17 The Lord said to me: “What they say is good. 18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites, and I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him. 19 I myself will call to account anyone who does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name. 20 But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, is to be put to death.”
21 You may say to yourselves, “How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the Lord?” 22 If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously, so do not be alarmed.
(Deuteronomy 18:17-22 NIV)
Another commentary on how to judge if a prophet speaks for the Lord. Here again is the reminder to judge the prophet based on what the Lord has commanded. But here the emphasis is also on whether what the person says comes to pass. The repetition suggests this was an issue? Several variations on this theme occur in this section.
There is also this reality of mediation – the Israelites did not want to hear from God directly but through someone like Moses.
The order of things here is reversed from earlier, however – the critical judgement seems to be on whether it comes to pass in contrast to earlier when Moses warned event that was not enough. Why the contrast / distinction?
One thing that I take away from these repeated warnings is that there are always other voices – other authorities – that will compete with God. In Moses’ time it was the people of the land where they were going. Today with the internet and TV it is all around us, all the time.
The concern for other gods is about, for me, the temptation to chart an easier path by following a different authority. God in Deuteronomy – and Jesus in the Gospels – demands much. Demands all in fact. No half-truths or half-hearted devotion. No picking and choosing on my own authority.
I am always tempted to listen to the prophet who promises what I want, what I (think) I need rather than what I need to hear.
Lord, you want to communicate with us so very much – so much so that you make sure that we hear what you say, and understand what you want. I confess that I sometimes want to hear what I want and not what you are saying – I listen in hope that other voices will tell me what I want. And they often do. May I be as ruthless as you commanded your people to be in seeking your voice alone and judging what I hear so that I may hear you and you alone. Amen.