Priests As Administrators of the Law
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

Open your Bibles, please, to the book of Deuteronomy, keeping in mind that we have been studying this book for quite some time. Last week we began a section of the book that we said was going to deal with the civil law. Keep in mind that the second discourse which Moses delivered dealt with the law. The first portion dealt with the moral law. The second portion dealt with the ceremonial law, and the third portion dealt with the civil law. We are in that portion dealing with the civil law which begins with chapter 16, verse 18, and goes through to the chapter 26.

Last week before we could talk about the law, we had to talk about the administrators of the law because the law is no stronger than the administration of the law as we are seeing in our present-day society. No matter how many good laws we have, if they are not properly administered, then they are not effective.

In talking about the administrators of the law, you will recall we talked to you about the judges. We learned as we examined the Scripture that every city was to have a judge. They were to meet in what was called the gate. There was a public marketplace near the gate of the city where the judges gathered to decide the various cases that were brought before them.

It is important for us to keep in mind that in addition to the judges locally, there was one judge who ruled over the entire nation during the period of the judges—judges such as Samuel, Joshua, and even Deborah at a time when there were no men who could accept or would accept this responsibility. These judges who judged in the gates of the city were to have what was almost a grand jury investigation. They were to investigate the matter that was brought before them very thoroughly, never accepting just one witness's report, the evidence being established in the mouth of two or three witnesses. The individual was to be tried by a jury of his peers, and if he was found guilty, then the sentence was imposed.

You will recall that we were given one illustration in chapter 17 of a case that was tried by these judges, an individual who was accused of idolatry. The case was very carefully tried, the sentence was passed, the individual was to be stoned to death. But the person who was to cast the first stone was the person who actually made the accusation. It emphasized to you how important that was in God's provision for honesty and for accuracy of evidence. Sometimes we have said, though we don't want you to misinterpret this statement, that if we, the individual, had to pull the switch that electrocuted the criminal, we might be more careful and more concerned about the kind of evidence that was presented and the kind of trial that was given.

The reason that we don't want you to misinterpret that statement is that we do believe in capital punishment. We believe that the Word of God teaches it, and we believe that one of the errors of our present day is the move to abolish capital punishment. That is one of the reasons that we encourage you to be familiar with your Bibles along this sort of thing so that you will know which stand to take when these things come up by way of voting, etc. Should you be for capital punishment? Should you be against it? You should be for it because the Bible said that it should be part of the everlasting covenant.

We learned also that the individuals had the right of appeal. There was a Supreme Court even in the days of early Judaism. That Supreme Court was situated in Jerusalem. The individuals were to come before the Supreme Court, which was made up of the judge—such an individual as Joshua or Gideon, one of the leaders of the nation of Israel—and the priests of Israel. The case was examined very carefully and if the evidence indicated that the lower court had erred in making the decision they had made, it was reversed. If they had not erred, it was upheld. And the importance of the decision of the Supreme Court was such that anyone who was presumptuous enough to disobey that law was sentenced to death.

Again, I do not want to be misunderstood, but I have been very much put out with the civil demonstrations, protest marches, etc., that are abroad in our land. I thoroughly am out of sympathy with them. I don't think there is any reason for them. I think that preachers who are taking their stand in support of them are violating God's Word. The law of God must be upheld. The law of the land must be upheld. As I mentioned to you, the jurisprudence of our own nation and of most nations is found right here in this portion of the Word which we are studying, Therefore, we should take example from this. The law is to be upheld. I wouldn't suggest that these protestors be put to death because we are living in the age of grace, not in the age of law; but I would suggest to you the fact that they were to be put to death if they protested in violation of the law would indicate the seriousness of the matter.

Then we noticed another class of administrators known as kings. We pointed out to you, as this description was given to us in chapter 17, verses 14-20, that this was a unique passage of Scripture because when this was given to Moses, there were no kings in Israel. The kings did not come for a long while later. People who do not believe in the inspiration of the Scripture find it very difficult to accept this passage of Scripture. They believe that the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible, was edited. So they say that some editor got a bit jumbled in his thinking and put this passage of Scripture here. He should have reserved it for I Samuel. He got a bit mixed up and put it in the wrong place.

We don't believe anything like that because we believe in the inspiration of the Word of God and we believe that God in His mercy and in His grace, foreseeing the time that Israel would demand a king, which they did, made provision for the kind of king that they should have. This is another illustration of the permissive will of God. If you read the story of how the king of Israel was selected in I Samuel, you will see that it was not God's directive will, that God did everything He could through His prophet Samuel to deter them from having a king, but they insisted. So He permitted them to have it, and because of His foreknowledge, because of His understanding of the future, He even (This may sound strange to you, but don't reject it until you have thought it through very clearly.) makes provision for our walking in His permissive will. Even though He prefers we walk in His directive will because of what He knows about us, He makes provision for our walking in His permissive will.

This is just another illustration of His marvelous mercy and His marvelous grace. Jeremiah, in his book of Lamentations, reminded us that this is the only reason we have any hope, that His mercies are new every day, that His compassions they fail not.

Another Class of Administrators

That is just a bit of review over what we were thinking about last week. We now want to think with you about another class of administrators of the law. They are described for us in Deuteronomy, chapter 18. Notice with me the words that describe these individuals:

Deuteronomy 18:

1The priests the Levites, and all the tribe of Levi, shall have no part nor inheritance with Israel: they shall eat the offerings of the Lord made by fire, and his inheritance.
2Therefore shall they have no inheritance among their brethren: the Lord is their inheritance, as he hath said unto them.
3And this shall be the priest's due from the people, from them that offer a sacrifice, whether it be ox or sheep; and they shall give unto the priest the shoulder, and the two cheeks, and the maw.
4The firstfruit also of thy corn, of thy wine, and of thine oil, and the first of the fleece of thy sheep, shalt thou give him.
5For the Lord thy God hath chosen him out of all thy tribes, to stand to minister in the name of the Lord, him and his sons for ever.
6And if a Levite come from any of thy gates out of all Israel, where he sojourned, and come with all the desire of his mind unto the place which the Lord shall choose;
7Then he shall minister in the name of the Lord his God, as all his brethren the Levites do, which stand there before the Lord.
8They shall have like portions to eat, beside that which cometh of the sale of his patrimony.

Priests as Administrators

We will stop our reading there because that describes the priests who were to be the administrators of the law. Not a great deal is said here because everything that needs to be said about the priests has been said in the book of Leviticus, and so Moses is simply reminding the individuals of their obligation to this particular group of administrators. You will notice in verse 1 he mentions that the priests have no inheritance with the other tribes. There were twelve tribes of Israel. The tribe of Levi was one such tribe. All the tribes received a certain portion of the land of Canaan which they and their descendants could live in forever. It was to always be theirs. But the tribe of Levi received no such portion. It is said that the Lord was their inheritance. It was explained when we looked at that phrase that they were to dedicate themselves completely and fully to the service of the Lord, and the responsibility of the people was to see that they wanted for nothing. So you will notice the emphasis upon giving to the Levites that which is their due. Notice verse 1 again:

Deuteronomy 18:

1The priests the Levites, and all the tribe of Levi, shall have no part nor inheritance with Israel: they shall eat the offerings of the Lord made by fire, and his inheritance.

The suggestion of the verse is that when the individuals brought the various animal sacrifices for worship, all the sacrifice was not consumed as an offering unto the Lord. Certain parts of it were lifted out with tongs by the priest and it was stored for their future use as far as food was concerned. That part that was stored away for them or preserved for them is described in verse 3. The various parts of the animal, this shall be the priest's due from all the people that offer a sacrifice, whether it be ox or sheep, etc. The emphasis, in this verse, we want to place upon the statement, “…this shall be the priest's due.” The priests were due something, not for their service, in the sense that they were paid for it, but in order that they might be free for the ministry of the Lord.

We have no objections to a preacher working if there is a need for him to work. We have often wondered if preachers would be willing to trust the Lord instead of working, if there would be any need for them to work. We have often wondered if, when preachers feel that they must give some of their time to a secular job, the reason is not only related to their lack of trust in the Lord, but to the desire for the standard of living that they want. For example, I know a preacher, a very personal friend, who told me himself (He is a building contractor and has made quite a bit of money in this business.) that they just could not live the way they liked to live on what a church is able to pay.

We were discussing this at length, and I said, “Well, there is only one thing that would concern me about that. It seems to me that one or the other of the businesses would suffer if I had anything to do with it, at least. Either the Lord's business would suffer or the contracting business would suffer. I would either do poor business for the Lord or build poor buildings for people because I believe that we must give all of our time to the Lord.” But as I say that, I say without reservation because I say it based on the Word of God, that God's servants should be taken care of if they give themselves over to the ministry of the Word.

Of course, I always rejoice when I have an opportunity to deal with a subject like this to make the statement that God has been so very gracious to me and my family in that we have wanted for no good thing. God has been faithful. He has kept His promise. He says, “No good thing will He withhold from them that walk uprightly,” and I have never asked the Lord for anything but what He has given it to me. I can honestly say before the Lord that there is not one thing that I want that I don't have. Now, tomorrow I may want something. If I do, I will ask the Lord for it, but at the moment I don't want a thing that I don't have.

I have had other preachers tell me that they have given up quite a bit to serve the Lord, and I appreciate that and I sympathize with that; but in all honestly I must say that I haven't given up anything to serve Him. I don't know of one thing that I have been denied because of my service for the Lord.

I have been denied any number of things because the Lord didn't think they were good for me, and I found out later that His decision was much wiser than mine. Of course, I knew that but sometimes it had to be proven to me, but never have I had to do without anything because I have served the Lord. I want to emphasize that because God is so very gracious.

When you have time, you will want to read I Corinthians, chapter 9. The reason we are not taking the time to read it is that I would like to get through with the administrators of justice in this lesson if we can. The reason that I suggest that you read I Corinthians, chapter 9, is that Paul uses this principle here in the Old Testament as a basis for teaching in the New Testament that the laborer is worthy of his hire.

We are all reminded any number of times, particularly by selfish churches who don't want to pay their preachers enough to live on, that Paul made tents. He was a tent maker. We will have you know, if you are a careful student of the Word of God, that Paul never made tents when there were any Christians around to support him. The only time that he made tents was when he went into a city where there were no Christians, and he was not willing to take anything from unsaved people because he didn't want unsaved people to say that he was doing what he was doing for money. He wanted to make the Gospel without charge and if he said, “Look, here is my message. Now, will you give me something to eat?”, it wouldn't be without charge. But when there was a group of people who came to know the Lord, then he expected them to meet the needs of the servant of the Lord. This certainly should be emphasized in this day when people are very careless about their responsibilities along this line.

You may wonder about that because you probably read somewhere that preachers are the best paid group of people right at this particular time professionally. They used to be the poorest paid and now they are the best paid compared with the things that they are called upon to do and that sort of thing. But we remind you that preachers today have been called upon to be administrators, business managers, a zillion and one things that I personally would refuse to do if I were asked to do it, but the simple preaching of the Word of God is something that God's people should support. God is certainly going to reward those who make it easy for those who minister the Word of God.

Once again I want to say that I am so grateful for those whom God has raised up to make it possible to minister the Word without worry and without concern. I emphasize that particularly in the light of verses 6-8. I don't know whether you realized the significance of them or not. If you are familiar with Hosea, if you are familiar with Jeremiah, if you are familiar with Amos, these verses would mean something to you. Verses 5-8:

Deuteronomy 18:

6And if a Levite come from any of thy gates out of all Israel, where he sojourned, and come with all the desire of his mind unto the place which the Lord shall choose;
7Then he shall minister in the name of the Lord his God, as all his brethren the Levites do, which stand there before the Lord.
8They shall have like portions to eat, beside that which cometh of the sale of his patrimony.

Keep in mind that we have emphasized to you that this phrase, “unto the place which the Lord shall choose,” is a reference to the city of Jerusalem. We don't know that here right now, but we learn it later from our study of the Word of God. That is the place where God chose to set His name. Some of the preachers would come from the gates. That is, they would come from the country to the city of Jerusalem to minister the Word, and some of the city priests were becoming faithless to their task. When these country preachers, using the term that we would today, would come to town with their emphasis upon the Word of God, it would make the city preachers uncomfortable and they would tell them in so many words to go back to the country where they come from. That is the way they treated Jeremiah. That is the way they treated Amos. That is the way they treated Hosea, but God said, anticipating that very thing would happen (Remember now, the city of Jerusalem was not even chosen yet. Here again we see the foresight of God.), “When these country preachers come to town, they gather at the temple. They have as much right for the support of the sacrifices, etc., as the other folk do.”

Then He has an interesting statement: “…beside that which cometh of the sale of his patrimony.” It is true that the Levites had no certain inheritance as did the other tribes, but if for some reason they were able to accumulate a few goods in the country where they were, and they sold those goods, that still did not deny them the right of support. You know, some people get the idea sometimes that a preacher has no right to a bank account. I don't have one. I have a checking account. There is a vast difference between a bank account and a checking account. I trust that you know that, particularly if you have a checking account which is on such a slender margin that if you forget that you have written one check, you have problems on your hand. Some folk feel that preachers should not have a bank account. There are some folk who feel that they shouldn't even own a home, that they shouldn't even make any provision for their family. This passage of Scripture says that even though he may have a little money from the sale of his patrimony, he is still supposed to receive a support of the regular priest at the temple.

Prophets as Administrators

We come to the last administrator that we want to think with you about, and this is of real interest to me because of a number of things that are related to it. We are going to think with you now about the prophets who are another of the group who have the responsibility of administering the law of God. We will read chapter 18 and then go back and notice some things about it that should be a blessing. Let's begin with verse 9:

Deuteronomy 18:

9When thou art come into the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, [This reminds us that they are still outside the promised land.] thou shalt not learn to do after the abominations of those nations.
10There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch.
11Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer.
12For all that do these things are an abomination unto the Lord: and because of these abominations the Lord thy God doth drive them out from before thee.
13Thou shalt be perfect with the Lord thy God.
14For these nations, which thou shalt possess, hearkened unto observers of times, and unto diviners: but as for thee, the Lord thy God hath not suffered thee so to do.
15The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken;
16According to all that thou desiredst of the Lord thy God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God, neither let me see this great fire any more, that I die not.
17And the Lord said unto me, They have well spoken that which they have spoken.
18I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him.
19And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him.
20But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die.
21And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the Lord hath not spoken?
22When a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.

The emphasis in this paragraph is placed upon the prophet as the fourth class of the administrators of the judgment and the justice of God. The first thing that is brought to our attention is what should not be in the light of what should be. They were going into a land where the people had no prophets upon whom they could depend. They had no prophets who could deliver the message from God to man, for that is the business of the prophet, both in the Old Testament and the New Testament. He was to be the representative to man from God. All information about God was to be sought through him.

Proving the Prophets

But these individuals who lived in the land of Canaan had other means of securing such information, and I want us to look over this list of things that God forbade because, believe it or not, some of these things are being practiced today even by Christians. They are being practiced by unbelievers in tremendous numbers, but even some Christians are practicing this sort of thing.

Let's just run over this list for a moment and see what some of them are. Verse 10 tells about causing the children to pass through the fire. That is really not as good a translation as it might be. What they actually did was they offered their children as sacrifices to the fire god Molech. They put them upon an altar and burned them to death in order to learn what this god Molech would have them know. They felt that after they had offered one of their children, then the god would make a revelation to them as to what they needed to know. This was one means of finding out.

Certainly in this country this sort of thing is not practiced. I don't know at the moment of anywhere that it is, though missionaries have conveyed to us from time to time through the years illustrations of where this sort of thing is practiced to some extent.

We will notice in this same verse 10:

Deuteronomy 18:

10There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination…

Notice this word divination . This is a word which implies some method of discovering the future, some artificial method of discovering the future. I am not going to ask you to answer me audibly, but I ask this question to provoke your thinking: How many of you have gone to a palm reader and had the individual look at the palm of your hand and tell you the future by the way the lines in your hand went? I suppose that any number of us may have done it sometime at a county fair or state fair or something more for a lark than anything else. But some folk do it not for a lark, but do it seriously, and I would say that it should not even be done for a lark because it is related to the evil world. We must be very careful as Christians not to expose ourselves to the effects of the evil one for demons cannot possess believers, but they can influence believers; they can affect believers. Therefore, we should be very, very careful about this sort of thing. This is what is meant by the word divinations .

How many of you have had your fortune told by having somebody look at the grounds in a teacup after you have had a cup of tea? This sort of thing is done and it is done by Christians oftentimes, and some of them do it very seriously. There are any number of artificial means of telling the future and all of them can be included under this word divination .

If you will look at verse 10 again, you will notice toward the end of the verse the phrase, “observer of the times.” An observer of the times is an astrologer. How many of you read in the newspapers the astrological chart that comes out every day? How many times do you look and see what sign you were born under and what particular prediction was made under that sign as far as you were concerned? I am going to tell you that a time or two I have looked out of curiosity until the Spirit of God rebuked me for it. I didn't look with any idea of following the suggestion; I was looking more out of amusement than anything else. Then I realized how easily I could become involved in that because I noticed a number of things in this astrological chart that fit very well the very thing that had happened to me that day. I found myself thinking, “There might be something to this.”

The sad thing is, there is something to it. That is what you need to remember. There is something to it because it is related to the occult world. It is related to demons and demons are real and we don't need to be impressed by the fact that a certain thing happens. We don't need to be impressed by the fact that a certain miracle occurs. We don't need to be impressed by the fact that we have had a certain experience. The thing that we need to be concerned about is who is instrumental in this thing, for these things do happen.

Then you will notice in verse 10, the word enchanter . This is an individual that we don't have in this country to any great extent. They have them more in some of the countries like Africa and India, etc. They are so-called wisemen , who can utter magic formulas in your presence; and those magic formulas will guarantee that you will have a certain safe journey or that a business venture will be a success or that you will have a safe trip.

Notice the word witch . This word is not necessarily a good word because the word in the original Hebrew is one who covers up. They came to mean one who performs magic. I will probably be misunderstood here, but I am going to say this anyway. I have seen magicians, and I know that all of it is related to the fact that the hand is quicker than the eye. You pull a rabbit out of the hat and the way you do it is to get somebody to look over here while you get the rabbit here. There is no real evil connected with it. Yet it is an imitation of that which is real, and when we get to the place where we tolerate the imitation, it won't be very long until we accept the real because we have broken down the walls by accepting the imitation.

This is the part that you really won't understand. I question the wisdom of the use of magic in churches, in Sunday School classes, in Child Evangelism classes. Don't run to me now and say, “We don't use magic in our classes. I know some children workers who do use magic in their classes for the purpose of illustrating the Gospel. If that were the only way to illustrate the Gospel, there might be a reason for it, but that is not the only way. We find ourselves, if we are not careful, developing the habit of thinking that the end justifies the means. That is one of the most dangerous philosophies of life to accept—that the end justifies the means. I personally think that there are many other ways of illustrating the Gospel without magic tricks since magic is related somewhat to the occult world.

Look at verse 11, and you will notice the word charmer . This literally is a snake charmer. In the days when the Canaanites were in possession of the land, they took snakes and they charmed them, determining the future by certain directions which the snake took—to the right, to the left, forward, backward, etc., another means of determining the future, which of course we don't see in our particular day.

Then you will notice in verse 11 the phrase consulter with familiar spirits . What is this? This is an individual who consults with demons. This is a devil worshipper. Of course, in our day we have such. In some of the larger cities, there are temples built and dedicated to the worship of the devil. A consulter of familiar spirits is an individual who consults with demons and gets his advice related to the future from demons. Can demons tell you about the future? Yes, they can. Can demons duplicate what God does? They can imitate it to the extent that the human eye can't tell the difference. Can demons take over where you surrender control? Yes, they can, and they do. So you see, here is evidence of the danger of letting anything that even faintly resembles this have any part in the life of the follower of God. Don't be a consulter with familiar spirits.

The activity of demons, we have emphasized in previous messages and we are not going to say anything about it in detail, but I would like to re-emphasize that I believe a great many Christians by over emotional activity in religious meetings are laying themselves open to the control and influence of demons, perhaps more in this hour than any other hour, and it concerns me greatly.

Notice the word wizard here, and as you look at that word, recognize it as an individual who performs any kind of magic or miracle by the power of the devil.

The last word that is in the text there is necromancer . This is an individual who talks with the dead. Can you talk with the dead? Yes, you can. You certainly can. You can go to a spirit medium, as they are called today, and they can call up the dead and the dead can speak to you. You may have read references to Bishop Pike in many different aspects. He got in the news quite often. He reportedly had a conversation with his son, who had committed suicide. Maybe there is one good thing that came out of that. He was convinced that there is an afterlife. He didn't believe in it before. He was a bishop of the Episcopal church, but he didn't believe in an afterlife. He was finally convinced that there is an afterlife because he talked with his son. He was convinced he talked with his son. He even had taped conversations of having talked with him. He was convinced because he and his son talked about things that only he and his son knew about. Nobody else could have known about it.

The great controversy is whether this was his son or whether it was a demon impersonating his son, and it would not behoove me to say, because I don't know. I do know that when King Saul went to witch Endor and asked her to call up Samuel, she called up Samuel. She didn't call a spirit that impersonated Samuel. She called up Samuel, and Samuel said to Saul, “Why have you disturbed my rest?” That is a good sign, isn't it? He rebuked him sharply for this thing, but it was not an evil spirit. It was Samuel. So this much we know: It is possible either to talk with the dead or to talk with evil spirits who impersonate the dead.

Perfect Obedience to God

We know there is a lot of hanky-panky and there is a lot of deceit related to these things. For example, if you have followed this matter of spirit medium practice very far, you know they have wires strung around. At the right time, a table can be lifted off the floor and you think the medium is lifting it with his hands and that sort of thing, but making allowances for all of the art of man, there is still a tremendous power of Satan that is related to this thing and we need to be careful about it because God has so thoroughly condemned it. Notice what He said in verse 13 in this respect. He said:

Deuteronomy 18:

13Thou shalt be perfect with the Lord thy God.

Here is a good illustration of studying the Word of God in context. One person might take this verse: “Thou shalt be perfect with the Lord thy God,” and preach sinless perfection as I have often heard preached, but if you will follow such verses of Scripture as this one through the Word, you will find they are always related to a context. What God is saying here is, “I want complete obedience in relation to this thing. Thou shalt be perfect in relation to this matter of consulting wizards and necromancers and charmers and what have you. Be complete. Don't give me half-hearted obedience. I want whole-hearted obedience in relation to this.” Notice verse 14:

Deuteronomy 18:

14For these nations, which thou shalt possess, hearkened unto observers of times, and unto diviners: but as for thee, the Lord thy God hath not suffered thee so to do.

Are you noticing the importance of that last statement? My, the mercy of God is real. God called them out from all of this. Do you remember that? You remember that Abraham lived in the Ur of the Chaldees, where all of this sort of thing was going on and God called Abraham out of it. He gave him a complete revelation of Himself, so that Abraham and his descendents would be spared from all this sort of thing. Why go back into it? I say to you, Beloved, why? Why, when we have the complete Word of God about which there is no question, there is no doubt, there are no ifs and ands about it, why do we forsake the written Word for some unusual experience, the very authenticity of which could be questioned? Why do we do it? Yet, we do. There are any number of people who are placing more emphasis upon an experience than they are upon the Word. I don't know how many times I have said to folk, “But the Word says this.” “Well, I can't help that. I know what I experienced.”

Let me emphasize to you, and pass this on as you will. Following the injunction in the Word, “These things commit thou to faithful men who are able to teach others also.”, that is your responsibility. I am emphasizing that if you want an experience, you can have it. If you seek an experience, you can have an experience, and you had better not be concerned with the experience. You had better be concerned where it came from. Stick to the Word. There is never any doubt in relation to the Word of God itself.

I would like for you to skip over to the last part of this chapter for a moment because God had said, “I am going to give you prophets to give you messages. You won't need these fortune tellers and what have you. You will be given prophets who will meet your need.” If you will look at verse 20:

Deuteronomy 18:

20But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die.

Once again, we are living in the age of grace, not under the age of law, and no one has the right to take life as would seem to be indicated in this verse. The emphasis we make is the importance of a prophet presuming to speak in his own name. I never read a verse like this without trembling as a minister of God's Word. Really, I mean that. I never read a verse like this without trembling. What a tremendous responsibility it is to stand behind the sacred desk and presume to speak a word in the name of the Lord, if the Lord God has not given the right to speak it. What a tremendous responsibility is placed upon the man who does so. That is the reason James said, “Don't desire to be a teacher.” He uses the word masters , but the word really is teachers . “Don't desire to be a teacher. It is too great a responsibility.”

If God calls you and God puts the responsibility on you, fine. But don't take it lightly. It is a tremendous responsibility to speak the Word.

I always remember what a man said to me when he asked for advice. He didn't know what to do, and I showed him from the Word of God. He was not familiar with God's Word, and he said to me, “Joe Temple, I am going to do what you say, but I want to tell you, if you are not right, there is not a place in Hell hot enough for you because I don't know what to do. I am asking you, and you are saying this is what to do.” If you don't think that made me tremble, then you review how I must have felt. I didn't back up because I knew I was right, but I thought, “My, the responsibility that rests upon a man of God upon whom people depend.” Many of them are not familiar with the Word and you may say, “Well, they ought not to depend upon a man. They ought to depend upon the Word.” If they don't know the Word, they have to depend upon the man who knows the Word. That is exactly what God says here.

Notice in verse 21:

Deuteronomy 18:

21And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the Lord hath not spoken?

You say that a fellow ought not to speak in his own words. How will he know whether it is of the Lord or not? The answer is in verse 22:

Deuteronomy 18:

22When a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.

That is, you don't need to pay attention to anything he says. Now, of course, we have a little different situation. It is not likely that men today would be prophesying the future, so that you could say, “Joe, is it going to rain tomorrow?” I would say, “Yes, it is,” then if it doesn't, you might say, “Don't pay any more attention to him. He said it was going to rain and it didn't.” Not that. We have the Word and so we might say that if the prophet does not speak according to the Word, and the Word does not bear out what he says, then don't pay any attention to him.

The test today is God's Word. If a prophet speaks according to the Word, then listen to what he says. If he doesn't speak according to the Word, what you say is as good as what he says. His opinion is no better than yours.

I saved for last what is a thrill to my own heart—wonderful prophecy. God said to the nation of Israel, “You will have prophets all along as you need them, but there will come a day when I will give you the ministry of a Prophet that will exceed the ministry of all prophets.” Notice verse 15.

Deuteronomy 18:

15The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken;

A Prophet to Exceed All Prophets

You will notice the King James Version capitalizes the word Prophet and properly so. You will notice Moses is the one who is doing the speaking. Moses said: “I am not going to live forever. I will be gone by and by, but someday God is going to raise up a Prophet that is like I am. You listen to Him.”

People who do not recognize what we refer to as the near and far fulfillment of the Word of God do not realize the significance of this passage of Scripture. They say, “Joshua followed Moses and he was like Moses. The people were supposed to listen to Joshua,” but that is not getting at the real meat of the truth. Notice what God says down in verse 18:

Deuteronomy 18:

18I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him.
19And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him.

You will notice that this word Prophet is capitalized also, and rightly so because this Prophet was someone far greater than Moses, though there is a similarity between the ministry of Moses and the ministry of this Prophet of whom I speak. Who was He? Turn to Acts, chapter 3, and notice who this Prophet was. We have often said to you that the best commentary on the Scripture is the Scripture. You can't beat that, and that is the reason you should always look for an explanation of anything in the Word of God before you look for it in some commentary. Notice Acts, chapter 3, verse 19. This is Peter's sermon at the time that the lame man was healed, and they were wondering how and why it happened. In verse 19, he said:

Acts 3:

19Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.
20And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you:
21Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.
22 [notice carefully now]For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you.
23And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people.
24Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days.
25Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed.
26Unto you first God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities.

There is no question but what the Prophet of whom Moses spake was the Lord Jesus Christ. When you are dealing with someone of the nation of Israel, when you are dealing with a Jew, you would reach him so much more effectively if you will become familiar with passages of Scripture such as this in Deuteronomy, chapter 18. Take him to Deuteronomy, chapter 18, and show him what Moses said. Then take him to Acts, chapter 3, and show him what Peter said and help him to see that the Prophet for whom all Israel looked was the Lord Jesus Christ.

Did you notice what was said in Deuteronomy, chapter 18, and what was repeated in Acts, chapter 3? Let's emphasize it again in closing. Notice verse 19 again, where we read:

Deuteronomy 18:

19And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him.

My, that is a solemn verse, but so true. What does Paul say in his letter to the Hebrews in the very first verse? Notice this verse:

Hebrews 1:

1God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,

Moses, Elijah, Elisha. Then notice verse 2:

Hebrews 1:

2Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;

The words of the Lord Jesus Christ are here. You say, “Well, let me see. I have a New Testament and I have the words of Christ written in red and there are not very many of them. What about the rest of it?” That is the reason I don't like red letter Bibles. They are hard on your eyes, but the reason I don't like them is that if you are untaught, you find yourself attaching more importance to those red letters than you do the rest of the book. You say, “Well, this is what Jesus said, so it is important.” That is an error. Do you remember what the Lord Jesus Christ said in the Gospel of John? He said, “Now, I am going away, but I am going to send you a Comforter, and one of the things that He is going to do is take the things that are mine and reveal them unto you and He will guide you in all truth.” So, actually if you want the words of Christ, you could write the entire New Testament in red letters because what the Apostle Paul wrote, what Peter wrote, what John wrote, what Jude wrote, were all the mind of Christ, which the Holy Spirit revealed to these men.

Conclusion

These are the administrators of the civil law. In our next lesson, we will look together at some of the civil laws. Please read the remaining chapters from chapter 19 through chapter 26. The reason that I say read the remaining chapters is not that we will look at all of them, but we probably will be skipping about in them because there will be repetition and there will be some things that will not need comment in detail. We will be emphasizing only that which we feel will be a benefit and blessing to you.


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