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’.

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?]

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.


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

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.

Prophetic algorithms

On my way home today God spoke to me I had this thought… I think there are prophetic algorithms. I was meditating on a zoom I have tomorrow and what I need to say to them, when I began to compare ‘what we hear’ to what we read on social media. Although I am innocent of being engaged on social media (I do post this to facebook but then that is as far as it goes, so apologies all who comment there), I note that if I look something up online I then note that adverts in some way related to my recent search pop up here there and everywhere. Social media and her algorithms. I am interested in / I believe that the politics of the right / left are harmful in the extreme, and lo and behold all the posts, tweets and articles for me to read confirm my perspective. The whole world agrees with me, cos I was always right. Frightening and takes away any real conversation.

I was walking today where I had the ‘cacophony of noise’ attack a few weeks back, and saw that our ears are bombarded by sounds, slogans, sound bites, even some stuff that might be coming from heaven but the result was that we could hear everything and therefore hear nothing. Competing sounds, and then we probably just about manage to pick out a phrase, an angle and that is enough for us. We conclude we have heard accurately.

I consider that much of the prophetic in the West has fallen into that trap. Like a prophetic algorithm. This is now what I am hearing… look everyone is saying the same thing… I listen / read and repeat… others repeat. Conclusion: this is the word of the Lord! I don’t think so.

Ah well just a thought. My head is still probably too high, I might have just picked up a slogan.

But if the thought is kinda OK it is time to disconnect from simply hearing the voices that we agree with, and agree with us.