February 5

The Powerful Language Of Prophecy Made Easy By Simple Parable

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Jesus’ parables reveal an important truth about our relationship with God, scripture and the language of prophecy.

The language of prophecy

The Pharisees Challenge Jesus

Then John’s disciples came and asked him, “How is it that we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?”

Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.

“No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”

(Matthew 9:14-16)

Shortly after Jesus’ first encounter with Simon Peter, he comes across Matthew the tax collector.

Jesus goes to have dinner with Matthew and converses with him and his friends. These friends consist of more tax collectors and other “unsavoury” types.

This prompts some Pharisees to challenge Jesus’ disciples about the suitability of such people to be in the company of a Rabbi like him.

But Jesus responds by saying, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners”.

Tarred with the same brush

A few of John the Baptist’s disciples are also present. They know that Jesus is implying the Pharisees don’t understand what mercy or sacrifice really means. And they don’t want to be tarred with the same brush.

So, not to be outdone, they ask him why they and the Pharisees make a habit of fasting, while Jesus’ disciples do not.

It’s interesting that the Pharisees challenge Jesus indirectly by speaking to his disciples, while John’s followers challenge the disciples …by speaking to Jesus. I’m not sure which group is being more evasive!

Jesus Responds In The Language Of Prophecy

Jesus’ reply is slightly cryptic, but in the end even more shocking:

“No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”

What Jesus is saying is something along the lines of, “You’re old-fashioned and outmoded. Isn’t it about time you got in with the cool new boys in town?”

The First Parable

Seriously though, the reason I’m pointing this out is that Jesus is telling his first parable.

And while it's a very short parable compared to some of the others, he is making an important point through telling a simple story, a living story, if you will.

A parable is a bit like a metaphor or analogy: it’s trying to explain one thing by referring to something else.

In this case, Jesus is teaching a heavenly truth using an everyday object that’s more tangible:

Just as you can’t use an old wineskin to hold new wine, the old (sometimes Pharisaical) order his hearers know and love cannot contain or sustain the presence of God that is coming in the New Covenant.

Jesus’ challenge to them and to everyone who is listening is that he is the new way forward. They had better sort themselves out if they don’t want to be left behind.

And, believe it or not, that style of teaching is just like prophecy.

The Language Of Prophecy Reveals Heavenly Things

Many prophecies and prophetic statements are difficult to understand and interpret, precisely because they are trying to describe heavenly things.

When prophets like Isaiah and Ezekiel saw visions of God’s throne, they struggled to write down their experiences. Their descriptions of the strange creatures that surround the throne in worship are some of the most bizarre in scripture.

One wonders what were they thinking and feeling during those experiences. No wonder so many of us struggle to understand their meaning!

Baffling though these visions may be, they also speak to the awesomeness of God and in the process, they become comforting.

But this isn’t just about the prophets or personal prophecy, it’s also about scripture itself.

Much of what the Bible authors were trying to do, particularly in the New Testament, was to find a language to explain the unexplainable.

That’s why living stories, like parables, are so helpful to us. We may laugh at some of Paul's mixed metaphors, but we usually understand their meaning.

Words And Concepts In The Language Of Prophecy

And it's the same in every generation.

Much of what we try to do in the modern Christian church is to come up with a language that helps us to express that which is inexpressible:

We invent words and concepts to try to explain how God communicates to us through his Holy Spirit. And on the whole, these serve us fairly well.

Teaching people about prophecy (and how prophecy works in our daily lives) is similar: it’s sometimes hard to describe what’s actually happening inside.

No matter what we say, the mechanics of Holy Spirit speaking to us (and us hearing and understanding him) are difficult to pin down. It sort of “just happens”.

On this website, I try to give you hints, tips and practical suggestions to help you hear the Lord. In the 4 Steps Prophecy School I try to create an atmosphere within which people like you can operate in the prophetic and understand the language of prophecy.

But I can't create the connection between you and God. You have to seek that for yourself.

Let’s keep our eyes on Jesus and base our perspective on heaven and heavenly things. Only then can we truly make sense of the world around us.

Aim At Heaven And You Will Get Earth Thrown In

C. S. Lewis

“If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next.

The Apostles themselves, who set on foot the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English Evangelicals who abolished the Slave Trade, all left their mark on Earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with Heaven.

It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.
Aim at Heaven and you will get earth “thrown in”: aim at earth and you will get neither.”

(Courtesy Goodreads)


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