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Deuteronomy 18:15-20 1
15 The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him. 16 For this is what you asked of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said, “Let us not hear the voice of the LORD our God nor see this great fire anymore, or we will die.” 17 The LORD said to me: “What they say is good. 18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites, and I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him. 19 I myself will call to account anyone who does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name. 20 But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, is to be put to death.”

clip_image187Background 2

Deuteronomy is a repetition of both the history and the laws contained in the three foregoing books, which repetition Moses delivered to Israel (both by word of mouth, that it might affect, and by writing, that it might abide) a little before his death. There is no new history in it but that of the death of Moses in the last chapter, nor any new revelation to Moses, for aught that appears, and therefore the style here is not, as before, The Lord spoke unto Moses, saying. But the former laws are repeated and commented upon, explained and enlarged, and some particular precepts added to them, with copious reasoning for the enforcing of them: in this Moses was divinely inspired and assisted, so that this is as truly the word of the Lord by Moses as that which was spoken to him with an audible voice out of the tabernacle of the congregation, Lev. i. 1.

The Greek interpreters call it Deuteronomy, which signifies the second law, or a second edition of the law, not with amendments, for there needed none, but with additions, for the further direction of the people. It was much for the honor of the divine law that it should be thus repeated. There might be a particular reason for the repeating of it now; the men of that generation to which the law was first given were all dead, and a new generation had sprung up, to whom God would have it repeated by Moses himself, that, if possible, it might make a lasting impression upon them. Now that they were just going to take possession of the land of Canaan, Moses must read the articles of agreement to them, that they might know upon what terms and conditions they were to hold and enjoy that land, and might understand that they were upon their good behavior in it. It would be of great use to the people to have those parts of the law thus gathered up and put together which did more immediately concern them and their practice; for the laws which concerned the priests and Levites, and the execution of their offices, are not repeated: it was enough for them that they were once delivered. But, in compassion to the infirmities of the people, the laws of more common concern are delivered a second time.

Biblical Truths 3

The passage in Deuteronomy deals with the authority of a number of officials in Israel: judges and other officials (Deut 16:18-17:13), priests (18:1-8), and the king (17:14-20), even though in Deuteronomy kings were not part of Israelite society. Clearly the regulations in Deuteronomy come from a period when many different social issues and institutions had developed, well after the time in which the story is set. Another law on true and false prophecy is contained in Deut 13:1-5 where the problem is clearly that some who claim to be prophets lead the people into apostasy, the worship of other gods. That is part of the problem here too (18:20), and the passage goes on in vv. 21-22 to suggest that one can tell the words of a genuine prophet because that prophet’s words come to pass.

It seems clear from Deuteronomy that discerning religious truth and ‘what is the word of the Lord’ in any one instance is neither easy nor simple. It is, above all, a matter of faith. Nevertheless, Deuteronomy does give us some important clues in this task.

  • First, Deuteronomy works on the premise that there is a word of truth that comes to us ‘from outside’ – from God. It may not be easy to discern at times but it is there and is determinative for our lives. This is immensely important in a complex world where there are so many competing voices for our attention and commitment – political, social, family, work etc.
  • Secondly, this word ‘from outside’ comes to facilitate our choosing life over death (Deut 30:11-20). It is a word of truth which does not seek to bend us to the shape of some presupposed agenda or condition that is self-interested, self-serving or simply furthers the power of others. It invites us to enter freely into the presence of the God who willingly commits himself to us in covenant.
  • Thirdly, it is a word that, precisely because it neither comes with bells and whistles so we do not miss it nor be discerned through the mechanical application of some magical formula, is one we have to seek out and probe for understanding.
  • Fourthly, it is a word that is consistent with the word that has come to the community of faith before. God who gives the word to the prophet is consistent and faithful in his dealing with his people. This is the point of saying that a prophet will arise ‘like Moses’ (Deut 18:15, 18). Moses stands as the exemplar, not because of personal qualities but because God’s commandments, God’s way of inviting the people into life, were given through him. True prophets who come later will walk in the steps of Moses.
  • Finally, when the writer says that you can tell a true prophet by the fact that their word comes true, they are not simply giving us a rather useless test of true prophecy. They are saying that this word which comes from outside and offers us life is not some abstract entity that remains ‘outside’ of our life. No, the word itself breaks into our history and changes that history in accordance with the will of the One who gives that word.

All of this is relevant to our thinking of Jesus, the word of God incarnate, and to our pondering his teaching and what the church has proclaimed about him.

Items for Discussion

  • Many people make the claim of prophecy, religious leaders, political leaders, corporate leaders, even community leaders. How do you sort out the truth?
  • Can you tell a good prophet from a bad prophet by how they live and obey God’s Laws?
  • What does God say about who to believe?
  • What responsibilities does that place on those who are listening to the predictions?
  • Why is faith an important component to believing in “the Prophets?”
  • Why was it handy to have all of the key “rules” to follow written down for the people?

 

Ephesians 3:16-21
16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. 20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Background 4

The apostle Paul wrote this letter to the people of Ephesus when he was in a prison in Rome about 61 years after the birth of Christ. Ephesus was a busy port and the center of much trade, under the control of Rome. The temple of the goddess (female god) Diana (or Artemis) was there. The business people sold models of Diana’s temple but Paul’s preaching affected their trade.

Paul wrote the letter to encourage the personal faith of the Christians. It gives teaching, prayers and great praises to God. It is about God’s Son, Jesus Christ. He came to our world in order to put right all the things that had gone wrong. Paul makes clear that Christ is the head of the church. He will work out his purposes in and by the church.

Bible Truths

Verse 16 Our strength comes ‘from the riches of his glory’. ‘He will do this in you by his Holy Spirit.’

Verse 17 When we have faith in Christ, he lives in our ‘inner person’. There he gives us his love. ‘Your lives will be like plants with roots in the ground of his love’. It is as if we have deep roots.

Verse 18 The love of God is wide. It is for everyone in the world. Paul is talking especially about Jews and Gentiles. So it is for them. It is long enough for all time and every age. It is deep enough to reach down to the worst sinner.

Verse 19 This love of Christ is ‘much too great to know completely’. Our minds are not large enough to understand it all. It is beyond our best prayers, desires, thoughts or hopes. This love is more than to know something in our heads. We need to express Christ’s love in all the daily experiences in life. His love is with us in our joys, difficulties and suffering too.

Verse 20 Paul now starts a hymn of praise to God. God knows what we ask. And he knows it even before we ask. He knows our thoughts. He knows what we imagine. He knows what we dream. He has the power to go beyond any of these. His thoughts and his ways are greater than ours. He is able to do much more than we can ever ask or imagine. The power comes from Christ. He lives in our inner person by faith.

Items for Discussion

  • What are the components to a strong faith in God?
  • How are faithful people different?
  • Paul seems to indicate that we will never fully understand God. Why is this important for each of us not only to acknowledge but to believe?
  • What examples have you seen where a strong faith has turned into “power?”
  • How does faithfulness pass from generation to generation?

Discussion Challenge

  • Can love, understanding and forgiveness exist without faithfulness?
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