By Joshua Spurlock
It is one of the most important promises in all of Scripture, and it is the foundation and the reason for many other precious commitments of HaShem (the LORD). It is the promise that a new Navi (Prophet) would arise and lead us to HaShem. He would teach us what we need to know to have intimacy with G-d.
Yet despite the vital nature of this promise, the Navi’s identity is hidden throughout most of Scripture. Who is He? What will He do? And why is He so important?
Parashat Shoftim gives us important clues about the Navi’s identity. Moshe (Moses) was the greatest of all the earthly nevi’im (prophets). Unlike all the others, only Moshe spoke face-to-face with HaShem. And the Navi will be like Moshe:
“The LORD your God [Elokekhem] will raise up for you a prophet [navi] like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen—just as you desired of the Lord your God [Elokekhem] at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God [Elohai] 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 [Navi] 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.”
– Devarim (Deuteronomy) 18:15-19, ESV
Now, a prophet like Moshe sounds like a big deal—and it is. Earlier in the Torah (the Law, or first five books of the Bible), HaShem Himself, in chastising Aharon (Aaron) and Miryam (Miriam) for criticizing Moshe, described Moshe as the greatest of all the prophets.
“And the Lord came down in a pillar of cloud and stood at the entrance of the tent and called Aaron [Aharon] and Miriam [Miryam], and they both came forward. And he said, “Hear my words: If there is a [navi] 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 [Moshe]. 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 [Moshe]?”
– Bamidbar (Numbers) 12:5-8, ESV
Later, the final words of the Torah capture Moshe’s uniqueness again:
“And there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel [Yisrael] like Moses [Moshe], 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 [Mitzrayim], to Pharaoh [Paroh] 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 [Moshe] did in the sight of all Israel [Yisrael].”
– Devarim / Deuteronomy 34:10-12, ESV
If the promised Navi is compared to Moshe, He must be unlike any other navi in history—because that’s what Moshe was. In light of this, it becomes very obvious that the identity of the Navi can be narrowed quite a bit. There are dozens of nevi’im in Scripture, but not even David HaMelekh (King David), Yeshayahu (Isaiah), or Yehezkel (Ezekiel) is like Moshe.
But it turns out that these nevi’im spoke about the days of the Navi, and so did the disciples of Yeshua HaMashiakh (Jesus the Christ).
The Navi’s Identity
For thousands of years, there was no Navi like Moshe. Then on the festival of Shavuot (Pentecost), Kefa (Peter) announced to Yisrael (Israel) that the Navi had finally come. He had also gone away again as well—but would be coming back, even as Moshe visited his people twice.
“Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ [HaMashiakh] appointed for you, Jesus [Yeshua], whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God [Elokim] spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets [nevi’im] long ago. Moses [Moshe] said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet [navi] like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you. And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet [navi] shall be destroyed from the people.’ And all the prophets [nevi’im] who have spoken, from Samuel [Shmuel] and those who came after him, also proclaimed these days.”
– Ma’aseh (Acts) 3:19-24, ESV
Yeshua HaMashiakh is the Navi like Moshe. In fact, He is even greater than Moshe, the very Memra (Word) of HaShem in the flesh, the sender of prophets Himself.
“Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus [Yeshua], the apostle and high priest of our confession, who was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses [Moshe] also was faithful in all God’s [Elohim] house. For Jesus [Yeshua] has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses [Moshe]—as much more glory as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself.”
– Ivrim (Hebrews) 3:1-3
The Book of Yokhannan (John) is full of symbolism that connects Yeshua to Moshe, as Yokhannan presents Yeshua as the ultimate Navi like Moshe. The narratives Yokhannan uses and the quotes he chooses are selected to make this connection evident.
For example, one of the most extensive analogies in Yokhannan’s book is that Yeshua is the Lekhem Min HaShamayim (Bread from Heaven). But why is Yeshua’s role as Lekhem Min HaShamayim so important? Read what the people say after Yeshua feeds the 5,000 with just five loaves and two fish:
“When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, ‘This is indeed the Prophet [HaNavi] who is to come into the world!’”
– Yokhannan (John) 6:14, ESV
Just feeding the crowd was enough to remind the people of the promise of the Navi like Moshe—and to declare that Yeshua is He. That connection is further made by Yeshua Himself.
“So they said to him, ‘Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven [Lekhem Min HaShamayim] to eat.’” Jesus [Yeshua] then said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses [Moshe] who gave you the bread from heaven [Lekhem Min Shamayim], but my Father [Avi] gives you the true bread from heaven [Lekhem Min HaShamayim]. For the bread of God [Elohim] is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
– Yokhanan (John) 6:30-33, ESV
Yeshua later cements His claim to being even greater than the manna, and ultimately even greater than Moshe, by demonstrating that only He can provide life everlasting.
“I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh… Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me.”
-Yokhannan (John) 6:48-51, 56-57, ESV
So Yeshua is the Navi like Moshe, and even greater than Moshe. But what does He do as that Navi, and why is it so important?
The Navi’s Purpose
The entire discussion of the Navi comes after HaShem warns Yisrael not to seek out or become fortune-tellers, sorcerers, or mediums. He calls these actions abominable practices of pagans that are forbidden for His people Devarim / Deuteronomy 18:9-14).
Each of these methods is a means of communicating with the supernatural. In a world that’s rife with tragedy and fear while lacking a clear purpose, it’s not surprising that the pagans would seek for any means to make sense of it all. Nonbelievers still engage in some of these practices today.
So how does HaShem want us to learn all that matters in life, to know what our purpose and mission is? Through the Navi like Moshe, who will speak to us HaShem’s words. Think of it this way: The Navi is our true connection to G-d Himself.
That is exactly what Yeshua did and still does. First, He speaks the words of HaShem without variation.
“The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day. For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father [HaAv] who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life [Chayei Olam]. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father [HaAv] has told me.”
– Yokhannan (John) 12:48-50, ESV
“Do you not believe that I am in the Father [HaAv] and the Father [HaAv] is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father [HaAv] and the Father [HaAv] is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.”
– Yokhannan (John) 14:10-11, ESV
Yeshua is image of G-d in the flesh (Cf. Colossians 1:15-20) and He therefore represents G-d to humanity. Through Him, we can see, touch, and hear G-d and His truth (1 John 1:1-3). And because of His death and resurrection, Yeshua is the means for us to reach and communicate with G-d.
“For there is one God [Elohim], and there is one mediator between God [Elokim] and men, the man Christ Jesus [Mashiakh Yeshua], who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.”
– 1 Timothy 2:5-6, ESV
So let’s revisit the historical background of the promise of the Navi like Moshe. Moshe said that the Navi would fulfill the wish of the people that there would be a mediator between them and G-d (Devarim / Deuteronomy 18:16-18). And what a perfect fulfillment—the Memra (Word) of G-d in flesh (Cf. Yokhannan 1:1-5,14), speaking to us His words!
Why is the Navi so important? Because He is the only means for us to connect with HaShem.
“Jesus [Yeshua] said to him, “I am the way [HaDerekh], and the truth [HaEmet], and the life [HaChaim]. No one comes to the Father [HaAv] except through me.”
– Yokhannan (John) 14:6, ESV
Our Response to the Navi
So how should this impact our lives? Firstly, we should heed Yeshua’s call for repentance and trust in Him, that His death and resurrection achieves for us forgiveness and a relationship with HaShem (Yokhanan / John 3:14-16, 5:21-29, Mattityahu / Matthew 26:28).
But once that is done, the rest of our lives should be spent listening to Yeshua and doing what He said. He has given us the precious revelation of the Father—who HaShem is, what He wants from us, and how we are to carry it out. Time and again, Yeshua unveiled what HaShem intended for us to see in His Torah (Mattityahu / Matthew 5:17-30).
HaShem makes it clear there is judgment coming on those who do not heed the voice of the Navi, a warning Yeshua issues as well (Devarim / Deuteronomy 18:19, Yokhannan / John 12:48). Are you listening?
May your ears long for the words of Yeshua, and may your heart be open through His Ruakh (Spirit), by grace through faith, to heeding and obeying all that He says through love.