A Prophet Like Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15-19)
Jesus holds three offices–Prophet, Priest, and Potentate (or King). Jesus Christ is a prophet. When Jesus entered Jerusalem triumphantly, the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee” (Mt. 21:11). When Jesus showed the Samaritan woman at the well his ability to know about her life, she said, “Sir, see that you are a prophet” (Jn. 4:19). Through Moses, himself a prophet, God promised to raise up a prophet for his people–Jesus Christ is that prophet.
There is much discussion as to whether or not this text refers to Jesus. The New Testament makes clear this text refers to Jesus. When Philip found Nathanael, he said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets wrote” (Jn. 1:45)–Philip likely had this passage in mind. Peter applied this passage to Jesus (Acts 3:22-23). Jesus said that Moses wrote about him (Jn. 5:45-47)–Likely, Jesus had this text in mind.
When Jesus came into this world, the Jews were looking for this Prophet. Priests and Levites came and asked John the Baptist if he were the Prophet (Jn. 1:21). After Jesus fed the five thousand, the men who saw the sign said, “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world” (Jn. 6:14). When people heard Jesus’ teaching, they said, “Truly this is the Prophet” (Jn. 7:40). Jesus is clearly the Prophet of whom Moses spoke.
Let’s examine this text to see what we can learn about Jesus.
The Prophet Would Be Like Moses, vv 15-17
The Lord would raise up for the people a prophet. Just what is a prophet to do? Many have the mistaken idea that all a prophet does is predict the future. The term prophet means: One who speaks forth oracles. Aaron is called Moses’ prophet (Ex. 7:1). According to Exodus 4:16, Aaron was called Moses’ mouthpiece. Aaron served as Moses’ spokesman or prophet. A prophet is one who speaks for God. This is shown by the frequent use of “Thus says the LORD” in the prophetic writings. The prophets did not speak by their own authority, but they spoke for God.
As a prophet, Jesus would serve as God’s spokesman. “As My Father taught Me, I speak these things” (Jn. 8:28). “Whatever I speak, just as the Father has told Me, so I speak” (Jn. 12:50). “The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works” (Jn. 14:10).
In the preceding verses, God had just banned witchcraft, soothsaying, and the like from Israel. Instead of using pagan methods to have contact with the unknown, the Israelites were to depend upon God. Therefore, God would raise up a Prophet.
This Prophet would be like Moses. This Prophet would not be like Moses in every particular. Many preachers have sermons which compare Moses and Jesus. That’s not really what this text means-The text means that Jesus would be God’s spokesman like Moses had been. This Prophet would be like Moses in that he would serve as God’s spokesman.
Moses became God’s spokesman for the Israelites at Mt. Horeb. Exodus 20:18-21 tells of the day God spoke to the Israelites. The people of Israel witnessed the thunderings, the lightning flashes, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking, and the people were frightened. The people told Moses, “You speak to us, but let not God speak to us lest we die.” Because the people were terrified of God, Moses became God’s spokesman. The Lord told Moses what the people had spoken was good-Moses would serve as God’s spokesman.
This prophet would be an Israelite. God promised the people that from their own midst, from their brethren, God would raise up this prophet. Again, in verse 18, God promised to raise up a prophet from their brethren. Instead of hearing from some pagan, the people would be able to hear God’s word from one of their own. People often listen to one of their own. That’s why in mission work it’s important to involve as many native preachers as possible–they know the language, they know the customs, the know the people.
The people were to listen to this prophet. Verse 15 closes by saying, “Him you shall hear.” God intended for this prophet to be heard. It would do no good for God to send this prophet and have no one listen to him. On the Mt. of Transfiguration, God declared, “This is My beloved son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!” (Matt. 17:5).
Jesus is a prophet like Moses. Just as Moses served as God’s mouthpiece, Jesus now serves as God’s mouthpiece. God “has in these last days spoken to us by His Son” (Heb. 1:2).
The Prophet Would Speak the Word of God, v 18
God here repeats the promise to raise up a prophet like Moses from Israel.
God would put his words in the prophet’s mouth. God put his words in the mouths of his prophets. God gave Ezekiel a scroll which contained the message which Ezekiel was to preach; Ezekiel ate that scroll so that it would become part of him (Ez. 3:1-3). God put his words in Jeremiah’s mouth (Jer. 1:9). Remember that a prophet is basically one who speaks on God’s behalf.
Jesus would be speaking the very words of God. “The word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me” (Jn. 14:24). Jesus gave his disciples the words God had given him (Jn. 17:8). “As My Father taught Me, I speak these things” (Jn. 8:28).
This prophet was to speak all that God had commanded him. Jesus was to speak all that God commanded him. Jesus could not pick and choose what he taught–He was to teach what Paul called “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). At times Jesus’ message was unpopular. When Jesus claimed to be equal with God, those who heard him picked up stones to throw at him (Jn. 8:59). The world hated Jesus because he testified that its works were evil (Jn. 7:7). Today, preachers are to preach the truth even if it makes them unpopular.
God commanded what Jesus taught–Jesus had no choice in the matter; God decreed what he spoke.
While Jesus was on this earth, he spoke the words of God–We can go to Jesus’ words and learn what God wants us to do.
God Would Require Individuals to Hear the Prophet’s Message, v 19
God would require it from those who did not hear God’s words which were spoken through the mouth of his prophet. Another translation says that anyone who does not hear the word of the prophet God would hold him accountable. That is the idea–God will hold accountable the one who does not pay attention to his prophet.
Indeed, those who refuse to hear the words of Jesus will be held accountable. The words that Jesus has spoken will judge man on the last day (Jn. 12:48). “The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life” (Jn. 6:63). Through the words of Jesus, we can have life. Yet, if we refuse to hear the words of Jesus, we cannot have life.
At the judgment, we will answer for our closely we have followed Jesus’ words.
Since Jesus spoke for God, we need to hear what Jesus says concerning salvation. We must believe in Jesus–“If you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins” (Jn. 8:24). We must repent of our sins-“Unless you repent you will all likewise perish” (Lk. 13:3). We must confess our faith in Christ-“Whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 10:32). We must be baptized-“He who believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mk. 16:16).
Have you done what God requires?