Sight will clarify

There is a pattern in the earlier chapters of the book of Revelation that is about ‘hearing’ being clarified by ‘sight’. The latter chapters are sight, sight, sight… and not a few strange sights at that: apocalyptic literature in its fullness!

Here are some examples in the early chapters:

  • 1:10 I heard voice like a trumpet…
    1:12 I turned to see (saw lampstands) then came clear one standing in the midst of the lampstands
  • 4:1 heard a voice…
    4:1 come up here and I will show you… then description of sight 5:1 saw, 5:5 saw, 5:11 Looked, 6:1 saw
  • 6:1 heard leads to 6:2 looked, followed by that pattern being repeated
  • 7:4 I heard… leads to 7:9 After this I looked

And in the midst of the Rev. 5 passage, John hears a well known Scriptural image – the Lion of the Tribe of Judah… he turns and he sees a Lamb slain.

The last example is very key. Scriptural imagery that we can recite, but greatly re-interpreted. Without that re-interpretation it is not possible to ‘see’ the book of Revelation, those chapters and that sight re-shaping what was understood being so central.

At a wider level, we hear so much, we can repeat so much that we have heard, we rely on what we have heard / been taught. The hearing interprets what we see. But Revelation has a significant pattern of what we see interpreting what we have heard. This can be at a transcendent level. We receive revelation that challenges the past; or at an imminent level and what we see does not fit what we have heard.

Sight might come in an instant, or it might come in stages (John – lampstands –> one walking in the midst of the lampstands)… or it might come as we persist and refuse to let go of the dissonance between what we have heard and what we see.

Fresh sight is to break. That was one of the emphases that John Robinson had about our understanding of Scriture. (Robinson was the ‘pastor’ to the pilgrims who travelled to the Americas).

I am verily persuaded the Lord hath more truth yet to break forth out of His Holy Word.

I wrote to someone this morning after he sent me an article on Artificial Intelligence. OH my are we challenged, and what will the future hold, and what about my book Humanising the Divine?! We have also had some correspondence regarding those who are holding to the same line as the Reformers on virtually every approach (cross, predestination, election, hell etc.). They might be right (did I write that? Surely not!) but an insistence on that momentous era of the Reformation being the, more or less, end of our understanding is troublesome. We are so clearly at the end of an era… The biggest financial crisis is on us, food crises, fossil fuels, climate etc. Could we simply be at an end, or could we be at the beginning?

I don’t know how we respond to the AI direction. All accept a chip and become super-human? Resist it and find that we repeat the errors of how progress has been resisted in the past? Yes there is Babylon / Babel in there, but wonderfully we know that Babylon is never a finished work.

In it all, I have no idea how we respond… but surely there are aspects in this new time that we as believers can press into. Jesus at the centre, but maybe what he is bringing will have a surprise or three. I am thankful (yes, even for so much of the Reformation, and for the early church writers) for the past… but there is a new era here.

Never came to pass

Now that is embarrassing

Getting it wrong can happen for some of the reasons I have flagged up for example, projectionism (if I were God I would say…), this is what I want to happen, prophesying from one own’s bias etc. In this post I am going to look at a final area one that I have no category for!

I owe these examples to John Goldingay in his Old Testament Theology.

Jeremiah says that Jehoiakim would die without honour, with his body dragged around and thrown outside the city gates, and then no descendent would sit on his throne (Jer. 22:18-19; 36:30). BUT… he received a propher burial and his son succeeded him (2 Kings 24:6).

I do like Jeremiah – I read a few days ago when he said ‘Ok I know you do all things well, but if I could just talk to you I do have a complaint about what you do and how you do it (my paraphrase). And Jeremiah prophesied to Zedekiah that he would not die by the sword but peacefully with people mourning for him (Jer. 34:4-5). Continue reading and Zedekiah is captured, has his eyes pulled out and then dies in prison. A fulfilment?

In Ezekiel chapters 26-28 we have the prophecy that Nebuchadnezzar (Babylon) will defeat Tyre, kill its inhabitants, plunder the wealth and bring the walls down flat. Indeed the text suggests that Tyre will disappear and never be found again. In due course Nebuchadnezzar did come against the city, but the effect was nothing like was prophesied (a few hundred years later one might be able to suggest that Alexander the Great came close to fulfilling that). What is also interesting is that it seems that there is a further word to Nebuchadnezzar along the lines of – well that did not work out but you will attack Egypt (Ezek. 29:17-20)… that one did not work out either!

OUCH!!!

I have no idea what category to put those in, and these are not some prophecies on some super powerful internet web site, but inside the covers of our Bible. Maybe there was some repentance that went on that changed things? Maybe there is far more human interaction that affects the outcome than a simple ‘God said’ factor?

Mistakes are to be avoided. Mistakes that flow from our spiritual defects are likely, or very likely if we do not approach things humbly with the only focus of expressing God’s care and love. And when all is said and done and we enter the realm of the Jeremiah’s and Ezekiel’s of the prophetic world we will have to be able to live with ‘can’t explain that… and yes it is embarrassing!’ One thing is for sure we can never close the door to being criticised.

[Footnote. A view that has become widespread (and popular in charismatic circles) that sems to originate from the work of Wayne Grudem is that the Old Testament prophets spoke the ‘very words of God’, the NT prophets did not, but the apostles did indeed speak such words does not seem to be sustainable in the light of the above non-fulfilments. I actually consider that the belief is probably more motivated to uphold a view of Scripture that is tied to a belief in inerrancy. I remember in my days from long ago sitting listening to lectures on the NT by Dr. Donald Guthrie where he sought to prove at lengths that each of the NT books were ‘apostolic’, written by, or for, or at least under the clear and direct influence of one of those original apostles. I have never understood why we try to put on the Bible what it does not seem to claim for itself. What a book we have… and I think if we let it be what it is we will be pointed to Jesus while responding to the internal invite to disagree with some of what we read. Come on, reader, do you agree with all you read there? Really?]

Not fulfilled – not contending

Prophecy… prohesy in part… prophecy not inevitable… prophecy not future-telling… prophecy inhabits the world of promise.

Promises. That is the world of the bible, and of course being that I lean heavily into the ‘future is not fixed’ promise is just a wonderful category. What mght be? Oh careful you might get into the realm of imagination… yes and then I might just connect with the God who answers above what we think or imagine.

And…

Then contend for fulfilment.

Elisha was suffering from a sickness. Later he would die from it. Jehoash, the king of Israel, went down to see him. He sobbed over him. “My father!” he cried. “You are like a father to me! You are the true chariots and horsemen of Israel!”
Elisha said to Jehoash, “Get a bow and some arrows.” So he did.
“Hold the bow in your hands,” Elisha said to the king of Israel. So Jehoash took hold of the bow. Then Elisha put his hands on the king’s hands.
“Open the east window,” Elisha said. So he did. “Shoot!” Elisha said. So he shot.
“That’s the Lord’s arrow!” Elisha announced. “It means you will win the battle over Aram! You will completely destroy the men of Aram at Aphek.” (2 Kings 13:14-19).

Good word Elisha! Now Jehoash pick up the arrows and strike the ground. ‘Not enough, I will have to change the word I gave you… no longer completely’, but

But now you will win only three battles over them.

Repentance can change the outcome (Jonah); lack of persistence can change the outcome; expectations / fantasy can change the outcome / making ‘part’ the whole can change the outcome; adding the next word to the others we have received in some sort of collection can change the outcome.

I have benefitted from prophecy, am thankful for responses to prophetic words I have given… but am so aware that for many reasons we might not fully benefit from what has been said.

Not fulfilled – repentance

Jonah, you old false prophet you, where is the destruction you prophesied? Although I don’t think there is any reason to think Jonah was literal (and I am not sure if Jesus thought he was literal… OK just a rattling of the cages in those totally aside, probably irrelevant comments), there is so much to learn.

Jonah did have some internal issues. And those were not dealt with after getting on with the job. He came to the city of Nineveh that never took three days to walk across(!) but probably did symbolically. Three days of being in the place of death, covered in whale vomit, is the only way to walk across any city. And certainly there is no way a city can be walked across and words of judgement be brought without carrying the vomit of one’s own failures with us.

When we do that we think we do well… until it does not turn out right. Yes, we all deserve judgement, but I have repented… so still show up and expose this city as evil. God doesn’t do it and then plays a game with Jonah. Up grows this shade, this protection only for it to go again. The shade of our repentance hiding the bigger issue of not understanding the mercy of heaven. God’s mercy is extended… even because in the city are many cattle! God’s respect for and love for creation, his sight of cattle is bigger and more merciful than all of us who have been so repentant and humble. That is just a cover for when the shade goes it is exposed. ‘I have gone through this and that…’ get’s exposed with and ‘I still don’t understand the love and mercy of God’.

Prophecy is not automatic. I love when we get warnings. Gayle hates it. She is the ‘glass is half full’ and never wants anything that changes that opinion. I need her cos I am ‘look the glass is half-empty’. In my glass half-empty scenario the real issue is to find how we can fill it right up or at least as close to the top as possible. For me warnings help! When we hear this is before you, set out for your destruction, I think OK now what are we to do as none of that is ‘predestined’.

Thank God for unfulfilled prophecies. For what can be turned.

So to the negative people, those who see demons here there and everywhere (OK simply writing to me in this paragraph)… you see some of that cos of internal issues. Getting swallowed by the whale was not enough. You do stink with the vomit, but there are deeper issues. Issues about understanding how God sees cattle!

But God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the bush?” And he said, “Yes, angry enough to die.” Then the Lord said, “You are concerned about the bush, for which you did not labor and which you did not grow; it came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also many animals (cattle)?

I know what that means

Expectation is not enough

I have used the Peter example before… ‘You are the Christ’ meets expectation that the Messiah kicks out the enemies (Roman occupation in that era), so he is bold enough to stand on the word in order to keep Jesus in line – ‘not so Lord’.

It is nigh impossible to silence expectation. Our memories are so alive and important, and it is for this reason God says ‘forget the former things’, the irony being that s/he had just spent a number of ‘verses’ reminding them of the former things!

In that passage in Isaiah the former situation and the current one was similar: captivity by Egypt / captivity by Babylon, but the deliverance would be so different. I spent many years looking for a repeat of ‘the Welsh revival’ or the ‘Great Awakening’. Not now. And I see God at work everywhere. And is Jesus there present? Well we got to go and find out, and if we go then guess what? Jesus will certainly be there!

Peter discovered that something was happening at Cornelius’ house. But is it Jesus? Go find out, go humbly, cos you will be converted, and when you get there you’ll discover that the lines you drew, the in / out lines were not simply inadequate but wrong… and you are there Peter to bring Jesus into the centre of the party.

Could we in a move of God that is so inclusive that our tiny minds could be blown? I think that really is possible. But we got to find out, and we can’t find out if we stay put and continue to prophesy the ‘greatest move of God ever’, ‘the month of the holy breakthrough’.

National / continental timelines are unique. I wrote a short review of the ‘Slow death of Europe’. Maybe should be expanded to ‘of the West’. For sure. Death of what was, and dare I say even some of the good things that seemed to be part of our heritage. I am not looking for a repeat of ‘Wales’ or… I am looking to be re-educated, and am still probably a little resistant to being converted, and just hope that it might be a process.

Let’s be careful about bringing our expectation into what we prophesy, and let’s be slow to put expectations on what we hear. And maybe get our shoes ready for that journey to Cornelius.

I will prophesy what I want to happen

Well wishing?

I need this to happen in my life, and lo and behold along comes someone who confirms it with a word. That really can and does happen, but when we are not yielded and we connect with someone who prophesies from their own desires we can end up with a toxic situation. Ezekiel covers this when he talks about prophets being enticed to prophesy what we want to hear. God allows it, but then says he will truly give such people (and with a focus on the prophet) a clip round the ear (or as my mother would put it – a cloot aboot the lug).

When Sue was ill with cancer, Sharon Stone came to me and said – now be aware that you will likely receive many words… but mature prophets know that this is a time when little is said but that prayer is the place. Thankfully I did not receive many words, most words that we received are still alive today; one word was ‘Martin in your book (can’t remember which title) there is an error… This is the reason Sue is ill, re-read it prayerfully and then repent, call me and Sue will be healed!’ To say hilarious is an understatement. One error?!!!!! Give me a break. That word had no traction, maybe if they had said ‘320 errors’ I might have had to take notice.

When faced with situations that we want to change we cannot prophesy what we want to happen. The common ones are: marriages, partners, babies being born, health etc. All of these can be prophesied into but not from this is what I want to happen, so I will speak that out.

Only a part

We prophesy in part

How clever we are! If that is our starting point we have a lot to learn, and that path has to lead to ‘we are not so smart’. All prophecy is in part, the whole picture is never revealed. One can have increible revelation – look at Elisha and how he knew where the opposing army would be, so much so that the king was frustrated and was told that ‘Elisha knows what is going on behind closed doors’. Yet when the woman whose son had died came to him in great distress, he told his servant to go with her as he did not have a clue what had happened! I respect that enormously, the honesty (I know nothing) and the revelation (I know what is going on in secret) are probably related.

On the receiving end of things, no word will reveal all. I value, Paul valued, and above all God values prophecy, but we must never anticipate that ‘if only we receive a word from God through prophecy’ all will be clear. By all means pray that God will speak and show the way, but s/he might show that path could be in a variety of ways; prophecy might be one such way that helps.

We weigh prophecy. Yes – of God / missed the mark is one aspect; but also weighing it. What ‘part’ does that word play; how does it fit with what else I have received. Like a recipe – 200gms of this and 300gms of that plus… We weigh the ingredients; we weight all prophecy as part of the bigger recipe.

A second aspect of ‘only a part’ is that once we prophesy into a situation it is normal that we can only speak to a part. It is not the whole story (and I am particularly thinking of words that might be for a whole situation, nation, or season). The part we have not been able to get words for should provoke us to prayer. Gayle and I have some words (not directly for us) that we read to dig into, they give insight into the situation(s) but what is not said there, what is ‘between the lines’ is left there for us to wrestle with. The prophetic might throw light on those parts but those aspects are not actually in black and white in the text. There is so much more… Prophecy can open the door to a measure of understanding but prayer and yielding to God is going to bring something deeper. It is not knowledge alone that brings change, nor revelation alone, but co-operation with God (and I could add it is not God alone who brings changes).

God speaks when s/he is also silent. The sheer sound of silence – Elijah’s experience.

I am glad prophecy is God speaking. I am glad that God speaking is more than prophecy.

Not what I want to say

We all know so much, all based on what we are doing is the right thing to do, we after all are the ones who hear God and are in the centre of the will of heaven. That’s a great starting point – NOT.

It’s all very well to say ‘If I were you I would not be doing that’, or ‘no way would I feel free to do that’. If I take the illustration I used yesterday of the incumbent in the Vatican (BTW I have not had personal permission to use this as an illustration, but I don’t think he would mind) I certainly have my reservations about the position and the organisation. Do I believe Jesus intended us to have a pope when he said ‘and on this rock I will build my church’? No, I do not. Do I think Jesus intended (the perfect will of God) that Martin should do what he is doing? Of course, cos I am right, that much is obvious… or not!

Let’s start with we are all doing approximately what God intends, some approximations are closer to what God would do if s/he were us than others (and he became one of us)… but all are approximations. God speaks to US. Not to an ideal us (far too Platonic for an Incarnational, kenotic God). Hence prophecy is and always will be ‘in part’. God speaks to Martin with all his weaknesses, ideosyncracies and tendency just to do whatever he thinks anyway. So prophecy will not give me ‘the word of the Lord’ but will give me ‘the Lord’s voice to me’.

I find prophesying over people who are doing things, involved in situations that I (in all my self-righteous pontificating knowledge) would not touch with a barge pole a challenge. God does not touch things with a barge pole either, but with her/his own hands and heart. Do not, do not, ask for a king… OK you have asked for a king, bring him here and I personally will anoint the king.

The anointing, empowerment of God. So sweet, and gives me hope. The Holy Spirit might be given to those who are obedient, but that obedience is relative; it is obedience as I understand it. Let’s drop the absoluteness of ‘we are right’ and get involved in living for / with Jesus. As I wrote yesterday it might be that I don’t walk with Jesus, but given that he walks with me that is probably enough – we walk together.

To grow in the prophetic one has to learn, at times, to speak what one would rather not say. It is seeking to speak what God seeks to say to the person / situation where they are at, regardless of what I think about barge poles. So thankful that is the case. If we can’t get to that stage we will either end up arrogant (not good, there is not too much else in Scripture that ‘God opposes’) or continually questioning if God is with us (what we sow we reap… if we sow barge poles we will reap barge poles).

Generosity, encouraging, PRESENCE. Hence God speaks in part, with an overriding ‘Go for it’.

Prophecy & inaccuracies

Self-discovery and prophecy

Last April I posted on inaccuracies in prophetic words and thought maybe time to revisit that. The original post is at

https://3generations.eu/posts/2021/04/inaccurate/

Before getting into some of the principles that I consider are important there is another area I am wrestling with. Gayle works inside the Authentic Lives framework and the wonderful transformation that takes place is amazing. It is essentially holding space so that there can be self-discovery (as far as I understand it). The prophetic is within it, but the foundation is self-discovery. I am, to be honest, not sure how prophetic and that holds together. The weakness of prophecy as we have seen it develop within the charismatic world is a culture of ‘I am waiting for (another) prophetic word’, and we can create a dependency culture, something I increasingly see with prophetic conferences. If it does not lead to self-discovery (which is really the ‘word of God entering’) it will prove to be ineffective. That probably is the crux of the matter, and perhaps there is no inherent clash between the prophetic and (for example) what takes place in the Authentic Lives environment. The only clash is when self-discovery is not present.

So to a couple of foundations. I usually say to people that anyone who prophesies has the easy task. They are not to be focused on getting it ‘right’. There is no fundamental requirement on them getting it right as Scripture is clear that all words spoken need to be weighed. If all words are to be weighed it is possible that they might simply be out and out wrong. The requirement is (as always) to love. If love is not present then keep quiet. If the desire is there to correct, just keep quiet.

Second do not prophesy to prove how great one is at with receiving revelation. The person receiving the word is the key, not the person delivering it. What is given needs to facilitate a deeper level of self-discovery, not a deeper level of being impressed with the one speaking – that will often result in less of a self-discovery, as part of self-discovery is about who we are in God and that s/he leads us and speaks to us in unique and personal ways.

[I had a great personal revelation a few days ago. In the context of a few of us together I saw Jesus coming to me and giving me an ordinary looking key. Others received keys also – fancy ones, gold ones, in the shape of a leaf etc… Mine, just a normal non-descript key. Others had a great interaction with Jesus. He gave me that key, shrugged his shoulders as if to say – no point saying anything to you, no point giving you any instruction as you will only go off and do what you want to do anyway. Just pondering whether it means I don’t really walk with Jesus, but very glad he walks with me… Anyway all very helpful, with a little bit of self-discovery and quite a lot of discovery about the graciousness of Jesus.]

Getting it wrong…

Although we cannot guarantee that we will get it ‘right’, we should close down avenues that will only increase the possibility of getting it ‘wrong’. One such avenue is asking ‘what would I say to this person if I were God?’ That is quite a question, and would only be effective if we knew God at that level. I think we have such a reliance on knowledge that that sort of question is not going to get us very far. (For the non-Catholics here) consider meeting someone who says ‘I am the head of a large organisation, we have unbelieveable levels of wealth, the organisation covers over certain abuses at times, we have very strong hierarchy within the organisation, and as head I obviously represent Jesus on the earth, we also tend to dress in ways that sets us apart from others… blah blah…’ Now we ask ‘If I were God what would I say…’ I think we would miss it all-together. Our knoweldge of what is right and wrong would simply mean we would get it wrong.

Don’t ask that question!!!

And my illustration about the person who sits in the Vatican will bring me to the second aspect of the prophetic… It is in part! We don’t speak the word of God as in its entirety, and I suggest that God does not speak in entirety – hence laws in the Old Testament that are major compromises. That also is a challenge. Prophecy can limit what we say… ‘my’ revelation (read for revelation, my knowledge) can go further than prophecy, cos I am so full of insight (!!!). That will be the second post.

A New Way

Simon Jones joined the ‘open zoom’ this past Tuesday evening and sent me a reflection that he wrote a little while back entitled ‘A New Way’. I asked him to add something at the beginning to give a context. Evev if you skim that background drop down to read ‘A New Way’. You can follow Simon’s ongoing reflections here:

http://www.simonswritingandwalking.com/


I really appreciated joining the open zoom on Tuesday. Peter really opened up for us thoughts to do with land, a new way ahead, and the old falling away. What struck me as he spoke and as I listened to other people’s reflections was how a new way has been opening up for some time, but that in the light of the last few years ‘shaking’ the new way and new ways we will need in order to find a way forward within society and communities, is being grasped by more people. We don’t know what the next few years will bring, but it seems that we are looking at a bigger change than we might have thought possible 3 or 4 years ago… potentially to the extent where established ways of life on macro or micro scales will be almost impossible to maintain. But even for those of us who may have sought to live a different way of life (perhaps semi counter-culturally from within or from the edges of society) for some years before the more recent ‘shaking’… the actual question of how new ways of life within society, new ways of living with people and as nations, and new ways of ‘expressing’ faith outside of pre-conceived concepts and constructs, remains just that – a question.

In other words, those who may have been living towards, praying for and prophesying a change – a falling of certain elements of unsustainable living and oppressive systems, macro and micro… don’t really know what to do when these things and these changes actually do happen, when certain things/trees do actually come down and when a new way, and many new ways begin to be called for. How do we live them? What are they? And what on earth could the role of little old me be when most people around will be so busy trying to hold up and hold onto the things which are falling away, that they want to keep there.

I know the choices I have made to live and struggle a semi-counter cultural existence with a family – mainly from within society than fully from its edges – and I know some of the things I want to be part of my own life, and some of those things that the land around and the earth in general is calling out for… but, do I really know the way ahead in this rapidly changing season? No, I definitely don’t – and what struck me on the zoom session is that none of us do really. But perhaps to live focussed on love, life, play and creativity in the midst of falling trees and collapsing walls, may be a better response than despair… and may, if we continue, begin to open up new ways that others can follow, or at least hook in with and forge their own new ways from there. So, I wrote this as a grappling with what is happening. I was struck in one of Martin’s posts where he said that Europe, despite its troubled history, may be entrusted with a calling to open up some new ways for the future.

I don’t think it should surprise us if it’s hard to see what the way forward is.

But together – listening to one another’s thoughts and different stories and perspectives, may in fact open further doors. I wonder if programmes like Ben Fogle’s ‘New lives in the Wild’ may be helpful for engaging and thinking outside of the boxes around us not necessarily to cause us to withdraw, but to help us to engage with the question, ‘what could life be like?’ in a way that is different to what we have seen, known and been told by the systems around that it should be like.


A NEW WAY

A new way is opening up,
But how do we find it?

A new way is opening up,
But how do we grasp it?

A new way is opening up,
But who will reveal it?

A new way is opening up,
But will we conceal it?

It is time for the nations to embrace reconciliation.
It is time for the peoples to embrace new creation.

Love opens the door ahead of us.

Love has caused much of the shaking.

Not because love is violent – no, love is gentle.

But the outpouring of gentleness reveals and repeals mankind’s law of violence.

How do we find a gentle way in relation to the land?
To love it, grow out of it and work with it, rather than simply work it or exploit it.

How do we find a gentle way in relation to economics?
To live independent of unjust economic systems – by faith and in trust.

How do we find a gentle way in relation to community?
When most of us fear it – for it has not always been an unconditional embrace of our
uniqueness and vulnerability.

Many want to hold onto the old ways.
But they won’t cut it.

But many of us who want the new ways, the new things, and the new season,
do not know how to walk it, talk it or live it.

But if we walk, talk, live, create, sing, dance, listen, pray and play…
If we do these things… these slower and more gentle things,
anyway… even if we do not yet know what the new way is…
What the new ways are…

Then in our being and resting and waiting and living, and praying and playing and occasional
thinking…

A new way will open up.
Many new ways will open up.
And we will see, and others will see.
And people will know.
And many will think the thoughts of love – the new ways of love
that are being thought by the few…

And perhaps the many will, in time, embrace some, if not all, of the ways and thoughts of the ‘few’.

Gentleness will open a door and a new way will come.
The past will be left behind…

And a glorious, but gentle future will unfold.

We don’t know what the new looks like fully yet, but we will.

Love has come, love will come and love is coming to heal and renew.

Perspectives