Sunday, August 19, 2012

TorahBytes: A Prophet Like Moses (Shofetim)

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 (Devarim / Deuteronomy18:15; ESV)

Moses has a most honored place in the history of Israel, and by all rights he should! He was chosen by God to lead our people out of oppressive bondage in Egypt. He failed miserably at first when his care and compassion for his people resulted in the murder of an Egyptian and his running away into the wilderness as a result. By the time God called him as his appointed deliverer, any ambition to lead that he may have had was gone to the point of his resisting God. Yet, in the end, God prevailed. It is hard to believe that the same man who said "No" to God at the burning bush, turned out to be the able leader he was. Obviously God knew he could count on Moses.

The Torah calls Moses the most humble man in the world (see Bemidbar / Numbers 12:3). His humility is evident through the way he faithfully delivered God's Word to Egyptians and Israelites alike. Moreover, every time he encountered a difficulty, of which there were many, he turned to God for help.

One cannot overstate Moses' valuable legacy. His five books are foundational to the entire Bible. The Hebrew Bible and the New Covenant writings cannot be properly understood without Moses' words.

While Moses is one of a kind, he himself makes it clear that his is not the only or final word. As we read at the start, God would send others like him to whom the people were to listen. While caution was called for with regard to who was to be regarded as a true prophet, Moses cleared the way for them.

There appears to be two ways to understand this passage. The first is that it is speaking of the many prophets who were to come. These men and women of God would remind the people of God's ways, warning them of the consequences of disobedience and encouraging them to stay faithful to him. At times they would speak of near or distant future events. The Hebrew Bible records the words of many of these.

The second way this passage was understood was that it looked forward to a particular great Prophet to come - who would be the culmination of Israel's prophetic heritage and would have a place similar to Moses in the life of the people.

The New Covenant writings state that the great Prophet to come was the Messiah, Yeshua of Nazareth (see Acts 3:22, 23). Yeshua's fulfillment of this special role is enacted through such things as his Sermon on the Mount (see Matthew 5-7), where he provides definitive interpretations of Moses' words. When Moses and Elijah appeared alongside Yeshua on the mountain, God confirmed this role by echoing the words "Listen to him" taken from our portion (See Matthew 17:1-8).

Lost from most expressions of Judaism today is the prophetic anticipation of Moses. God never intended for Moses to be a religious relic to which our religion does nothing but look back. Rather, through him we are meant to discover the great unfolding of God's plan, living with eager expectation of all he was yet to reveal through the prophets and the Great Prophet, the Messiah.

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