The Old Testament Lesson for this Sunday, the fourth Sunday of the Epiphany, is from the last book of the Torah, Deuteronomy. The text is Deuteronomy 18:15-20 and in it we hear the prophet Moses addressing the people of Israel and giving them the promise that the LORD will raise up a prophet LIKE HIM from the people. At first, this does not seem to bear much comment, but as we read further in Deuteronomy, we see in chapter 34:10-12 words that appear contradictory to the words of our text. Chapter 34 says there has not arisen a prophet like Moses who knew the LORD face to face and spoke to Him mouth to mouth. There are two schools of thought among conservative scholars:

1) A prophet like Moses refers to the line of prophets that lead up to Christ.
2) A prophet like Moses refers to Christ directly.

I would argue both are true and help reconcile the two Deuteronomy passages. Christ is not only the fulfillment of the prophetic line, but He is also the NEW Moses. No other prophet lived up to Moses until the NEW Moses arrived. Thus, we speak of Jesus as being a prophet after the order of Moses.

Our text also reminds us how the people wanted to be near to the LORD God but were terrified of His Holy Presence. There was wisdom is this terror for the unholy cannot be in the presence of the Holy. Man needs a “mediator” between himself and God. Moses was that mediator for the children of Israel. He was the one they sent up the mountain into the Glory Cloud. He was the one who went into the Tent of Meeting in their place. And he was the one who stayed the hand of the LORD when He had intent to strike the whole nation dead and start over with Moses.

One other interesting thing to note in verse 18: “…and I will put my words into his mouth.” A true prophet speaks the words of God, not his own. Therefore, we see in the Call of several of the prophets the LORD doing something to the mouth or placing words in the new prophet’s mouth. This is true of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, etc. It sets apart a prophet and points also to the pastor’s role as prophet/preacher today. We speak the word of the LORD, not our own.

A true prophet speaks the words of God, not his own.

18:15 יָקִים (ya-Kim) root: קום (koom) Qal: “to rise; arise; rise up”

תִּשְׁמָעוּן (tish-ma-Un) root: שׁמע (shaw-mah) Qal: “to hear; listen” Note the ן (Nun) at the end of this verb. This appears to be a paragogic nun which is a “left-over letter” from older forms of the language. An English equivalent would be “toward” verses “towards”—the ending “s” is unnecessary, but it survives.

18:16 שָׁאַלְתָּ (sha-Al-ta) root: שׁאל (shaw-al) Qal: “to desire; ask”

לִשְׁמֹעַ (lish-Mo-a) root: שׁמע (shaw-mah) Qal, infinitive: “to hear; listen”

אֶרְאֶה (er-Eh) root: ראה (raw-aw) Qal: “to see” Cohortative—“Let me (not) see”

אָמוּת (a-Mut) root: מות (mooth) Qal: “to die” With the לֹא (Lo) means “Lest I die”

Note the desire to have the LORD near, but the fear of His presence at the same time.

18:17 הֵיטִיבוּ (hei-Ti-vu) root: טוב (tov) Hiphil: “to be good; be right”

18:18 וְנָתַתִּי (ve-na-tat-Ti) root: נתן (naw-than) Qal: “to give; put; place”

וְדִבֶּר (ve-dib-Ber) root: דבר (daw-bar) Piel: “to speak”

אֲצַוֶּנּוּ (a-tzav-Ven-nu) root: צון (tsaw-vaw) Qal: “to command” With suffix: “I command him”

18:19 אֶדְרֹשׁ (ed-Rosh) root: דרשׁ (daw-rash) Qal: “to require”

18:20 יָזִיד (ya-Zid) root: זִיד (zood) Hiphil: “to behave/act presumptuously; insolently”

לֹא־צִוִּיתִיו (lo tziv-vi-Tiv) root: צון (tzoon) “to command” With suffix: “I have not commanded him…”

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Additional Resources:

Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching Deuteronomy 18:15-20.

Text Week-Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach Deuteronomy 18:15-20.