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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 your own brothers. 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 brothers; I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him. 19 If anyone does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name, I myself will call him to account. 20 But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded him to say, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, must be put to death.”

clip_image033Background 2

Deuteronomy is the fifth book of the Hebrew Bible and of the Old Testament. In form it is a set of three sermons delivered by Moses reviewing the previous forty years of wandering in the wilderness; its central element is a detailed law-code by which the Children of Israel are to live in the Promised Land.

In theological terms the book constitutes a covenant between Yahweh and the “Children of Israel”; this is the culmination of the series of covenants which begins with that between Yahweh and all living things after the Flood (Genesis 9). One of its most significant verses constitutes the shema (“Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one!”), which today serves as the definitive statement of Jewish identity.

The majority scholarly opinion is that the bulk of the book appears to have been composed in the late 7th century BC, during the religious reforms carried out under king Josiah, with later additions from the period after the fall of Judah to the Neo-Babylonian empire in 586 BC; a minority view holds that the book is largely a creation of the post-Exilic, Persian period, i.e. the 4th century BC and even later. Its essential concerns mirror the thrust of Josiah’s reforms: Yahweh is to be accepted as the sole God of Israel, and worshiped only in one place.

Biblical Truths[re]http://www.oldtestamentlectionary.unitingchurch.org.au/2009/Feb/Epih4Deut18_09.htm[/ref]

Deut 17-18 appears to reflect the Deuteronomic theology. Judges are set in positive light and dealt with first before kings are mentioned. The king is set up by God who will write a copy of the law as in Deut 12-26 and read it every day. Both judges and kings have some negative qualities named. The role and care of the Levitical priests in Deut 18:1-8 is very different from that of the Aaronic priesthood in the book of Leviticus. Before we get to the role and authority of the prophet we have a list of those people who are not to be consulted, such as, diviner, sorcerer, medium etc (Deut 18:9-14). Deut 18:15 states from the start who will be responsible for the advent of prophets. God is the one who will raise up a prophet who will model Moses. As the people wanted Moses to speak to God on their behalf so they continue to want a person who will speak with God and relay the message. Deut 18:16-17 are a commentary on Deut 5:23-26 which explains their reason for a prophet like Moses. V.18 repeats v.15 and makes the point emphatically when God speaks in the first person reiterating that it is indeed God who will raise up a prophet like Moses, and will provide the words to be proclaimed. A prophet can speak only if they are sure that it is the word of God they are hearing. The verses which are omitted from the lectionary reading declare that only those words which come from God will come true. Some of the books in the Deuteronomic History demonstrate this point by recording those times when a prophecy spoken by the prophet comes true. This is particularly the case in the books of Judges and Kings (eg. the prophecy of Elijah in 1 Kgs 21 is fulfilled in 1 Kgs 22:37-38).

The prophets played a major role in speaking God’s word calling them back to the first commandment, which is to worship God alone. It was this failure by kings and people which led to the demise of the Davidic kingship, loss of land and temple according to the writers. However, in all fairness it is very difficult to apply the test of future fulfillment when one is hearing the prophet’s warning in the midst of a crisis. It is easy in hindsight to say the people should have listened to Jeremiah and not Hananiah (Jer 27-29). To apply these criteria today is equally difficult because those who feel called to proclaim God’s word believe it is the authentic word of God. It is much easier to be clear about a ‘prophet’ versus the list of those prohibited in Deut 18:10-11. Some of the practices such as divination are found in popular form today, such as reading horoscopes. Tarot cards and other ways of reading the future are popular with people. However, a prophet is not about divining personal futures, but proclaiming God’s word into a situation which needs to change. A Hebrew prophet’s message is often unpopular especially in the pre-exilic period. All the offices (judge, king, priest prophet) named in Deut 16:18-18:22 come under the direct authority of God and by God’s express command. Israel’s political and social order is theocratic. Israel came into being as a nation because God chose them.

Items for Discussion

  • Do you know any prophets and what makes them a prophet of the times?
  • How can we tell a prophet from a fortune teller? What is the difference?
  • Why is it important that we recognize God’s prophets?
  • What is God’s main point in these verses?

 

Mark 1:21-28
21 They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. 22 The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law. 23 Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit cried out, 24 “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” 25 “Be quiet!” said Jesus sternly. “Come out of him!” 26 The evil spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek. 27 The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching—and with authority! He even gives orders to evil spirits and they obey him.” 28 News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee.

Background 3

Among the four gospels, Mark’s account is unique in many ways. It is the shortest account and seems to be the earliest. Both Luke and Matthew use much of Mark’s text. Luke’s account contains over half of the verses in Mark’s account (some 350 verses out of a total 660 verses in Mark). Unlike Luke and Matthew who begin their accounts with the events surrounding the birth of the Messiah, Mark begins his account with Jesus’ public ministry and the mission of John the Baptist. Mark leaves no doubt as to who Jesus was. In the very first sentence of his account he proclaims that Jesus is the “Christ, the Son of God” (Mark 1:1). Jesus was not simply a man among men, but one who caused great wonder, amazement, and awe upon those who encountered him. “They were astonished at his teaching” (Mk 1:22); “they were all amazed” (Mk 1:27); “they were utterly astounded” (Mk 6:51); “the disciples were amazed at his words” (Mk 10:24), etc.

Mark displays both Jesus’ divinity and his humanity. For example, Mark tells us that Jesus is “the carpenter” (Mk 6:3). Matthew softens it a bit by saying that Jesus is the “carpenter’s son” (Matt. 13:55). Mark even tells us about Jesus’ emotions. Jesus was moved with “compassion” (Mk 6:34); he “sighed” (Mk 7:34; 8:12); he “marveled” at the unbelief of his own townsfolk (Mk 6:6); he “looked” upon the rich young man and “loved him” (Mk 10:21). Mark also adds vivid details that the other gospel writers leave out. For example, he describes Jesus’ tenderness as he took the little children “in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands upon them” (Mk 10:16). On another occasion Mark describes Jesus “asleep on a cushion” in the stern of the boat as the apostles feared for their lives when caught in the storm at sea (Mk 4:38).

Mark’s gospel was most likely intended to be read aloud in the Christian assembly, rather than privately. It was composed for the ear more than the eye, especially with its use of constant repetitions, summaries, recapitulations and variations on a theme. The word “again” is used no less than 26 times which serves to remind the hears of the previous occasion when something occurred. Mark’s gospel is more direct in language, even blunt at times. For example, Mark tells us that Jesus’ relatives “went to seize him, for people were saying, ‘He is beside himself'” (Mk 3:21). Mark portrays Jesus in action and urgent action at that. In the first chapter alone we can sense the urgency and immediacy of Jesus’ work and mission. Mark uses the word “immediately” no less than eight times. For example, he says the “Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness” (Mark 1:12). “And immediately he called them” (Mk 1:20); “and immediately on the sabbath he entered the synagogue and taught” (Mk 1:21); “and immediately the leprosy left him” (Mk 1:42).

Biblical Truths 4

Power has always been a fascination to many people. Our society is intrigued with powerful people. From the athlete to the entrepreneur; from the physically powerful to the politically powerful, people stand in awe of power.
Jesus is described in Bible Verses as “One having authority.” The word for authority here in the Greek is exousia. This word denotes the right to exercise power, and in Jesus we see one who has that right. Jesus’ power gives testimony to the fact that He is God incarnate.

Already in Mark, we have seen the authority of Christ revealed. In the first chapter, in verses 12 and 13, we see His authority over the temptation of Satan as He came forth from the wilderness experience victorious. And in verses 16 through 20, we see His authority over men as He called His first disciples and they left all to follow Him. In Luke’s account, when He called the disciples we have a scene where He asserted His authority over nature in providing the net full of fishes after a long night’s toil without a catch.

So, when we come to our passage of Scripture, we continue the theme of the authority of Christ. Now Jesus will demonstrate His power and authority to the world.

Between verse 20 and 21 we have a number of things that happened over a period of weeks that are recorded in other Gospels: e.g., the “Sermon on the Mount”, the call of some of the other disciples, the reason Jesus and His ministry team moved on to Capernaum, His rejection at His home town of Nazareth at which time He said a prophet is not without honor except in his own town and among his own people.

Items for Discussion

  • Why is our society so enamored with power?
  • Where do we get power in our world today?
  • How is authority granted and enforced in our world?
  • Do you believe in evil spirits?
  • How would you describe evil?
  • What hope do you find in these verses?

Discussion Challenge

  • How do we protect our church against Evil forces?
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