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Can any harm come from finding out about the future? Surely such things as horoscopes and seances are just a bit of fun?...Only the Best Information
Can any harm come from finding out about the future? Surely such things as horoscopes and seances are just a bit of fun? Absolutely not! God has a much better plan…
Bible passage: Deuteronomy 18:9–22
9 When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not learn to imitate the detestable ways of the nations there. 10 Let no one be found among you who sacrifices their son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, 11 or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. 12 Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord; because of these same detestable practices the Lord your God will drive out those nations before you. 13 You must be blameless before the Lord your God.
14 The nations you will dispossess listen to those who practice sorcery or divination. But as for you, the Lord your God has not permitted you to do so. 15 The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him. 16 For this is what you asked of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said, “Let us not hear the voice of the Lord our God nor see this great fire anymore, or we will die.”
17 The Lord said to me: “What they say is good. 18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites, and I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him. 19 I myself will call to account anyone who does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name. 20 But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, is to be put to death.”
21 You may say to yourselves, “How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the Lord?” 22 If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously, so do not be alarmed.
Humans in every culture have always been fascinated by the idea of information ‘from beyond’. God was clear that they were not to indulge in any of the fortune-telling practices of the nations around them (vs 9–14). These practices sought to manipulate the gods and the future. There was witchcraft, fortune-telling, consulting the dead. God put a big ‘Forbidden!’ sign across them all.
So, did God want his people to have access to information from the spiritual realm? Actually, yes he did. However, he wanted them to get their information from a trustworthy source that would not lead them astray. From verse 15 we find the description of the great prophet God would send. This coming prophet, like Moses, would be sent by God; he would be Jewish; he would speak God’s words – God wanted them to hear him (vs 15,18).
As a protection mechanism, God ordered Israel to kill any false prophets that came to them. A false prophet promotes another god or makes predictions that do not come true. We are not expected to kill false prophets today, but be sure not to listen to them!
Studying the Canaanites
Don’t copy the Canaanites!
The discovery in 1929 of the ancient city of Ugarit has given us a great deal of information on the Canaanites. Sacred texts describing mythology and religious practices have been translated. These amplify the (inevitably) negative picture from the Old Testament as we hear the Canaanites themselves describe their spiritual values.
Everything mentioned in verses 10 and 11 amounts to the same thing: foretelling the future in one way or another. The Canaanites:
• sacrificed animals in order to examine the liver
• read omens in the birth of malformed foetuses (animal and human)
• practiced a form of astrology
• consulted the dead
• mixed oil and water to interpret the resulting patterns
• consulted oracles
These things were regarded as ‘detestable’, not simply because they were repulsive. To practice any of these things is to declare implicitly that one did not really trust in Yahweh, the God of the Israelites.
The NRSV provides the alternative translation ‘make a son or daughter pass through the fire’ for verse 10. The Hebrew implies ‘sacrifice’, but the texts from Ugarit never mention child sacrifice. Though we do not know what it meant to make someone ‘pass through the fire’, we suspect this was also a method of foretelling the future, like the other things mentioned in these verses. Show more
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