The Forgotten Prophet
Since this is a blog, I was hoping to keep this article from being too lengthy, but because of the abundance of Biblical material concerning this topic, it has taken quite some time to delete a great deal of material in order to keep it concise. I would encourage anyone reading to grab a concordance and look up “prophet(s)” to gain some more insight. What I present in this article is not necessarily doctrine or theology. It is highly applicable to confronting the Hebrew Roots Movement, but it is dependent on how someone views the person of Christ, and I cannot make a blanket presumption about everyone in the HRM concerning this. Many times, the HRM fails not in what they say, but in what they don’t say. This topic is one of those instances.
The role of the Law and/or commandments in a believer’s life is always an important issue, and in this day and age it has become the topic and centerpiece for many spirited and robust debates.
There is another side to this coin however, which is rarely ever addressed, and that is the Prophets. We all read and study from those books of the Bible which contain the words of God through the prophets, but many times the role and significance of those prophets can be overlooked.
I want to show you in this article that the Law is only half of the equation. If the role and functions of the prophet are overlooked, it can be a recipe for disaster not just in Bible times, but right now.
To this day, the nation of Israel has retained its identity and distinction in the world under the Law and/or customs, but they have lost their identity under the prophets. It’s a fact worth considering because there is a great deal of people pressing into the idea of modern Israel and its rebirth, but it’s not being done under a prophet. That’s not to say that any fulfillments we see happening today are illegitimate by any means because what is happening is a fulfillment of prophecy, but it’s worth considering in light of how God used the prophets in Ancient Israel. I’m not trying to say that there has to be a certain order or formula to it all, but just keep that in mind. Israel has risen and fallen under the prophets, and that’s something to remember.
THE BIBLE’S EMPHASIS ON PROPHETS-
We know that Abraham, Moses and Aaron were prophets, along with many others, but the official function and criteria for prophets is established in Deuteronomy 18. Let’s read:
“The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him shall you hear, according to all you desired of the Lord your God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God, nor let me see this great fire anymore, lest I die.’ And the Lord said to me: ‘What they have spoken is good. I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and I will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him’.”(Deuteronomy 18:15-18)
The rest of this passage goes on to list the standards and criteria for true and false prophets but I want to stick with verses 15-18.
Verses 15 and 18 especially signify a “Prophet” whom God will put words in “His” mouth. The rest of the passage simply notes “prophet” or “prophets”.
We know this to be a prophecy of the Messiah who would come, and we can see this confirmed in Mark where there was an expectation and understanding that there would be a singular person who was considered “The Prophet”. Lets read:
“Others said, ‘It is the Prophet, or like one of the prophets’.” (Mark 6:15)
Peter also referenced Deuteronomy 18 in association with Christ in Acts 3:22, and there are many other passages in the gospels where people refer to a singular person as the “Prophet”.
So obviously these passages point out that there would be
“A Prophet” and we know this to be Jesus Christ and thus, we have Jesus who is “The Prophet”.
But wait! That’s not all that this passage has to say. Lets take a look at the very peculiar words of verses 16-17:
“…according to all you desired of the Lord your God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God, nor let me see this great fire anymore, lest I die.’ And the Lord said to me: ‘What they have spoken is good…”
These verses in Deuteronomy are referring all the way back to Exodus 20:19 where the people cried out to have Moses as a substitute for what was happening on Sinai.
Why would God call their cries for substitution, a good thing?
Well, I think there are at least two possible explanations.
1) This substitution is a recognition of the realty then, and a reality to come of how we would truly die, lest we had a substitution.
2) The people declared that they would indeed, willingly listen to this substitution of a prophet.
So all in all, this passage is speaking about the need and recognition of prophet, and also the willingness to listen to a prophet. Because God has deemed this a good thing, Moses goes on to repeat how God told him He would raise up a “Prophet” according to all that they desired at Horeb. We must understand that this passage establishes the purpose and prophecy, of prophets to come, as a direct response to what the people said in Exodus 20:19. The people lacked the human capacity to endure what was taking place on Mount Sinai. It is this, along with their request for a substitute, which God calls good. It is from this basis that God establishes what role the prophets would carry out, ultimately leading to Jesus Christ.
When the prophets come they speak for God who dictates the full context of His laws and principles. However, it would be extremely short sighted to say that the purpose of the prophets was simply for the re-enforcement of law keeping. If this were the case, more than half the books of the Bible would be unnecessary due to repetition. This also presumes that keeping the law was God’s only objective in His interaction with man.
The multitude of prophets shows to us that not only is there a need for prophets, but God wanted to operate personally with His people, and this is how He would do it.
THE EXPECTATION OF A PROPHET-
The people’s expectation of a prophet gives us an insight as to what the significance and role of a prophet was supposed to have for them. Lets look at a few verses to get an idea.
“Now this is the testimony of John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, ‘I am not the Christ.’ And they asked him, ‘What then? Are you Elijah?’ He said, ‘I am not’. ‘Are you the Prophet?’ And he answered, ‘No’. Then they said to him, ‘Who are you that we may give an answer to those who sent us?'”
“Philip found Nathaniel and said to him, ‘We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote-Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph’.”(John 1:45)
“Then those men, when they had seen the sign that Jesus did, said, ‘This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world’.”(John 6:14)
“And though he (Herod) wanted to put him to death, he feared the people, because they held him to be a prophet. (Matt 14:5)
“‘Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?’ So they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets’.”(Matt 16:13-14)
“And the crowds said, ‘This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee’.” (Matt21:11)
“But if we say, ‘From men’, we fear the multitude, for all counted John as a prophet.”(Matt 21:26)
“Others said, ‘It is Elijah’. And others said, ‘It is the Prophet or like one of the prophets’.”(Mark (16:15)
At the mount of transfiguration, we can see the expectation of the prophets from Peter:
“And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him. Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, ‘Lord, it is good for us to be here; If You wish, let us make here three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah’…And His disciples asked Him, saying, ‘ Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?'” Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Indeed, Elijah is coming first and will restore all things, but I say to you that Elijah has come already, and they did not know him but did to him whatever they wished’…”(Matt 17:3-12)
After the crucifixion, Peter still had his expectation and emphasis on a prophet:
“…So they said to Him, ‘The things concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a Prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people…But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel’…”(Luke 24:19-21)
Also, we can see Jesus address the issue of a prophet concerning John:
“But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and more than a prophet. For I say to you, among those born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist.” (Luke 7:26-28)
“And if you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who is to come.”(Matt 11:14)
THE MINISTRY OF JESUS CONCERNING PROPHETS-
“Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”(Matt5:12)
Usually when we hear of Jesus being referred to as a prophet, it is coming from a person or group that denies Him as the messiah, yet they are willing enough to recognize or give patronage to His virtues and deeds.
On the other hand, for those of us who fully recognize Him as the Messiah, we can also fail by not recognizing Him as a prophet even though it may not be done intentionally.
The idea of Jesus being a prophet is not something I have contrived out of indirect passages and suggestive prophecies.
Remember that Jesus came to fulfill both the Law AND THE PROPHETS, so Jesus became the Law and The Prophet to Israel. Until it was known by Israel that He had redeemed them through His crucifixion and resurrection, much of Jesus’ rebuke to those who didn’t believe, was according to what attitude they should have concerning the prophets, and how the previous prophets were treated.
At the beginning, and the end of His ministry (presumably), Jesus addresses or rebukes the people on the basis of what role a prophet plays. Let’s read:
Beginning of His ministry-
“…Assuredly, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own country. But I tell you truly, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was great famine throughout all the land; but to none of them was Elijah sent except to Zarephath, in the region of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Elijah the prophet, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian. So all those in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath.” (Luke 4:24-27)
End of His ministry-
“Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city…O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her!…” (Matt 23:34-37)
Ok, so how does this apply to the Hebrew Roots Movement when they already believe in Jesus Christ?
I can’t be specific because it depends on each individual perception, but let me clarify some points.
When we look at the prophecy and criteria in Deuteronomy, the expectation and criteria of the people along with the history of the prophets, then we can see that the idea of a prophet was not a phenomena but a fundamental to Israel. They were looking for, and expecting a prophet in accordance with the scriptures.
According to the New Testament, the people of Israel had not necessarily come to the conclusion that the Messiah was the same as the Prophet. It appears many Jewish people assumed these to be two different people. We now know differently and so did the Apostles.
At the beginning of this article, I stated that there is a flipside to the Law, and we can see from the words of Jesus that their rejection of Him was due to how they rejected the prophets before.
The HRM makes a great deal of guarantees based upon an individual’s assimilation with the Law. But that is only half of scripture. Jesus also fulfilled the prophets which has way more to do with the context of God’s decrees.
The HRM continually accuses Christianity of lawlessness over one commandment, but lawlessness brings up another concept which is “autonomy”.
Jesus made it clear that the breaking of laws would be forgiven, but his rebuke to Israel was not concerning the breaking of laws only, but to their autonomy in the face of the prophets.
The Scriptures are important for knowing and understanding, but the prophets are important for “hearing”. This distinction must be understood. This is why churches invite evangelists and hold revival services. They understand this principle of a third party.
My objection to the HRM has nothing to do with someone’s denominational affiliation or practices. My objection is in response to the idea that adhering to the Law and all things Hebraic, carries with it some guarantee of purity and authenticity. It’s none of my business what commands someone feels are imperative when it comes to their personal walk with God, but much of the HRM, especially those who hold to the “Two-House” theory, seem to make guarantees for those who assimilate with the physical characteristics of the Old Testament.
This is why their movement is called “The Hebrew Roots Movement”. Their guarantees are dependant upon their study and assimilation to all things Hebrew, prior to Christ.
This is really nothing more than a rabbinical notion of who the messiah will be according to Jewish predictions of messiah Ben-Joseph and messiah Ben-David. The rabbinical idea of the messiah is that he will proliferate Torah and/or Laws of Moses and that is why so many in the HRM want to make Jesus more synonymous with the Law rather than the righteousness of God.
Let me show you very plainly that there is a difference between trying to determine the prophets and the messiah according to the law, and trying to determine them according to righteousness:
“Therefore many from the crowd, when they heard this saying, said, ‘Truly this is the Prophet.’ Others said, ‘This is the Christ’. But some said, ‘Will the Christ come out of Galilee?’ ‘Has not the scripture said that the Christ comes from the seed of David and from the town of Bethlehem, where David was?’ So there was a division among the people because of Him…Then the Pharisees answered them, ‘Are you also deceived? Have any of the rulers or Pharisees believed in Him? But this crowd that does not know the law is accursed…Search and look, for no prophet has arisen out of Galilee’.” (John 7:40-52)
You see, the Pharisees (except for Nicodemus) had no interest in what Jesus had to say in chapter 7, and they trusted in their interpretation of the Law but they didn’t care to find out that Jesus was in fact, from Bethlehem. So much for the law huh? But let’s look at what happens when you do or don’t know the law, but you are looking for a prophet according to righteousness:
“Jesus said to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him; but tax collectors and harlots believed him; and when you saw it, you did not afterward relent and believe him’.”(Matthew 21:31-32)
These passages show us the difference between the criteria of Jesus, and the criteria of the Pharisees, concerning prophets.
Many wish to claim that Jesus came for the proliferation of the Law, but this falls short of what Paul says:
“But now the righteousness of God APART FROM THE LAW
is revealed, being WITNESSED by the LAW AND THE PROPHETS, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ…whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness…to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness…”(Romans 3:21-26)
Jesus was a prophet in the way of righteousness like John. This prophet came to declare the context of the righteousness of God revealed in, and witnessed by the Law and Prophets. This is what He fulfilled in Matthew 5:17 and that is why He is, “The Prophet” according to all that you desired from the Lord your God in Horeb.
The HRM seems to be willing to listen to Jesus as long as he is a mouthpiece and spokesman for the Law, but Jesus and the role of a prophet according to Exodus 20:19 and Deuteronomy 18, is a spokesman for God Himself. He is the mediator and representative for the fire and smoke of Sinai. The Israelites never cried our for an interpreter of the Law, they cried out for a substitute of the fire and smoke and thundering of Sinai.