You may say to yourselves, “How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the Lord?” 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 (Deuteronomy 18:21-22).
Our daily Bible readings brought us to this passage last week. It seems straight forward enough: Proof that a prophet is really a spokesman for God is that his words come true. But questions arise: What if his words are not fore-tellings of future events? After all, the main function of a prophet was not to reveal the future, but to call people to holy living. And what if he has proven himself as a spokesman for God in the past by prophesying events that have come true. Does that mean everything else he says is the word of God?
An interesting text occurring five chapters earlier speaks to these questions. First, it doesn’t matter if the person closest to you tells you “this is what God wants.” If it is not what God has revealed in his word, don’t listen to them. Even if a whole city (popular opinion) speaks in favor of something contrary to God’s already revealed will – don’t follow them.
Preceding all these is a comment about the prophet. Even if he has been confirmed a prophet by the truthfulness of his fore-tellings, if he contradicts what God has already revealed, pay him no mind (see Deuteronomy 13).
To emphasize the seriousness of this instruction, anything contrary to it was a capital offense. This is why the Bible is so important. It contains the confirmed revealed will of God. Anything contrary is not his will, no matter who says it, how dear they might be, or how many hold their position. In the words of Isaiah “Consult God’s instruction and the testimony of warning. If anyone does not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn.” (Isaiah 8:20).