Deuteronomy 18: 15 – 20 and Mark 1: 21 – 28
It seems to be human nature to need a spokesperson. Whether you are a politician, a monarch, or a celebrity; a Postmaster or Postmistress, an Asylum Seeker, a tenant in mouldy, rotten rented accommodation, a homeless woman, or a vulnerable child – the list is endless.
People often need someone to speak on their behalf, or someone to make sense of things for them so that we can understand what’s being asked of us in clear and simple language and the corresponding actions. We all need leaders who can communicate clearly, honestly and with integrity.
And God will always need such people to help us understand God and what God requires of us.
So, in the middle of a section outlining various laws to do with boundary markers and sacrifices, the compiler of Deuteronomy inserts this word from God.
Speaking to the people, Moses says that one day God will send another prophet like him to lead and guide the people (remember Moses initially told God – don’t ask me, I’m no great speaker!)
Deuteronomy tells people to look out for a prophet into whose mouth God will put his actual words. This ‘future’ prophet, Moses says, will speak God’s words with God’s full authority, such that anyone who refuses to listen will be held accountable by God.
And the people are also warned against listening to false prophets. An authentic prophet’s words will prove to be true.
It’s almost as if God and Moses knew that the people would not be able to follow all the guidance coming their way without a person present with the authority to speak for God. It’s what the people asked for when the Law was given on the mountain. And God honoured this promise with a string of prophets, starting with Samuel, many of whose words we have in the text of the Old Testament.
Enter Jesus into the world! And people are astounded by what Jesus says and by the authority with which he teaches, ‘for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes’. Mark 1: 20
His authority is unprecedented, so much so that a ‘demon’ is expelled from a man with an unclean spirit. ‘They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, ‘What is this? A new teaching — with authority!’ Mark 1: 27
Jesus heals both the physical and the spiritual parts of our being and is the fulfilment of God’s word made comprehensible – by Jesus
Both of these readings encourage us to properly consider the authority of those who seek to influence us. Where is their clarity, honesty and integrity? These are important questions in what will be a General Election year!
God always sends word in the form of a person to make God’s sense of things.
But beware of who you listen to! How Christ-like is their message. How compassionate are they to the vulnerable, the lost and the least in both their private and public lives? How genuine is their ‘authority’? Are they making God’s sense?