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Hebrews 1:1-4 – OT

01.10.2011

Deuteronomy 18:13-18.

In Deut. 18, Moses relays to the people the Word of God, establishing the prophetic office as the means of communication between God and His people:

You shall be blameless before the Lord your God, for these nations, which you are about to dispossess, listen to fortunetellers and to diviners.  But as for you, the Lord your God has not allowed you to do this.

The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers — it is to him you shall listen — just as you desired of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God or see this great fire any more, lest I die.’ 

And the Lord said to me, ‘They are right in what they have spoken.  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.’

14 | God’s promise of a prophet comes as a counterpoint to the example of the pagans, who turn to occult practices in their quest to make sense of the world and communicate with the divine. 

God is telling the Israelites, ‘Those people are all looking for Me, and they’re doing some freaky and debasing stuff to find Me.  I don’t want you doing that.  You already have Me.  You are My chosen people, and I will speak to you of My own accord.  So steer clear of that pagan garbage.’

16 | After receiving the Ten Commandments (Ex 20), the Israelites were treated to a thunder and light show as a demonstration of God’s power.  They, rightfully, were terrified of said power.  The fact that their fear comes immediately after receiving the Commandments indicates that they were also afraid of God’s holiness, knowing that they were implicated in the sins proscribed. 

As a result, they beg God not to show Himself to them again and to speak to them only through Moses, who was, presumably, more cuddly and less threatening than God.  Here in Deut 18, God acknowledges that their fear was warranted, that their sinful natures could not withstand direct communion with Him (not that Moses was sinless — even he couldn’t look directly in God’s face — but God chose to interact with him in an intermediary role).

18 | God tells Moses that his role as intermediary will live on past the end of his life.  The priestly institution of sacrifice had been established, but here God establishes the communication link between Him and His people.  It’s in this lineage, and on this authority, that men like Samuel and Isaiah and Hosea and Ezekiel rose to be a voice for God to His people.  This is why there was such despair in Israel for centuries after Malachi and Joel prophesied.  Until John the Baptist in the wilderness eating bugs, there were no prophets; God seemed to have reversed this promise, and the identity of Israel as God’s chosen people was increasingly doubtable.

Note that the language in verses 15 and 18 is singular rather than plural.  This promise, like God’s promise to David that his son would build the temple, is a dual time horizon promise.  Prophets would follow Moses as the anointed vehicles of His revelation, but they would in turn only point to the coming Prophet, the One who would truly embody the Word of the Lord (who would actually BE the Word of the Lord).  In this way, the Incarnation is the purest instance of revelation.

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