Great Expectations (Sermon)
Pip, 6-years old and an orphan, is taken one day to play at the home of a wealthy widow. There he meets Estella, a beautiful young girl. Though she treats him with contempt and disdain, he falls in love with her and dreams of becoming a gentleman in order to marry her.
Many years later, a mysterious lawyer surprises Pip with some news. An anonymous benefactor has given him a large fortune. Pip needs to head to London immediately and begin his training as a gentleman. With this news come great expectations, and that’s the title of Charles Dickens’ novel about Pip, Great Expectations.
Great Expectations could also be the title of the fifth book of the Bible. The actual title, Deuteronomy, means, “second law.” If you’ve read through it, you understand why it’s called that. Sections of the law given by God are restated. In chapter 5, we even find the 10 Commandments repeated.
But beyond the repetition of the law, we find some pronouncements about the future—pronouncements that bring expectations with them. These pronouncements aren’t small and neither are the expectations.
One of the great expectations in Deuteronomy is the occupation of the Promised Land. The nation of Israel stood on the banks of the Jordan River, ready to cross into the land God had promised them, the land they should have entered 40 years earlier.
Later in the book, we discover the expectation of a new covenant. The previous covenant was based on external laws and physical circumcision, but this new covenant would be based on laws written on the human heart and circumcision of the heart.
This morning, I want us to focus on a different expectation—a great expectation that’s raised in chapter 18 and solidified in chapter 34. It’s the expectation of a leader who would be greater than Moses. Look at chapter 18, verse 15.
(Deuteronomy 18:15–19 ESV) “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.”
Moses, the only leader the nation of Israel has known, was going to die. He would not lead them into the Promised Land. He promised them that God would raise up a new leader, a prophet like him, to lead the people.
Now, in this book, we learn about a man named Joshua, the servant of Moses, who was appointed by God to take Moses’ place. He was the one who would lead the people into the land of promise. It’s tempting to think that Moses’ statement was about Joshua. At the end of chapter 34, we learn that it wasn’t.
(Deuteronomy 34:9–12 ESV) And Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands on him. So the people of Israel obeyed him and did as the LORD had commanded Moses. And there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face, none like him for all the signs and the wonders that the LORD sent him to do in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land, and for all the mighty power and all the great deeds of terror that Moses did in the sight of all Israel.
This is how the book of Deuteronomy ends. Joshua, the replacement for Moses, was a godly man and a great leader. But he was not a leader like Moses. He was not a leader superior to Moses. These final verses build a great expectation for a leader like Moses, a leader superior to Moses.
Now, we’ve already seen promises of a future leader—the one we call the Messiah—throughout the first books of the Bible. In Genesis 3, we saw the first promise of a coming Son who would defeat evil and reverse the curse. In Genesis 49 and Numbers 24, we found promises of a coming King who would conquer every enemy and rule over all the nations. Here we see the promise of a coming prophet—a leader like Moses and greater than Moses.
This promise is not speaking about someone different. We shouldn’t expect a great King to come and a separate great prophet to come. These promises all refer to the same one—the one we call the Messiah.
Living as far (time wise) as we are from these promises, we can fail to understand and appreciate how significant they are. Imagine being an Israelite. You’re about to enter the Promised Land—a great land, but a land full of powerful enemies. That’s a fearful proposition. Now add to it the fact that the only leader you’ve ever known, the only leader your nation has ever known, won’t be leading you into this land. How do you feel?
Against that dark backdrop, this promise of a leader greater than Moses shines even more brightly. Moses was not some weak, pathetic, petty dictator. Moses was the leader who rescued an infant nation from the clutches of the world superpower. Moses couldn’t easily be replaced. To hear about a coming leader who was like Moses and greater than Moses was and is remarkable news.
And for us, this is relevant news. Whereas Moses’ leadership was only over the nation of Israel, the Messiah’s leadership would extend over all nations. Moses’ leadership was only for a short period of time, but the Messiah’s leadership would be eternal. That means, friend, the promise of this coming leader impacts your life and mine.
Here’s what we’re going to do this morning. First, we’re going to answer the question, “What kind of leader was Moses?” Then we’ll look at the One who came who was superior to Moses. I want to prove to you from Scripture why He was greater than Moses, and how his leadership can and should revolutionize your life.
We can best describe Moses’ leadership with 3 titles: prophet, priest and king.
Moses was a prophet who declared the Word of God.
Here in Deuteronomy 18, we find the description of a prophet. Look at verse 18:
(Deuteronomy 18:18–19 ESV) “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.”
A prophet speaks with authority because his message is not his own. He is a mouthpiece for God. Moses’ authority was in the message he was given to declare. God says a prophet is one who has the very words of God placed into his mouth. The prophet’s role is simply to speak all of the words that God commands him to speak. These words carry great authority because they come from God and are spoken in His name.
The book of Deuteronomy is in essence a series of public addresses from Moses to the nation of Israel. These speeches are evidence of Moses’ prophetic office.
Though great prophets followed Moses—men like Isaiah and Jeremiah—think about the gravity of the message that Moses delivered. He was the one who received the 10 Commandments directly from the hand of God. He ascended Mt. Sinai, heard God speak and took possession of stone tablets inscribed by God’s very hand.
If you were to ask an Israelite what God wanted them to do, they would point to the message delivered by Moses. If you asked them how they knew that’s what God wanted them to do, they would say, “Because Moses told us.” You see, Moses had a special role as the prophet of God, delivering the Word of God to the people of God.
Not only did his words carry great authority, but they also had great accuracy. In fact, that’s a non-negotiable trait of a true prophet. Look at verse 21:
(Deuteronomy 18:21–22 ESV) “And if you say in your heart, ‘How may we know the word that the LORD has not spoken?’— when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him.”
What a true prophet says will come to pass because the origin of the message is not human but divine. In other words, he is trustworthy. His message is believable. He can be trusted. You can have faith in his message.
Moses clearly passed the test of accuracy. Every prophetic announcement he made came true. Whether it was warning Pharaoh of an impending plague or calling water out of a rock, his word could be trusted. This had to be a great comfort to the nation. They didn’t have to worry if Moses was telling them the truth. They didn’t need to doubt the accuracy of his pronouncements.
Moses was a prophet who declared the Word of God.
Moses was a priest who entered the presence of God.
When we think of priests in Israel, we generally think not of Moses but of Moses’ brother Aaron. Aaron was the first high priest. It was from Aaron’s family that future high priests would come. The institutionalized priesthood can be traced back to Aaron.
But when we think about the function of a priest. A priest enters the presence of God to intercede on behalf of the people. It’s clear that Moses did indeed function as a priest. He was a priest apart from the institutionalized Aaronic priesthood, but he was still a priest.
Turn back to chapter 5. Here we see Moses functioning as a priest. He represented the people in the presence of God.
(Deuteronomy 5:22–31 ESV) “These words the LORD spoke to all your assembly at the mountain out of the midst of the fire, the cloud, and the thick darkness, with a loud voice; and he added no more. And he wrote them on two tablets stone and gave them to me. And as soon as you heard the voice out of the midst of the darkness, while the mountain was burning with fire, you came near to me, all the heads of your tribes, and your elders. And you said, ‘Behold, the LORD our God has shown us his glory and greatness, and we have heard his voice out of the midst of the fire. This day we have seen God speak with man, and man still live. Now therefore why should we die? For this great fire will consume us. If we hear the voice of the LORD our God any more, we shall die. For who is there of all flesh, that has heard the voice of the living God speaking out of the midst of fire as we have, and has still lived? Go near and hear all that the LORD our God will say, and speak to us all that the LORD our God will speak to you, and we will hear and do it.’ And the LORD heard your words, when you spoke to me. And the LORD said to me, ‘I have heard the words of this people, which they have spoken to you. They are right in all that they have spoken. Oh that they had such a heart as this always, to fear me and to keep all my commandments, that it might go well with them and with their descendants forever! Go and say to them, “Return to your tents.” But you, stand here by me, and I will tell you the whole commandment and the statutes and the rules that you shall teach them, that they may do them in the land that I am giving them to possess.’”
Moses was the mediator between God and man. Sinful and wicked men could not enter the presence of the holy and righteous God. They needed someone to enter in their place, and Moses did so.
But he did more than that. He not only entered the presence of God, but he also interceded for the people.
Turn to chapter 9. In great rebellion, the nation of Israel formed an idol and began worshipping it. God was going to destroy them for this sin. Look at what Moses did.
(Deuteronomy 9:18–20 ESV) “Then I lay prostrate before the LORD as before, forty days and forty nights. I neither ate bread nor drank water, because of all the sin that you had committed, in doing what was evil in the sight of the LORD to provoke him to anger. For I was afraid of the anger and hot displeasure that the LORD bore against you, so that he was ready to destroy you. But the LORD listened to me that time also. And the LORD was so angry with Aaron that he was ready to destroy him. And I prayed for Aaron also at the same time.”
Moses interceded on behalf of the people. In many ways, the institutionalized priesthood was patterned after Moses.
Moses was a king who led the people of God.
Again, Moses was not an institutionalized king, but he did function as a king over the nation of Israel. There’s a reference to this in chapter 33, where Moses is described as a king over the 12 tribes. But it’s even clearer when we look at chapter 17. Here we find instructions for future kings of Israel. For instance, the kings are not to return to Egypt or collect many horses. But look at verse 18.
(Deuteronomy 17:18–20 ESV) “And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by the Levitical priest. And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them, that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or to the left, so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel.”
When this was written, who functioned this way in the nation of Israel? Moses did. He functionally served not only as prophet and priest, but also as king. He governed the people of Israel according to the laws of God. His heart was not lifted up above his brothers, and he did not turn aside to the right or to the left.
Beyond that, Moses functioned as a king in delivering the people from captivity. He went toe-to-toe with the King of Egypt and prevailed. The nation of Israel marched victoriously out of the land of slavery with Moses out in front leading them.
When we put the whole picture together—prophet, priest and king—it’s pretty impressive. That’s why the expectation of a leader like Moses is so great. The lingering expectation at the close of the book is not trivial. If there was a leader like this…in fact, a leader greater than this…wouldn’t you want to follow him?
That’s an important question for us to consider. Throughout these first 5 books of the Bible, we’ve read accounts of those who rebelled against the leadership of Moses. In Numbers 12, Moses’ brother and sister rebelled against his leadership. God was angry with them, and they would have died, but Moses himself interceded on their behalf. When you finished that account, did you think, as I did, “How stupid? How could you rebel against Moses? Why would you not follow him?”
If that was your response, then you would also have to admit that if there was a greater leader than Moses it would be even more foolish to not follow him. If the great expectation was fulfilled, then only an absolute fool would fail to follow this greater prophet, priest and king.
We’re going to turn to the New Testament and I’m going to show you how Jesus of Nazareth was the promised leader. I’m going to show you that he was in fact a greater prophet, priest and king then Moses. Since we’re all in agreement that it would be foolish not to follow Moses, then I’m sure we’ll all be in agreement that a failure to follow Jesus Christ would be even more foolish. If Jesus Christ is indeed greater than Moses, that means his impact on your life and mine would be even more profound than Moses’ impact on the life of an Israelite. If Jesus is greater, than His ministry to you as prophet, priest and king can revolutionize your life.
Jesus Christ as Prophet
Turn to the Gospel of John, chapter 1. Here’s why Jesus is a greater prophet than Moses. Moses declared the Word of God, but Jesus is the Word of God.
(John 1:1–2, 14, 16–18 ESV) In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God….And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth…. For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.
There’s a difference between a message from the person and the person themselves. One summer I worked at a camp with one of my best friends. John and I were at a camp in Southern Wisconsin for about 12 weeks. During those 12 weeks, John’s fiancée, April, was on the west coast. Because of how the camp schedule worked, John only got the chance to talk with her on Saturday nights. He would stay up very late (because of the time difference) and give her a call. They would talk late into the night, say goodbye, and begin counting the hours until they could talk again.
As the summer drew to a close, John was growing more and more excited about flying home to California to see April. The very last week of camp, John’s dad was the camp preacher. One night, he brought John up on stage at camp and started interviewing him about April. He asked about how often they talked, and how soon they would see each other (John had it counted down to the hour). Finally, he asked John what he’d say if she happened to walk in the room. At that moment, the chapel doors opened and in she walked.
You can imagine John’s reaction. His jaw dropped. His face turned red. He actually jumped up and clicked his heels. “But John, you got to talk to her on the phone once a week.” “John why are you so excited, she sent you letters.”
There’s a difference between a message from the person and the person themselves. Moses brought messages from God. Jesus is God. Moses could only deliver what God said, but Jesus could show us in every way what God was like.
Our response to Jesus Christ is to believe. He is the Word of God who must be believed. Just as many within Israel failed to believe Moses, too many within the church fail to believe in Jesus Christ. We look for truth and meaning elsewhere. We trust our own thoughts and feelings. We try to interpret life on our own.
Jesus Christ is the Truth. Life only makes sense through Him. He is the only way we can understand who we are, who God is and what God requires of us. Life apart from Jesus Christ is life in the dark. He is the light who exposes the meaning of your life and mine.
Friend, if you have not believed on the person of Jesus Christ then you have not experienced the grace of God. Grace comes only through Him. And you need grace. You need the grace of God. As a sinner, who lives in rebellion to God’s law, you desperately need him to give you grace. He has made a way for you to receive grace. God sent His very own Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross, paying your punishment for sin. He extends grace to all who turn from their sin and trust in Jesus Christ. I urge you to believe in Him, the very Word of God.
Jesus Christ as Priest
Turn to Hebrews, chapter 4. Jesus Christ is a greater prophet and a greater priest.
(Hebrews 4:14–16 ESV) Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For 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. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Moses asked to see God face to face. God’s response was that if Moses saw Him face to face, Moses would die. But Jesus Christ dwells in the very presence of God, and He has since before the beginning of time. He was God, and He was with God.
Not only was Moses unable to see God face to face, but he was also unable to bring others into God’s presence. When he went up on the mountain to meet with God, the people had to stay back from the mountain or they would die. They built fences at the base of the mountain so that no one would accidentally touch it and be killed.
Jesus invites us into the very presence of God. Because He is eternally interceding for us in the very presence of God, we are able to march boldly into God’s presence. We have received a standing invitation to the throne room of heaven. God’s door is always open to us. We no longer need another man to serve as an intermediary. We can take our needs to the very God of the universe and expect to receive an audience.
This promise should mean everything to us. Brothers and sisters, the truth that Jesus is your high priest should be very dear to you. If it’s not, I wonder if you fail to understand the depth of your need for His daily grace. We can appear with confidence before God expecting to receive grace and mercy whenever we are in need. Do you realize how badly you’re in need?
Every day, you need His grace. Are you aware of how desperately you need grace? The more aware we become of our own need, the more wonderful these promises become.
When your child drops your iPhone, and you need grace, Jesus invites you to come.
When your boss blames you unfairly, and you need grace, Jesus invites you to come.
When your teacher gives you a pop-quiz, and you need grace, Jesus invites you to come.
When your car stalls, and you need grace, Jesus invites you to come.
When your tempted to lust, and you need grace, Jesus invites you to come.
When your stuck in a bad mood, and you need grace, Jesus invites you to come.
When your head hurts and you’re out of coffee, and you need grace, Jesus invites you to come.
We live in the little moments. I’ve heard it said that life is made up of a “million mundane moments.” These moments need grace. We, who by faith have believed on Jesus Christ, are always welcome (in fact our high priest encourages us) to come into the presence of God and receive grace.
Jesus Christ as King
Jesus is a greater prophet, a greater priest and a greater king. We’ve studied many times about Jesus as king. There are any number of passages we could go to and see Jesus as the greatest king. In Revelation 19, He is given the title “King of Kings and Lord of Lords.” In Psalm 2, all of the kings of the earth are commanded to worship Him.
What difference does it make to us that Jesus Christ is King of kings? Imagine if you had been kidnapped by an evil king and taken to live in his cold, dark dungeon. Every day, you’re drugged, beaten and tortured. Over time, your captors convince you that this is the best life for you. They make it seem like life outside of the dungeon is terrible, and that the only way to enjoy life is to stay in chains.
One day, you’re rescued. At first, you fight and resist, but soon, the drugs wear off and the brainwashing starts to fade. You begin to realize the lies your captors had told you. As your mind begins to clear, you’re brought into a new kingdom. Here, you’re not put in a dungeon, but given freedom to roam, to explore, to enjoy.
Drugs and beatings are no longer a part of your life. They’ve been replaced by feasts and music. In this kingdom, you are truly free. The fear and oppression of your life in captivity has given way to love and joy.
If you’re a Christian, you don’t have to imagine this. You simply have to remember. Here’s how the Bible describes your history.
(Colossians 1:13 ESV) He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son.
What would your life be like in that kingdom? How would you respond to your King? The fairy tales and children’s stories would tell us that the one rescued would gladly pledge their life to the King. They would joyfully live out their days in service to the king—not trying to repay him and not out of obligation, but out of a heart of love for the king who rescued them.
Those fairy tales echo the true story of our world. The one who has been rescued will “seek first the kingdom of God” and will pray “your kingdom come and your will be done.” The one rescued will pay homage to the King. They will live out their days enjoying a life of service out of love for Him.
As foolish as it was for Israelites to rebel against the leadership of Moses, it is even more foolish for us to rebel against the leadership of Jesus Christ. He is greater than Moses. He is greater than any human leader.
For as great a leader as Moses was, he failed. He died outside the land of promise. Jesus Christ did not fail, and He will not fail. He died, but rose again, conquering death. I urge you to recommit yourself to following Him. Every day we face a choice, “Who will I follow today? Who will I listen to today? Where will I turn for help today? Whose kingdom will I live for today?” Follow Jesus Christ. Come to Him by faith. Receive the grace He offers, and seek His kingdom.
This sermon was originally preached at Redeemer Community Church in 2012.