Explorations in Theology

The series explores a theology that is human friendly! Jesus as the true human shows us who God is, and because of his consideration for us ('who are we, that God should make note of us?') defines who humanity was created to be. The nature of sin is to fall short of the glory of God. The glory of God as revealed in the truly human one - 'we beheld his glory full of grace and truth'. This volume is a foundation for the other volumes. And there are ZOOM groups available...
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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!


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?]

3 thoughts on “Never came to pass

  1. I would have thought there was room for human choice, on occasion. My understanding of prophecy isn’t based just on it being “foretelling” but more “forthtelling.” Perhaps there is a place for “This is what God is calling you to” or “This is what God is warning you against,” which could mean it is conditional? And how much of that is the responsibility of the person receiving the word and not just the one giving it? Weighing the word could include an assessment of one’s current trajectory (on an individual or group basis) rather than a passive, fatalistic acceptance where one has no choice in affecting the outcome. I can think of a modern day example where someone prophesied something for a person who committed suicide a week later, rather than “fulfilling” what was said. It caused uproar and a split in the church concerned, with those who were very much of the opinion that the person who gave the word was therefore a “false prophet.” That still leaves some things unanswered, but there always will be some things unanswered.

    1. Sheila – with you big time on that. Nothing set in stone… things change, outcomes are different, God changes… I leave it there, but my ‘the future is open and not fixed’ comes to light in my comment.

  2. I think personal bias must play a considerable part in explaining incorrect prophecies though why some would be so specific as the examples you gave and yet so wrong seems very odd indeed and hard to explain as you investigate in this post. It seems very interesting to me that the writers and compilers of the bible did not try to change the text when prophecies did not come true. This somehow validates its authenticity in my opinion (I don’t mean that everything is literal). I do love the way that it is all laid out to read with its discrepancies and contradictions though and yet it still has so much life giving instruction and power. Everyday there is some new discovery for me in the text (in both new and old testaments) that demonstrates a new facet of God’s nature and some amazing nuggets of wisdom and the general trajectory of salvation through Christ.

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