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God and Prophets

Rev. Rob Jones                                                                                                                           January 28, 2024


Deuteronomy 18:15-20 NRSV:

"The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you shall heed such a prophet. This is what you requested of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said: 'If I hear the voice of the Lord my God anymore, or ever again see this great fire, I will die.' Then the Lord replied to me: 'They are right in what they have said. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their own people; I will put my words in the mouth of the prophet, who shall speak to them everything that I command. Anyone who does not heed the words that the prophet shall speak in my name, I myself will hold accountable. But any prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, or who presumes to speak in my name a word that I have not commanded the prophet to speak—that prophet shall die."

 

Mark 1:21-28

They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes. Just then, there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, and he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be quiet and come out of him!” And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He[a] commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” At once, his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.

 

Today’s lesson shows us a contrast between the role of the prophets and the ministry of Jesus. The passage in Deuteronomy 18:15-20 speaks of the role of the prophet and their connection with God. It states that God will choose a prophet from among His people, and this chosen one is meant to be both heard and obeyed. The passage also outlines clear guidelines for telling apart a true prophet from a false one. The relationship between God and prophets in this passage shows that God is actively involved in the communication between Himself and His people. God appoints prophets to be His messengers to deliver His words. These messages don't come from the prophet’s mind or desires; instead, God puts His words directly into the prophet's mouth. The prophet's role is to faithfully convey God's commands and teachings while being responsible for their delivery.

 

Furthermore, the passage establishes a standard for judging the authenticity of a prophet. If someone claims to be a prophet but speaks in the name of other gods or delivers words that God has not commanded, then they are false prophets. They will face the consequences of their deception, including the possibility of death for their disobedience. The relationship between God and prophets is characterized by trust, obedience, and accountability. The prophets are entrusted with the sacred task of conveying God's message to the people, and they must faithfully fulfill that responsibility. God, on the other hand, holds them accountable for their actions and words. This relationship maintains the integrity of the divine message and ensures that only authentic prophets are recognized and followed.

 

Jesus, unlike the prophets of the Old Testament, does not speak on behalf of God; He speaks with the authority of God Himself. In verse 22, Mark describes the reaction of the people to Jesus' teaching, saying, "They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes." Unlike the priests and scribes, who were responsible for interpreting and teaching the Law, Jesus does not rely on human understanding or interpretations. His authority comes directly from God as He is the Son of God. Jesus speaks with divine wisdom and divine knowledge, as He is God incarnate. Therefore, His words carry more weight and authority than those of a prophet who is merely a messenger.

 

In this passage, a notable contrast is presented in the way Jesus demonstrates his authority and exercises power. Beyond simply teaching, Jesus displays his dominion over unclean spirits by commanding a possessed man to be freed, and the unclean spirit obeys immediately. This powerful demonstration signifies Jesus' divine nature and His supremacy over the spiritual realm. Unlike the prophets of the Old Testament, whose authority was often confirmed by miracles or signs, Jesus' authority is rooted in His inherent divine nature. This sets Jesus apart, as His power does not rely on external validation but instead emanates from His identity as the Son of God. This distinction emphasizes Jesus' unique position and the source of his authority.

 

Finally, we see five elements that show Jesus' ultimate mission and purpose and the path set for us as Christians. While the prophets of the Old Testament were appointed to communicate God's word and guide the Israelites, Jesus came with the purpose of fulfilling the Law and bringing about salvation. He is the embodiment of God's message and the fulfillment of all prophecies made by the prophets. First, we must trust and obey God's Word: Just as the Israelites were instructed to heed the words of the prophet, believers today are called to trust and follow the teachings and commandments of God as revealed in the Bible. The relationship between God and prophets emphasizes the importance of faithfully following God's instructions and not being swayed by false teachings because our relationship with Christ is about trust. Second, discerning true and false prophets: The Old Testament passage sets clear guidelines for distinguishing true and false prophets. In today's world, many voices are claiming to speak for God, and believers must discern between genuine messengers of God and those who promote false doctrines or conflicting beliefs. This requires studying and knowing the Scriptures, being led by the Holy Spirit, and seeking guidance from mature and discerning believers. Third, understanding the authority of Jesus: The encounter described in Mark 1:21-28 highlights the unique authority of Jesus as the Son of God. As believers, we should recognize and submit to the authority of Jesus in our lives. His teachings hold divine wisdom, and His power over the spiritual realm is unparalleled. We can trust in His authority when facing challenges, seeking guidance, or dealing with spiritual battles. Jesus is the authority. Fourth is embracing the power of Jesus: Just as Jesus exercised His power to deliver the man possessed by an unclean spirit, believers can rely on the power of Jesus in their lives. Jesus has the authority to free us from any spiritual bondage or oppression. By placing our faith in Him, we, too, can experience the transformative power of His love, grace, and deliverance. Fifth, recognizing the fulfillment of prophecies in Christ: The prophets of the Old Testament foretold the coming of a Messiah who would bring salvation and fulfill God's promises. Jesus is the fulfillment of these prophecies, and His life, death, and resurrection have provided the means for our redemption and eternal life. Believers today are called to place their faith in Jesus as the ultimate and perfect fulfillment of all that was spoken by the prophets.

 

As Christian leaders in contemporary society, it's essential to analyze the implications of our beliefs on our daily lives, especially those of us in church leadership roles such as Pastors or Ruling Elders. We must fully embrace the authority of the Bible, discern and reject any erroneous teachings, submit humbly to Jesus' authority, accept His transformative power, and recognize the fulfillment of prophecies in Christ. These principles were pertinent in the Old Testament and continue to be vital for all Christian leaders today. This foundation establishes a profound and authentic relationship with God, guiding navigating the complexities of the world. Implementing these insights allows us to strengthen our faith, adhere to God's will, and positively influence the world through the transformative love of Christ. We are called to serve our church, community, and all individuals who join us in worship. Just as God held the prophets to a high standard, every Christian is held to the same level of accountability. Therefore, it's imperative to contemplate, study, and pray with discernment and care about these principles.

 

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

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