In the First Reading, God promised to send another prophet like Moses to the people because the people were afraid of seeing the great fire. This is an act of mercy from God because he does not want people to fear him. Instead, God wants people to love him. This is why he sent Jesus so God can speak to us face to face and we will not be intimidated by him. We see this in the Gospel today where now, it is not people who were afraid of Jesus, but demons. The demons know the power of Jesus which is why they said Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.
God wants us to love him. He wants us to know who he is. In the Gospel today, Jesus shows his authority over demons by commanding them to be silent, and come out of him. After the demon left the man, the people were amazed: what is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.
The First Reading and Gospel shows us God has authority, not only over evil spirits, but to appoint someone to represent him, to speak for him. This tells us that words have power. The word of Jesus drives out demons. The word of Jesus is seen as new teaching with authority. This is why God warned Moses in the First Reading: anyone who does not heed the words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will hold him accountable. The person whom God appoints to speak on his behalf must be obeyed otherwise, that person will be held accountable. God also warned: 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 him to speak - that Prophet shall die. Why is the consequence so great for a false prophet? Because the false prophet misleads people from God. This causes confusion in the community. Confusion harms the community, which is why St Paul said in the Second Reading there has to be good order and unhindered devotion to the Lord in the community.
The Prophet is sent not for his own sake, but for the sake of the community. His role is to speak the Word of God, to be a sign of God to the people. How can we know if a person is a prophet or not? We see this in Jesus. Jesus drove out demons from people. If a person’s preaching leads people to break away from the bonds of demons, that person is a Prophet of God. But if a person’s preaching encourages people to continue in their slavery to demons, that person is a false prophet and will be held responsible for their actions.
St Paul said in 1 Thessalonians 1:5 For our gospel has not been unto you in word only, but in power also, and in the Holy Spirit. Anyone who preaches in eloquent words and philosophical discussions, but not in power or does not lead people to repentance is a false teacher. They may have the authority to preach, but they are speaking in the name of another god: themselves.
Lord, lead me to people who speak your word, who preach your truth in power and the Holy Spirit, so that I may be led to repentance. Reveal false teachers and let me not be misled by them.