Magistrates and ministers are two Divinely appointed offices that are to be used for the support and advancement of the Kingdom of God among men. In the last chapter, the Lord spoke about the magistrates of Israel; but this chapter begins with words concerning Israel’s ministers – the Levites. Care was taken that the priests did not find it necessary to entangle themselves with the affairs of this life, nor to enrich themselves with the wealth of this world; for they had better and spiritual things to mind. However, care was likewise taken that they did not lack the comforts and conveniences of this life, even though they did not have an inheritance among the rest of the tribes of Israel. Therefore, it was appointed that the people were to provide for them; it was not left up to their generosity, but it was actually required by the law. Those who enjoy the benefit of solemn assemblies for worship and Biblical teaching ought to provide for the comfortable support of those who minister in such assemblies. The priests who served at the Tabernacle were to have their shares of the sacrifices that they offered, while the priests who resided in their cities throughout the countryside districts of Israel were to have the firstfruits that the people gave them their support.
One would not think that there would be such a necessity to warn the people of Israel against the infections of the idolatrous customs of the Canaanites. Was it possible that a people so blessed with Divine institutions would ever approve of the brutish and barbarous inventions of men and devils? Alas! This was a great danger indeed; and therefore, they were repeatedly charged to not follow after the abominations of those heathen nations. A few things in particular were mentioned – not the least of which was the sacrificing of their children to Moloch, an idol that represented the sun, by burning them alive in a fire. Other things that were expressly forbidden among the Lord’s people include the observing of “lucky” or “unlucky” days, charms for diseases, amulets or spells to prevent evil, fortune-telling, and all such similar abominations. These wicked things were a leading cause of the rooting out of the Canaanites, and they ought never be practiced by those who call themselves Christians. A person cannot simultaneously have communion with God and maintain fellowship with devils.
Besides the priests and Levites, who were the Israelites’ ordinary ministers, whose office was to teach them God’s law; they also had prophets to reprove them for their faults, remind them of their duty, and foretell things to come – both judgments for warning, and deliverances for their comfort. Having these prophets, they would not need to use divinations or witchcraft; for they would be able to enquire of God’s prophets concerning even their private affairs, as Saul did (1 Sam. 9:6). These prophets were like Moses in some respects, although far inferior to him (chapter 34:10). But the promise of these prophets was primarily intended to be a promise of Jesus; it is the clearest promise of Him that is found in all the law of Moses! It is expressly applied to our Savior, the promised Messiah (Acts 3:22; 7:37); and the people of Jesus’ day had this promise in mind when they said concerning Him, “This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world” (John 6:14). And it was the Spirit of Christ Himself that spoke in all the Old Testament prophets (1 Pet. 1:11).
It was here promised that Christ would arise as a Prophet Who was greater than any earthly prophet; for by Him, God would make Himself and His will known to the human race – more fully and clearly than He had ever done before! Jesus is the Light of the world (John 8:12). He is the Word, by Whom God speaks to us (John 1:1; Heb. 1:2). He was like Moses, but He was far superior to him. In verse 15, a charge and command was given to all people to hear, believe, and obey Him: “Unto him you shall hearken” (verse 15). Whoever will not listen to Him and obey Him shall be surely and severely reckoned with for his contempt (verse 19). Whoever refuses to listen to Jesus shall do so at his own peril, for this Great Prophet will also be his Judge (John 12:48). But happy are all those who trust in Him and obey Him! (Ps. 2:12) He will lead them in the paths of safety and peace, until He brings them to the land of perfect light, purity, and happiness!
This chapter concludes with a caution against false prophets. Since it was such a great duty to listen to the true prophets, and yet there was so much danger of being misled by false prophets; the people might very well wonder they would be able to recognize words which the Lord had not truly spoken? This should be a matter of great concern for us as well. Whatever is against the plain meaning of the written Word, or whatever gives license or encouragement to sin – we may be sure that it is not something that the Lord has spoken. If a prophet gave any kind of sign or predicted any kind of future event, the people would know that he was not sent by God, if his sign or prediction did not come to pass. (However, even if the sign did happen, it would not prove the prophet’s mission if he was calling them to serve idols, or to do some other similarly clear violation of God’s laws.) On the other hand, by the miracles which Jesus worked – especially by that great sign which He gave by rising from the dead, which came to pass as He had foretold, – it was made plainly clear that He was indeed sent by God!
Lord Jesus, You have indeed been raised up as the Great Prophet! We pray that You would lead our dark, ignorant, and blind minds to become acquainted with the mysteries of Your Kingdom! Amen.
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