Today’s WORD (Text) Deuteronomy 18:17-22
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.” 21 You may say to yourself, “How can we recognize a word that the Lord has not spoken?” 22/ If a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord but the thing does not take place or prove true, it is a word that the Lord has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; do not be frightened by it.
I so appreciate God’s candor in speaking to the ancients on how to judge the credibility of a prophet’s words, whether or not the Lord is the originator of those words. God reduced the criterion for judging the integrity of a prophetic oracle thusly: “If a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord but the thing does not take place or prove true, it is a word that the Lord has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously.” A friend of mine sent me a video clip recently with excerpts of various popular preachers predicting the outcome of the recent general election. The videos show those persons professing to speak in the name of the Lord. They were animated and spoke demonstratively about the election results that surely would come to pass, in their estimation. Turns out they were flat wrong. The candidate they predicted would win actually lost the election. My friend inquired rather sincerely, how to interpret the meaning of all that. I could only refer her to the above text in Deuteronomy. Again, “If a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord but the thing does not take place or prove true, it is a word that the Lord has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously.” This word should give us all pause who profess to speak in God’s name when seeking to interpret socio-historical events. God has no obligation to make things happen simply because we predict they will happen. God’s servants are not fortune tellers. We do our best work when we seek to interpret the times in light of the scriptures. Not everyone is gifted by God to do this.
What do you think accounts for overreach on the part of those who attempt to make divine commentary on socio-historical events, and yet their commentary seldom, if ever, squares with the facts on the ground?
Dear God, make your servants ever mindful of our responsibility to acknowledge you in all our ways. Remind us that we cannot do the work of God without the power of God. Make us to know the limits of our charisma and our spiritual gifts. Teach us to speak only those words that you authorize us to speak. Let your word be a light and a lamp unto our pathways and our feet. Teach us the meaning of humility in difficult situations where we are tempted to be the voice of authority. Make us to know the proper time and a season for everything, including when to speak, and when to keep silent, in the name of Jesus, Amen.
The Passionary Intention
Today, I choose to live my life with passion. Today, I intend to follow Christ more nearly, love more dearly and incarnate God’s grace more clearly by asking myself three questions:
- Where will I follow Christ today?
- To whom shall I demonstrate Jesus’ love and justice today?
- How can I play my part in practicing the presence of Christ, right here, right now?
The Passionary Movement Word and Witness devotion is published weekdays (Monday – Friday). Dr. Jeffrey Haggray, Executive Director of American Baptist Home Mission Societies is the author of today’s devotion.