15 The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you shall heed such a prophet. 16 This is what you requested of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said: “If I hear the voice of the Lord my God any more, or ever again see this great fire, I will die.” 17 Then the Lord replied to me: “They are right in what they have said. 18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their own people; I will put my words in the mouth of the prophet, who shall speak to them everything that I command. 19 Anyone who does not heed the words that the prophet shall speak in my name, I myself will hold accountable. 20 But any prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, or who presumes to speak in my name a word that I have not commanded the prophet to speak—that prophet shall die.” Deuteronomy 18:15-20
In today’s reading from Deuteronomy, Moses promises that God will raise up another prophet after him to continue to speak God’s truth to the Israelites. He reminds the people that this was exactly what they requested, because hearing from God directly and looking upon God’s “great fire” had become too much for them. They would much rather have a sort of “middle man” to bring God’s word to them indirectly. Yahweh agrees to this arrangement but with some stipulations. First of all, the people must actually listen to this prophet, and God will personally hold everyone accountable to this standard! But, at the same time, Israel must be wary of false prophets who arrogantly proclaim things God hasn’t commanded (or just plainly speak in the name of other gods). These deceptive teachers are to pay the ultimate price for attempting to mislead God’s people!
Christians today live in a world full of would be “prophets.” The massive influx of new forms of communication media over the last several decades have provided platforms for all kinds of charismatic preachers and teachers that reach enormous audiences. As we sift through all the religious teaching available to us, we must hold it to the standard of original Christian teaching handed down to us from the apostles in the Scriptures. We should pay particular attention to how the prophetic teachings we encounter square with the Jesus we encounter in the Gospels. If we truly believe that Christ was God incarnate (in human flesh) then no true “prophet” would bring a message that conflicts with his loving, righteous, humble character. As we embrace God’s truth spoken to us through modern day prophets, we ourselves learn to speak prophetically to a world in desperate need of the Gospel!