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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Friday, January 26, 2018

Today’s Scripture Reading | Deuteronomy 18:15–20

The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you shall heed such a prophet. This is what you requested of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said: “If I hear the voice of the Lord my God any more, or ever again see this great fire, I will die.” Then the Lord replied to me: “They are right in what they have said. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their own people; I will put my words in the mouth of the prophet, who shall speak to them everything that I command. Anyone who does not heed the words that the prophet shall speak in my name, I myself will hold accountable. But any prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, or who presumes to speak in my name a word that I have not commanded the prophet to speak—that prophet shall die.”(NRSV)

This happens sometimes. The text for the devotion seems to stop just before the key verse in the passage. In the text we get the news that there will be prophets after Moses. Yay for prophets. And then we hear that anyone who doesn’t listen to these prophets will be held accountable. Well, OK, fair enough I guess. And then it goes on to say that a person who claims to be a prophet but is not in fact speaking for God should die. OK, severe, but hey, Late Bronze Age, it’s a severe time.

And that’s it. That’s where the text ends. But the next verse? Given what has come before, it’s pretty darn important:

“You may say to yourself, ‘How can we recognize a word that the Lord has not spoken?’” Yeah, kind of necessary, wouldn’t you think? And the answer? Well, it says that if the thing the prophet foretold doesn’t happen, it’s not from God.

Which prompts the question: What good is a prophet if you only know that they’re a prophet in retrospect? In the end, is a prophet really just someone who gets to say “I told you so”? What good is a prophet if you don’t know they’re a prophet at the time when their prophecy would actually be useful?

Well, to the people of the time, maybe it wasn’t that useful at all, really. To us contemporary folk, though, maybe it is a little more useful, because we have the evidentiary weight that the outcome lends to the prophecy. With evidence, prophecies are more than just words. Outcomes matter. Our actions create the outcomes. Without actions that create outcomes, words are just words.

The world is full of speakers. It needs more doers to make those words meaningful.

Lord, sometimes it seems like we are always looking for prophets. Remind us that it is what we do in the present that creates the future and provides the proof that makes prophecy matter. Amen.

Written by Rob Koon, Coordinator of Fine Arts

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