Reeh — “See”
Portion for the week leading up to August 19, 2017
Follow the Signs
When we read through the accounts of Yeshua's (Jesus') miracles which He performed, we may wonder how it is possible that people could question whether He was the Messiah or not. We see, however, that miracles and extraordinary acts are not an adequate reason to believe that someone was sent from God. This is just as important for us to understand today as it was in those days, so let's take a closer look.
Deuteronomy 13 begins with Moses explaining to the people of Israel that when a person among them tries to convince them to worship other gods, they should not pay attention to this person: "If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes true, concerning which he spoke to you, saying, 'Let us go after other gods (whom you have not known) and let us serve them,' you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams; for the Lord your God is testing you to find out if you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul" (Deuteronomy 13:1-3). God is instructing the people that at some time or another, people will rise up who are able to work seemingly miraculous signs and wonders that will be convincing enough where people might be taken astray. God therefore sets the precedent that just because you see a sign or miraculous work done, it is not always a sign of God's acceptance of that person. In fact, He says that He will allow these types of people to rise up so that He may test the people and see if they will continue to follow Him regardless of what their eyes see.
We see examples throughout the Scriptures of sorcerors, diviners, and others who are able to make things happen by their "secret arts." When Moses was sent to perform miraculous signs before Pharoah in Egypt, the magicians in Egypt were able to emulate some of the earlier miracles that God sent Moses to perform: "But the magicians of Egypt did the same with their secret arts; and Pharaoh's heart was hardened, and he did not listen to them, as the LORD had said" (Exodus 7:22). While in the end God's miracles overcame what the magicians were able to perform, the point remains that through some power the Egyptians were capable of turning a staff into a snake, water into blood, and causing frogs to rise from the Nile.
Yeshua also warns about the dangers of following those who perform signs and wonders: "And then if anyone says to you, 'Behold, here is the Messiah'; or, 'Behold, He is there'; do not believe him; for false messiahs and false prophets will arise, and will show signs and wonders, in order to lead astray, if possible, the elect. But take heed; behold, I have told you everything in advance" (Mark 13:21-23). Yeshua came with many signs and wonders. He healed the sick, raised the dead, and exorcised demons, but none of this would have mattered had He been a false messiah who taught anything contrary to the Torah. This is why the Pharisees and people who knew the Torah (the ones who were genuine, at least) asked Him questions. They were following God's command as we saw above to not believe any person who comes and performs signs, but to find out what their true intentions are.
It is important that we pay attention to Yeshua's words here about false messiahs and false prophets. While miracles will follow those who believe in Yeshua and allow the Holy Spirit to work through them (John 14:12), we must be careful to not mindlessly follow anyone who is able to work signs and wonders. We must be able to discern whether a miracle is done by a person who is allowing God to work through them, or by a person whose motive is deception. Yeshua tells us how we can tell who is genuine and who is a false prophet: "Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits" (Matthew 7:15-16). When we see someone performing an extraordinary event, instead of being caught up in the awe of the moment, we must take note of how the person lives their life and whether they are teaching things that are not true.
This is especially necessary for us to be able to discern, because the multitude of false prophets and false messiahs which Yeshua speaks of are leading up to the false messiah, the antichrist, who will come with very great signs and wonders: "Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb and he spoke as a dragon. He exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence. And he makes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose fatal wound was healed. He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down out of heaven to the earth in the presence of men. And he deceives those who dwell on the earth because of the signs which it was given him to perform in the presence of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who had the wound of the sword and has come to life" (Revelation 13:11-14).
The key to discerning false prophets and false miracle-workers from the true ones is to know God and be close in relationship with Him. The sheep know the voice of their Shepherd, and they will not be led astray by another. Therefore, let us always continue to seek Him in all things so that we will be confident in the truth and will be able to stand firm in the day of testing.