In the adult Wednesday night Bible class at Henderson this week we talked about prophecy fulfillment, a topic with a high snooze probability. It wasn’t boring at all though. It was exciting even.
Dr. Clyde Woods went through four different prophecy fulfillments in the book of Matthew, each with an explicit “fulfilled” stamp from the author (and thus the Holy Spirit).
The first was fulfilled literally in just the way we expect prophecies to be fulfilled. The second was fulfilled secondarily in Jesus, as it had already been fulfilled once in the lifetime of the prophet. Another was a sort of prophetic metaphor which was “fulfilled” in it’s aptly fitting the circumstance. The last was a pun.
Dr. Woods pointed out that often times our understanding of “fulfilled” is far too narrow for God’s use of the word.
What I love about this whole discussion is the beauty it adds to the text of the Bible. If prophecy is just about predicting events and then those events coming true, well, that’s interesting. But not so beautiful.
When prophecy is understood in the narrative context, as foreshadowing and metaphor and imagery, as a literary device for telling the greatest story ever, for hinting at a happy ending, for developing tension, for providing symbols that serve me every day—well that’s stinkin’ cool.
I LOVE that God gave Jesus’ home town a name that sounded like the word for branch. And that He knew people would catch on to that. And that He provided this powerful picture of a long-dead Rachel crying for her children marching to exile, and later crying for her babies murdered by a godless king (and maybe even now, crying for children never given the chance to live). I love that God parts seas, giving us a permanent representation of His never-failing plan to deliver His people.
Prophecies prove the reliability of the Bible. But they also connect it to itself, giving the story a history. Daniel speaks to John and Matthew speaks to Isaiah because they all know the story and they all speak the language of that story.