Fourth Sunday after Epiphany, January 31

Reader: “I will raise up a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites.”

Response: “I will put my words in his mouth.”    

Scripture: Deuteronomy 18:15-22

Moses continued, “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him. For this is what you yourselves requested of the Lord your God when you were assembled at Mount Sinai. You said, ‘Don’t let us hear the voice of the Lord our God anymore or see this blazing fire, for we will die.’

“Then the Lord said to me, ‘What they have said is right. I will raise up a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites. I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell the people everything I command him. I will personally deal with anyone who will not listen to the messages the prophet proclaims on my behalf. But any prophet who falsely claims to speak in my name or who speaks in the name of another god must die.’

“But you may wonder, ‘How will we know whether or not a prophecy is from the Lord?’ If the prophet speaks in the Lord’s name but his prediction does not happen or come true, you will know that the Lord did not give that message. That prophet has spoken without my authority and need not be feared.

Reader: “The word of the Lord.”

Response: “Thanks be to God.” 

Some thoughts:

This is a most interesting passage because, once again, it is describing both the present and the future. Moses was unique among all human beings who have ever lived. Though there were many Old Testament prophets, Moses was unique. What was it that set him apart? We read at the end of the book of Deuteronomy that, “There has never been another prophet in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face.” (Deut. 34:10). This face to face encounter with God set him apart. 

In this passage, he tells the people that this same LORD of theirs would raise up another super Israelite prophet like himself and that they were to listen to him (Deut.18:15). Israel had a penchant for ignoring prophets. The people were afraid to hear the voice of the LORD themselves. (Deut.5:24-31) The Jews were looking for this Prophet referred to by Moses. They wondered outwardly if John the Baptist was that Prophet (John 1:21). This later Prophet would speak the very words God wished to communicate to his people. In Moses’ mind as he spoke to the people, to reject the words of the Prophet was to reject the words of God. The Prophet’s words and God’s words were one in the same. Jesus, the Prophet to whom Moses is referring, said, “I don’t speak on my own authority. The Father who sent me has commanded me what to say and how to say it.” (John 12:49). 

In contrast, a false prophet who speaks in the name of the LORD faces death. This last statement seems to appeal more to the immediate situation in Moses’ day. The sad truth is, some of the First Testament prophets of God were stoned because the people rejected God’s word through the prophets, naming them as false prophets! (E.g. Tradition says that Jeremiah was stoned to death in Egypt and Isaiah was sawn in two.) 

The last couple of verses are known as the test of a prophet of the LORD. A true prophet of God is never wrong in what he or she says. If there is a prediction of a future event that does not transpire, they are no prophet of the LORD. The standard is 100% accuracy every time. If something predicted does not come true, one may disregard what was said. In our day, with many predictions and dreams regarding the future of the world, we need to be very cautious in responding to prophetic visions. One “vision” may come perfectly true. The next “vision” must also be perfectly true, and every “vision” afterwards must be completely accurate. 99 out of 100 is good, but is a failure as a prophet of God. It behooves us to know the Scriptures and weigh words very carefully in accordance with God’s word in our days of fantastic claims.

Music: “God Has Spoken By His Prophets”

Prayer: O God, I bless thee for the happy moment when I first saw thy law fulfilled in Christ, wrath appeased, death destroyed, sin forgiven, my soul saved. Ever since, Thou hast been faithful to me, daily have I proved the power of Jesus’ blood, daily have I known the strength of the Spirit, my teacher, director, sanctifier. I want no other rock to build upon than that I have, desire no other hope than that of gospel truth, need no other look than that which gazes on the cross. Forgive me if I have tried to add anything to the one foundation, if I have unconsciously relied upon my knowledge, experience, deeds, and not seen them as filthy rags, if I have attempted to complete what is perfect in Christ; May my cry be always, only Jesus, only Jesus! O God, hear me, do for me more than I ask, think, or dream. In my Savior’s name I pray. Amen. ―from The Valley of Vision, p.54