Vows, Dedications, Devoted Things, and Tithes

Today, I’d like to look at vows, dedications, devoted things, and tithes mentioned in Leviticus 27 and hopefully, understand some of their spiritual significance. 

Vows are basically promises that can take various forms such as promises of offerings, animals, and monetary amounts based on values assigned to people of various ages. God considers vows to be very important and binding. We must understand that God expects us to keep our vows. Only under certain circumstances can the vows of women be made null and void by their fathers or husbands.

One example of a vow is when Hannah vowed that if God would give her a son, she would literally give her son back to the Lord to live as a Nazirite for his whole life. Hannah’s husband, Elkanah did not interfere with Hannah’s vow and Samuel served God in the temple his entire life.

The first thing we should understand about vows is that they are not considered tithes.  They are above and beyond tithes.

Leviticus 27:1-8 explains how to consecrate someone to the Lord by vowing to pay the value of that person and putting it into the temple treasury. Please understand this has nothing to do with inherent worth or abilities that the person being consecrated possessed.  The value was based only on the age and sex of the person. Females were valued lower than males while the younger the person was, the lower the valuation was set.     

We don’t usually vow to pay the assigned value of a certain person to the church today. It’s a bit of a foreign concept to us. We do make other financial promises or pledges to things like building programs and general funds but these things do not have any eternal worth.  They can be here today and destroyed tomorrow.

As you consider making financial pledges, avoid those that last several years. Pay a lump sum instead or give something each month as you are able without making a commitment to a certain amount. It is better for us not to make a vow at all in the unfortunate case we can’t fulfill it. Do not allow others to force you into a commitment you may not be able to honor. You can never know when you might lose your job or when something else may arise that could cause you to be unable to fulfill a promise.

When you make a vow, you must understand God always expects you to keep it even if others don’t.  This is because all vows are ultimately made to God and not man.  In addition, vows should be voluntary and not coerced.  Do you really think God would be pleased with something someone forced you to give?

Leviticus 27:9-13 explains that whatever you give to the Lord should be holy.  Vowing animals to the Lord would be quite common in a society based on farming and agriculture. Clean animals can be brought as offerings. If an animal that was vowed to the Lord is found to be blemished or unclean, the priest set a value for it and it could be redeemed at the price of its value plus one fifth. 

Notice that the blemished or unclean were not rejected, they could be used as the priests saw fit or they could be redeemed by the original owner.  In the same way, God does not reject those who are physically defective and seeking a relationship with Him.  He uses them for His glory despite their physical shortcomings.  When certain physical requirements were made in the Old Testament in relation to the priesthood or the offerings, it was probably because it represented the spiritual condition of something.

Leviticus 27:14-15 says that if someone dedicated his house to be holy to the Lord, the priest set a price for it.  If the original owner wanted to redeem it later, he had to pay the price it was valued at by the priest plus one fifth.

We don’t see too many houses literally being given to the Lord or the church today.  Occasionally, houses may have been given to a church to use for some kind of ministry, for missionaries on furlough, or as parsonages.  Sometimes we hear of people dedicating their homes to the Lord and His service while the owner still lives on the property, maintains it, makes payments on the property, and is involved in various Christian ministries on and outside the property.

Today, we should open our eyes and see that the ultimate picture of this is the believer who is the temple of the Holy Spirit.  Paul explained that we are not our own because we were bought with a price.  We are owned by God.  Therefore, we should glorify God in our bodies and spirits, avoid sexual immorality, and dedicate our lives to God (1 Cor. 6:18-20).

Leviticus 27:16-21 tells us that a person can dedicate a field of his own possession to the Lord. The value is determined by the price of the amount of seed needed to sow the field (50 shekels per omer of seed) minus the fraction of time since the last Jubilee times the value of the field. The field can be redeemed by paying the value of the field plus one fifth. If he chooses not to redeem it or if he sells it to someone else, it will revert to the possession of the priest in the year of Jubilee.

According to Leviticus 27:22-25, a person can dedicate a field which he bought but is not his own possession in a similar fashion. The value is determined by the price of the amount of seed needed to sow the field minus the fraction of time since the last Jubilee times the value of the field. The original owner will take possession of the field in the next year of Jubilee.

Today, we might consider this to be a field of souls where we are casting seeds of the gospel and reaping the harvest before the final Jubilee before Christ’s return.  It could be a small field of our immediate and distant family members or our neighborhoods or as large as our cities, states, countries, and ultimately, the world.  At the same time we should remember that at the beginning of Christ’s millennial reign, land will be dispersed to everyone including a portion of land that is holy and set apart for the Lord and His priests.

Leviticus 27:26-27 explains that firstborn animals can’t be dedicated because they already belong to the Lord. An unclean animal would be used for Temple maintenance or sold if not redeemed.

Notice over and over again, we see the ability of being able to redeem something by paying its value plus one-fifth.  This must be somehow related to Jesus redeeming us and the portion of grace required in the process.

Leviticus 27:28-29 explains devoted offerings. Devoted things/offerings are either banned from human personal use and enjoyment or set apart for destruction. They can’t be sold or redeemed. They are most holy to the Lord.

Recall the story of Achan . The city of Jericho had been doomed by the Lord to destruction [cherem], it and all who were in it. Only Rahab the harlot and all who were with her in the house were allowed to live because she hid the messengers that were sent to spy the land.

Joshua 7:1 recounts what happened there, “But the children of Israel committed a trespass regarding the accursed things [cherem], for Achan the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took of the accursed things [cherem]; so the anger of the Lord burned against the children of Israel.”

As a result of this sin, the children of Israel were defeated by the men of Ai. Joshua mourned before the Lord. In Joshua 7, the Lord explained they couldn’t stand before their enemies until they had taken away the accursed thing from among them.  In addition, the person who took the accursed thing had to be burned with fire, he and all that he has, because he transgressed the covenant of the Lord, and because he has done a disgraceful thing in Israel.

Because Achan stole some of the accursed things, he and his household and their possessions became accursed as well. They could not be redeemed. They became set aside for destruction like the things Achan stole. They were stoned and burned with fire. Note the theme of death and burning. This is the same thing that happens to those who reject Jesus as Lord and Savior.

God makes it clear that when a person has committed an offense that required the death penalty, they may not be redeemed. They’ve been set aside for destruction and must be put to death.  Even so, there were times when God obviously showed mercy to some and none to others; however, no mercy will be shown to those who choose to reject Jesus forever.

Leviticus 27:30-34 explains that one tenth of the produce of the land and animals is to be set aside each year as a tithe. The seed of the land is grain and the fruit of the tree is wine and olive oil. Every tenth calf or lamb that passes under a rod or staff is to be marked as the tithe as it comes out of its pen.

Over the centuries, I’ve wondered what the percentage was of those from each generation who accepted Jesus as their Savior and Lord and those who didn’t.  We often walk through this world aimlessly yet we encounter circumstances that direct us onto the path of righteousness.  Woe to those who aren’t chosen and to those who refuse to listen to the Shepherd.

The tithe set aside for the Levite, foreigner, orphan, and widows is set aside in the 3rd and 6th year of the seven year sh’mittah cycle according to Deuteronomy 14:27-28. The second tithe is also one tenth of the produce of the land and herd or flock and is the tithe referred to in Leviticus 27:30. It is collected in the 1st, 2nd, 4th, and 5th years of the seven year sh’mittah cycle. Deuteronomy 14:22-26 explains that this tithe was consumed at the feasts in Jerusalem by those who set aside the tithe. If the person lived a long distance from Jerusalem and couldn’t transport their tithe, it was acceptable to exchange their tithe for money and buy what they wanted in order to celebrate the feasts in Jerusalem. God doesn’t want us to come empty-handed to His feasts. He wants us to bring plenty of things with which we can enjoy ourselves and fellowship with Him and our families during His feasts.

Scriptural tithes are not what most people consider tithes to be today.  Today, believers pay ten percent of their incomes to cover the cost of church buildings, utilities, and salaries related to the function of the church.  The tithes for and the celebration of the feasts of the Lord are being neglected in favor of Christian holidays which are treated as budgeted items.  The needs of priests, orphans, and widows are often addressed in different ways or not at all.

How can we get back to what God originally commanded us while realizing most of us live in non-agricultural environments?  Ponder this for awhile and make it happen.

As we look at all of these things, a recurring pattern begins to emerge.  God made a marriage covenant with His people at Mount Sinai.  That covenant was eventually voided because of sexual immorality and idolatry so that it could be re-established prior to Jesus’ death.  Jesus’ death redeemed us from the curse of the law which is death and destruction by fire.  This redemption is received by grace through faith.  In response, we are to live a life of dedication to the Lord while the Holy Spirit dwells within us to lead and teach us God’s ways.  Our desire should be to plant seeds that lead to the production of the fruits of the Spirit in our own lives and the harvest of other peoples’ souls.  When it is time for Jesus to return, His people will be gathered from the four corners of the earth.  Jesus is expected to return in a year of Jubilee when we will gather and celebrate the ultimate significance of the feasts of the Lord with those we have brought with us.  Eventually, those who reject Jesus as Lord and Savior will be thrown in the Lake of Fire because they have been set aside for destruction.


Obedience Brings Blessings While Lawlessness Brings Curses

The Lord promised to bless the nation of Israel if they obeyed His commandments and to curse them if they disobeyed Him.  The blessings and the curses are found in Leviticus 26:3-46 and Deuteronomy 28:1-69.

God set the Israelites free from slavery to walk in righteousness because He desired to walk among them and be their God.  He intended to do this if they lived within the terms of the marriage covenant. 

If they obeyed the Lord, He promised the following blessings:

  • To establish them as a people for Himself.
  • To defeat their enemies so they would live in peace in the land.
  • To raise them high above the other nations of the earth (to be the head and not the tail). 
  • Their enemies would fear them.
  • That they would lend to other nations and not have to borrow from them.
  • To bless everything they did as they came and went.
  • To give them the ability to have many children.
  • To give them rain so they had plenty of fruit and produce to eat.

If they disobeyed Him, He promised the following curses:

  • To break the pride of their power.
  • Their enemies would reign over them and dwell in their land (their enemies will become the head and they the tail). 
  • They would have to borrow from their enemies.
  • To send disaster and frustration in all that they did.
  • Their high places and incense altars would be destroyed.
  • There would be no rain and the earth would not yield produce and fruit.  Locusts, bugs, worms, and their enemies would eat what the land produced.  Their land would become desolate.
  • They would eat and not be satisfied.  They would eat their sons and daughters.
  • To send plagues and pestilence among them to exterminate them.  He will strike them with wasting diseases, fever, inflammation, fiery heat, drought, blasting winds, and mildew.  They will suffer from boils, tumors, skin lesions, and itching.  He will strike them with insanity, blindness, and utter confusion.
  • Enemies would take their children into captivity, destroy their livestock, make them few in number, and make their highways desolate.  They will be oppressed and robbed continually.  You will not enjoy or use what is yours because it will be taken away.
  • Their carcasses would become food for the birds of the air.
  • His soul would abhor them.
  • They would be fearful and be scattered among the nations and the land would enjoy its rest.
  • They would be a laughing stock among the nations and perish.

Fortunately, the Lord promised that they would not be completely destroyed.  He promised to remember His covenant if those that remained would accept their guilt and repent of their lawlessness.

As we look through the Bible, we realize how patient the Lord was with His people.  He frequently disciplined them with curses by using their enemies against them in the book of Judges.  Despite a short time of peace under King Solomon, the Northern Kingdom was taken into exile by the Assyrians and the Southern Kingdom went into exile under the Babylonians.  It’s hard to say how many curses they endured during that time.  After the land rested for 70 years, the Jews returned to Jerusalem.

What can we say about recent history?  During 1932-1933, Stalin caused a bloodless war on the Ukrainian people by causing about 7 million people, many of whom were Jews to die as a result of a forced famine.  Their food was taken away from Ukraine and sent to Russia.  During that time, Ukrainians, including Jews ate their children in an effort to survive.

During World War II, the Jews suffered horribly during the Holocaust.  They were blamed for the poor economy.  Some fled to other countries to start a new life.  Families of those who did not escape were separated.  Many were shot to death.  Other people endured forced labor.  Many experienced various illnesses. They ate but were not satisfied.  They lived in fear in horrible conditions in concentration camps which included freezing temperatures, beatings, lice, and various diseases.  They were murdered in gas chambers and then their bodies were cremated.  Approximately 6 million Jews died in the Holocaust in addition to many other people such as political prisoners, Christians, homosexuals, and gypsies (Romani).  It was a miracle that a remnant survived.

Many ask why God allowed these things to happen.  As much as I hate to say it, the things they endured reveal that this must have been a result of lawlessness because what happened to them were the curses of the law.  What bothers me more is that I believe something like that is going to happen again!

What we need to understand is that the blessings and curses are still in effect.  I know that believers think they are not under the law and that the curses of the law can’t touch them.  That’s not exactly true.  Believers don’t need to fear the curse of the law which is eternal death.  The other curses still apply because we are in a marriage relationship with the Lord Jesus.  Disobedience or lawlessness still leads to curses and death while obedience leads to blessing and life. 

America was once considered a Christian nation.  The blessings that were ours have been disappearing because of what goes on inside our borders—not just by the wicked but by the so-called righteous.  Our country is in debt to other nations.  Our jobs are disappearing due to our poor economy and because businesses operate in other countries due to burdensome legislation.  Foreigners are invading our land and own many of our properties.  Many but not all of them bring false religions and build high places in our land.  Drug cartels are moving in and are bringing more crime into our land.  Terrorists are also crossing our borders and leaving their prayer rugs behind while intending the murder our people.  Our food is limited because of the lack of water due to legislation.  Health care costs are out of control.  AIDS, heart disease, cancer, bird and swine flu, obesity, and other diseases are present.  The money of the average man is taken away through taxes and given to many who refuse to work and others who have lost their jobs.  The rich get richer and the poor get poorer.  Many would never believe America is probably a laughing stock among the nations and the pride of our power is being removed.  America is cursed and doesn’t realize it.  The curses will not be lifted unless believers stop supporting and participating in idolatry, sexual immorality, and other forms of lawlessness.  Many prefer to ignore the truth in order to count the blessings they do still have.  America, accept your guilt and repent!!

What about the future?  If you read Revelation, it becomes obvious.  The little book John ate in Revelation 10 was sweet then bitter.  This was the marriage covenant with the blessings and curses.  It was sweet in his mouth because of the blessings but bitter in his stomach because of the curses.  The flying scroll that is mentioned in Zechariah 5 contains the curse of the law that goes over the face of the land.  Jesus is the only one worthy to open the seals. 

The seals of Revelation 6:1-17 and 8:1-5 are curses:

  • 1st  seal – White horse:  Jesus gave this horseman the ability to conquer.  Some believe this horseman is the Islamic Mahdi who is expected to ride a white horse.
  • 2nd seal – Red horse:  This horseman took away peace and caused people to kill one another.  The red horse released the first curse of the law.  (Lev. 26:16-17)
  • 3rd seal – Black horse:  Famine on earth caused inflation.  The black horse released the second curse of the law.  (Lev. 26:19-20)  Famine prior to the day of the Lord is also mentioned in Joel 1:15-18.
  • 4th seal – Pale (Green) horse:  Widespread death [disease] took place over ¼ of the earth.  The pale horse released the third and forth curses of the law.  (Lev. 26:22)
  • 5th seal Martyred souls under the altar cried for vengeance.  This altar in heaven is comparable to the altar of sacrifice located outside the Tabernacle.  It indicates that these souls have been unjustly sacrificed.  See Mark 14:14-27 and Matthew 24:15-31.  These martyred souls wanted Jesus, the Kinsman Redeemer (blood avenger – see Num. 35), to judge and avenge those who killed them.  There is beauty in the concept of the cities of refuge (Num. 35:13-15) – Jesus is our refuge and by being united/sealed with/by Him, we will receive eternal life and we will escape the wrath of the blood avenger.  Vengeance is God’s and He will repay (Deut. 32:25). The fifth curse began.  (Lev. 26:23-26)
  • 6th seal – Cosmic disturbances included:  a great earthquake, the sun becoming black, the moon becoming like blood, and the stars of heaven falling to the earth.  The leaders of the earth hid in caves to avoid the wrath of the Lamb.  They wanted the mountains and rocks to fall on them.  Isaiah 2:19-21, Hosea 10:8, Joel 2:31 say something similar.  The fifth curse is continued.
  • 7th seal When the 7th seal was opened, there was silence in heaven for about ½ hour.  This pause may represent the time between sealing of Israel, Jesus’ arrival, and the Day of Atonement.  Prayers of the saints and a large amount of incense were offered before the throne.  [On the Day of Atonement, the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies and offered incense to create a cloud before the mercy seat so he would not die in God’s presence.  (Lev. 16:12-13)]  Then the angel threw a censer full of fire to the earth. There were noises, thundering, lightning, and an earthquake.  This may indicate some kind of judgment comparable to the 250 men who offered incense during Korah’s rebellion in the wilderness (Numbers 16:35-18:32). 

In Revelation, the first six seals seemed to affect everyone–both the wicked and those who are sealed. 

The trumpets (shofars) in Revelation 8:7 – 11:19 were calls to repentance.  Blessings are long gone.  God’s wrath caused the destruction of only 1/3 of everything during the trumpets.  It seems as if God executed the prophecy of Ezekiel 5 here (1/3 burn, 1/3 man’s sword, 1/3 scattered and pursued with God’s sword).

  • 1st trumpet – Hail and fire mixed with blood was thrown to earth.  One third of trees and all grass were burned up.  Destruction by fire is mentioned when the day of the Lord is at hand in Joel 1:19-20.
  • 2nd trumpet – A burning mountain was thrown into the sea. One third of the sea became blood, a third of living sea creatures died, and a third of the ships were destroyed.  This burning mountain is probably a city or country because in Jeremiah 51:24-64, Babylon was referred to as a mountain that would be destroyed and left desolate forever.
  • 3rd trumpet – The burning star Wormwood (bitterness) fell from the sky and struck the waters and many men died from the water.
  • 4th trumpet – One third of the sun, moon, and stars were struck and darkened. A third of the day and night did not shine.  In Joel 2, the sun, moon, and stars are struck and darkened when a great army comes against Jerusalem on the Great Day of the Lord.
  • 5th trumpet – In Egypt, there was a plague of real locust that caused great destruction.  They were driven by the Lord into the Red Sea.  In other parts of the Bible, armies are described as locusts (Judges 6:3-6; Jer. 51:14, 27; 2 Chron. 7:13; Joel 1:1-7, 2:25).  Many believe the plague of locust mentioned in Revelation are Islamic extremists executing jihad (holy war).  This is due to their description of the armies of the Arab/Islamic Caliphate Empire.  These armies have been compared to locusts that scourge the land or to scorpions that sting, poison, and kill.  The plague of locust seems to have already been unleashed again today in the form of Islamic extremists but perhaps this is only a precursor.  Revelation says they will inflict pain only on those without the seal of God for 5 months so it’s hard to say for sure exactly who or what they really are.  These who will experience pain will long to die but won’t be able to.  They are not allowed to harm those who have the seal of God on their foreheads.
  • 6th trumpet – Four angels (horsemen) who are bound at the Euphrates River were released to kill a third of mankind.  The locusts continue in battle but the remainder of the people does not repent.  They continue to practice idolatry, commit murder, occultic activities, drug abuse, stealing, and sexual immorality.  The 6th trumpet seems to be in preparation for the 6th bowl (Euphrates River dries up to prepare a way for the kings from the east for the Battle of Armageddon).  It’s wonderful how this drying up of the Euphrates also makes a way for the remnant of God’s people to return (Isaiah 11:15-16, Rev. 16:12).
  • 7th trumpet – The Millennial Kingdom is proclaimed.  The 24 elders worship God and the temple is opened and the Ark of the Covenant is seen in the temple.  This is a reference to the Day of Atonement which was the only day of the year when the High Priest went into the Holy of Holies where the Ark of the Covenant was located!  (Lev. 16:2-3a)  There were noises, thundering, lightning, an earthquake and great hail.

The first four trumpets affected everyone but the locusts of the fifth and sixth trumpets are not allowed to harm those who are sealed. 

The bowls of plagues only fall on the wicked that reject the marriage covenant:

  • 1st Plague – Foul and loathsome sore.
  • 2nd Plague – Sea turns to blood, as of a dead man and kills every living creature in the sea.
  • 3rd Plague – Rivers and springs of water turn to blood.
  • 4th Plague – Men scorched with heat from the sun.
  • 5th Plague – Kingdom of the beast suffered darkness and pain causing men to gnaw on their tongues.
  • 6th Plague – Euphrates River dried up and three unclean spirits like frogs came out of the dragon, beast, and false prophet to gather people for the Battle of Armageddon.
  • 7th Plague – Noises, thundering, and lightning came out of heaven.  Great hail came down on men and an earthquake divided Babylon the Great into three parts causing the cities of the nations to fall.

This should be expected because Deuteronomy 30:7 says that God would put all the curses on Israel’s enemies and those who hated and persecuted them.

The covenant of the Torah will be the basis for judgments and rewards.  For now, the only commands we don’ need to worry about fulfilling are those that are directly related to the Temple at this point because there is currently no Temple in Jerusalem.  However, we do need to be concerned with how those particular commands affect our bodies which are Temples of God.   Remember, the Torah will not be abolished until everything is fulfilled and that won’t be until heaven and earth pass away so the curses of the law still apply (Matt. 5:17-20).

Remember that obedience to the law has and will always bring blessing and life while disobedience to the law or lawlessness has and will always bring cursing and death!  


Avoid the Occult

Deuteronomy 18:9-14 commands us to avoid the occult by saying, “When you come into the land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominations of those nations. 10 There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, 11 or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. 12 For all who do these things are an abomination to the Lord, and because of these abominations the Lord your God drives them out from before you. 13 You shall be blameless before the Lord your God. 14 For these nations which you will dispossess listened to soothsayers and diviners; but as for you, the Lord your God has not appointed such for you.” (NKJV)

When the people moved into the Promised Land, they were not to observe and participate in the practices of its people.  The first thing forbidden was to make one’s son or daughter pass through the fire.  This is a reference to sacrificing children to Molech, the god of Ammonites.  According to the Easton’s Bible Dictionary, Molech was believed to be a consuming, destroying, and purifying god.  As such, he is obviously a counterfeit of the Lord God of Israel.[i] 

This prohibition should make us automatically think of the abortion of babies.  I believe there is a demonic spirit driving the abortion industry which is related to the child sacrifice required in the worship of Molech.  Abortion puts the desires of the flesh above the responsibilities of parenthood.   Either way you look at it, the infant or child is placed in the hands of the agent of death—the hands of the statues of Molech to eventually be burned as a sacrifice[ii] or the hands of the physician performing the abortion who will eventually incinerate the biological remains with the rest of their facility’s bio-hazardous waste. 

Parents who offer their children as sacrifices to Molech or those who abort their children so they can be free to live their lives as they see fit are counterfeiting God who offered His son as a sacrifice in our place so that we might have eternal life.  We are supposed to offer ourselves and not our children as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to Him.  This is our spiritual act of worship.  This was pictured in the pattern of a ram being substituted in place of Isaac.  Isaac was offered alive to God by Abraham and because of the substitutionary ram provided by God, Isaac remained alive to worship the Lord.  Instead of sacrifice, we should dedicate our children to the Lord and raise them in the training and admonition of the Lord.

When we read the rest of the prohibitions listed in Deuteronomy 18:10-11, we tend to separate them from the first command and lump the rest into the category of the occult.  This is a mistake because they all involve submitting to demons.  In addition, idolatry is very similar to the Hebrew word “kashaph” for casting spells because it means to pray or offer prayers of worship (to idols) in addition to using enchantment.  Unfortunately, people who commit these abominations believe they are controlling unseen powers but it is ultimately the demons that control them. 

As we look at the remaining prohibitions, we should know what the original Hebrew terms conveyed.  For this reason, I’ve generated the following list of prohibitions:

  • Divination – fortune telling, seeking hidden knowledge of the future through supernatural means such as interpreting omens or supernatural powers.  Divination is accomplished through a wide variety of methods such as palm readings, tarot cards, use of mirrors or crystal balls, holding articles that belong to someone, numerology, astrology, etc. 
  • Any kind of magic – sorcery, enchantments (use of charms and incantations), or use of demonic power.
  • Praying to or worshiping idols or demons.
  • Charm or fascinate; join or make alliances with spirits; binding people with magical knots.
  • Be a medium, spiritist; being possessed with a python or soothsaying demon; call up the dead or deities that represent the dead for answers concerning the future or doubtful things; attempt to learn from the dead; deliver oracles.
  • Be a wizard or false prophet; observe signs.
  • Be a necromancer — pray to the dead to seek, inquire, or demand aid from them.

I find it interesting to note that the Hebrew word for soothsayer (qacam) and wizards (yidde’oniy) are also used of false prophets.  Since that is the case, we should be very careful to not speak false prophecies today.  Many believe the command of Deuteronomy 13:1-4 no longer applies today and that prophets today are not like the prophets of Biblical times.  God never put a disclaimer on those verses.  The problem of incorrect prophecies, dreams, and visions today is usually a result of poor interpretation; therefore, we should be very careful to avoid using language such as “The Lord told me…,” or “thus says the Lord.”  Since it’s often hard to know for sure if an idea is coming from our own spirit or if it’s truly coming from the Lord, it’s better to say what you believe to be true and let others judge for themselves.  Sometimes it might be best to record our dreams and visions and possible interpretations and wait for the Lord to reveal their true meanings.

In the meantime, Jesus gave us some warnings about false prophets.

  • They are ravenous wolves (Matt. 7:15).
  • There will be false christs and false prophets who will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect (Matt. 24:24).

Scripture also makes it clear that we are not to participate in things like séances where mediums consult the dead or spirits who represent the dead.  Many think this is something fun to do and that it is staged and not real.  The truth of the matter obviously depends on the practitioner.  People wish for answers to life’s questions but this is the wrong place to go because demons often lie just like Satan does and also because God has forbidden it.

I remember when Pope John Paul II went to Ukraine in 2001.  Around that time, there was an article in a local newspaper that discussed the beatification of the deceased.  If I recall the details correctly, a Ukrainian man felt that one dead man in particular deserved to be beatified because many people were healed when they went to his grave and prayed to him.  He said if Jesus won’t answer your prayers, pray to this dead man because he will answer your prayers.

At the time, I thought that was the most horrible advice any man could give the public.  Petitioning the dead and praying to the icons of dead saints is in complete violation of God’s word.  If your prayers are answered, they aren’t answered from God, they are answered by demons.  Let God’s people have no communication with them!!

One might think it is acceptable to seek healing from the dead since in 2 Kings 13:21 a dead man came back to life when his body touched Elisha’s bones.  This was certainly an incredible miracle but the man’s friends did not go there seeking their friend’s resurrection.  They intended to bury him but threw him into Elisha’s burial place at the last minute.  It’s quite possible the anointing of God had remained on Elisha’s bones because Elisha did not impart it to someone else prior to his death.  Even so, this is not justification to seek healing from the dead.  Remember, death is frequently associated with that which is unclean and life is always associated with the clean.   We are commanded to cleanse ourselves and be holy.

Today, the occult is portrayed as powerful, fun, or exciting.  Games, books, and movies exalt witchcraft, divination, and sorcery and market it as entertaining fantasy.  Many people enjoy these things but do not believe the power of the occult is real.  Hopefully, most believers realize the power behind these things is real and it comes from demons, the powers of darkness.

This kind of entertainment is dangerous for everyone, especially children.  I remember when the first Harry Potter movie came out.  My nieces and nephews were going to see it while we were visiting them.  We didn’t let our children go.  Their parents didn’t see any harm in it.  I warned them that when the kids got home, they would start playfully imitating what they were about to see, but their parents denied it would happen.  Sure enough, after the movie, the kids were all play-acting scenes from the movie they had just seen and heard.  Needless to say, we packed up our kids and went home.

On one Halloween several years ago, I read a newspaper article with statements from people dressed up for Halloween and local harvest festivals.  Some people had dressed up as Harry Potter.  One child from a Baptist church said he was Harry Potter.  His mother tried to correct him and say he was only dressed up as Harry Potter.  He replied, “No, I AM Harry Potter.”  I wonder how often he played the role of Harry Potter at his house and whether or not he binds people with magical knots today!  Could it be possible he is actually possessed with a demonic spirit?   How many times are believers opening the doorway to the occult in their lives while brushing off the seriousness by calling it “pure fantasy”?

During Biblical times, people went to inquire of the prophets in time of need.  In Saul’s early days, Saul sought Samuel’s help to find his father’s donkeys.  Samuel was known as a prophet and a seer.  He anointed Saul as the first king of Israel and told him the donkeys had been found (1 Samuel 9-10).

On another occasion, after Samuel’s death, Saul wanted to consult the Lord because he was fighting the Philistines; however, the Lord was not answering Saul in dreams, urim, nor by the prophets.  Saul made the mistake of consulting a woman who was a medium in En Dor (1 Sam. 28).  When she conducted a séance for him, she became very afraid of what came up and cried out because it was not one of the familiar spirits she was accustomed to seeing.  Saul asked her what she saw.  The English translation says she saw a spirit.

Some believe it was a demonic spirit while others say it was actually Samuel.  In this verse, the Hebrew does not use “ov” which is for a familiar spirit.  It doesn’t use the Hebrew term “ruach” either which is a term for the Spirit or God or the spirit of man.  In 1 Samuel 28:13, the woman said she saw “elohim,” which is the plural for “el” which is a term used for gods or God himself and the Greek Septuagint uses “theous” which is the accusative plural of “theos” or God (god). 

Who did she really see?  These words make us wonder.  The woman described him as an old man covered with a mantle but Saul perceived it was really Samuel.  From that point, this spirit is referred to as Samuel.  Perhaps this was a glorified Samuel since he referred to himself as Samuel and since he appeared to her as being “elohim.”  Saul should never have sought Samuel because God had forbidden it, not to mention it made him discouraged to know the kingdom would be given to David the following day as he returned to battle and to his death.

In Exodus, while the Israelites were in the wilderness, the High Priest carried the urim and thumim and used them to consult the Lord when they had questions about something or wanted to know what to do in a given situation.  An example of this was when the governor (Tirshata) told the descendants of the priests who could not locate their genealogical records not to serve or eat any of the especially holy food until a priest appeared who could consult the urim and thumim (Ezra 2:61-62).  This took place after the exiles had returned from the Babylonian exile.

Today, the urim and thumim are no longer available but the Lord still speaks to men in dreams and visions.  In addition, 1 Corinthians 12:7-11 indicates that there are several manifestations of the Spirit which are given to each believer individually as the Holy Spirit sees fit for the profit of all.  They include:

  • The word of wisdom – a word of divine direction, instruction, or advice.
  • The word of knowledge – person has knowledge of something (a person, circumstance, etc.) they could not normally have knowledge of without being told or shown.
  • Faith – an unusually strong trust that can only come from the Holy Spirit
  • Gifts of healings similar to those performed by Jesus and His disciples.
  • Working of miracles similar to those performed by Jesus and His disciples.
  • Prophecy – foretelling by the power of the Holy Spirit.
  • Discerning of spirits – being able to discern the presence and kinds of spirits.
  • Different kinds of tongues – ability to speak in previously unknown languages.
  • Interpretation of tongues – ability to interpret previously unknown languages.

As I consider this list, it seems some of the things that were prohibited in Deuteronomy 18:9-11 were forbidden because they were counterfeits of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  After all, divination, sorcery, charming, wizardry and the like are accomplished by the power of demons and not by the Holy Spirit.  Demonic displays of power only bring glory to men and the powers of darkness whereas the purpose of the gifts which are manifested by believers by the power of the Holy Spirit is to bring people to Christ and glory to God.

As we look toward the future, we need to remember 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12 which describes the coming of the Beast who is known as the Antichrist or the Lawless One:  “The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, 10 and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 11 And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, 12 that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” (NKJV)  

It seems obvious to me that this person will be skilled in the occult if he is going to fulfill these verses.  Those who are involved in the occult will be much like the ultimate man of lawlessness and will be condemned. 

Ultimately, the Lord will frustrate the false prophets and their omens.  He will make fools of the diviners.  He will make the wisdom of the wizards look silly (Isaiah 44:25).  He will expel the false prophets and the spirit of uncleanness from the land of Israel (Zech. 13:2).  Be forewarned!  Sorcerers will not enter the New Heaven (Rev. 22:15).

Please do not allow yourself to be seduced by the spirits of this world who seek to draw you away from the Lord.  If it’s too late for that and you want to stop practicing divination, witchcraft, sorcery, and/or necromancy in order to put your faith in Christ, it’s the best thing you could ever do.  It won’t be easy but it can be done.  As you forsake the powers of darkness, just be aware that demons and those you know who practice the crafts of darkness don’t want you to leave and they will try to stop you.  They will even torture you or kill you if they can.  If this describes your situation, remember Matthew 10:28 which says, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”  (NKJV)  Whatever the cost, don’t be involved with anything that would cause Jesus to destroy both your soul and body in hell!   

[ii] “Moloch.” Encyclopedia Mythica from Encyclopedia Mythica Online.
[Accessed November 10, 2011].

Sh’mittah – The Year of Release From Debt

According to Deuteronomy 15, the people of Israel were commanded to have a sh’mittah or year of release from debt.  This year was the seventh year of a specific seven year cycle throughout Israel.  There were normally seven cycles of seven years (49 years) followed by a year of Jubilee (Lev. 25:8-9).

In the seventh (sabbatical) year of a seven year cycle, creditors were required to forgive or release their neighbors from their debts but they could still expect foreigners to pay their debts.  Deuteronomy 15:4 indicates an exception could be made if there were no poor among them but that would never happen because verse 11 it says that the poor would never cease from the land.

The Israelites were commanded to lend to their poor brothers and not harden their hearts.  This was with the expectation they’d be paid back some time before the end of the seven years.  As the 7th year approached, it would be tempting for Israelis not to share their abundance with their brothers for fear the debt would not be paid back.  To hold back from those brothers in need in such a case would be sinful.  If they were willing to be obedient to the Lord’s command, He would bless their work and everything they attempted to do.

Please do not think the poor were to be given handouts for free.  There were no entitlements!  Remember, Deuteronomy 15:8 commands us to lend to the poor to help meet their needs.  As I said before, this was commanded with the understanding that it should be paid back during the six year period if at all possible.  At the same time, the Israelites were not to charge interest to each other; however, they could only charge interest to a foreigner (Deut. 23:19-20). 

The poor had to work for things like everyone else did.  Leviticus 19:9-10 says, “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not wholly reap the corners of your field, nor shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest. 10 And you shall not glean your vineyard, nor shall you gather every grape of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger: I am the Lord your God.”  (NKJV)  If the poor wanted to eat, they had to go out and collect the food remaining in the other peoples’ fields after the majority had been harvested.  This is how Ruth collected food for Naomi and herself.  Fortunately for Ruth, Boaz had compassion on her and gave her more.  Even 2 Thessalonians 3:10-11 says:  “For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.”  (NKJV)   

Another part of the command of release had to do with slaves.  When Americans think of slaves, they often think of African slaves that were forced to work under cruel taskmasters.  The slaves mentioned in the Bible were not that kind of slave.  They were bondservants who were working off a debt.  Often if someone could not pay a debt, they sold themselves or a family member into slavery until the debt had been paid.  Sometimes a creditor sold debtors into slavery so that their debts could be paid.

Onesimus is an example of a New Testament slave who served Paul in prison.   He owed a debt to Philemon but Paul led him to faith in Christ and found him so useful that he was willing to pay Onesimus’ debt so that he did not have to be a slave any longer.  In addition, he encouraged Philemon to welcome Onesimus back not as a slave but as he would welcome Paul himself.

Deuteronomy 15 continues by explaining that when a bondservant had served someone for six years, they were to be released in the 7th (sabbatical) year.  They were not to go away empty-handed.  Instead, the person they worked for was to bless them with animals from the flock, grain, and wine.  Since that person had worked six years, they were to be considered worth a double hired servant.  This was why they were blessed when they left in the sabbatical year.  Sometimes, the male or female bondservant loved the person or family they worked for and/or prospered in that home.  If that is the case, one of the servant’s ears could be pierced using an awl while standing against a doorpost to indicate they belonged to that person forever.

How can we look at the sabbatical year (sh’mittah) today?  First we need to understand the Israelites were about to enter the Promised Land.  Even though this command applied to the land of Israel, I believe there are some principles for those of us who dwell outside the Land.

First, we should make it our goal to live debt-free.  The only exception would be house payments which typically have 15 or 30 year loans.  You may have to make some major sacrifices to get your credit cards under control.  Don’t ignore your creditors; work with them and ask them to stop charging interest so you can get the bills paid.  Try to work out an agreement or payment plan as soon as possible.  Others have done it and so can you. 

You must understand what the difference is between a need and a want.  Beware of the fact that wants are closely linked to pride, greed, and covetousness.  Needs are necessary for survival, wants are not.  Nothing says a child has to have a ton of toys or more than one gift for the holidays.  Wants do not include expensive designer clothing either.  Obviously, clothing is a need but you may have to settle for second hand or those that are new but are not a famous brand name.  Food is necessary for survival.  Grow what you can and buy nutritious food and cut back on the amount of junk food you consume.  It is not necessary to have satellite or cable TV.  Basic channels meet a basic need for information.  Use the internet, Wi-Fi, and other resources at your local library.  You can rent or buy movies or do something else for entertainment.  Everyone needs a place to live.  Is your house more than you can handle?  If you can’t refinance your loan, perhaps you need to down-size.  In other words, sell it and rent somewhere until you can find something more affordable yet comfortable.  Transportation is a need.  Take public transportation if it’s available or buy a used car instead of a new one.  I have to do almost all of these things.  If you think you can’t make such sacrifices to get your debt under control, just remember there are many people throughout the world that don’t live in conditions as good as yours…even if you think you’ve got it bad.    

Second, if you are able to lend to others, do it without expecting to be repaid.  If you are repaid, rejoice.  If your church has a clothing closet or food bank, donate!

Third, if you employ someone and must let them go due to economic hardships, bless them as much as you can when they leave and pray God will provide for them in the future.

In Matthew 18, Jesus told a parable to describe the kingdom of heaven when Peter asked how many times he should forgive someone.  I think Jesus’ response to Peter gives us a new perspective on the year of release (sh’mittah).  Jesus said there was a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants.  Since one was unable to pay him 10,000 talents, his master commanded the man, his wife, his children, and his possessions to be sold in order to pay the debt.  The man asked for patience and promised to pay his debt so the man released him and forgave the debt.  Unfortunately, that man went on his way and found a fellow servant who owed him a little money compared to the enormous sum he had owed his master.  He demanded the money from him but his fellow servant begged for patience and promised to pay him.  Instead of showing this man mercy like he’d received from his own master, he threw the man in prison until the debt could be paid.  When this man’s master heard about what happened, he was tortured until he could pay the debt that had been previously cancelled.  This teaches us the importance of having mercy and showing forgiveness to others.  That’s what the year of release (sh’mittah) is all about.

Let’s look at it from a spiritual perspective.  We owe a debt of sin to Christ that we’ll never be able to pay no matter how hard we try.  When we finally realize this, we must ask the Lord for mercy and forgiveness.  Jesus credits our account if we ask Him because He paid that debt for us when He died on the cross.  The Lord will also bless us by providing for our needs.  The only way we can respond to Him is by becoming His bondservant—by giving Him our ear and our hearts.  We do this by listening to His commands and obeying Him with a willing heart for the remainder of our days.

Just think, the last year of the 70th week (shavuah) of Daniel will most likely be the sabbatical year prior to Christ’s return in a year of Jubilee.  At that time, His people should be released of their physical and spiritual debts in preparation for Christ’s return.