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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

YHWH and Prophecy

Prophecy is one of those topics that has the ability to excite both Fundamentalists and Atheists. It is the Fundamentalist Christian's favorite "proof" that the Bible is "God's Word" (and most of them love to speculate about how close we are to "the end"). Atheists look at the same evidence as proof that the Bible is a bunch of nonsense! What does the Bible reveal about YHWH's attitude toward prophecy?

First, Scripture makes clear that God (YHWH) was not the only source of prophecy. The book of Deuteronomy even warned the Israelites that not all false prophecies would fail to happen and urged them to look at who the prophet was advocating for - which god? (Deuteronomy 13:1-4) In fact, Isaiah wrote that the Israelites preferred these false prophets. (Isaiah 30:10) The book of Jeremiah indicates that there were many of these false prophets among the people - claiming to prophesy in the name of YHWH. (Jeremiah 5:31, 14:14-15, 23:16, 23:25-26, 23:32, 27:14-16 and 29:9) Apparently, God even instructed Ezekiel to prophesy against the prophets of Israel! (Ezekiel 13:2, 17)

Scripture also makes clear that YHWH's prophecies were conditional in nature. God promised great blessings to Abraham if he would leave his homeland and travel to a place designated by God. (Genesis 12) God told Abraham that "He" intended to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, but that "He" would spare them if "His" angels found ten righteous people living there. (Genesis 18) Moses promised the people blessings for their obedience and curses for their disobedience. (Deuteronomy 28) Jonah's prophecies against Nineveh were rescinded when the people of that city repented. (Jonah 3:10) Paul wrote to the Christians at Corinth that love trumped prophecy - that unlike love, prophecies could fail. (I Corinthians 13:8) In fact, he went on to indicate that prophecy was an imperfect art that would someday be eliminated altogether. (I Corinthians 13:9-12)

It is also made clear in Scripture that YHWH enjoyed a wide latitude in interpreting prophecies, and how "He" chose to fulfill them. For instance, God's promise to David that his dynasty would occupy the throne of Israel forever (II Samuel 7:8-16) was clearly not fulfilled by an unbroken chain of sons who occupied his throne.(II Kings 25:1-7) Instead, the Judeo-Christian Bible makes Jesus Christ the fulfillment of that promise to David.(Isaiah 9:6-7, Amos 9:11 and Luke 1:30-33)

Hence, as all three of these principles regarding the Divine perspective on prophecy enjoy broad Biblical support, it would appear to me that the emphasis placed on the subject by both Fundamentalists and Atheists is misplaced. Clearly, the YHWH of the Judeo-Christian Bible did not attach the same degree of importance to prophecy that some of "His" followers and detractors have attributed to it. In other words, both sides may want to rethink their appeals to this "evidence" regarding God!

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