Summary: Sermon for the 4th Sunday after Epiphany, Year B.
Deuteronomy 18: 15 – 20 / What The Prophet Speaks
Intro: In our modern, rational, scientific age many dismiss prophecy as naïve and backwards. Yet, there is something in us that seems to yearn for prophecy. We yearn to hear a voice from beyond ourselves, a voice of promise or hope that touches us with the divine. Some fill this longing by searching the stars with astrology or reading their horoscope. Others drown this longing with the promises of technology, human advancement, or charismatic leaders. But, the simple truth is that only one voice can touch us with the divine, the voice of the prophet. He is the one the Lord promised through Moses.
I. VS. 16 – For this is what you asked of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said, “Let us not hear the voice of the Lord our God nor see this great fire anymore, or we will die.” At Mt. Sinai (Mt. Horeb) God came down in smoke, thunder, lightening, and a cloud. And the people were afraid.
A. The Israelites stood before God while the earth trembled and they shook in their shoes. They stood before the holy Judge trembling because they knew what they deserved was death and hell. They wanted someone to be their go-between to speak to God for them and to speak to them for God.
B. We are no better off than the Israelites. It is easier for us to ignore God’s law and God’s word. We tell ourselves that we don’t have to take religion too seriously. We even dress up our sins saying things like “I tried my best. Other people do it. I couldn’t help myself. It’s not my fault.”
C. We are sinners! Where is our go-between? Christ Jesus is our go-between. He shows us the way to God and tells us we need not fear because of our sins because he has covered them with his very own blood. Therefore, we should heed the words of the great prophet, Christ Jesus that we might be set right with God.
II. Where have all the prophets gone? We lament the fact that in our day there seems to be no one to deliver prophecy. Is that indeed true? How can we know a prophet when we see one?
A. A genuine prophet obeys God. VS. 18 “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.”
B. Prophets are chosen by God. It has nothing to do with social standing, special talent or education. A prophet couldn’t choose his job. In fact, many who spoke for God didn’t want the job at all.
C. Look at the last part of VS. 18 - he will tell them everything I command him.” Sometimes a prophet isn’t a very popular person because of the message they deliver; but, if they are faithful to God, they will deliver the message and suffer the consequences. A true prophet will not tell you what you WANT to hear, they will tell you what you NEED to hear.
III. Where have all the prophets gone? Where are the prophets who challenged the establishment and status quo and called the people to faithfulness?
A. Where have all the prophets gone? Are they in the “megachurches”? Jeremiah Wright of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago said at a recent meeting of his denomination, “There ain’t no prophet in the written record who is pastor of a megachurch. Prophets aren’t usually that popular.” Many will tell people what they want to hear or what will make them feel good. Is that being prophetic?
B. Where have all the prophets gone? A true prophet is to be found where the presence of that God who seems absent can be found. The prophet who preaches the word of God saying, “Thus says the Lord, not, “Thus says me.” The prophet is one who brings us into the presence of God by illuminating us with God’s word.
C. Our crucial task is to listen and HEED (shema) --- appears 3 times in Vs. 15, 16 and 19. It connotes not only hearing but responding or “paying attention” because God’s word delivered through the prophet is important.
Conclu: One Sunday morning a pastor preached an eloquent sermon, both brilliant and interesting. The people were deeply moved and said it was the best sermon they had ever heard. --- The next Sunday the Pastor preached the exact same sermon and again the people were excited to hear it. --- The third Sunday the pastor preached the exact same sermon again. The congregation was beginning to wonder. Finally, one member shaking the pastor’s hand at the door asked, “Preacher, that was a great sermon, thoughtful, insightful, even inspiring. But some of us what to know why you keep preaching the same sermon again and again. “ The pastor smiled and answered, “Because I haven’t seen anyone do anything about what I said.”