The Role of a Prophet in the Life of a People

The One Year® Chronological Bible, NKJV (Tyndale, 2013), March 17  

Moses speaks of a day in Israel’s future when they will cry out to God for a king like the peoples around them (17:14). He gives them five guidelines for when that time arrives:

  • The king must not be a foreigner (15).
  • The king must not trust in warhorses obtained from the Egyptians, but he must rely upon the LORD to protect him (16).
  • The king must not multiply wives for himself (17).
  • The king must not use his position to enrich himself (17).
  • The king must be Bible literate (19).

Moses also promises Israel of a day when God will raise up for Israel, “a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren,” and warns them to heed the voice of this coming prophet as well as other true prophets (Deuteronomy 18:15).

As weather sirens alert of imminent tornado conditions and warn people to take precautions, so a prophetic voice sounds an alarm and interrupts the people and culture enveloped in sin so that they will repent. To ignore God’s prophet is to ignore God Himself—“And it shall be that whoever will not hear My words, which He speaks in My name, I will require it of him” (18:19). God sends prophets to His people prior to judgment in hopes that His people will heed their warning and turn back to Him.

How does one discern between those who prophesy for God and those who prophesy for themselves? Israel asks this question as well, and Moses provides the answer, “When a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken” (18:22). This is the second of two tests for a true prophet. In Deut. 13:1-5, Moses warned of the prophet who performed a true miracle in order to entice the people to follow a false god. Now Moses warns his kinsmen about the man who claims to be a prophet of the true God, but whose word fails. In both of these texts, the people are not to fear the prophet, but rather to kill him.

From these warnings, God shows three truths about His prophets:

  • True prophets of God speak in the name of the LORD
  • True prophets of God speak truth that comes to pass
  • True prophets of God are to be feared because they are spokesmen for the living God

God’s prophets speak through the Scriptures today: they are to be feared–we should tremble at the Word (Isaiah 66:2)―for they speak for God; they speak truth that will come to pass; and, they speak in His name. The Zimbabweans sing a chorus that says, “Listen to God, because He always speaks the truth.” Listening to God’s prophets through the Word is listening to God.

Questions from today’s reading (Deuteronomy 16:18-21:9):

What steps does the LORD give Israel to settle disputes with one another? What does this reveal about human nature?

What test does the LORD give Israel to prove real prophets from false prophets? What does this test reveal about the position of prophets in Israel?

What regulations does the LORD give Israel to ensure that those in his military are mentally prepared for service? What does this reveal about God?