Saturday, June 22, 2019

Witchcraft and Prophecy in Deuteronomy

"The nations you will dispossess listen to those who practice sorcery or divination. But as for you, the LORD your God has not permitted you to do so" (Deuteronomy 18:14).

Having given rules for magistrates and for the king, Moses turned his attention to the priests and Levites (Deuteronomy 18:1–8) and to the prophets (18:9–22). In ancient Israel, the priests served God in connection with the sacrifices and the people were to support this ministry with firstfruit offerings. In the Mosaic period, some of the Levites assisted the priests, but others lived in the towns as pastors of local worship assemblies (Leviticus 23:3). They too were to be supported by tithes and offerings. Today the priestly (sacramental) and Levitical (teaching) ministries are combined in the pastoral office in the church, which is to be supported by tithes and gifts.

Turning to the prophets, Moses began by condemning witchcraft in all its forms and manifestations. The purpose of witchcraft was to acquire knowledge, especially about the future. Believers were required to use the available Scriptures (the Pentateuch) alone as a source of information about the present and future.

I once heard of a "church" where the people held seances to talk with departed relatives. When it was pointed out that the Bible forbids this, they replied, “Oh, that was just for the Old Testament.” Not so. Since the Bible says that God destroyed other nations for doing such things, God’s law against witchcraft was not something peculiar to Israel. Moreover, the New Testament condemns any attempt to add to the Word of God (Revelation 22:18; Galatians 1:8). Anything that God “detested” in the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 18:12) and punished with death (Exodus 22:18) is surely an evil in all times and places.

God promised through Moses to provide prophets for the people. The prophet would speak God’s word and would be a reliable source of information. There were two tests to determine if a man were a true prophet. First, a true prophet would never contradict the written Word of God as it had been delivered. Second, God would give the prophet the ability to predict certain specific things that would come to pass, and these events would confirm his ministry. If he made predictions that failed to happen, he was to be put to death as a false prophet.

In this world, there will be many false prophets. Some will claim that the Virgin Mary has told them of events to come. Others will predict the specific time of the second coming of Christ. Others will prophesy specific events. Is it possible that as generous Christians we are far too tolerant of this kind of activity? Discuss with a friend how you can separate yourself from such ungodly practices.