18. The Great Prophet

R.J. Rushdoony • Mar, 18 2024

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  • Series: Aspects of Systematic Theology
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Our Scripture is from Matthew 4:1-11, and our subject ‘the Great Prophet,’ dealing with one of the offices of our Lord, who is prophet, priest, and king.

“Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred. And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple, And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him.” 1

Moses in Deuteronomy 18:15 and18 speaks concerning the great prophet who in the fullness of time shall come. In John 1:45, Philip tells Nathaniel: “He is come, and His name is Jesus. Come and see.” Jesus Christ is the great prophet. A prophet is one who speaks for God, who applies the Word of God to himself, to all men, and to the earth. A prophet speaks and acts in the name of the Lord and according to His Word. All men from Adam on are born into a prophetic calling, but they are either true prophets or false prophets. And from the Fall on, all men have sought to be false prophets, they have deliberately sought to set forth the word of another God; themselves. They have dreamed of applying the word of man to the world, to create a world-order, whether it be in religion or economics or politics, or law, wherever it may be; which is the word of man, not the Word of God.

God set forth the prophetic word for Adam in the creation mandate, and in the various commandments He gave to Adam. But since the Fall men seek an independent prophetic calling. After the ascension, Peter, preaching in the temple, declares in Acts 3:22 following that Jesus Christ is the great prophet foretold in Deuteronomy 18:15. Our Lord identifies Himself repeatedly as a prophet; the people we are told recognized Him as a prophet.

Our Lord in His prophetic office makes emphatic the reality of the Incarnation. He was very God of very God, and thus could speak saying: “I say unto you.” He spoke as God. But we are also told in Hebrews, in Hebrews 4:14-16

“Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” 2

Thus, our Lord who was very God of very God, and could say as no one else can: “I say unto you,” placed Himself as the second Adam, as the representative man, as the perfect man, under that every Word of God, “in all points tempted like as we are [tempted as a man - RJR] yet without sin.”

The great prophet overcame the temptation to be a false prophet, and this is what the temptation of our Lord was about. Adam had been called to be God’s priest, prophet, and king; and Satan entered into the picture with a false word: “Speak your own word! Yea hath God said? Ye shall be as God, every man his own god, knowing, determining for yourself what constitutes good and evil; be your own prophet Adam. God is attempting to prevent you from being that which you can truly be.” And so, in that temptation, Adam from being a true prophet of God became a false prophet, and now in the great temptation of our Lord, Satan again appears to tell Jesus Christ: “Be an independent prophet, you with your position and power, you can help man realize the kind of prophetic office he should have, an independent office, a great and powerful and free office.”

And so, the first temptation, the first word of the true prophet is spoken in answer to the temptation.

“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” 3

A quotation from Deuteronomy 8:3. The true prophet here declares, Jesus Christ declares, ‘Not my word, but God’s. And man cannot live by bread alone, but only by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.’ Every word, the total word. Satan advocates a partial word, a wrongly emphasized word, but our Lord insists on the total word; we cannot pick and choose from Scripture and treat it as a resource.

I saw recently some papers by some very brilliant younger theologians; to a degree they were concerned with the truth, in fact, to a degree they both quoted our Chalcedon position while dissenting with it. They believed that restitution was a good idea, or they believed that, up to a point, this or that aspect of biblical law was a good idea. But they rejected the sovereignty of God’s word, they rejected the fact that it is the every Word of God that we must follow, and they treated Scripture as though: “Here were some things given for primitive people out of which there were some pearls of wisdom which we could cull and use.”

But our Lord strikes out against this. How shall man live? “By every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” Every word, total obedience. The true prophet therefore our Lord makes clear, lives by and applies the every wordof God.

Then comes the second prophetic word from our Lord: “thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.” The word ‘tempt’ means to test. The Greek word has the implication of trying, of proving; 4 and of course the question then is: Who is to be tested in this world? God or man? Who is the final judge, God or man? And the prophetic word of our Lord is that: “thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.” He is the Lord. He only can test, and He tests man; God is the judge, not the judged.

But it is the mark of a false faith that it seeks to bring God to a test, and we have today very common a widespread phenomenon in the church; rationalistic apologetics which insists on putting God to the test. A few years ago the shining light of Fuller Seminary was E.J. Carnell, who, in his introduction to Christian economics went so far as to say , these are his well known and famous words:

“Bring on your revelations! Let them make peace with the law of contradiction and the facts of history, and they will deserve a rational man’s assent. A careful examination of the Bible reveals that it passes these stringent examinations summa cum laude.” 5

Of course, Carnell’s successors have not been so gracious as judges. At best, Jack Rogers and others are ready to give maybe a Cum Laude to the Bible; not a summa cum laude. And they remind us as often as they can of all the ostensible defects in that Word. They are the judges, and they put God and His Word to the test.

Now whether you call God’s Word when you judge deserving of a cum laude or a summa cum laude, or just a passing grade, you are a false prophet because man has no right to put God to the test.

“Thou shalt not tempt [or test - RJR] the Lord thy God.”

It is interesting that Jesus Christ who is the Logos, reason incarnate; Reason Incarnate, did not try to reason with Satan. He refused to maintain a fiction that there was some kind of neutral reason above and over God and His creatures, to which both could appeal, in terms of which both could judge the other. No. Reason Incarnate refused to reason with the creature, it was simply: “Thus saith the Lord. It is written.” Thrice the great prophet declares: “It is written. It is written. It is written.”

Then comes the third prophetic word:

“[I]t is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.” 6

Again our Lord quotes from Scripture. The essence of the temptation in the wilderness, the essence of Israel’s sin, of man's sin, of the false prophet’s position, is to say: “God has to perform at our demand, at our need. If you are really God and you are omnipotent, don’t you see my problems? Why aren’t you doing something about it? Something has to be done, because I say I need it!” Which is another way of saying: “Fall down and worship me. Serve me, meet my demands.” But the basic commandment of all Scripture is: “thou shalt have no other God’s before me.” And the basic false God is always ourselves, and fallen man says to God: “Fall down and worship me.” Or as one British scientist said:

“If there be a God, the chief end of God should be to glorify man and to enjoy him forever.” 7

Satan claims all the world: “All these things I will give thee.” But Satan was a liar from the beginning, and a false prophet. And as a false prophet he claimed an independent word and an independent ownership, and the true prophet does not say: “This is mine.” He is a steward of God, he speaks the Word of God, he applies the Word of God to himself and all that he has, and he holds all things as a steward under almighty God. Christ therefore is the true prophet, when He is faced by Satan who tempts Him as he tempted Adam to be a false prophet, an independent prophet, a humanistic prophet; had no independent word. It was thus that He showed us the way of the true prophet.

We are restored prophets in Christ, and His example is the way of the true prophetic calling. We are called to be prophets, priests and kings in Christ. We need to beware, therefore, lest at any time we assert an independent word and say in effect to God: “Let this be done O Lord.” Why? “Because I said so.” Not my will, but thine be done.

Let us pray.

* * *

O Lord our God who of thy grace and mercy has called us to be prophets, priests and kings in Jesus Christ, we thank thee that thy Word is truth, and thou hast remade us in terms of Jesus Christ to be the people of truth, the people of thy Word. We thank thee that now thy law is written upon the table of our hearts, and that the cry of our hearts in Jesus Christ is:

“Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God.”

Keep us O Lord from waywardness, from ourselves, and from our will, that in all things we may seek thy face, obey thy Word, and glorify thy name. Bless us to this purpose. In Jesus' name, amen.

* * *

Are there any questions now, first of all on our lesson? Yes?

[Audience Member] Could you put in other words what rationalistic apologetics is?

[Rushdoony] Yes, rationalistic apologetics tries to prove that God is; it will have proofs for example for the existence of God, and it will try to prove the Bible, whereas the Bible never tries to prove that God is, it simply says: “The Lord is.” And there is no reason nor proof possible in a world without God, because if you deny God and if you say the world is simply a product of evolution, then it is a product of blind chance; there can be no reason in it, it is an irrational world.

I recall once at a college, getting into a bitter argument with a professor from the graduate school of Johns Hopkins who was very bitter against the idea, on a campus you know, of God and Christ being introduced into intelligent discussion; and the statement made as I did that we had to view the universe as a universe of total rationality because the creator was the totally rational God; but that this did not mean we approach the world in terms of our reason, but we approached it with a presupposition of God and His mind. And he said: “no, the world has only a thin edge of reason, in the mind of man.”

Now, the rationalist is illogical. He wants the universe to be totally logical, but it is illogical if the God of creation is not there. Now, the Christian in apologetics is therefore like a Christian Theist, you know. He believes in God and in evolution, he is trying to bring two alien things together. He is saying: “Reason is the ultimate sovereign, because it is in man; and there is nothing out there which reason is not to judge, because reason is ultimate. But reason will prove that there is a God out there who religiously is ultimate, but not otherwise, and we will test Him, and if He is okay, you can believe in Him.” So, really it boils down to a question of sovereignty, the rationalist in theology always insists on the sovereignty of man, whether openly, or tacitly.

Does that help? Yes?

[Audience Member] Since the humanistic position is that every man is his own God and that leads to chaos, whereas the Christian of course has a given order in the universe because of God and His Word, how do the pragmatic humanists deal with that?

[Rushdoony] A very good question. Well, of course that has been a problem to them. And this is why one of the more neglected works and more important works of Karl Marx is addressed to that. It is not very commonly studied or read, but in two ponderous and very passionate volumes, Karl Marx wrote an attack on Max Stirner. 8 Now Max Stirner was a very logical anarchist; he attacked as I pointed out some time back, all the moral humanists, because he said: “You will not sleep with your mother or your daughter because you are still fifty percent a Christian, you dropped God but not His law. For me anything goes in the world. There is no God, therefore there is only my will in the universe.”

Max Stirner was a logical anarchist, and he made it clear in his book The Ego and His Own that you could not impose logically any law over a free man in a world without God. Every man was then his own god and his own law. And of course this spelled the death of Communism. So the essence of Karl Marx’s two volumes was that ‘this is terrible, it may be logical but we must have some kind of humanistic order in the world; and Communism is the way, therefore pragmatically we have got to insist on it, not on your logical nonsense.’

Would you say, Gary North is with us today, that’s a fair summary of that book? Is there anything you would like to add on the two volumes, you are very familiar with them I know.

[Gary North] No, that is basically it. There was the great conflict always between Marx and the Anarchists. Sometimes they were right-wing anarchists, and sometimes as the case in Bakunin he was a left-wing anarchist. But Marx always stressed throughout his life, and then beyond Marx in Engel’s later writings that anarchism was essentially lawless, and that as Engels said in his great book or article on authority, that there is nothing more totalitarian and law-oriented than a revolution, that a revolution if it is to be successful cannot possibly be anarchistic and undirected; so that they wanted to have a system of order which would direct revolutionary violence. In other words that chaos had to be orderly, that the religion of revolution and the chaotic festivals revolution had to be a systematically organized and developed chaos, or else it would just defuse itself into a kind of amorphous mass, and it wouldn’t be politically effective. So, of course, he was a rigorous centralist, and spent virtually the whole of his life battling his philosophical and organizational rivals because they were interfering with the necessary centralism of the coming revolution.

[Rushdoony] It’s an interesting thing along those same lines, that lately they have had a very, very dramatic, widespread and destructive strike in the Soviet Union among the auto workers. They organized and went out on strike, an unprecedented thing. But the thing that made it possible was they simply jumped all of these workers who had been brought up under Marxism, the whole apparatus of Marxism, and they started out with an appeal to the Marxist regime, and they said: “Then Unions were possible, and strikes were possible.” And they went back to the whole body of thinking before Communism, to presuppose a world that was essentially a godly world. And this shattered the leadership, they don’t know how to cope with that. Yes?

[Audience Member] On a slightly different subject, about three or four questions all in a row (?). The Secret Six, John Brown and the Abolitionist Movement by Otto Scott, now is that available? It says it is, but can I send my money up to you people and I will get it?

[Rushdoony] Yes we still have a limited number of copies of The Secret Six.

[Audience Member] Now the second and really my final question and most important one is, would you sketch John Brown for us, not his birth and death, but who he actually was and who put him up to it?

[Rushdoony] Yes, John Brown was a professional killer. He was hired by some leading Unitarian abolitionists to do their hatchet work and create trouble for the pro-slavery men in Kansas, and then to try to precipitate a war. Now, as Otto Scott has pointed out, and my next Chalcedon Report will deal with this issue, throughout the Western world, slavery in some form or another was quite prevalent. There were more slave in many countries in Latin America for example, and the serfs in Old Russia far outnumbered our slaves percentage-wise, and yet every country in the world freed its serfs or slaves, that is the in the Western world, except the United States, every country freed them without war or bloodshed, or some kind of national crisis. So, our civil war was a remarkable and unprecedented thing.

Now, the question he raises is: “Why did this happen?” It happened because, he said: “We developed a kind of Liberalism which believed in conflict,” (which had Hegelian roots by the way.) “And therefore conflict was the necessaryway for them, there had to be a war, you had to create a conflict in order to get the kind of resolution you wanted. And so you have had nothing but organized conflict since then, a stress on the conflict, not the harmony of interest. And so you create conflict as the answer to problems. And now of course this has become a worldwide phenomenon.

Now, Otto Scott is working for Chalcedon in part now on the concluding volume of his series on ‘the holy fools of humanism,’ the first James the 1st, and then Robespierre, and then John Brown, and finally Woodrow Wilson.

[Audience Member] What is the relationship between John Brown: “The Battle Hymn of the Republic?”

[Rushdoony] There is really no relationship because while it was a Civil War that stimulated the writing of that hymn and the author was very much moved by the events of the day there was no connection.

[Audience Member] On that point, and I can’t verify that, one of my professors at the university made the statement once that the John Brown referred to in the hymn was not the John Brown of Harper’s Ferry, but that it was a Union soldier who was then killed, with the same name; and I am not certain that that is true, I never followed up on it, but he was pretty knowledgeable, and I think that’s probably the case.

[Rushdoony] Yes, there is an article on that, I believe it was first published in the American Legion magazine, that it was about John Brown who was about the first man who was killed in the war. An unhappy coincidence there between the two men.

[Rushdoony] Yes. Well, yes one more question?

[Audience Member] Can you comment on the rise and fall of interest rates?

[Gary North] Interest rates are fluctuating and will continue to do so, that is my answer.

[Rushdoony] Interest rates are fluctuating and will continue to do so. But they will fluctuate upward will they not?

[Gary North] Unless they go down.

[Rushdoony] Unless they go down.

[Gary North] I spent three days in a conference among the finest experts in the hard money camp, who told us whether the interest rates would go up or down, and they did conclude that they would do one or the other. And we had absolutely the best men in the United States some of them handling portfolios of $300 million strictly on the basis of which way our interest rate is going to go, and they did not agree with each other with respect to the next three months. The answer is it will fluctuate.

[Rushdoony] Well, with that note, let us bow our heads for the benediction.

* * *

And now go in peace, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, bless you and keep you, guide and protect you, this day and always, amen.

1 Mt 4.

2 Heb 4:14–16.

3 Mt 4:4.

4 ἐκπειράζω ekpeirazō; from 1537 and 3985; to test thoroughly, tempt:—put(2), put … to the test(1), test(2), try(1). Thomas, R. L. (1998). In New American Standard Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek Dictionaries: updated edition. Foundation Publications, Inc.

5 Edward John Carnell: An Introduction to Christian Apologetics. (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1952). p. 178.

6 Mt 4:10.

7 Sir Robert Watson-Watt, cited in; Rushdoony, Rousas John. Faith & Action: The Collected Articles of R.J. Rushdoony from the Chalcedon Report, 1965-2004. 2018 edition. Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 2018, 572.

8 See; Karl Marx. “III. Saint Max.” In Marx & Engels Collected Works, by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Vol. Volume 5 Marx And Engels 1845-47. Lawrence & Wishart, 2010. “Saint Max” spans over three-hundred pages.

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