132. Stereotypical Corruption in High Places!

Isaiah 22:15-19

Corruption 01Corruption in positions of authority, respect and morality has horribly and terrifyingly become one of the norms of twenty-first century society. Doctors, Teachers, Politicians, Police and greatly loved and well received celebrities have all caused the public, worldwide and especially in the UK to gasp in horror.

Recently, all within the space of 3 or 4 days it felt like I was bombarded with the thought of societal corruption in high places. Firstly in the news there was an extremely high ranking Policeman suspended from duty for misconduct in a sinister cover up of Police malpractice, which, as I write, even though the final verdict on his case has not been pronounced, the opinion of the general public is quite damning. Time will tell the truth of this case. While this Policeman in the corridors of power was being suspended, there is, of course, a required replacement to run the South Yorkshire Force. Yet within 48 hours, the replacement was removed because they were already being examined for corruption on the job in another Police force. The situation would be suitable for a comedy show on TV if it was not so damning of the present status quo concerning the public and truthful image of the Police forces of the UK. Strangely, the evening that the replacement Chief of Police was moved aside, I watched an old Panorama programme on BBC Iplayer. The title was intriguing about Police and criminals. I was shocked to watch an intensive hour long investigative documentary on the shocking corruption in the Metropolitan Police Force in London. The programme proved with witnesses and evidence that a huge number of officers in “the Met” were in the pay of organized crime, and that the Police were involved even to the point of murder.

corruption 01aAs if all the above had not been enough, the following evening I watched the last episode of what has been hailed as one of the greatest modern drama series that the BBC has ever produced entitled “Line of Duty.” It was a gritty and verging on the extremely realistic story of a complex plot of murder, child abuse and intrigue. The plot was a long and winding road of twists and turns leading the viewer to conclude almost every week that a different person was the “baddie.” The point of my highlighting this particular drama is that every single person in the plot line was a Policeman. It is as if the British people take it for granted that the Police can be more corrupt than the criminals – a statement that was actually made by a senior Police chief in the Panorama programme I mentioned above.

I felt burdened after such a 72 hour onslaught on my interest and consciousness to the degree that I concluded I needed to pray against the corruption in high places in British society.

Corruption, it seems is pandemic in Britain. Other sources tell me it is suffocating all societies on the whole planet.

corruption 02MP’s, Police men and women, Doctors, extremely high profile celebrities and even judges and magistrates have over recent years been in infamous cases of moral, financial, and sexual corruption in the UK. This is the exact same symptoms of society that the prophet Isaiah lived in. This statement can be verified generally by reading Isaiah chapter 1. However, the specifics of the corruption within his society are mentioned bit by bit as one ploughs through Isaiah’s voluminous insights of life in Jerusalem in the eighth century B.C. as noted in the book that bears his name.

Here in verses 15-19 in chapter 22, Isaiah highlights one man in particular who personifies the kind of corruption we are discussing.

Indulgent pride nearly always precedes a moral fall. The false comfort that high office, high salary and high public profile gives a person, injects delusions of safety and grandeur into the hearts of those considered the great and the good of society.

This man Shebna was given what we, today, would call, “a cushy number.” In fact it was the cushiest of cushy numbers. If it was at the palace where he worked he would clearly be meeting and mixing with the Davidic king of his day as well as the whole Royal family, mixing with princes and courtiers, working in a comfy little office in the Royal Palace keeping the books for the nation’s Treasury. He was a wealthy and publicly a well-respected man, embedded in comfort and regal company … as far as man could see.  Some think it was at the temple where he was the treasurer. If that was so, it would still expose him to the “high and mighty” of the land, giving him kudos and respect among the masses who would see him standing and talking regularly by the side of the nation’s leaders both civic and religious.

However, God saw him differently than the masses did. And God does nothing without telling the prophets. And so He told Isaiah what He was going to do with Shebna. And in these verses, we are witnesses of exactly what the son of Amoz actually heard from God and then said to the nation’s treasurer.

corruption 03Shebna was elevating himself in a manner that would cause the general public to think that the people he worked for had raised him up. Shebna however had made and awarded himself all the trappings of greatness and nobody seemed to have perceived His malpractice apart from the Almighty.

He made himself chariots. Chariots were banned in the Levitical commands. Biblical philosophers tell us that this precept was to prevent class distinction and people gaining social clout simply because of wealth. Only the aristocracy and the moneyed people of the time could afford chariots. That is how we know the man was legitimately, or illegitimately, in the money.  His position allowed him to create an image of himself in society that the king and courtiers probably never caught a glimpse of. He did these things without asking for Royal permission. If the king or Priestly leaders had OK’d his conduct Isaiah would not have been divinely spoken to about his conduct. But those “beneath” his status in society would simply assume his actions and elevation took place with Kingly sanction, if not Kingly instigation. Shebna had bestowed huge cost on hewing out of a rock face, somewhere in or around Jerusalem, a burial tomb for himself. In a nutshell, he considered himself much more important than he actually was.

corruption 03aSuch personal decision making to create an aura of greatness around his person absolutely demanded secrecy of motive, and often secrecy of activity. One needs secrecy in order to be deceptive. Without secrecy deception dies. Indeed, secrecy is essential for long undiscovered corruption. I may be leaning on Isaiah’s silence here, but it seems to me that nobody had a clue what Shebna was doing deceptively. His deception was hidden amongst the work and toil of his daily routine. Nobody would normally question workmen hewing out a crypt from a rock face.  Desire for wealth, greatness and public respect without any personal desire for greatness of character is universally engrafted in all political corruption. Shebna wanted posterity to remember him as great, yet, not only had he done nothing to justify his self-invested greatness, but he had no intention of planning to do anything that would attract sympathy to the thoughts of greatness in him. To call a spade a spade, he was a crook wanting to look respectable in the public eye, and fooling his superiors as to his integrity – or perhaps impressing them simply because he was as crooked as they were.

corruption 04However, the true word spoken to Isaiah by the ever-living, ever-loving Yahweh is that this man Shebna was solidified in his self-inflatedness like quick dry cement in the foundations of a hundred story office block. Nothing is missed by the all-seeing eye of Yahweh. The man nation’s treasury accountant, who would have the whole population think he was God’s gift to Jewish society, was to be, quite literally, thrown away. He was to be the shame of his master.  The chariots he had made for himself, perhaps his greatest external display of wealth and splendour, were, in the future, to be owned and kept by those who would take him away in exile, and be used to display the victorious class of people who would become his Assyrian slave master. God was to screw his splendour up into a ball and exile him … to Assyria.

God’s plan was for Shebna to die abroad, and utterly lacking in greatness and/or splendour, his name, his riches and even his occupation was to be forgotten. Where it was remembered, it would be derided, or even denied.

Having explained the story, now, to the text of my own translation:

  1. This is what the sovereign Lord, Yahweh Almighty of Heaven’s Armies, said to me: “Come, go, confront this scribe cum steward – Shebna, who is the House Administrator cum chancellor and supervisory treasurer and say to him:

corruption 05Here is the stark message! Isaiah, for the first and only time throughout his 66 chapters, gives a prophetic word against a particular person in Jerusalem. I find it fascinating to note that the Douay Rheims translation has it that Shebna lived, “in the tabernacle” and oversaw, “the Temple,” as opposed to, “the Kings Palace,” which is more commonly interpreted as his sphere of work in early English bibles. Several translations simply say that Shebna’s responsibilities were, “over the house,” which, a strict read of the Hebrew, would prove to be more exact as a translation and much less of an interpretation. It leaves it open as to where it was that Shebna operated.

The prophecy exhibits the darkness he was in and the determination he held to fulfil his evil purpose. The  most frightening observation, to me, is that nowhere is Shebna encouraged to repent. This is undoubtedly a word of judgement. His hardness of heart has rendered him incapable of responding positively to God, and/or His prophet.

Shebna was a corrupt, self-sufficient and remarkably self-centred official. Wherever it was that he worked, Palace or Temple, he was manager and keeper of the keys. He was treasurer to either of those splendid facilities and had access and responsibility for huge amounts of money.

corruption 06As a, “By the way!” the name, “Shebna,” is Aramaic and means, “Tender Youth.”  Obviously the dreams that his parents carried for him in naming him in That manner, were never fulfilled. He had deep hardness of heart, and a solidified aged corruption of self. He was neither tender, nor youthful.  Because his name is Aramaic, as opposed to Hebrew, he was possibly a foreigner, or even, perhaps, of mixed race. He apparently rose to power by learning how to be sycophantic and please the king in a manner that at any particular moment was required. The term “steward” comes from a root word meaning “to be of use to.” Shebna had made himself useful. Yet he himself owned nothing and was directly accountable to either the king, or the elders of the priests, depending on where it was he worked. The man is also referred to in Isaiah 37:2. Where he is said to be a scribe. Had he been demoted by the time that the events of Isaiah 37 took place.

The words of the Prophet, in allusion to Shebna, lead us to determine that he deeply and personally cherished wicked envy. Nor is it improbable that this prediction of Isaiah’s was uttered, when Sennacherib’s army was discomfited, and Jerusalem was exulting in Sennacharib’s departure.

  1. What are you doing here? Who are your relatives? As if you were somebody! Who gave you permission to cut out a beautiful and impressive grave for yourself here, hewing your tomb on the height at the choicest location and most prominent site, chiseling a monument as your home or crypt and resting place in the rock?

corruption 07Shebna was using his stewardship purely to advance his position in society. By arranging a sepulchre high up on a rock face, he was bequeathing to himself posthumously the legend, honour and place in history due to the likes of a king. He was not a true servant no matter who it was that he worked for. He only served his own selfish desire.  He was betraying the trust of his superiors, King or the High Priest.

  1. “Beware, Yahweh is about to grab and take firm hold of you, shake you up and down and hurl you away violently with a mighty captivity, O you mighty man.

Because Shebna had misused his position, the LORD was about to take him down and cast him out. One cannot mistake the sarcasm of Isaiah referring to him as a “mighty man.”

  1. He will roll you up tightly into a ball and throw you into a large country – a distant barren land. There you will die and there your splendid chariots will remain (perhaps broken and useless)—you are a disgrace to your master and his house!

“Like a ball,” Shebna would be thrown where he would perish outside the city, possibly not Jerusalem, but somewhere in Assyria in exile. He would be buried without ceremony. He was a disgrace to the Palace of Hezekiah, or the Temple – wherever it was where he worked, where he was in charge. His “splendid chariots” were part of his attempt to honour himself as if he were royalty.

  1. I will depose and remove you from your house and drive you out of office and you will be ousted from your position, brought down from your station.

God Himself would take him from high office. The final fulfillment of God’s judgement on him may have come after his demotion.

It is an awful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God.

corruption 09 These tombs in the photo above and below date from the time Isaiah would have spoken to one of the royal stewards.

131. I see it as Happened even though it’s going to Happen and the Spirit explains it as a “Now” event.

tens4a

I read in a Christian magazine, recently, some academic Theological Seminary professor making a vague and faithless kind of point asking the question; “How can the Old Testament Prophets be talking of something that was future to them, whilst using past tense language?” Oh dear! He then attempted to convince his readers that because certain classically famous lines of scripture, universally seen as referring to the Second Advent of Christ, are written in past tense, the entire bible reading world over the last two millennia must have it wrong! “How can it be future when the prophets talk in past tense?” When intelligent and academically qualified men with thoughts like this are given the responsibility of teaching future ministerial material, one has to shudder at the thought of where things are going. It is as Henry Ford said (at least I think it was He) “The existence of the Church is one of the greatest proofs that God is alive, for no organization or group of people, could stay in business for two thousand years under such incredibly bad human management without direct divine intervention.” Unfortunately people are influenced by this kind of perversion of biblical interpretation, especially when it’s a Bible College tutor in his later years and claiming something like 50 years ministry experience, and “wisdom.” So, I proffer my immediate and hasty response on two levels.

  1. A Principle of Prophetic revelation explained in plain English.
  2. The Plain Facts of translating Biblical Hebrew.

tense 3I do not claim to be an academic, but I have mixed and mingled with Prophets, Prophetic ministers, and many who prophecy in local churches, and I herewith offer my answer to the above referred to academic, who shall remain nameless. (The truth is that it was a magazine I glanced at for a few minutes in a church foyer. I don’t even remember the name of the publication. All I grasped was the writer’s thought.)

The Spiritual Principle of Prophetic revelation in regard to tenses used in its delivery.

The source of prophecy is God Himself. The means by which a divine prophetic word comes to human kind is varied and diverse. Visions, dreams, voices and transcendent experiences are aplenty in the Bible. It has to be said, the recipients of God’s word occasionally sound as if they are not quite sure where they were at the time, or indeed, whether it was anywhere in the physical realm at all. The weird and wonderful divinely supernatural scenarios abound throughout the Scripture’s metanarrative. Paul writes at one point about not knowing whether he was in the body or out of it. How strange an experience was that? Ezekiel talks of being picked up by a single hair of his head and being transported from Babylon and the River Chebar over several hundred miles to Jerusalem in order to see what was going on there prior to the fall of that great city in 587 BC. Was he physically transported? Or was it some spiritual vision? One has to concede how remarkable some of these episodes are no matter how it is interpreted by believer or Atheist alike. Isaiah was in the temple when he saw God’s glory. But Isaiah was not of the tribe of Levi, and so was not allowed into the Solomonic Temple in Jerusalem at all. And so we are left wondering. Was he actually in the heavenly temple, in a transcendent world – a parallel universe, if you will ? God clearly spoke at sundry times and diverse manners to the fathers.

tense0Various tenses are forms taken by verbs that indicate the time of an action or a movement. In English there are three main tenses, of course, past, present and future.

Prophecy, even today, in my experience as an observer and an insatiable enquirer, can often occur in the same varied manner as of within the Old Testament.

Prophecy is a thing of the Holy Spirit. The testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of prophecy. The divine source of the prophetic is outside of time. The manner in which a prophecy is delivered, whether it is a divine remark about something historical, predictive of something future, or stated as being at the present moment of the pronouncement is sometimes irrelevant when the prophetic matter is properly understood. Understanding and discernment are vital for the correct dividing of the word of truth.

tense01I am English. English is my first language. I speak a spattering of German, but I think and talk and dream in English. My knowledge of Hebrew is tiny.  If and when I negotiate Hebrew, I surround myself with books and websites to keep my conclusions straight.  My love is English. The English language is absolutely wonderful and expansively expressive. I want to explain my take on an issue. Follow my line of thought as I present to you several scenarios of a hypothetical prophet speaking supernaturally of something that is to happen in his future.

Our first hypothetical scene is straightforward. Our imaginary man of God is consciously standing in, let us imagine, 700 years prior to the birth of Christ. He sees, hears and/or perceives that in a far off future date that the Messiah is coming. So, he pronounces in a straight forward and plain manner. “Messiah will come. He will be born, live thirty three years and die, and on the third day will rise again.” No problem! Future tense. Our hypothetical prophet has made himself understood and spoken clearly.

But that isn’t the full content of the story.

tense1The following day, perhaps, our pretend prophetic character receives the same communication, yet in a different manner. This second scenario is of exactly the same message. It is still 700 B.C. However, this time our man has a vision. The vision is so lucid and clear that he sees it in motion in the same way that we today would see a movie. Without doubt, many of the writing prophets were seers. In this vision he sees Messiah born, he sees Messiah full grown, he sees Messiah die and be buried, and then he is aware of His rising from the dead. So he stands up to deliver his message. It is exactly the same message as in scene 1 above, excepting for the language which is, by necessity of integrity, of a different tense. This time he declares, “I saw Messiah having arrived. He was born and lived for thirty three years, and then was executed. On the third day I saw Him and clearly He rose again.” So here we have exactly the same message delivered in exactly the same chronological perspective and geographical location. But this time he speaks in past tense. He knew it was future. In retrospect we know full well that it was 700 years distant (as in Isaiah’s future), yet, he speaks in past tense. The simplicity of my logic is painfully obvious. One needs assistance to misunderstand it.

But we still haven’t finished with this issue.

Let us picture again, the following day, a third prophetic revelation. Our blossoming prophet dreams a dream, and/or sees a vision in which he follows the Messiah as if he is present throughout each scene. I have heard modern prophets report such revelations, and am sure that some of the Old Testament seers and prophets had this kind of experience. In such a wonderful, “real-time,” vision, the prophet declares, though still living in the year 700 B.C., “I am seeing Messiah being born. I am seeing Him walk amongst men. I am seeing His being abused. I am witnessing Him die. I am seeing Him rise from among the dead. I see it. It appears to me as in the now.”  The futuristic scene, is here seen and declared as if it was contemporaneously seen in his very presence, even though it is 7 centuries before the events were to take place place.

tense1aJust to fill in the picture further, we need to add that it is not necessary for the prophet to know whether his vision will be fulfilled in the following week or seven millennia from the day he saw it. We also need to note that the language I am using to make the point is much more specific and particular than any of the prophets wrote. The New Testament tells us that the prophets did not really fully grasp what it was they were speaking of.

In these three hypothetical scenes, we are explaining what happens in stark and concrete reality.

There are several other tenses and modus operandi of legitimate prophetic speech that I will not necessarily pursue, but there is one final remark that rounds up all I have written above. These issues may not be important in the spoken prophetic gift today, but it is vitally important when reading such things in the inspired words of scripture. My final example seems even more complex, yet absolutely essential to be noted to maintain the integrity of our hypothetical prophet.

What if the prophet saw the entire revelation in sections on different days and in different modes? He sees it differently each time. So much so, that when he stands up to declare the message he prophesies and says. “Messiah will come (future tense). See! He is being born as a man (present tense). I saw him live amongst men (past tense). He was abused (past perfect tense), and I see Him die (present tense). He will rise again from the dead (future tense) and has ascended in great glory! (past tense)” So now we have, legitimately, the one coherent message in correct chronological order, but stated in different tenses. Even in such a manner as this, the message still has complete integrity and accuracy. The prophet is declaring what the Spirit of God has showed him, and he is plainly stating what he has seen and what he knows.

Some academics of the English language claim that there are up to 24 tenses in English. How wonderful is that! I was taught at school that there are only twelve tenses in English, that is 4 modes each of past. Present and future.

Now, yesterday, and tomorrow words on blackboard, Time concept.

Now, yesterday, and tomorrow words on blackboard, Time concept.

I am making the point that when a man is “in the Spirit,” and receives heavenly communications, we are playing with fire if we are to deride the inspired remark simply because he doesn’t use the correct mode of normal written English in the pragmatic and natural world in which we live. Prophets, quite often, are neither pragmatic nor natural, normal nor novelists. The Spirit speaks from eternity into time, and the prophets speak the word in the earth in order to impact eternity. And the human recipient might not always fully comprehend what he or she sees, senses or says.

 

Wonderful! But there is only one problem with my thoughts hitherto! Isaiah wasn’t English, neither did he speak English. We read our English Translations, but the Old Testament was written nearly all in Hebrew, with a little Aramaic thrown in, and the New Testament was originally Greek. So we need to press further.

The Plain Facts of translating Biblical Hebrew.

The Facts of Biblical Hebrew.

tense2aIsaiah was a Hebrew by descent who spoke Hebrew. The issue of tenses is made slightly more complex inasmuch as the Hebrew language as spoken in biblical times was a different Hebrew as is spoken these days in Israel and by Jewish people around the world.

However, considering all our words above about tenses, when reading Old Testament prophecy – hold on to your seats while I inform you of the most phenomenal fact that we need to get our head round when discussing the translation of Biblical Hebrew into English (or indeed into any language):  There is no such thing as “tense” in biblical Hebrew.

Modern Hebrew does indeed have tenses, and that we must not forget, however, biblical Hebrew is not a “tense” conscious language. Modern grammarians refer to biblical Hebrew as an “aspectual” language. The same form of a verb can be translated as either past, present, or future depending, of course on the context and, uniquely, various grammatical prompts. The most well-known grammatical prompt in “translator circles,” is what is referred to as the “Vau-consecutive” that makes an imperfective verb refer to the past. This Vau-consecutive is a linguistic structure in Biblical Hebrew that comprises prefacing a verb form with the letter Vau in order to change its tense and/or aspect.

Therefore it is wrong to say that Isaiah 53 and a huge number of other prophecies are in the “past tense,” and therefore must refer to a time before Isaiah. Biblical Hebrew has no tenses. There are many examples of what is wrongly called the “past tense” (properly called “the perfective” or “perfect”) being used for futuristic predictive prophecy. This so called “prophetic perfect tense,” is simply a literary technique used in the Bible that describes future events that are so certain to happen that they are referred to in the past tense as if they already happened. It sounds profoundly confusing if you don’t know Hebrew, but that is exactly what folks say when English is learnt as a second language.

tense3aIn the Hebrew ( as well as a little Aramaic) in which the Old Testament was written, when something was categorically set to to occur in the future, it is often spoken of as if it had already occurred in the past. Hebrew scholars are familiar with this turn of phrase and refer to it not only as “the prophetic perfect,” but also the “perfective of confidence,” and/or “the historic sense of prophecy.” I have read some volumes on this subject where it is referred to as the, “here now, but not yet,” or the, “already – but not yet.”  The fact that so many experts call it something different suggests it is a kind of unwritten law of the language which has no definitively final epithet. I would suggest that most Bible readers are in no way aware of this aspect of the original Old Testament language. This is the reason why, in all the translations of the Old Testament, in passages where this phenomena occurs, translators cannot make a literal translation into English no matter how hard they try. This means, logically, that they have to actually change the tense of the original in order to keep the translation as understandable English.  The English language, in spite of all its glorious complexity, breadth, depth and flexibility cannot cope with the Hebrew “prophetic perfect.” Thus, the “prophetic perfect” is not perceived in English Bibles.

 

The problem is such that when one has different colleges, universities and official bodies formulating a new translation, a hundred learned experts would hold a hundred differing ideas on how the Hebrew “tenseless” text should be translated into readable English. This is why the Old Testament prophets especially vary so much in the multiplicity of English versions. The only people I have spoken to in the flesh that I trust and believe concerning Old Testament translations are those few I have met whose first language is Hebrew. All the English speaking academics who do their work on the grounds that they “know” Biblical Hebrew seem to differ from person to person. Who is the man on the street to trust? I am not saying that translators corrupt the meaning at all. I am saying that English does not have a grammatical construct like the “prophetic perfect.”  As a totally random example of what I am saying, here is a huge number of examples on one “prophetic perfect” phrase from Isaiah. You will clearly see what I mean. Remember that all these translations come from translating the same Hebrew text. (By the way, if anybody thinks my statements concerning the tenses here, please feel free to correct me.)

 

Isaiah 5:13

 

“Therefore my people removed without knowledge.” (Young’s Literal Translation) PAST SIMPLE

“Therefore my people have gone into captivity…” (KJ 2000 Bible. Webster’s Bible Translation.) PAST PERFECT

“Therefore my people go into captivity …” (Amplified Bible. Amplified Classic Version.) PRESENT SIMPLE

“Therefore my people go into exile” (ESV. ESVUK. NASB. ISV. NAS. WEB. CEB. CJB) PRESENT SIMPLE

“Therefore my people go into exile because they lack understanding.” (ISV) PRESENT SIMPLE

“Therefore my people go into captivity” (New Berkeley Bible. MEV.) PRESENT SIMPLE

“Therefore my people are gone into captivity;” (KJV. American KJV. KJ21. ASV. JPS Tanakh. Jubilee Bible. ERV.  BRGV. ) PRESENT CONTINUOUS

“Therefore my people are led away captive…” (Darby Bible Translation) PRESENT CONTINUOUS

“Therefore is my people led away captive…” (Douay-Rheims Bible) PRESENT PERFECT

“Therefore my people are gone into captivity…” (JUB)  PRESENT PERFECT

Therefore my people is gone into captivity…” (1599 GeNV) PRESENT PERFECT

“By want of knowledge my Race is stripped” (Ferrar Fenton) PRESENT PERFECT

“Therefore my people will go into exile without knowledge…” (Lexham EB) FUTURE SIMPLE

My people will go into exile because they don’t understand” (NOG) FUTURE SIMPLE

“… my people will go into exile … (NIV. Holman CSB. H.C. Leupold. NLT. God’s Word Translation.). FUTURE PERFECT

“My people will be captured and taken away [be deported; go into exile/captivity]. (EXB). FUTURE PERFECT

“Therefore my people will end up in exile because they don’t know the score.” (MSG) FUTURE PERFECT

“And so you will be carried away as prisoners.” (GNT) FUTURE PERFECT

“So my people will be captured and taken away” (ICB) FUTURE PERFECT

“Therefore my people will be deported … (NET.) FUTURE CONTINUOUS

“Therefore I will send you into exile far away” (TLB) FUTURE CONTINUOUS

“… That’s why many of you will be dragged off to foreign lands.” (Contemporary EV) FUTURE CONTINUOUS

“My people don’t really know God. So they will be captured and taken away.”(ERV) FUTURE CONTINUOUS

“Therefore my people will have to go into exile … (New World Translation) FUTURE PERFECT CONTINUOUS

 

tense4As you can see, so many experts have so many different perspectives concerning the tenses that the prophetic writings convey. To be perfectly frank about this, because English never uses anything like the “prophetic perfect,” (OK! Perhaps, very rarely) most Christians would only be confused if it were in the English read. The past tense is used instead of the future tense when the speaker views the action as being as good as done. This is very common in the Divine prophetic utterances where, though the sense is literally future, it is regarded and spoken of as though it were already accomplished in the Divine purpose and determination. This figure of speech is to show the absolute certainty of the things spoken of.

 

Friedrich Gesenius (1786 –1842) – one of the greatest ever Hebrew linguists, wrote: “The “perfect” is sometimes called, the “past tense,” but the Hebrew and English do not look at verbs in quite the same way as the Hebrew writers do. Although the perfect tense is normally associated with action that has already taken place, the perfect is used in some cases when the event is still actually future.”

 

Gesenius also said that in Hebrew, the perfect was used to express future actions, when the speaker intends by an express assurance to represent them as finished, or as an equivalent to accomplished facts. The perfect is also used to express facts which are undoubtedly immanent, and, therefore, in the imagination of the speaker, already accomplished. After stating these things, he then writes: This use of the perfect occurs most frequently in prophetic language (perfectum propheticum which is Latin for “prophetic perfect.”  The prophet is so transported by the Spirit that he describes the future event as if it had been already seen or heard by him. Isaiah’s usage of the so called prophetic perfect is seen many times, such as:

 

tense5Not infrequently the imperfect, meaning the actual future tense, interchanges with such perfects either in the poetic parallel line or further on in the narrative. Anyone studying Biblical Hebrew will notice that there are many times when ideas are expressed in couplets or parallel expressions. It is often the case when one of the couplets is the prophetic perfect that the other is the literal imperfect, or future, tense. Coupling the perfect with the imperfect alerts the reader to the use of the prophetic perfect idiom because an event cannot be both past and future. If there is no couplet, the context and the subject matter are usually enough to allow the reader to determine whether or not the prophetic perfect is being used.

 

The major point is that the past is frequently used to express the certainty of a future action. In some instances, the certainty of an imminent event in the mind of the speaker is enough to justify the use of the perfect. This usage of the perfect is especially common in prophecies, promises, and threats. In such cases, one should render the Hebrew perfect by the English present or even future.

 

tense6I do not want readers to think I am claiming any expertise on Biblical Hebrew. Almost all that I am saying here is what I have made notes on from lectures or books, or gleaned from the few people I have known in my life whose first language was Hebrew.

Several people that I know who are heavily into Hebrew have told me that, in their opinion, the only translation that accurately translates the prophetic perfect as a past tense is Young’s Literal Translation (YLT). It seems that in his passion of preserving the literal meaning of the Hebrew and Greek in his translation, this overarching principle and practice made his translation very different from the common translations of his day (i.e. the late nineteenth century) and many translations of our day. He wrote somewhere that he was often queried about why he put a past tense where other versions usually had it as future tense. This led to his writing a preface to his version titled, “The Battle of the Hebrew Tenses.” The matter is as clear as though it had already passed. In the paths of the prophets who speak of something which will happen in the future in the language of the past, since they saw in prophetic vision that which was to occur in the future, they spoke about it in the past tense and testified firmly that it had happened, to teach the certainty of His word and his positive promise that can never change and His beneficent message that will not be altered.

 

 

 

tense7

130. Unwanted Stand alone Skeletal Bones of Doctrine or a Living Warm Body of Truth?

Isaiah 22: 12-14  

12. The Lord, the LORD of heaven’s armies, called you to weep and to mourn to tear out your hair, shave your heads and put on burlap sackcloth to demonstrate your remorse.

Skel1

A normal healthy skeleton. But what did the person look like? How did he smile, cry and what was the tone of His voice?

A discovered skeleton does not allow us insight into the characteristics and/or the muscular strength of the human being that once inhabited the framework of the bone structure that was designed by divine genius.  I have seen enough historical documentaries to know that from a skeleton and its joints and teeth it is possible to see some diseases that once afflicted the person while they lived. They can even tell whether it was a male or female human being that lived in the house. Added to that they can even say authoritatively of the general diet that the person lived with. They can even tell the approximate age at death. How astonishing is all that.

But none of those indicators can inform us of the warmth or coldness of character, the beauty or ugliness of face, gait or posture in life. They can occasionally tell if a female has borne offspring. But the intimate knowledge of a person is lost.

Nevertheless, if an alien discovered complete skeletal remains they would only have the vaguest concept of the human life form. The skeleton tells us the facts of the life, and certain aspects of the being that was once in motion, breathing, eating and producing offspring – but it is only part of the beauty of the created being.

The beautiful or handsome person, with smiles, tone of voice, love, anger, arms that embrace and five senses that we live with, as well as the much neglected spiritual capacity and facility to repent, pray, choose one’s destiny in God, or choose evil and death cannot be discerned by the skeletal frame alone, no matter how perfect the bone structure and its completeness.

Isaiah 22:12-14 is a skeleton.

It is the skeletal outline of the deepest and warmest facts of life that one can ever discover.

Repentance of one’s sin is one of the strongest spiritual weapons that human beings have been divinely given. The backbone of all biblical teaching, when isolated and reduced to “Number 7 on our list of tenets of the faith, is” reduced to a stark cold statement that hardly suggests the amazing potential of life that it produces.

The call to turn around and change one’s life style and world view has presuppositionally embedded within its thrust a whole new way of thinking and living. Repentance often brings tears, prostration and a momentary immersion into unworthiness and a need to afflict one’s self with discomfort. But it is not just a cold isolated vertebrae that some consider as unnecessary as the appendix. Repentance is the opening of the human spirit that says to Christ Himself, “Come in! Make yourself at home. My home is Your home. Do what you wish.

skel2

Husband, wife, dog and horse. But what did he eat? What were their names? Was he a friend to many?

The call to make visible proof of that repentance and to work out in daily living what God works in us is another vital skeletal necessity that makes the Christian form more fully like Christ. But yet again, “Good works” when seen in isolation without the repentance and faith and alignment with God’s character are actually seen as an abomination to Isaiah and indeed all of the writing prophets.

Thoughts of motive, and understanding of the divine origin of man, morality, destiny and present existential meaning, no matter how basic, are all part of the skeletal framework of the individual person and all people of God. This exposes “Let us eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die,” as a Godless, purposeless statement spewed out by the sick stomach of unbelief and atheism.

The concept of free choice being utilized to run from God and all things to do with the way He sees things, is a perversion of the human skeletal belief system revealing an arthritic or even an “Elephant Man” type of deformity in what should be the most wonderful means of attaining Godliness, Christ-like character and grace. This skeletal member of the spiritual skeleton is possibly the easiest to deform or mismanage.

There is a point where deformities of the skeletal frame can never be corrected. Curvature of the spine can leave a person permanently bent. Childhood rickets can be evidenced in even the most ancient skeletal discoveries.

Lack of repentance, and joy exulted in evil that seems to have been glossed over for the moment by circumstances or even delayed by God, and leading to false assumptions that God is not really bothered with evil – whether it be national evil, familial or individual sins, can only lead to a condition that, because of a human being’s personal choice, leaves them eternally lost. That lostness, Jesus Christ referred to as being “damned.” Yet another cold hard bone in the warmth, the embrace and the structure of the skeleton of truth in the Bible.

skel3

An irredeemable flaw in the bone structure. Was he a genius? How did he live?

I do not like it. I wish it was not part of my armoury of biblical concepts and philosophical hardware. But I am not called to cherry pick truth. I am, if in alignment with God and His word, obliged to submit to the concepts He speaks about. When my son was a toddler, the overwhelming tenderness, love and passion I had to see him grow into a man of character and wisdom was deeper than any volcanic source on the planet. Having told him several times concerning the dangers of playing with fire and hot coals, and then to see him on the cusp of endangering his life in that same arena of fire and death, if anybody had heard my passion, anxiety, anger and desperation in saving him, grabbing him from danger, and my repetition of the message of potential harm and/or death, an observer may have doubted for a moment my love and commitment to my boy’s welfare. My tears of anguish and tones of emotion were such that it reduced him to tears in seeing how his father cried about his “near miss” with death.

The depth of my love was expressed in the action that endangered my own life in saving my greatly loved son. If he had been harmed I would have deeply desired to have substituted his pain and offered him my strength and wellbeing.

So!

Did Yahweh really ask the people of Judah to tear out their hair, shave their heads and wear sackcloth? You better believe it. Some folks get so soft and fluffy in their negotiations with the New Testament that they have problems with this sort of language in the Old. God never talks of pretense, play acting, or carnal drama. God is after reality. God is after folks who take Him as seriously as He takes us. Yahweh wanted the entire population of Jerusalem to unpretentiously humble themselves and repent with solemn and palpable indications of their mourning and sorrowfulness – not because of, nor anything to do with the danger from Assyria, but because they had turned from God totally.

Skel4 Richard_III_s_skeleton_found_under_a_car_park_in_Leicester_was_f-a-11_1429015613224

Purported to be the skeleton of Richard III. A malformed spine that could not be corrected.

Basic biblical truth for every person: If there is no repentance – there is no salvation. The deeper the sin, the deeper the repentance needs to be. Yes it has to be initiated from the heart. Yes! It has to be real, premeditated, intelligent and total. If that can be done without the tears, the emotion and/or any outward manifestation, like falling on one’s knees or lying prostrate on the ground, I do not have a problem at all. All God wants is deep permanent lifelong change of lifestyle, with a violent turning away from anything that God calls sin, and anything that interferes with a walk with God. However, when Yahweh calls on people to show it outwardly – when we have the understanding that it starts with the inner man, I think we are forced to surmise that God wanted the people of Jerusalem to repent and to repent deeply. I mean deeper than deep.

Sinful religiosity is horrible. It anaesthetizes the spiritual senses. After living for many years with a religiosity that touched there entire life, yet never touched God, all the spiritual senses become numbed and lacking in reality. Costly sacrifices, public fasting, and deeply set religious practices without the slightest interest or thought of God’s real character is a spiritual killer. Sack cloth, ashes, tears and hair tearing were asked genuinely asked for by Yahweh, through Isaiah. The very nature of this instruction helps us understand how entrenched the people were in their idolatry and godlessness.

skel5 elephant man

The skull and photo of John Merrick, hideously known as “The Elephant Man.” Those that knew him referred to his character as being beautiful and gentle. How the bones alone can lie without the life and warmth of the true person present.

God had called the people to demonstrate complete remorsefulness for their sin. What left them overall deprived of defense and excuse was the detail, that while they were uncovered to so great endangerments, they derided the righteous argument of Isaiah – and indeed all the prophets – and overruled the very offer of the grace of God, when he desired to set them right and restore them.

13. But see, instead there is outright gaiety, joy and festive revelry, slaughtering of cattle and killing of sheep, eating of meat and drinking of wine! “Let us eat and drink,” you say, “for tomorrow we die!”

The people just plainly ignored Isaiah, engaging in fatalistic merriment, carousing and indulging. They had not seen any hope of defeating the Assyrians. Now the massed armies and their king had left, they had decided to enjoy what time they had been given. Some believe they partied in the face of death, and now they were even partying after the threat of death had gone.

14. The LORD Almighty, the LORD of Heaven’s Armies has directly revealed this to me in my hearing: “Surely, because of you, till your dying day this sin will not be atoned for. That is the judgment of the Lord, the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.

This is neither something Isaiah would or could say lightly. In fact I believe he would not find it in himself to state it as a sample of his staple diet of a world view or belief system. The issue is far too serious for the prophet to reel off as tenet of the faith. He could only say it because he had heard it from the mouth of Yahweh Himself. This was conceivably the main reason the prophet stated earlier in the chapter that he wanted to be left alone to weep and moan for the spiritual status of the people of Judah. It was this revelation that was breaking Isaiah’s heart.

Skel6

What the people of Jerusalem in Isaiah’s day were called to. Burlap against the skin is not comfortable at all.

It is never because God is unwilling or unwanting to save folks drowning in perverse lifestyles. It is ever because people have chosen to reject God’s word and have therefore willfully placed themselves beyond his grace. God sees our capability of free choice as sacrosanct. It is God Himself that gave us that capability. It is to us that God Himself says, “Choose this day whom you will serve.”

“This sin will not be atoned for.” Now that is frightening. We need to realise how huge this statement is from the prophet’s heart. Like other such warnings throughout holy writ, however, the reason for this lack of atonement is always man’s refusal to repent. Thus, an implied hope was still there if they should repent.  Here the mighty, weeping and yet broken prophet, named Isaiah, states clearly that nothing is as displeasing to God as impenitence. Paul says, in Romans 2:5 that we “heap up for ourselves the treasures of God’s wrath,” and shut out all hope of pardon while we remain in unrepentance.

May God give us all the grace to repent.

 

Skel9

Not quite Burlap against the naked flesh, yet these esteemed Jewish elders probably have a better understanding than the typical western mindset. It is always and forever the integrity of the heart God looks for.

129. Defended by Water Reservoir and Stone Walls instead of a Faith Reservoir and Prayer Ramparts  

Isaiah 22:8-11           

defence 9 hezekiah-tunnel-diagram

Hezekiah’s tunnel from Gihon to Siloam

The bottom line today – or should it be the blazoned as the top head-line? – is Isaiah’s words in chapter 22 verse 11. “You built a basin ditch that became a moat-like reservoir to store water between the two walls for the water of the Old Pool, but you did not look to the One who created it, or have even a distant regard for the One who purposed and planned it long ago”(italics obviously mine). The whole point of God addressing mankind, be it through the prophets, scripture, or by debate and conversation, is to bring people into faith in Christ and the pursuit of a lifelong alignment with His divine purpose.  Isaiah, like all the prophets, broke his own heart trying to communicate this truth.

 

The Word of God is all about God finding the heart of man. He comes looking for our hearts. He knows who and what we are. By the gift of our own free volitional faculties, it is His desire that we choose Him to be our Lord and our God. It is His desire that we would, by the Word and the Spirit, grasp a true picture of who and what God is like. Then, with a sincere and true image of His love, motivation and joyful activity in wanting to manifest His grace and power toward us, we reciprocate in like manner towards Him. That is not for His good, but for our infinite and eternal benefit. To see and understand Him, and to initiate a full orbed relationship in intimacy with Him, He speaks to us. Anything He speaks is the Word of God. When Messiah came He was God incarnate, and He made the fullest and totally complete communication of God’s eternal and unchanging character and personhood. The message of faith, trust and love, consolidated by a life spent making firm one’s alignment and being enveloped into God’s plan and purpose is conceivably the simplest of simple messages, yet the greatest challenge that humankind has ever engaged with.

 

defence3 Blind_Man_Washes_in_the_Pool_of_Siloam_(Le_aveugle-né_se_lave_à_la_piscine_de_Siloë)_-_James_Tissot

James Tissot’s impression of the blind man washing in the pool of Siloam.

No matter how many words the Bible contains, no matter the complexity of prophecy and theology man makes of the whole, the message is the essence of simplicity in its construct. This is the message Isaiah delivered. Don’t worry at all about the complexities and pressures of life, rather be more concerned at you degree of faith and obedience to Him.

 

The Simplest of Simple Messages.

The message was so simple, in fact, at certain points of time, it was incredibly frightening, especially for the reigning king who at any moment was given the message. “Let the kings of Israel keep free from all political scenarios and just trust God for their national security as well as their own safety.” That’s my paraphrase of Isaiah’s overall kerygma. It’s like a Sunday school lesson for the under 5’s, is it not?

 

The point was, for the sake of today’s search, both Ahaz and Hezekiah were divinely appointed kings, as per all the direct descendants of David were, and were, ipso facto, in the Divine will to be in such a position. But the king of Israel was still to be subject to the King of all kings as all of humanity are meant to be. Even David, the ultimate king of Jewish memory wrote and sang hymns of praise for the gates opening to submit to and let in the King of glory … and he definitely was not singing about himself. “Who is this King of Glory?” he asks. He then answers his own question. “The Lord of hosts. He is the king of glory” (Psalm 24:10).  It was David’s submission to and heart after God that made him great.

 

Isaiah’s instructions, to whichever monarch he was addressing, were to never lean on Assyria, Egypt or alliances with other local nations, and not to even enter into the harangues of local politics. Yahweh was in charge, and would protect them.  Just lean on Him. Does spiritual insight ever get simpler than that?

 

defence5 1000bcThe Simple Message was given to Ahaz and Rejected.

To illustrate the importance and the repercussions of not submitting to the word of God that was prophetically delivered to the royal intelligence, read the story of what happened with Ahaz in the 730’s B.C.  The northern Kingdom of Israel and the kingdom of Syria wanted Ahaz to join them in a rebellion against Tiglath Pileser. Ahaz refused. That was a good decision. But then Israel and Syria intended to take all their armies down south to remove Ahaz from the throne, and then impose a puppet king who would join them against Syria. While Ahaz was debating with himself how to prevent this northern axis of power from coming down to Jerusalem, Yahweh sent Isaiah to meet Ahaz outside the city walls.

 

Amongst other things, Isaiah declared to Ahaz, while the prophet was prophetically holding his baby, Shearjashub (which translated meant: A remnant will return), in his arms: “… Take heed, and be at peace; do not be afraid nor fainthearted … Because Syria, Ephraim, and the son of Remaliah, have taken evil counsel against you, saying,  Let us go up against Judah, and take it. Let us make a breach in the wall, and set a king over them on our behalf … This is what Yahweh says, “It shall not stand, neither shall it come to pass.” Within 65 Years the Northern kingdom will be broken and non-existent.” It’s all there in Isaiah chapter 7. Read it for yourself. In modern street language, he said: “Ahaz! Do nothing. Go home. Read a book, or do whatever kings do, but just believe God and His word. You, your reign and your nation are safe. Syria and Israel coming down here with dark threats and even darker motives will fall flat on their faces. It will not come near you.”

 

Simplest of simple messages. But, it was a message that is equally as incredibly challenging for us today as it was in Isaiah’s day to constantly and consistently obey. Ahaz, unfortunately, did not accept a single word of what Isaiah said.

 

an-artists-visualization-in-2010-of-the-guard-towers-that-protected-the-gihon-springs-during-the-days-of-the-kings-of-judah-in-the-old-testament.

an artists visualization of the guard towers that protected the gihon springs during the days of Hezekiah.

God was so intent to catch a wilful surrender of faith, from the heart of Ahaz towards His eternal plan, that he instructed Isaiah to say to Ahaz, “Ask me for a miracle as proof of the truth of this message!” “Ask whatever you want your majesty!” Ahaz refused the offer with a rejection full of the language of religiosity, suggesting to many commentators that he had already made his mind up what he was going to do. And what he did was to send a cart  load of gold and temple treasure along with a letter promising fealty to Tiglath Pileser III and pleading for him to save his life and throne by beating up Syria and Israel. As a result of that arrangement, both threatening kings of the descending hordes were executed by Tiglath Pileser, Israel was wiped off the map with the vast majority of its population exiled, and Syria was ravaged and altered in its demographic also. Ahaz had indeed secured his realm and his reign politically – but at what seismic loss? He was faithless throughout, and brought the nation of Judah into a generation of serfdom to pagan, cruel Assyria.

 

As far as my research and reading informs me, the tribute money that Ahaz started wilfully paying to Assyria, was demanded and paid every year thereafter up to around 701 BC. We are talking of over 30 years of tribute payment, greatly impoverishing Judah.

 

defence7 An artists drawing (in 2007) of the recreated Gihon Towers as they appeared during the days of the kings of Judah.The Simple Message was also given to Hezekiah and Rejected.

So, Hezekiah, 30 plus years later, was following, what, had now become a traditional fiscal imperative to the Exchequer of Judah, and that was sending the cream of Judah’s GDP off to the Assyrian king. However, it was a conjoined rebellion by Judah and the surrounding nation states, in synchronization with Babylon and Elam way up north in the Mesopotamian area.

Who started what, nobody is absolutely sure. Some think that when the Babylonian’s came to wish Hezekiah well, after his “near death” sickness, the added political reason for their visit was to incite Judah to rebellion contemporaneously. Nobody knows for sure if this is true. To pick out truth from legend in all the stories is necessary, but unfortunately never conclusive.

  1. True – After twelve years of Merodach Baladan ruling Babylon in submission to Assyria, he finally linked up with Elam and whereby they mutually agreed to attempt to shake of Assyria’s burden of tribute. Merodach Baladan, of course, wanted to get rid of Assyrian rule altogether.
  2. True – Merodach Baladan sent an envoy to get to know Hezekiah and wish him well. Remember he had just recovered from facing death.
  3. Logical Legend that might be true – The Babylonian envoys were shown all Hezekiah’s treasure, wealth and military strength in order to assure the prospective Babylonian allies that they could be a sound and forceful ally against Assyria. The case some historians make is that, in order to really overwhelm the Assyrians, Babylon needed a southern rebellion to oppose the status quo that would split Assyria’s army in two in order for the Assyrian king to deal with both rebellions contemporaneously. Sounds good. May possibly be true. But nobody knows for sure. It is, of course, definitely true that a Babylonian envoy came to visit Hezekiah after his illness.
  4. True – There was a rebellion that brought the Assyrians on the scene into Judah’s neighbourhood in 701 BC. The rebellion comprised, Philistia, Egypt, Edom, Lachish, Moab – and yes! Judah! Because we don’t have all the facts recorded (or at least not discovered as yet) it is guess work as to who initiated the rebellion down south. Some think it was Egypt that started the whole thing and the Babylonians really did come solely to wish Hezekiah well. I can’t swallow that latter theory. Some believe Hezekiah was the initiator of the rebellion.

If Hezekiah rounded up the others, which I doubt, but concede as possible, not only had he betrayed a vow given by King Ahaz, not only had he contradicted Isaiah’s word from God to stay neutral, but having organised his neighbours into rebellion – if, indeed, he did – he then betrayed them all by later sending off the tribute money in the face of Sennacharib’s threat and attack on Jerusalem. If he did initiate the rebellion and lean on the other nations including Egypt, I would label his conduct as shameful and immoral.

a-massive-23-feet-7-m-wide-wall-which-formed-part-of-the-expanded-fortifications-that-enclosed-the-western-hill-which-was-settled-by-refugees-from-the-assyrian-invasion-of-the Assyrians with Sennacharib

a-massive-23-feet-7-m-wide-wall-which-formed-part-of-the-expanded-fortifications-that-enclosed-the-western-hill-which-was-settled-by-refugees-from-the-assyrian-invasion-of-the Assyrians with Sennacharib

For what it’s worth, I think that Egypt stirred up the local nations (excluding Judah), as the Ethiopian twenty-fifth dynasty of Egyptian Pharaoh’s were thinking above themselves expecting a new resurgence of influence and importance. A resurgence of Egyptian power – a rebirth that was a nagging dream of many Pharaoh’s but which never really arrived – was an idea that was delusionally punching way beyond Egypt’s weight. It was, however, an Egyptian dream that the smaller countries half believed in because of the politically active twenty-fifth dynasty. Because Egypt was much more powerful than Philistia, Lachish, Tyre, Sidon and the others, the smaller “brothers” of the rebellion were sucked into withholding tribute money believing Egypt would stand by them. I do not think The Egyptian/Ethiopian envoy that was sent to see Hezekiah ever moved Judah at all. We have it on the biblical premise that Isaiah himself sent them packing. In 701 B.C. the entire cartel of rebel nations were really little boys playing a big man’s game.

If the accepted chronology is correct, while Sennacharib was laying waste to Lachish, having dealt with all the rebels apart from Egypt, he sent Rabshakeh with a mile long train of soldiers to address Jerusalem and put the fear of death and hell into the population that seem to have unanimously decided to stand on the ramparts of the city wall and listen to him mocking and defying Hezekiah, their faith in God, and blasphemously making light of the person of Yahweh. In his total ignorance he had absolutely no idea of where his verbal jackboots had trodden. He had defied Almighty Yahweh. And, he had done it in the Hebrew language in order to intimidate anybody who had ears to hear in Jerusalem.

For this passing moment, we could forget Hezekiah’s integrity, or lack of it. We may even pause our comments on the unbelief and moral insanity of the Jewish population of Jerusalem about which Isaiah 22 focus’s on. We can even safely hold any calculation on the size and strength of Assyria’s army as compared to the weakness of numbers and lack of morale fibre in Judah’s forces and leadership as utterly irrelevant. Why? Because Rabshakeh had mocked God to His face.  It now beholds the entire world to step back and let God do what only God can. Rabshakeh oozing and overflowing with his demonic delusions of grandeur had virtually summoned almighty and everlasting Yahweh to a duel.  Rabshakeh had ignorantly lit the blue touch paper of a firecracker that would be talked about for millennia to come.

defence4“Yahweh can’t save you! No other gods have saved any nation on earth from our great Assyrian power and our superior gods!” Oh no! Someone should have tapped him on the shoulder and mentioned Pharaoh and the Red sea hundreds of years previous. Some friend in the military could have had the integrity to whisper in Rabshakeh’s ear what had happened with the walls of Jericho. He should have been taught in Assyrian school the old story of how one of the Israeli judges had dealt with a huge plain swarming full of Midianites when he had only 600 men. Oh dear! Rabshakeh! What have you done? You have, like the imbecilic idolatrous pagan that you are, crashed where angels hold their breath and draw their swords.  When any human speaks like you spoke of Holy Yahweh, you have designated yourself as a dead man walking.

While the knees of all and sundry in Jerusalem (excepting Isaiah it seems) were knocking and trembling, and even Hezekiah was rushing off and kneeling within the temple where he was not really allowed to go, the king closed his eyes and let God hear Rabshakeh’s words repeated in His ear – as if He hadn’t heard it from the Rabshakah himself – and read the letter of a megalomaniac bully of a king, written by Sennacharib, saying the same thing that Rabshakeh had said. Then Isaiah steps out of the darkness of dark expectation and approaches Hezekiah to say, “Don’t worry. Don’t do anything. Assyria shall not take Jerusalem. Yahweh Himself will deal with their evil.”

It needs to be made clear, that Jerusalem was not saved by the magnificent courage of Judah, or their bravery to answer Rabshakeh with holy defiance. It was simply because Rabshakeh went where only the devil and fools ever go. He ridiculed Almighty Yahweh, the Lord of heaven’s hosts. This is, I believe the sole reason why Judah was saved from catastrophe.

I mention all this to emphasize that although the message may be simple and easy to mentally comprehend, it is rock hard and immovable creating a deep and transformational challenge.

Hezekiah only rose to the challenge when the letter landed in his hands after he had paid the tribute money.

While these narratives mentioned are part of factual history that qualifies the nature of the Word of God in both the Old and New Testament, we need to understand that the party was continuing amongst the masses as if the realities of life and things of the Spirit were merely fantasies.

Isaiah continues to address them in 22:8:

  1. The covering defenses of Judah are stripped away. And you looked in that day to the weapons in the Palace of the Forest;
The Pool of Siloam in the Second Temple Model at the Israel Museum

The Pool of Siloam in the Second Temple Model at the Israel Museum

Assyria had already taken the fortified outposts of all of Judah’s cities – 46 of them to be exact. Any allies Judah “trusted in,” were also already defeated and crushed by the Iron fist of Assyria.

The covering defenses …stripped away.” The Hebrew verb could conceivably mean that God had removed His protective covering from Judah because they no longer trusted Him to be their Guardian. But they had been in that state of unbelief for a prolonged period prior to this day. Jerusalem’s leaders “looked to their weapons” instead of looking to their God – their Almighty Saviour; that is, they trusted in the weapons stored in the “Palace of the Forest” built by Solomon (1 Kings 7:2–5).

Perhaps the removal of the divine hand of protection shows what distress of mind the people were in when they were so closely besieged and so violently spoken to by Rabshakeh

 

I construe it more basically as referring to the arsenal, in which, in some majestic building erected by Solomon, they kept the implements of combat. He refers to it as a “covering,” because they were not exposed to communal view or knowledge, but were obscured in a more consecrated abode. In brief, he defines what universally transpires in any spell of pronounced apprehension, fear and terror throughout any clan, tribe or nation. At such moments as this, ordinary men run to arms. It was a moment when good soldiers would want to show their true metal.

 

  1. You inspected and saw that the walls of the City of David were breached and broken through in many places; you collected and stored up water in the Lower Pool.

Jerusalem was perceptibly, grimly unready for any kind of onslaught, and specifically the blockade against life in a siege. There were fissures in the fortifications of Jerusalem that obligated restoration. Water would be an imperative requirement if there was to be a siege, so water needed to be routed and channeled into the lower pool, that is, the pool of Siloam. Siloam is about two hundred feet below the Gihon spring (2 Kings 20:20. 2 Chronicles 32:30).  Hezekiah, seemingly mindless of God, probably through fear, made every effort to prepare for war. It was a preparation that he obviously knew was insufficient to meet the forces of Sennacharib.

  1. You counted and surveyed the buildings in Jerusalem and tore down houses for the stone to strengthen the wall.

Emergency reparations for resistance to the impending fearful advent of Assyrian troops around Jerusalem actually included pulling down people’s homes in order to provide rocks with which to build up the walls. I cannot think of this as being anything but shameful. I cannot but wonder how Hezekiah succored the newly homeless folks who were the victims of such a hasty action. I say this because there were obviously plenty of other sources of stone in the vicinity of David’s City. 2 Chronicles 32:5 says that Hezekiah built the wall, with a secondary wall and raised it to be as high as the towers and even repaired the Millo.

  1. You built a basin ditch that became a moat-like reservoir to store water between the two walls for the water of the Old Pool, but you did not look to the One who created it, or have even a distant regard for the One who purposed and planned it long ago.

“The two walls” may have been at the bottom of the Tyropoeon Valley, between David’s Zion and the hill to the west. The description of Hezekiah’s defense measures is given in 2 Kings 20:20 and 2 Chronicles 32:3–8. They included the construction of the water tunnel under the city of Jerusalem to bring water from the Gihon spring to the Pool of Siloam, thus giving Jerusalem a protected water supply no matter what was going on in the external surrounding area. But in these hasty preparations, they did not look to Yahweh for His intervention. They were putting their confidence in what they could do instead of what He wanted. They were committing one presumptuous sin after another. This is yer another added reason for the prophet’s emotional tone.

Oh, for purity of faith, motive and a heart after God when in death defying confrontations. God gives us the grace.

defence5 1000bc

128. The Damocletian sword that still hung over Jerusalem’s head while the people partied.

Isaiah 22:4-7

Damocles, was reportedly a courtier to the king and tyrant of Syracuse known as Dionysius the Elder. According to the famous legend (or was it history?) he was physically forced and obligated to sit at the king’s dining table under a razor sharp sword that swung over his head. The cutting instrument was heavy as well as sharp and was suspended by a single horse hair. The story progresses with the blade swinging lower and lower as it began to cut the hair of Damocles and ultimately began to skim his scalp. I shall let my readers scour the library or internet to discover how the story ended. This story was plagiarised and altered in Edgar Allan Poe’s, “The Pit and the Pendulum.”

The judgement of God was swinging nearer and nearer to Jerusalem and the Hebrew people, just like the sword of Damocles was getting closer and closer to the courtiers head.

The fact that the sword had swung close enough to Damocles so that he could feel it cut his hair, was by no means grounds for celebration that he was still alive. The blade would return with an even lower trajectory moments later.

The prophet Micah was a contemporary to Isaiah. In Micah 1:6 this prophet declared, “I will make Samaria a heap of rubble, a place for planting vineyards. I will pour her stones into the valley and lay bare her foundations.” My emphasis. The population of Jerusalem will have heard the message, just as plainly as they would have received the news in 722 BC that Samaria had indeed been made a heap of rubble. Literally stated. Literally fulfilled. Easily explained.

A little later, in fact it is possible he delivered another statement on the same day, a statement that in our age is catalogued as Micah 3:12, reads; “Therefore because of you, Zion will be plowed like a field, Jerusalem will become a heap of rubble, the temple hill a mound overgrown with thicket.”  Oops! Samaria would be a heap of rubble and was fulfilled before their eyes. The same, accurate, spot on prophet declares also that Jerusalem will be a heap of rubble. Oh dear! And the party, the dancing and the revelry continued in Jerusalem.

As it happens, we, who live two and a half millennia later can browse through our history books and see that the Assyrians would not be the ones to raze Jerusalem to the ground. We know that the Chaldean, Nebuchadnezzar, would do the job very well in 587 BC. For that reason we can be, “smart Alecs,” and say that the people of Jerusalem could have relaxed for another century and a half. But, of course, the contemporary population to Micah and Isaiah knew nothing of the future Babylonian empire at that point of time.

The people of Judah had heard the two, “heap of rubble,” prophecies by Micah. And then Isaiah steps forward to tell them that Assyria was coming. It’s true he didn’t say Assyria would wreck Jerusalem – he could not have said that because it would not have been true – but he did tell them in the most frightening definition of terminology, “The Assyrians are coming! Prepare yourselves!”

“The LORD will bring on you and on your people and on the house of your father a time unlike any since Ephraim broke away from Judah–he will bring the king of Assyria” (Isaiah 7:17). I don’t know about you, dear reader, but that message would have sobered me up greatly and may even have put the shakes in me. The merriment, however, continued on the roof tops of David’s royal city.

“Therefore the Lord is about to bring against them the mighty floodwaters of the Euphrates– the king of Assyria with all his pomp. It will overflow all its channels, run over all its banks and sweep on into Judah, swirling over it, passing through it and reaching up to the neck. Its outspread wings will cover the breadth of your land, Immanuel!” (8:7-8). How could Hezekiah and his people fail to have received the message?

“Woe to the Assyrian, the rod of my anger, in whose hand is the club of my wrath! I send him against a godless nation, I dispatch him against a people who anger me, to seize loot and snatch plunder, and to trample them down like mud in the streets.” (10:5-6). Ouch! I know he Assyria did not actually take Jerusalem, but before they arrived Isaiah 10:5-6 definitely sounded as if they might wipe the holy city off the face of the planet like we wipe a dirty plate in the wash basin.

However, on account of Hezekiah cowardly paying a huge fortune in tribute money, as well as having problems elsewhere in the empire, Sennacharib had skedaddled, leaving the mindless faithless Hebrew population rejoicing in a “great and mighty victorious battle.”

Isaiah’s tears were deep and full of grief. The entire population of Jerusalem were delirious because their own skins were saved. But the means of their delayed departure from this life was unworthy of a people of spirituality, purpose, destiny and a moral example to the world. There was shame conjoined to their activity. All they could see was that the gigantic tremours of horror and fear that had been injected into their communal psyche by the Rabshakah of Sennacharib had dissipated into a calm of temporal relief. But temporal it was. The Damocletian sword of God’s judgement which at this moment had just missed the hairs of the head would return again with a lower swing as a Babylonian beast, as opposed to an Assyrian monster.

Judean leaders fled even before the Assyrians had arrived. That is how deep the fear ran. Some were captured and executed by the Assyrians. There was no difference whatsoever in the response of the people of God and their leaders, and the idolatrous gentile nations that surrounded them. “People of Jerusalem, you have no character. You have no faith. You have no discernment. This day should be a day of mourning, fasting and brokenhearted repentance. Instead, you party like mindless children who are responsible for nothing.”

  1. Therefore I said, “Turn away from me; leave me alone to weep bitterly. Do not try to stop me crying over the destruction of my people.” (Lannon’s translation)

Isaiah had ministered for years, warning the kings and the people. But they did not listen. He simply could not join their revelry on the rooftops, for he knew the results of Hezekiah’s tribute money, demanded by the Assyrians, were only momentary and fleeting. He wanted to be left alone to mourn the prophesied destruction of his beloved people, and their poverty of understanding in rejoicing in the face of such shameful goings on.

Isaiah was inwardly weeping and ready to shed tears. Take a very firm note of the fact that none of the prophets were cold pronouncers of doom. Like Isaiah, they loved their people and their hearts were broken over any judgment that was coming upon them.

Isaiah had proclaimed to the people, “If you refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the LORD has spoken it.” (Isaiah 1:20. ASV). Is there any way that Isaiah could have been plainer. But, on the grounds of momentary relief they feel justified to party throughout the day.

The prophet had told them what he had heard from God Himself. “I am the Lord All-Powerful, the mighty ruler of Israel, and I make you a promise: You are now my enemy, and I will show my anger by taking revenge on you.  I will punish you terribly and burn away everything that makes you unfit to worship me” (1:24-25). The divine perspective on the nation had been revealed. But they were partying as if these words had never been spoken.

Again, the son of Amoz rammed home the answer of God to their godless living and sinfully developed culture. “You will become like an oak whose leaves are withered, and like a garden without water. The strong one will become tinder, and his work a spark; both will burn together, with no one to quench the flames” (1:30-31).

In combination, all the statements that comprised Isaiah’s painful and agonizing vision of what was coming cannot be spiritualized or seen as a metaphor. How could it be made light of? “Jerusalem is ruined, and Judah is fallen: because their tongue and their doings are against the LORD, to provoke the eyes of his glory” (3:8). Yes! Judah was actually said to be against the Lord. “Never mind Yahweh! Let’s party! Isaiah could not be telling us the truth at all, because Sennacharib is on his way back home. Isaiah must have been fooling us!” 46 fortified cities that were destroyed, and his claim of 200156 captive slaves seems to make their partying a very sick, depraved and monstrous thing to be sure.

“The gates of Zion will weep and mourn. The city will be like a ravaged woman, huddled on the ground” (3:26).  If these sort of messages didn’t bring a godly sorrow and repentance, what could have done?  What did Isaiah need to say to make the people listen? “I will tell you what I am going to do to my vineyard: I will take away its hedge, and it will be destroyed; I will break down its wall, and it will be trampled. I will make it a wasteland, neither pruned nor cultivated, and briers and thorns will grow there. I will command the clouds not to rain on it” (5:5-6).  There it is. Isaiah’s vision of what Micah saw in Micah 3:6.  Why on earth didn’t this dirge of Isaiah bring the people to their knees and Godliness back into the psyche of the population? The masterful prophetic interpreters and scripture teachers of Isaiah’s day would have undoubtedly spiritualized the whole thing away. “Don’t worry people! We are God’s chosen. This is the Promised Land. Isaiah must be bringing some parable, or metaphor or some kind of poetic meaning.” Perhaps he meant Samaria and not Jerusalem. Perhaps Isaiah misheard the Lord.

And so the party continued. And equally so, Isaiah’s unremitting tears flowed.

“They have harps and lyres at their banquets, pipes and timbrels and wine, but they have no regard for the deeds of the LORD, no respect for the work of his hands. Therefore my people will go into exile for lack of understanding; those of high rank will die of hunger and the common people will be parched with thirst” (5:12-13).  Agh! Here is the crunch! Exile! “Exile” is mentioned. Sort yourselves out people. Take off the party clothes and get before God. The prophet had said it all. The faithful messenger had delivered the whole vision. But the jollity persisted.

Remember too in Isaiah 6. Isaiah then asked the Lord about how long the people would refuse to hear the message he was given. The answer came: “Until the cities lie ruined and without inhabitant, until the houses are left deserted and the fields ruined and ravaged, until the LORD has sent everyone far away and the land is utterly forsaken” (6:12-13). From what we understand of the results of the Assyrian visit in 701, Judah was reduced to a “post-apocalyptic” greyness of death and destruction.

The euphoria of Sennacharib’s departure, however, had blinded the eyes of the people.

  1. The Lord, the LORD of heaven’s armies, has a day of panic and crushing defeat in the Valley of Vision, a day of battering down walls and of crying out to the mountains. (Lannon’s translation)

They had failed to listen to what the Lord had said in the Valley of Vision. The result was noise, violence, terror, and confusion. The walls of the cities of Judah were not able to withstand the Assyrian attack.  It was a tormentingly sad day when the people of Judah joined in the conspiracy and conflict against Assyria. They had failed to listen to what the Lord had said. The result had been noise, violence, terror, and confusion.

Verse 7 tells us of the panic and fear at the arrival of the Assyrian forces. Verses 1-5 tell us of the glee at their leaving.

  1. The military men of Elam take up the quiver (and the bow), with her charioteers and horses; the military of Kir uncover their shields.

East of Assyria, Isaiah sees Elam providing a contingent of bowmen, chariots, chariot drivers, and horses as reinforcements for the Assyrian army. In those days of violence, all nations of power were potentially a mercenary resource for those who had the gold with which to pay them. Isaiah also envisages Kir providing foot soldiers with their shields uncovered and ready for battle. Many nations would be joining Assyria.

  1. Your choicest valleys are full of chariots, and horsemen are posted at the city gates;

Judah’s situation had been, indeed, hopeless. The enemy had filled her “choicest valleys,” including the Kidron on the east of Jerusalem and the Hinnom on the west and south, with chariots and posted horsemen at “the city gates” throughout the country. Judah could not have defended itself against such a vast army even if they had mustered the courage and metal to do so.

Isaiah, I believe, is here reminding the Jews of those straits to which they were reduced when the Assyrians were at their gates. They ought at that time to have sought help from God; but those people became more strongly alienated from God, and more shamefully manifested their rebellion, which revealed them to be men utterly abandoned to godlessness. It is for all these reasons that Isaiah reproaches them.

 

No reformation of life in the people of Judah followed, though their riches were exhausted, and the kingdom desperately weakened, yet they obstinately persisted in their wickedness as described in Isaiah chapter 1.  Nothing therefore remained but that the Lord should miserably destroy them, since they were obstinate and noncompliant.

127. Deluded People misreading a defeat and thinking it a Victory.

Isaiah 22:1–3  

z1Nothing sadder than people thinking they are rich, when they are really poor. Nothing more pitiful than a group rejoicing and partying as if they were mighty conquerors, when in actual fact they were cowardly and pathetic, and had actually lost the battle and the plot altogether. Nothing more small minded than a world-view that has not grappled with things like one’s origin, one’s purpose and one’s destiny, seeing nothing but I, me, mine – my life, and blow everybody else. It is based on the premise that I am an island and I am more important than anybody else or anything else. It was as if Isaiah had been speaking another language. He spoke and prayed into a national catastrophe. The crisis was temporarily delayed. The sowing of national sin was still preparing for a national reaping of the whirlwind, as if they hadn’t tasted it already. There was wild raucous partying enveloping Jerusalem while God’s prophet wanted to cry and mourn. It was wild moral insanity. It was mindless ignorance of history and the origin of their nation and a total concentration on me- now – my comfort and, “Why do I have to think of the future and my children?”

The prophet cries in perplexed shock:

  1. The burden and prophetic message – the divine revelation, against the Valley of Vision (i.e. Jerusalem and Judah): What’s the matter with you all? What troubles you? Why have you all gone up to the roof? (Lannon’s translation)

z1aSennachereb, in his chronicles, claims he destroyed 46 fortified cities of Judah, and then took captives numbering 200,156 people. (For what it’s worth – I personally think the Assyrian king was being flexible with the truth there.)  But the people are partying.

Sennacharib came with a huge ant-like army because the king had broken a national oath to another country. Yes, it was an oath made by previous Davidic king Ahaz to a previous Assyrian king. Yes, Ahaz should not have made the commitment in the first place – especially when Isaiah had given him the word of the Lord to stay away from Assyria – but it was still a break in integrity. The king had lost the spiritual battle         had He is talking of what happened in 701 B.C. The people in the vision – be it past, present or future to the prophet – had gone up to the housetops shouting and rejoicing becau – he punched above his weight in a political scenario he had no place to be in.  The entire entanglement was not righteous or helpful. But still the people sing and dance on their roof tops.

The Jerusalem population trembled and stayed silent (as ordered to) while Sennacharib’s Rabshakeh terrified the city with horrible threats and even more terrible projection of where the rebellion of Hezekiah was to take them.  But only a little time later, the people are drinking and partying themselves silly.

Community leaders both military and social were leaving Jerusalem and escaping through the Assyrian front-lines. How that was accomplished, I have no idea apart from the thought of bribery. They fled leaving the masses to suffer and die. But, never mind the shock of that news, the people celebrate over the situation.

The leaders that stayed, it would seem, only stayed because they did not want to leave the fruits of their corrupt indulgences of spending money to give evidence to the people of their “greatness.” Still the people pursue their mass revelry.

z2Finally, at the last minute of the proceedings, King Hezekiah, without consulting the prophet (probably because he knew Isaiah would say, “No!”) ransacks the Temple of its gold, the palace treasury – and possibly the population too, and pays the tribute money that he had hitherto withheld. Meaning that firstly he had betrayed his national vow to pay tribute to Assyria, and then having joined up with a whole neighbourhood of allies to stand against Assyria, after watching all his neighbours collapse under the weight of the might of Sennacharib’s army, he pays up, abandoning his allied neighbours to their destruction. Brave Hezekiah! Brave national leaders that had fled! And the party continued.

From the Royal Palace verandah’s, Isaiah could view the population on their rooftops and hear the music and the drunken songs of merriment.

“What’s the matter with you all? What troubles you? Why have you all gone up to the roof?”The prophet asks by the Spirit of God. He addresses Jerusalem and its frightened masses gathered around the Temple precincts.

 

  1. O the entire populous town, full of raucous commotion, passionate shouting and in an uproar of rollicking jubilation. O city of tumult and revelry?  Your slain were not killed by the sword, nor did they die in battle, (but by famine and disease).
  2. All your leaders have fled as a group; they surrendered without any resistance. All you who were caught were taken prisoner together, your leaders having fled while the enemy was still far away. (Lannon’s translation)

The Message has this as Isaiah calling to the masses: “What’s going on here anyway? All this partying and noisemaking, shouting and cheering in the streets, the city noisy with celebrations! You have no brave soldiers to honor, no combat heroes to be proud of. Your leaders were all cowards, captured without even lifting a sword, a country of cowards captured escaping the battle.”

Can you imagine this! It’s like a football team entering a knock-out competition. Imagine a profoundly unlikely scenario. Every round this team are drawn against, their opponents have to withdraw because of too many injuries, or technicalities concerning money or legalities. Each round their opponents withdraw. So the team who has not played a game, arrives in the final. And then again, the day before the Final, the other finalists have to drop out. So our pretend team win the trophy without having played a single game or kicked a single ball. OK! Is it a time for celebration? I think not. If corruption and bribery within the Cup winners had created the drop-outs, not only would celebration been farcically inappropriate, but heads hung in shame and legal action would have been the just way forward.

z3The people of Jerusalem thought they had escaped the destruction that must have fallen on the infrastructure of all the other homes and population of Judah. 46 fortified cities razed and a claim of 200,156 (nudge-nudge wink-wink) captive slaves.  Isaiah’s pointed arrow of a message is that their rejoicing was not justifiable by anybody’s moral (or immoral) world view, no matter how twisted their perspective. They had, quite literally, put their trust in gold and silver instead of, “in the Lord.” They had impoverished the Temple, the Palace and the people to pay off and tempt Assyria to leave them alone. What courage! What bravery! What honour! What obedience to God after His prophet had told them to just stand firm and trust in God alone! They had seen Assyria’s back and their dust cloud disappear over the horizon on the way to Ashdod for no other reason than their overall cowardice and existential expediency. God was not brought into the proceedings as far as the king, the leadership and the general population were concerned. God was expelled from their response – until relief had overcome them.  There was no glory or heroism in what had happened at all. In fact, Isaiah saw the whole thing as shameful.

And so the son of Amoz poignantly enquires: “What makes you people rejoice?”

What’s the lesson?

Good things that come to us are not always indicative of faith and obedience in the recipients. The rain falls on the just and the unjust alike. The fact that some perished under Sennacharib, and Judah escaped the present time of destruction and enslavement in no way should have been seen as an affirmation of the people’s righteousness. Rather, when one is seemingly blessed more than others, it is best to come to God in repentance. Unless we repent, we shall all likewise perish.

Knowing a release from danger should cause us to come humbly to God rather than celebrate initially. Prosperity, rescue and relief can sometimes indicate a delayed and bigger danger.

 

z4The King, the leaders, and the people had ignored and poured contempt on Isaiah’s message. Isaiah’s word was for Hezekiah and the entire nation to withdraw from the “chitter chatter” and the angry dynamics of international politics. Their trust in God was to be the major redeeming back bone of Judah, and Isaiah could not have made the message plainer.

God have mercy on us diluting, changing or even ignoring God’s word. God have even more mercy on us from being deluded as to the cause of general blessings that both saved and unsaved, righteous and unrighteous receive.

The truth was it was the King’s act of repentance over Sennacharib’s letter, and Isaiah’s faith that aligned themselves with God and pierced the darkness to bring deliverance.z5

126. Interpreting Plain Speech as Plain Speech, Plainly.

aaaaaaaIf we weakened the New Testament concept of the believer being, “In Christ,” or the principle of being, “Buried into the death of Christ,” “Risen with Christ” and even, “Seated with Christ” by even suggesting that it is not a reality but merely a graphic series of metaphors, analogies and poetry, the force of the apostolic teaching would be reducing the apostles as merely the greatest poets that ever lived. Yes it is poetic in its timbre. Yes it is graphic language that can be easily grasped because of its creative literary beauty. Yes, it’s a cracking good read. But if it isn’t absolutely the literal truth of things in the realm of the spirit, I would suggest I have been lied to for the last forty plus years.

 

My belief system, my philosophy, my world view and paradigm is based on the foundations of my creed. My creed is a series of historical events – literal, historical, concrete and true happenings. If the virgin birth, the sinless life of Christ, His passion, His death, His resurrection and ascension together with His call to repentance and faith aren’t literally the truth, then my faith is in vain. Similarly, it is on the basis of these historical facts that it is consequentially, equally true that by aligning myself with God by my faith in Christ and perseverance and progress in that faith, I have died with Him, been buried with Him, and raised with Him and am literally in Him. If the former statements are not literally true, the latter statements are so much trash and tosh.

 

aaaaaaa1Talking of spiritual realities are not intrinsically metaphors, analogies or parables. Because Moses endured as seeing Him who is invisible, does not mean the statement is suggesting anything but the absolute literal truth. God is invisible. Moses trusted Him. Moses lived and acted as though he had seen, touched and heard the invisible. No parable. No metaphor. No illustrative poetic means of expression. Simply the plain, straight forward literal, concrete truth.

 

Why should we take a wild leap into, “Oh! It’s a wonderful metaphor! The Lamb won’t really lie down with the lamb! The Son of David won’t really reign in Jerusalem!  The so called “eternal” and “everlasting” promises to Israel were not really eternal! It’s all glorious metaphors with symbolic meanings and parabolic significance.” The historical-grammatical understanding of biblical truth is made mandatory by the principle of the rarest thing in the world – common sense.

 

Yes, of course there are metaphors, allegories and parables in the scriptures, but the principles of a historical-grammatical must, of course acknowledge them easily. I am not and will not belittle biblical metaphors, allegories and parables that are plainly present. I  will, however, ignore plain statements that are stated by some to be symbolic simply because it seems outrageous to our twenty-first century western cynical minds.

 

aaaaaabSo! From the immediately preceding pages above you will be very much aware of where I stand on the biblical issues to do with the future of the planet and indeed the entire cosmos. And, before you ask – or jump to any presuppositions about my philosophy of a historical-grammatical interpretation to the whole of scripture, I do not think I have it all sown up, nor do I take the stand of, “I know better than you.” I take my stand after over forty years of listening to him, her and them, and thought it through, prayed it through, pleading to be kept sound and sane on all the biblical stuff that jumps out at me.

 

The main things you should know about my convictions in this area are several.

 

First, having arrived at what I believe is the only way to approach the intricacies of prophecy – indeed the whole of the Bible, it has made me utterly unafraid to read the difficult bits of holy writ that theologians have not yet sorted out as to their meaning.  Isaiah 22 is a difficult passage to negotiate. It is one of the Magellan straights of prophecy that stands as a firm test of one asking, “What on earth is Isaiah talking about here?” It is my hope that at the end of my papers on this chapter my readers will sigh with satisfaction at having an understanding of its direct and appropriate meaning even if and when they see that my perspective is finite and sometimes questionable. I want my readers to be able to open up Isaiah 22 and talk about it as if they were prophets themselves. My philosophy of interpretation must handle the hard knocks of Isaiah 22 (and other sections of scripture that hold similar difficulties) and remain standing.

 

aaaaaafSecondly, the second coming of Christ is much more important, I believe, than we generally consider it to be. Nobody knows the date or the time, but the Father in Heaven. That means it may not take place in history for a few millennia, and it could also take place before you have finished reading this paper. ‘Fess up to that as a fact. The immanency of the finale of God’s eschatological programme is absolutely not intended to send us into a frenzy of “The End is Nigh,” sermons or to march up and down the street with placards. The whole arc of truth is what the body of Christ needs to feed on. For that reason, the subject of the End times and the future MUST be part of all ministry programmes of study, especially the pastor who leads a body of people on a day by day, week by week basis. Jesus said He will return. We need to be ready, and we need to know what we are being ready for.

 

Thirdly, the volume of predictive scripture in both the Old and New Testament that point to what is commonly referred to as, “The end times,” needs attention simply because of its volume. This is not a triviality. It is a major issue that needs intelligently dissecting. Not every aspect of Christ’s physical return to earth, and what happens afterwards is inspirational to present. There are knotty issues and thorny complications that need to be firmly grasped, and not side-stepped simply because it may frighten a few folks away from some of the church meetings.

 

aaaaaacThe main, “in yer face,” discernable attitude I have and the most helpful construct of my thinking that I want people to grasp is the importance I place on the Historical-Grammatical system of interpretation of Scripture. This is more often than not referred to as the “literal” manner of interpreting scripture. I call it the Historical-grammatical approach instead of “literal,” because I do not mean that I have a penchant or desire to bypass the real allegories and/or metaphors, of which there are many in the scriptures. This is not an accidental stumbling into a process of handling scripture, but a straight forward honest choice of direction. As with any other aspect of what the Bible teaches, the point at hand is to rightly divide the word of truth and ask, “What did God say?”“What did the Author mean?” and, “How would it have been understood in the day that it was originally written and read?”  Hence the manner in which I maintain my grasp of biblical prophecy is by deliberate choice of running with the interpretative mode of text negotiation referred to as the Historical-Grammatical system of interpreting Bible truth.

 

Exactly the same principle of interpretation runs through the dividing of opinion as to whether or not God still has a purpose for the Jewish people, as the nation of Israel, or if the church removed their status as “God’s chosen people.” The question concerning the Old Testament prophecies referring to Israel as the people of God must be interpreted in their ordinary sense, as other Scriptures are interpreted, or whether they can properly be applied to the Christian Church. This discussion and debate is generally referred to by those that participate in it, as the spiritualization of prophecy or the pursuit of the historical-grammatical principle of interpretation.

 

aaaaaakCharles Lee Feinberg (June 12, 1909 – August 22, 1995) was an American biblical scholar and professor of Semitics and Old Testament. He was an authority on the Jewish history, languages and customs of the Old Testament and biblical prophecy. He was an incredibly astute scholar, a biblical academic and a leader of men. He was a converted Jew and held a rock firm premillennial conviction. He was part and parcel of the team that translated the New American Standard Bible. Throughout his life he was widely acknowledged as a seriously thorough authority on the subject of biblical eschatology. In his book – a volume that has always commanded respect and study as a classic – “Premillennialism or Amillennialism,” – he states:  “It can be shown that the reason the early Church was premillennial was traceable to its interpretation of the Word in a literal manner, whereas the cause of the departure from this view in later centuries of the history of the Church is directly attributable to a change in method of interpretation beginning with Origen in particular.”

Doctor Feinberg made it clear whenever he presented his case in person or via the written page that he took it as read that the apostolic teaching was prophetically literal and premillennial.

 

Floyd Hamilton, another forthright writer on biblical eschatology states; “Now we must frankly admit that a literal interpretation of the Old Testament prophecies gives us just such a picture of an earthly reign of the Messiah as the premillennialist pictures.”

 

aaaaaadGenerally speaking, Old Testament reading Jews, world-wide,  were, in the days of Christ, and are in the twenty-first century established in a belief system and paradigm that is undoubtedly awaiting the rule of Messiah, exactly as presented in the Hebrew scriptures and as anticipated by premillennialists in the church age. It is a biblical teaching – assuming the literal read of Old and New Testaments, that there is a preeminent place given to an earthly, “Messianic kingdom,” to be set up by “the Christ” in the city of Jerusalem. It is coming, because it is clearly promised.

 

Jews interpret all their Messianic eschatology absolutely literally. Ask any practicing Jew about the Messianic promises in the Hebrew Bible and you will find not the slightest whiff or fancy of a symbolic, spiritual, metaphoric or parabolic interpretation. The King is coming and will reign from Jerusalem. Matter closed.

 

It is this writer’s opinion that by clothing and arming one’s mind in a heartfelt biblical understanding and acceptance of the grammatical-historical interpretation of the entire text, any reader is facilitated to see the fog that shrouds biblical eschatology dissipate to a great degree before one’s spiritual eyes.

 

By the way, it is not just the pre- millennialists that hold that the belief of historical-grammatical exegesis leads to premillennialism. It is this modus operandi that most of the leading Amillennialists claim is the source of the pre-millennialists so called, “error.” For example W.H. Rutgers who is an immovable Amillennialist says of Pre-millennialists, “I regard their literal interpretation of Scripture as their fundamental error.” Stop beating around the bush Doctor Rutgers and get to the point, why don’t you?

 

aaaaaajIt is not an overstatement, it is the foundational fact that separates the two strands of thought. Amillennialism and Pre-millennialism are separated at their very root by nothing but the basic position of each side believing in the inerrancy of scripture yet utilizing differing presuppositional exegesis principles in their respective pursuits of a legitimate and truthful eschatological viewpoint. For this main reason, I assert that the crucial and fundamental essence of the challenge that is to be negotiated at the instigation of any contemplation of Eschatology, is the choice of either the historical-grammatical, or metaphorical – spiritualizing approach to their hermeneutic of biblical unfulfilled prophecy.

 

Surely the utmost and primary need for a system of biblical hermeneutics is to ascertain the meaning of the Word of God as God and the human authors intended. I refer to the approach I take as the grammatical-historical method to emphasize the fact that the meaning is to be determined by both grammatical and historical considerations. This “literal” method of interpretation is that method that gives to each word the same exact basic meaning it would have in normal, ordinary, customary usage, whether employed in writing, speaking or thinking.

 

For that reason, we need to enquire as to how helpful in attaining the goal of rightly dividing the word of truth in prophecy (as in all biblical streams of thought) is the inventive inventions of looking for metaphors and allegories – especially when such a framework of study is understood as juxtaposed to systematic historical-grammatical dissection of the same text. I suggest that spiritualizing plain statements of scripture are next to no help at all in understanding the true meaning of what the Bible is saying.

 

If metaphorical theories and the spiritualizing of the prophetic words concerning Christ’s first coming are totally absent, why should the slightest degree of allegory and parable be suddenly dominating what the prophets said about what we now know is His Second Advent?

 

Is it even intelligent to go probing for cryptograms, cyphers and/or extended metaphors and illustrative allegories at the overhead loss of the unadorned straight forward meaning of any text in any genre of any serious piece of literature?

 

aaaaaaeThe greatest dreaded result of the spiritualizing allegorical method of exegesis of the Bible is that, ultimately, it simply does not interpret Scripture in any way even close to correctly. It is the fecundity of the interpreter’s imagination that dictates the results of any research.

 

This is also entwined with a second factor in the “rot” of the allegorical method, namely that the basic authority in interpretation ceases to be the Scriptures, but the mind of the interpreter. The interpretation may then be twisted by the interpreter’s opinions, faulty or true, already embedded in his or her presuppositions.

 

A third great danger in the allegorical method is that one is left without any means by which the conclusions of the interpreter can be properly tested. It is post modernism in the church. If a verse seems to read as person A interprets it, if it’s good for him, let him believe it. The idea of absolute truth is thereby rubbished. The Bible means whatever one wants it to be. This means that the inordinate vulnerabilities intrinsic to this scheme are that it takes away the absolute, external authority of Scripture, leaving us without any basis on which interpretations may be tested. It literally reduces Scripture to what seems sound to the interpreter, and, as an outcome, makes true interpretation of Scripture impossible.

 

aaaaaaiThe better apostolic and Jewish theory, distilled in the New Testament, takes the teachings of the Old Dispensation literally, but sees in them also, as Peter and Paul did, the shadow, type and kernel of future developments. Allegory, though only once used by Paul by way of a passing illustration, is unknown to the other Apostles, and is never sanctioned by Christ..

 

The historical-grammatical approach to understanding the Bible by no means guarantees agreement on every jot and tittle, but does indeed make way for proper and intelligent discussion of terms and statements concerning the prophecies that are yet unfulfilled.

 

I am fully aware of the thousand “ifs” and “buts” that are required if a full and exhausted explanation was to be made. For the time being, this will be adequate as we plough through Isaiah.

 

 

Women Bow And Pray

Women Bow And Pray