If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and gives you a sign or a wonder,…
It has commonly, and with justice, been thought, that the two great pillars on which a revelation from God must stand, are miracles and prophecies. Without these we cannot be assured that any discovery which may have been made in man is really Divine. We must, indeed, inspect the matter of the thing revealed to see whether it be worthy of Him from whom it is said to come; and from its internal evidence our faith will derive great strength; but still in the first instance we look rather to external proofs. But the Jews imagine that they are precluded from judging of Christianity on such grounds as these, since Moses, in this passage, guards them against any such inferences as we are led to draw from the prophecies and miracles on which our religion is founded. He concedes that some prophecies may be uttered, and some miracles be wrought in favour of a false religion; and that, even if that should be the case, the Jews are not to regard any evidences arising from those sources, but to hold fast their religion in opposition to them. First, mark the supposition here made, namely, that God may permit miraculous and prophetic powers to be exercised even in support of a false religion. We are not indeed to imagine that God Himself will work miracles in order to deceive His people and to lead them astray; nor are we to imagine that He will suffer Satan to work them in such an unlimited way as to be a counterbalance to the miracles by which God has confirmed His own religion; but He will, for reasons which we shall presently consider, permit some to be wrought, and some prophecies to come to pass, notwithstanding they are designed to uphold an imposture. The magicians of Pharaoh, we must confess, wrought real miracles. They were permitted to do so much as should give Pharaoh an occasion for hardening his own heart, but not sufficient to show that they could at all come in competition with Moses. In every age there were also false prophets, who endeavoured to draw the people from their allegiance to God; and in the multitude of prophecies that they would utter, it must be naturally supposed that some would be verified in the event. Now then, in the next place, let us notice the injunction given to the Jews notwithstanding this supposition. God commands them not to give heed to that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, even though his predictions should be verified, if his object be to turn them from Him; for that He Himself suffers these illusions to be practised upon them in order that their fidelity to Him may be tried, and their love to Him approved. It may seem strange that God should suffer such stumbling blocks to be cast in the way of His people; but it is not for us to say what Jehovah mayor may not do; we are sure that "He tempteth no man," so as to lead him into sin (James 1:13), and that the "Judge of all the earth will do nothing but what is right." But it is a fact that He thus permitted Job to be tried, in order that he might approve himself a perfect man; and in like manner He tried Abraham, in order that it might appear, whether his regard for God's authority and his confidence in God's Word were sufficient to induce him to sacrifice his Isaac, the child of promise (Genesis 22:1, 2, 12). It was for similar ends that God permitted His people to be tried for forty years in the wilderness (Deuteronomy 8:2), and in the same way He has tried His Church in every period of the world. It is God's express design in the whole constitution of our religion to discover the secret bent of men's minds; and whilst to the humble He gives abundant evidence for their conviction, He has left to the proud sufficient difficulties to call forth their latent animosity, and to justify in their own apprehensions their obstinate unbelief (Luke 2:34, 35). He gave originally to the Jews, as He has also given to us, sufficient evidence to satisfy any candid mind; and this is all that we have any right to expect. The argument founded on this injunction comes now before us with all the force that can be given to it. A Jew will say, "You Christians found your faith on prophecies and on miracles; and admitting that Jesus did work some miracles, and did foretell some events which afterwards came to pass, God permitted it only to try us, and to prove cur fidelity to Him. He has cautioned us beforehand not to be led astray from Him by any such things as these; and therefore, however specious your reasonings appear, we dare not listen to them or regard them." Having thus given to the objection all the force that the most hostile Jew can wish, I now come, in the second place, to offer what we hope will prove a satisfactory answer to it. It cannot but have struck the attentive reader that in this objection there are two things taken for granted; namely, that in calling Jews to Christianity we are calling them from Jehovah; and that our authority for calling them to Christianity is founded on such miracles as an impostor might work, and such prophecies as an impostor might expect to see verified. But in answer to these two points we declare, first, that we do not call them from Jehovah but to Him; and next, that our authority is not founded on such miracles and prophecies as might have issued from an impostor, but such as it was impossible for an impostor to produce; and lastly, that, in calling them to Christ, we have the express command of God Himself.
1. We do not call our Jewish brethren from Jehovah, but to Him. We worship the very same God whom the Jews worship; and we maintain His unity as strongly as any Jew in the universe can maintain it. As for idols of every kind, we abhor them as much as Moses himself abhorred them. Moreover, we consider the law which was written on the two tables of stone as binding upon us, precisely as much as if it were again promulgated by an audible voice from heaven. With respect to the ceremonial law, we do indeed call you from the observance of that; and we have good reason so to do; for you yourselves know that all the essential part of your religion existed before the ceremonial law was given; and that Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, who lived hundreds of years before the ceremonial law was given, were saved simply and entirely by faith in that promised seed, in whom all the nations of the earth are blessed. If you ask, Why then was the ceremonial law given? I answer, To shadow forth your Messiah, and to lead you to Him; and when He should come and fulfil it in all its parts, it was then to cease; and you yourselves know that it was intended by God Himself to cease at that appointed time. If then we call you from the outward observances of the law, it is not from disrespect to that law, but from a conviction that it has been fulfilled and abrogated by the Lord Jesus. We call you only from shadows to the substance. We call you to Christ as uniting in Himself all that the ceremonial law was intended to shadow forth. I am aware that in calling you to worship the Lord Jesus Christ we appear to you to be transferring to Him the honour due to God alone. But if you will look into your own Scriptures you will find that the person who was foretold as your Messiah is no other than God Himself. Receive Him in the character in which the prophet Isaiah foretold His advent, as "the Child born, the Son given, the wonderful Counsellor, the mighty God, the Prince of peace." Call Him, as another prophet instructs you, "Jehovah our Righteousness," and know that in thus "honouring Christ you will honour the Father who sent Him."
2. The next thing which we proposed to show was, that our authority for calling you thus to Christ is not founded on such prophecies or miracles as might have issued from an impostor, but on such as it was impossible for an impostor to produce. Consider the prophecies; they were not some few dark predictions of mysterious import and of doubtful issue, uttered by our Lord Himself; but a continued series of prophecies from the very fall of Adam to the time of Christ; of prophecies comprehending an almost infinite variety of subjects, and those so minute, as to defy all concert either in those who uttered, or those who fulfilled them. Consider the miracles also; these were beyond all comparison greater and more numerous than Moses ever wrought. The whole creation, men, devils, fishes, elements, all obeyed His voice; and at His command the dead arose to life again. But there is one miracle alone which in particular we will mention. Jesus said, "I have power to lay down My life, and I have power to take it again"; and the former of these He proved by speaking with a loud voice the very instant He gave up the ghost, showing thereby that He did not die in consequence of His nature being exhausted, but by a voluntary surrender of His life into His Father's hands. And at the appointed time He proved the latter also, notwithstanding all the preparations made to defeat His purpose, all which proved in the issue the strongest testimonies to the truth of His word. We therefore confidently call you to believe in Him, and to embrace the salvation which He offers you in the Gospel. But there is one great argument which we have reserved till now, in order that it may bear upon you with the greater weight.
3. We declare to you, then, in the last place, that in calling you to Christ we have the express command of God Himself. Moses, in chap. Deuteronomy 13, bids you, as we have seen, not to listen to any false prophet; but in Deuteronomy 18:18, 19, he most explicitly declares that a prophet should arise, to whom you should attend. Now I ask you, who is the prophet here spoken of Where was there ever, besides Moses, a prophet that was a Mediator, a Lawgiver, a Ruler, a Deliverer? Was there ever such an one except Jesus? And was not Jesus such an one in all respects? Yes; He has wrought for yell not a mere temporal deliverance like Moses, but a spiritual and eternal deliverance from sin and Satan, death and hell; He has redeemed you, not by power only, but by price also, even the inestimable price of His own blood. When therefore you plead the authority of Moses, we join issue with you, and say, Be consistent. Renounce false prophets, because he bids you; but believe in the true Prophet, whom God, according to His Word, has raised up to you, because He bids you. Let His authority weigh equally with you in both cases; and then we shall not fear, but that you will embrace the salvation offered you in the Gospel, and be the spiritual children, as ye already are the natural descendants of believing Abraham.
(C. Simeon, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder,