“The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you shall heed such a prophet.” (Deuteronomy 18:15)
This, beloved reader, is the beginning of a long misunderstanding and misinterpretation by the Hebrews gathered before Moses. Moses was the man who rescued the Hebrews from their captures. Using strong arm tactics, he forced Pharaoh to release the Hebrew captives and brought down Pharaoh on the banks of the Red Sea. He also exhorted and disciplined them in the wilderness and prepared them to take Canaan, the promised land, for those who lived there. That is the sort of prophet Moses was. But, that was not what Jesus was like.
What the Hebrews did NOT see was Moses as a man connected intimately with Yahweh. He “hid” that nature of himself and the Hebrews were afraid of what it did Moses. They liked having an intermediary between them and Yahweh. It was safe.
“This is what you requested of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said: “If I hear the voice of the LORD my God any more, or ever again see this great fire, I will die.” (Verse 16)
I think Moses liked being that intermediary, although at first he was reluctant. Having a “private” pipeline to the Divine was good; especially when leading a people who frayed his nerves so much. Moses’ temper got the best of him at times, and the fire he felt was the “fire” of the Lord he communicated to the Hebrews gathered at the foot of God’s Holy Mountain. I used the phrase “scared into righteousness” as my title because that is what happened there at the foot of the mountain. So in fear were the gathered people (the ancient called and chosen people) that they would proclaim adherence to the commandments in order to avoid the fiery disciplining that they had come to know.
“Then the LORD replied to me: “They are right in what they have said. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their own people; I will put my words in the mouth of the prophet, who shall speak to them everything that I command. Anyone who does not heed the words that the prophet shall speak in my name, I myself will hold accountable.” (Verses 17 – 19)
Then the Mighty and Fearsome Lord God added the warning of what would happen to anyone who did not heed the words of the prophet. And an image of a Prophet like Moses arose. And so they looked for a Prophet like Moses who would deliver them once again from the dire situation they had been in. And any Prophet who was not like that was suspect.
“But any prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, or who presumes to speak in my name a word that I have not commanded the prophet to speak–that prophet shall die.” (Verse 20)
You see, beloved reader, how the misinformation and misunderstanding that was propagated at this point reverberated down through history. That prophets both major and minor were compared against the image the Moses conjured. Some came close, but no prophet rivaled that image. And when Jesus came . . . . his lack of “fire” was confusing. As I said above, it was not the fired but the intimate and vital connection between Prophet and the Divine that was commended. It was not fear that was to result in righteousness but the recognition of the communion between humanity and Divinity.
As we journey away from Epiphany and edge closer to the story of Jesus’ ministry it would be good to keep in mind what a “new” type of prophet Jesus was. But also more than a just a prophet. The biblical commentators, as I expected, identify Jesus as this prophet that Moses speaks of, and that Yahweh confirms. But we, you & I, know that Jesus was much more. More than Moses envisioned and more than the Divine who lived on the holy mountain hinted at.
May your righteousness, beloved reader, come as a response to who Jesus was revealed to be and will be for all eternity! Shalom & Selah!