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  • « Divine Foreknowledge -- Quote by R.C. Sproul | Main | How Does God Regnerate Us by John Piper »

    Images of the Savior (44 -- The Prophet Like Moses)

    Yahweh your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me, from your midst, from among your brethren; unto him you shall hearken. According to all that you asked of Yahweh your God at Horeb, on the day of the assembly, saying, “May I not hear again the voice of Yahweh my God, and may I not see this great fire any more, that I might not die!”. And Yahweh said unto me, “They have done well in what they have spoken. A Prophet like you I shall raise up for them from among their brethren; and I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak all that I command him unto them. And it shall come to pass that, every man which will not hearken unto the words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him”. – Deuteronomy 18:15-19

    When the people saw the Lord come down upon Mount Sinai in great power, so that the very mountains shook, and there were thunderings and lightnings, and a very thick darkness, and raging tempests and fires (Exodus 19:16-19; cf. also Hebrews 12:18-21), then the people were terrified, and were not only too afraid to go up the mount into the presence of the Lord, but they even asked of him not to speak to them again in so dreadful a way, and not to show them again this merest glimpse of his terrible glory (Exodus 20:18-21). God then told Moses that they were right to request this of him, thereby acknowledging that it was too much for the people to bear to have any glimpse of him or any word from him, except it should be given through a Mediator. Now, Moses himself was this mediator for a time, and he went up into the holy mount and brought down God's words to the people; but he was inadequate for the task, and could not at all bring the people up to God, nor yet give them sufficient words in order to be a complete and satisfactory self-revelation; and so, God promised to send another Prophet like Moses, who should be greater than he, and reveal God in full, and make the people fit to come to him (Deuteronomy 18:15-19). This promise ranks among the greatest in all the Pentateuch, and its fulfillment was ardently hoped for by all Israel until the coming of Jesus, of whom the apostle John said that, “the Law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17), thereby confirming that Jesus was greater than Moses, and was that Prophet of whom Moses had spoken so long before.

    Let us therefore examine some of the things here spoken of concerning that great Prophet, and see how marvelously Moses' promise was fitted to testify to the people of the coming Christ, who should bring God's words to them, and teach them of him.

    We must notice first of all that the context of this promise is well-chosen, for it comes at just such a point in the text as to suggest that in the Christ should be met together all the offices necessary for our eternal good and salvation. Throughout the Pentateuch the Messiah had been foreshadowed and spoken of in many wonderfully diverse ways, as an altogether strong and sufficient Savior, who should be everything that the people could need for their eternal joy and peace; and here, in the eighteenth chapter of Deuteronomy, we learn that one of the qualities in which he should excel for his people is that, just as Moses, the greatest prophet who ever lived, who spoke with God face-to-face (see Deuteronomy 34:10-12), the Christ would likewise be a Prophet, and bring God's words to the people; only he should be greater, and reveal God far more fully and perfectly than Moses ever did. Now, since Moses was the greatest of the prophets, and he said of Christ that he should be greater yet, it is significant to note that, immediately prior to this testimony, Moses had spoken of the kings that God should raise up for the people (Deuteronomy 17:14-20), and of the priests that should minister in the name of the Lord forever (Deuteronomy 18:1-5). Consider: if Moses is the greatest prophet, but there wanted a greater, such as only the Christ could be; then when the greatest of the kings had come, which would be David, and the greatest of the priests, which one might say would be Zadok (see Ezekiel 44:15; 48:11); still, it would only be reasonable to suppose that there would yet want a greater King and a greater Priest, even as there wanted a greater Prophet. So then, in putting the promise of the great Prophet where he did, Moses is also suggesting that the Messiah would be the great King, chosen by God (17:14), raised up from among his brothers (17:15), who should not bring the people into captivity, but prolong their days in his Kingdom forever (17:16, 20), in whose heart should be the word of God and the fear of the Lord (17:18-19), and who should be humble, and not be lifted up so high above his brothers as not to be willing to consort with them (17:20). And likewise, he would be the great Priest, who truly could intercede for his people forever, seeing he would live forever, after he had died but once (cf. Hebrews 7:24-25). So in this passage, we see that the promised Christ would be the great Prophet, Priest, and King of his people.

    But let us now examine some of the things which are said of him specifically as the great Prophet. We see first that the Lord himself would raise him up. And so we find God saying of the Messiah later, “I, Yahweh, have called you in righteousness, and I have taken you by the hand, and I have kept you, and I have given you as a covenant for the people, as a light for the nations” (Isaiah 42:6); and many other such things. And also, when Jesus walked on earth, he said very often that it was God who sent him, and gave him his work to do (e.g John 5:19-21; 7:28-29; 8:16-19, 28-29, 40, 42; 10:17-18; 17:4-8).

    Second, God said of the Prophet that he would be like Moses. Now, this means, first of all, that he would not be like the false prophets whom Moses had earlier condemned, and would again condemn in this same passage. These false prophets would either perform wonders and accurately forecast the future, but would then use their influence to deceive the people and lead them away from God (Deuteronomy 13:1-5); or else, they would make predictions that should not come to pass, and show thereby that they are not from God (Deuteronomy 18:20-22); but Moses, spoke always the truth, and made it his duty to bring people to God, and to tear them away from their idols and rebellions. And in the previous chapters of Deuteronomy, he had been telling Israel again all the holy laws of God, and emphasizing the heart and spirit behind them, and that the people should not just obey them, but should do so with a glad and joyful heart (see, for example Deuteronomy 12:7, 18; 14:26; 16:14-15). Now we may learn from this, that the Messiah would bring the people to God, and speak only his words and his truth, and would bring to light the spirit of the Law, and explain it more fully than Moses ever had; which indeed he did, many times in his Sermon on the Mount explaining to people what the law truly meant.

    Third, the Prophet would be from the midst of the people, and from among their brethren. This, too, was admirably fulfilled in the Messiah, who became one of us, and entered into all of our temptations (Hebrews 2:16-18), and walked in our midst, that he might truly understand and represent us to God. For the perfect Prophet must be one who knows God fully, and can reveal him to the people; but he must also know the people most intimately, and be one of them, and so take God's message to them in a way that they might naturally see and understand it.

    Fourth, this Prophet was given in response to the people's request not to see God's unmediated glory anymore, as it was terrifying and overwhelming to them. Consider how admirably Jesus fulfilled this request! For he did indeed bring the presence of God down to his people, and taught them his very words; but he did so humbly and gently, without terrifying anyone. He fully revealed the manifold glory of the Godhead, and so the apostle John says of him that, although no one has seen God at any time, yet the only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, and is one with the Father, has made him fully known (John 1:18); and likewise, the author of the letter to the Hebrews says that God spoke finally and perfectly through his Son, who took on human flesh to reveal the Father to the people (Hebrews 1:1-4); and so he is called the Word (John 1:1-3; 1 John 1:1), and so also Jesus himself said that if one has seen him, he has seen the Father also (John 14:9).

    Fifth, the Lord said of his coming Prophet, “I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak all that I command him unto them”; which was likewise fulfilled most admirably in the Christ, who said that he could do or speak nothing except what the Father had told him (John 5:19-21; 7:28-29; 8:16-19, 28-29, 40, 42; 10:17-18); and who, at the end of his ministry, declared that he had fully accomplished God's will, and had indeed brought his words to the people, and had made them embrace them and believe them (John 17:4-8).

    Sixth, and finally, the great Prophet was superior to Moses in that, he would cause his people to obey his word, whereas Moses could only tell the people God's Law, and could not persuade them when they refused to listen. But in the days of the Messiah, God said that he would cause his people to obey his commandments and to walk in his statutes (Jeremiah 31:33; Ezekiel 36:25-27); and so, when Jesus came, he left his followers with his Spirit, to enable them to walk in his commandments (John 20:22; Romans 8:1-17). And also, even as the Lord here promised through Moses, that if anyone should disobey the Christ and his gospel, he will be utterly destroyed, and made to undergo the eternal wrath of God; so he confirms this promise again after the coming of Christ, in 2 Thessalonians 2:6-10, and elsewhere.

    So you see how much greater than Moses was the Prophet of whom he spoke, and how admirably suited he was to fulfill all our needs. We were in desperate straits, cut off from fellowship with God, deceived and blinded to his truth by our enemy the Serpent, unable in our fallen condition to obey him from the heart, and terrified even to glimpse the back parts of his glory, because of our guilty conscience. Moses came to be a mediator and prophet of the people, but he could not satisfy their great needs, and therefore spoke of another to come; and when that other Prophet did come, who is Jesus the Christ, he fulfilled everything we should require to come back into God's presence, and know him in whom is our eternal delight, and obey him in the Spirit, because our hearts have been made flesh instead of stone. In Christ, we have entered into the blessings of the living God, and are no longer terrified; and for all eternity, we will know him ever more deeply and intimately, and in the increase of our knowledge of God will be the increase of our joy for endless ages.

    Posted by Nathan on February 13, 2009 10:28 AM

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