A Prophet Like Moses – Br. David Vryhof

Deuteronomy 18:15-20 

Do you remember what it feels like to be at the threshold of something new in your life?

Imagine you are a student preparing to go off to college.  It’s new and exciting and full of possibilities – (what courses shall I take?  will I meet someone and fall in love?  will I make lifelong friends?  how will these years shape my future?)  You’re excited, but it’s also a bit daunting because you can’t fully imagine the challenges ahead (will I get along with my roommate?  will I experience heartbreak or disappointments?  will I fail?)

Or imagine a young couple awaiting the birth of their first child.  They’re thrilled, of course, but they’re also wondering, “What will it be like to be responsible for this tiny human being?  Will we be good parents?”  They anticipate the joys and possibilities of parenthood, but they also know it won’t be easy, and there is at least a possibility that it won’t as go well as they hope it will.

Or, finally, imagine you’re a person about to begin a new business venture.  The opportunities and the potential for success are tantalizing, but you are also aware of the risks, the uncertainties, the potential of making mistakes that turn out to be costly.

When we stand at the threshold of something new, we know that the path ahead will be both challenging and rewarding.  We wonder how it will turn out for us.

The passage we read as our first lesson today from the book of Deuteronomy takes place at a “threshold moment” in the life of the Hebrew people.  God has delivered them from slavery in the land of Egypt and for forty long years sustained them and led them through the wilderness.  Now they stand at the border of the Promised Land, about to enter it for the first time.  Perhaps they feel the thrill of a future yet unknown.  Perhaps they’re filled with gratitude for having been led safely thus far.  Perhaps they are quivering with excitement or nervous energy as they anticipate what this new land will offer them.  Joys, opportunities, and the promise of new life lie ahead, but there are also dangers, threats and uncertainties.  They feel their vulnerability, especially because God has revealed to Moses that he will not enter this Promised Land.  Moses has taken them to its border, but he will not be permitted to cross over with them.  What will their life be like without Moses?  Who will speak to God on their behalf?  Who will receive and transmit God’s words to them?

Moses has tried to reassure them.  God has laid up a storehouse of wisdom in the statutes and ordinances that have been given them.  They have only to obey and to keep to God’s way.  But even this does not feel like enough.  Moses promises that God will not leave them or forsake them, but rather, that God will raise up for them “a prophet like me” (i.e. “a prophet like Moses”) to be their guide.  He will be one of them, chosen from among the people.

What would “a prophet like Moses” look like?  “Now the man Moses was very humble,” the book of Numbers tells us, “more so than anyone else on the face of the earth” (Num 12:3).  He was “faithfulin all God’s house,” writes the author of the Letter to the Hebrews (Heb 3:2).  Of him, God said, “When there are prophets among you, I the Lord make myself known to them in visions; I speak to them in dreams.  Not so with my servant Moses; he is entrusted with all my house.  With him I speak face to face – clearly, not in riddles; and he beholds the form of the Lord” (Num 12:6-8).  Moses was a man after God’s own heart.  God spoke with him face to face, as one would speak with a friend.  More than any other person, he could say with authority, “Thus says the Lord…”

We can imagine how consoling those words must have been for the people of Israel: “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like (Moses) from among your own people; (and) you shall heed such a prophet” (Deut 18:15).

Perhaps you’re wondering, Why couldn’t God speak with each of the Israelites directly and personally?  Why couldn’t God reveal his divine will to them without an intermediary like Moses?  Simply put, it was because they didn’t want it.  “This is what you requested of the Lord your God at Horeb,” Moses reminds the people, “you said, ‘If I hear the voice of the Lord my God any more, or ever again see this great fire, I will die.’”  The Israelites had experienced the presence of God, and it terrified them!

So the Lord said to Moses, “They are right in what they have said.  I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their own people;  I will put my words in the mouth of the prophet, who shall speak to them everything that I command” (Deut 18:17-18)  And this God did.

In fact, God sent a succession of prophets to guide and correct the people: Elijah and Elisha, Isaiah and Amos, Jeremiah and Jonah, Ezekiel and Hezekiah.  But there were two consistent problems:

The first was that the people didn’t listen to them, but instead, persecuted them.

And the second was that they turned instead to the false prophets of the nations that surrounded them.

Until finally, God sent the greatest prophet of all, Jesus of Nazareth, “a prophet like Moses.”  Like Moses, he spoke with God as one speaks with a friend, drawing apart in silence and solitude to listen for God’s voice.  Like Moses, he abided in God at all times, living in constant union and communion with the One he called “Father.”  His was the closest possible relationship with God; he was God’s only Son, “close to the Father’s heart” (Jn 1:18).  And like Moses, he was a Hebrew born of Hebrews, “one of your own brothers.”  There was no one like him – no one, before him or after him.  He was God’s Beloved.

This recognition of Jesus as “the prophet like Moses” winds its way through the Gospel of John:

“Who are you?  Are you the prophet?” the Pharisees ask John the Baptist.  He answered, “No.”      (Jn 1:19-23)

“We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote,” Philip told Nathanael, “Jesus, son of Joseph from Nazareth!” (Jn 1:45)

When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.” (Jn 6:14)

When they heard (Jesus’) words, some in the crowd said, “This is really the prophet.” (Jn 7:40)

Imagine that you, like the people of Israel, are standing at the threshold of something new.  Imagine that you, like them, are wondering how it will be when you step over into this new place; what joys and opportunities might it present? what dangers and disappointments might lie ahead?  And you wonder, as the people of Israel did, how will we be guided in this new place, in this new time, when so much will be strange and unknown?  Who will accompany us there?  How will we recognize and know God’s will?

Here is Moses’ answer for you, the same answer he gave to the ancient Hebrews waiting to cross the Jordan into the Land of Promise:

First, draw on the wisdom that has been given you.  Heed God’s statutes and ordinances.  Cling to God’s ways as they have been revealed to God’s people down through the ages and in the history of salvation.  Listen to God’s Word and obey it.

And second, know that God has appointed “a prophet like Moses” to be your companion and guide. We know him as Jesus of Nazareth, the Beloved Son of God, who took on himself our nature so that he might walk with us and understand our struggles and our joys.  Look to him.  Let him be your Shepherd and your Friend.  Study his ways and imitate them.  Ask yourself, “Is this new direction, or idea, or plan of action that I am imagining consistent with God’s Word, and with the New Life modeled for us and taught by Jesus, “the Word made flesh”?  Look to Jesus, “for in him every one of God’s promises is a ‘Yes.’” (II Cor 1:20).

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2 Comments

  1. Jane karseras on February 14, 2021 at 11:50

    Comforting, thank you

  2. Robert Scott on February 11, 2021 at 18:56

    thank you

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