No Weapon Formed Against Me Shall Prosper?

I heard a preacher saying that the other day on television. I’ve even said it a time or two myself! In preaching or teaching, exhorting and encouraging the saints, the preacher or teacher boldly declares to his or her listeners: “The Bible says: ‘No weapon formed against you shall prosper and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment, you shall condemn!” Well, the Bible does say that! But the question we should ask is: Who is the “you” to whom the text is referring? Is the “you” the people to whom the preacher or teacher is addressing?

Well, if you have read anything I’ve written before on similar topics, you know I advocate three basic rules in biblical reading and interpretation. Those rules are: 1) context, 2) context, and 3) context! Who was the original author writing to and what was the circumstance or setting of the writing? In this case, the verse in question is Isaiah 54:17. The verse is part of an oracle or poem about Israel’s future restoration. At the time the author wrote, Israel was in the Babylonian Captivity and the verse was written as part of a prophetic utterance to encourage and assure Israel that God had not forgotten about them. God makes a covenant with them (verses 9-10) that just as He promised during the days of Noah, that He would never again completely destroy the earth with a flood, He would never be utterly angry with them, His steadfast love would never depart from them and His covenant of peace would never be removed.

The whole chapter should be read to get an idea of the message, but for our purposes, we should note particularly that the Lord was talking to Israel in “covenant language” and He was speaking to them about their future. Some commentators suggest God was referring to the Millennial Age (the thousand-year reign of Christ on the earth). But whatever the case, my point is that in the original context, this message was addressed to Israel as God’s covenant-people and at the time it was written, it was not a present reality, but rather a future promise.

I pointed that out because I think we have made a fundamental hermeneutical mistake by hi-jacking this verse and making it into a present-day assurance and promise for Christian believers! (Hermeneutics is the science of biblical interpretation) Is there a biblical text found elsewhere in the Bible that support the claims of our current application of this verse? It is usually dangerous and unwise to base theology, faith, and/or practice on just one verse or passage! But, the reality of life is this: Many of the weapons formed against us do indeed prosper! But, the Bible DOESN’T promise us victory in every situation! God never promised us we would not suffer losses in this life-time! Jesus said: “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 KJV) The Apostle Paul wrote to his young protégé Timothy: “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” (2 Timothy 3:12 KJV) The modern-day preaching and teaching that advocates believers will experience victory (with enough faith) in every situation is not biblical, neither is it realistic! It is giving people a (false) hope that the Bible does not give! Now, what the Bible does promise us (Christian believers), is not that we won’t suffer some defeat, but that we will not be utterly defeated! Our problem is that we want to tally up the score now, but it’s too early for that; the game is not over! God didn’t promise we would win every quarter or every period, but He did promise we would eventually win the game!

In conclusion, we should always be careful in making blanket applications of what the Bible says. The Bible is full of promises, but not every promise is to us (Christians), some of the promises are specifically to Israel as His covenant people. Some of the promises were made to specific people for a specific time. I believe the text in question was specifically to Israel to be fulfilled in a future time period.

No weapon formed against you shall prosper. NO! God DID NOT promise that to US, but He did say to us, through the Apostle Paul: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. . . . . . What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, ‘For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.’ Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:28-29, 31-39 KJV)

The Anointing That Destroys The Yoke?

yoked oxen colorI can remember as a child, I used to always hear people say:  “The Bible says. . .” They would complete the statement with a quote or a paraphrase that supposedly came from the Bible. Now, although many of the things I heard sounded like good, wise and sound biblical advice, I discovered later on that many of those things were not actually found in the Bible! In fact, not only were they not in the Bible, many of them were not even implied by the Bible and some were even opposite of what the Bible actually said! For example, I heard people say: “The Bible says: ‘God helps those who help themselves!” Now I understood their point. They were saying that a person has to have some initiative to help themselves and not just depend on God or others to do everything for them. But, I discovered that the Bible doesn’t say that! In fact, the Bible seems to imply that God is especially apt to help those who “cannot” help themselves!

So along that line of thought, I have always heard people say that the Bible says: “It’s the anointing that destroys the yoke!” Well, I looked it up and guess what? The Bible does say something similar to that! It’s found in Isaiah 10:27 and it says: “And it shall come to pass in that day, that his burden shall be taken away from off thy shoulder, and his yoke from off thy neck, and the yoke shall be destroyed because of the anointing.” (KJV) Whew! I was glad to know that some of what I’ve been hearing people say was in the Bible was actually in the Bible!  However, I also discovered that the Bible doesn’t mean it in the way in which most people use it! Let me show you what I’m talking about! Most of the time when I heard and hear this preached or taught, the speaker is making reference to the fact that the anointing of God is able to break any yoke (a yoke being anything that has us in bondage, be it spiritual or physical such as sickness, debt, substance abuse, etc.,) in our lives. Now that sounds good! It sounds like something God would do! But is that actually the meaning and message of the text in Isaiah 10:27? I think not! Let me show you why!

One of the primary rules of proper exegesis (that’s just a fancy word for properly handling and interpreting the text) is that the text cannot be divorced from its context. The context of this text is the Assyrian Captivity. God used Assyria to execute judgment upon the Northern Kingdom of Israel because of sin. However, the Assyrians got the “big-head” and attributed their dominion over Israel, not to an act of the Lord, but to their own strength and power. The words of our text are a promise to the remnant of Israel that eventually the yoke of Assyrian oppression would be destroyed. Note, in the context, that the yoke was really the result of God’s judgment more so than the enemy’s actions.

Now when I looked at this text in some of the English versions other than the KJV/NKJV (King James Version/New King James Version), I discovered that where the KJV/NKJV use the term “anointing,” most of the other English versions use the term “fat” or some derivative of it such as “fatness.”  When I looked at the text in the Hebrew and conducted some lexical research, I also discovered that the word the KJV/NKJV translates as “anointing” is the Hebrew word: “shemen” or “semen.” According the TWOT (Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament) the primary meaning of this Hebrew word is “fat” and “oil.” It is used to covey the idea of prosperity and well-being. The idea in Isaiah 10:27 is that the Assyrian yoke would be broken or destroyed because like oxen that have grown fat, the yoke would be broken and destroyed by Israel’s neck becoming too large to be contained by it! It also interesting to note that, of all the occurrences of this word in the Hebrew text (nearly 200 times!), this is the only occurrence where the KJV/NKJV translates it as “anointing.” All the other times, it is translated as fat, fatness, richness, or fertile.  And even where the idea of anointing is clearly present, shemen or semen is translated as “oil” and is always found combined with the Hebrew word “mashach,” which means to smear or anoint.

So what am I saying? Am I saying that the anointing doesn’t break the yoke in the sense that many people say it does? I don’t know! (I do know that it is not wise to base a doctrine, a practice, or a belief on just one verse! Especially when the translation and/or interpretation of that verse is suspect!) What I am saying is that this particular verse cannot be used in all exegetical and hermeneutical honestly to arrive at and support the conclusion that the anointing, as many people refer to it, breaks the yoke. I don’t know about the anointing destroying the yoke, but I do know that the Anointed One (Christ) does! And because he does; I am not so much worried about “having the anointing that destroys the yoke” as I am about having the yoke of the Anointed One! The focus should be on responding appropriately to his call in which he invites us: “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 KJV)