The Scriptorium

Prophets True and False

We need to know the difference. Deuteronomy 18.15-22

A Holy Nation (1): Deuteronomy 17, 18 (6)

Opening Prayer: Psalm 128.1, 2
Blessed is every one who fears the LORD,
Who walks in His ways.
When you eat the labor of your hands,
You shall be happy, and it shall be well with you.

Psalm 128.1, 2

(Fountain: There Is a Fountain Filled with Blood)
How blessed are they who fear You, Lord, who walk within Your ways!
Rejoicing in Your bounteous Word, they prosper all their days!
They prosper all their days, they prosper all their days!
Rejoicing in Your bounteous Word, they prosper all their days!

Today’s Text: Deuteronomy 18.15-22

1. What did God promise to do for His people?

2. How could the people tell false prophets from true?

I can imagine that many of the people were wondering what they would do after Moses died. Who would receive God’s Word from Him, and pass it along to them? How would they ever know when God was speaking to them again?

The term “a Prophet” points forward beyond Moses and indicates both the succession of prophets that appeared throughout the Old Testament, and the final Prophet, our Lord Jesus Christ. These prophets would be “like” Moses in that they would receive and work from the same Law of God, and God would give additional revelation through them (vv. 15, 18). The words of the prophets were God’s Word, and were to be received and obeyed as such (v. 19).

At the same time, other “prophets” would arise, claiming to speak in the Name of the Lord (vv. 20-22). The words of all prophets were to be tested against the revelation of God received to that point. Any prophet whose claim to divine revelation did not come to pass was thus not a prophet called by God, and should not be obeyed. All those determined to be false prophets should be sentenced to death (v. 20).

So Moses allayed the concern of the people by assuring them that God would not forsake or abandon them. He would continue to bring His Word to them through faithful prophets, until the day His only-begotten Word and final Prophet came to fulfill all the promises of God’s covenant and to endure all His wrath against sinners.

Treasure Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
The answer to the question, “How shall we know?” is plain and simple. If what the prophet says comes true, he is a valid prophet. If not, don’t be afraid of him, and don’t listen to him. Jesus, as the ultimate and final Prophet, strove to tell His disciples and us, “I’m saying this. It will come true. Believe in Me.” He told His disciples on the night He was betrayed, “Now I tell you before it comes, that when it does come to pass, you may believe that I am He” (Jn. 13.19). And then the angel said to the disciples, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, saying, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again’” (Lk. 24.5-8). And God prophetically spoke all those years beforehand, saying, “I will raise up for them a Prophet…and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him” (Deut. 18.18). This Prophet Jesus is true. Our salvation depends upon His validity. So we say with Simon Peter, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (Jn. 6.68).


1. The Word of God is the Source and Touchstone for all true preaching and teaching. Explain.

2. How can we know if someone today is a false prophet?

3. How can we keep from falling into falsehood and error in our own lives?

Hence we conclude that the expression, "a Prophet," is used by enallage for a number of Prophets. For it is altogether absurd, as some do, to restrict it to Joshua or Jeremiah; since Moses is here treating of the continual manner of the Church's government, and is not speaking of what God would do within a short time. Not at all more correct is their opinion, who apply it strictly to Christ alone…  
John Calvin (1509-1564), Commentary on Deuteronomy 18.15

Thank You, Lord, for faithful prophets, and especially for Jesus. Help me to…

Closing Prayer: Psalm 128.3-6
Pray for God’s blessings to fall on and sustain all who trust His Word and who believe in Jesus and seek His Kingdom and righteousness.

Psalm 128.3-6

(Fountain: There Is a Fountain Filled with Blood)
Their homes with happy children bloom who fear Your holy Name;
their tables and their every room declare Your glorious fame!
Declare Your glorious fame, declare Your glorious fame!
Their tables and their every room declare Your glorious fame!

O Lord, from Zion send Your peace, and prosp’rous make our ways;
thus may Your blessings e’er increase upon us all our days!
Upon us all our days, upon us all our days!
Thus may Your blessings e’er increase upon all us all our days!

T. M. and Susie Moore

Listen to our summary of last week’s study in Deuteronomy by clicking here. You can download all the studies in the series by clicking here.

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All quotations from Church Fathers from
Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy: Ancient Christian Commentary Series III, Joseph T. Lienhard, S. J. ed. in collaboration with Ronnie J. Rombs, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2001). All quotations from John Calvin from John Calvin, Commentaries on The Four Last Books of Moses Arranged in the Order of A Harmony, Rev. Charles William Bingham M. A., tr. and ed. (Edinburgh: The Calvin Translation Society, 1863. All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (available by clicking here).

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
Books by T. M. Moore