(Editor's Note: The following is the second of a 4 blog series commemorating Advent)
Looking again at an ancient prediction that someone very unique and special would visit the world, Moses said,
The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you…it is to him you shall listen (Deuteronomy 18:15).
Two things come immediately to mind upon reading that. First, if you are like me, you never really associated the office of the prophet with Moses. Generally, when we think of Moses we think of:
- Pastor (at least I do)
“Prophet” brings to mind Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, etc. Yet the phrase most associated with the prophetic office is “Thus says the Lord…” How then could Moses not be associated with that office? That’s what he did. As a matter of fact, here is the very first instance of that phrase in the Bible:
And the Lord said to Moses, “When you go back to Egypt, see that you do before Pharaoh all the miracles that I have put in your power. But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go. Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the Lord…’” (Exodus 4:21-22)
But it wasn’t only God who called Moses to the prophetic office. After he led the freed Hebrews to Mount Sinai they begged him to tell them what God was saying. In Deuteronomy 5 Moses reminds the people of the day when God descended upon the mountain and spoke out of the darkness and fire that surrounded Him. They are the ones who wailed,
If we hear the voice of the Lord our God any more, we shall die…Go near and hear all that the Lord our God will say, and speak to us all that the Lord our God will speak to you, and we will hear and do it (Deuteronomy 5:25; 27).
Moses was the prophet ordained by God and then desired by the people. One day God would do that again.
The second thing that comes to mind when you read that Moses promised a future “prophet like me” is arrogance or vanity. What kind of megalomaniac predicts that someday God is going to “raise up” a profoundly important person who will be “like me”?
There is a passage in Numbers that goes a long way to explaining what Moses meant when he said “like me” that has nothing to do with pride or vanity. First, a little context is needed.
Miriam and Aaron were Moses’ siblings. Like most brothers and sisters there was a bit of inter-familial rivalry in their relationship. Moses had skyrocketed to fame and importance and like the elder brother of Jesus’ prodigal son parable much later, they were miffed at all the attention and preferential treatment he was getting. Add to that they were snobbish toward Moses’ wife (she was not a Hebrew but a Cushite). So they began to publicly question their own brother’s calling to the prophetic office:
And they said, “Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? Has he not spoken through us also?” (Numbers 12:2).
God heard it and called all three of them to come meet with Him. Then He specifically commanded Miriam and Aaron to step forward (12:5). It is what God says next that sheds light on why Moses spoke of a future prophet “like me.”
And he [God] said, “Hear my words: If there is a prophet among you, I the Lord make myself known to him in a vision; I speak with him in a dream. Not so with my servant Moses. He is faithful in all my house. With him I speak mouth to mouth, clearly, and not in riddles, and he beholds the form of the Lord (Numbers 12:6-8).
That is what Moses meant when he predicted that there would be a prophet from God “like me.” A prophet who would get God’s Word directly from God and not from visions and dreams like all other prophets. A prophet “like me” who would “behold the form of the Lord” when getting the Word. Little did Moses know that that Prophet was to be the one whose form he had been beholding and whose words he had been hearing! Or that he would actually be with that Prophet centuries later and recognized by the apostles (Mt. Transfiguration).
It is interesting to note that Moses’ prediction of a prophet like him was not forgotten or lost on the people of Jesus’ day. When the Jews sent a religious delegation to interview John the Baptist they asked him if he was the Christ, Elijah, or “the Prophet” (John 1:20-21). Then, after the feeding of the five thousand we read:
When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world! (John 6:14).
Moses had his manna and Jesus had His own bread miracle.
In John 7 Jesus invited those who were thirsty to come to Him and drink living water (John 7:37-38). It wasn’t lost on the crowd that Moses had brought forth life-giving water from a rock and that Jesus promised the same and even better:
When they heard these words, some of the people said, “This really is the Prophet” (John 7:40).
Finally, toward the end of Stephen’s powerful history lesson/diatribe, he reminded the high priest and members of the Sanhedrin about Moses and his prediction:
This is the Moses who said to the Israelites, God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers (Acts 7:37).
Then Stephen reminded the religious leaders that they had always persecuted God’s prophets. The Prophet that Moses had predicted was Jesus and they had killed Him. That’s when they murdered Stephen.
One last thing needs to be pointed out about Moses’ prediction of a “prophet like me.” The text that immediately precedes his prophetic utterance has to do with the kind of spiritual leadership that was entrenched in the Promised Land when the Hebrews finally arrived (see Deuteronomy 18:9-14).
Fortune tellers, mediums, sorcerers, and necromancers are specifically named. Then Moses tells the people about the future prophet. It is not hard to see what he’s doing, is it? Those who attempt to manipulate the gods are contrasted with those who genuinely receive God’s Word and deliver it to the people to act on it.
You cannot manipulate God. You cannot force God to give you what you think you either deserve or need. Stop trying. Start listening.
Moses was a mediator, an intercessor, a law-giver, and a leader of God’s people. But he was also God’s first true prophet. Jesus is also a Mediator, Intercessor, Law-Giver, and the Leader of God’s people. He is the Prophet Moses predicted. We call Jesus “Savior” and “Lord” and rightly so. He died on the cross for our sins and was raised from the dead for our benefit. But not very many look to Jesus as their Prophet.
We often regress and think to manipulate God into doing what we want. We guilt trip God with our prayers (“You said you would give me the desires of my heart!”). We use our church attendance and offerings as leverage (“Look at all I’ve done for you!”). And we remind Him of all the things we have given up to serve Him (“I’ve spent so much of my valuable resources helping others in your name!”). We become the very people Moses said were “an abomination to the Lord” (Deuteronomy 18:12).
We don’t need to tell God what He should do for us. He’s already done it. What we need is to start giving heed to the Prophet that Moses predicted so long ago. We need to start listening to Jesus and back away from telling Him what a good Lord ought to be doing for us. Here is God’s affirmation of Moses’ prediction. It still stands to this day:
I 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. And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him (Deuteronomy 18:18-19).