Monday, January 30, 2012

Sermon on Deuteronomy 18:15-20, for the 4th Sunday after Epiphany, "The Prophet"

Sermon Outline: 
1.      Moses foretells a great prophet: like him; an Israelite; God would raise Him up; God’s Words directly in His mouth; speak all of God’s commands. Recounts the episode from Mt. Horeb and Israel’s response. Booming of the law and terror of God’s majesty too fearful and great. “Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God or see this great fire any more, lest I die.” They wanted Moses to hear from God and speak to them, instead of directly. “Unmediated encounter” with God was too terrifying. God said: “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” Before God all masks, pretensions, pride, excuses, self-justifications fall away. Sin is exposed, and like gasoline before a fire, is consumed. Before God our sin is combustible material. Not safe. Cf. Isaiah 6 “A man of unclean lips!”. Lord says it is right that they seek a mediator instead.
2.      People sometime object against Christianity; they don’t need a “middle-man” or mediator between them and God.  As a pastor, I’m not that mediator or “middle-man” between you and God—that job is already filled by Jesus Christ! He is the One and only mediator between God and man; not an unwelcome “middle-man” who’s there to interfere or mix up the message--but God’s direct voice. Can repair our broken relationship with God. Seeking an unmediated encounter (apart from Jesus) between us and God, is asking for trouble!! Apart from the forgiveness of our sins in Jesus Christ, and the holiness of sanctification by His Spirit, none of us can see God (Heb. 12:14). And to see God without Jesus’ covering or atonement for our sin would be death for us. So instead we should be infinitely thankful for Jesus’ mediation, His intercession between God and us. Like the defense attorney who stands in our favor, He is for us.
3.      Avoid an easy misunderstanding to land in—that Jesus is the “nice one” and the Father is the “angry one” whom Jesus has to “soften up” or appease. Father, Son, (and Spirit) are not divided in purpose toward us, either in their wrath against sin, or in their mercy and love towards sinners.
4.      What was the purpose of Moses’ ministry, if due to be replaced by the greater ministry of Jesus, the prophet he foretold? “The law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” Law indeed is given to terrify, awaken sinful consciences, disturb the hypocritical and proud hearts, to throw us entirely and utterly on God’s grace and mercy. Melt away any human pretensions before Him. To think we can build a relationship with God on those is utterly false and deadly. Only on the mediation and the gracious intercession of Jesus Christ are we given a right relationship with God. Moses’ ministry was preparatory for the grace and truth that comes through the greater ministry of Jesus Christ. The heart made humble by God’s law can rightly receive the greater comfort and love of the Gospel of Christ. Can hear unimpeded the words of God from the mouth of Jesus, His prophet, to hear and obey. Find life and courage instead of fear and death. Approach God through the “throne of grace with confidence” through the shed blood of Jesus.
5.      Danger of ignoring the voice of conscience, informed by God’s Word. Resisting the work of the Spirit to convict through the law. Find ourselves without mediation. But the only answer to the voice of an accusing conscience is to turn to the Gospel of Christ, and embrace God’s forgiveness. God kills our sin to make us alive again in Christ. Burdens, guilt, shame, a nagging conscience can only be lifted through the sweet voice of the Gospel of Jesus.
6.      Jesus, the prophet greater than Moses, came with God’s Word of power and authority, with miracles, with the commandments of God, and with “gracious words His lips express” the good message of God’s kingdom. Moses warned to heed (pay close attention to) this prophet, for God Himself would hold them accountable to Him.  Therefore we should listen carefully to Jesus’ Words as the very Word of God Himself.
7.      Final warning against false prophets. For Israel, a theocracy, unique requirement that false prophets deserved death. So seriously did God guard the purity and truth of His word and teaching in His name. The danger of false teaching is so deadly—not simply an earthly matter, but a spiritual matter of our eternity. To go astray after other gods is condemnation. To follow error that is taught in God’s name is not only a grave insult to God’s name, it also can be destructive of faith. For NT, same discernment between true and false expected—test against the Word. But simply correct, rebuke, and avoid such false teaching. Have nothing to do with it. No greater prophet than Jesus will arise—no new or different revelation than what’s given in Him. Thanks be to God that He is our One mediator and we need never fear that His mediation would ever cease or be replaced. His is the assured word of God, testified to by His death and resurrection from the dead, showing Him to be the fulfillment of everything Moses pointed forward to, and the One whom God sent to be our mediator to bring us life and salvation as we encounter God by faith in Jesus Christ. In His name, Amen.

Sermon Talking Points
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1.      The Israelites had been terrified at their direct encounter with God at Mount Horeb (Sinai), and wanted no more. Read about their experience  and reaction: Exodus 19:1-20:21; Deuteronomy 5. What was their request instead? Ex. 20:19; Deut. 5:24-27; 18:16

2.      Does it surprise you that God commended their request? Why was there a need for a mediator between God and man? John 1:18; Exodus 33:17-23, esp. vs. 20. 1 Tim. 6:16; Heb. 12:14; 12:18-24. Why would it be dangerous for us to seek an “unmediated encounter” with God? Who is the One and Only Mediator that God has now appointed between Himself and mankind? 1 Timothy 2:4; Heb. 12:24; 8:6; 9:15

3.      What was the purpose of Moses’ ministry as mediator to the Israelites, and what did his prophetic message do/accomplish? How does the work of the Law continue in our lives (and consciences)? Heb. 3:1-6; 2 Cor. 3:7-18; Rom. 7:7-14; Gal. 3:19-29

4.      If Moses’ ministry (of the Law) brought knowledge of sin and death, what was Jesus’ prophetic ministry to bring? John 1:17; Heb. 12:22-24; Gal. 3:25-26; 2 Cor. 3:17-18

5.      How does the Gospel of Jesus Christ give answer to the deepest accusation of the Law against us? Why is the Spirit’s work of breaking our sinfulness (turning us to Him) the necessary precursor to faith in Christ and receiving that blessed forgiveness? What happens when we oppose or resist the power of God’s Word working in us?

6.      What is the OT warning against false prophets? Deut. 18:20-22; 13:1-5; Jer. 23:9-40. What is the NT warning? 1 John 4:1ff; Matt. 24:11, 23-27; 7:15-16; 2 Tim. 3:5-9; 1 Tim. 6; Acts. 17:11.

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