Lectionary Reflection for the Fourth Sunday after Epiphany

From Deuteronomy (BTCB) by Telford Work, commenting on Deuteronomy 18:15-20

“What God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ should suffer, he thus fulfilled” (Acts 3:18 RSV). Moses has long been indispensable to Israel. Now his tenure is ending. If he is anxious about how Israel will fare without him (→3:23–25; →31:1–8), the people must be terrified (→31:24–30). So Moses reassures Israel that his office will not cease with him. YHWH appointed Moses to mediate the Torah that Israel could not yet stand to hear (5:30–31), and God has promised so to act again. Yet of all the Old Testament prophets God sends Israel, none has a comparable legacy (Luke 20:10–12), and this promise stands unfulfilled at the time of Deuteronomy’s finalization (→34:10–12). Moses’s legacy is fully refreshed only with the sending of “the Christ appointed for you [ Jews], Jesus” (18:15–20 in Acts 3:20 RSV), whose signs and wonders accomplish what Moses’s turned out only to anticipate. God’s words in the prophets’ mouths (Jer. 1:9) turn out to herald his coming: “All the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those who came afterwards, also proclaimed these days” (Acts 3:24 RSV).

The emphatic pronoun I in 18:19 stresses that only YHWH disciplines his people who reject his prophet (cf. 1 Sam. 28:15–19; 1 Kgs. 20:35–36). They are not to be punished immediately, like false prophets (→18:20–22) and even those who stand in contempt of judges (→17:8–13). Usually their reckoning is eschatological, for heaven has received the prophet like Moses “until the time for establishing all that God spoke” (Acts 3:21 RSV). As the interval between Moses’s return and the exodus was a time of signs and wonders of judgment during which God overlooked the Hebrews’ grumbling (Exod. 5:19–6:1), the interval between Messiah’s ascension and his return is one of gracious signs of mercy that invite everyone to enter his kingdom and gain its blessings (Acts 3:25–26).

©2009 by Telford Work. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.