Daily Devotion – January 26, 2021 – Dr. Pat Taylor Ellison

Deuteronomy 18:15-20
18:15 The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you shall heed such a prophet.
18:16 This is what you requested of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said: “If I hear the voice of the LORD my God any more, or ever again see this great fire, I will die.”
18:17 Then the LORD replied to me: “They are right in what they have said.
18:18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their own people; I will put my words in the mouth of the prophet, who shall speak to them everything that I command.
18:19 Anyone who does not heed the words that the prophet shall speak in my name, I myself will hold accountable.
18:20 But any prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, or who presumes to speak in my name a word that I have not commanded the prophet to speak–that prophet shall die.”

The “author” of Deuteronomy, Moses, says God will raise another prophet like himself to speak to the people. He is remembering how the children of Israel complained in the wilderness of being afraid of God and not wanting to be anywhere near God when God spoke. This passage in Deuteronomy promises  to spare the people from direct contact with God. God will raise up a prophet and tell the prophet what to say to the people. God believes the people are right to be afraid to be in the direct presence of God, and God is convinced that their fear will kill them.

God, in God’s great mercy for the human beings God loves, selects real people, human beings, with failing and strengths, to be God’s mouthpieces. God doesn’t subject human beings to direct contact with God. God chooses very special persons to walk and talk with, who then communicate to others what God has said.  But God also promises that whoever hears the words of such a hand-selected prophet of God and does not obey that prophet’s words will be subject to a reckoning with God. God will hold those people accountable. And the prophet too must be faithful to God. The prophet cannot speak the words of other gods. That prophet belongs to God alone and serves God alone or risks death. 

What does all this mean for us today?  What can we learn about God and human beings from this passage? First God is so big and so powerful that humans feel they will die if they remain in God’s presence. Have you ever felt so tiny and insignificant in a certain situation that you might simply die from it? People who experience agoraphobia may come close. The world can seem suddenly  unreasonably large and dangerous, causing panicking and retreating and shaking from fear. Perhaps you know of a similar response you or others may have where you feel too small and weak to remain alive.

Second, out of compassion for humans with these deep fears, God chooses spokespersons to bring God’s word to us. God is really an Other, too big and to awe-provoking for us to co-exist with, but God loves us so much that God shields us from God’s power and might, so that we won’t die of fright, and so that, more importantly, we can hear and do God’s will. God shows compassion for humans in so many ways! Aren’t we blessed to have the most powerful God who loves us so much that we are protected, even from God’s own self? This God wants a relationship with us, and one that won’t kill us! That is something to contemplate.

Lord God, Thank you for loving us. Like a loving but scary parent, you withhold your great size and vastness and power and show us instead your love and care and delight. Let us not forget that you are both big and powerful as well as loving and caring. Thank you for caring for us.   Amen.