Man has a deep desire to
know the unknown, and to seek out the forbidden.
Wouldn't it be great to
know what the stock market will do over the next ten
years? What companies will excel in growth and
profits? Which ones will fail and would be poor
investments? Wouldn't it be helpful to know when and
how you will die and how to plan for it? What will
be the greatest opportunity of your life and how
could you maximize it to your greatest advantage? If
you had a magic genie in a bottle, what would you
ask for today?
How many people, like the
children of Israel, seek to communicate with the
supernatural world through forbidden methods?
Deuteronomy 18:10-12 describes some forbidden
methods of seeking to know the unknown. These were
on the same level with child sacrifices. They were
divination, the practice of witchcraft, those who
interpret omens, sorcerers, or one who casts a
spell, mediums, spiritists and those who call up the
dead (vv. 10-11). Some of the pagan soothsayers read
the entrails of slaughtered animals; others studied
the planets, stars and comets. Some read tealeaves,
studied the handprints of the wealthy and gazed into
Why was it forbidden?
Israel was God's chosen people. "Hear, O Israel! The
LORD is our God, the LORD is one! And you shall love
the LORD your God with all your heart and with all
your soul and with all your might" (Deuteronomy
6:4-5). As His chosen people they would receive
their understanding of spiritual things from the God
who spoke directly to His appointed prophet. The
pagan methodologies led only to self-centered, "do
your own thing" and “follow your own star”
manipulation of the gods. It ended in debased
The LORD God has a better
way for His people. He knows and wants what is best
for them. "The LORD your God will raise up for you a
prophet like me from among you, from your
countrymen, you shall listen to him. . . And the
LORD said . . . I will raise up a prophet from among
their countrymen like you, and I will put My words
in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I
command him" (18:15, 18).
Because God spoke His
word directly to the prophet, to ignore that word
would lead to divine judgment (v. 19). "And it shall
come about that whoever will not listen to My words
which he shall speak in My name, I Myself will
require it of him." Those who hear as well as those
who choose not to hear the words are held
How would the people be
able to distinguish between the true and the false
prophets? Moses gave them, and us, a simple test in
18:20-22. "When a prophet speaks in the name of the
LORD, if the thing does not come about or come true,
that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken. The
prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not
be afraid of him" (v. 22).
The words of the prophet
must be in accord with what God has already
revealed. True prophetic word will not contradict
what God has already spoken. This is why the
Scripture is its own best commentary. The false
prophet would be discovered by the fact that his
message did not follow what God had already revealed
in the past. The second test is true prophecy will
come to pass. The truth of the spoken and written
word would lie in its historical fulfillment. Over
the course of time in a prophet's ministry, the
character of the prophet as a true spokesman of God
would clearly emerge. False prophets would be
discovered by their own unfulfilled predictions (vv.
After the death of Moses,
great changes would take place in Israel. Knowing
the will of God was imperative for God's people to
sustain their fellowship with Him. It was reassuring
that Moses promised that God would send a prophet
(18:15-18). The people would discern between true
and false prophets (vv. 19-22), and have no need of
superficial and false sayings. The people will find
in Israel a sure word from Yahweh. The LORD said He
would send a prophet "like unto Moses." He would
resemble Moses in respect and leadership. He would
act as a mediator between Yahweh and His people. He
would make known the will of the LORD.
The expectation of the
Messiah was not unknown to Moses and Israel in his
time. This ideal prophet would be as perfectly equal
to His calling as Moses was to his. He would carry
out His prophetic office in the manner of Moses.
None of the Hebrew
prophets was equal to Moses. Each of them built upon
the foundation of Moses and the Law.
It has been
satisfactorily proven that the messianic
interpretation of Deuteronomy eighteen was the
prevailing one among older Jews, and it was
predominant during the time before the New
Testament. Even if the modern interpreter sees a
plurality of prophets in the passage, it is still
the ideal Prophet who comes in to view. By the
illumination of the Holy Spirit, Moses knew that at
some future time a real person, in a sense, the only
Prophet would appear. That Prophet is Jesus Christ.
Indeed, all of the Hebrew prophets looked forward to
the coming of the day of Christ. An individual, a
Second Moses would be the representative of all the
prophets par excellence.
What makes Jesus
Christ the prophet like unto Moses?
Like Moses He will teach
God's people how to know God's will. Moses "taught"
the people "statutes and judgments just as the LORD
my God commanded me" (Deuteronomy 4:5). Jesus spoke
"hidden things from old." He was filled with the
Spirit of the LORD with "wisdom and of
understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power,
the Spirit of knowledge" to show His people how to
"walk in His paths" (Psalm 78:2; Isaiah 11:1-2;
2:3). At the very beginning of His ministry Jesus
visited the synagogue in His home town of Nazareth.
The scroll containing Isaiah 61:1-2 was handed to
Him and He read Himself into His prophetic office.
"The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, because He
anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has
sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, and
recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those
who are downtrodden, to proclaim the favorable year
of the LORD" (Luke 4:16-19). Jesus spoke in parables
and the people recognized Him as a man of integrity
who had come from God (John 3:2). Just like Moses,
Jesus gave the law again as He proclaimed the great
manifesto of the Kingdom of God, the Sermon on the
Mount (Matthew 5-7). Peter asked, "Lord, to whom
shall we go? You have words of eternal life. And we
have believed and have come to know that You are the
Holy One of God" (John 6:68-69). Yes, more than a
prophet was among His people teaching them His Word.
Like Moses, Jesus
predicted future events accurately. His predictions
bear a striking similarity to Moses foretelling the
future. Moses spoke of grave consequences to
disobedience (Deuteronomy 28-29) when the people
would turn to "other gods and serve them" because he
knew the intent of their hearts (31:20-21). Jesus
prophesied of grave consequences to the Temple
because of the apostasy of the people. "Do you not
see all these things? Truly I say to you, not one
stone here shall be left upon another, which will
not be torn down" (Matthew 24:2; cf. Luke 19:41-44;
21:24). This prophecy of Jesus was literally
fulfilled in AD 70 when the Romans destroyed the
city of Jerusalem and the Temple. To this very day
the ruins of the Temple are a witness to the
veracity of Jesus as the Prophet of Yahweh. He was
consistent, complete and final in His revelation.
Everything previously announced led up to His coming
and dying for our sins and rising from the dead.
Jesus repeatedly taught in the Temple and
synagogues, "The Son of Man must suffer many things
and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and
scribes, and be killed and be raised up on the third
day" (Luke 9:22).
Moreover, just as Moses
judged the people, Jesus will return as our judge.
Moses was the Lawgiver and judge (Exodus 18). He
stressed to those he delegated with the
responsibility of discerning cases, "You shall not
show partiality in judgment; you shall hear the
small and the great alike. You shall not fear man,
for the judgment is God's" (Deuteronomy 1:17). Jesus
said, "For not even the Father judges any one, but
He has given all judgment to the Son, in order that
all may honor the Son, even as they honor the
Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor
the Father who sent Him" (John 5:22-23; cf. 2
Corinthians 5:10). Yes, the judge may soon appear.
Are we ready to stand before His bar?
Jesus and concluded that He was the Prophet sent
from God. Philip was one of the early witnesses. He
said to Nathanael, "We have found Him of whom Moses
in the Law and also the Prophets wrote" (John 1:45).
Even the despised Samaritans found their
expectations of the Messiah in these words of Moses.
"I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called
Christ); when that One comes, He will declare
[announce fully, through out, from bottom to top]
all things to us" because He is the Prophet (4:25).
After Jesus fed 5,000 people they agreed, "This is
of a truth the Prophet who is to come into the
world" (6:14). The common people were expecting the
Prophet like unto Moses. Jesus told the Jews who
were persecuting Him; "the one who accuses you is
Moses, in whom you have set your hope. For if you
believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote
of Me" (5:45-46). Stephen recognized Jesus as the
Prophet spoken of by Moses (Acts 7:37). The apostle
Peter closed a great sermon by quoting Deuteronomy
18:15, 19. He reminded the people that Jesus is the
Prophet like unto Moses, "and it shall be that every
soul that does not heed that prophet shall be
utterly destroyed from among the people" (Acts
Furthermore, God the
Father spoke from the cloud at the transfiguration
of Jesus and said, "This is My beloved Son, with
whom I am well-pleased; hear Him!" (Matthew 17:5).
Do we dare listen to the many strident voices in our
day? You, oh Lord Jesus alone have the words of
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Title: Deuteronomy 18:15-18 A Prophet Like unto
in the Old Testament