Have you ever had a dream or a thought where something happened in a certain way and then later it did happen? Many people have had intuitive moments like that. Some try to turn it into a career. And I must say, there is money to be made in the world through that sort of thing and there is a long, storied history of people doing that.
So if I have a thought that something is going to happen and it happens, does that make me a prophet? No, it doesn’t. One reason why is because for every instance I could tell you about where I thought something was going to happen and it did, I could tell you of dozens of times where I thought something was going to happen and it didn’t. The biblical requirement for a prophet was 100% accuracy with no margin for error. That fact alone informs us there are no prophets today.
The ending of prophecy is a worthwhile study, but beyond our purposes here. I want to tell you about prophecies of the atonement in this chapter. First, who was a prophet by biblical standard? When we understand that, we understand what a biblical prophecy is, and then we can consider some specific prophecies.
Two primary passages in the law give the biblical requirements for a prophet (Deuteronomy 13:1-5 & 18:18-22). One reason these were given was so Israel could evaluate and authenticate a man’s prophetic ministry. They were also commanded to stone those who were found to be false prophets and put to the sword those prophets who led the people into the worship of any other god. The requirements presuppose liars, hucksters, and charlatans. From these two passages we draw at least four important requirements.
- The man had to be called and sent by God (Deuteronomy 18:18, 20).
- The man had to receive revelation from God the people were required to obey (Deuteronomy 18:18-20).
- The prophecy had to be consistent with Scripture (Deuteronomy 13:1-5; Isaiah 8:20).
- The prophecy had to come to pass as it was prophesied (Deuteronomy 18:21-22).
There were always those claiming to be prophets who did not meet these requirements and God promised to judge them (Jeremiah 14:14-15). We also have a specific example in a false prophet name Hananiah (Jeremiah 28:15-17). A true prophet was a mouthpiece for God. He spoke the words God gave him and those words were authoritative as if God had spoken them directly from heaven to the people.
A prophecy is God’s word by Scripture. That word sometimes included revelation of something God purposed to do beforehand. For example, there was a time when the king of Syria came with his army and besieged and surrounded the city of Samaria in Israel. There began to be a shortage of food that grew so severe two women fought over eating their own sons. Elisha was a prophet who was in the city and he relayed the word God had revealed to him.
Then Elisha said, Hear ye the word of the LORD; Thus saith the LORD, To morrow about this time shall a measure of fine flour be sold for a shekel, and two measures of barley for a shekel, in the gate of Samaria.
– 2 Kings 7:1
So God revealed to Elisha that the next day there would be plenty of food. Many were skeptical how that could be true, especially since the army of Syrians was still outside the city. But that night God made the Syrians so afraid that they fled and left their camp behind them (2 Kings 7:5-8). The people in the city found out and went out and plundered the deserted camp and had plenty just as the prophet had prophesied (2 Kings 7:18). So, had Elisha’s prophecy not come true, he should have been stoned to death as a false prophet who falsely claimed to speak for God.
There are many prophecies recorded in the Bible and we can’t cover all of them. We have been considering the atonement, or covering for sin and I want to consider a few prophecies about the atonement. Before God covered Adam and Eve in the garden, he revealed to them that they needed a Savior who would destroy their enemy and deliver them from the death they were cursed with. He revealed to them that the Savior would be the “seed” of the woman (Genesis 3:15). The Savior would be born of a woman.
Many, many years later, God spoke through his prophet Isaiah. Isaiah prophesied that the long-expected seed would be born of a virgin.
Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
– Isaiah 7:14
About 700 years after Isaiah prophesied this, a son was indeed born of a virgin in Bethlehem in Judah of Israel. Jesus was born, the long-awaited Savior and seed of the woman.
But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And She shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins. Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name Jesus.
– Matthew 1:20-25
The angel of the Lord revealed to Mary that her son would indeed be the promised Messiah.
And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favor with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.
– Luke 1:30-35
There are hundreds of prophecies about the Messiah in Scripture. Jesus fulfilled most of them and the rest he will fulfill when he comes again. He fulfilled prophecies in the circumstances of his birth, family lineage, the things he said and taught, the working of signs and wonders, and in his death and resurrection.
The death of Jesus was not some unfortunate event that otherwise stopped a promising career. Jesus himself testified that he came into the world to die (John 10:11, 14-18; 12:27). Jesus prophesied about his own death and foretold how it would fulfill the prophecies of Scripture.
The he took unto him the twelve, and said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished. For he shall be delivered unto the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated, and spitted on: And they shall scourge him, and put him to death: and the third day he shall rise again.
– Luke 18:31-33
After Jesus was resurrected to life, he confirmed that his death and resurrection were according to prophecy.
Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?
– Luke 24:26
And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise form the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.
– Luke 24:44-47
His death was purposeful and planned by God (Acts 2:23-24; 4:26-28). Different prophecies in the Old Testament refer to his death, but the most extensive and plain single passage is Isaiah chapter 53. That particular chapter is in a section of Isaiah’s prophecy about the Servant of Yahweh (Jehovah) whom God would send. The chapters leading up to 53 color a picture of the Servant’s work that includes suffering and rejection and even death by chapter 53.
Chapter 53, with verse numbers, is included below for you to read and refer to as I finish this chapter.
- Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed?
- For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.
- He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
- Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
- But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
- All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.
- He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.
- He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.
- And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.
- Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.
- He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.
- Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
– Isaiah 53:1-12
The chapter has 12 verses in our English Bibles. The verses divide into four groups of three verses each like a poem of four stanzas. Verses 1-3 refer to his coming into the world. These verses foretell him being despised and rejected because of his lowliness. The “we” in verse 3 is the Jewish people of Israel. They confess their rejection of him because they thought him of no worth.
Verses 4-6 speak of his suffering in two ways. First, he would suffer the consequences of sin as a man. He would bear grief and carry sorrows. Second, he would bear the just punishment for sins as a sacrifice. He was wounded, bruised, and chastised for transgressions and iniquities. Again Israel confesses they rejected him because they thought his suffering was punishment from God due him, but they are also confessing that it wasn’t for his sins but for “our” sins he was put to death. These verses also speak of the purpose of his bearing sins for healing and for peace, to make atonement.
Verses 7-9 speak of his death and his burial. His death would be a voluntary death where he fully submitted to suffering. He was the lamb that was slaughtered. Verse 9 is a remarkable prophecy about his grave being with the rich. Criminals that were executed by crucifixion were not given an honorable burial but rather dumped in a mass grave like garbage or the carcass of a dead animal. Being subject to such a death made the burial of Jesus in honor among the rich a most unlikely happening. However, this is exactly what happened when Joseph of Arimathaea, a rich man, sought the body of Jesus and buried him in his own new tomb (Matthew 27:57-60).
Verses 10-12 give God’s estimation of his anointed Servant’s work. God is pleased in every sense and particularly judicially. These verses point to his life after his death and his just reward for his suffering. He will justify many and inherit the kingdom prophesied before. He will make atonement for his people in his death. This is what Jesus has done as was prophesied before.
In the next chapter, I want to break the atonement down into four parts and consider them.
This is a portion of a book that I have been writing. I have decided to post it here in serial form. It is intended to be evangelistic. If the book has merit, I may seek to publish it in some form. Please feel free to share it and I welcome any feedback.
If you wish to read all the chapters in order you may do so here.
Ephesians 5:22-33 is a glorious passage on marriage that addresses both the husband and the wife. Verse 25 is one of the key verses and well known. We start out, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church,” and that’s about as far as we get. We then launch into all the ins and outs of ways that Christ loves the church. We unwittingly discourage husbands by painting a picture up high in the sky they cannot possibly reach. And, then what?
I’m not at all for low-bar standards for husbands when it comes to loving their wives. So I don’t think it wise or good to paint the high picture and then set it aside and give husbands light reading about planets and love dialects, or whatever. I much prefer the inspired Word in its context. Verses 25-33 all work together and they’re not wholly unconnected from verses 22-24. Paul did not only say, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church.” He went on to explain in what way Christ loved the church that is the model for Christian husbands. He explained that Christ loved the church by giving “himself for it” (Ephesians 5:25). At least, we know it is a sacrificial love that the husband is to have for his wife. However, the husband is not the savior of his wife, and Paul had no intention this way.
Paul made the application in the passage so men would know what it would look like to love this way. Mere mortal husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church, meaning they are to “love their wives as their own bodies” (Ephesians 5:28). Paul means nourishing and cherishing your wife (Ephesians 5:29). It might seem here that Paul steps out of the Christ/church love into something else, but he maintains at the end of verse 29 that is how Jesus loves the church. Paul acknowledges the mystery in verses 32, but concludes the whole paragraph this way: “Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself” (Ephesians 5:33). I’m not suggesting there are no difficulties, nor anything to be learned, but loving your wife the way the Bible commands is within reach for every man (Ephesians 5:29).
Tone-deaf, Boneheaded, if you will
Men have many species of problems that are common to men, but I will select one specimen for examination. Men tend to be tone-deaf in regard to their wife’s concerns. This works out in a few different ways.
- Dismissing. If a wife expresses a concern, worry, or even a complaint, we men are quick to dismiss it as nagging. Nagging really is a thing and women can be guilty of it (Proverbs 19:13; 27:15). That doesn’t mean, though, that anything a wife says, which her husband doesn’t want to hear, is nagging. A wife’s concerns are her concerns, whether her husband thinks she should be concerned about it or not. Since your wife is your concern, husbands should be concerned about her concerns.
- Ignoring. When a man grows up in a busy city, he becomes accustomed to the continual din of such a city. He reaches a place where he no longer notices the noise until he goes to visit relatives out in the country where the crickets and frogs keep him awake all night. Men can also become accustomed to their wives to the point where they don’t take much notice of what she says. Maybe they say, “Yes, dear” as easily as they breathe but they do not register what she has to say.
- Misunderstanding. Men tend to think in certain ways and approach problems in certain ways that are exasperating for many wives. So the wife comes and tells the husband about problems C, A, and B and the husband wastes time telling her she’s got the order all wrong. I mean, everyone knows it goes A, B, C, D, etc. We all learned the song in kindergarten for mercy sake. This classic male blunder is missing the point and not understanding the real cause. This reminds me of a husband and wife I saw in a store a couple of years ago. The wife was obviously upset with her husband, “You never think of me. You only think of yourself.” He was just as obviously surprised by her assertion, “That’s not true. I was just thinking of you when I walked in Walmart, because I knew I had to find you.” That is a special kind of boneheadedness that, I daresay, only a man could attain.
Duct tape for the soul
How should a husband deal with the concerning things that are a problem for his wife? Paul said to love your wife as you love yourself, or maybe we should say as you ought to love yourself. How do men love themselves when it comes to concerns that are a problem for them? They might at times be slow to get to it, but they generally address it. If a man is trying to build or fix something and he is continually frustrated by the fact he doesn’t have the right tool, what does he do? If he’s going to the deerstand or bass lake before dawn in the snow, what does he do? He makes sure that he has what he needs. If he’s going to need food, he gets it. If he’s going to need to keep warm, he makes sure he has the necessary clothing. If his boots are falling apart, he might fix them with duct tape but he’s probably going to get another pair.
I was going around my yard for the first mow of the season this spring. When I got to a certain part, I hit my face on a branch. I stopped the mower and thought about how that branch was always in the way when I cut the grass. I immediately fetched a tool and cut all the branches that forced me to stoop unnaturally when cutting the grass. This is one of the ways a man loves himself. He takes care of his problems. He anticipates needs and provides for them. Paul says to do this for your wife. You know how to take care of your problems and so you also know how to love your wife. Anticipate her needs, provide for them, and take care of her problems promptly.
I conclude with this: Don’t be a bonehead. When your wife is concerned about something, try to understand the cause. When a man is driving down the road and hears a noise from the innards of his car, he notices it. If he never hears it again, he soon forgets it. But if the noise persists and grows worse over time, he knows he needs to get it fixed. So he takes it to the shop and tells the mechanic about the noise it makes. If the mechanic treated him the way he treats his wife, the mechanic would say, “So it’s making a loud noise? Easy, just turn up your radio and you won’t hear it.”
Have you ever read the entire Bible, Genesis to Revelation?
If you haven’t approached the reading of all the Bible with an intentional plan and regular effort, then you probably haven’t read the whole Bible. I’ve seen some surveys in the last few years that report a little less than two-thirds of evangelical Christians have read the whole Bible at least once in their life.
For several years now I have been encouraging people to read the Bible through every year using some sort of plan for daily reading. At an average reading speed, it takes about 70 hours to read the whole bible. 70 hours works out to about 10-15 minutes per day in a year’s time. All that averages to around three or more chapters a day of reading to read the whole Bible in a year. The point here is that reading the whole Bible in a year’s time is very doable.
For the last several years I have also been surprised by the objections to the aforementioned reading. Honestly, it baffles me how anyone could be opposed to reading the Bible, but there it is. I want to deal with the most common objections I have heard, but first let’s ask: Should a Christian read the whole Bible? The Bible is typically printed in a little over one thousand pages. One thousand pages? How many one thousand page books have you ever read? I have heard that about 70% of adults in America read one book per year. If you’re only reading one book per year, I doubt it’s a thousand page tome.
Yes, Christians should read the whole Bible. No, there is not a command: Thou shalt read the whole Bible. Consider just a couple of verses about the Scripture.
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.
– 2 Timothy 3:16
Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him.
– Proverbs 30:5
If all scripture is inspired and profitable, then we should get around to reading all scripture at some point. If every word of God is pure, then we should get around to reading every word of God at some point. If God bothered to give us one thousand pages of words that are for our instruction and good, then we should bother to read them all.
Three common objections to reading the Bible in a year
Out of a sense of fairness, which comports with my mountain-bred roots, no one I’ve talked with has actually objected to reading the Bible at all, only to reading the whole Bible in a year by a plan. I’ve heard various reasons expressed variously, but I’ve collected them here into the three most common.
- I don’t have enough time. I broke it down earlier that this can be done in about 10-15 minutes per day. With the mobile devices we have today, we can always have the Bible with us making it even easier to find this time. Besides, if you seriously don’t have 10-15 minutes in a day to read the Bible, your’re seriously overbooked and cardiac arrest is in your near future. I understand that everyone is busy. I have seven children. The oldest is starting college next week and the youngest isn’t yet two-years-old. I have my own business where I regularly work 50+ hours a week, which at times can be significantly higher. I pastor a church and regularly preach three messages a week. Despite all that, I am currently reading through the Bible in a year. I could go on, but the point is that we are all busy. I don’t think I’m special or any busier than anybody else. If you seriously do not have 10-15 minutes a day to read the Bible, then your priorities are out of order.
- I think it’s better to read just a verse or two and get something out of them than to read three chapters and get nothing out of it. I question how you could read three chapters of the Bible and get nothing out of it, but I do have two main answers to this objection. First, reading and studying are not the same things. I think this objections confuses the difference between the two. I’m not suggesting that you should read the Bible in a year and not study the Bible. I am suggesting you do both. They are not the same thing. I live by the idea that you should read broadly and study deeply.
Second, does the reading of a verse or two to get something out of them result in reading the whole Bible? Using that approach, how many times have you read the whole Bible? You don’t have to answer out loud. Without an intentional plan and consistent effort over time, most of us will not read the whole Bible. I set out many times to read the whole Bible, but I never accomplished it without a reading plan and a daily commitment.
Besides these, did Paul write a whole letter and send it to a church with the intention that they would read the letter or just a sentence or two every now and then? Obviously, the letter was intended to be read start to finish. There is no other way to grasp the context and, therefore, the meaning of the letter.
- I don’t think it would be right to read the Bible out of a sense of obligation rather than desire. The objection is that reading the Bible by a plan results in you reading out of obligation to check off the day’s duty rather than reading because you want to. I’ve never experienced that myself. I’ve never experienced reading the Bible grudgingly out of obligation. I’ve found the more I read the Bible by plan daily, the more I want to do it.
Let’s assume you have a spouse and afore posited spouse has a birthday, which you must admit is extremely plausible. Let’s also assume that your recall of said annual events is not impeccable, which you must also admit is plausible. So, in order not to be the heel of the century, you mark your beloved’s birthday on a calendar so that you’re amply prepared on the appropriate day to shower your beloved with attention and jovial celebration. A wise thing to do and a free marital tip. Is it better to mark the date in advance and plan to remember the birthday, or to only celebrate that day when you happen to remember it at the right time? Did the fact that you planned beforehand to remember mean that you acted sheerly out of obligation in whatever affections you directed to your spouse on the day of?
One way to look at planned reading is obligation and another way to look at it is discipline. I have my suspicions that this is the real heart of most objections. We are not very disciplined and chafe at the thought of discipline. The Bible does teach that we are to discipline ourselves for the purpose of godliness (1 Timothy 4:6-8; 1 Corinthians 9:23-27). In every good thing we endeavor to do, we must wrestle against the flesh that opposes us (Romans 7:14-25; James 4:13-17). Finally, as long as we are in this flesh, we are not sanctified enough to only and always want to do good. If you’re waiting to read the Bible until you feel like it, you won’t read it much.
Benefits to reading the Bible in a year
If you read the whole Bible regularly, you will be benefited. You will grow in grace and knowledge. You will be better prepared to hear sermons well and get more out of them. You will be better able to fight and overcome sin by taking heed to the Word and hiding it in your heart (Psalm 119:11). Your mind will be renewed through the Word (Romans 12:1-2; Ephesians 1:17-18; Colossians 3:10, 15-16). You will be better prepared to speak a word in season to edify, encourage, and comfort the afflicted. If you think about, what could possibly be beneficial about not knowing more of the Bible?
Maybe there is another reason why we’re not reading the Bible every year
The thought of obligation, duty, and discipline is so odious to us. While I understand the substance of that objection, I ask: What is the alternative? Seriously, what is the alternative to a disciplined approach to reading the Bible. The alternative to discipline is a picture that looks alarmingly similar to the picture of the sluggard in Proverbs.
- The sluggard is indecisive and will not get started to work though he may talk about it (Proverbs 6:9; 26:14).
- The sluggard makes excuses or rationalizes his inactivity and lack of accomplishment (Proverbs 20:4; 22:13; 26:16).
- The sluggard puts responsibility off until later (Proverbs 6:10).
- The sluggard does not plan ahead and suffers for it (Proverbs 6:8).
- The sluggard has no self-discipline but must have an overseer to make him do something (Proverbs 6:7).
- The sluggard does not have a hard-work ethic (Proverbs 6:8).
- The sluggard does not have the follow-through to finish what he does start (Proverbs 12:27; 19:24; 26:15).
More could be said, but I will leave you with a serious question. Do you really have a good reason not to read the whole Bible, or is it just an excuse for laziness? Let each of us examine our own heart before the Lord.