SAY WHAT? (What is the passage saying?)
- Verse 1 uses the word "prophet." In the Bible times they didn't have Bibles. Today God speaks to us through the Bible, but back then God would sometimes speak through a "prophet" whom He would give a message to share with the people.
- Verses 1 and 2: One way a prophet would validate that he was truly speaking for God was by foretelling the future. If his prediction was right it was considered evidence that he was truly God's messenger (see Deuteronomy 18:21-22).
- Verse 3 uses the phrase "with all your heart and all your soul." Jesus taught (see Matthew 22:37) that loving God with all our heart and soul is THE most important thing God is seeking from us. In fact, it is the point of our existence.
- Verve 5 says "you must purge the evil from among you." We are going to see this phrase repeatedly in this book (17:7, 19:19, 21:21, 22:21, 24, 24:7). God was telling his people to remove anyone from their community who was trying to lead people away from relationship with Him.
- God required (in verses 12-16) that people not simply believe rumors, but thoroughly investigate if any accusation was made that a town had rejected God and was influencing others in that way. This requirement would later save three tribes who were rumored to have abandoned God (see Joshua 22).
SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
- This chapter may seem very harsh or unloving. God requires a false prophet who seeks to lead the people astray, and even a family member who seeks to lead a family away from God, and even an entire town who seeks to lead a nation to abandon God, to be removed. But think of it this way: If it's discovered that a person has cancer, doctors will seek to remove that cancer. Is that harsh? No, because the cancer threatens the life of that person. So what is life? Scientists would say life is a cellular creature with the capacity for metabolism, and that when metabolism ceases with no prospect of re-starting, that is death. But Jesus said life is knowing God (see John 17:3). Real life (and eternal life) comes from being in relationship with God. And so if someone seeks to lead others from knowing and loving God, that person is a cancer because he/she is threatening the life of those people. And God, in love, required the Israelites to remove such a cancer.
NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
- This chapter may raise some questions for us, but the thing we can be sure of is that knowing God and loving Him with all our heart and soul is pre-eminant. Nothing is more important than your relationship with God. Nothing comes close. So … you probably don't have a false prophet seeking to lead you from your commitment to God, but you probably do have some things that are threatening or weakening your passion for God. What are they? And what can you do to remove them from your life, or to lessen the influence they have on you?