“‘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–just as you desired of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, “Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God or see this great fire any more, lest I die.” And the LORD said to me, “They are right in what they have spoken. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him.”‘”
– Deuteronomy 18:15-19
Types give an idea; antitypes give substance. Shadows give us generalities; realities give us details. The author of Hebrews tells us of an Old Testament shadow and type that finds its reality and antitype in Emmanuel. He writes, “Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession, who was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses also was faithful in all God’s house. For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses–as much more glory as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself,” (3:1-3).
Moses was one of, if not the, superstar of the Old Testament. The covenant-keeping God, YHWH, used the murderer-turned-shepherd to lead and deliver the Israelite nation from bondage. And yet, at the end of his life, Moses tells the people that God will raise up for them one like himself to carry out and finalize the mission started in Egypt. Christmas is about the final Prophet, the one of whom Moses was but the type and shadow. What of this prophecy, then? What did it mean for the future Prophet, the One who was to come?
The LORD your God will raise up. Moses begins by reminding the people that salvation is from the Lord and the Lord alone. He uses God’s covenant-keeping name, YHWH (LORD), and in doing so he reminds the people of God’s faithfulness. Moses tells them, “It is God who has brought you from slavery, and He will deliver you eternally.” The One who does the raising up in this passage is not a man. Salvation comes not from the whims of mankind, attempting to deliver itself from sin and destruction. Surely man attempts this: we do it everyday. We look for ultimate joy and ultimate deliverance in anything and everything but God. We run to our security, our nice cars and houses, for stability and purpose. We spend our time winning the approval of others for a measure of salvation and hope. While wandering in the wilderness, the Israelites attempted insurrection multiple times, hoping to go back into bondage and slavery simply to gain a measure of unsatisfying security. They were secure in the wilderness, but they wanted something more: self-rule and self salvation. Salvation can never be by human works or by human ingenuity. We are a people to be saved, not a people who can save themselves, for the very One who can save us is the very One we reject. Salvation must come from above. It must come from the covenant-keeping God who promises in Genesis 3 to triumph over evil for His people and for the glory of His name.
A prophet like me. . . Moses delivered. Moses walked with the people. Moses represented them. Moses interceded for them. Moses was the buffer. Moses was an Israelite. The final Prophet will also be from among the people. He will look like them, feel like them, move like them, and talk like them. But He will also be altogether different from them: both similar and dissimilar at the same time. The Emmanuel of Christmas is like us. He is from among us. When Mary conceived, something altogether new happened: God assumed a human nature. He did not give up His own nature, but He did take on another one. In the body of Emmanuel, God and man met and were reconciled. As a human, He ate like us, slept like us, and felt pain like us. As Hebrews tells us, “we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin,” (4:15). And yet, as God, He knew all things, was all-powerful, and was unchanging. Christ, however, was not simply to be from among the people, He was to be their buffer. At Mount Horeb, the people feared the intensity and purity of God to such an extent that they cried out for an intermediary, someone to approach God on their behalf. Moses did this, but he did it imperfectly. Christ, though, “has entered, not into the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf,” (Hebrews 9:24), and “Christ Jesus is the one who died–more than that, who was raised–who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us,” (Romans 8:34). And “He is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them,” (Hebrews 7:25). He is the perfect Mediator and buffer. For He was poured out unto death and suffered for the sins of His people. The wrath of God fell upon Him, and “upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace,” (Isaiah 53:5). For the sins of His people, the Emmanuel was crucified, and He was resurrected to give them life. Only in Him can humanity’s storm be calmed and silenced. Only in Him can the accusations of “Traitor!” and “God-hater!” be dispelled, for Christ was accused on His people’s behalf, and He suffered their punishment. As the Scriptures say, “For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God,” (2 Corinthians 5:21). If we should stand before God without such a safeguard, we would be undone in the presence of sheer holiness. We would cry out with the prophet Isaiah, “‘Woe is me! For I am lost,” (Isaiah 6:5), but we would receive neither mercy nor grace without the intercession of Christ. God has validated our cry for a high priest, and He has provided one. Emmanuel, Jesus Christ, is the reality and antitype of Moses.
And I will put my words in his mouth. Christ is the final Prophet of God. His message was received from the Father, and its contents can be summarized with Jesus’ opening words to His ministry: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” (Matthew 4:17), and “Repent and believe in the gospel,” (Mark 1:14). This message from God has been the same since He found our parents hiding amongst the trees of the Garden. We must turn from our sin and rebellion, and we must believe once again. To believe is to receive Him (John 1:12); to trust is to obey. We must turn from reliance upon self and attempted self-rule and cast ourselves upon His mercy and grace, submitting ourselves under the rightful reign of God. The last words in this section, though, are a warning as well as a promise. If we do not listen to Christ, we will answer to God on the last day. We will be held accountable for what we do with the Christ.
The message of Christmas, of Emmanuel, is that God has initiated salvation. He has come looking for His own. It is seen and mirrored in His covenant-keeping name, YHWH. He is faithful to save His own. In coming to us, the Second Person of the Trinity has arisen from amongst His own people by taking on a human nature. He has arisen to be both buffer and mediator, Savior and Priest. All who believe in Him will not face judgment, but for those who reject Him there is only wrath and condemnation. The Emmanuel is the greater Moses, the fulfillment of the long-expected Prophet, who would lead God’s people through the desert to their eternal rest safely across the Jordan.