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The Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany – Series B

Text:  Deuteronomy 18:15-20

Title: “Listen to the Prophet”

Date: Sunday, January 28, 2018

Pastor Steve Bocklage

In our country and throughout the rational, scientific world…prophecy is dismissed by many as naïve and being backwards. Despite this characterization, there is indeed something in each one of us that yearns for prophecy and its fulfillment. Some try to satisfy this longing for prophecy in the promises of technology and human advancement. Others try to satisfy this longing for prophecy in science fiction like Star Wars,® which talks about the prophecy of the one who would restore balance to the force. Some people turn to charismatic leaders, no matter how off the wall they may be.

         Still, some people attempt to fill this longing for prophecy by dabbling in secret, magical, and demonic arts. They mess around with Ouija boards, tarot cards, palm readings, seances, horoscopes, casting spells, and other similar devices or practices. These things try to see the future…to control what will happen in their lives, or to communicate with the dead. According to God, these devices and practices are detestable and dangerous. (Deut. 18:10-12) Anyone engaging in any of these things is not being completely and entirely faithful to the LORD (Deut. 18:13) as God commands you and me to be.

         Serving as our sermon text is the Old Testament reading in Deuteronomy 18:15-20, where we find Moses delivering a message to the people of Israel. Nearly forty years earlier, Moses spoke these words to the Israelites, who had camped at the foot of Mt. Horeb, better known as Mt. Sinai. Do you remember from Scripture what the Lord God did there? Moses wrote in Exodus 20 that the LORD came down on the mountain in fire. Smoke, thunder, lightening, and a cloud covered the mountain. Everything trembled violently; the trumpet blast grew louder, and the voice of God spoke: “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me” (Ex. 20:1-3) and continued speaking His Law, known as the Ten Commandments. (Ex. 20:1-17)
         In our sermon text, Moses says that on that day of assembly at Mt. Horeb, when the people hear the voice of God, they cry out: “Let us not hear the voice of the Lord our God nor see this great fire anymore, or we will die.” (v. 16) The terror of God’s Law pierces them to the core. Pride and human goodness are burnt to ashes, knowing that even the best they can do will not hide their sin. They stand before the holy Judge in their sinfulness, realizing that death and hell are all that they deserve.

         So in His grace and mercy, the Lord God promises the Israelites the Prophet, who is the Mediator, or Go-between. As God’s children, they are to listen to Him. The Lord God puts it this way to Moses in our sermon text: “What they say is good. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers; I will put my words in His mouth, and He will tell them everything I command Him.” (vv. 17-18)

         God promises you and me this Mediator also, since we are no better off than the Israelites were at the foot of Mt. Sinai. It may be easier for you to choose to ignore God’s Law, since the ground underneath you is not physically shaking. You can try to dull your conscience by telling yourself not to take Christianity and Lutheran theology too seriously. You attempt to dress up your sins with excuses: “I tried my best.” “Other people do it.” “I couldn’t help myself.” “It’s not my fault.” You can try to focus on your so-called good points. However, this is just denial of the truth that you and I are lawbreakers. In the book of James, chapter 2, God says: “Whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.” (James 2:10) No excuse can cover that up. The holy Judge knows you and me are lawbreakers and sinners. That is why God sent this Prophet, the One who goes between the holy God and the sinner – who goes between the consuming fire of God’s Law and us. Jesus took the full blast of God’s anger against you and me when He suffered and died in our place on the cross. His goodness is real. Through Holy Spirit faith in Him, your sinfulness is covered with His holy, perfect life…so that the holy Judge declares you not guilty. Listen to Him for He is your God and your Mediator. Listen to the Prophet.
         Now how can God the Son cover us with His perfect life? How can He take our place under God’s wrath to suffer and die? The answer lies in the fact that God the Son became our Brother. Moses makes this clear to the Israelites and to you and me when he says: “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers” (v. 15) Jesus Christ came from the people of Israel. He was born from the Virgin Mary of the house of David from the tribe of Judah. He has a closer relationship with the heavenly Father than any other prophet, including Moses. The God-man came from the Father, full of grace and truth. He is God…the One who is at the Father’s side, who is one with the Father, who has made the Father known to us, (Jn. 1:14,18) and who kept the Law perfectly in our place. Listen to Him for He is our God and our Brother. Listen to the Prophet.

Listen to His Word with the utmost conviction and sincerity. For God makes it clear that this Prophet speaks only what God wants, when He says: “I will put My words in His mouth.” (v. 18) This is why Jesus spoke with so much authority.  His Words are God’s Words. God the Father placed into Jesus’ mouth the exact words He wanted His beloved Son to speak to sinners.       However, many in our world today fail to recognize the authority of Jesus Christ and His Word because it is hidden…hidden in a humble book we know as the Bible and in the humble preaching and teaching of pastors and Christians. God sends out a warning that “anyone [who] does not listen to His Words that the prophet speaks in His name” will be called to account for it by God Himself. (v. 19) What God is talking about here is punishment - eternal punishment and damnation in hell.

         This doesn’t seem to register with millions of people in our world today who talk about Christ in a disrespectful way and ignore or push away the Bible…saying it is just a book full of stories and nothing more. When the rest of the world says, “It’s just a book,” we may very well be tempted to say to ourselves: “Maybe it is just a book.” When the rest of the world makes fun of God’s people who speak the authoritative Word of God, you might be tempted to stop listening to God’s Word and say: “It has no authority over my life either.”

Our world today even goes so far as to replace the Bible and God’s representatives with their own false teachings and teachers. God speaks about this in our text, saying: “But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded him to say, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, must be put to death.” (v. 20) This is such a serious offense in the Old Testament that it calls for capital punishment. Today, not recognizing the authority of Jesus Christ and His Word, our world commits this same offense by replacing it with man-made ideas and words, over and above the Triune God’s Words and Truth. Our culture can disorient you and me with the winds of relative truth and the darkness of unbelief. Many people are unaware that they sleep on the edge of disaster. The light of the Good News in Jesus Christ reveals your position and points the way to safety and to the Truth.

Oh, how fortunate we are to be able to repeat with conviction and gratitude the words of the apostle Philip in John 1:45 where he says, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote – Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Don’t settle for imitations. Don’t try to satisfy your longing for prophecy in all the various ways the world offers. Listen to the Prophet and know that the Prophet, Priest, and King…Jesus Christ, the Son of God…is your Lord and Savior, who loves you very much. He has the authority to be your Mediator, your Brother, and “the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” (Jn. 14:6) Listen to Him. Trust and believe His promises. Amen.

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