Fortune-Telling and Seeing the Future – Deuteronomy 17-18

Read Deuteronomy 17-18

We would all like to see into the future. Our greed considers what stocks we would purchase – if we only knew what company would be tomorrow’s Apple and make us a fortune. Our vanity would love to see what our future spouse would look like and act like – is this person worthy to marry me? Our ego thinks about our choices and the opportunity to rewind time and control our destiny. If only we could see our future.

In Deuteronomy 18:9-14, Moses commanded the people to stay away from the evil practices of divination, fortune-telling, from sorcerers, those who issue spells, and necromancers (those who speak to the dead). All of these are popular practices in movies and television and are often thought of as forms of entertainment. Why is Moses warning Israel and us against these practices? Is there real danger for us today? Yes.

Think back to the story in Numbers 22. The king of Moab paid Balaam to pronounce a curse on the people of Israel. This was an act of divination; the king wanted to control Israel for his own purposes. Just like the king of Moab, each of these acts (Deuteronomy 18:9-14) are evil ways people attempt to gain control over future events by accessing spirits or the spirit world. It is an attempt to manipulate supernatural forces and the spirits of dead people.

Take note that Moses calls these practices “abominable” – once in 7:9 and twice in 7:12. We do not use this word in our everyday conversations, but it essentially means something is detestable. Moses searched for a word to describe God’s hatred for these practices, but he knew the word hate was insufficient. God not only hated these practices, He thought they were abhorrent – surely no word was too strong to communicate God’s hatred for these customs (Leviticus 20:6).

Notice that Scripture never argues that these pagan customs do not work for the spirit world is real. Yes, there is a supernatural world beyond the physical one we see and is described by science textbooks. The Bible is assures us of this. But even though sorcery, fortune-telling, necromancy, and speaking to the dead might give us a glimpse of our futures, God will reject those who do these things (see Acts 8:9-11). Indeed, God goes even further than rejecting those who practice such things, He vows their destruction (7:12).

Michael Slater