Sunday, December 18, 2022

Sermon for the Fourth Sunday in Advent - Rorate Coeli - Dt 18:15-19


Advent 4

                                                                                Deut 18:15-19



          Don’t kid yourself.  You would have done it too. The arrival of Yahweh on top of Mt Sinai was a fearsome and awesome experience.  God had rescued Israel from Egypt in the exodus.  He had brought them through the Red Sea, and now they had arrived at Mt Sinai where Yahweh was going to take them into a covenant with himself.

          Three days before the event, God had commanded the people to consecrate themselves and wash their garments.  Then he had Moses tell the people, “Take care not to go up into the mountain or touch the edge of it.  Whoever touches the mountain shall be put to death.”

          Then we are learn that on the third day there were thunder and lightning and a thick cloud on the mountain.  There was a very loud trumpet blast so that people trembled.  Moses brought them to meet God at the foot of the mountain. Mt Sinai was wrapped in smoke because Yahweh descended upon it in fire. The smoke went up like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain trembled greatly.  The sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder as God came down upon Sinai.

          Yahweh said, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”  Then he gave them the Ten Commandments. But when the people saw the thunder and lightning, and the mountain smoking they were afraid and trembled. They stood far off and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.”  Confronted by the fearsome and awesome presence of the holy God, the people wanted no more.  Don’t kid yourself. You would have done it too.

          Confronted by the holy God, Israel was overwhelmed and wanted no more of it.  Instead, they wanted Moses to interact with Yahweh and to speak his word to them.  God didn’t judge this to be unfaithful.  Instead we learn in our text that he said, “They are right in what they have spoken.”

          Moses took on the role of interacting with God.  During the rest of his life, as Israel wandered in the wilderness, he entered into the presence of God and talked with him. When he left, the skin of his face was shining. The glory of the Lord left this residual effect on him, and because the people were afraid to come near him, Moses took up the practice of wearing a veil over his face.

          We usually think of Moses as being the “law giver.”  However, instead, our text refers to him as a prophet.  The end of Deuteronomy says: “And there has not arisen a prophet since in Israe like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, none like him for all the signs and wonders that the Lord sent him to do in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and all his servants and to all his land, and for all the mighty power and all the great deeds of terror that Moses did in the sight of Israel.”

          What Deuteronomy says continued to be true throughout Israel’s history.  There was no other prophet like Moses.  When it came to mighty deeds, the next greatest was Elijah.  Yet when Elijah wanted to see God, he was only permitted to see God’s “back” – he was only granted an indirect perception of God and not the “face to face” encounter of Moses that left his skin shining.  Elijah did great miracles, but nothing he did could compare to the miracle at the Red Sea.

          However, in our text we learn that God promised to raise up a prophet like Moses.  He says, “I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among your brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him.”  God promised to send another prophet who would be mighty in the way that Moses was. This prophet would speak God’s word faithfully, and the people were to listen to him.  If a person did not, he or she would receive God’s judgment.

          During Advent we are preparing to celebrate the fact that God did send forth the promised prophet like Moses. In Acts chapter 3 Peter talks about the ascended Lord Jesus and declares, “Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him whatever he tells you.”  Jesus Christ was the prophet like Moses sent forth by God.

          Obviously, Jesus did mighty deeds. We heard last week that when John sent the question, “Are you the coming One, or should we look for another?”, Jesus responded, “God and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them.”  Moses followed God’s command to part the Red Sea.  Jesus spoke by his own authority as twice he commanded the storms on the Sea of Galilee to be still.

          Jesus performed mighty deeds.  He also spoke God’s word, just as Moses describes in our text.  On the night when he was betrayed, Jesus said to the Father, “For I have given them the words that you gave me.”  Jesus’ ministry was characterized by his powerful teaching – a teaching that revealed the true depths of God’s will.  In the Sermon on the Mount our Lord repeatedly contrasted his declaration of God’s will with that which was commonly believed in his day.  Six times he repeated, “You have that it was said … but I say to you.”

          Jesus is the prophet like Moses sent by God.  In our text, God says, “And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him.”

The question then, is whether we are listening to Jesus. He said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.”  He said, “Do no lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” He said, “But I say to you, that everyone who looks at a women with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” He said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

So how well are you listening?  Unless you are a liar, the answer for each one of us is that we often do not. Jesus is the prophet like Moses sent by God. God says, “And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him.”  And remember, the One who will require it of you is same holy God who descended on Mt. Sinai in fire.  He is the same One who caused the people to say to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.” Left on your own, there is nothing that awaits you except God’s judgment and wrath.

Yet the good news – the Gospel – is that Jesus is the prophet like Moses.  Prophets performed mighty miracles. Prophets spoke God’s word. And prophets also suffered. Prophets were killed. 

Last Sunday and now today we hear about John the Baptist.  John the Baptist stands out because he was the “prophesied prophet.”  Both Isaiah and Malachi spoke about him. We learn that he is the Elijah promised by God – the one who prepares the way for the Lord.  Yet, last Sunday we saw that John the Baptist was in prison because he had spoken God’s word to King Herod Antipas.  In the end, his vengeful wife Herodias engineered the beheading of John the Baptist by using her own daughter.

Jesus Christ came as the prophet like Moses whose mission was to suffer and die for us.  Jesus was a prophet. But he was not like any prophet who ever lived.  During Advent we are preparing to celebrate the fact that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary.  Jesus is the Son of God.  He is true God and true man at the same time.  For this reason, his death had a value and purpose that goes beyond any human being.

In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus prayed, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” Jesus came to speak God’s word.  He also came to fulfill God’s saving will.  He came to drink the cup of God’s wrath against our sin. He came to be judged – to be damned – on the cross in our place. In this way God justly judged sin, and also gave us forgiveness for all of the ways we have not listened to his word.

The Jewish historian Josephus tells us about other “prophets” who showed up during the first century. They usually appeared in the wilderness and promised deliverance.  One promised to part the Jordan River.  Others promised to make the walls of Jerusalem fall, just as God had done to Jericho. Yet the end result was always the same.  The Romans sent troops who killed the “prophet” and his followers.  And that was the end.

But Jesus the prophet was different.  His death was not failure, but instead was the very purpose for which he was in the world. He won forgiveness for us by dying on the cross, and then on the third day God the Father vindicated Jesus by raising him from the dead. His death was the means by which God defeated death. His resurrection was the beginning of our resurrection, for he is the first born from the dead. Because Jesus has risen from the dead, we will too when he returns in glory on the Last Day.

Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, you have forgiveness for every way that you fail to listen to him.  In Holy Baptism, God washed way every sin.  In God’s eyes you are holy because of what Jesus has done for you. He will not require it of you, because he already did of Jesus.

We look to the day of our Lord’s return, and when he does we will not be like the people of Israel saying, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.”  Instead, we will live in the renewed creation – the new heaven and the new earth seen by John in the Book of Revelation.  When he saw them he heard the cry: “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man.  He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

In the present you have forgiveness and the assurance of eternal life.  In future you will have resurrection and life in the presence of God in the new creation.  These are yours through faith – faith in Jesus Christ the prophet like Moses.

This is faith that the Holy Spirit – the Spirit of Christ – has worked in you. And because he has, we return to the words of Jesus. Led and strengthened by the Spirit, as the people of God we seek to live in ways that love our enemies.  More and more we put God first, and wealth in its proper place. We resist sexual temptations. We take up the cross of confessing Christ wherever we are called to do so.  We listen to the word of God delivered by the prophet like Moses, for by the work of the Spirit he enables us more and more to put those words into practice.

Today we hear God promise, “I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among your brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.”  God fulfilled his word in our Lord Jesus Christ.  He is the prophet like Moses whose suffered and died just as the prophets did.  Yet because the incarnate Son of God is more than just a prophet, his death has won for us the forgiveness of sins.  His resurrection has begun the new life that will be ours on the Last Day – a new life that is already ours through the work of the Spirit.  And so we say with the prophet Samuel, “Speak Lord, your servant listens.”









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