A Test for False Prophets

“Ye shall walk after the LORD your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him.” (Deuteronomy 13:4)

Our text for today seems somewhat out of place, for it is tucked into a passage dealing with false prophets: instructing the people of Israel in ways to detect one who would lead them into false worship. The penalty was death, “because he hath sought to thrust thee away from the LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt” (v. 10). The purpose was both purification and example, for “all Israel shall hear, and fear, and shall do no more any such wickedness as this is among you” (v. 11).

The chief test of a prophet was not his ability to perform signs and wonders (v. 1). Elsewhere the test of total, lifelong accuracy was applied. “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. . . . that prophet shall die” (Deuteronomy 18:22, 20). A more immediate test lay in the absolute harmony of the prophet’s message and deeds with the revealed Word of God, and the wholehearted commitment to the Lord Himself. This test takes the form of the holy standard set forth in our text.

Note that an inward attitude will be expressed, as given in the six action verbs. If we are to please God, we must “walk after” or “pursue” Him, and “fear” or “reverence” Him in all things. Furthermore, we must “keep” His commandments, striving to “obey” Him on every issue He addresses. He expects such a one to “serve” Him: to do His bidding. Finally, we must “cleave” or “cling” to Him, holding fast to Him in an ever-deepening relationship. To do less is to fail the test used to discern false prophets, incurring at the least His displeasure; at the most His wrath. JDM

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