THE CALL FOR DISCERNMENT
Moses predicts that there will be false prophets and dreamers ready to deceive the Israelites with powerful signs and wonders when they enter Canaan. According to Moses, their prophecies may appear to come true. The signs will be impressive. Nevertheless, they are snares designed to deceive God’s chosen people from their single-hearted devotion to God (Deuteronomy 13:1).
These words remind us of Jesus’ warnings to his disciples prior to his crucifixion:
“Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many” (Matthew 24:1; NASB).
24 “For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect” (Matthew 24:24; NASB).
The apostle Paul warned the church of similar dangers as they embarked on their mission.
3 But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ. 4 For if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you bear this beautifully (2 Corinthians 11:3-4).
Moses, Jesus, and Paul call for spiritual discernment.
Moses reiterates that God has exclusive rights to the love, trust, and obedience of His people.
The first commandment has to do with having no other gods; the second forbids us to manufacture them. Do we love, trust, and give allegiance to any created thing more than to the Creator?
The New Testament tells us that sexual immorality and greed are tied to idolatry (Col 3:5; Eph 5:5). Money, sex, power, success, and popularity can all become idols. What we devote ourselves to will be mirrored in our lives. When we put anything, or anyone, in place of the God who has revealed Himself in the Bible, it will have a corrupting influence upon us.
GUARD YOURSELVES FROM IDOLS
The Apostle John gives a similar warning in the New Testament:
“Little children, guard yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21; NASB).
In Deuteronomy 13, Moses calls the Israelites to resist three major temptations to turn away from their devotion to God and follow after foreign gods.
- BEWARE ANY UNDUE FASCINATION OR CURIOSITY THAT WOULD CAUSE YOU TO ADD TO OR TAKE AWAY FROM THE WORD OF GOD.
“When the LORD your God cuts off before you the nations which you are going in to dispossess, and you dispossess them and dwell in their land, 30 beware that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, ‘How do these nations serve their gods, that I also may do likewise?’ 31 You shall not behave thus toward the LORD your God, for every abominable act which the LORD hates they have done for their gods; for they even burn their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods. 32 Whatever I command you, you shall be careful to do; you shall not add to nor take away from it”. (Deuteronomy 12:29-32; NASB)
In order to obey this commandment, you must truly know what the Word of God teaches and what it doesn’t. We can appreciate different cultures, but we must be careful to distinguish propositional truths that differ from the gospel.
- DON’T LET SIGNS AND WONDERS WROUGHT BY FALSE PROPHETS MOVE YOU FROM CLINGING TO ONE TRUE GOD REVEALED IN THE BIBLE.
1 “If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, 2 and the sign or the wonder comes true, concerning which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods (whom you have not known) and let us serve them,’ 3 you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams; for the LORD your God is testing you to find out if you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul (Deuteronomy 13:1-3; NASB).
4 “You shall follow the LORD your God and fear Him; and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him” (Deuteronomy 13:4; NASB).
We don’t readily think of our devotion to the Lord being tested when supernatural signs and gifts are present, but there are several instances in the history of Israel when counterfeit signs and deceptive words deceived God’s covenant people (1 Kings 22; Jer 28). We are also told that signs and wonders energized by Satan will accompany the Antichrist (2 Thess 2:9-10). A plurality of false Christs and false prophets would also show signs and wonders so as to mislead, ‘if possible’ even the elect (Matt 24:24).
Notice how strong Moses’ instruction is:
“You shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams; for the LORD your God is testing you to find out if you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deuteronomy 13:3; NASB).
The purpose is kept in view: TO CLING TO THE LORD.
4 “You shall follow the LORD your God and fear Him; and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him.” Deuteronomy 13:4 (NASB)
6 “If your brother, your mother’s son, or your son or daughter, or the wife you cherish, or your friend who is as your own soul, entice you secretly, saying, ‘Let us go and serve other gods’ (whom neither you nor your fathers have known, 7 of the gods of the peoples who are around you, near you or far from you, from one end of the earth to the other end), 8 you shall not yield to him or listen to him; and your eye shall not pity him, nor shall you spare or conceal him” (Deuteronomy 13:6-8).
It is always a powerful temptation when someone you cherish would seek to divide you from the God who has revealed Himself through the Word.
The ever-present danger of the human heart is that we can put those with whom we are bound by natural affection in the place of God. Misplaced affection and divided loyalty must be refused.
Simon Peter was a close friend of Jesus. Satan used him to attempt to persuade Jesus not to go to the cross.
22 Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.” 23 But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.” Matthew 16:22-23 (NASB)
If inhabitants of a city have been seduced to serve other gods, an inquiry was to be ordered to determine if this abomination actually has been done. If so, everything comes under the ban of destruction.
This becomes a picture of the judgment of the cross of Christ coming upon the world with all of its idolatries. (This will become clearer as we read the Book of Joshua).
Galatians 6:14 14 But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
This chapter repeats the laws of separation- determining the difference between that which is ceremonially clean and unclean.
Warren Wiersbe explains:
The distinction between “clean and unclean” sacrifices was known in the days of Noah (Gen. 7:1-10) and therefore must have been told to our first parents when God taught them to worship. In the Jewish law, the words “clean” and “unclean” have nothing to do with the intrinsic nature or value of the creatures themselves. This was a designation given by the Lord for reasons not always explained. Some students believe that the Jews enjoyed better health because they avoided certain foods, but both Jesus and the apostles declared all foods clean (Mark 7:14-23; Acts 10:9-25; Rom. 14:1-15:13), the so-called “healthful” foods as well as the “unhealthful.” Bible Exposition Commentary (BE Series) – Old Testament – The Bible Exposition Commentary – Pentateuch.
Jesus demonstrated His authority over the natural world by calming the storm (Luke 8:22-25), and the supernatural world, by casting out the legion of the demons from the man living among the tombs at Gadara who had been captured by them (Luke 8:26-39).
Now we see Jesus exhibit His authority over disease and death. While responding to the request of Jairus to heal his daughter, Jesus heals a woman in the crowd with an issue of blood. Then Jesus goes to Jairus’ home and takes the hand of the dead daughter and speaks to her, “Child arise!”. The child’s spirit returns to her and she gets up immediately.
There are a lot of contrasts between these two events. There is an old woman and a young daughter. One is unclean and therefore ‘an outsider’, cut off from the place of worship. The other was the daughter of the synagogue ruler and therefore ‘an insider’. One had been sick for 12 years. The other had been alive for only 12 years. Both had desperate needs. No physician was able to help the woman. No physician could help the daughter. Both needed God’s intervention.
The common denominator was not the method. Our trust should not be in methodologies. The common denominator was Jesus’ authority and power.
Notice again that Jesus instructed the parents not to tell anyone what had happened. This is a consistent feature of Jesus’ ministry- to tell people not to tell anybody!
- The healing of the lepers- (Luke 5:14; Matthew 8:4)
- The healing of the blind men- (Matthew 9:30)
- The healing of the multitudes- (Matthew 12:16)
- The healing of the deaf and dumb man (Mark 7:36)
- The revelation that Jesus was the Christ- (Matthew 16:20, Mark 3:12)
- The revelation of Christ in the glory of His transfiguration- (Matthew 17:9)
Why the gag order? Because the message at this point would be incomplete and misunderstood. The gospel message is not just that Jesus is the healer, or that He is the Christ. The central message is the good news of what Jesus accomplished on the cross. That redemptive work had not yet happened. It is after His crucifixion and resurrection that Jesus commissions Mary and the disciples to ‘go and tell’,
It is after Jesus accomplishes the redemptive work of the cross, (His righteous living, His substitutionary dying, and His victorious rising) that He commissions those whom He has reconciled to Himself to preach the good news. He calls us to preach the forgiveness of sins on the grounds of His atoning sacrifice. We are to share the good news that by putting our trust in Who He is and the efficacy of what He has done to satisfy God’s justice on our behalf, our sins are forgiven and we can receive the gift of eternal life.
Jesus gives the Twelve delegated authority to demonstrate that the Messiah has now arrived by enabling them to perform the signs that the Scriptures foretold would accompany the promised Son of David. They were announcing to Israel that Jesus was the fulfillment of the Messianic prophecies and that His rule was available if they would abandon their own plans of salvation and take the narrow gate of repentance and faith that leads to life. This ‘narrow gate’ pictures entering the kingdom on God’s terms and not our own.
The gospel that the Twelve preached at this time is not the gospel that we are called to preach. The good news (Greek word-euangelion) preached by the Twelve was a follow-up to John the Baptist’s message. The King of the kingdom of God had come in Christ. God’s rule was exhibited fully in Him. They announced the King’s presence and His willingness to reign over a repentant people. They announced the kingdom to draw attention to the King. Only through faith in Who Jesus is and What He would accomplish on their behalf would they ever be able to enter into, or experience the kingdom of God.
Like their Master, the Twelve were to trust God for sufficient means for living- their daily bread and provisions. They were to stay in the first house where they were welcomed to stay and not move around to seek the most comfortable and convenient lodgings. They were to do this in every town and village so that all would have the testimony of Jesus, a demonstration that the King had come with its promise of the ultimate healing of salvation. Jesus would make it clear that the only way a person could enter into salvation would be by looking to Him as Savior on the cross (John 3:14-16) and being born again of the Holy Spirit (John 3:3,7).
READING FROM THE PSALMS: PSALM 71:1-24
Here is the prayer of an old man for deliverance. Certainly, God has been a proven source of strength and deliverance throughout this man’s life (verses 5-6;17)) but now His prayer is for help in his old age (v.9-1,18).
Psalm 71:9-11 (NASB) 9 Do not cast me off in the time of old age; Do not forsake me when my strength fails. 10 For my enemies have spoken against me; and those who watch for my life have consulted together, 11 Saying, “God has forsaken him; Pursue and seize him, for there is no one to deliver.”
Even when advanced in years, the Psalmist appears to be on the front lines of spiritual battle and has great spiritual influence.
Psalm 71:15-16 (NASB) 15 My mouth shall tell of Your righteousness and of Your salvation all day long; For I do not know the sum of them. 16 I will come with the mighty deeds of the Lord GOD; I will make mention of Your righteousness, Yours alone.
The intentions of this aged saint are to continue to be a powerful witness until the Lord’s strength is declared to this generation!
Psalm 71:18 (NASB) 18 And even when I am old and gray, O God, do not forsake me, Until I declare Your strength to this generation, Your power to all who are to come.
READING FROM Proverbs 12:5-7
Proverbs 12:5-7 (NASB) 5 The thoughts of the righteous are just, but the counsels of the wicked are deceitful. 6 The words of the wicked lie in wait for blood, but the mouth of the upright will deliver them. 7 The wicked are overthrown and are no more, but the house of the righteous will stand.
It is helpful to learn from the contrasted lifestyles, comparing those who are walking in a right relationship with God with those who are not.
PRAYER FOR THE NATIONS: CAPE VERDE ISLANDS
Cape Verde Islands
Republic of Cape Verde
Area: 4,033 sq km
Fifteen dry, barren islands 600 km off the west coast of Africa.
Population:512,58 Annual Growth: 1.43%
Official Language: Portuguese. Trade Language: Portuguese Creole.
Challenge for Prayer
Economic and ecological problems must be wisely addressed. Scant resources were poorly managed in the past, intensifying Cape Verde’s poverty. Pray for government leaders who will make good decisions and develop the economy for the betterment of the whole nation.
Most Caboverdians are Catholic in name, but in practice are more influenced by superstitions and African fetishism. Christian literature is lacking in Creole, and most people have only a rudimentary grasp of Portuguese.
Newer groups are growing rapidly. Pray that more indigenous leaders and pastors may be trained for these growing groups. Pray that believers may mature and increase despite poverty and geographical isolation.
There are 490,000 Caboverdians living in migrant communities; the largest is in New England (USA) (266,000), Portugal (80,000), Angola (46,000), Senegal, and France. Their remittances are vital to those living in Cape Verde. Pray that many in these communities may become true disciples of Jesus Christ and be spiritual and economic blessings to their homeland.
PRAYER: O Lord, Your faithfulness extends to all generations. You are an ever-present help in times of trouble, a proven source of strength. Thank You for a full and free salvation, and the cross where Jesus purchased our freedom. Father, we pray for discernment, lest our hearts be captured by the deceitfulness of riches and the false claims of counterfeit gods. May we be presented as a chaste bride for our heavenly bridegroom. Help us to dignify every trial with a pure-hearted devotion to You as we cleave to Your Word, in Jesus’ Name. Amen.
So, naturally, we proclaim Christ! We warn everyone we meet, and we teach everyone we can, all that we know about him, so that, if possible, we may bring every man up to his full maturity in Christ. (Colossians 1:28, J.B. Phillips paraphrase)
New Life Community Church, Concord, MA 10742