The purpose of this chapter, following Charles Ozanne’s exposition, is to show that the righteousness of God cannot be undermined by a prevalent attitude amongst evangelicals who insist that God must honour His prophetic word regardless of man’s intransigence. This attitude is mainly based upon the future of Israel. We shall produce Biblical evidence showing that prophecy is not set in stone, but accomplishes only that which God had in mind when directed towards His people, and cannot be forced to apply to situations which arise hundreds, or even thousands of years later, and where circumstances have changed dramatically, requiring a fresh outpouring of the Divine Mind.
As Isaiah prophesied,
“My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways. Says the Lord. . . the word that goes forth out of my mouth shall not return to me void but shall accomplish that which I please, and prosper in that whereto I sent it”.(Isa.55:8,11)
Prophecy is the unveiling of the mind of God, and must not be likened to human predictions voiced by certain individuals, which can result either in fulfilment or non-fulfilment. Here then is a selected list of examples which enable us to see how prophecy is fluid, flowing from the mind of God, and how it brings consequences to those to whom the words are spoken. In each and every case these consequences amount to a loss, but as we shall see, that loss is not to be equated with final salvation from sin, but a loss connected with the privileges of God’s spoken word of prophecy.
ADAM & EVE. Genesis 3. In this example, God gave His first pair a very simple test, which would seem to be incapable of being misunderstood. However, without considering the involvement of the Serpent, their disobedience resulted in three things, (a) falling into sin, and (b) being removed from Paradise, the Garden of Eden, and finally (c) death. These consequences were dire in the extreme, and affected every other human being brought forth into this world.
ABRAM. Genesis 15-16. The Lord told Abram that his servant would not be his heir, but one “who shall come forth from your own body”. (Gen.15:4) Like Adam, Abram listened to the voice of his wife, and as a result, he sired a son from his servant Hagar, named Ishmael. It was not until 14 years later that the true heir, Isaac, was born. The consequence of Ishmael’s birth was summed up in the Lord’s prophecy, “He will be a wild donkey of a man. His hand will be against everyone, and everyone’s hand will be against him”. (Gen.16:12) The continued outworking of this can hardly be denied in the Middle East today.
JACOB & ESAU. Genesis 25-27. Before the twins were born, the Lord told their mother, Rebekah, “The older shall serve the younger”.(Gen.25:23) Esau was firstborn of the twins, and according to law, was in line to be the heir. However, Jacob listened to the voice of his mother, (who remembered the prophecy and sought to implement it,) and agreed to a deception. As a result, he obtained Isaac’s blessing, but paid for it thereafter in many ways. His brother’s anger was never fully assuaged. His people, Edom, were even the subject of the prophecy of Obadiah hundreds of years later.
REUBEN. Genesis 35:22 Reuben was Jacob’s firstborn son by Leah, and therefore heir. But “Reuben went and lay with Bilhah, his father’s concubine” (Gen.35:22) and thereby lost his inheritance, which then passed to Joseph, the firstborn son of Rachel. The dying Jacob said, “Reuben, my firstborn, the might and beginning of my strength, but weak as water, you shall not prevail because you went up to your father’s bed, you defiled my couch”. (Gen.48:3-4) The defilement brought serious consequences to Reuben.
ISRAEL A PRIESTLY NATION. Exodus 19:6. When Moses was on the Mount, the Lord said to him, “You shall be to me a Kingdom of Priests and a Holy Nation”. But whilst he was on the Mount, receiving further legislation, and “when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down,” they built the golden calf. (Ex.32:1) Moses called for those who would be faithful to the Lord, and “the sons of Levi gathered together to him”. (Ex.32:26) The consequence was that the nation lost its priestly function, which was bestowed henceforth upon the Tribe of Levi alone.
NADAB & ABIHU. Leviticus 10:1-2. “Now Nadab and Abihu took their respective firepans, after putting fire in them, placed incense on it and offered strange fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them. And fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord.” These men were sons of Aaron, high in rank before the Tribe of Levi, and honoured before all Israel. But their disobedience resulted in the death sentence because they were entrusted with the sacred things of Priestly Service, and poured scorn on the Lord’s commands.
ISRAEL AND THE LAND OF PROMISE. Numbers 13-14. The twelve spies return, ten of them with a bad message. “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are too strong for us”. (Numb.13:31) But Joshua and Caleb had a different view of things altogether.“If the Lord is pleased with us He will bring us into this land and give it to us. Do not rebel; do not fear the people of the land, they will be our prey”. (Numb.14:8) However, the ten prevailed, and Joshua and Caleb were nearly stoned to death. The anger of the Lord was revealed, and the consequence of this rebellion was disallowance of entry into the land. They stayed in the wilderness for a further 38 years until they died, all except Joshua and Caleb.
MOSES AND AARON. Numbers 20. Yet another cry for water. The Lord spoke to Moses, “Take the rod, and you and your brother Aaron assemble the congregation and speak to the rock before their eyes, that it may yield its water”. However, Moses was weary of the people’s moaning and complaining. He was in no mood to be civil with them. Instead of speaking to the rock, he struck it twice in anger. Water gushed forth, but the Lord was angry. “Because you have not believed me, to treat me as holy in the sight of the sons of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them”. This was a grievous consequence for Moses, after a notable career.
ELI, HOPHNI & PHINEHAS. 1 Samuel 2-3. Eli the High Priest failed to rein in his two sons from their vile behaviour. They would not listen to their father’s voice. The Lord was angry, and sent a prophet to Eli. “Why do you kick at my sacrifice and offering which I have commanded in my dwelling, and honour your sons above me? The Lord declares, I did indeed say that your house and the house of your father should walk before me forever. But now the Lord declares, Far be it from me. Those who honour me I will honour, but those who despise me will be lightly esteemed”. The outcome was the death of Hophni and Phinehas, which occasioned the death of Eli. The Lord said, “I will raise up for myself a faithful priest who will do according to what is in my heart.” The Lord changed His mind, and Eli’s high-priesthood ended, as indeed, the whole dynasty.
KING SAUL. 1 Samuel 13. Samuel had asked Saul to wait seven days for him. But he didn’t appear, so Saul offered burnt offerings and peace offerings, which were disallowed to all except those of the tribe of Levi. Samuel then appeared and admonished Saul for not keeping God’s commandments. “The Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever, but now it shall not endure.” Samuel was then sent to find David and anoint him as king. This was a serious consequence for Saul.
SOLOMON AND THE DIVIDED KINGDOM. 1 Kings 11-12. Solomon started off well, and God gave him victory over all the peoples round about. His wisdom was known world-wide. But he tried to maintain peace by political alliance with foreign nations by marrying their princesses. This led to serious idolatry, and the downfall of all that he had built up. The result was that God severed the kingdom into two parts, keeping two tribes to honour the house of David in the south, whilst the rest made their centre in Samaria. The once bountiful and grand kingdom under Solomon was therefore broken up forever.
JEHOSHAPHAT’S ALLIANCE. 2 Chronicles 17-18. There was not a single good king in Samaria, to reign over the ten tribes. But in Judahking Jehoshaphat began his reign by following the example of King David, and the Lord was pleased. But then he made a fatal mistake. “Jehoshaphat made peace with the king of Israel.” (1 Kings 22:44) He allied himself with the wicked king Ahab of Samaria, whose wife was the infamous Jezebel. He said, “I am as you are, and my people as your people, and we will be with you in battle.” (2 Chr.18:3) Furthermore, he allied himself with Ahab in a marriage contract between his son and heir Jehoram and Jezebel’s daughter Athaliah. (2 Kings 8:18) He was reprimanded for this by Jehu, who said, “Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the Lord, and so bring wrath upon yourself from the Lord?” (2 Chr.19:2) Hence by disobeying the word of the Lord that there should be no alliance between the northern and southern kingdoms, evil consequences resulted, and culminated in Athaliah destroying all the royal seed of the king’s house. However, the Lord preserved baby Joash, so that by this slender thread the house of David was preserved to bring forth the Royal Seed, the Messiah. (2 Kings 11)
MESSIAH, SON OF DAVID, RIGHTFUL KING OF ISRAEL, prophesied from Genesis to Malachi, and now born in Bethlehem according to the prophet, and accepted by thousands who heard Him, and were healed by Him. However, the rulers were against Him from the start and after three and a half years carefully planned His execution. Jesus the Messiah knew this would happen, and knew also that it would establish Him as the one true sacrifice for the sin of the whole world, but those who were responsible for His death brought dire consequences upon themselves and upon the whole nation. Having crucified their King, they lost their right to be God’s chosen kingdom. Jesus said, “Therefore the Kingdom of God will be taken from you, and be given to a nation producing the fruit of it”. (Matt.21:43)
God’s word at Mount Sinai, Exodus 19:6, “You shall be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” failed due to progressive rebellion and intransigence. First of all the priesthood became limited to just one tribe, Levi, and now the kingdom was severed from them when they declared “We will not have this man to reign over us”. (Parable, Luke 19:14) And as for them being a holy nation, Jesus declared, “You fill up the measure of guilt of your fathers, . . . so that upon you shall fall the guilt of all the righteous blood shed upon earth from the blood of the righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. . . .Behold, your house is left unto you desolate”. (Matt.23:32-38)
THE POST-RESURRECTION JEWISH NATION. During His crucifixion Jesus asked forgiveness to those who slew Him. After His resurrection Peter was commissioned to preach repentance to the nation, with the promise of the return of their Messiah. Jesus had said, “You shall see me no more until you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord’”. (Matt.23:39) But throughout the Acts period no such repentance was forthcoming, but rather a continuance of violence and bloodshed, beginning with the stoning of Stephen, and ending with Paul’s pronouncement to the Jewish leaders at Rome. To the Thessalonians Paul said, “They [the Jews] are not pleasing to God, but hostile to all men, hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they might be saved; with the result that they always fill up the measure of their sins. But wrath has come upon them to the uttermost”. (1 Thess.2:15-16)
Here ends the sad tale of sin, disobedience, and rebellion, from Adam and Eve to the end of the New Testament history. Most of it referred to the nation of Israel, the covenant nation, to whom much was given and much was expected. Consequential loss was always related to promised blessings and privileges, but never referred to ultimate loss of salvation, which was based upon the sacrifice of the Son of God. This comes out most strongly in the story of the rebellion at the return of the twelve spies. Moses pleaded with God for the nation, and was told, “I have pardoned them according to your word” (Numb.14:20) but “They shall by no means see the land which I promised to their fathers”. (Numb.14:23) They were a pardoned, but a precluded people.
What then of the future? Paul spoke about his sadness relating to his own people, Israel. He said that but a remnant had obtained the blessing promised as a result of belief in Jesus the Messiah, but the rest were hardened. However, in latter days “All Israel will be saved”. (Rom.11:26-27) Yes, there was never any doubt about that. Just as the nation was pardoned in the wilderness, so today the unbelieving nation of Jews will be pardoned and saved “when the Deliverer returns to Zion and turns away ungodliness from Jacob”, but insofar as the Kingdom of God is concerned they have, as a people, suffered the consequence of their own rejection of the King.
There is a personal message in all this teaching. All those who have understood and believed in the saving work of Jesus on the cross, whocall themselves Christians, have “life in His name”. This is an incontrovertible fact, based upon the Lord’s sacrifice, and not upon the Christian’s life history. There will be some who go forward with determination, building gold, silver, and precious stones upon the foundation, but others will sadly only build themselves monuments of straw. The former will receive rewards, but the latter will lose everything, but “be saved, as by fire”. (1 Cor.3:12-13) Yes, salvation is not in this equation because Jesus has died for the sins of the whole world.
But insofar as there are rewards, we are required to show the Lord faithfulness in our pilgrim walk. Let us not, therefore, be
like Adam and Eve in not holding to God’s simple command,
or like Jacob, who sank to the use of deception to try to gain spiritual ascendency
or Reuben, who lost his birthright by a single act of incest,
or Hophni and Phinehas, who despised their priestly position, defiled holy things, and practised prostitution, and lost their lives.
or Moses, who in one fit of anger lost the right to enter the land,
or King Saul, who through impatience performed sacrilege in the matter of holy things, and lost his kingship,
or King Solomon, who was prepared to introduce multiple idolatries, believing it was an important part of his political career, and incurred the Lord’s wrath,
or Jehoshaphat, who tried “Ecumenism” where it was forbidden, and nearly lost the royal line,
or the Jews who although very religious, and who knew their OT bibles well, were too blind to recognise their true King when He came as Emmanuel.
There is much at stake here. Faithfulness will be rewarded. Those who overcome will reign with Christ. Some will lose out in this respect, and will have to be ruled, rather than rule. Their salvation is not at stake. But the privileges of the Kingdom will not be attained by all. That depends upon gold or wood, silver or hay, precious stones or stubble. One must be prepared to take note of Paul’s words to Corinth, and realise that it is quite possible to lose everything pertaining to this life’s works, being burned up by fire. Jesus taught that it was wise to “lay up treasure in heaven”, where nothing can touch it, (Matt.6:20) and Paul had this testimony, “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed to Him against that day”. (2 Tim.1:12)
Therefore, “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering, and let us provoke one another to love and good works, . . . and so much the more as you see the day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:23-25)