One of the ways God would judge a nation is he would give them a bad king first. So with that in mind, let’s go back to Deut 17.1-5 to pick up a concept on idolatry. It says that there may be some who serve other gods, or the sun, moon or any of the heavenly bodies “which I have not commanded you to do.” Why is that here? Israel (or anyone today) knew that it was wrong to worship idols, so what happens is they create this ideology. Just like a king wishes his officers to be honored, to honor the officers also honors the king. To honor celestial bodies, animals, a tree, etc, honors the Lord. So, worshiping the moon, sun or any of the heavenly bodies honors the Lord, in fact, he likes it.
Is this how people think today? Yes, just look at Christmas. They say “We are remembering the birth of Jesus and he likes it.” The Torah says this is not a valid form of religious service, for “I have not commanded” it. The Torah realizes that a person may formulate a false ideology so it adds an entire phrase in order to discount it. Why would someone worship the sun, moon,stars or idols? It is called “bias.” A person who has a desire for idol worship is biased and his emotions will overwhelm his intellect and justify what he desires, not what God wants.
Solomon, in all his wisdom, strayed away from these verses. Maybe he thought he could avoid their influence, but even their presence (the idols) were a problem. He wrote the Book of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes about what he learned. A king’s power was limited by the Torah. He was to write and have a personal copy of the Torah with him at all times (Deut 17.18-19). He may not amass silver, gold or horses to himself, and he is restricted from marrying many wives.
While we are on the subject of judges and kings, let’s look at a few concepts and see how all this could apply today. First, we are going to look at a debate between a Rabbi and a Messianic Jew. It goes like this. Not long ago a Messianic Jew got into a debate with an august representative of an organization self-styled as some sort of “Supreme” U.S. Rabbinical Court. This rabbi was standing in front of some television cameras attempting to “excommunicate” American Jewish people because of their Messianic faith. This is apparently a true story that we came across years ago and can’t cite the source, but in short, the debate went something like this. The rabbi said to the Messianic Jew, “Are you a Jew?” The Messianic Jew replied, “Was Ruth a Jew?” The rabbi asked, “Are you a missionary?” The Messianic Jew replied, “Are you a missionary?” The rabbi shouted, “I most certainly am not!”
The Messianic Jew asked , “If you are not a missionary, then why have you rabbis lawlessly wrested authority from the kohanim (priests) and are now missionizing Jewish people away from a faith squarely founded on true Biblical apocalyptic Torah Judaism as taught by the Jewish Bible?” The rabbi said (without challenging the truth of the indictment), “Because the priesthood became corrupted by the Romans, and then the Temple was destroyed in 70 C.E.” The Messianic Jew said, “One kohen (priest) was not corrupted and his temple was not destroyed.” The rabbi paused and looked at the Messianic Jew quizzically, “Which one was that?” The Messianic Jew said, “The Messiah-Priest that King David foretold in Psalm 110, the portentous priest Zechariah identified with the name of Moshiach (Messiah) in Zechariah-the very name Ezra called Yeshua (Aramaic form of Yehoshua) in the book of Ezra!” He paused again, swallowing hard. A bit later in the debate, the rabbi wiped a tear from his right eye. He couldn’t refute the Biblical argument, a position he had never heard before, apparently, and one for which he had no answer.
This brings us to the position of Kohen (priest) in Deut 18.1-8. This was an inherited position through the father, and he served in and out of the Temple. They were to be the teachers (Ezek 44.23) and shepherds of Israel. They received the first fruits of the land, flocks and herds. They also resided in cities.
Duet 18.9-13 tells us about detestable practices and gives limits on who we should seek spiritual advice from. We are not to have anything to do with someone who makes their children “pass through the fire, who uses divination, one who practices witchcraft, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one whom casts a spell, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead.” Whoever does these things is detestable to the Lord and because of that, he will drive those people out of the land of Israel. This is an issue today. We have people who believe that abortion (making their children pass through the fire) is correct and believe that it is a right. We also have psychic networks, horoscopes in newspapers, fortune cookies and mediums on television.
Deut 18.14-22 brings us up to the function and position of a Prophet. Prophets were raised up as a result of an agreement in Exo 20.19 and Deut 5.28-31. This agreement said that someone else would hear the words of Yehovah and then tell the people. The people would then “hear and obey.” In these verses it says that the Lord will raise up a prophet like Moses. God, in the form of a man, will speak the word like they asked in Exo 20.19 and Deut 5.27. Yeshua will be greater than Abraham and Moses, and that is one reason the Jewish people reject him (John 5.18, 8.58). He spoke God’s words and they asked for that on the “day of the assembly (Yom Kahal-Deut 18.16).” So, Yehovah said he would raise up a prophet from among their countrymen. He said this was a good thing, and this is called the “Law of the Agent” or “Shaliach” (v 17-18).
God would put his exact words in the mouth of that prophet, and he shall speak exactly what God has said. If the people won’t listen to God’s words which that prophet speaks “in my name” then God will require it from those who don’t listen. But, it the prophet speaks presumptuously in God’s name which he has not commanded, that prophet will die (v 18-20).
So, the question arises in v 21, “How shall we know the word which the Lord has not spoken?” One way is to check to see if what the prophet says comes true. If it doesn’t, God did not send him and we are not to fear him (v 22). A true prophet will not tell lies to the people. They will not lead you away from the Torah or the Lord. So, that means we must examine what that so-called prophet is saying (Deut 13.1-5).
Isa 8.20 says we are to go to the Torah and to the Prophets to check out what they are saying. If they do not speak according to this word, it is because they have no light (understanding) in them. Acts 17.10-11 says the Bereans listened to Paul and Silas, but they also examined the Scriptures (The Tanak was the only Scripture they had) to see whether the things Paul and Silas said was true. It says they were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica and did not argue or dispute with Paul or Silas. Prophets were to speak the exact words God gave them.
Are there true prophets of God today? We don’t think so, and here is why. There are four basic things to remember when judging whether a person is a true prophet. First, does their prediction come true? One wrong prediction invalidates them as a true prophet because their credibility is gone and can’t be trusted. Second, does what they say line up with Scripture (all of it)? True prophets do not teach false doctrine (Deut 13.1-5). Third, are they confirmed by God (like Moses before Pharaoh and Elijah before the false prophets of Ba’al) through signs and have a clear message of what people were to do to repent? Everyone knew who the prophets were in Scripture and to disobey them brought consequences. Lastly, do they accurately predict events in detail before they happen (Amos 3.7)?
Many so-called prophets today will say they “saw” an event in a dream or “God spoke to me” after an event already happened. Or they will point to some ambiguous statement like “I saw an earthquake and destruction” that they said in the past with no detail as to when and where. Then, when there is an earthquake (or hurricane, fire, etc), they will say they saw it coming. But that is not how God does things. He will use a certified prophet (with signs) to give a specific judgment or event before it happens. Then he will tell the people what they have done wrong according to his word, and what they need to do to repent and avoid the coming judgment. When the event happens, there will be no doubt about its accuracy and that God had predicted it through his prophet.
Understanding that there are no true prophets of God right now, but there will be during the Birth-pains. No prophet operated without being disliked or even hated. This will help you discern what is happening and teach you not to fear what many of these people are saying today. It will also save you a lot of time and money that you might have otherwise wasted in reading or listening to them and buying their material. And remember this, if they are false prophets do not fear their predictions (Deut 18.22).
We will pick up here in Part 17.