The burden of the word of the LORD concerning Israel. Thus declares the LORD who stretches out the heavens, lays the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit of man within him, “Behold, I am going to make Jerusalem a cup that causes reeling to all the peoples around; and when the siege is against Jerusalem, it will also be against Judah. And it will come about in that day that I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the peoples; all who lift it will be severely injured. And all the nations of the earth will be gathered against it. In that day,” declares the LORD, “I will strike every horse with bewilderment, and his rider with madness. But I will watch over the house of Judah, while I strike every horse of the peoples with blindness. Then the clans of Judah will say in their hearts, ‘A strong support for us are the inhabitants of Jerusalem through the LORD of hosts, their God.’ In that day I will make the clans of Judah like a firepot among pieces of wood and a flaming torch among sheaves, so they will consume on the right hand and on the left all the surrounding peoples, while the inhabitants of Jerusalem again dwell on their own sites in Jerusalem. The LORD also will save the tents of Judah first in order that the glory of the house of David and the glory of the inhabitants of Jerusalem may not be magnified above Judah. In that day the LORD will defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and the one who is feeble among them in that day will be like David, and the house of David will be like God, like the angel of the LORD before them. And it will come about in that day that I will set about to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem. And I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him, like the bitter weeping over a first-born. In that day there will be great mourning in Jerusalem, like the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the plain of Megiddo. And the land will mourn, every family by itself; the family of the house of David by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Nathan by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Levi by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of the Shimeites by itself, and their wives by themselves; all the families that remain, every family by itself, and their wives by themselves.
In Revelation we read; “BEHOLD, HE IS COMING WITH THE CLOUDS, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. Even so. Amen.”
In Matthew we see Jesus “pleading” his case before the high priest; “You have said it yourself; nevertheless I tell you, hereafter you shall see THE SON OF MAN SITTING AT THE RIGHT HAND OF POWER, and COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF HEAVEN.”
In Daniel we read; “I kept looking in the night visions, And behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming, And He came up to the Ancient of Days And was presented before Him. And to Him was given dominion, Glory and a kingdom, That all the peoples, nations, and men of every language Might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion Which will not pass away; And His kingdom is one Which will not be destroyed.”
Very early in Psalms we read; “But as for Me, I have installed My King Upon Zion, My holy mountain. I will surely tell of the decree of the LORD: He said to Me, ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You. Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance, And the very ends of the earth as Your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron, You shall shatter them like earthenware.'”
In Isaiah we read; “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, On the throne of David and over his kingdom, To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness From then on and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this.
In Micah we read; But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Too little to be among the clans of Judah, From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, From the days of eternity.” Therefore, He will give them up until the time When she who is in labor has borne a child. Then the remainder of His brethren Will return to the sons of Israel. And He will arise and shepherd His flock In the strength of the LORD, In the majesty of the name of the LORD His God. And they will remain, Because at that time He will be great To the ends of the earth.”
Is there a sublime string or am I ripping verses out of context? Better yet; where is the parenthetical plan? What am I missing in these passages that points to a parenthetical period of the “church?” The parenthetical plan presented by the prophecy pundits has become an albatross across the neck of our nation. Like the ancient Israelites we have become complacent and in our own eyes, God is pleased with us but angry at the sinners. So much so that God will soon rescue us from this world and usher us into heaven as all hell breaks loose on this planet. However there is more than one problem with this line of thinking. The most glaring are the words of the prophets and the words of Christ, in the flesh. Jesus said, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him.”
There is also this sublime string to which I keep referring that indicates God created the earth in perfect fashion but man messed it all up so that God must come and reverse the curse. Jesus came, saw and defeated the devil not only in the wilderness but on the cross and was raised by the father on the third day. This is the gospel. Jesus became the curse on the tree as man sinned from the tree because as it was written and rewritten and explained by Paul; “cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.” Cursed was the ground because of Adam and cursed is everyone who must live by the Law. But Jesus came in fullness and fulfillment, on time and did exactly what he had to do to appease the wrath of God. Someone perfect had to die in our stead for us to be set free. Jesus, from the trashy town of Nazareth, was the only man in history who was able to do this. Yet the dogmatic dispensationalists argue against the victory on the cross. They neither see the curse reversed nor the curse which came against apostate Israel. And this is a burden of which we are unable to bear.
God keeps his promises and he promised himself the nations as an inheritance and promised the presumptuous people a curse. Once again I point to the “new” Elijah, the frontrunner to the Messiah, promised in Isaiah and Malachi. John the Baptist said to the Pharisees, “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.” Strong words from a man of whom Jesus said was more than a prophet. God doesn’t forsake Israel but keeps his promise made to Abraham. The burden of a parenthetical period with a parenthetical plan is an albatross on the neck of the evangelical church. A generation and a half have passed since we were promised a rapture rescue. If one cannot trust in prophecy, how can one trust the rest of the Bible? Like lemmings we leap off the cliff of catastrophe when we make promises of which we cannot control. And rather than admit our mistakes we double down on our dubious dogma changing our definitions of “generation” and “return” as we have already changed the definitions of “this” and “that.” I was told today that “who” is now not only acceptable for “whom” but that using “whom” is now considered pretentious. I also read recently that irregardless is now considered a word. This is the culture in which we live. (Strike that sentence from the record.) That is the culture we live in. When definitions and grammar no longer maintain their meaning, we can change the aspirations of an author of any written word to mean what we want it to mean.
In a culture created by the dogmatic dispensationalists, where saying “all lives matter,” which is clearly not racist, is considered racist, one must look at the source of said cultural clutter. For years the dogmatic dispensationalists have been teaching us that God has two distinct people with two distinct plans but when they do, it escapes their notice that they are opening the floodgates to grammatical misgivings. The evangelical church inaugurated this war on words with its branches of different, dubious denominations. The river of truth has had its sandy banks eroded and meandered until an eventual oxbow was formed. As the erosion of truth continued, many more oxbows of dubious dogma formed until the river of truth became a thousand little lakes of questionable concerns. Speaking in tongues is another, excellent example of this erosion.
Why would anyone insist on speaking in tongues when it is all but absent in the epistles except for when it is condemned and highly regulated by Paul? Paul even uses rhetorical reasoning to argue against speaking in tongues and asks, “all do not speak in tongues, do they?” Baptism of babies is another example; where do we see the practice in the Bible? Absolutely, arguments are made against and for infant baptism but the Scripture is actually silent on the practice. The problem we wrangle with in all these nonessentials is that they divide us. The bigger problem with our erosion is that the truth is not taught but traditions are. We teach based upon the water in our little lake rather than the raging river which used to flow. The water of truth in our lakes was water from the raging river, to be sure, but the rest of the river has passed us by. That is to say, we don’t consider the continuing context or the sublime string but take verses out of context and base our dubious dogmas on only a splash of water from the river.
We’re mining for gold and not a nugget of nonsense. We should not say things like, “look at this verse I found” because you didn’t find a verse, it’s long been enumerated and you need to consider the context. One of my favorite verses which is ripped out of context is John 3:16. We believe that God sent his son to save the world which he loves but also believe that God will destroy the world of which he loves. We don’t consider that Jesus was evoking the fiery serpent in Numbers and we certainly don’t consider the context of Hezekiah, smashing the serpent in Second Kings. We make our erosions our taught traditions without any regard for the context or the author’s aspirations to his audience. Look closely at the introduction to the epistle of Revelation.
“John, to the seven the churches that are in Asia;” clearly John wrote to seven, literal churches and yet the dogmatic dispensationalists would have us believe that John actually wrote to Jewish people, after the church is raptured. Why would John address his letter to these churches, using adjectives such as “near” and “soon” if the time not only was far off but didn’t apply to them? Hence I have dubbed this so-called doctrine, dubious dispensationalist dogma. Would John and the churches not have been better served if John told them not to worry about the wrath of God because they would be long dead and their progeny, many generations removed, would be rescued in a raptured? We must have a vested interest in vocabulary and a grasp of the grammar. We want to understand the imagery and make sense of the metaphorical meanings but we shouldn’t allegorize or misinterpret the plain meanings of words. A salutation and greeting should be taken literally but obviously the apocalyptic address is open to metaphorical meanings. To decipher the apocalyptic address we let Scripture interpret Scripture as we have already done today without giving it a second thought.
What we think “coming in the clouds” means is not open to our interpretation. Ironically enough, the high priest, of whom presided (pretentious) over the trial of Jesus understood the imagery of the Son of Man coming on the clouds but the evangelical church doesn’t and doesn’t consider the continuing context, believing that Jesus returns on a cloud elevator. Verses are ripped from the context and woven together forming quivering concoctions and abstract assertions about a parenthetical period, a parenthetical plan and a parenthetical people. This leads to a circling of the wagons and the creation of gospel ghettos where the church cowers in a corner rather than confront the current cultural climate. We steer our ships out of the stormy sea and into a safe haven awaiting a rapture rescue. We may fight, argue and protest but we have given up on dialogue because the world won’t accept our definitions and yet it was us who first changed definitions. The chickens have come home to roost. They are the rubber and we are the glue, everything we say bounces off of them and sticks to us. They learned from the best. We proclaim that “this generation” in Matthew 24 does not refer to the generation to which Jesus spoke and it’s all downhill from there.
Perhaps I have overwhelmed with idioms and used too many metaphors but there is a method to my metaphorical madness. You see the metaphors and the idioms and understand them, hopefully, to some degree at least. But more than the meanings contained in these missive-metaphors is the understanding that they are metaphors and that we are not literally steering a ship with an albatross across our necks. In the same way then, if one considers the context, aspirations of the author, genre, examples and divides rightly, one should see the metaphorical meanings and imagery in an apocalyptic address. Many things are stated plainly and others are imagery or metaphors. The Bible is a literary masterpiece and not an owner’s manual to a 2006 Toyota Corolla. Rather than read the Bible in an impossible, wooden, literal sense, we have to let the Bible interpret the Bible as we see obvious imagery and many metaphors. This is the E in 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. Notice the many metaphors contained in my description of the CAGED method.
Therefore we look again at today’s text and place our preconceived notions and presuppositions on the back burner, letting them simmer but are open to throwing them out with the bathwater. “The burden of the word of the LORD concerning Israel. Thus declares the LORD who stretches out the heavens, lays the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit of man within him…”
From the beginning of this passage the author’s aspiration to his audience is to see the glory of God and his goodness, his power and his ownership of the world. interestingly enough, Jesus told us to pray in this way, by exalting God at the beginning of our prayers. What makes this ironic is that we are supposed to also pray that the Lord’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven. But we don’t apparantly believe that prayer, of which Jesus taught, because we think earth is going down and going down fast. Nevertheless, Zechariah points the reader to the magnificence of the Lord and we should take heed to that.
The most high and magnificent Lord says, “Behold, I am going to make Jerusalem a cup that causes reeling to all the peoples around; and when the siege is against Jerusalem, it will also be against Judah. And it will come about in that day that I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the peoples; all who lift it will be severely injured. And all the nations of the earth will be gathered against it.”
Is Jerusalem a literal cup? Is Jerusalem a literal, heavy stone? Of course not, the metaphor is clearly seen but the metaphorical meaning may be clouded by our presuppositions which should have been put on the back burner. Before we come up with conjecture about the metaphorical meaning, let’s continue in the context and then explore examples.
“‘In that day,’ declares the LORD, ‘I will strike every horse with bewilderment, and his rider with madness. But I will watch over the house of Judah, while I strike every horse of the peoples with blindness.'” While we await Jesus returning on a cloud elevator, should we be looking for all of the horses in the world to go blind? Or should we look for the metaphorical meaning in the apocalyptic address? We need to get back to definitions–“apocalypse” isn’t indicative of the end of the world but an unveiling of things hidden. We see an excellent example in Psalm 18 where David describes his overcoming of Saul and all of his haters.
“For the choir director. A Psalm of David the servant of the LORD, who spoke to the LORD the words of this song in the day that the LORD delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul. And he said, ‘I Love You, O LORD, my strength.The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised, And I am saved from my enemies. The cords of death encompassed me, And the torrents of ungodliness terrified me. The cords of Sheol surrounded me; The snares of death confronted me. In my distress I called upon the LORD, And cried to my God for help; He heard my voice out of His temple, And my cry for help before Him came into His ears. Then the earth shook and quaked; And the foundations of the mountains were trembling And were shaken, because He was angry. Smoke went up out of His nostrils, And fire from His mouth devoured; Coals were kindled by it. He bowed the heavens also, and came down With thick darkness under His feet. And He rode upon a cherub and flew; And He sped upon the wings of the wind. He made darkness His hiding place, His canopy around Him, Darkness of waters, thick clouds of the skies. From the brightness before Him passed His thick clouds, Hailstones and coals of fire. The LORD also thundered in the heavens, And the Most High uttered His voice, Hailstones and coals of fire. And He sent out His arrows, and scattered them, And lightning flashes in abundance, and routed them. Then the channels of water appeared, And the foundations of the world were laid bare At Your rebuke, O LORD, At the blast of the breath of Your nostrils. He sent from on high, He took me; He drew me out of many waters. He delivered me from my strong enemy, And from those who hated me, for they were too mighty for me.'”
Yet the author of Samuel recalled Saul’s demise, which was also one of David’s deliverences, as follows: “Now the Philistines were fighting against Israel, and the men of Israel fled from before the Philistines and fell slain on Mount Gilboa. And the Philistines overtook Saul and his sons; and the Philistines killed Jonathan and Abinadab and Malchi-shua the sons of Saul. And the battle went heavily against Saul, and the archers hit him; and he was badly wounded by the archers. Then Saul said to his armor bearer, ‘Draw your sword and pierce me through with it, lest these uncircumcised come and pierce me through and make sport of me.’ But his armor bearer would not, for he was greatly afraid. So Saul took his sword and fell on it.” This is the difference between the literal, worldly account and the apocalyptic address which gives us a behind the scenes look, with immense imagery and metaphorical meanings. This is an example of how we are to understand the imagery in the apocalyptic address.
God went before David and his anger against Saul is described by imagery and metaphorical expressions of said imagery. Words can paint a picture. We see hailstones and lightning flashes in the apocalyptic address but not in Samuel yet we do see them in the psalm written by David. In the same way, when we read Zechariah, we don’t have to look to the future for bewilderment of blind horses but understand the imagery that these blind horses represent. First by the continuing context and then by exposing other examples. Then we can understand the author’s aspirations to his audience by cross reference and New Testament fulfillment and explanations. We remember that chapter and verse breaks were added much later and only for ease of reference and not to be ripped out of their context. The bewilderment is found in the person of Christ and him crucified, as Paul would say, “to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness.”
Let’s look again at the bulk of this prophecy which is so easily ripped out of context that we don’t pay attention to the context or the concepts of its continuing conclusion. Also remember that “day” in the apocalyptic address rarely means “day.” Unlike our current cultural climate of changing meanings God is very consistent with his metaphorical meanings in an apocalyptic address. This is why we must consider the context, examples and let the Bible interpret the Bible.
God, YHWH, the pre-incarnate Christ, the creator and sustainer of the world and the universe says, “in that day..
- I am going to make Jerusalem a cup that causes reeling
- I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone
- I will strike every horse with bewilderment
- I will make Jerusalem like a firepot
- I will save the tents of Judah first
- I will set about to destroy the nations that come against Judah
- I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication
So that, they will look on me whom they have pierced and they will mourn him as one mourns for an only son…”
So “so” is the watchword. It pains me to write that because we so overuse the word “so.” Nevertheless the use of “so” in this context is extremely important and it is properly coupled to the word “that.” Therefore we know the “why” of the metaphorical meanings and imagery given in this apocalyptic address. It is so that they will look on Jesus, whom they pierced. We are given the cause and effect and therefore the ability to rip these verses out of context is gone with the wind, blown away like dust in a windstorm because of the “so that;” it ties the context together. It shows us the thread which is woven throughout the passage, that God does these things in order that the people will look upon him, who they have pierce. We saw this sublime string at the beginning of this missive. Now let’s look at the New Testament fulfillment, or the early stages of the New Testament fulfillment, remembering that “day” means a period of time in the apocalyptic address.
“And when the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place…Now there were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men, from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were bewildered, because they were each one hearing them speak in his own language…But Peter, taking his stand with the eleven, raised his voice and declared to them: ‘Men of Judea, and all you who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give heed to my words. For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only the third hour of the day; but this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel: “AND IT SHALL BE IN THE LAST DAYS,” God says, “THAT I WILL POUR FORTH OF MY SPIRIT UPON ALL MANKIND…” Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which [bewilderment] God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know— this Man, delivered up by the predetermined plan [NOT PARENTHETICAL] and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death…'”
Simply for time’s sake we will stop there but I encourage everyone to read Acts Chapter 2 to see the fulfillment of a multitude of prophecies, many of which Peter points out but we will zoom in on one, in particular. Peter continues his sermon by saying, “For it was not David who ascended into heaven, but he himself says: ‘THE LORD SAID TO MY LORD, “SIT AT MY RIGHT HAND, UNTIL I MAKE YOUR ENEMIES A FOOTSTOOL FOR YOUR FEET.”‘ Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified.”
Luke continues to tell the details; “Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brethren, what shall we do?’ And Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
What’s my favorite catchphrase? Is it, “consider the context?” Perhaps one may think that it is, “unless you are learning for yourself, you only know what you have been taught.” What about, “here, we mine for gold” or, “let the Bible interpret the Bible?” Some may say, “see the sublime string.” How would you determine what my favorite catchphrase is? Probably it would be the one that I write the most. Many people who have read more than one of my missives would probably think that my favorite catchphrase is some variant of “context is king,” and these people would be correct. While aspirations of author, genre, examples and dividing rightly are extremely important, the context is the most important thing to consider. But does God have a favorite catchphrase? If he did, could we ascertain what it was in a similar fashion as we ascertained mine? The phrase most oft quoted in Scripture is some variation of the following: “THE LORD SAID TO MY LORD, ‘SIT AT MY RIGHT HAND, UNTIL I MAKE YOUR ENEMIES A FOOTSTOOL FOR YOUR FEET.'”
Yet this is the most often ignored phrase of the evangelical church. We’re taught that God the father has Jesus sit at his right hand until his enemies grow so numerous that Jesus has to go rescue the faithful few which are left 40 years after Israel becomes a nation again. I’m sorry, strike that from the record; 70 years after Israel becomes a nation again. Wait, sorry– 40 years after Jerusalem was annexed. I’m sorry, again– 70 years after Jerusalem was annexed. Sorry for the sarcasm but this is what the prophecy pundits do– ignore God’s most repeated words and change the definition of “this generation.” What ever happened to; “When a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not come about or come true, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.”
But the Lord has spoken these words over and over again; “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool under your feet.” Paul explained and expounded on this. “For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be abolished is death. For HE HAS PUT ALL THINGS IN SUBJECTION UNDER HIS FEET. But when He says, ‘All things are put in subjection,’ it is evident that He is excepted who put all things in subjection to Him. And when all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, that God may be all in all.”
If the last of “all things” is death, how then can the perishable put on the imperishable before “all things are put in subjection?” How can death die while other things, including death, still live? How can the church enter into heaven when Israel remains on earth? A rapture rescue seems to be out of the question. It comes down to this; we cannot bear the burden of a dogmatic-dispensationalist rapture-rescue because time has run out, time and time again. 40 years have passed since the rebirth of the nation of Israel, as have 70 years. It’s time for dogmatic dispensationalism to die so that when Jesus doesn’t return tomorrow but continues to reign in heaven over his creation, of which he redeemed by his own blood, people won’t be left disappointed by this glorious fact– Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords who will return when he has put all things under his feet. Earth is his footstool, after all. We’re not here to be rescued but to be salt and light. Not flavor but a preservative. Salt preserves it doesn’t get raptured. Consider the continuing context.
“And I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him, like the bitter weeping over a first-born. In that day there will be great mourning in Jerusalem, like the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the plain of Megiddo. And the land will mourn, every family by itself; the family of the house of David by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Nathan by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Levi by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of the Shimeites by itself, and their wives by themselves; all the families that remain, every family by itself, and their wives by themselves.
This is a also curse and not only a hopeful future. Some of Jerusalem and Judah accepted Jesus as the Messiah and became our “church fathers.” We saw the beginning of this in Acts chapter 2 but we also saw it begin in the life of Christ, some several months ago in Matthew. For time’s sake we can’t explore every example of angle here, but I encourage everyone to read the Bible for all its worth, letting the Bible interpret the Bible. Others were apostate Israel and disbelieving nations and they, especially Judah and Jerusalem, suffered a curse as Jerusalem was ravage and destroyed and the temple toppled in their generation, exactly as Jesus promised them in Matthew 24. Keep your presuppositions and taught traditions on the back burner and turn off the heat while you explore the literary masterpiece that is the Bible. Forget about chapter and verse breaks–use a bookmark to pick up where you left off. Ingest it in big, meaty, juicy chunks of context and pass on your daily crumb. I promise, it will make much more sense if you do.