Today’s reading: Deuteronomy 17-20.
The stars talk. Let me admit that up front. The question is, what are they saying and who is doing the talking? Lets also start by defining some terms that are used in today’s verses.
- divination: attempting to predict future events by natural signs such as the planets and stars (this includes astrology and horoscopes)
- sorcery: using drugs or potions to cast spells, gain knowledge, or alter consciousness
- interpreting omens: using artificial aids such as cards, crystal balls, palm-reading, etc. to forecast the future
- witchcraft: attempting to control forces of good and evil with spiritual laws
- mediums: those who attempt to communicate with those in the spiritual world, including the dead
Now let’s look at the warning Moses gives the Israelites about these practices, which include astrology. Notice that he includes child sacrifice in the list, which shows how seriously God hates all these actions.
When you enter the land the LORD your God is giving you, do not learn to imitate the detestable ways of the nations there. Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the LORD, and because of these detestable practices the LORD your God will drive out those nations before you. You must be blameless before the LORD your God. Deuteronomy 18:9-13
Depending on the translation you use, the Bible calls these practices abominable, abhorrent, and detestable. These actions are the reason God is driving the Canaanites out of the Promised Land. But why does God loathe these things, including astrology? One answer comes from I Samuel 15:23, where God says that “rebellion is as the sin of divination, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.” In other words, the one who uses these techniques is rebelling against God, seeking knowledge and power from something other than God. It is another form of idolatry, setting something in place of God.
You may object and say that divination and interpreting omens have never hurt anyone. At their best, these techniques reject God in favor of another method of discovering knowledge about the future. At their worst they connect with a field called the occult where Satan is active.
Sometimes we think we are only playing around when we read horoscopes or have our palms read (though others take these very seriously), but imagine for a moment a parent who considers letting their child play with a real gun, even though unloaded (and I know many parents who won’t even let their child play with toy guns). The thoughtful parent would reject the real gun as a toy out of fear that the child might one day come across a loaded gun and cause it to fire while playing with it. In the same way, God wants us to stop playing around with divination because some of these “toys” are loaded with occult influence.
The stars do talk, but not to the astrologer. They speak to you and me directly, and they don’t tell the future. Instead they tell the present reality of the glory of the LORD who created them. Let’s stop playing around with methods God calls detestable. If you want knowledge, truth, and understanding of things to come, look to God’s word instead.
God opposes our involvement in the occult because it belittles God and exalts man. Or to put it another way, the occult is simply a continuation of the ancient satanic deception in Genesis 3:5: “Go beyond what God has appointed, and you shall become like God.” All forms of the occult present us with a similar temptation: will we act like humble children of the heavenly Father and submit to God’s wisdom in limiting our knowledge and power, or will we, like Adam and Eve, hanker for the fruit that can make us “wise” and for the power that belongs to God? Will we belittle God and exalt ourselves, or will we humble ourselves and exalt God by being content with his revelation and his use of power on our behalf? John Piper
Image by ranjit on Flickr, CC by-nc-sa 2.0