3. The Prophet

R.J. Rushdoony • Mar, 18 2024

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  • Series: Aspects of Systematic Theology
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Our Scripture is Deuteronomy 18, and our subject, ‘the Prophet.’

“The priests the Levites, and all the tribe of Levi, shall have no part nor inheritance with Israel: they shall eat the offerings of the LORD made by fire, and his inheritance. Therefore shall they have no inheritance among their brethren: the LORD is their inheritance, as he hath said unto them. And this shall be the priest’s due from the people, from them that offer a sacrifice, whether it be ox or sheep; and they shall give unto the priest the shoulder, and the two cheeks, and the maw. The firstfruit also of thy corn, of thy wine, and of thine oil, and the first of the fleece of thy sheep, shalt thou give him. For the LORD thy God hath chosen him out of all thy tribes, to stand to minister in the name of the LORD, him and his sons for ever. And if a Levite come from any of thy gates out of all Israel, where he sojourned, and come with all the desire of his mind unto the place which the LORD shall choose; Then he shall minister in the name of the LORD his God, as all his brethren the Levites do, which stand there before the LORD. They shall have like portions to eat, beside that which cometh of the sale of his patrimony.

When thou art come into the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not learn to do after the abominations of those nations. There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer. For all that do these things are an abomination unto the LORD: and because of these abominations the LORD thy God doth drive them out from before thee. Thou shalt be perfect with the LORD thy God. For these nations, which thou shalt possess, hearkened unto observers of times, and unto diviners: but as for thee, the LORD thy God hath not suffered thee so to do.

The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken; According to all that thou desiredst of the LORD thy God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God, neither let me see this great fire any more, that I die not. And the LORD said unto me, They have well spoken that which they have spoken. I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him. But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die. And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the LORD hath not spoken? When a prophet speaketh in the name of the LORD, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.” 1

Deuteronomy 18 shows God’s concern for the covenant life, and for covenant teaching. The administration or the ministry of the covenant is dealt with in this chapter. There are three sections to this chapter which are very important and closely related: first of all we have verses one through eight. God gave to Israel the priests and the Levites for a continuing ministry of the covenant. The priests had as their function atonement, or sacrifices, and the Levites as their function as Deuteronomy 33:10 sets forth, instruction. Here their care is required, and they are reminded of their responsibility before God to care, to provide for His ministry.

Then, second, in verses nine to fourteen, the people of God are warned against the ministers of demonic covenants. These men often come with supernormal manifestations or pretended supernatural manifestations. They claim to know the secrets of the unseen world, to be able to probe the supernatural, to bring a word from beyond the grave. Now the true ministers set forth God’s atonement or sacrifice, and God’s way of holiness or sanctification, His law. The demonic covenants, on the other, hand offer secret knowledge, not righteousness. And this in every age marks pretended and false revelations - they offer secret knowledge, not righteousness. They pretend to gnosis, knowledge, not salvation. They declare that man’s problem is not sin but a hostile universe which they claim to be able to penetrate and master. Moses, thus, warns Israel that they will be in an ocean of pretended knowledge from the unseen world, some claiming to come in the name of the Lord. This has been true in every age, and no less in ours. We are surrounded by cults and groups which claim to know what God, or what the other world is about. Just two days ago I saw at a checkout stand a tabloid paper which claimed to report sixty witnesses who had been on the verge of death and had reports of both Heaven and Hell to pass on to the world.

Of course, all such groups are esoteric, they are gnostic and antinomian. Their salvation is knowledge or illumination, and as a result, they are hostile to law, because they believe it is not faith and obedience but knowledge and illumination which offer salvation. When God gave this word to Moses, the word or the canon was not yet closed. Many words were to be added to the one word which is Scripture, as Deuteronomy 4:2 declares. The demonic prophets would seek to add to or claim to have such a word from the Lord.

Then in the third section of this chapter we are given in verses fifteen to twenty-two the marks of a true prophet. This culminates in the great prophet, Jesus Christ. Our Lord Himself claims that He is the fulfillment of Moses’ prophecy. He not merely claims it, He acted on that assumption, and all that the New Testament declares confirms our Lord's declaration.

The woman at the well in John 4 speaking of Moses' prediction, said that “when He is come (that is, the great prophet) He will tell us all things.” Jesus saith unto her: “I that speak unto thee am he.” 2 Again in John 5:45-47 our Lord applied these words of Moses to Himself. Moreover, after the feeding of the first five thousand in John 6:14, He was hailed as that prophet predicted by Moses. Moreover, in John 12:48-50, our Lord again echoes and cites Moses' declaration. Peter in Acts 3:19-23 refers these verses in Deuteronomy to our Lord.

Jesus is supremely, thus, the prophet. All prophecy is summed up in Him. But all prophets are to be judged by the requirements that the law here sets forth. The word of the covenant God will only come through covenant prophets, and will be in agreement with all points of the covenant law. The covenant prophet will speak the faithful word, the false prophets will speak words not from God, but as Moses declares: “a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods.” 3 In other words, God declares through Moses all false prophets will speak an uncommanded word, their own word, not the Word of God. The command Word of God can only be preached. The command Word of God is His whole Word from cover to cover, it is the law and the prophets, the gospels and revelation.

The prophets, therefore, declare when they come ministering in the name of the Lord: “Hear ye the Word of the Lord.” The false prophets, God declares through Moses, shall die, God will bring the judgment upon them. A classic example of this is in Jeremiah 28:15-17 where Hananiah, giving a false prediction, actually in the name of the Lord, we are told in Jeremiah 28:16, taught rebellion against the Lord, and so he died two months after his false prophecy.

The work of a prophet is to speak for God. Now, to speak for God has a two fold aspect: first, it is to speak or preach or teach faithfully the Word of God, the Covenant word, the law-Word of God. God’s word is grace, it is covenant, it is law; all at one and the same time. False prophets deny the law, they deny the word, and therefore they deny the grace, they substitute another word. Again and again the Bible describes serving other gods as ‘obeying their law;’ to go after other God’s meant to desert God and His covenant and law. Deuteronomy 13:2 for example. Moses repeatedly declared that this was the meaning for apostasy, to go after other God’s and to serve them, that is to obey the law of other gods. Now if we obey the law of the state when it contradicts the covenant of our God, we are going after and serving other gods.

Thus, the first mark of a prophet is one who teaches and declares the word that God has commanded; then second, prediction. God declares that if a man predicts something and it does not come to pass he is a false prophet, and he is presumptuous, he

“...hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.” 4

Now there are two facets to be noted here of this declaration. First, the false prophet may be outwardly faithful to the covenant Word and law, but he may prophesy falsely. Or, second, the false prophet may be faithless to the Word of God, but he may predict accurately; both constitute a false prophet.

Now, a true prophet is both faithful to the covenant word or law, and he predicts truly in terms of that law. Now I have already cited an example of the first kind, Hananiah. Hananiah was a man who outwardly was a faithful preacher of the word, but in a time of great adversity he wanted to give God’s people an encouraging word, when instead he should have said unto them: ‘your sins have come to judge you.’ Hananiah chose therefore to be a popular, an encouraging preacher, to have a positive word at all times. He believed in the power of positive preaching, he was therefore a false prophet and God judged him.

For an example of the second kind of prophet, that is one who is faithless to the word but accurate in prediction, let us use one from the twentieth century; Rasputin. Now Rasputin was not as bad as his enemies make out, they were actually much worse than he was. This does not mean that we can excuse a great deal in Rasputin. He was very clearly one who dabbled in the occult, who was ready to entertain the possibility of reincarnation, for a time at least he was a member of the Khlysts sect, a sexual cult; he believed that all men are possessed with some spark of divinity. He was very clearly a syncretist. At times he could speak in great faithfulness to Scripture, and other times he dabbled in very heretical ideas. And yet, his ability to see what was coming was remarkable. He predicted the downfall of the Czars and of the Old Russia if they went into World War I. At point after point, his ability to see what was coming was amazing. But, he was still a false prophet. Thus, it is not just the ability to predict, nor merely preaching the word faithfully, but it is the ability to know God’s future and to preach God’s word faithfully that marked the prophet.

The great prophet of course is Jesus Christ, He is the true and faithful word, the faithful witness, Revelation 1:5 declares. Because He is the very Son of God, Peter declares of him in 2 Peter 1:17-19 that:

“We have also a more sure word of prophecy.” 5

We have a more sure word, and the word ‘sure’ in the Greek means ‘firm,’ ‘steadfast.’ God’s promise to Abraham, Romans 4:16, uses that same word in the Greek.6 The law given at Sinai is called in Hebrews 2:2 the sure, the firm, the steadfast word. Jesus Christ is the confirmation of the Old Covenant and its laws and prophecies, the total confirmation, the ratification of God’s covenant, so that He is the more sure word of prophecy.

Now in Jesus Christ the great prophet we are all called to be priests, kings, and prophets, to be faithful to the whole Word of God as prophecy, as law, and as grace. To teach it as a command-word, not to allow our word and our hopes to interfere with that sure word. Moreover, we are to prophesy, to predict in terms of God’s law-Word. Romans 6:23 declares: “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” 7 We have also so much in Scripture such as Deuteronomy 28 which declares what happens when men believe and obey God, and what happens when men refuse to believe, and when they persist in disobeying, and in terms of that we are called upon to be prophets, to declare: “Thus saith the Lord.” We do not encourage men because they want to be encouraged. We do not speak in terms of what we want to believe, or what we want to say, but in terms of the whole Word of God, which gives us the power to know that there is cause and effect in this world, and in terms of what cause, what effect follows. The great prophet is Jesus Christ, and we are called upon to be prophets in Him, to declare the whole Word of God.

Let us pray.

* * *

Our Lord and our God we thank thee that thou hast given us a command-word, so that we need not stand in terms of the folly of men, nor the foolish word of men, nor the foolish word of our own mouths, but in terms of thy sovereign Word. Make us strong and bold in thy Word, O Lord, that in terms of thy Word we may turn men and nations unto thee, in terms of thy Word we may know the way to walk, and may walk therein; that in terms of thy Word we may know the meaning of today, and what is to come tomorrow, and might every rejoice because thou art the Lord. Bless us to this purpose we beseech thee, in Jesus' name, amen.

* * *

Are there any questions now, first of all with respect to our lesson?


[Audience Member] Could you comment on the works of C.S. Lewis?

[Rushdoony] C.S. Lewis was certainly one of the more delightful writers of this century, and many of his works are really a joy to read. This does not mean that he was by any means orthodox. At many points his thinking was clearly defective; he did not believe in the infallibility of Scripture, he was fuzzy on the doctrine of the atonement, so that there are serious defects in C.S. Lewis’ system of thought. So, he is a pleasure to read and is very delightful in his comments, and sometimes very discerning, but we need to read him with caution.


[Audience Member] In the nineteenth century, when Britain was at the height of its empire, was a great time of the proclamation of the gospel around the world. Did Britain at that time make alliances with non-Christian states in terms of power politics, bearing in mind that godly nations should not make such alliances? What relevance does this have for us today as we seek to ally ourselves with everyone in order to stop the Russians?

[Rushdoony] Yes; first of all, indeed the last century was one of the greatest ages in the history of the church as far as missions was concerned. Britain was very important in the missionary movements of the last century; this does not mean that British policies were necessarily always good. On the other hand, they were often very fine in that Britain to a great extent took the lead in the anti-slavery movement, and worked diligently to suppress the slave trade.

Now, power-politics was and still is basic to a great deal of the activities of Britain. It has been most deadly in the history of the modern age. Power politics looks not to the right and wrong of any country, but to prevent any other country from becoming sufficiently strong to be a threat. We too are now involved in power politics, in trying to get a balance of power between the Soviet Union and Red China, although at the same time we are playing a devious game, we are also doing a great deal to build up the Soviet Union. I do believe when and if the facts are ever known, it will be apparent that the situation in Iran as well as Afghanistan was done with our consent, with the consent of the Carter administration. There is too much that points to it.

Certainly, alliances with ungodly powers is altogether wrong, and very clearly our foreign policy today is predicated on a radical humanism rather than anything Christian. So that there is nothing defensible about our foreign policy.


[Audience Member] Do you think we will boycott the Moscow Olympics?

[Rushdoony] I will be surprised if we are not involved in the Olympic games, because Lenin once said that all the Capitalists would be interested in would be to make a profit or get what they wanted, and they would sell the Communists the very rope to hang the capitalists. We are ready to sell them grain, we don’t want to stop that; we don’t want to stop selling them the materials for their IBM missiles to destroy this country, we are doing a stead traffic in that. We are ready to go ahead with the Olympic games which will help enrich the Soviet Union, and at which our athletes will be consistently short changed with bad refereeing. I really would be surprised if we change morally, I hope we will, to resist this type of accommodation with evil. They don’t need to do anything to please us, we are not a problem to them. Why should they do anything to placate American opinion here? It is not worth placating.


[Audience Member] Does God not despise lukewarmness in nations as much as in individuals?

[Rushdoony] Yes, very good. Revelation 3:15 means that the Lord despises nothing more than lukewarmness. In other words, a lukewarm country such as most of your so-called Christian countries are, is more contemptible in the sight of God than an out and out atheistic country.

Right, too much of what passes for Christianity today is lukewarmness. The other day someone was commenting on the fact, this was a Catholic writer, that contemporary Catholics like Pope John Paul II very much, they think he is a remarkable man, but nobody listens to him. He gets no obedience whatsoever. That too is all too true of most Protestants; they may like their church and they may like what they are getting from the pulpit whether it is sound or unsound, but as far as living it, as far as making a stand, no. One very fine man in North Dakota, Grale Ganon has made a study of the contemporary church and has concluded that the average person in the church doesn’t like too much what is going on (this is dealing with most churches, especially the Liberal ones) he may disagree but his faith is not worth making a stand about, or breaking with his church over. It isn’t that important, it is a lukewarm thing, no matter how orthodox he may pretend to be.


[Audience Member] Do you think that people are becoming used to abortion?

[Rushdoony] That’s a good question, where do we stand on the abortion issue as a country. I think the sentiment against abortion is growing, largely because the people who are waging the battle against abortion are step-by-step alerting more people, awakening them to the issues. Most people I think have been lukewarm on the issue. We are a long way from winning the battle, which is sad, but the very fact that the very plain-spoken comments of Pope John Paul II when he was in the United States made no difference in Catholic circles indicates how far gone we are. There are enough evangelicals and Catholics in this country to make abortion illegal, but most of them are not concerned. I do believe we have gained ground, however.


[Audience Member] Could you speak about long term debt for the non-Christian, as against the Christian?

[Rushdoony] Yes, the question is a good one. The Bible says that there is nothing wrong with long term debt, or involving a non-Christian in long term debt, but for the believer any debt beyond six years is a sin. Why isn’t the same true with regard to abortion? Well, there is a very good reason, in abortion there is an actual murder of another person who has no part in the decision. Long-term debt is slavery, the unbeliever is a slave first of all to sin, therefore in every department of his life he is going to be a slave. Therefore, there is no point in keeping him from slavery, it is his nature. You aren’t doing anything to encourage him in it, but he is not going to be interested in the freedom that is a part of debt-free living. So let him do as he pleases. However the Christian has a responsibility since he belongs to God, to be a free man under God.

[Audience Member] Is there a real possibility of a Third World War?

[Rushdoony] With regard to WW3 it is entirely possible, but not because there is any real enmity between the United States and the Soviet Union, or Red China. All three governments, together with virtually every other government in the world today are at war with their citizens primarily. If you want to know who the United States is at permanent warfare with, look in the mirror. You are the enemy. That’s what all the taxes are about, that is what the court decisions are about. When they fight a war with Japan or Germany, or tomorrow let us say the Soviet Union, when it is over there will be massive foreign aid to get them on their feet, if they should lose, which is not too sure. But there will be no domestic aid to get you on your feet, and you are losing the war. So, we are the real enemy, and we had better recognize that.

Now, what is gained by warfare in the modern world? Well, very obviously, warfare in the modern world has a tremendous strategic function: it enables the country involved in that warfare, in particular if it wins or comes out any reasonable draw, to increase its power over the people. Every warfare has vastly increased the powers of the central government. Very few of those powers are surrendered when the war ends. So that warfare is an excellent means of speeding up the centralization of powers in the central government. If we go into a third world war, I do not believe that it will be because there are any real differences between Washington and Peking and Moscow, but because it will be advisable in terms of a developing resistance to Washington, to gain more powers over the people. Now, maybe that is very cynical, but I think the past fifty years of our history at least have justified such a cynicism. Yes?

[Audience Member] What is the current status of ‘Californians for Biblical Morality?’

[Rushdoony] Yes, well, it is gaining new members continually, but until there are enough so that we can make a stand of course they will not require one, because there is no point in moving prematurely. If you do want information on Californians for Biblical Morality, I do have some of their fliers, I believe, with me.

Our time is really up, let us bow our heads for the benediction now.

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And now go in peace, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost, bless you and keep you, this day and always, amen.

1 Dt 18:1–22.

2 Jn 4:26.

3 Dt 18:20.

4 Dt 18:22.

5 2 Pe 1:19.

6 βέβαιος bebaios; from the same as 939; firm, secure:—certain(1), firm(2), firmly grounded(1), guaranteed(1), more sure(1), steadfast(1), unalterable(1), valid(1). Thomas, R.L. (1998). In New American Standard Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek Dictionaries: updated edition. Foundation Publications, Inc.

7 Ro 6:23.

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