As the wearied Israelites neared the mountain, many were awed by its majesty. From the deserts through which they had wandered, the jagged peak of Sinai rose as a stony monument to how far they had come. Only three months into their flight from Egypt, the nation needed respite, and the shade of Sinai provided rest. However, her majesty quickly turned to terror when God spoke to the people in the midst of thunder and lightning, and a cloud of smoke (Exo. 19:16- 19).
The people experienced the trauma of the divine when God spoke. A generation later, Moses promised God would send another prophet like him because the people feared the voice of the Lord (Deut. 18:15-16). To them, the trauma of God’s voice was still fresh. They longed for the new prophet.
Throughout the Old Testament, God sent prophets of every shape and size. Elijah the challenger, Isaiah the messenger, and Jeremiah the lamenter. They proclaimed God’s message to a nation adrift in apathy and idolatry. Their words of repentance fell silently on a sin-addicted people.
Finally, God closed the revelation of the Old Testament with Malachi and Nehemiah, and silence shrouded the land. During those centuries, the Israelites drifted as tradition became law, the Law became optional, and righteousness became scarce. God’s silence continued.
Then John burst on to the scene with a word from the Lord, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 3:2). The Jews questioned him, “Are you the Prophet?” (John 1:21). Was he the fulfillment of Moses’ promise? John answered, “No,” but that Prophet was coming.
When Jesus began His ministry, it seemed to arrive from nowhere. He was a lowly, unassuming carpenter. Nothing about his appearance demanded attention (Isa. 53:2). Yet, Jesus grew in favor (Luke 2:52). What drew men to him? Someone might answer, “His miracles,” but there was something else, something more powerful—his teaching.
Jesus was the Prophet of Moses. Notice the requirements of the Prophet, “I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him” (Deut. 18:18). The Prophet would be selected by God. God chose Jesus (Matt. 3:17). The Prophet would be a Jew. Jesus was a Jew, born of the tribe of Judah (Heb. 7:14).
Finally, the Prophet would receive his teaching from the Father. This last quality is what set Jesus apart from false prophets and messiahs. John called him the “Word” because he brought God’s message of salvation to mankind (John 1:1-3). He spoke what the Father gave him to speak (John 7:16; 8:28; 12:49).
In his enthusiasm to tell Nathanael about Jesus, Philip said, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth” (John 1:45). Peter declared it in the early days of the church. (Acts 3:19- 23). The Samaritan woman perceived Jesus was a Prophet (John 4:19). The sated Galileans believed Jesus was the Prophet (John 6:14). Those at the Feast of the Tabernacles heard Jesus speak and understood him to be the Prophet (John 7:40). At his triumphal entry into Jerusalem the crowd heralding his presence said, “This is the prophet Jesus” (Mat. 21:11).
Jesus brought God’s message to a decadent world, but the blessings of Moses’ promise were conditional, “You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you. And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people” (Acts 3:22-23). Many Jews, though longing for the Prophet, were not prepared to hear God’s word.
God still speaks through his Son, the Prophet. We must listen to Jesus, which means, heed his words. It is not enough to hear a lesson about Jesus or even to understand his words. We must do what he commands, or we too will die without salvation. The last words from heaven echo until now, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him” (Matt. 17:5).