Deuteronomy, Ministry, Thinking Out Loud

Words from the Wise

(Thinking about Deuteronomy 18:15-20)

"The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from
among your own people; you shall heed such a prophet." (Deuteronomy 18:15)

How do you know who to listen to?

Okay, that's a bad sentence from a member of P.O.E.M.* Perhaps the question should be phrased thusly: "How do you know to whom to listen?"

Anyway, it's 2009. How do you know who to listen to?

I've just started watching the new season of "Big Love" on HBO, that salacious delight about suburban polygamy among none-too-believable FLDS beautiful people. The sect in which the lead male character grew up revolves around an aging prophet played by Harry Dean Stanton. In the midst of machinations and manipulations, he reigns over the compound, pronouncing prophecies and making matches and counseling couples, blessing those who wish to have more children and cannot conceive.

How do you know who to listen to? Who do you trust?

I'm not sure why I find this show so fascinating. Is it the interaction between the three wives? It's not their husband, whose attractive qualities escape me. "Our heavenly Father has a plan," he says, and he experiences various revelations that affect everyone else's lives but seem to me more like expressions of his desire.

So how do you know who to listen to?

I have certain ideas about the future of my ministry, just as I have certain ideas about what I hope for the church I'm serving and had for the other ones, too. Those ideas come from impulse and intuition and, I hope, inspiration.

"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." (Deuteronomy 18:18)

Being a prophet sounds scary. And yet I would like someone else to be one, for me, to let me know I'm on the right road, to let me know whether I have the right ideas.

"We're both trying to maintain a sacred life in the midst of a culture that has forgotten what is holy." Those are the words of Big Love's Bill to the Native American he hopes to partner with on, get this, a Mormon-friendly Casino on tribal land.

You can see how complicated this gets. I find the whole notion laughable, using a gambling resort to maintain what's holy, but I get what Bill is saying. I try to maintain something sacred, too, in my family. I try to be faithful to God. But the ways in which this faithfulness and this sacred trust ought to play out are not always immediately apparent.

How do *you* know who to listen to?

"Anyone who does not heed the words that the prophet shall speak in my name, I
myself will hold accountable. 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." (Deuteronomy 18:19-20)

The stakes are high for prophets. God threatens the false ones, and people threaten the real ones. I wonder who will tell me what I need to know, but would I really listen?

*Professional Organization of English Majors

5 thoughts on “Words from the Wise”

  1. Good questions. One of the things I try to pay attention to is signs of emotional manipulation. And I try to step back and listen to the Spirit. But it can be so hard sometimes to tell the true prophet from the false.
    What’s P.O.E.M.?

  2. Great questions!
    I listen to people who seem to have a healthy measure of humility…

  3. I agree — great questions!
    (And I’m not an English major, but I still have a hard time ending a sentence with a preposition!)

  4. Someday I’d love for us to have a big chat about Big Love. I saw season one, and have every intention of seeing seasons two and three, but have not so far.
    For me, season one was a big parable about closetedness.
    And I agree: the male “prophets” in this, sorry, are simply putting God’s blessing on their desires to have ever younger additional wives. The character who broke my heart most in season one was wife one, who married a man, she thought, in a one-to-one fashion, only to have to grapple with God’s word to him that he needed an additional wife.
    I love your reflectionaries, even when I don’t comment. I wish we could live blog it, say, like the 11th hour preacher’s party.
    Love to you.

Comments are closed.