Gospel Gazette, Bible Articles

Vol. 2, No. 7 Page 7 July 2000

Gospel Gazette, Bible Articles

The Prophet
Like Unto Moses

By D. Gene West

Text: Deuteronomy 18:15-18.

Introduction:

1.         As the tremendous stream of Messianic prophecy flows on, we come to the profound prophecy of Deuteronomy Chapter Eighteen, a prophecy that has both excited and bewildered men for years.

2.         In this prophecy, God points out that the Messiah would be a prophet as well as the great leader of the people.

3.         This prophecy takes us back to Mt. Sinai when the people were overcome with fear because they had heard the voice of God, and they desired that Moses go up on the mountain and speak with Jehovah on their behalf, because if they were to hear the voice of Yahweh again, they would die.

4.         God put his stamp of approval on the attitude of the people so far as his awesomeness was concerned, and revealed to Moses privately his intention to bring a very special prophet into the world.

5.         The revelation was made public some forty years later during the second discourse of Moses in the plains of Moab.  This discourse is recorded in chapters five through twenty-six of the Book of Deuteronomy, a book whose name means, “the second giving of the law.”

6.         In this discourse Moses dealt with the obligations of the people toward their judges, or kings, (16:18 17:20), with their priests (18:1-8), and with their prophets (18:9-22).

a)         The section dealing with the prophets opens with Moses setting forth a strong prohibition against the use of occult activities.

b)         The Israelites were forbidden under the penalty of death to attempt to see into the future by means of any kind of a pagan divination.

c)         God told Israel that he would provide for them a prophet, like Moses, who would tell them all they needed to know about Yahweh’s plans for their future.

7.         The Scriptures tell us that no other Old Testament prophet can be compared to Moses.  Notice: Deuteronomy 34:10-12, which says, (10) “But since then there has not arisen in Israel a prophet like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, (11) in all the signs and wonders which the Lord sent him to do in the land of Egypt, before Pharaoh, before all his servants, and in all his land, (12) and by all that mighty power and all the great terror which Moses performed in the sight of all Israel.”

a)         Consequently, the prophet like Moses must be someone who, in some very significant way, or ways, is superior to the line of Old Testament prophets, and to the greatest of these prophets, Moses.

b)         It is clear, from the New Testament, that the Jews of the first century understood that Deuteronomy 18:15-18 referred to just one special person.

c)         After Jesus had fed the five thousand, the Jews began to say, in John 6:14, “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.”  (Notice they call him “the Prophet.”)

d)         When the Jews heard Jesus teaching at the Feast of the Tabernacles, they said, in John 7:40, “Truly this is the Prophet.”  (Again, Notice: “the Prophet.”)

e)         In all fairness to the Jews we must point out that from John 1:20-24, there is an indication that they were not completely sure that “the Prophet,” and “the Messiah” would be the same person.

f)          The traditions of the Samaritans held that when the Messiah came he would teach them all things.  (See: John 4:25.)  Now, since it is true that the Samaritans recognized only the Pentateuch as being sacred literature, it must be obvious that they had interpreted the prophecy of Deuteronomy 18:15-18 as a reference to the coming of the Messiah.

8.         The Apostle Peter, in his sermon on Solomon’s Porch of the Temple, found in Acts 3:11-26, quoted this passage and applied it directly to Christ.

a)         In this sermon, Peter spoke first of the crucifixion of our Lord, and then of the criminal responsibility of the leaders of the Jews in this crucifixion.  (See: Acts 3:13-14.)

b)         Peter then went on to tell them of the resurrection and glorification of Jesus in verses 15-16.

c)         Then he pointed out that this was all a fulfillment of the predictions of the Old Testament prophets concerning the Messiah, and the Jewish nation had unwittingly fulfilled those prophecies which had predicted that Christ would suffer. (Vv. 17-18.)

d)         Then he called upon his audience to “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord . . .”

9.         No matter how persuasive Peter was in convincing the Jews that Jesus had resurrected from the dead they would not have accepted Jesus as the Messiah until, and unless, Peter referred to Old Testament prophecy to establish his case.  Peter, by inspiration and common understanding of the Jews, realized that, so he cited two specific passages, the first from the Book of Deuteronomy 18:15-18, and the second from Genesis 22:18.

a)         Here, in Acts 3:11-26, we find the proper interpretation of Deuteronomy 18:15-18.

b)         If all that Peter had said about Jesus in this passage in Acts were true, then only our Lord Jesus could be the fulfillment of the ancient prophecy.

c)         Note this statement on this text by brother John W. McGarvey, “Moses was distinguished from all other prophets in that he was a deliverer and a lawgiver.  The others were employed in enforcing the law which Moses gave, but not in adding to it, or setting any of it aside.  Jesus, however, was like Moses, in that he also came as a deliverer, proposing a far more glorious deliverance than that effected by Moses, and he also issued laws for a new government of men.  This proved that he alone was the prophet spoken of by Moses, and it showed the audience that in obeying Jesus they would be obeying Moses, while in rejecting him (Jesus, par. mine, DGW) they would incur the curse which Moses pronounced.”[1]

10.       With this background material before us, let us turn now to other important matters surrounding the prophecy itself.


I.          Some Teach That This Is Not A Prophecy of A Specific Person, But Rather A Prophecy of A Line of True Prophets Who Would Develop During the History of Israel.

A.        We have already seen from the background information in the introduction of this lesson, that this was not the divinely inspired interpretation of the Deuteronomy 18:15-18 prophecy which the Apostle Peter gave in his magnificent sermon on Solomon’s Porch of the Temple, and this should certainly be sufficient.  (See: Acts 3:11-26.)

B.         But we think that this contention, since it reflects upon the Messiahship of Jesus, deserves to be looked at a little more closely.

1.         Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown, in their commentary said, “But the prophet here promised was pre-eminently the Messiah, for He alone was ‘like unto Moses’ (see on ch. 34.10) in his mediatorial character; in the peculiar excellence of his ministry; in the number, variety, and magnitude of his miracles; in his close and familiar communion with God; and in his being the author of a new dispensation of religion.” This prediction was fulfilled 1500 years afterwards, and was expressly applied to Jesus Christ by Peter (Acts 3.22-23), and by Stephen (Acts 7.37).[2]

2.         Adam Clarke, in dealing with the passage of Deuteronomy 18:15-18 made the following lengthy statement: “1. Christ alone was like unto Moses as a Prophet; for it is written, there arose not a prophet in Israel like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, in a11 the signs and wonders which the Lord sent him to do, Deut. xxxiv. 10,11,12.  This therefore cannot be understood of the ordinary prophets which were raised up in Israel, but of Christ only, as the apostles expound it Acts ii 22-26.  2. Christ was like unto Moses in respect to his office of mediation between God and his people, Deut. v. 5; 1 Tim. ii. 5; but greater than Moses as being the mediator of a better covenant, (or testament,) which was established upon better promises, Heb. viii. 6. 3.  Christ was like unto Moses in excellency; for as Moses excelled all the prophets in speaking to God mouth to mouth, Num. xii 6,7,8, so Christ excelled him and all men in that being in the bosom of the Father, he hath come down from heaven and declared God unto us, John i.18; iii.13.  4. Christ was like to Moses in faithfulness, but therein also excelling; for Moses was faithful in God’s house as a servant, but Christ as the son over his own house, Heb. iii. 2, 5, 6.  5. Christ was like to Moses in signs and wonders, wherein he also excelled Moses, as the history of the Gospel shows; for he was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, Luke xxiv.19.  A man approved of God among them, by miracles, signs, and wonders, which God did by him in the midst of them, Acts ii. 22. For he did among them the works which no other man did, John xv. 24.  Unto him, that is, not unto the diviners, wizards, or any such like, but unto him, and him only; as Him thou shalt serve, Deut. vi.13, is expounded, Him only, Matt. iv.10.  And though this is principally meant of Christ in person, of whom God said, Hear him, Matt. xvii 5; yet it implies also his ministers, as himself said, He that heareth you heareth me, Luke x. 16.  To these may be added, 6. As Moses was king among his people, in this respect Christ is like to him, but infinitely greater; for he is King of kings and Lord of lords, Rev. xix. 16;1 Tim. vi.15.  And, 7. He was like to Moses as a legislator.  Moses gave laws to Israel by the authority and commandment of God, which the Jews have ever acknowledged as coming from the immediate inspiration of the Almighty: these are contained in the Pentateuch.  Christ gave a new law, the Gospel contained in the four Evangelists and Acts of the Apostles, on which the Christian Church is founded, and by which all genuine Christians are governed both in heart and life.  To all which may added, 8. That God never commissioned any human beings to give laws to mankind but Moses and Christ; and therefore, as a lawgiver, Christ alone resembles Moses; for to the present hour none but themselves have given laws in the name of God, which he has ratified and confirmed by the most indubitable and infallible signs, proofs, and miracles.”[3]

3.         In Acts 7:37, Stephen, the first Christian martyr, quoted Deuteronomy 18:18-19, and applied it to Jesus Christ.  This so infuriated the Jews that they stoned him to death.

4.         So, we have two inspired witnesses who apply this passage in Deuteronomy to Jesus.  As brother Homer Hailey pointed out, “The biblical requirement for testimony is that at the mouth of two witnesses, or three, every word is established (Deut. 19:15; Matt. 18:16; II Cor. 13:1).  Accordingly, Peter’s and Stephen’s use of Deuteronomy 18:15-17 established it as Messianic in it’s import.”[4]

C.        Of the Acts 3:22-23 portion of Peter’s sermon on the Porch of the Temple, to which we have reference in introduction of this lesson, the late, venerable, H. Leo Boles made the following comment:

1.         “This prophecy may be found in Deut. 18:15-19, and Peter quotes it without many variations from the Septuagint, Greek version of the Old Testament; Moses was a lawgiver, leader, ruler, and deliverer, as well as a prophet; his prophecy had not been fulfilled.  The Jews acknowledged that this had reference to the Messiah; they asked John the Baptist: “Art thou the prophet?”  John answered that he was not; and they asked him then: “Why then baptizest thou, if thou are not the Christ, Neither Elijah, neither the prophet?”  (John 1:21-25.)  Here Peter identifies “the prophet” with the Christ; this is exactly what the Jews had done.  The Messiah was to be one from among the Jews; he was to bring blessing to every nation on the earth.  They should obey this prophet ‘in all things whatsoever’ he should command them.  Just as the children of Israel were to obey Moses, their deliverer, lawgiver, ruler, their leader, so the people now are to obey Christ as he is their Deliverer from sin, their Lawgiver, their Leader, their King, and Prophet:”[5]

2.         Commenting on verse twenty-three, brother Boles continued as follows: “Jesus said that Moses wrote of him. ‘For if ye believed Moses, ye would believe me; for he wrote of me.’  (John 5:46.)  The Jews could not obey Moses without obeying Christ, since Moses commanded them to obey the prophet that God would raise up from among them like unto him.  The one who refused to obey this prophet, the Christ, should be ‘utterly destroyed from among the people.’  This declares that God himself would visit punishment upon those who refused to accept Christ.   It was plainly expressed in the law that an apostate Israelite should be cut off from the people.  (Ex. 12:15,19; 22:20; Num. 19:13.)  The New Testament language is that ‘shall suffer punishment, even eternal destruction from the face of the Lord and from the glory of his might’ (2 Thess. 1:9).  This expresses the fearful consequences of rejecting Christ.”[6]

II.        We Shall, Now Look at the Matter of the Appearance of the Special Prophet, (Jesus).

A.        It is taken for granted, in this passage, that people will earnestly desire to know something about the mysteries of spiritual life.

1.         So, Jehovah here promises to provide for his people a source of special revelation which was to be infinitely superior to the pagan divinations and witchcraft.

2.         Jehovah would “raise up,” or “cause to appear,” the Prophet.

3.         A prophet, any true prophet, was one who received direct communication through various means such as dreams, or visions, and then communicates God’s revelation to his people.

B.         Throughout this passage the words the prophet are used in the singular.

1.         Hebrew scholar Dr. James Smith tells us, “The term ‘prophet’ stands in the place of emphasis in front of the Hebrew verb in verses 15 and 18.  A single individual is intended here.”[7]

2.         This prophet was to be a “friend of God,” a concept inherent in the word “prophet,” as Abraham was counted to be “the friend of God.”

C.        Some of the Jewish Rabbis thought that this prophecy of Deuteronomy 18:15-18 was made concerning Joshua, the successor of Moses.

1.         But by the time this prophecy was made, Joshua, great military leader of his people, had already been raised up.  (See: Numbers 27:18-23.)

2.         In addition to this we must point out that Deuteronomy 34:10-12, a passage most likely written by Joshua himself, states very explicitly,(10) “But since then there has not arisen in Israel a prophet like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, (11) in all the signs and wonders which the Lord sent him to do in the land of Egypt, before Pharaoh, before all his servants, and in all his land, (12) and by all that mighty power and all the great terror which Moses performed in the sight of all Israel.”

3.         The prophecy cannot refer to anyone, including Joshua, other than the Lord Jesus Christ.

D.        The nationality of the prophet is clearly set forth in the phrase from among your brethren.

1.         Jesus was a Hebrew, and he came from the tribe of Judah.  Judah was one of the tribes of Israel, and as such was from among their brethren.

2.         That Yahweh had always intended to redeem fallen mankind through that nation of people that we commonly call “Jews” is evident from the time of Abraham when God made the promise that is first found in Genesis 12:1-3.

III.       Let Us Look at the Kind of Prophet of Whom This Passage Speaks.

A.        One of the main points in this prediction is that the future Prophet would be like Moses in some distinctive ways.

1.         From reference to the history of the time it is clear that during the lifetime of Jesus the Jews expected a Messiah who would be a second Moses.

2.         From John 6:30-33, we read of the multitudes who challenged Jesus to perform a miracle that would be comparable to the manna provided by Moses in the wilderness.  But Jesus corrected their false impression by pointing out to them that it was God, and not Moses who gave their fathers bread from heaven.

3.         Then he went on to tell them, in verse 33, that the manna in the wilderness had sustained them physically for a period of time, but that the true bread of God, : . . who comes down from heaven, Jesus himself, grants to those who partake of him eternal life.  (See also: John 6:48-51)

B.         That the Jews, of the first century, were expecting their Messiah is shown by the fact that impostors arose in that time, pretending to show signs and wonders.  (See: Acts 21:38 and 5:36.)

1.         One of these is even named in the New Testament, and he was called Tehudas.  (See: Acts 5:36.)

2.         These examples show that the Jews of the first century were looking for a prophet like Moses who would duplicate the miracles which had been worked by God during the wilderness wanderings.

C.        Moses was unique among the prophets of the Old Testament.

1.         While we do not know exactly when the last chapter of Deuteronomy was written, because it was either written by the inspired Moses before his death, or it was written by the inspired Joshua after the death of Moses, the verses still declare that no prophet had risen in Israel like Moses.  (See: Deuteronomy 34:9-12.)

2.         Only of Jesus of Nazareth can it be said, “that a greater than Moses has arisen.”

D.        There are five specific areas in which Moses was a forerunner and type of Christ, our Messiah.

1.         Moses and Jehovah enjoyed an intimate relationship in that God spoke to him face to face.  (Deuteronomy 34:10.)

a)         God spoke to his other prophets through dreams and visions, but with Moses Jehovah communicated in a far more intimate manner.

b)         There is emphasized, throughout the New Testament, that there was an intimate association between the Father and the Son.  This is evident from the following two verses:

(1)        Luke 10:22, “All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows who the Son is but the Father, and who the Father is but the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.”

(2)        John 1:18, “No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.”

2.         Moses, by the power of God, was a worker of miracles.

a)         His miracles of punishment, the ten plagues brought upon Egypt, finally brought the Pharaoh who knew not Joseph to his knees.

b)         He also worked miracles of preservation which sustained the people of Israel during the forty years they wandered in the wilderness.  (See: Deuteronomy 34:11-12.)

c)         Among Old Testament prophets others worked miracles, such as Elijah and Elisha.  But their miracles were more of a private nature while the miracles of Moses were national in their scope, and aided a nation of people.

d)         Our Lord had the reputation of a prophet who was powerful in word and deed before God and all the people, according to Luke 24:19.

e)         When the disciples of John came to Jesus after John had been imprisoned by Herod, and propounded the question, “Are you the One who is to come, or should we look for another?”  Jesus replied: (Matthew 11:4-6), (4) “Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: (5) “The blind receive their sight and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them. (6) ‘And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me:’”

f)          Jesus was telling the disciples of John that his miracles were adequate credentials to prove his Messiahship.

3.         Moses was a great mediator.

a)         He prayed to God earnestly for the preservation of Israel on more than one occasion.  We will note two:

(1)        Exodus 32:11-14, (11) “Then Moses pleaded with the Lord his God, and said: ‘Lord, why does Your wrath burn hot against Your people whom You have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? (12) Why should the Egyptians speak, and say, ‘He brought them out to harm them, to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from Your fierce wrath, and relent from this harm to Your people. (13) Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants, to whom You swore by Your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven; and all this land that I have spoken of I give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.’ (14) So the Lord relented from the harm which He said He would do to His people.”

(2)        Exodus 32:30-35, (30) “And it came to pass on the next day that Moses said to the people, ‘You have committed a great sin. So now I will go up to the Lord; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.’ (31) Then Moses returned to the Lord and said, ‘Oh, these people have committed a great sin, and have made for themselves a god of gold! (32) Yet now, if You will forgive their sin - but if not, I pray, blot me out of Your book which You have written.’ (33) And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book. (34) Now therefore, go, lead the people to the place of which I have spoken to you. Behold, My Angel shall go before you. Nevertheless, in the day when I visit for punishment, I will visit punishment upon them for their sin.’ (35) So the Lord plagued the people because of what they did with the calf which Aaron made.”

b)         Jesus is the one mediator between God and man, and while Moses mediated for the people of Israel while on the earth, Jesus mediates for us at the right hand of the throne of God.  (See: 1 Timothy 2:5 and Hebrews 4:14-16.)

4.         Moses was a lawgiver with whom no one compares except our Lord Jesus Christ.

a)         None of the great prophets of the Old Testament ever attempted to introduce any new law code to replace, or even add to, the law of Moses.

b)         No Old Testament prophet would have dared to set aside any part of the law of Moses.

c)         But Jesus of Nazareth set forth a new code of conduct for those who would follow him, and a new pattern for those who would worship God.

d)         The law that governs the Kingdom of Christ is found in the twenty-seven books that we call “the New Testament.”

e)         Jesus was the mediator of the new covenant, according to Hebrews 8:6; 9:15; and 12:24.

5.         Moses was a deliverer, and so was, and is, our Lord.

a)         No other person of the Old Testament was responsible for leading so many people out of bondage, which was a type of sin for the Christian.

b)         Moses led as many as 1,500,000 people, or more, out of the slavery of Egypt to the entrance to the promised land.

c)         Jesus, like Moses, came to be a deliverer, but one of a far more glorious kind in that he delivers the souls of men from sin and spiritual death.

d)         Jesus was, and is, destined to lead countless millions from all over the earth out of the bondage of sin and up to that celestial Promised Land.

E.         There are several other parallels that can be drawn between the life of Moses and the life of Christ.  We will list only a few.

1.         Moses spent forty years wandering in the wilderness, and Jesus spent forty days in the wilderness of temptation.  (Acts 7:30; Luke 42)

2.         Seventy Spirit-filled elders prophesied in the days of Moses, and Jesus sent seventy Spirit-filled disciples to evangelize the nation of Israel.  (Numbers 11:16-23; Luke 10:)

3.         A cloud covered the top of Mount Sinai when Moses went up to receive the law, and a cloud enveloped the mountain of Transfiguration, so both of these men of God met God in a cloud.  (Exodus 24:15; Matthew 17:1-9)

F.         While Moses stood head and shoulders above any prophet of the Mosaic dispensation, Jesus is infinitely superior to Moses, as the author of Hebrews argued in 3:1-3.

1.         The Hebrews author likens the Old Testament worship system to a house, and Moses was faithful in that house as a servant.

2.         Jesus, the Son of God, presides over the true house of God, of which the Old Testament Jewish nation was only a type, because he is the Builder of the house, and not just a servant therein.  As builder of the New Testament house, the church of God, Jesus is infinitely superior to Moses.

IV.       The Superior Authority of the Special Prophet Like Unto Moses.

A.        The main issue set forth in the Book of Deuteronomy, since it is a second stating of the law, was that of authority.

1.         The Hebrews, or Israelites, were not to listen to those who practiced witchcraft in any of its forms.  (Deuteronomy 18:14)

2.         A prophet who spoke in the name of, by the authority of, any other god was to be put to death.

3.         The same thing was true of prophets who spoke in the name of Yahweh when he in fact had not spoken to them.  (Deuteronomy 18:20)

4.         Moses realized that it would be difficult for the children of Israel to recognize deceivers of the last group mentioned, and so he set forth a simple criterion for them to judge whether or not Jehovah had spoken to a man.

5.         The simple criterion was: If what a prophet proclaimed in the name of Jehovah came to pass, he was prophesying the truth.  But if what he proclaimed did not come to pass then that proved that it had not been God who had spoken to that man.  (Deuteronomy 18:21-22)

B.         Israel must, at some future date, listen to the Prophet whom God would raise up.

1.         God was going to put his words in the mouth of this Prophet just as he had put the words of the law into the mouth of Moses, and just as he had put the words into the mouths of many other prophets.

2.         God’s Prophet (Jesus) would in turn pass on to the people of God, and to the Gentiles, everything which Jehovah had given him.

3.         The Prophet like unto Moses would both know and faithfully proclaim the word of Yahweh.  (See: Deuteronomy 18:18.)

4.         Those who refused to give heed to the words of this Prophet would be directly chargeable to God himself.  (See: Deuteronomy 18:19.)

5.         This is no doubt the reason Jesus said, John 12:48-50, (48) “He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him - the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day. (49) For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak. (50) And I know that His command is everlasting life. Therefore, whatever I speak, just as the Father has told Me, so I speak.”

Conclusion:

1.         It is thrilling to know that some fifteen hundred years before the birth of our Lord, God inspired Moses to write that he was coming.

2.         How thankful we ought to be that God saw fit to tell us of his royal Prophet who would come and show us the way of salvation.

3.         How deeply loyal we should be to the One who may not deliver us from a physical bondage, but who can and will, if we are faithful, deliver us from spiritual bondage, and set us free to be with him during the ceaseless aeons of eternity.

Endnotes



[1] J.W McGarvey, A New Commentary on Acts of Apostles, Gospel Light Publishing Co., Delight, AR, n.d., p. 64.

[2] Jamieson, Fausset, Brown, Commentary on the Whole Bible, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, n.d., p.133.

[3] Adam Clarke, F.S.A., Commentary on the Old Testament, Volume 1, Abingdon-Cokesbury Press, New York, n.d., pp. 786-787.

[4] Hailey, The Messiah of Prophecy to the Messiah on the Throne, p.37.

[5] H. Leo Boles, A Commentary on Acts of the Apostles, Gospel Advocate Co., Nashville, 1941, pp. 60-61.

[6] Ibid.

[7] James Edward Smith, What the Bible Teaches About the Promised Messiah, Thomas Nelson, Inc., Nashville, 1993, p. 67.



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