Saturday, April 13, 2013

Harsh Prophecies

Some of the prophets brought a very harsh message in the name of God. He sometimes does not seem to be a God of Grace.

The people of Samaria must bear their guilt,
because they have rebelled against their God.
They will fall by the sword;
their little ones will be dashed to the ground,
their pregnant women ripped open (Hos 13: 16).
This is what the LORD says: I am going to fill with drunkenness all who live in this land, including the kings who sit on David’s throne, the priests, the prophets and all those living in Jerusalem. I will smash them one against the other, parents and children alike, declares the LORD. I will allow no pity or mercy or compassion to keep me from destroying them (Jer 13:13-15).
To understand these words by Hosea and Jeremiah, we must understand blessing and cursing, and spiritual warfare.

Once we understand that struggle between God and the forces of evil for control of the world, it becomes clear that God took a huge risk when he intervened in the world to establish a covenant with the children of Israel. His problem was that he could not create blessing without creating curses. Once he had chosen them and started to bless them, spiritual warfare shifted towards Israel. The spiritual forces of evil that had been wreaking havoc all over the earth did not want blessing to break into their world so they attacked it with a vengeance.

This shift in the spiritual struggle was not a problem while the Israelites were faithful to God. He could deal with anything that the enemy threw at his people. However, when they shut God out by their disobedience, as they inevitably would, they would not just lose their blessing and fall back into normal misery. When they rejected God’s blessing, they were leaving themselves without spiritual protection in a dangerous place. They were exposing themselves to the spiritual forces that had gathered to attack them. This is the curse. God did not have to do anything when the people disobeyed, because the spiritual forces of evil were waiting to choke off the plan of God by destroying his people. This is why the blessings and curses are spelt out so clearly (Deut 28).

The reality of blessings and curses explains why some of the prophets brought a harsh message. God could not create blessing, without allowing a curse to emerge. Blessing cannot exist without curse, because the absence of blessing is a curse. The blessing brings the curse into existence, powerful and waiting to pounce. The outworking of the curse of the law was automatic. The prophets described the evil that became inevitable when the children of Israel disobeyed and shut out God. The forces of evil were ready to go to work and do evil in their midst.

When God had intervened to bless his people, he inevitably gave the powers or evil the right to curse, if his people rejected him. To acknowledge this responsibility, he sometimes spoke as if he was the one who was executing the judgment on Israel, although the judgments were actually being executed by the powers of evil. However, God always take full responsibility for his actions, so he spoke through the prophets as if he was bringing the judgment. Indirectly, this was true.

The spiritual struggle for control of the world is a tough one, as the powers of evil are totally ruthless. Those who choose their side will often get their fingers burnt. The prophets’ message had to be harsh, because harsh stuff would happen when the forces of evil got a free hand to work out their evil plans.

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