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Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 18
Moses’ speech to the congregation continued in Deuteronomy 18, focusing on five concerns.
Provision for Those Who Minister (18:1-5)
Unlike other tribes, the Tribe of Levi had no physical inheritance in Canaan (18:1-2; Numbers 18:20, 23-24). Instead, the birthright of the Levites was a portion of the “offerings of the LORD made by fire” (18:1). The other tribes of Israel toiled in their fields, cared for their flocks and herds, and were enriched by the spoils of war. However, that was not the case with the Levitical tribe. It was the duty of the Levites to labor for the LORD as ministers and representatives of His people.
Therefore, the tribes of Israel were under obligation to not begrudge the Levites their portion of the offerings given to the LORD. It was “the priest’s due from the people, from them that offer a sacrifice” (18:3). Those who labored in ministry were to receive “the first-fruit” (18:4), for the Levite was “chosen…to stand to minister in the name of the Lord” (18:5).
Giving Ministers Their Due (18:6-8)
While the Twelve Tribes were assigned their portion of lands in Canaan, the Levites were allocated forty-eight towns and villages (Numbers 35:1-8; Joshua 21). Though a Levite owned his home and land for the care of his household, his zeal and calling was to minister for the LORD. Thus, a rotation of Levites ministered at the sanctuary and caused them to journey from their homes to the Tabernacle (18:6).
So, what became of a Levite’s home and land when he sojourned to minister at the Tabernacle? First, he was allowed “the sale [literally the leasing] of his patrimony [birthright, meaning his house and land]” (18:8). While the Levites would “have like portions to eat” of the offerings brought by the people to the sanctuary, he was also allowed revenue from leasing his properties to others in his absence.
All Occult Practices Were Condemned (18:9-14)
Idolatry, and practices of the occult observed by the Canaanites, were admonished and forbidden. God’s people were “not to learn to do after the abominations of those nations” (18:9). Moses warned there would be no tolerance of wicked practices, and named among them were human sacrifices (18:10a), divination (soothsaying), fortune telling (“observer of times”), witchcraft (sorcery), casting spells (“charmer”), medium (consulting with spirits), wizardry, and necromancy (seeking to contact the dead, 18:10-11).
Tragically, there is a growing tolerance and embrace of those evil practices in the 21st century. The abortion of the unborn is touted as a right, while witchcraft, black magic, and wizardry have a growing following. Of course, this comes as no surprise, for the Book of Revelation warned that the occult would increase in the last days (Revelation 9:20-21; 18:2), and all who practice such will be cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 21:8; 22:14-15).
The Promise of a Coming Prophet (18:15-19)
Israel did not need soothsayers or fortune tellers, for the LORD had promised to put His Word in the mouth of His Prophet. So, Moses prophesied of the coming of a Prophet, One whom the “Lord thy God [would] raise up” (18:15). This Prophet was to be of Hebrew stock, for He would come “from the midst of thee (Israel), of thy brethren” (18:15).
Who was this Prophet (18:15-19)?
Some supposed it was Elijah. Others thought John the Baptist was the Prophet to come. The Scriptures, however, declare that the long-awaited Prophet was Jesus Christ.
John the Baptist said of Christ, “He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose” (John 1:27). After Jesus performed the miracle of feeding the five thousand, some said of Him, “This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world” (John 6:14). We read again in John 7:40, “Many of the people therefore, when they heard this saying, said, Of a truth this is the Prophet” (7:40).
Prophets: True and False (18:20-22)
It was a serious matter when a man proposed to speak as the LORD’s prophet. Should a man prophesy, apart from the revelation of the LORD, we read, “that prophet shall die” (18:20). Some asked, “How shall we know the word which the Lord hath not spoken?” (18:21)
The answer: “When a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him” (18:22).
The real test for a prophet was: Did every word of his prophecy come to pass? Because the word of a false prophet would fail, Israel had no reason to fear such a prophet (18:22).
Believers are responsible for discerning whether or not the things taught are from the LORD. So many today propose teaching the Scriptures, but how many believers and ministries take the time and obligation to examine what is spoken?
We should be wary of any who propose a new “word of prophecy” or claim to have received a new revelation. Also, we dare not patronize a man or support a ministry that fails to speak and teach the whole counsel of God. Be forewarned: “If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: 19And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book” (Revelation 22:18–19).
Believers should demand absolute fidelity to the Scriptures, for the LORD speaks to us through the teaching and preaching of His Word.
Questions to consider:
1) How did Israel support the priests and Levites? (18:3-5)
2) What practices did the LORD forbid in the new land? (18:9-12)
3) What were the obligations of a prophet? (18:20)
Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith
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