Skip to main content

Signs and Wonders: Deuteronomy 13

In Summary: Signs and wonders, wonders and signs. What shall we do with them all? This question raises its head in the modern day, but it goes all the way back into Deuteronomy 13.

Actually, it goes back further, but there’s an important context to grasp here. God has shown His approval of Moses through signs and wonders. Further, these accompanied Aaron as High Priest and Joshua as successor to Moses.

But we also saw in the Exodus narrative that the magicians of Egypt were able to do some miraculous acts as well. What is the difference? After all, if God is all-powerful, then are not any signs and wonders an attestation to His approval?

In Focus: The people of Israel at this point in the story have seen a lot, but they are about to cross over into the Promised Land. The Word of God that Moses will give them holds the guidance for their society.

But what if someone comes along and pushes them to consider other gods? It is one thing, of course, for someone to spout obvious nonsense and have no power to back it up. That person will readily be ignored, and perhaps given a great deal of opportunity to change his ways.

The real threat is from the one who pops up and does a miracle or two, who nails a prophecy just right, and then says “See! God said we should pitch this Torah and party like it’s 1999!” (BC, in Mesopotamia). This threat will not be so easy to counter.

The test of this prophet, or dreamer, is to be whether or not his instructions pass the test of fidelity to the existing words of YHWH, the One True God. That is the pass/fail, even if this prophet calls the next eclipse, flood, or football result. He is a false prophet, not false in foretelling but false in truth telling, a far weightier matter. His power is being allowed by God, but he himself is not honoring God in his actions (See Balaam in Numbers or Caiaphas in John!)

The remainder of the chapter wraps up the results for both the false prophet and those who fall to his ideas. Execution. It is that simple, for a land with unified religion and state sees apostasy as treason.

In Practice:
For certain, this is not our appropriate response. We rightly and joyously live in a land with a separation between church and state, though there is much debate about how that fleshes out. Fortunately we do not see apostasy and treason lined up together in America. (I would add a “yet,” pending our complete shift to secularism as the official religion, but that would make me a ‘nutter’ in some views.)

Why do we not execute the false prophet merely on religious grounds? Because Jesus died for the false prophet as well as for you and I, and so we do not pursue death for spiritual sin. I would argue, but will not develop, that the Christian response to any sin is not execution, though the State may construct and command that response. That’s for another day.

Just because there is no execution for false prophecy does not mean there should be no consequences. Let us take the false prophets of today and consider their lives.

We enable their lives. We buy their books, watch their shows, attend their conferences. We even legitimize their falsehoods by inviting the false prophet to debate rather than rebuke.

What signs and wonders do we fall for?

Many of my Baptist brethren would argue that we do not fall for false healings or future-telling, as we are far smarter than our charismatic brethren who do fall for these. Yet we have our own signs and wonders that we fall for in the “practical” department.

After all, how long has it taken us to realize that the wonder of filling a church in an unchurched area does not mean a person is a qualified preacher? Much less qualified to inspire and draw followers across Baptist-land?

Or we fall for the sign of “he won the election,” be it the business meeting or the Annual Meeting, and say that we must follow. Even if the guidance is away from a trust in the Word of God, a commitment in following the Lord Jesus Christ.

This was the apostasy that Moses warned about in Deuteronomy 13. That the people who should serve the Lord are convinced to follow their feelings of inspiration instead of the inspired Word of God.

While we ought not execute the false prophet, we must stop enabling him as well. Just because he looks good and sounds good does not mean his preaching is not death. Stop buying the books. Stop going to the conferences, realizing that the “bathwater” is so toxic that no “baby” can survive it.

Whether a coalition or a network or even a convention endorses someone is not the test of their fidelity. Whether or not they sound good, or fill a room, or even if they prophesy accurately, it does not matter. The Word of God is the Word of God, and there is but one Mark, John, Luke, Paul, or Matthew who has written inspired Scripture.

Cut them off. Do it now, before it is too late.

In Nerdiness: Heavy enough without nerdiness, but here goes:

I have read a few times that the likely birth of many “religious” power groups has been the accurate foretelling of weather events. For example, nailing the rising of the Nile to flood stage or “blacking out the Sun” because a priest-wannabe knew the eclipse was coming.

In short, science. Being a step ahead in science but masking the process led to power over others. What do we do about that?

Learn science. Learn it well. And push for as much transparency as possible about not just the results, but the methods and models to get there.


Popular posts from this blog

Book: By the Waters of Babylon

Worship. It is what the church does as we strive to honor God with our lips and our lives. And then, many churches argue about worship. I have about a half-dozen books on my shelf about worship, but adding Scott Aniol’s By the Waters of Babylon to the shelf has been excellent.

First of all, Aniol’s work is not based on solving a musical debate. While that branch of worship is often the most troublesome in the local church, By the Waters of Babylon takes a broader view. The starting point is the place of the church. That place is a parallel of Psalm 137, where the people of God, Israel, found themselves in a strange land. The people of God, again, find themselves in a strange land.
Second, in summary, the book works logically to the text of Scripture, primarily Psalm 137 but well-filled with other passages. Then it works outward from how the text addresses the problems submitted in the first chapter into how worship, specifically corporate worship, should look in the 21st century Weste…

Put Down That Tablet! Exodus 35

Moses assembles the people of Israel at Sinai one last time before they set out into the wilderness, headed for the Promised Land. He gives them a reminder of some portions of the commands of God and emphasizes the construction of the Tabernacle (Exodus 35 link).He also gives the one Biblical mention of tablet-type mobile devices in Exodus 35:3, where the command is given not to use your Kindle Fire on the Sabbath Day. Some of you just groaned. Some of you skipped the one-liner, and others just missed it. I’ll address you all in turn, but first let us address the person who thought this might be the hidden meaning of that command. After all, we are so easily distracted from our worship and commitment by all of the digital noise around us, why would we not take this text in this manner?The quite simple answer is: because it is not about digital devices. In total, the command to focus the day on Yahweh, Covenant God of Israel and all of Creation, and if your device subtracts from your f…

Book Review: The Heart Mender by @andyandrews (Andy Andrews)

The Heart Mender: A Story of Second ChancesEver read a book that you just kind of wish is true?  That's my take on The Heart Mender by Andy Andrews.  It's a charming story of love and forgiveness, and it's woven into the historical setting of World War II America.  For the narrative alone, the book is worth the read, but the message it contains is well worth absorbing as well.However, let's drop back a minute.  This book was originally published under the title Island of Saints.  I read Island of Saints and enjoyed it greatly.  Now, Andrews has released it under a new title, with a few minor changes.  All of this is explained in the Author's Note at the beginning, but should be noted for purchaser's sake.  If you read Island of Saints, you're rereading when you read The Heart Mender.  Now, go ahead and reread it.  It will not hurt you one bit.Overall, the story is well-paced.  There are points where I'd like more detail, both in the history and the geog…