Jesus - The Prophet        

Part 1 of a series of 3 Sermons - Jesus the Prophet,Priest and King.

If you were asked, "What is a prophet?" how would you answer?
Would you immediately think of men like Elijah or John the Baptist?
What is a Prophet ?
Is it one who proclaims the word or the message of God ?
Not really, for many men have preached God's word -
Wesley, Whitfield, Spurgeon, Dr Lloyd-Jones were evangelists and preachers - definitely; but not prophets.
Many lived to translate God's Word like Tyndale who was burned at the stake for it in 1536.
Or Wycliffe. In 1415 the Pope ordered his bones to be burned, but he was too late - he had died 30 years earlier!
But even these two , a martyr and a posthumous martyr,
       who so greatly affected life in 'this island off Europe', were not prophets.

What does scripture tell us of the ministry of prophets?
Amos wrote,"Surely the Sovereign Lord does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets."  (Amos 37)
So a Prophet is primarily one who reveals the mind of God.
He tells the fallen world of his plans for yesterday, today and tomorrow.
Prophets interpret the past, discern the present and predict the future.

It is immediately clear that since God's thoughts are not our thoughts we will find many great surprises.
Prophecy is not the product of a man's own ideas.
It is not his accumulated wisdom from studying facts or from discussions with other men.
Prophecy is God desiring to reveal to men the truth that he needs to know.
God is so gracious!
We can never deserve to know the secrets of the heart of God!

Today I hope we shall see something of:
      "The love that drew salvation's plan"   and
      "the grace that brought it down to man"

How did God begin his revealing?  Who was the first prophet?
Methuselah which means "On the day that I die it shall happen".
He lived for 969 years
On every day of every year that he lived, he proclaimed God's awful plan.
And it was awful!
You probably know what happened when he died?
God destroyed the earth with a flood.
The last thing that Noah did before entering the Ark was to bury his aged grandfather Methuselah.
Did anyone take any notice of God's first prophet?
Regrettably not!
Both he and God's message were ignored by all except Noah.

Then there was Abraham.
One night God took Abraham outside his tent to look at the stars.
As he marvelled at their beauty and their great number, God revealed his plan and said,
       "So shall your descendants be."
       "And Abraham believed God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness."   (Gen 155,6)
God kept his word; he raised up the Jewish nation.
In the course of time he has called us undeserving Gentiles to be included among his chosen people,
       to be descendants of Abraham.
We, you and I, are some of the 'stars' that Abraham saw when he believed God's word.
Do you often marvel at the goodness of God?

God then revealed to Abraham that his descendants would become strangers in a foreign land.
For 400 years they would be ill-treated but then they would be delivered.
The subsequent Exodus from Egypt is a wonderful story of God's power and compassion to deliver.
Like Abraham, we walk in this world as pilgrims and strangers.
Days will come when Christians will be ill-treated, and 'enslaved'.
We shall not escape suffering, but God will also deliver us.

What else did God reveal to Abraham, the prophet?
Shortly before Isaac was born God revealed his intended destruction of Sodom.
Abraham prays - but not even 10 righteous are found.
So Sodom is destroyed and only righteous Lot and his 2 daughters escape.
Never be hoodwinked in thinking that homosexuality is normal or natural.
To God it remains an abomination.

A few years pass and Abraham goes with Isaac - now a young man - to Mt Moriah
Isaac says, "Behold the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?"
Abraham replies, "God will provide himself an offering, my son."   (Gen 227,8)
Probably it was only after he had said this that he realised God had spoken.
God had revealed his gracious plan of salvation to the world.
Although God provided a ram caught in a thicket for sacrifice, instead of his only son, Isaac,
Abraham did not call the place "The Lord has provided"  but "The Lord will Provide"
2,500 years later, within a mile of the same spot, God did provide.
For there, Jesus, the Son of God, the Lamb of God, was crucified!
God provided the only way by which our sin could be forgiven.

Elijah was one of the greatest prophets, but how did he begin?
In his day the nation of Israel was 'going to the dogs'.
Ahab was the Baal worshipping king, and Jezebel was his commanding wife.
Presumptuous prosperity, idol worship, immorality, and injustice were rife.
Elijah saw this and it hurt.
For months he pleaded with God to do something about it.
At the right time God revealed his plan - No rain!
Made fearless by God Elijah marches into the presence of the Ahab and says, "No rain till I say so."
       i.e. not till God, the Lord Almighty says so.
So for 3½ years there was no rain.

The problem was that Baal was supposedly god of the weather.
Ahab had encouraged the people to worship Baal for what they hoped to get out of it -
       rain and agricultural prosperity.
I hope none of us do the same and worship God for what we hope to get out of him.
Baal had totally failed and was rapidly losing popularity.
Ahab naturally blamed Elijah!

You know the story.  (see sermon on Ahab .v. Elijah)
How God's Prophet obeys his Master and arranges a contest on Mt Carmel.
It was so ridiculous, it wasn't a contest.
How can a wooden image made by a mere man contest with Almighty God,
       the Designer and Creator of the world!
The result was more than a knockout in the first round;
      especially for the 450 deceived prophets of Baal who were slain!
But what did this Prophet reveal?
That idols are the fancies of men and can have no power of their own.
That God alone is the Sovereign Lord.
There can be no hope of salvation from any other.
As Jesus would later proclaim, "No man comes to the Father except by me."  (John 146)

O that God would today raise up such a prophet.
One who would speak so directly into the arena of international politics.
One who truly knows the mind of God.
One whose sole criteria is truth, not popularity.

About 140 years later our gracious God chose a man called Isaiah, and revealed to him more of his plans.
Let's look at just two of them!
1. A virgin would conceive and bear a Son.  (Isaiah 714)
Why is this so important?
Simply that if a man were his father then he could never be perfect.
He could never be a perfect sacrifice, the "Lamb without blemish".
He could only be a sinner like all of us.
Only if God was his Father could he be the required Saviour.

2. The Messiah would also be a Servant!  (Isaiah 5213 - 5312)
Indeed he would be despised and rejected; a man of sorrows.
He would be stricken by God, and familiar with suffering.
He would be pierced for our transgressions.
The punishment that brings us peace would be upon him.
And by his wounds we would be healed.
This does not seem much like a victory plan.
How can the King of kings be a servant?
Especially one who seemed to fail so dramatically.
But the Cross of Christ has always been the great divider of men.  (1 Co 118-30)
Either it is the wisdom and power of God for salvation, or it is an offence; a crazy, foolish notion.
Some think it is a great example of how to die.
But that leaves man to trying to be good, holy, just and true all on his own.
No man has ever been able to come up to anywhere near God's standard.
It greatly offends the pride of most men that there are some things he cannot do.
Others are willing to admit that they cannot become righteous
    and they seek the mercy and grace of Christ, the Saviour,
God's plan for a 'Suffering Servant' is best:
    indeed it is the ultimate wisdom, the only solution to man's enduring problem of sin.

God revealed yet another plan to Isaiah.
It probably doesn't seem very important to us, but it certainly was to them.
The brutal Assyrians had defeated all the northern territory of Israel
       and most of Judea, including Lachish, the last city on the coastal plain.
Now they threatened Jerusalem.
They openly insulted God.
They said none of the other gods had been able to withstand their mighty army, so how could Hezekiah's God?
Such a challenge to the Lord of Hosts is doomed.  No one can challenge Almighty God and expect to win.
God's word came to his prophet Isaiah - a long Hebrew poem actually.  (Is 3722-35)
Part of it said, "He will not enter this city or shoot an arrow here.
       "I will defend this city and save it ..."
And that night the angel of the Lord slew 185,000 in the Assyrian camp.
Simple! ... Sennacherib went home in disgrace, to be murdered shortly afterwards.

But a century later God's plan was different.
The people had largely ignored Isaiah.
They did not seek righteousness and cared nothing for God's word.
On one occasion, it was the 5th year of King Jehoiakim, the son of Josiah, the radical reformer.
A fast had been proclaimed.  There was plenty of religion, but little righteousness.
It was winter and Jehoiakim was listening to a scroll by Jeremiah, the prophet.
But as each part was read, he cut it off and threw it into the fire with measured contempt.  (Jer 3623)
What was God's revealed plan that Jehoiakim did not like?
Simply that Jerusalem would be destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar and the Jews would be exiled to Babylon.
God's plans are not always pleasant.
We must read the whole of scripture; not just the bits we like.
Please remember that "Blessing is not me having a good time",
       and neither is "answered prayer" - Me getting what I want!
It is seeing God's plan being fulfilled whatever that may be, and hearing God's word for now and obeying it.

There were many other great prophets: men like:
Micah who revealed that Bethlehem would be the birth-place of the Messiah.
Daniel who was shown what God intended to do in the last days.
John the Baptist, whom Jesus said was the greatest prophet of them all.
His revelation was that NOW was the time. The most longed-for moment in all history.
"Look," he cried when he saw Jesus, "the Lamb of God is here!!"
"The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world."

But there was to be a greater prophet than even John.   Jesus!
Jesus revealed to a waiting world that He, the Son of God, must die.
Yes, God the eternal must die - there was no other way for sin to be forgiven.
One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, "Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?" "What things?" he asked. "About Jesus of Nazareth," they replied. "He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn't find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see."
He said to them, "How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?" And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.  (Lu 2418-27)
Jesus the Prophet revealed God's plan, his only plan for sinful men.
It surprised them;  and everyone since who has heard this wisdom of God!
They assumed Messiah would surely be triumphant, his reign glorious;
       gone would be all hunger, poverty, injustice and even sickness.
The Romans and all Judah's enemies would be defeated.
The Messiah would be their triumphant King for ever.
That day will be when Jesus comes again, and all this will be gloriously true.
But at his first coming the King of kings would be born in a stable.
He would be rejected in life by almost all in authority,
       and he would suffer the humiliation and pain of a Roman Crucifixion.
How could they understand this?
How can we?

To the two despairing disciples going to Emmaus Jesus explained all the prophecies concerning his suffering.
And he began with Moses the Law-giver who was also a prophet!
Jesus explained to them all about the Passover Lamb that had to be slain.
Jesus, the Prophet revealed the plan of God; that the sacrifice of the Son of God was no accident.
Jesus showed them that the plan had been perfectly and completely fulfilled.
That Jesus was born of a Virgin, and in Bethlehem.
That Jesus had ministered in power and truth and grace for just over 3 years.
Finally he had laid down his life, a full perfect and sufficient sacrifice.
And that it was impossible for death to hold the Son of God in its grip!

Jesus the Prophet not only revealed God's plan for salvation, but he fulfilled it - himself!!

The long line of Prophets had stood like signposts on the highway of life, all pointing to the day of Jesus Christ.
Now it was completed.
As they understood, their hearts burned within them.
Then Jesus made himself known to them in the breaking of bread.

Today we see Jesus as the Prophet who fulfilled all prophecy!
To any who long for God, who ache because of sin, Jesus is the answer.
If sin does not matter much to you, then neither will the Cross.
You will either pretend not to have failed, or say that your failure doesn't matter.
But to those who cry in agony of spirit, to all such, God reveals his one and only way of forgiveness;
       Jesus Christ, the Son of God, CRUCIFIED
       and Jesus Christ, RISEN from the dead.


Jesus, thy blood and righteousness
My beauty are, my glorious dress;
Midst flaming worlds in these arrayed,
With joy shall I lift up my head.

Bold shall I stand in that great day,
For who aught to my charge shall lay?
Fully absolved through these I am,
From sin and fear, from guilt and shame.

The holy, meek, unspotted Lamb,
Who from the Father's bosom came,
Who died for me, even me, to atone,
Now for my Lord and God I own.

Lord, I believe thy precious blood,
Which at the mercy seat of God
For ever doth for sinners plead,
For me, even for my soul, was shed.

Jesu, be endless praise to thee,
Whose boundless mercy hath for me,
For me and all thy hands have made,
An everlasting ransom paid.

Ah! give to all thy servants, Lord,
With power to speak thy gracious word,
That all who to thy wounds will flee,
May find eternal life in thee.