Deuteronomy 18:15-19: Jesus, the Greater Moses

jesus-is-greater-thanThe Ten Commandments always hammer home the same truth.  God gave His “Words,” which is what the Hebrew of the Old Testament calls them, at Mt. Sinai, described in Exodus 20.  God carved His words on a stone tablet for His people, Israel.  The event filled God’s people with fear: Thunder boomed, lightning cracked, and smoke encircled the mountain.

The Ten Words start out well for us.  They tell us who God is and what He does.  He rescues His people and frees them from their bondage.  God’s expectations for how His people live come next, standards none of us can keep.  They expose us as sinners before an all-holy God.  No wonder the events in Exodus 20 threatened and terrified.

God’s standards of right and wrong reflect His perfection.  Nothing is wrong with His expectations.  God gives His words, clarifying who He is and who we are next to Him.

We can view His commands without sizing them up, whittling them down to our size, to make them into something we can follow.  For if their demands aren’t so demanding, we can fool ourselves into thinking that we can do what they expect and pat ourselves on the back.

Like people in Jesus’ time, we imagine we aren’t guilty of killing if the other person’s heart still beats and pumps blood.  Jesus points out otherwise.  For when anger burns in your heart against someone, you break the commandment against killing.

We assume we aren’t committing adultery if a part of our anatomy doesn’t join with another.  Jesus scuttles such thinking from our fallen notions: A lustful stare also breaks God’s commandment against adultery.

Consider when someone confronted Jesus about doing something to deserve heaven.  How did Jesus react?  He always told the person to do something he couldn’t do.  Sell everything you own.  Give all your money to those in need (Matthew 19:21, Luke 18:22).  “Oh, I can’t… impossible!”

Why does Jesus make such outlandish demands?  Here’s why.  Someone thinking he can earn God’s graces by what He does is even more bizarre!  Jesus, however, makes no such constraints for the broken sinner.  Broken sinners don’t try to climb their way to heaven.  They realize they need someone to save them.  Being broken cracks your hardened heart to realize this reality.

So, what do you want from God’s Law?  His standards break into our lives.  With God and His Law, you can’t fake your way through life.  God catches all and misses nothing.  What you did and failed to do does not flee from His all-seeing eye, whether yesterday, the day before, or ages past.  He is aware of what you will do tomorrow.

We strive to weaken God’s standards.  We try to turn them into what we want them to be.  Now, His judgment is softer, less harsh.  So, what do you want God’s Law to do for you?  Do you wish to satisfy Him by what you do?  If so, His Law will continue to come to you to command and demand, leaving you dying in the dust.

Fear, love, and trust in God more than anything else—but we don’t and can’t!  The people of Israel faced the stark, terrifying reality of God’s Commandments, complete with thunder, lightning, and smoke at Mt. Sinai.  They pleaded with Moses: “You talk to us and we’ll listen, but don’t let God’s voice come to us anymore, or we’ll die!”

So, what happens if God changes the messenger?  Nothing.  For no matter how the Ten Commandments come to us, they still hammer home the same truth.  Moses now speaks God’s Law instead of God.  So what.  The same Law comes with the same commands and demands.  The Law is the Law no matter the messenger.

So, God in His grace responds since we cannot live in His holy presence if still tainted with sin.  He sends a prophet, someone like Moses.  Deuteronomy 18 gives us a piece of the puzzle not found in Exodus 20.  The people thought life would go better if Moses talked to them instead of God.

So, God in mercy and grace responds: “I will send a prophet,” he tells Moses, “an Israelite like you.  I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him” (Deuteronomy 18:18).  This Prophet, who will be like Moses, will be an Israelite.  This prophet will take their side because He will be one of them.

So, if this prophet is not Moses but like him, who is He?  God’s promised Prophet is the one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5).  The Apostle Peter cited this Old-Testament passage, referring to Jesus.  Christ, Peter proclaimed, is the Prophet like Moses (Acts 3:22-23).

This coming Prophet will be like Moses: He will be a prophet.  He will also be greater than Moses.  Think of this: The Lord met with Moses here in this world (Deuteronomy 34:11).  How much better is God the Father connected to His Son, Jesus Christ, who is not only a man but is also God from all eternity (John 1:1, 14)?

Moses served in God’s house.  Jesus is faithful over the house as God’s one-and-only Son (Hebrews 3:5-6).  Moses only reflected the Lord’s glory, and only for a short time.  Jesus reveals and is God’s glory, both now and into eternity (2 Corinthians 3:12-18).  Jesus also did what Moses did not do—die for a world of sinners.

Jesus can bring a different message than the people got at Mt. Sinai.  He can bring words of God, not ringing with the Law, but with life.  So, which words do you want Jesus to bring you?

Does God’s Law break you down?  Are you left despondent, unable to do what you cannot do?  Does hope in yourself dwindle and you, instead, gaze on the Savior for salvation?  Jesus now comes with another word: All is now complete (John 19:30).

The marvelous words from Moses point us, not to the Law, but to the coming Savior.  He will fulfill the Law for us.  Jesus did what Moses did not.  So, do you want Moses or the greater Moses, Jesus?

The book of Hebrews tells how being in Christ changes everything.  We don’t “come to a mountain we can touch—a blazing fire, darkness, gloom, and storm, to a trumpet blast, or to a voice, which made the hearers beg for no more” (Hebrews 12:18-19).

So, if God’s Law is not cutting us down, what instead is taking place?  You come “to Jesus, the mediator of the New Covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks a better word than the blood of Abel” (Hebrews 12:24).  This better word is life and forgiveness, not death.  Jesus gives you as much in His New Covenant, His Supper.

Do you want a prophet like Moses and, if so, how much like him?  A prophet no better than Moses would give us God’s Law, once more.  Let’s run with this: He delivers God’s commands with a smile, with a gentle tone of voice.  So what!  The Law still comes to crush you, still demanding what you cannot do.   Moses demands perfection.

Do you, instead, want the Prophet like Moses, prophesied in Deuteronomy 18?  He is like Moses—but also is far greater than Moses.  He comes to be born, bringing a different message.

This Prophet goes beyond preaching God’s Law; He fulfills what God demands.  He meets God’s expectations of perfection for you and me.  Since we are powerless to be His perfect people, Jesus remains faithful to God for us, in our place.  He does what we cannot do, being faithful, going to His death.  This Prophet and more than a prophet, Jesus Christ, faced God’s Law for us, all so we can live.

What do you want God’s Law to do?  Do you still want to please God by what you do?  Keep doing, striving, and trying until you can do no more.  Oh, Jesus will still give you more to do.  He will be Moses the Lawgiver when He needs to.  Once the Law leaves you beaten and broken, you are ready for the real Jesus and why He became incarnate.  He will speak these words instead: “I forgive you of your sins.”

You don’t need forgiveness if you can please God by the Law.  But you do need forgiveness if you can’t please God!  So, when you are broken and beaten, cry out to the one who became broken for you, who went forward to give you His life and salvation.  He does all, for you!

So, what do you want the Law to do, to show you your sin, so your need for a Savior comes into focus?  Ah, now your eyes realize what is real.  Now, your eyes take in who Jesus came to be, who makes you righteous and holy to God.

Well, if Jesus fulfills the Law for us, what is left for you to do?  You tell me.  Now, you don’t do such deeds to please God.  Jesus does.  Our sinful nature will respond, “Why do anything?”  You do what you do because you are now free to do so.  In Christ, you can’t mess up.  In Him, you “live, move, and exist” (Acts 17:28).

Now, life with God gets better, for what you do in faith does please God!  You now live the Law in freedom.  God smiles on you because of Jesus.  You are free to try, free to make mistakes.  God covers you by the blood of Christ.  So, love God and love neighbor.  For in Christ, you cannot lose, but only win!

In Jesus, all is yours into eternity.  Only someone greater than Moses can do everything for you.  And He does, and His name is Jesus.  Amen.