Saturday, December 14, 2013

Christ as Prophet

Moses and the Ten Commandments
"Christ, as our Redeemer, executeth the offices of a prophet, of a priest, and of a king . . . "
                                Westminster Shorter Catechism


    So far we have considered who Christ is, but what did He come to do? What was the purpose of His coming? The catechism sums up the biblical teaching on the subject by stating that Jesus came to fulfill three offices. He is a prophet, a priest, and a king. We will consider the first of these today.
    First of all, what exactly is a prophet? The phenomenon had existed long in Israel's history. From time to time God would speak through a human being especially chosen for this function. While God had spoken directly to Noah and the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the first great prophet, in the sense of someone communicating God's message to others, was Moses. Exodus chapters 3 and 4 describe how God met Moses at the burning bush and commissioned him to be the leader of Israel. Moses, however, demurred, objecting that he was not an eloquent person and hence not up to the job. God then explained to Moses how the process would work: "Now therefore, go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall say" (Ex. 4:12; NKJV). But Moses still demurred, and so God tells him to have his brother Aaron act as his spokesman. "And he himself shall be as a mouth for you, and you shall be to him as God" (v. 16). In other words, a prophet is someone who acts as a spokesperson for God, with God telling him what he should say. Or to put it another way, a prophet is someone who can communicate a genuine revelation from God Himself.
    Some theologians and philosophers have questioned whether God, who is transcendent, incomprehensible, and inscrutable, "wholly Other," as one of them has said, can communicate His thoughts and ideas in human language. But God Himself answered that objection when He asked Moses, "Who had made man's mouth? Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing, or the blind? Have not I, the Lord?" (v. 11). Human language is something that God created – thus He can make it express what He wants it to. And while we can never fully understand what God is in His infinite being, we can understand what He wants us to know and do.
    Other prophets came and went after Moses. But as God had told Moses, "I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him" (Dt. 18:18). That Prophet was Christ, God's own Son, whom He sent into the world. As Jesus Himself put it, "For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak . . . Whatever I speak, just as the Father has told Me, so I speak" (John 12:49,50).
    What made Christ preeminent as a prophet was the fact that He was not just a human being to whom God spoke; He is God's own Son, who had lived with God the Father in heaven from all eternity. Because of that intimate connection He is in the position of knowing the mind and will of God the Father better than anyone else. That is why His words carry such weight and authority.
    Jesus once told a parable to explain His position as a prophet. The owner of a vineyard sent one of his servants out to the vineyard to tell the workers there to begin the harvest. The workers, however, beat up the servant and sent him away. The owner sent another servant, and another, and several more besides, and they were all mistreated and abused in one way or another by the workers. Finally the owner decided to sent his own son out to the vineyard, reasoning that the workers would at least respect his own son. But the vineyard workers killed him. The conclusion of the story? "Therefore what will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the vinedressers, and give the vineyard to others" (Mark 12:9).
    The servants obviously represent the various prophets that God sent down through Israel's history, and the son was obviously God's own Son, Jesus Christ. Those who chose to ignore what the Son says will be dealt with severely. We will do well to take heed to what He said!
    The teachings of that greatest of all prophets are recorded for us in the four gospels of the New Testament. They expound on the Law of God and point to Christ Himself as the way, the truth and the life. In modern times religion has fallen out of favor, and we preoccupy ourselves with the pursuit of material gain. But life will not last forever, and eventually we will all face eternity. We cannot afford to ignore God's own Son!

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