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?]