‘The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him’. (Deuteronomy 18:15 NIV)
This seems to be a strange verse to reflect upon in the lead up to Christmas.
We normally think about angels, shepherds and mangers, not a verse tucked away in the Torah.
But is it as strange as it might seem on first appearance? When coming to write his account of the story of Jesus I think Matthew saw the significance.
When dealing with the events surrounding the birth of Christ he identified the clash with the king of the day and highlighted that there will come a
‘ruler who will shepherd my people Israel’ (Matthew 2:1-12).In Exodus we are introduced to a clash with the Pharaoh of Egypt out of which came Moses, to shepherd and lead God’s people, Israel.
To draw further links with that ancient story Matthew recounts that the baby Jesus was taken to Egypt for divine protection
(V.13-15) just as Moses before him
(Exodus 2:1-10), that Herod kills all the boys in Bethlehem
(V.16-18) as had Pharaoh
(Exodus 1:22), and that through divine guidance Jesus was brought back to the land of Israel
(V.19-21) just as through divine guidance Moses was to lead the Children of Israel to the Promised Land.
What was Matthew doing by drawing attention to these events when re-telling the birth of Jesus?
He was showing that the one Moses was pointing to, and the one that must be listened to had arrived.
The Messiah was here and Moses must now fade into the background.
That’s the lesson Matthew would bring out later in his gospel in the account of the transfiguration. Moses and Elijah disappeared leaving only Jesus, when a voice echoed the prophecy from Deuteronomy,
“This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” (Matthew 17:1-8).
Interestingly, when Luke writes of the transfiguration he wrote about Jesus speaking of his departure [lit. exodus]
Is this reading too much into these gospel accounts?
The apostles Peter and John didn’t seem to think so.
In Acts 3:18-23 it’s recorded:
“But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Messiah would suffer. Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus. Heaven must receive him until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets. For Moses said, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you must listen to everything he tells you. Anyone who does not listen to him will be completely cut off from their people.’”
As we come to contemplate the birth of Jesus again this year let’s recognise that this little baby is the one prophesised, the one who is like (and greater than) Moses , and is the one who is to be listened to.
Father, as we contemplate afresh the coming of your Son into this world, please give us ears to hear as we listen to what he has to say.
Have a good week listening to Jesus.