“You Shall Recover It All?”

prophecy hype

Not long ago I ran across this Facebook post: “I heard the Lord say. . .“YOU SHALL RECOVER IT ALL!’ No matter what it looks like you are VICTORIOUS and nothing can stop the blessings of God on your life! In Jesus name! If you receive that TYPE AMEN!” And of course, after such a “prophetic” post there were countless comments of “Amen!” It seems that everyone is giving and receiving a positive prophetic word from the Lord these days! But what bothers me about all of this is that most of the prophetic utterances being given are taken completely out of context and are applied to people and situations with no regard for their specific context or situation! For instance; the idea of recovering it all comes from 1 Samuel 30:8. While David and his men were away from home, their enemy came, attacked and ransacked the city and carried off their treasures, old men, wives and children into captivity. In the particular verse in question, David inquired of the Lord whether or not they should go and pursue the captors and the Lord said: “Pursue: for thou shalt surely overtake them, and shalt without fail recover all.” (ESV)
Now for our discussion, I want to raise some points from this particular context that are usually conveniently left out of many of the modern “prophetic utterances.” First of all, David and his men suffered this tragedy because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time! The only reason their stuff, wives, women, and children were taken was because they were away from home and had left their homes defenseless! Before a blanket prophetic utterance of “recovering it all” is received, perhaps it would be wise to analyze how and why all was lost! People are so quick to blame the devil for stealing their stuff, but the truth of the matter is that more often than not, the lost can more rightfully be attributed to negligence, lack of wisdom, and in-aptitude! Before focusing on recovering it all, it would be wise to understand why and how all was lost! Sometimes, all was lost because of bad decisions. Sometimes all was lost because of a sinful lifestyle! Before there can be any recovery, these issues must be addressed! God is not wasteful! God will not put water back into a bucket that still has a hole in it!
Secondly, David didn’t just take off in pursuit of the enemy, he inquired of the Lord as to what he should do! In the original context, this was not a blanket prophetic utterance; it was a specific answer to a specific question! David realized he had messed up and he wanted to know from the Lord what course of action, if any, he should take! One thing many people, even some preachers, seem to forget or ignore is the fact that whenever we read the Bible, we are reading someone else’s mail! The text was not addressed to us; it was addressed to the original recipients! Therefore, before we can apply it to us, we must know what it meant to them! Some texts were written to a specific person or people in a specific place for a specific time for a specific situation. Some texts were written to a specific person or people in a specific place at a specific time, but have universal application for all people in all places for all times! For instance, the concept of women covering their heads and veiling their faces in the bible is more of a specific cultural concept than a universal spiritual concept. It was specific for Paul’s time, situation and location!
The third point I want to raise from David’s context is that David understood that he wouldn’t be able to recover it all without a fight! People often talk about having victory, but you can’t be victorious without a fight! It’s not just going to be handed over; there must be struggle and hardship! Note that even before the fight, David had to pursue! If there is to be any recovery, don’t expect it to come back like a lost puppy finding its way back home! No, if there is to be any recovery, there must be some pursuit! And at the end of the pursuit there will be a fight! People, by nature are lazy, but if there is to be a recovery, there must be some effort and sacrifice! David understood that if he was to get his stuff back, it wasn’t going to come back to him; he had to go get it! He also understood that the enemy wasn’t going to just give it back to him without a fight! If he was going to get it back, he had to take it back!
I brought all of this out because most people fail to understand that in prophetic utterance, there’s always more to it than what it seems! Therefore, before any prophetic utterance is received, these points must be considered: (1) What is the original context and does that original context allow for universal application? (2) Does it neglect or ignore the necessity of repentance from sin? (3) Does it neglect or ignore the necessity of a right-relationship with God? (4) Does it neglect or ignore personal responsibility? Weigh carefully the answers because what is being offered as a prophetic utterance might not be a prophetic utterance at all, it might just be someone trying to “sound prophetic!”

A Layman’s Guide to Biblical Reading and Interpretation (Part 1)

English: Readin the Bible.

Reading the Bible is not as simple as it may seem! I think the reason there are so many false teachings is because people read the Bible without realizing that there are certain factors that must be dealt with in approaching the biblical text. The primary factor being that the Bible is the Word of God and God is Spirit, therefore the Bible is a spiritual book. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 2:14, “The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.” (NIV)  But even with the Spirit, there are some principles the reader must adhere to if he or she is to correctly read and interpret the biblical text. So with that in mind, I want to share this simple layman’s (a person with no formal theological or seminary training in hermeneutics and exegesis) guide to biblical reading and interpretation. I am going to present this in two parts because before we can even get to the biblical text, there are some things we must consider:

The primary thing we must consider as we approach the biblical text is to understand that there are some barriers, bridges, or rivers we must cross before we can even get to a correct reading and interpretation of the Bible. Part one of this presentation is a brief discussion of four such barriers.

  1. Time – We must first of all consider the fact that the Bible was written many years ago in a time much different from our own. God has always dealt with his people in what I call: progressive revelation. For instance, when Moses delivered the Children of Israel out of Egypt and they crossed the sea, the Bible says that they walked over on dry land. However, some forty years later, when they crossed over the Jordan, the waters didn’t receded until the priests got their feet wet! It could be that one of the reasons God deals with us differently today is because we have been given much more revelation because of the passing of time. Therefore, it is an exegetical mistake to force our time back upon the biblical characters or to bring them to forward to our time and judge their actions according to our time.
  2. Culture – We, those of us who live in America, live in a modern Western culture, but the Bible was written by and to people who lived in an ancient Eastern culture. Some of the things written in the Bible have more to do with culture and custom than spiritual or Godly principles. We must remember that when the original authors wrote, it was not in the fore-front of their minds that their words would be read by people of a different culture hundreds of years later. They were writing about particular situations in their particular time and culture. When Paul wrote about women keeping their heads covered, it was more of a cultural thing because generally the women of that culture who didn’t cover their heads were immoral women. So Paul told the women in the church to keep their heads covered, not only to honor their husbands but also to keep them from looking like a lady of the streets! When we read the Bible, we must always remember that it was written by and to people from a time and culture much different from our own. So it is an error to say that those people were “just like us” because they weren’t. They didn’t even think like us! For instance, in America today the primary focus is on the individual, but in the days and culture of the Bible, the primary focus was on the group! They didn’t think like us!
  3. Language – The next barrier is language. No one in the Bible ever spoke a word in English! As far as we know, the English language wasn’t even developed at that time! Consequently, we must understand that the Bible we hold in our hands is a version of a translation that came from manuscripts (copies of the original documents) that were written from the autographs (the original documents) of the original writer. The Old Testament was written mostly in Hebrew and the New Testament was written primarily in Greek. And just as we use figures of speech, such as sarcasm, exaggeration, hyperbole, and irony in our language today, so did the ancients in biblical days. We should be aware of that fact as we read the Bible.
  4.  Geography – There some others, but the fourth and last barrier we must deal with before we can get to a correct reading and interpretation of the biblical text that we are going to address is geography. It is important as you read the text that you be aware of the factor of geography. It helps when you know that although there was only about 18 miles from Jerusalem to Jericho; Jerusalem was about 2500 feet above sea level while Jericho was about 825 feet below sea level! That’s a difference in elevation of over 3,000 feet in just 18 miles! Therefore, the road between the two was steep, rocky, winding, and was notorious for being a haunt for highway robbers. We would be more understanding of why the priest and the Levite passed the man on the other side in Luke 10:30, if we understood the geography and culture of the time.

These are just a few of the perquisite factors we must keep in mind as we approach the biblical text. I will comment on what we need to consider as we actually read the biblical text in Part 2 of this study.

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)