Hyperbole, Headlines and Haggai; Part One

Haggai 2:3-23

“‘Who is left among you who saw this temple in its former glory? And how do you see it now? Does it not seem to you like nothing in comparison? But now take courage, Zerubbabel,’ declares the LORD, ‘take courage also, Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and all you people of the land take courage,’ declares the LORD, ‘and work; for I am with you,’ says the LORD of hosts. ‘As for the promise which I made you when you came out of Egypt, My Spirit is abiding in your midst; do not fear!’ For thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘Once more in a little while, I am going to shake the heavens and the earth, the sea also and the dry land. ‘And I will shake all the nations; and they will come with the wealth of all nations; and I will fill this house with glory,’ says the LORD of hosts. ‘The silver is Mine, and the gold is Mine,’ declares the LORD of hosts. ‘The latter glory of this house will be greater than the former,’ says the LORD of hosts, ‘and in this place I shall give peace,’ declares the LORD of hosts.” On the twenty-fourth of the ninth month, in the second year of Darius, the word of the LORD came to Haggai the prophet saying, “Thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘Ask now the priests for a ruling: ‘If a man carries holy meat in the fold of his garment, and touches bread with this fold, or cooked food, wine, oil, or any other food, will it become holy?’ ” And the priests answered and said, “No.” Then Haggai said, “If one who is unclean from a corpse touches any of these, will the latter become unclean?” And the priests answered and said, “It will become unclean.” Then Haggai answered and said, “ ‘So is this people. And so is this nation before Me,’ declares the LORD, ‘and so is every work of their hands; and what they offer there is unclean. ‘But now, do consider from this day onward: before one stone was placed on another in the temple of the LORD, from that time when one came to a grain heap of twenty measures, there would be only ten; and when one came to the wine vat to draw fifty measures, there would be only twenty. ‘I smote you and every work of your hands with blasting wind, mildew, and hail; yet you did not come back to Me,’ declares the LORD. ‘Do consider from this day onward, from the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month; from the day when the temple of the LORD was founded, consider: ‘Is the seed still in the barn? Even including the vine, the fig tree, the pomegranate, and the olive tree, it has not borne fruit. Yet from this day on I will bless you.’ ”  Then the word of the LORD came a second time to Haggai on the twenty-fourth day of the month saying, “Speak to Zerubbabel governor of Judah saying, ‘I am going to shake the heavens and the earth. ‘And I will overthrow the thrones of kingdoms and destroy the power of the kingdoms of the nations; and I will overthrow the chariots and their riders, and the horses and their riders will go down, everyone by the sword of another.’ ‘On that day,’ declares the LORD of hosts, ‘I will take you, Zerubbabel, son of Shealtiel, My servant,’ declares the LORD, ‘and I will make you like a signet ring, for I have chosen you,’ ” declares the LORD of hosts.”

We see a prophecy in Haggai, or possibly, multiple prophecies. The question becomes, as one reads, has this prophecy been fulfilled, partially fulfilled or is all or part awaiting to be fulfilled? Because God fulfils his promises, we know the prophecy to be true. However, if God fulfils his promises, and we are sure of this beyond a shadow of a doubt, that must mean we have seen God fulfill his promises. Therefore prophecies would have to have been fulfilled. In other words, while reading the Bible, we certainly shouldn’t presuppose that a partial passage has yet to be fulfilled. Which is easier, to see fulfillment of prophecy in the Bible or looking out one’s window? If God has spoken promises, would we not also expect to see the promises come to fruition in his own words? Why else would the Bible be recorded over a thousand years with a path of progression pointing to Jesus Christ? The promises made were so that people would believe. If the promises in Haggai are yet to be fulfilled some 2500 years later, how many generations passed without seeing the promises fulfilled? Nostradamus can’t be confirmed because he died, but God lives and has spoken to his people through prophets in many times and ways but in the last days of the Judaic epoch, the Old Covenant, spoke to them through his son. And what was old and dying was about to disappear in the generation of Jesus. The book of Hebrews couldn’t be more clear. Clouded by contemporary commentary, we know words of prophecy pundits and little pieces of verses but not the context of the Bible, which was written so that they, and we, would believe.

Therefore today is going to be a little bit different, with the emphasis on the wrong rather than on the right. We often examine the words of the prophecy pundits as we consider the context but today we will hyper-focus on and examine the errors of our greatest prophecy pundits. And not only the errors but the hypocrisy in their hermeneutic. Hypocrisy such as we often have seen; “read the Bible literally!” But then “this generation” means “that generation.” And swords, shields and horses, locusts and the like mean tanks, bombs, attack helicopters and other instruments of modern warfare. We will also examine how God can name Cyrus many years before he was born but calls Vladimir Putin, Gog, and Russia, Magog. In a similar fashion, God refers, according to their dogma, to modern countries by their ancient names. Pragmatically speaking, prophecy would be much better if God knew the future names of nations. Of course he does, this is a gigantic clue to curb the belief that many prophecies are yet to be fulfilled. Prophecy is not intended to keep the reader guessing but so that the reader will believe.

Most points of contention we will examine we have covered before. However, I have not even read all of my missives, most of you have not either. But more importantly, when they are all lumped together, we see more clearly that the context is not considered consistently but is corrupted and compromised by the prophecy pundits.  Rather than carefully consider context, they begin with a presupposition of prophecy and then not only rip verses out of context but change plain meanings of words and distort the grammar. The most glaring being Jesus’ words in his response to the disciples question in Matthew 24. Remember that Jesus was speaking to his disciples, alone but the conversation was recorded so that we would believe and see what they saw. So strap on your sandals and notice the plain grammar in the apocalyptic address, meaning, the unveiling through the discourse, directed at the disciples.

Prophecy pundits’ claim number one: “Read all of the Bible literally, including prophecy, unless the context is clearly metaphorical.” This is actually really good advice. First, literal means, “taking words in their usual or most basic sense, or; representing the exact words of the original text.” Therefore, using the prophecy pundits’ statement to take Scripture literally unless the context is clearly metaphorical, we notice that Jesus said, “this generation” in Matthew 24, meaning the generation in his midst, and not, “that generation,” which is far off, even some 2000 years hence. Yet there is a possible problem in our interpretation. Later on in the Olivet Discourse, Jesus says things such as, “But immediately after the tribulation of those days THE SUN WILL BE DARKENED, AND THE MOON WILL NOT GIVE ITS LIGHT, AND THE STARS WILL FALL from the sky, and the powers of athe heavens will be shaken, and then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the SON OF MAN COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF THE SKY with power and great glory. And He will send forth His angels with A GREAT TRUMPET and THEY WILL GATHER TOGETHER His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.”

Taken to literal extremes, it appears that Jesus will return, on a cloud elevator as the stars fall and the moon is darkened. Yet, according to the prophecy pundits, themselves, perhaps we should look for a metaphorical meaning. The problem with this, is that they don’t. Rather than take plain language and grammar plainly, they distort the discourse to say “that” when Jesus said “this.” Then when Jesus quotes Old Testament prophets, they take it in a wooden, literal sense, not adhering to their own hermeneutic. We will see that Matthew 24 is only a small sample of judgment language. We see this type of judgement language throughout our Old Testament tutor. This goes to not only the genre or subgenres, but to the author’s aspirations to his audience.

For review and to those who may be new, here, we utilize the CAGED method of Biblical hermeneutics, where; Context is king, Author’s Aspirations to his Audience are apex, Genre is the general, Expository Exegesis of Examples enlightens and Dividing Rightly the Word of Truth either confirms or cancels our preconceived notions and presuppositions. Unless you are learning for yourself, you only know what you have been taught. Therefore we must consider the aspirations of the author to his audience as we also consider the context and examples. Jesus was speaking to his disciples alone when delivering the Olivet discourse. Matthew recorded it and wrote to the Jewish people in that generation. More than any other book of the Bible, Matthew quotes the Old Testament directly. Only Revelation alludes to the Old Testament more but Matthew gives direct quotes far more than any other. In fact, he quotes the Old Testament directly, more than all the other gospels combined. Matthew did not write to us, he wrote to them. Ironically enough, American prophecy pundits always argue that if it wasn’t written to all of us, but to them alone, we can’t apply it to us or learn from it. Yet these same prophecy pundits, love and learn from the Declaration of Independence. The same Declaration of Independence that was not written to them but to King George III. The book of Acts, as we have examined, was written to Theophilus as was the book of Luke. Peter wrote, “to those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia.” We don’t live in these places as aliens. Does this mean that nothing Peter wrote applies to us? Likewise, James, the Lord’s own brother, wrote to the “twelve tribes, dispersed abroad.” We don’t throw James out the window because it wasn’t written to us. Yet we do notice that some of the people have already fled Judea, just like Jesus told the disciples to do in Matthew 24. Also notice that we don’t literally throw James out a window. Yet you understood that I was referring to discounting the book written by James. Clearly I wrote in a metaphorical manner.

Prophecy pundit claim number two: “consider the context.” Obviously I agree with this, one hundred percent. The problem is that they don’t actually consider the context. The greatest example is that when they talk about the “beast” in Revelation 13, they don’t say “the beast,” they say, “this is the Antichrist.” This goes against the context concerning the Antichrist, which is only found in John’s first two epistles and not in Revelation, at all. I know that this will cause some people some pain. Unless you are learning for yourself, you only know what you have been taught. John never mentioned the Antichrist in Revelation. One thing I can guarantee, you didn’t read Revelation 13 and assume that the beast mentioned coming from the sea, is the same person coming from us, as John wrote in his first epistle–no one has. Rather, a formation of a formulation of end time events was made, and then the Scripture had to be imposed upon so that the formulation formed can come to fruition. In other words, the chicken was hatched before the egg was fertilized, laid and warmed until birth. Due process was not filled. An assumption, apart from the context, was turned into a presumption. Therefore the text must be manipulated to fit the assumption presumption, rather than reading and considering the context. It’s the difference between eisegesis and exegesis. Prophecy pundits tell us what John meant to say rather than exposing the actual message.

I’d like to thank the president of the United States for his impeccable timing, as far as this missive is concerned. Headline: Trump Encouraged Injection of Lysol to Combat the Coronavirus. Problem; that’s not only ripping what he said out of context but also adding words. As an analogy, Lysol is to the Antichrist as the Beast is to disinfectant. The president never said or uttered the proper and copyrighted name “Lysol” in his thinking-out-loud statement. That was imposed on his statement by a media member. In the same way, the prophecy pundits impose the Antichrist onto the context of the beast. Has president Trump ever talked about Lysol? Of course, in the same way that John talked about the Antichrist in his epistles. Yet like John in Revelation, president Trump never mentioned Lysol in the context of disinfectant for the body. If the president meant for people to inject Lysol into their veins, one would assume that he would have said what the headline read. But he did not and in a slightly similar way, if John had intended for the reader to understand that the Antichrist was the beast, he would have written it. But beyond the literal stating of the Antichrist actually being the Beast, we would assume that the context would confirm this; it doesn’t. The prophecy pundits are as guilty as the writers of headlines, ripping verses out of context and pasting them together.

Of the Antichrist John writes to the young church, which was mostly Jewish; “Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have arisen; from this we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, in order that it might be shown that they all are not of us.” The context is clear, Antichrist comes from them, but is not of them. We also read; “For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist.”

Of the Beast we read; “And I saw a beast coming up out of the sea, having ten horns and seven heads, and on his horns were ten diadems, and on his heads were blasphemous names. And the beast which I saw was like a leopard, and his feet were like those of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. And the dragon gave him his power and his throne and great authority. And I saw one of his heads as if it had been slain, and his fatal wound was healed. And the whole earth was amazed and followed after the beast; and they worshiped the dragon, because he gave his authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, ‘Who is like the beast, and who is able to wage war with him?'” Context is king, the Beast is clearly not the Antichrist. While both are evil, they bear little resemblance to each other and a continuing consideration of the context confirms this.

Prophecy pundits’ claim number three; God has two distinct people with two distinct plans. This of course come from a careless consideration of the context. Problem; Paul wrote to the Romans, “But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; neither are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants, but: ‘THROUGH ISAAC YOUR DESCENDANTS WILL BE NAMED.’ That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants.” John the Baptist said, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bring forth fruit in keeping with repentance; and do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father;’ for I say to you, that God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. And the axe is already laid at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” Paul also wrote; “you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree.” Again, to the Galatians, Paul wrote; “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.”

And finally, Paul makes this abundantly clear to the church in Ephesus; “Therefore remember, that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called “Uncircumcision’ by the so-called “Circumcision,’ which is performed in the flesh by human hands— remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one, and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity. AND HE CAME AND PREACHED PEACE TO YOU WHO WERE FAR AWAY, AND PEACE TO THOSE WHO WERE NEAR; for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together is growing into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.” God is not a racist!

Prophecy pundits’ claim number four: We can understand our time by looking at the headlines and comparing them to Scripture. Nope. And ironically this will be the one which will get me into the most trouble. Therefore let me pose a question, as is my current custom. Can we trust the headlines? I get it, many prophecy pundits point to the fact that we can’t trust the headlines as part and  parcel to prophetic purposes. They claim that we live in bizzaro world and I certainly agree. Nevertheless, we have made great strides as a church and our hour, our minute, our slight slice of bizzaro world cannot compete to the war in Vietnam, Jim Crow Laws, WW2, The Great Depression, The Spanish Flu, The Civil War, The Middle Passage and Slave Trade, The Revolution and we have not even looked back before there was an America. Abortion will probably be our downfall but just because America goes down, doesn’t mean the end of the world. Actually, I have hope for America and all nations, based on the context of the Bible. But yes, we have to go through hard times, sometimes, Paul certainly saw this in his time; “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.”

Our headlines do not define us, they’re merely clickbait, in these times. No one will click on the headline that reads, “Everything is Ok.” In the same way, no one would pay for my missives, even though I peddle good things and glad tidings. No, we’d rather see the sensational sophistry in stupid books about blood moons. We change with the wind like the environmentalists. Dust off your copy of the book about the late, great planet earth and see how dated it is, compared to the headlines. Nevertheless we do have trials and tribulations but we have to also keep them in their proper context.

Think about Halloween in 1517, when Martin Luther nailed his 95 thesis to the door of Wittenberg and the headlines of that day. It had been less than 100 years since the invention of the printing press and was the Printing Revolution. In 1517, the Ottomans conquered Egypt and took the city of Cairo. Many people became sick and died suddenly from a mysterious illness in England. England also had a “race” riot, over immigrants from the mainland. They demanded that their borders be secured. Do I really need to continue? Nevertheless we don’t live in the same old world, we live in a slightly better one. The problem with the prophecy pundits is that they translate what is out their window and then read the Bible. Rather than take a long view of history and a long view of the Bible, interpreting the latter first, and then see the strides that the saints have made by comparing this generation with that. I hate the shutdown over the Coronavirus,  it is absolutely unconstitutional. Nevertheless, who knows how many lives were saved? We  are still extremely stupid but have come a long way from blood letting with leeches at the local barber. And if one does doubt this, and one believes that the church’s heyday was in the 50’s and 60’s, remember the segregation. Rarely would one see Black people and white people worshiping together. We have come a long way in 50 years, even with the mega-church pastors. Headlines do not define us as the terminal generation. Remember the church in Corinth with their temple prostitutes and getting drunk as others went without. We are far from perfect but we have come a long way and many men and women paid the price for our relative comfort with their lives, as did Jesus and his Apostles. He actually promised them this in Matthew 24. Hyperbolic headlines which deceive don’t define us. I could, and will go on but we have Haggai and other hyperbole to consider, not only our headlines.

The Lord makes a promise to the people present in Haggai who are to rebuild the temple, including the high priest and the governor, because their is no longer a king in Israel. The Lord points out the same promise he made the fathers in Exodus. In Haggai we read; “‘Who is left among you who saw this temple in its former glory? And how do you see it now? Does it not seem to you like nothing in comparison? But now take courage, Zerubbabel,’ declares the LORD, ‘take courage also, Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and all you people of the land take courage,’ declares the LORD, ‘and work; for I am with you,’ says the LORD of hosts. ‘As for the promise which I made you when you came out of Egypt, My Spirit is abiding in your midst; do not fear!’” As for the promise in Exodus, it’s found in chapter 29; “And I will dwell among the children of Israel, and will be their God.”

Same promise, only expounded and to a new generation. God progressively reveals his plan and progressively grows his kingdom, which is like a stone cut out of the mountain, not made with human hands and it slowly fills the earth–like leaven and like a tiny mustard seed which will grow into a tall tree. Rather than hyperbole, these are gross understatements. Stay tuned as we carefully considering the context of what the Lord promised in Haggai, Lord willing.

 

 

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