Christmas is perhaps one the of most prophecy laden events in all of human history. Given this reality, and as a Christian, I must wonder about the American pulpit’s silence surrounding future prophecies still unfulfilled.
For reasons I do not know, I have never given significant thought to the chronology of the Books of the Prophets, as opposed to reading them in the order offered by the canon of scripture. The earlier stories in the Old Testament are in chronological order and so one might become accustomed to reading all as such. However, at the Book of Job, the oldest of Biblical books, things change; at least a “comma” is placed in the chronology. These parenthetical writings are then accompanied by the poetry of Psalms and the sayings of Proverbs, writings attributed to King Solomon and his father David.
Then like a bomb shell, the prophets, many who lived in earlier days during the Books of the Kings, swoop back into the narrative, foretelling days of doom that would come some 100-300 years later. Interspersed as well, are promises of a Messiah, but only after the deportation of Israel. One can only imagine how difficult it was for the Kings of Israel to deal with these men who, like Micaiah, “never prophesies anything good …” (I Kings 22:8 NIV). Yet, think how much more difficult it was for those powerless prophets, some suffering greatly, whether in mud pits as with Jeremiah or sawn in sunder like Isaiah. There seemed no easy road for those who would speak out against what, in some cases was the best any leader could do in those very barbaric times.
Just think what would happen to an individual today who openly declared similar prophecies about our great nation, without even the context and the covering that the Bible provides for todays’ preachers? These men were on their own, with some like Daniel, in foreign countries with no positional power.
Whether one is casting vision or offering caution, it becomes even more difficult when established authority and the institutions represented by that authority must be challenged. Worse yet, when the prophet speaks on behalf of the One whom no one has seen, nor can be rationally proven to exist, outside of these scriptures! One best have some heavenly backing! When asked by what authority he spoke, Jonah answered with reference to the “God of heaven, who made the sea and the land.” (Jonah 1:9 NIV).
Apparently, he spoke with some felt authority, even though he was on the run from the same God he represented. Scripture records that these heathen men later cried out to this same God, doing what they first thought despicable, throwing Jonah over board. In this case, the prophet’s misfortune was due to his own disobedience but either way, attempting to follow the voice of God is no easy road, especially if one is inclined to need the approval of others or dependent upon the same for personal income.
This brings me a little closer to the origin of this morning’s writings. I know the reader must be wondering by now? Bear with me.
Deep into the Minor Prophets, and aware of the fact that many of these men were writing hundreds of years before their stories of doom would ever be fulfilled, I must wonder where those same prophets are today. Why would I expect such? These same scriptures that have proven themselves accurate per the deportation of Israel, and even the birth of the Messiah to a virgin in Bethlehem, portend still a future day of suffering unlike any known to mankind. Perhaps, I just lost my audience, but I must wonder!
In Israel’s day the thought that their God would allow them to lose the legacy handed down from Abraham, let alone bring salvation to the gentiles was unacceptable. Yet since that time, Israel has suffered trauma like few nations.
Now, in our own day, not only has God fulfilled His promise to restore Israel, May 15 1948, but is working at large among people groups well outside the boundaries of both Judaism and Christianity. Should we not be more alert than even Israel, given the fact that Jesus himself said that when we see these things occurring, that generation would not pass away?
“Now learn this lesson from the fig tree (Israel?): As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it [or he] is near, right at the door. I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.” (Matthew 24:32-34)
Several months back I stumbled onto a New Testament prophecy that was astounding:
“Brothers and sisters, here is a mystery I want you to understand. It will keep you from being proud. Part of Israel has refused to obey God. That will continue until the full number of non-Jews has entered God’s kingdom. 26 And so all Israel will be saved. It is written, “The One who saves will come from Mount Zion. He will remove sin from Jacob.” Romans 11:25-26 (New International Reader’s Version).
Could this be what is stirring the ranks of Islam and striking fear in the hearts of the right wingers in Christianity? If so, is this not some prophetic positioning that we have lost sight of within the happy meals being served in the majority of our churches?
I was raised among preachers who professed a very clear eschatological message regarding the end times, yet little is said today, leaving a generation with little hope, apart from far-fetched exploration of other planets that our current economies can hardly afford.
Yet tucked away at the end of this Biblical narrative is a promise of a new heaven and a new earth:
“Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.” Revelation 21:1-2 NIV
One more rabbit trail and we are finished!
In the very middle of my read through the prophets, a neighbor of mine delivered a book for me to read called Four Blood Moons by John Hagee. I read it and even went on line to verify this proposition. There I listened to another writer, Chris White who cites NASA findings to refute Hagee. In case you have not read Hagee’s book, he predicts some catastrophic event foretold by the Tetrad of Blood Moons, the final which is to occur in September 2015. Chris White seems to debunk Hagee, yet interestingly enough, he cites an even more alarming prophecy from both Joel 2:10 and Ezekiel 32:7-8. A universal darkness of Biblical proportion is foretold, where not only the moon but the Sun, a star and in fact all stars are darkened!
A more recent prophecy than even Jesus’ is found in II Peter:
“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” II Peter 3:10-13 ESV.
Given such prophecies, layered over with the litany of current events such as Israel’s continual struggle to maintain their homeland, the growing momentum of the Jihad’s of Islam, Russia’s recent arousal, the growing base of science behind global climate change and the near possibilities of maverick nations possessing nuclear weaponry, I must wonder where all the prophets have gone.