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Deuteronomy 18:15-20


Lesson Focus

God calls us as a community of faith to discernment regarding the voices we listen to as we seek to become better followers of Jesus Christ.


Lesson Outcomes

Through this lesson, students should:


  1. Understand the historical context of Deuteronomy 18:15-20, recognizing the challenges faced by the people of Israel in discerning the true voice of God amidst a pluralistic society.

  2. Grasp the significance of God's promise to raise up prophets like Moses, realizing the criteria provided for discerning authentic messages from God, and the importance of accountability in heeding these messages.

  3. Appreciate the relevance of the lesson for the contemporary church, acknowledging the need for discernment in navigating diverse voices, seeking guidance from the Holy Spirit, grounding decisions in scriptural knowledge, and fostering communal discernment within the faith community.


Catching up on the Story

The Exodus is over and done. Moses and God’s people received the law at Sinai and made their way to the Promised Land, and Moses was given God’s instructions for living in this new land among new and different people. Part of the backdrop here is the plurality of faiths surrounding Israel in their new home.


The people of Canaan served other gods who were not, nor could be, “The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob...” These people and their gods had strange (not so odd at the time!) religious practices. Some practices were benign, while others were downright detestable and abhorrent.


In the section preceding today’s text, verses 9-14, the people are warned not to take up any of their neighbor’s practices. They should not make their children “pass through fire” or practice divination or sorcery. Neither are they to consult with ghosts or spirits. It is because the people of the land practice these very things that God is removing them from the land.


The warning to refrain from these practices comes because God desires his people's absolute loyalty. The danger in these practices is directly related to their ability to draw Israel away from dependence on God. God knows that, given the chance, Israel will seek guidance and direction from any source that might seem promising. God knows that Israel frequently forgets that God is the only reliable and faithful source of guidance and protection. Indeed, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is the only legitimate source of guidance and protection ever.


A Prophet like Moses

God desires to ensure that Israel knows how they should go and live. As Moses and Israel made their way out from Egypt, God was faithful and continued to reveal himself and his will to the people. But these encounters with God were frightening, and Israel grew weary of them.


In verse 16, Moses reminds the people that they requested to have him mediate God’s words, saying, “If I hear the voice of the Lord my God anymore, or ever again see this great fire, I will die.” So, Moses became God's mediated voice and will to the people. But Moses and the people know that Moses cannot go into the Promised Land with them. How, then, shall they know what God desires? Certainly not through sorcery, divination, or consulting the spirits of the dead!


If anything is apparent, even through the small portion of the story of God and creation that the Bible covers, it is that God’s faithfulness is unlimited, especially regarding Israel. God will not leave God’s people without someone to guide them.


So, God promises to raise a prophet from among the people who will be like Moses. In what ways will this prophet be like Moses? It won’t be that this prophet is precisely like Moses, or that he (or she!) will lead people out of slavery and bond