The Essence of Advent: a Prophet from God
Dear Father in heaven, as I approach Your altar for one last time prior to my celebration of Christmas, fill my heart with holy awe as I ponder Your grace and mercy. You sent Your Son, Lord, from heaven above to earth to bring me the good news of salvation, to serve as my substitute in life and in death, and to rule within my heart as Your dear child. Yes, fill my heart with holy awe and increasing devotion. Amen.
The apostle Paul urges us with good reason to “rejoice in the Lord!” He wants us to come to Him with our prayers, petitions, thanksgivings, and requests. Let us do so with the confidence that our Lord will both hear and answer. Then we can live in heavenly peace!
John the Baptizer came to prepare the way for the LORD! He was not the promised Christ, nor was He “the Prophet” Moses had prophesied would come. That Prophet was much greater than John. That Prophet was Jesus! Let us always be ready to listen to our Savior as He speaks!
Text: Deuteronomy 18:15-19
“The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear, according to all you desired of the LORD your God at Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God, nor let me see this great fire anymore, lest I die.’ And the LORD said to me: ‘What they have spoken is good. I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him. And it shall be that whoever will not hear My words, which He speaks in My name, I will require it of him.’”
In Christ Jesus, the eternal Word of God, dear fellow redeemed:
The evangelist Matthew presents the Christmas story from Joseph’s perspective, while Luke presents it from the perspective of Mary. John begins his Gospel from what we might call the divine perspective—identifying Jesus Christ as the eternal Word of God the Father sent into the world. John writes, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men” (1:1-4). Jesus is the Eternal Word. He came into this world with a specific message from God—a message of light and life intended for all human beings—a message absolutely necessary for their temporal and eternal well-being. That message and its Messenger are the heart and core of the Advent Season. Let us this morning on the basis of our text from Deuteronomy once again consider THE ESSENCE OF ADVENT! We shall see that it is A PROPHET FROM GOD…a prophet to whom we can relate, a prophet through whom we hear God’s complete revelation,and finally a prophet whose message we must receive!
The book of Deuteronomy is composed of a series of sermons that Moses preached to the children of Israel shortly before his death. Moses had been informed by the LORD that he would not enter the Promised Land in view of his sin at the waters of Meribah (cf. Numbers 20), but he was intent upon preparing them for the future—a future which Moses knew was tied directly to their remaining faithful to the LORD God. Moses reviewed their history with them—a history of God’s unending faithfulness and their repeated rebellion. He reviewed God’s law—a law intended to bring them blessing and encouraged them to follow it with their whole hearts. It was in one of these sermons that Moses spoke prophetically of the promised Savior and identified Him as A PROPHET FROM GOD—a prophet to whom they could relate!
Moses told the children of Israel: “The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear, according to all you desired of the LORD your God at Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God, nor let me see this great fire anymore, lest I die.’” To what is Moses referring when he speaks of “the assembly…at Horeb” and the desire of the people “not to hear again the voice of the LORD”? Moses was referring to the giving of the law on Mt. Sinai after the children of Israel had departed from Egypt. “Horeb” is simply another name for Mt. Sinai. When the children of Israel gathered at Mt. Sinai to receive the law from God, we are told in Exodus 20 that “all the people witnessed the thunderings, the lightning flashes, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking” (v. 18). They were terrified by the prospect of God speaking directly to them. He was holy, and they were not. Their hearts were filled with fear, for they were absolutely convinced that if God were to speak directly to them, they would die. They, therefore, pleaded with Moses to speak to God himself and then relate to them what God had to say.
It was this fear of the sacred and holy by sinful man that moved God to raise up a Prophet—the one, the same Savior God had already promised to mankind since the fall into sin (cf. Genesis 3). While Isaiah would later identify this Prophet as being true God by identifying Him as “Immanuel” (cf. Isaiah 7:14), Moses here emphasizes His humanity. The Prophet would be a man “like” Moses—the man to whom they were willing at that moment to listen. He would arise from among them and be one of their brothers. He would in other words be a descendant of Abraham—a fellow Jew (cf. Genesis 12). And so it would be—Jesus was born of Mary, a Jewish girl of the family of David, a descendant of Judah, the son of Jacob, the great-grandson of Abraham. He was someone to whom the people could relate, for He shared in their humanity.
When Jesus entered His earthly ministry, He therefore appeared to most people simply to be another rabbi. Yes, the people recognized that there was something different about Jesus—“He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes” (Matthew 7:29). Yet, in view of His humanity, thousands of people flocked to Him in the cities and villages and throughout the countryside of Galilee and Judea—just so that they could listen. They were not afraid, for He was just the rabbi from Nazareth.
The writer to the Hebrews emphasizes throughout his epistle Jesus’ humanity when explaining the wonderful relationship we have with Him: “Inasmuch as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same…. In all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God…. For in that He Himself has suffered being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted…. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (2:14, 17-18; 4:15-16). Indeed, THE ESSENCE OF ADVENT is A PROHET FROM GOD to whom we can relate!
He is a prophet through whom we hear God’s complete revelation! Moses goes on to inform the people: “And the LORD said to me…I will raise up for them a Prophet…and I will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him.” If we return for a few moments to the Gospel of John, we find that Jesus as God’s appointed Prophet is one of John’s major themes. Not only is Jesus identified as “the Word” in chapter one, but we are also told: “The law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him” (1:17). Philip, when inviting Nathanael, to come to Jesus identifies Jesus as the fulfillment of this very prophecy from Deuteronomy (cf. 1:45). In chapter four when the woman at Jacob’s well mentions this prophecy and the coming Prophet who would reveal “all things,” Jesus told her, “I who speak to you am He” (4:25-26). In chapter eight we find Jesus telling the Jews who believed in Him: “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (8:31-32). In chapter twelve after raising Lazarus from the dead and still being met by opposition we are told that Jesus cried out and said, “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. And I know that His command is everlasting life. Therefore, whatever I speak, just as the Father has told Me, so I speak” (12:49-50). Without doubt Jesus is the Prophet sent by God through whom we can and do hear God’s complete revelation. That is why the apostle Paul identifies Jesus as the “cornerstone” of our Christian faith (cf. Ephesians 2:20). That thought is surely implied in the name “Alpha and Omega”—the Beginning and the End—claimed repeatedly by Jesus in the Revelation.
We have just completed a unit in Religion 11-12 on non-Christian sects such as the Mormons, the Jehovah Witnesses, and Christian Science. Each of these sects claims that God provides them with continuing revelations—revelations, which, when considered carefully, grossly contradict Scripture. They suggest that Jesus only provided part of God’s revelation and that the Bible has been corrupted over the years, yet God said through Moses that His Prophet—the Lord Jesus would “speak to them all that I command Him.” Jesus did not provide a partial revelation, but rather everything necessary for our salvation was provided through the Old and New Testament Scriptures. Near the end of his Gospel John writes: “These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (20:31). When false teachers wanted to add to Paul’s gospel message, he told the Colossians: “For in Him (Jesus) dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily, and you are complete in Him” (2:9-10). When addressing young Timothy in his final epistle Paul urged Timothy: “You must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of…from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:14-15). My dear friends, THE ESSENCE OF ADVENT is A PROPHET FROM GOD through whom we hear God’s complete revelation!
Jesus is also A PROPHET FROM GOD whose message we must receive! Moses closes this text with a warning: “It shall be that whoever will not hear My words, which He (the Prophet) speaks in My name, I will require it of him.” We are living in a very dangerous spiritual time, for many people play “fast and loose” with the truth. Many deny that truth even exists, while others claim all truth is relative and personal, so that what may be true for you is not true for them. Most seem to want to take a “cherry-picking” attitude towards truth, believing this truth but not that truth. My dear friends, God arranged for His Spirit to inspire the writers of the Scriptures, so that they might present to us absolute truth. God sent Jesus to complete that revelation, so that we might be able to live our lives and look forward to our futures with confidence! The writer to the Hebrews begins his epistle by emphasizing this truth: “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things” (1:1-2).
It is imperative, therefore, that we listen to Jesus. To refuse to do so will bring us nothing but sorrow—to refuse to do so invites inevitable judgment! When the religious leaders of the Jews continued to reject Jesus, in spite of His miracles and His preaching, He finally reminded them with reference to our text: “How can you believe, who receive honor from one another, and do not seek the honor that comes from the only God? Do not think that I shall accuse you to the Father; there is one who accuses you—Moses, in whom you trust. For if you believe Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writing; how will you believe My words?” (John 5:44-47). Those who reject Jesus are not seeking the truth, but are simply seeking to honor themselves and thereby they place themselves in opposition to and under the wrath of the one, true God who will judge the heavens and the earth on the Last Day.
Am I being too dramatic? Am I simply becoming a spiritual boogeyman as we end our Advent Season this year? Let me conclude this meditation by citing a quotation of our text by Peter in his sermon in the temple after healing a lame man in Acts 3. Peter, in quoting this final verse, says: “It shall be that every soul who will not hear that Prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people” (v. 23). My dear friends, “God is not mocked…whatever a man sows, that he will also reap” (Gal. 6:7). Let us now and always listen, receive, and rejoice in the message of our God revealed through Jesus—THE PROPHET FROM GOD! Amen.
—Pastor Paul D. Nolting