Interpreting the Hebrew Scriptures

I have begun to record a few introductory videos on ‘eschatology’ and once I get the material written that expands on the videos will begin to publish them. For many reasons I have to start with the New Testament and then seek to read back; starting with the older testament of course is where many of those who see ‘signs of the end-times’ begin. (And of course I think they have in one hand the current news-stories and try to make Scriptures fit to current events. That has long been the way with those who seem to think prophecy is simply history written ahead of time.)

I have noted a couple of things this time round as I have been making the introductions. First, that there does not seem to be within Scripture the thought that what is prophesied must have a literal outworking, there is no straight line interpretation. The extreme of this is when there are clear prophecies that are not fulfilled. So I think if we are trying to make a clear line connection we are forcing something the Scriptures avoid.

It also seems to me that given that prophecy is in the realm of promise that releases faith, rather than prediction that indicates fatalism, many of the OT prophecies are contextual, they speak of an incredible hope, thus encouraging a major faith leap, but that the ultimate promise will far exceed what has been prophesied.

The incredible passage in Isaiah 19, of which I quote a few verses below, surely indicates this:

On that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrian will come into Egypt and the Egyptian into Assyria, and the Egyptians will serve with the Assyrians.
On that day Israel will be the third party with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth, whom the Lord of hosts has blessed, saying, “Blessed be Egypt my people and Assyria the work of my hands and Israel my heritage.”

The ‘fertile crescent’ with Assyria to the north and Egypt to the south and little old Israel sandwiched in between the two big powers is the background (oh and maybe I should add the two non-worshipping of God two powers, who were constantly a threat to Israel). Now the promise is crazy… Those two powers turning, so much so that we are left with – so who then is Israel, in the sense of God’s covenant people, for Egypt is ‘my people’ and Assyria ‘the work of God’s hands’! This was a prophecy of transformation beyond belief for the hearers (and another aspect I am drawing out is that the prophets spoke to the people of their day, they are not speaking to us, though the words remain for us).

A fulfilment. It is coming… But what is coming?

Is it the fulfilment in the sense of a straight line? Or the day is coming when the kingdoms of this world become the kingdom of our Lord and Christ – the fulfilment beyond beyond the literal prophecy. That is where I land.

Why do I land there? Because so many of the Old Testament books as they wrestle with judgement and hope they are looking for a conclusion beyond themselves. And when Jesus appears everything changes. For those who read my understanding of Galatians it is literally ‘everything we thought we knew will now get us in trouble if we stay at that level’. The law defined transgression, but after the coming of Christ to try and establish law would be to take the quick path to be a transgressor. Little wonder Paul is blind for three days. Three days as he has to make a major conversion, a major turn around that the death (as Jesus cursed?) and to the resurrection (but God has vindicated this Jesus).

I am not anticipating that everyone will agree with my interpretations, but for sure Jesus has messed everything up that was so clear. He did that so that whatever was promised to Israel could be embraced by one and all. The inclusion of Israel was so that Assyria and Egypt could be drawn in on equal terms to Israel. Inclusion not to exclude, but to include without boundaries. And that is good news for Israel for they can have a place too! ‘My people’, ‘the work of my hands’, and even Israel can have a place -‘my heritage’.