Today’s post follows directly on from yesterday’s…
I’ll be the first to say that prophetic writing is not the easiest style to understand.
One of the most bizarre books in the Bible is the book of Daniel. It’s the book famous for the phrase ‘The writing’s on the wall.’
This is because of the fact that the Babylonian King, Belshazzar decided to be a jerk. His father had stolen wine goblets from the Jewish temple and now he decides he’s going to have a feast and drink from them.
So basically he’s giving the Jews’ God the finger. Which is potentially why he’s given a whole hand:
Suddenly the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall, near the lampstand in the royal palace. The king watched the hand as it wrote. His face turned pale and he was so frightened that his knees knocked together and his legs gave way.
He totally freaks and fair enough too. I’d be wetting myself. On top of the hand itself, the message is basically: “Belshazzar, you’re going down.” That very night, he’s killed.
I tell that story just as a nugget of Old Testament bizarreness to try to explain how we should, and shouldn’t expect prophetic writing in the Bible to operate.
We shouldn’t expect it to be a scientific document.
We shouldn’t expect every single sentence in a paragraph to be clearly talking about one and the same event.
Prophecy doesn’t read like a textbook because prophecy is odd. Case in point: human hand out of nowhere, writing on wall.
And not just weird. Often it doesn’t seem to make sense and seems to disagree, such as in the case of Isaiah and Micah from yesterday’s post, who appear to create a geographical discrepancy between Bethlehem and Galilee and their significance to the Messiah.
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a degree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria). And everyone went to his own town to register.
So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there with Mary…While they were there the time came for the baby to be born.
Virgin birth: tick. Baby boy: tick. Line of David: tick. Bethlehem: tick.
Evidently, Joseph was in Galilee but Jesus wasn’t born there. Why then the honour mentioned in Isaiah?
Again, easy fix, on the return home from the Egyptian hideout from Herod:
But when he [Joseph] heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee…
Growing up I wasn’t really interested in jigsaw puzzles, which is odd because I like them now. I would often wait for the puzzle my brothers were working on to be almost complete before I’d gather round to watch.
And surreptitiously take one piece of the puzzle in my hand to hide away.
This would mean that I’d get to put the last piece of the puzzle in place when the time came.
It would also mean that I was being an annoying little brat, but clearly that didn’t bother me at the time.
There’s something very satisfying about having all the pieces of the puzzle fit together finally and as a child I found the Christmas related prophecy being fulfilled utterly mind blowing. The puzzle pieces just fall into place so perfectly, hundreds of years later.
All you need is an egotistical ruler who wants to know how many people he’s got, and off go Joseph and a very pregnant Mary, to the exact place they’re supposed to be for the birth.
As an adult it still blows my mind. You can’t make this sort of stuff up hundreds of years out from an event. It’s truly phenomenal and, to me, clearly bears the signature of the divine.
Yours in wonder,