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Today’s Reading

Devotional

THREE QUESTIONS:

(1) How can you spot a false prophet? The Bible offers several complementary criteria. For instance, in Deuteronomy 18:22 we are told that if an ostensible prophet predicts something and that thing does not take place, the prophet is false. Of course, that criterion does not help very much if what the prophet has predicted is far into the future. Moreover, here in Deuteronomy 13 we are warned that the inverse does not prove the prophet is trustworthy. If what the ostensible prophet predicts takes place, or if he manages to perform some sort of miraculous sign or wonder, another criterion must be brought to bear. Is this prophet’s message enticing people to worship some god other than the Lord who brought the people out of Egypt?

What this criterion presupposes is a thorough grasp of antecedent revelation. You have to know what God has revealed about himself before you can determine whether or not the prophet is leading you to a false god. For the false god may still be given the biblical names of God (as in, say, Mormonism, or the christology of Jehovah’s Witnesses). John’s first epistle offers this same criterion: if what an ostensible prophet (1 John 4:1-6) teaches cannot be squared with what the believers have heard “from the beginning”(1 John 2:7; 2 John 9), it is not of God (so also Paul in Gal. 1:8-9).

(2) Why are false prophets dangerous? Apart from the obvious reason, viz. that they teach false doctrine that leads people astray from the living God and therefore ultimately attracts his judgment, there are two reasons. First, their very description — “false prophet”– discloses the core problem. They profess to speak the word of God, and this can be seductive. If they came along and said, “Let us sin disgustingly,” most would not be attracted. The seduction of false prophecy is its ostensible spirituality and truthfulness. Second, although false prophets may enter a community from outside (e.g., Acts 20:29 — and if it is the “right” outside, this makes them very attractive), they may arise from within the community (e.g., Acts 20:30), as here — for example, a family member (Deut. 13:6). I know of more than one Christian institution that went bad doctrinally because of nepotism.

(3) What should be done about them? Three things. First, recognize that these testing events do not escape the bounds of God’s sovereignty. Allegiance is all the more called for (Deut. 13:3-4). Second, learn the truth, learn it well, or you will always lack discernment. Third, purge the community of false prophets (a process that takes a different form under the new covenant: e.g., 2 Cor. 10 — 13; 1 John 4:1-6), or they will gradually win credence and do enormous damage.

Deut. 13-14

13:1 “If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, ‘Let us go after other gods,’ which you have not known, ‘and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For the LORD your God is testing you, to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall walk after the LORD your God and fear him and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you shall serve him and hold fast to him. But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has taught rebellion against the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you out of the house of slavery, to make you leave the way in which the LORD your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil1 from your midst.

“If your brother, the son of your mother, or your son or your daughter or the wife you embrace2 or your friend who is as your own soul entices you secretly, saying, ‘Let us go and serve other gods,’ which neither you nor your fathers have known, some of the gods of the peoples who are around you, whether near you or far off from you, from the one end of the earth to the other, you shall not yield to him or listen to him, nor shall your eye pity him, nor shall you spare him, nor shall you conceal him. But you shall kill him. Your hand shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the people. 10 You shall stone him to death with stones, because he sought to draw you away from the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 11 And all Israel shall hear and fear and never again do any such wickedness as this among you.

12 “If you hear in one of your cities, which the LORD your God is giving you to dwell there, 13 that certain worthless fellows have gone out among you and have drawn away the inhabitants of their city, saying, ‘Let us go and serve other gods,’ which you have not known, 14 then you shall inquire and make search and ask diligently. And behold, if it be true and certain that such an abomination has been done among you, 15 you shall surely put the inhabitants of that city to the sword, devoting it to destruction,3 all who are in it and its cattle, with the edge of the sword. 16 You shall gather all its spoil into the midst of its open square and burn the city and all its spoil with fire, as a whole burnt offering to the LORD your God. It shall be a heap forever. It shall not be built again. 17 None of the devoted things shall stick to your hand, that the LORD may turn from the fierceness of his anger and show you mercy and have compassion on you and multiply you, as he swore to your fathers, 18 if you obey the voice of the LORD your God, keeping all his commandments that I am commanding you today, and doing what is right in the sight of the LORD your God.

Clean and Unclean Food

14:1 “You are the sons of the LORD your God. You shall not cut yourselves or make any baldness on your foreheads for the dead. For you are a people holy to the LORD your God, and the LORD has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.

“You shall not eat any abomination. These are the animals you may eat: the ox, the sheep, the goat, the deer, the gazelle, the roebuck, the wild goat, the ibex,4 the antelope, and the mountain sheep. Every animal that parts the hoof and has the hoof cloven in two and chews the cud, among the animals, you may eat. Yet of those that chew the cud or have the hoof cloven you shall not eat these: the camel, the hare, and the rock badger, because they chew the cud but do not part the hoof, are unclean for you. And the pig, because it parts the hoof but does not chew the cud, is unclean for you. Their flesh you shall not eat, and their carcasses you shall not touch.

“Of all that are in the waters you may eat these: whatever has fins and scales you may eat. 10 And whatever does not have fins and scales you shall not eat; it is unclean for you.

11 “You may eat all clean birds. 12 But these are the ones that you shall not eat: the eagle,5 the bearded vulture, the black vulture, 13 the kite, the falcon of any kind; 14 every raven of any kind; 15 the ostrich, the nighthawk, the sea gull, the hawk of any kind; 16 the little owl and the short-eared owl, the barn owl 17 and the tawny owl, the carrion vulture and the cormorant, 18 the stork, the heron of any kind; the hoopoe and the bat. 19 And all winged insects are unclean for you; they shall not be eaten. 20 All clean winged things you may eat.

21 “You shall not eat anything that has died naturally. You may give it to the sojourner who is within your towns, that he may eat it, or you may sell it to a foreigner. For you are a people holy to the LORD your God.

“You shall not boil a young goat in its mother's milk.

Tithes

22 “You shall tithe all the yield of your seed that comes from the field year by year. 23 And before the LORD your God, in the place that he will choose, to make his name dwell there, you shall eat the tithe of your grain, of your wine, and of your oil, and the firstborn of your herd and flock, that you may learn to fear the LORD your God always. 24 And if the way is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry the tithe, when the LORD your God blesses you, because the place is too far from you, which the LORD your God chooses, to set his name there, 25 then you shall turn it into money and bind up the money in your hand and go to the place that the LORD your God chooses 26 and spend the money for whatever you desire—oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves. And you shall eat there before the LORD your God and rejoice, you and your household. 27 And you shall not neglect the Levite who is within your towns, for he has no portion or inheritance with you.

28 “At the end of every three years you shall bring out all the tithe of your produce in the same year and lay it up within your towns. 29 And the Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance with you, and the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, who are within your towns, shall come and eat and be filled, that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands that you do.

Footnotes

[1] 13:5 Or evil person
[2] 13:6 Hebrew the wife of your bosom
[3] 13:15 That is, setting apart (devoting) as an offering to the Lord (for destruction)
[4] 14:5 Or addax
[5] 14:12 The identity of many of these birds is uncertain

(ESV)

Psalms 99-101

The Lord Our God Is Holy

99:1   The LORD reigns; let the peoples tremble!
    He sits enthroned upon the cherubim; let the earth quake!
  The LORD is great in Zion;
    he is exalted over all the peoples.
  Let them praise your great and awesome name!
    Holy is he!
  The King in his might loves justice.1
    You have established equity;
  you have executed justice
    and righteousness in Jacob.
  Exalt the LORD our God;
    worship at his footstool!
    Holy is he!
  Moses and Aaron were among his priests,
    Samuel also was among those who called upon his name.
    They called to the LORD, and he answered them.
  In the pillar of the cloud he spoke to them;
    they kept his testimonies
    and the statute that he gave them.
  O LORD our God, you answered them;
    you were a forgiving God to them,
    but an avenger of their wrongdoings.
  Exalt the LORD our God,
    and worship at his holy mountain;
    for the LORD our God is holy!

His Steadfast Love Endures Forever

A Psalm for giving thanks.

100:1   Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth!
    Serve the LORD with gladness!
    Come into his presence with singing!
  Know that the LORD, he is God!
    It is he who made us, and we are his;2
    we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
  Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
    and his courts with praise!
    Give thanks to him; bless his name!
  For the LORD is good;
    his steadfast love endures forever,
    and his faithfulness to all generations.

I Will Walk with Integrity

A Psalm of David.

101:1   I will sing of steadfast love and justice;
    to you, O LORD, I will make music.
  I will ponder the way that is blameless.
    Oh when will you come to me?
  I will walk with integrity of heart
    within my house;
  I will not set before my eyes
    anything that is worthless.
  I hate the work of those who fall away;
    it shall not cling to me.
  A perverse heart shall be far from me;
    I will know nothing of evil.
  Whoever slanders his neighbor secretly
    I will destroy.
  Whoever has a haughty look and an arrogant heart
    I will not endure.
  I will look with favor on the faithful in the land,
    that they may dwell with me;
  he who walks in the way that is blameless
    shall minister to me.
  No one who practices deceit
    shall dwell in my house;
  no one who utters lies
    shall continue before my eyes.
  Morning by morning I will destroy
    all the wicked in the land,
  cutting off all the evildoers
    from the city of the LORD.

Footnotes

[1] 99:4 Or The might of the King loves justice
[2] 100:3 Or and not we ourselves

(ESV)

Isaiah 41

Fear Not, for I Am with You

41:1   Listen to me in silence, O coastlands;
    let the peoples renew their strength;
  let them approach, then let them speak;
    let us together draw near for judgment.
  Who stirred up one from the east
    whom victory meets at every step?1
  He gives up nations before him,
    so that he tramples kings underfoot;
  he makes them like dust with his sword,
    like driven stubble with his bow.
  He pursues them and passes on safely,
    by paths his feet have not trod.
  Who has performed and done this,
    calling the generations from the beginning?
  I, the LORD, the first,
    and with the last; I am he.
  The coastlands have seen and are afraid;
    the ends of the earth tremble;
    they have drawn near and come.
  Everyone helps his neighbor
    and says to his brother, “Be strong!”
  The craftsman strengthens the goldsmith,
    and he who smooths with the hammer him who strikes the anvil,
  saying of the soldering, “It is good”;
    and they strengthen it with nails so that it cannot be moved.
  But you, Israel, my servant,
    Jacob, whom I have chosen,
    the offspring of Abraham, my friend;
  you whom I took from the ends of the earth,
    and called from its farthest corners,
  saying to you, “You are my servant,
    I have chosen you and not cast you off”;
10   fear not, for I am with you;
    be not dismayed, for I am your God;
  I will strengthen you, I will help you,
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
11   Behold, all who are incensed against you
    shall be put to shame and confounded;
  those who strive against you
    shall be as nothing and shall perish.
12   You shall seek those who contend with you,
    but you shall not find them;
  those who war against you
    shall be as nothing at all.
13   For I, the LORD your God,
    hold your right hand;
  it is I who say to you, “Fear not,
    I am the one who helps you.”
14   Fear not, you worm Jacob,
    you men of Israel!
  I am the one who helps you, declares the LORD;
    your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.
15   Behold, I make of you a threshing sledge,
    new, sharp, and having teeth;
  you shall thresh the mountains and crush them,
    and you shall make the hills like chaff;
16   you shall winnow them, and the wind shall carry them away,
    and the tempest shall scatter them.
  And you shall rejoice in the LORD;
    in the Holy One of Israel you shall glory.
17   When the poor and needy seek water,
    and there is none,
    and their tongue is parched with thirst,
  I the LORD will answer them;
    I the God of Israel will not forsake them.
18   I will open rivers on the bare heights,
    and fountains in the midst of the valleys.
  I will make the wilderness a pool of water,
    and the dry land springs of water.
19   I will put in the wilderness the cedar,
    the acacia, the myrtle, and the olive.
  I will set in the desert the cypress,
    the plane and the pine together,
20   that they may see and know,
    may consider and understand together,
  that the hand of the LORD has done this,
    the Holy One of Israel has created it.

The Futility of Idols

21   Set forth your case, says the LORD;
    bring your proofs, says the King of Jacob.
22   Let them bring them, and tell us
    what is to happen.
  Tell us the former things, what they are,
    that we may consider them,
  that we may know their outcome;
    or declare to us the things to come.
23   Tell us what is to come hereafter,
    that we may know that you are gods;
  do good, or do harm,
    that we may be dismayed and terrified.2
24   Behold, you are nothing,
    and your work is less than nothing;
    an abomination is he who chooses you.
25   I stirred up one from the north, and he has come,
    from the rising of the sun, and he shall call upon my name;
  he shall trample on rulers as on mortar,
    as the potter treads clay.
26   Who declared it from the beginning, that we might know,
    and beforehand, that we might say, “He is right”?
  There was none who declared it, none who proclaimed,
    none who heard your words.
27   I was the first to say3 to Zion, “Behold, here they are!”
    and I give to Jerusalem a herald of good news.
28   But when I look, there is no one;
    among these there is no counselor
    who, when I ask, gives an answer.
29   Behold, they are all a delusion;
    their works are nothing;
    their metal images are empty wind.

Footnotes

[1] 41:2 Or whom righteousness calls to follow?
[2] 41:23 Or that we may both be dismayed and see
[3] 41:27 Or Formerly I said

(ESV)

Revelation 11

The Two Witnesses

11:1 Then I was given a measuring rod like a staff, and I was told, “Rise and measure the temple of God and the altar and those who worship there, but do not measure the court outside the temple; leave that out, for it is given over to the nations, and they will trample the holy city for forty-two months. And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.”

These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth. And if anyone would harm them, fire pours from their mouth and consumes their foes. If anyone would harm them, this is how he is doomed to be killed. They have the power to shut the sky, that no rain may fall during the days of their prophesying, and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague, as often as they desire. And when they have finished their testimony, the beast that rises from the bottomless pit1 will make war on them and conquer them and kill them, and their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city that symbolically2 is called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was crucified. For three and a half days some from the peoples and tribes and languages and nations will gaze at their dead bodies and refuse to let them be placed in a tomb, 10 and those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them and make merry and exchange presents, because these two prophets had been a torment to those who dwell on the earth. 11 But after the three and a half days a breath of life from God entered them, and they stood up on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them. 12 Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here!” And they went up to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies watched them. 13 And at that hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven.

14 The second woe has passed; behold, the third woe is soon to come.

The Seventh Trumpet

15 Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.” 16 And the twenty-four elders who sit on their thrones before God fell on their faces and worshiped God, 17 saying,

  “We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty,
    who is and who was,
  for you have taken your great power
    and begun to reign.
18   The nations raged,
    but your wrath came,
    and the time for the dead to be judged,
  and for rewarding your servants, the prophets and saints,
    and those who fear your name,
    both small and great,
  and for destroying the destroyers of the earth.”

19 Then God's temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple. There were flashes of lightning, rumblings,3 peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail.

Footnotes

[1] 11:7 Or the abyss
[2] 11:8 Greek spiritually
[3] 11:19 Or voices, or sounds

(ESV)