This week’s Parshah (Torah portion), is Deuteronomy 16:18-21:9. It’s a section designated by the Hebrew word shoftim (sho-fa-teem). Shoftim is the first word in Deuteronomy 16:18. It’s derived from the root shafat, which means to judge or govern. Shoftim, being plural in number, is translated “judges.”
In broad strokes, here’s what’s going on. Moses commands the people of Israel to appoint judges in all the cities allotted to their tribes. He does this so that justice will be enforced throughout the Land God was giving them. These judges were to be above reproach by showing no partiality and refusing bribes. And as was typical with Moses, he emphasized underlying principles more than procedures. He was about establishing guidelines to insure that Israel would have the right kind of leadership; leadership that would help them maintain their testimony as a distinctive people representing the true and living God.
Also, within these six chapters, Moses anticipated a day when Israel would desire a king to rule over them in the same manner that was true of the other nations. And in the context of dealing with that desire for a king, Moses spoke of a future prophet as the true and rightful King of Israel; which is the focus of today’s portion within the portion.
Deuteronomy 18:15-19 reads, 15 “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers — it is to him you shall listen — 16 just as you desired of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God or see this great fire any more, lest I die.’ 17 And the LORD said to me, ‘They are right in what they have spoken. 18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. 19 And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him.
The key to understanding the promise of a prophet like Moses is to see how Hebrew Scripture itself understood it. Moses himself recorded one clue in Numbers 12:6–8, explaining that his speaking to God face to face is what made him a unique prophet. The common way God communicated with His prophets was by giving them dreams and visions. Moses was a specially privileged prophet. God spoke to him directly without any special mediation or reserve. He spoke with Moses in the same way that friends speak with one another. So, whoever the prophet like Moses would be, he would be required to speak to God in the same way—face to face.
Another clue is found in Deuteronomy 34:10–12. This passage, written after the death of Moses, and most likely at the close of the prophetic period, provides an inspired understanding of the prophecy of Deuteronomy 18:15–19. It views Israel’s history of prophets retrospectively. And it states that the prophet like Moses never came. And so now Israel is to look to the future when God will send a new “Moses” who will speak to God face to face. The point is Hebrew Scripture itself reads the prediction of a prophet like Moses in a future oriented way. It closes the Torah by pointing Israel to a future Moses like figure.
Is Jesus this future Moses like figure? Yes He is! Both Acts 3:22-23 and Acts 7:37 refer to Him as the direct fulfillment of the Deuteronomy 18 prophecy. By providing prophetic revelation, communing with God, and performing miracles; Jesus functioned prophetically as Moses did.
But also, Jesus was, and is, immeasurably superior to Moses. Not only did He speak with God, He spoke as God! He provided salvation through His death. He rose from the dead. He ascended into heaven. He continued to give revelation from God after His death through the New Testament prophets. He presently intercedes for His own. He will return for His own. And He will literally bring His own into God’s presence. He’s Moses on Messianic steroids!
So in terms of a principle to live by, regarding the testing of prophetic messages; when someone claims to have a prophetic message from God, we’re to use the Scriptures to evaluate the authenticity of this message. God told Old Covenant Israel to evaluate prophetic messages carefully to see if what was prophesied came true in every detail. If it did not, they could be sure the message was not from God.
And for us today, any so-called prophecy, whether it claims to be new truth or a restatement of old truth, if that message contradicts the Scriptures in any way, or fails to come true in every detail, it should be rejected! That in a nutshell is the prophetic litmus test. And when that test is applied to the name it, claim it, and frame it spiel of prosperity theology; that health and wealth gospel is proven false; which is a good thing because instead of the flesh being fed the spirit can be fed. And when the assertions of replacement theology fail to conform to the prophetic promises of Scripture, the errors of that theology should be rejected. And when the errors of replacement theology are rejected, explaining the reasons for that rejection can help people see how replacement teaching can lead to the anti-Zionism of so-called Christian Palestinianism, and how that ultimately leads to anti-Semitism! The days in which we live demand this kind of application of the prophetic litmus test.