Prophet, Priest, and King—Jesus the Prophet

Midweek in the First Sunday in Advent

December 5, 2018

Numbers 12:1–15

This Advent we will ponder our Lord as Prophet, Priest, and King. What does it mean that He is not only our Lord but also the true prophet, the ultimate priest, and the eternal king? We will consider three passages from the Old Testament which point us to our Lord Jesus Christ and see how in the New Testament this is so. 

Tonight we consider that Jesus is not simply a prophet, He is theProphet. The Old Testament has a lot to say about prophets and it has even more of the words of the prophets themselves. They are in fact the primary way we know of the fulfillment of God’s promises to His people, the prophets pointed to Jesus as the very fulfillment. 

As we consider Jesus the Prophet, the first reading this evening has a lot going on. It has even more substance as there is a lot more here than what appears to be. You might remember Miriam. She was the older sister of Moses. When Moses was a baby the Pharaoh gave an order that all the baby boys should be killed. Moses’ mother hid him and when she could no longer do so she placed him in a basket and placed him in the river. Pharaoh’s daughter came down to bathe and saw the basket. She saw baby Moses and made him her son. Miriam was watching this whole scenario and boldly went up to the princess and asked if she would like her to find one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby. She agreed and Miriam brought him home to their mother. 

We hear much of Moses from then on. God called him to be His prophet and lead His people out of the bondage of Egyptian slavery. Miriam we hear of from time to time. But in this instance we see in our reading this evening, there is a striking contrast between Miriam watching out for her baby brother and Miriam speaking out against little brother thinking he was the only one God spoke through.

There is much here beyond sibling rivalry, Aaron and Miriam taking issue with their younger brother Moses. There is prophecy here, not of prediction but what is called typology. In typology something in the Old Testament is seen by the New Testament as an archetype, or picture, of something greater. What this passage is prophesying of is Moses the prophet being an archetype and Jesus being the fulfillment as the great prophet, the true Prophet. 

This episode takes place in the wilderness, where the Israelites were wandering for forty years before entering the Promised Land. We are told that “Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had married… They said, ‘Has the LORD indeed spoken only through Moses? Has he not spoken through us also?’” Our consideration of how Moses is a picture of Christ means we don’t need to deal with whether it was appropriate or not for him to marry a Gentile. But consider this, when God called men to be prophets, it was His call. Nobody volunteered. Sometimes it was against the will of the particular individual, as was the case with Moses. Moses served as God’s prophet because God laid this burden on him.

When Miriam and Aaron spoke against him, we are told that “the LORD heard it.” Moses’ siblings were not speaking idly, the Lord God Himself took notice. Then a statement is made filled with irony: “Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth.” What makes this striking is that Moses himself is the author of these words. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, he wrote the first five books of the Old Testament. Who has the gall to say they are the most humble person on the earth? Even Mohammed Ali was explicit in his declaration, “I am the greatest.”

But how can Moses speak of himself in such a way? Even had the author been another person, what is the divine author, God Himself, getting at when His holy Scriptures say that Moses was the most humble person on the face of the earth? This is one of the clues to seeing that there is more going on here than simply a narrative of a historical incident. Moses was no less a sinner than Miriam, Aaron, or anyone else on the planet. But Moses was also something else. He was a living prophecy, as we see other individuals in the Old Testament were as well. People who are archetypes, pictures of the one who was to come, the one who would fulfill all the promises of God. 

Certainly it can be said that the only person who has ever lived who is without sin is the Lord Jesus Himself. It can also be said that He truly was the most humble person who ever lived. Moses was serving as God’s prophet, not in sinlessness, but in humility. In other words, he filled the office of God’s prophet by virtue not of his own character or ability but by virtue of God’s call to him and the authority God vested in him. Miriam and Aaron took issue with that and God took notice.

Our reading says, “Suddenly the LORD said to Moses and to Aaron and Miriam, ‘Come out, you three, to the tent of meeting.’” It’s like three siblings getting sent to the principal’s office. “The three of them came out. And the LORD came down in a pillar of cloud and stood at the entrance of the tent and called Aaron and Miriam, and they both came forward. And he said, ‘Hear my words: If there is a prophet among you, I the LORD make Myself known to him in a vision; I speak with him in a dream. Not so with my servant Moses. He is faithful in all my house. With him I speak mouth to mouth, clearly, and not in riddles, and he beholds the form of the LORD. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?’ And the anger of the LORD was kindled against them, and he departed.”

Aaron and Miriam took issue not with Moses but with God, that’s what God was telling them. They wanted to be able to say that God spoke to them, not just their younger brother who thought that he was special. In their pride they failed to see that Moses did not carry out the office of prophet by virtue of himself but speaking only what God gave him to speak. God said to Aaron and Miriam, How dare you speak against my servant! In other, words, How dare you speak against Me!

We are further told, “When the cloud removed from over the tent, behold, Miriam was leprous, like snow. And Aaron turned toward Miriam, and behold, she was leprous.” Why was only Miriam punished in such a way? Again, much could be said, but for our focus this evening, consider that God had called Aaron as well to a high and holy office, that of priest. He himself is also picture of Christ, who is our great High Priest. In fact, Aaron even acts in that vein here, interceding for Miriam, when He says to Moses, “Oh, my lord, do not punish us because we have done foolishly and have sinned. Let her not be as one dead, whose flesh is half eaten away when he comes out of his mother’s womb.” He recognizes that God has called Moses as His prophet and he and Miriam ought to submit to that. The account says that Moses cried out to God for healing for Miriam and after a period of seven days she was restored.

On its own, we must conclude that Moses had a better standing with God than did Aaron and Miriam. But this is not on its own, it is pointing us to something else, something greater. The Old Testament does stand on its own but is fulfilled in the New Testament. It is in the New Testament that we see that Jesus is our true Prophet. The author of Hebrews emphasizes that Moses was faithful in all of God’s House, as we see him state it twice in our second reading. He says, “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,” and, “Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son.”

Moses is shown in the Bible to be the greatest of the prophets of the Old Testament. But it is Christ who is the Great Prophet. In Moses’ words, actions, and in his being God’s prophet, he pointed us to the Prophet who is our Lord Jesus Christ. Not only a prophet, of course, but the great and true Prophet. The one in whom all the prophecies are fulfilled. The one in whom is salvation and forgiveness. The one in whom there is reconciliation and restoration. The one whom we can say, He alone is faithful to God, and in our Baptism, in which we join with Him in a death like His and a resurrection like His, we are declared faithful and our sins are not counted against us. 

In Advent we give thanks that all the prophets pointed us to Him. We give thanks that He fulfills all prophecy, even being Himself theProphet and only Savior. Amen.