4th Epiphany Sunday
January 28, 2018
Good Shepherd Evangelical Lutheran Church
Sioux Falls, SD
Rev. Norman F. Seeger
“The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him. This is what you requested from the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said, ‘Let us not continue to hear the voice of the Lord our God or see this great fire any longer, so that we will not die!’ Then the Lord said to me, ‘They have spoken well. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him. I will hold accountable whoever does not listen to my words that he speaks in my name. But the prophet who presumes to speak a message in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods — that prophet must die.’
“Listen to the Lord’s Prophet!”
1) Jesus, Showing Us Our Sin, Sacrifices Himself to Save Us
2) Jesus, Ascending, Sends Pastors/Teachers to Still Give Us God’s Law/Gospel
Dear faithful followers of Jesus the Christ,
The Lord frees two million Israelites from slavery in Egypt – a preview of God freeing us from slavery to sin & Satan. Sending Moses to miraculously lead his people through the Red Sea, God brings these saved souls to Mt. Sinai (to Horeb). From thunder rumbling & lightning flashing on the mountaintop, the Lord audibly speaks his ten commandments. People are terrified. Souls hear God’s detailed demands for us to absolutely love God with all our heart, soul, mind & strength; to also love all other people the way we love our self. Guilty souls fearfully tremble, see our sin; recognize our imperfect attitudes & actions. Who can possibly stand in the presence of a holy Lord God? No one! Not one soul is acceptable. Israel cries, “Let us not hear the voice of the LORD our God nor see this great fire anymore, or we will die.” Israelites ask Moses to ascend Mt. Sinai as their intermediary. People promise, “Speak to us yourself & we will listen.”[EX 20]
Moses climbs Sinai where God inscribes his Ten Commandments on two stone tablets while God also gives Moses civil laws to govern Israel & specific instructions to guide Israel’s worship. Coming down the mountain, Moses relays God’s plans; voices God’s promise, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him.’ Notice, God offers no option; does not let people pick & choose what we want to hear when he gives us his Word. God issues an imperative: Listen! ‘You must listen’ allows only one response. Today, God still orders: Listen! Listen to the Lord’s prophet!
At Sinai; for the next forty years, responding favorably to their prayer that he speak through Moses, God promises people a larger; even more effective response in the future. After first speaking through Moses; also speaking through prophets like Isaiah, the Lord will later speak to his people through Jesus — that promised prophet who will not only show us our sin but will sacrifice himself to save us from sin. Without climbing Sinai to talk face-to-face, Jesus learns God’s will in the heights of heaven. God the Son, from eternity – with Father & Holy Spirit – Jesus formulates God’s gracious plans for his people. Jesus also implements our Lord’s saving plan. Humbling himself, coming into our world, Jesus becomes human like us, one of our ‘brothers.’ As God at Sinai tells Moses what to tell his people when he goes down the mountain, so God will send his Son Jesus as his prophet, promising, ‘I will put my words in his mouth; he will tell you everything I command.’
Prophesying — preaching as God’s spokesman — Jesus repeatedly emphasizes, ‘My teaching is not my own. It comes from him who sent me”…”I do not speak of my own accord, the Father who sent me commands me what to say & how to say it”…”These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.”[JN 7/12/14] When Jesus talks, God is speaking. When Jesus talks, we must listen – listen to the Lord’s prophet. In a grander manner than Moses or any other old testament prophet or new testament teacher, for that matter, Jesus is God’s spokesman. As Jesus teaches in the synagogue at Capernaum, people marvel ‘because he teaches as one who has authority.’[MK 1] While teachers of the law simply explain God’s demands & expectations, Jesus not only speaks for God, Jesus speaks as God. The difference is evident. Jesus’ words show his listeners he is the Christ, the promised Prophet.
In Capernaum, authority people hear with their ears, they also see with their eyes when ‘a man with an unclean spirit’ identifies & defies ‘Jesus of Nazareth – the Holy One of God.’ Rebuking this evil spirit, Jesus orders, ‘Be silent! Come out of him!’ ‘Throwing the man into convulsions, shouting with a loud voice, the evil spirit comes out of him.’[MK 1] Understand, even the devil must obey Jesus’ orders. Evil spirits, impertinent angels who quickly rebel against God’s authority, are overpowered; thrown out of heaven into hell — devilish demons attempting to destroy our Lord’s creation by persuading souls to sinfully step away from God’s side – are all forced to follow Jesus’ commands because Jesus possesses the power of God. Later, when Jesus will take ‘two small fish & five small barley loaves’ ‘give thanks’ & miraculously distributes enough food for five thousand men to eat ‘as much as they want.’ ‘People seeing this miraculous sign Jesus does, begin to say, ‘Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.’’[JN 6]
Again & again, Jesus’ miracles, with Jesus’ preaching, identify him as God’s promised prophet, God’s spokesman. There can be no question. When Jesus talks, God is speaking. The only question is, ‘Will people listen? Will we listen to God? There can be no doubt our Creator & Redeemer knows what he is talking about as he speaks about heaven, earth, hell — as he discusses our life, eternal life, eternal death – when he talks about our sin & his salvation? Is there any doubt about our response? Is there any suspicion we would not listen, really listen to God when Jesus speaks in Scripture? Please realize, our obvious answer, ‘Yes, I will listen to Jesus; I will listen to God,’ assumes we also answer ‘Yes’ to a companion question: ‘Am I willing to adopt different attitudes, am I willing to alter my actions as Jesus teaches us God’s truths?’ Repenting of my sins, am I renouncing my sin?
What does it mean to listen? If I listen to a basketball coach telling us to play a zone defense, I will no longer try to guard one player all over the court. If I listen to a golf pro, I will change my grip, alter my swing plane; slow down or speed up my tempo. If I listen to my parents or listen to my teachers, I will change whatever I was doing wrong to begin following their instructions. Following God’s order, ‘You must listen to the prophet I will raise up among you – you must listen to Jesus,’ I will repent of every sin Jesus identifies as he condemns anger, lust, greed – as he condemns misusing his name to curse, swear, lie or deceive – as he condemns every excuse to not worship God together, every attempt to place my personal preference above God’s revealed will for my life. Listening to our God-given Prophet Jesus, I will repent & renounce my sins of omission or commission & I will be guided by the Holy Spirit to re-shape my words & works to display Christ’s love in my life.
Is there any option other than listening to Jesus? No, no real question remains for Christians listening or not listening. As Moses prophesies Jesus’ appearance, he writes clearly, ‘You must listen to him.’ As Jesus actually appears, as Jesus is most clearly revealed on a mountain where he is transfigured before Peter, James; John, God our Father in Heaven commands, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!’[MT 17] Knowing no acceptable option, I pray we apply God’s instructions in our life. I pray we listen & be led to repent when Jesus, God’s spokesman, thunders the law; identifies our sin. I pray we really listen & be led to rejoice in our Savor’s forgiveness when Jesus reveals God’s unchanging will to give us eternal life in Christ who offers himself as our sinless Substitute – who dies the only death God could possibly accept as full payment for our sins.
Is there any option other than listening to Jesus? Speaking through Moses, God warns, ‘I will hold accountable whoever does not listen to my words that the Prophet speaks in my name.’ Is God serious? Do Israelites really have to listen to Moses? Recall the Lord’s people first standing at the border of Canaan, a land God promised he will give them. Rather than listen to the Lord’s promise, Israelites listen to ten of twelve spies reporting their opinion that “giants” & walled cities in Canaan cannot be conquered. As Moses invites everyone to follow him into their God-given land, people step back, weep; wish they had died in Egypt or in the desert instead of coming to Canaan to be killed. When his people refuse to listen, refuse to follow his leadership into their promised land, God tells Moses to turn Israel around, to wander the wilderness forty years, until everyone over the age of twenty dies. Not desiring death in the desert, Korah, Dathan & Abiram again disagree with Moses’ direction, try to replace Moses as the Lord’s chosen leader; try to personally lead Israel into the Canaan they just rejected. Will these people be able to apply their own plans? Will they be able to successfully reject God’s spokesman; revise God’s Word? No, our Lord suddenly opens the earth; swallows Korah’s followers who refuse to listen to his spokesman Moses. God is serious about his Word. God certainly intends for us saints to apply his will in our lives.
Focusing on prophets (people who speak for God, people in whose mouth God places his truth), we are still instructed, ‘You must listen to him.’ Listen to whom? Listen to Jesus? Absolutely! Listen also to faithful pastors & teachers our crucified, risen, ascended Lord Jesus today sends to speak God’s truth – truth God records; truth God allow & instructs us to personally read in his inspired Scriptures. Sending Pastor Seeger & Pastor Werre to speak our Lord’s law & gospel the last ten years; the last thirty-four years, God has regularly called us to repent of our sins; God has repeatedly announced Jesus’ forgiveness for our sins. Looking into the future – knowing Pastor Seeger’s plans to retire at the end of August; realizing Pastor Werre could possibly accept his call to Niles, Illinois – we might worry God will no longer be talking to us. Please, do not panic. As Good Shepherd, in about a month, begins to call another pastor or pastors to serve our congregation, I am confident our Lord will send faithful pastors – as the Lord has sent principals & teachers over the years – to keep preaching his law gospel from this pulpit. The name, face, personality of our Lord’s spokesmen might change, but the message will be the same. As our Lord clearly declares, godly prophets, pastors; teachers can only speak the message God gives us in his Word. Hearing his spokesman preaching God’s truth in the months & years to come, we will still be instructed, ‘Listen to him!’
Listening to a faithful pastor, we will be listening to Jesus. Listening to Jesus, the prophet like Moses — only greater than Moses — we faithfully follow our Savior; our Lord Jesus Christ. Listening to Jesus invite/instruct us, ‘Follow me,’[MK 1] we will forever faithfully follow the one Savior who frees us from sin & Satan – the one who paves our path to heaven, a path of repentance, forgiveness; renewal – the one Savior who offers no options, leaves no real room for negotiation, the one whose apostle Peter assures us, ‘Salvation is found in no one other than Jesus Christ of Nazareth, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.’[ACTS 4] Whenever the Lord’s law shows us our sin; whenever God’s gospel truth reveals our Savior… ‘Listen! Listen to Jesus!’