Thatís what Christmas is all about.  Itís when God took on human flesh and became one of us.  Who is Jesus.  Heís God with a human face.  But heís more.  Who is Jesus?    Well in this mini-series weíve been looking at the seeds of Jesus in the OT.  And last week we saw that Jesus was the priest.  The one who was going to deal with the problem of sin.  Deal with the problem of the curse and judgement caused by sin.

    But Jesus was no ordinary priest.  Because Jesus the priest scarified himself as the price for His peopleís sins.  Jesus the priest.  And this morning weíve seen that Jesus is also the prophet.    The prophet like Moses who was to come into the world.  A prophet who would perform mighty deeds of judgement and salvation;  mighty deeds that would usher in Godís coming kingdom.  A prophet who would accurately foretell his greatest deed;  his high priestly act of sacrifice on the cross.  And accurately foretell his mighty resurrection.  But a prophet who didnít simply foretell the future.  Like all true prophets, Jesus also forthtold the Scriptures;  he taught the Bible and applied to the people of His day.  And so like Moses, Jesus explained the 10 commandments, applying them to a new generation;  we call it the sermon on the mount.  And as weíve seen in Johnís Gospel, Jesus made the most of every opportunity to teach the people.  ĎI amí says the Lord Jesus.  I am Yahweh.  And I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me. 

    And that brings us back to where we started.  You see, you canít have Jesus and the smorgasbord.  You canít have Jesus and Allah; Jesus and the Mormons;  Jesus and the JWs;  Jesus and Yoga, feng shui or whatever.  Jesus is the prophet:  and prophet Jesus says you canít  come to the Father except through him.  You canít have your sins forgiven in any other way. Thereís no other way you can get to heaven.  Because not only is Jesus the prophet;  not only Jesus is the priest whoís dealt with His peopleís sins, Heís also the King, the promised Christ in Davidís line.  And next week in our morning service on Christmas Eve, weíll be looking at that in more detail.

    The seed of Jesus in the OT.  Who is Jesus.  Heís the divine prophet, priest and king.  And so we need to listen to him.  Letís ask for the Lordís help to do just that as we close in prayer.  Letís pray.

    Closing Prayer

    Lord Jesus, prophet, priest and king, thank you for explaining Godís word to us.  And thank you for teaching us who you are.  Thank you that as the priest, you died for our sins on the cross and help us to listen your teaching so we can be ready to meet you as our king.  For our eternal comfort but your greater glory we pray.  Amen.

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