Fourth Sunday in Advent December 21, 1997
66, 63, 76, 70
The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken; According to all that thou desiredst of the LORD thy God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God, neither let me see this great fire any more, that I die not. And the LORD said unto me, They have well spoken that which they have spoken. I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him. Here ends our text.
In the name of Jesus Christ, our Prophet, Priest and King, Dear Fellow Redeemed,
On New Year’s Eve 1987 I saw six very embarrassed prophets. I was watching the program “Wall Street Week,” and the host was interviewing six financial experts, men who are supposed to be able to prophesy what the stock market will do in the future. Well, they showed a tape from the same program exactly one year earlier, where all these men had made their predictions about what would happen on Wall Street in 1987. Not one of them had guessed right about the terrible collapse of the market that was to take place in October of that same year.
That’s why they were embarrassed—because a true prophet tells the truth. And true prophets of God tell the truth about God’s Word, and the way God feels toward human beings; where man is, and where he’s going. The passage I just read to you talks about two prophets, an old one and a new one. They’re both true prophets, because they both speak God’s Word in truth. But there are some very big differences between them, and it’s absolutely vital that every Christian know what those differences are! The old prophet was Moses, the New Prophet is Christ. Our theme today is:
this makes us ask:
The action of our text took place at Mt. Horeb, another name for Mt. Sinai. It was the giving of the Ten Commandments to the people of Israel. It’s not too hard to picture the scene, because it’s been dramatized in several major motion pictures. But nothing that the movie industry can put on the screen could possibly come close to what it really must have been like.
The Children of Israel had been led by Moses out of the Land of Egypt, they had crossed the Red Sea—miraculously, on dry land, and now they had arrived at the mountain called Horeb, or Sinai, in the Arabian Desert. It’s a steep mountain that rises abruptly from the floor of the desert; so abruptly, in fact, that they say you can stand on the plain and touch the face of the mountain as it rises. The people were terrified by what happened there. The sky was dark, thunder and lightening started flashing, and the ground began to shake violently. The deafening sound of a trumpet was heard. The mountain streamed fire like a volcano, and belched great clouds of smoke. The voice of the Almighty God thundered out of the blackness. How did the people react? “Now all the people witnessed the thunderings, the lightning flashes, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood afar off. Then they said to Moses, ‘You speak with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die.’ …So the people stood afar off, but Moses drew near the thick darkness where God was.” Ex 21:18-19, 21. So Moses went up the mountain into the presence of God. He was the prophet that God and the people had chosen.
But our text talks about God raising up a New Prophet, and that makes us ask, “What was wrong with the old prophet, Moses?” Was it that Moses didn’t speak the truth about God’s Word? No, he told the truth about God. The problem lay in which truth Moses spoke. Through the old prophet Moses, God gave the people His LAW.
One of the first things that every confirmation student learns about the Bible is that it contains two important teachings—the Law and the Gospel. Moses was the prophet of the Law. He gave the people the Ten Commandments, and all the other do’s and don’ts that God required them to follow. But the Children of Israel couldn’t follow them. They couldn’t live up to the perfect standard of Holiness that God had set for them. When they looked at the Law, all they saw was how much they had broken it, and how much they had offended their God. The people of Israel had wanted Moses to stand between them and that fiery mountain of God’s wrath…but after all, they didn’t really escape it. The mountain was still smoking, and the anger of God still burning against them. The Law, given through the prophet Moses, could not save them from their sin—it could only condemn them. Moses wasn’t enough. They needed a new prophet.
What about you? Do you need a New Prophet? There are thousands of people—even people who call themselves Christian—who think they don’t! They think that the Ten Commandments are all they need in life. “Of course I’m a child of God!” they say. “Just look at my life—I don’t take God’s name in vain, I always worship on the Sabbath (or almost always), I try to be kind to my neighbors, I’ve never killed anybody, I’ve never stolen anything…” The amazing thing is that a lot of people think that that’s what it means to be a Christian! They think the Law is enough, and Moses is a good enough prophet. But those people aren’t really listening to Moses very carefully, are they? For we read in the Bible, “The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say to them: “You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy!”’”—Not, “kind of holy”…not, “as holy as you can be”…but as holy as God Himself! The Law requires perfect obedience. James said, “Whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.” James 2:10.
We’re all in the same boat. Like the children of Israel, we’ve stumbled in many points, not just one. We too have sinned against God’s Law time and time again. Where can we go for relief from our sins? How can we get healing for our wounded consciences? Believe it or not, some people go right back to the Law! They say, “Well, I’ll make up for it somehow. I’ll be better from now on—I’ll try harder to keep God’s commandments and do good things in my life!” You know what that’s like? That’s like taking arsenic to cure snakebite! Paul said, “By the works of the Law shall no man be justified.” The Law of Moses could never cure our sin. We needed a new way out, a New Prophet, and God has given us one. The Lord said to Moses, They have well spoken that which they have spoken. I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him.
When God sent His Son to earth, He was giving us sinful humans the New Prophet we need. Jesus, like Moses, spoke God’s Word in truth. So what’s different about the New Prophet? John tells us the difference in the first chapter of his gospel, “The law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ!” John 1:17. Moses spoke to us the harsh demands of the Law; Jesus brings us the healing words of the Gospel.
Do your sins weigh heavy on you? Do you get to the end of the day discouraged and afraid because of the sin you know you’re guilty of? Jesus says, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heaven laden, and I will give you rest.” Matt 11:28. The forgiveness that Jesus earned for us on the cross is a healing lotion that soothes our wounded souls. Are your sins great? No fear, for “…where sin abounded,” Paul says, “grace abounded much more!” Rom 5:20. God’s grace in His Son Jesus Christ is new to you every day. Though you sin a million times over, and the millionth time ask His forgiveness, He will pardon you for the millionth time!
We don’t use the word “cleanse” very often, do we? But we do use the word “cleanser.” Cleanser is what I use on my stainless steel sink in the kitchen. No matter how dirty and spotted it is, ten minutes of scrubbing with a good cleanser leaves it as bright and shiny as new. You know, the blood of Christ is a cleanser, too. John said, “The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” That precious liquid that flowed from our Savior’s body on the cross is the only cleanser that works to remove the spots of sin from our souls. And it works perfectly every time, leaving our conscience clean, and letting us stand justified in the sight of our God.
Our New Prophet has arrived, the one that we need—Christ, the Prophet of the Gospel. Our text also bears a warning, however, Whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him. Moses was the first prophet, and Jesus was the second. There will not be a third. Anyone who rejects the way of salvation that God offers in Christ will not be saved. When the angels proclaimed “peace on earth,” they meant peace through Christ, and no one else! As Peter told the council of elders in Jerusalem, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12. Everyone who rejects this way of salvation…has simply rejected salvation!
On Christmas Day, we will again join our voices to sing, “Rejoice, rejoice this happy morn—a Savior unto us is born!” God meant that Christmas joy to be ours, not just for one day, but for the whole year round. Let us hold tight to our New Prophet, and accept the words of comfort and forgiveness He offers us in the Gospel. Let’s come to hear this Gospel preached here in church every time we can, and let’s study it on our own and with our families at home. The Gospel is one good thing that we truly cannot get enough of! Our New Prophet has arrived…let us worship and adore him! AMEN.
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