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Christ the prophet in Deuteronomy 18

July 1995 | by Palmer Robertson

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The word of the witch doctor still rules in much of Africa. Along a dirt road a white flag waves at the top of a tall pole. Come inside this hut and the shaman will curse your enemies or tell you to sacrifice one of your children so you may be assured of good health and a prosperous business. It still happens.

China Achebe, in his destined classic Things fall apart, describes an eerie journey through jungle darkness as a possessed priestess bears an only child on her back for miles and miles to a hit/side cave. The anxious mother follows with a determination to preserve her only child’s life. But she concedes that if death is demanded she will be able to do nothing.

It all seems so strange to the Western world. But is it really so alien to our ‘civilized’ culture? Is there a major newspaper that does not daily invite its readers to determine their destiny by reading a wizard’s analysis of star-patterns? Did not the popular movie Sleepless in Seattle refer more than once to the idea that ‘it’s a sign’ that should determine people’s life partners?

God’s Word says it is all an abomination! In no uncertain terms the Scriptures condemn every effort to determine the future in any way other than by hearing the true Word of God from the true prophet of God. Deuteronomy names nine different abominations representing all the idle inventions of men that would lead them to presume to peer into the future (Deuteronomy 18:9-11).

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In substitution for these abominable practices, the Lord promises his people ‘a prophet’. This special sent one from God will be ‘like Moses’, the fountainhead of all true prophets of the Lord (Deuteronomy 18:15,18). You remember the special role of Moses at Mount Sinai. The people pleaded for someone to stand between them and the awesome appearance of God on the top of the mountain. While everyone else shuddered in fear because the mountain smoked and shook at God’s appearance, Moses boldly met with the Lord and mediated his Word.

Throughout the times of God’s accomplishing redemption for his people, many prophets appeared. Yet Moses stood apart as distinctive. To other prophetic figures, God spoke in the obscurities of a ‘dream’ and a ‘vision’ (Numbers 12:6).

Yet this testimony about prophets in Deuteronomy declares that another figure will come who compares to Moses. If someone truly is to be ‘like Moses’ in the fullest sense, he must be like him in his exalted position in relation to all other prophets.

Eventually one like Moses did appear. As the eternal Son of God, Jesus Christ was like Moses while also excelling him. Moses served faithfully as a servant in God’s house, but this second Moses ruled faithfully as a Son over God’s house (Hebrews 3:5-6).

Both Moses and Jesus mediated God’s Word to the people. But the position of the two in relation to God and his people is radically different. Jesus is Son of God, Moses is tenant to God. Rather than merely transmitting the Word as did Moses, Jesus originates the true Word of God. Christ is Creator of all things while Moses is only one small tenant within this creation (cf. Hebrews 3:4).

Some people get excited about a ‘sign’, a special indicator that they interpret as directing the course of their lives. But could it be that they are mistakenly substituting a ‘sign’ for the Son? What a loss it would be for a person to pass over the clear direction that comes from the teaching of Jesus only to substitute some obscure ‘sign’ that they assume to be from God.

Often well-meaning people long for a ‘dream’ or a ‘vision’ as it was experienced by the prophets of old. Yet God’s Word plainly indicates that the visionary, dreamy experiences of the prophets were inherently inferior to the ‘face to face’ communication between God and Moses (Numbers 12:6-8). If Jesus’ revelatory words now are available to men in the books of the Bible, why should anyone wish to go backward to old visionary forms that characterized the inferior experience of all other prophets?

Be sure to heed every word of the divine Son. Be careful that no other so called prophetic figure stands between you and Jesus Christ.

Lay firm hold on the ‘more sure word of prophecy’ that has been delivered once and for all to the saints (2 Peter l:l9; Jude3). Shun all substitutes that would usurp the revelations of God’s Son. Honour him as the true prophet who brings toe true Word of God.

Dr O. Palmer Robertson teaching at African Bible College in Malawi, is author of The Final Word (Banner of Truth), a book addressing the question of the continuation of prophecy today.