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The power of a conclusion

8 Feb

It’s never too late to begin to parent well.

Even if you have been a poor father and raised 10 ungodly sons.

My husband and I were marveling the other day at Joseph’s unwavering faith displayed while a slave in Potiphar’s house and then during subsequent years stuck in that Egyptian prison.

Unlike Great Grandpa Abraham, Grandpa Isaac or Dad Jacob, Joseph neither saw nor spoke with God or His angels.  But God’s hand rested on him.

  •  Genesis 39:2-4 The Lord was with Joseph, and he became a successful man, and he was in the house of his Egyptian master. His master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord caused all that he did to succeed in his hands.

What happened to Joseph that set him apart from his wicked, ungodly older brothers?

Here’s my theory:

Genesis 34 narrates the account of Dinah’s rape by one of pagan Shechem’s local boys. Father Jacob does nothing.  His 10 older boys take matters in their own hands and brutally revenge their sister’s honor.

Jacob had not exercised any godly influence on his sons that we can discern. After this dark chapter of family history, he could have concluded:

  • I have failed as a father for I have NOT raised my sons to know the Lord
  • Therefore, I’m a terrible father.  That’s just who I am.

I don’t think Jacob indulged the human inclination toward self-pity and paralyzing remorse.  I think the nadir in his life marks a turning point in his resolve and behavior.  What’s the evidence?  In Genesis 37 Joseph shares some startling dreams about his brothers bowing down to him.  Then during his Egyptian captivity, dreams play a major role in his deliverance.

Maybe Jacob came to his senses after the Dinah tragedy and began to take his father role seriously.  I can picture him spending hours relating all he knew to Joseph and Benjamin about Abraham’s adventures with God and then their grandfather Isaac’s experiences on Mount Moriah with the sacrificial ram swap for his own life and then how he prayed for their grandmother Rebekah to get pregnant. And then his, Jacob’s, very own encounters with God.

He would have dramatically narrated the ladder dream with angels descending and ascending to heaven, which occurred the first night on his outward journey to Uncle Laban’s. Then God spoke to him, directing him to lead the entire clan back to Canaan.  He would have explained the ‘genesis’ of his perpetual limp, trophy won during the famous wrestling match with the Angel of the Lord.  Joseph and Benjamin would have begged to hear yet again how God spared them all when Uncle Esau met Jacob’s approaching gaggle of people and herds with a small army of 400 men!  Jacob had feared for all their lives and strategically divided everyone into smaller groups.

Yes, Jacob must have drawn a different conclusion after his last parenting failure, one that changed the course of history.

Yes, he had mostly abdicated his responsibility to teach his family about Almighty God. But, he could change and perhaps influence the two remaining boys. There WAS something he could do. It wasn’t too late.

My scenario is speculative.  Yet, there is no question that Joseph WAS different from his brothers.  His character turned out to be pivotal for the family, for the Hebrews and for the world.  Had he not heard about the family’s God encounters of years past and learned about the character of God, he might not have been open to the dreams God gave him. There possibly would have been…….

  • No bragging to his brothers
  • N0 fuming jealousy that turned murderous
  • No enslavement in Egypt
  • No ruling in Egypt
  • No rescue from famine
  • No fertile cocooning in Goshen
  • No population explosion
  • No miraculous departure
  • and on and on all the way to NO birth of the Messiah in the tribe of Judah, as predicted

Why was Joseph different?  As my husband pointed out, the Bible is silent on how he learned about God, but God was clearly with him during his 13-14 as a slave/prisoner.  He worked diligently with skill and rose in the ranks wherever God planted him.  We read of neither moping nor complaining.  He strove to serve those around him, whether as a household slave, a helper to the prison boss or the number two ruler in Egypt.

My point is this: what we conclude from past failures affects the future.  What encouragement.  And what a warning about drawing the WRONG conclusions.

It’s NEVER too late to change.

Constructing a counter-argument

13 Jan

Bible promises

A Biblical teacher I admire defends his belief that Christians cannot personally apply or use every promise in the Bible. He does offer, however, that universal promises DO exist, like Jesus’ offer of rest:

  • Come to me, all you who are exhausted and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)

But many assurances appear to be directed JUST at a certain people in a PARTICULAR setting during a FINITE PERIOD of history. The classic example he cites is Jeremiah’s affirmation in chapter 29:11:

  • “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

The argument continues like this: if you look at the context of that verse, uttered by the prophet Jeremiah, God is addressing the Hebrew people in Babylon, assuring them that there IS an end to their exile.

The Biblical teacher therefore concludes that 21st century Christians are incorrect in apprehending that promise and many particular ones LIKE that for themselves.

Up until now, I have reluctantly accepted his reasoning. But recently I heard a pastor discuss a prophecy, already fulfilled once in the Old Testament, but again as it came to pass 720 plus years later, NOT in Babylon but in Bethlehem – the birth of Christ.

Here’s the original prophecy or promise from God. The context is King David’s conversation with Nathan the prophet. David informs Nathan that he desires to build a house for God. Nathan approves of his plan. But later that night Nathan receives a restraining message from God for King David. The prophecy he is given to share with the King is this:

2 Samuel 7:12-16

  • “When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men,but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me, your throne shall be established forever.”

Solomon was David’s son who succeeded him as king and he DID build a house for God, the temple, completing it in around 964 BC. A kingdom was established.

So following the aforementioned Bible teacher’s reasoning, this prophecy has been fulfilled. Therefore, we cannot ‘take’ it and apply it to any other situations.

But here is how the pastor I recently heard moved in a different direction. He narrated the encouragement and promise from the prophet Micah who reminded the people of his day that a strong ruler in Israel was still yet to come. About 240 years after Solomon’s temple construction the people, living through dark and discouraging days, took hope from this good news about the future:

Micah 5:2-4

  • But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.
    Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labor has given birth; then the rest of his brothers shall return to the people of Israel.
    And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lordhis God.
    And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth.

This is astounding! Micah repeated the main intent of the original prophecy, already fulfilled by Solomon, and pointed to the future birth of Christ as actually the ultimate fulfillment to come. There’s an initial bringing to fruition in 725 BC and another one in around 2 BC when Jesus is born.

Finally, to close his argument, the pastor cites Paul’s New Testament explanation in Romans 15:8 about Christ’s coming:

  • For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs,

And I’ve heard John Piper, the pastor whose Biblical exegesis I’ve been writing about, quote this heart-warming fact, again from Paul in his 2nd letter to the Corinthians, verse 1:20:

  • For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.

So I side with the good news that Jesus has bought for us, through His blood, every promise in God’s Word. For sure we are to be thoughtful Christians, prayerful and dependent on God’s Holy Spirit to understand correctly God’s Word.

Thanks for reading this. I wanted to take the time to think through and construct reasons for why I disagree with the first man’s argument. And as many have said, ‘Scribere est cogitare’ or writing is thinking. May we all continue to think slowly and reason well in 2016.