“A Prophet and a Savior”
Text: Deuteronomy 18:15-19
Grace, mercy and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
The question of authority is raised in both our Old Testament and in our Gospel readings today. Last week we heard about the great prophet Jonah who spoke to the Ninevites with the authority of the Lord, and they turned from their wicked ways and toward God. God sent many other prophets as well with His message of repentance and salvation. We know where their authority comes from. Christ Himself brought the message of salvation which we continue to hear in His Word. We know all this. So why is it so often difficult to hear that message, spoken with the authority of the only One who has true authority?
It’s because there are so many convincing voices in the world today. Who are we supposed to listen to? Everywhere you turn there’s a politician, teacher, boss, team leader, pastor, parent, or someone else always putting some sort of message in our ears, and our heads. Half of it we don’t believe. And much more of it we should be very skeptical of. The problem is that for the most part, people are telling us either what they think we want to hear or what they want us to hear. It’s like that old game of telephone. Someone says something and then it’s passed on to the next person and then the next. No one stops to check to see if what they heard was correct, but just passes on whatever they think they heard, filtered through their own ears and mind. Once the message is passed around and returns to the one who originally spoke it, it’s generally mutated and transformed into something very different than what it began as. And that’s assuming the best-case scenario, where everyone is trying to pass along the correct message. To be faithful to the original message. If someone decides they’re going to intentionally change the message, there’s no telling what might come out.
In today’s text from Deuteronomy, Moses, who God has used as the leader of the Israelites for the past 40 years, is preparing to leave the people. He’s going to die without seeing the promised land which God has promised to His people. And so, the question now is who are the people going to listen to? Would the Word of God, which was so faithfully passed to Moses, and then by Moses, to the people continue to be faithfully passed along to future generations? To us? To whom should we listen? That question is simply answered through our text today where we hear that
OUR GOD HAS RAISED UP A PHOPHET LIKE MOSES
TO WHOM WE SHOULD LISTEN
And not only that, but a prophet who both proclaims salvation and is the one who works that salvation for us. He is the One who has authority. He is the One whose voice we must heed.
Jesus is that prophet like Moses. The one who God raised up by humbling Him to enter the world as a helpless babe. Throughout the season of Advent, we talked about the now and the not yet. Today we hear also about the then. The reality of the message which was proclaimed, which led to what we celebrate in this joyous season of Epiphany, and which will eventually culminate in the great and glorious day which our Lord has promised.
Just as the Israelites had to listen to Moses, we too must listen to the Prophet God promised to raise up. And that’s not always easy. We live in a world very similar to that of Moses and the Israelites in this regard. They were entering into a land where they would be confronted by false prophets all around. A faithful Word from God would be difficult for them to hear in the midst of the fortune telling, divination, and consultation of the dead that was commonplace when seeking a word from the gods. All of these things God calls an abomination. In our day there are still fortune tellers, but they’re often packaged in socially acceptable ways, masquerading as harmless activities. But even more so, as there will be in any age, there are false prophets. And their message is finely honed. The pastor a few towns over, or on tv, who tells you that all you need to do is give your heart to Jesus, or pray hard enough and God will bless you, or that if you just believe enough you will eventually prosper.
No doubt, many of these messengers are sincere. They do actually desire to faithfully pass on the message that they think God wants us to hear. But sincere or not, the words that are being spoken; the message being proclaimed, is not the Word of the Lord. It’s false and dangerous. Moses warned about the false prophets and for his people to avoid them. He knew what they would be encountering, and he knew what we would encounter as well. Which is why it was so important for God to point us to the one who would faithfully proclaim the Word. The One who was Himself the Word. He is the One we must listen to. He is God and therefore His every word is the Word of the Lord.
He is the one with authority that causes people to be amazed and astounded. As He casts out demons and speaks like no one that they’ve ever heard before. This is the Prophet, the Savior, that draws people to Himself. This is the Prophet and Savior that has the authority and used it to draw Russell and Michelle to Himself. The authority to cause them to stand up in front of this congregation today and profess their faith. A faith that changed and continues to change them and their family. What a joy that it’s been to work with them over these past few months in preparation for this day where they’ll stand before God and announce their intention to continue steadfast in their confession of faith. Even unto death. Faith in Jesus, who has authority, given by His Father, to draw many to faith.
At His transfiguration a voice from the cloud came down and said, “This is my Son, my Chosen One, listen to Him!” In that moment the Father emphasized the message He had first given to the Israelites through Moses, and now is being fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ. He has provided the prophet like Moses. The One to whom we must listen. And we must listen because He is the One who has the words of eternal life. “Lord, to whom shall we go?” Jesus was sent by the Father so that we might have the means to hear His word. The Israelites understood it. Sinful people could not speak to God or encounter him face-to-face and live. And it would be the same for us as well. Except that God saw fit to send us a final prophet. And not just a prophet, but also a Savior. One who is both truly God and truly man, that He might also be our brother. Jesus veiled His divine glory and majesty in humble flesh that He might come near to us. That He might speak to us in a way we could hear. And we can only hear His gentle and loving voice because we know of His cries of agony, as He suffered and died on our behalf. That very action. That true sacrifice is what broke down all barriers, what tore the curtain in two, and what reconciled God to us that we might stand before Him face-to-face.
“In many and various ways, God spoke to His people of old by the prophets. But now in these last days, He has spoken to us by His son.” The then is very clear. God used His prophets to deliver his messages to the Israelite people. Messages which we continue to hear and learn from today. The now is abundantly clear as well. We celebrate it at this time every year as we rejoice in the Savior who was born to us. The Light that came into the world. The Prophet whose message was proclaimed from His own mouth and through His every action, and which continues to be proclaimed today as His Word is spoken to us. The not yet is the one that’s always a little trickier. Not because we’re unaware of what God has promised through His final prophet, because we know that He has promised to come again in all His glory, but rather because we are unaware of when the not yet will come. Until it does, may we always be waiting in eager anticipation of the blessed reunion with our Savior. And in the meantime, may we also be faithful proclaimers of the Word that’s been entrusted to us. The Word who became flesh and dwelt among us.
This Word speaks to us. Through Scripture and through His Sacraments. He speaks. And His message is clear. And when God speaks, the world changes. When Christ speaks, the ears of the demons perk up, and they’re forced to obey. With all the voices competing for our attention, there is One that will never steer you wrong. One that will never lead you astray. One that has earned the right to be heard. And One who calls you brothers and sisters. Listen to this One. Listen to your Prophet and Savior. Listen to Jesus. Amen.
The peace which surpasses all understanding guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.