The Point of Prophecy

“At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Ps. 16: 11)

The Basket Case Chronicles #163

But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort. He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church. I would that ye all spake with tongues, but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying” (1 Cor. 14:3–5).

The three elements of prophecy that are mentioned here are edification, exhortation, and comfort. This can happen when the prophesying is fresh revelation, as when Agabus spoke under the power of the Spirit, and it can also happen when the Holy Spirit empowers a man who is speaking expositionally from the text. In the former instance, the Spirit is giving new words, and in the latter He is keeping the preacher close to the words. In both instances, He is anointing the words. This identification of preaching with the gift of prophesy was common among the Puritans. For example, William Perkins wrote a book on preaching that was called The Art of Prophesying.

Aside from that use of terms, it is undeniable that in a modern healthy church, the three consequences of prophecy described here are the three consequences of good preaching—edification, exhortation, and comfort. Every preacher ought to aim for that, every time.

When someone speaks in a tongue, he himself is edified while no one else is. Tongues speaking closes in on itself. The man who prophesies edifies everyone. Paul wishes that everyone could speaking in tongues, but more than that, he wishes that they could all prophesy. This is because prophesy is greater than speaking in tongues, unless an interpretation of tongues accompanies it, so that the church may be edified. This is the reason why I believe that tongues + interpretation = prophesy. A man who speaks in tongues is not just speaking his thoughts in a language he never acquired naturally. He is speaking God’s thoughts, such that when the tongues are interpreted, it is the equivalent of prophesy. And so, Paul argues, in the congregation, why not just cut out the middle man?

Created Nature

In any discussion of nature, one of the things we must always be on guard against is this. We are a sinful race and when we sin intellectually, it is always with the materials that are ready at hand. We fail, when we fail, because we have not resisted our own temptations. We also failed because we tend to spend a lot of time and energy manfully resisting the temptation of another era. As Lewis puts it somewhere, confronted with a flood, we break out the fire extinguishers.

For example, in the time of the Deists, some thought of nature as something that had quasi-independence from God. And from that idea, it was the easiest thing in the world for a rising tide of atheism to dispense with the clockmaker and keep the clock. In this older view, nature runs the way it does because that is just what it does . . . things fall down when dropped because — Gravity. It’s not just a good idea. It’s the law.

So when you’ve gotten to the point where you think something called gravity makes things fall down, then you really have compromised with some form of autonomy. But gravity doesn’t make anything fall down. Gravity is the name we have for the phenomenon of things falling down – which is quite a different thing altogether.

If I had a hypothesis that said whenever I let go of a pencil over a table, the nearest pencil fairy grabs it and offers it as tribute to the fairy of the table, and it is part of their custom to always have the lesser fairy approach the more important fairy at a pace of 9.8 m/s squared, could I then establish my hypothesis by dropping pencils? No?

On Pirate Ship Governance

I have been arguing that Christians need to learn how to stand for liberty, but in order for this to happen they must first learn what it is. And when this happens, they will find themselves saying some outrageous things, like I am about to do.

Human rights — which everyone is automatically in favor of — are nonsensical and absurd unless we have a robust understanding of property rights. Property rights are human rights. In our age, we understand that human rights are a grand and glorious thing, but we are bewildered when it comes to the crucial matter of property. We are entirely in favor a birthday cakes, but are dubious and confused about the concept of cake batter.

First, some history. In 1772, the first statement by the colonial Committees of Correspondence was released. Samuel Adams is credited with being the primary force behind that statement, and it begins by itemizing the rights of the colonists as men. The first right was the right to life, the second was liberty, and the third was property. The echo we hear in the Declaration four years later is obvious. We are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights, and among them are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The pursuit of happiness is therefore grounded in our ability to own property.

But how may a free people, whose rights of property are duly respected, fund the costs of government? We all agree that taxes are a necessity, so how may taxes be levied on a free people? The fundamental principle is that because property is an unalienable right, this means that property can only be released by the consent of the owner, either directly or by his representative in the legislature. This is why taxation without representation is tyranny. The property that the government acquires from a people without their consent is therefore theft.Uncle Sam Thief

The whole point of government is the protection and preservation of property. If we call life and liberty our car, property is the fuel pump.

“That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

Note that governments do not grant us these rights. Our rights are given by our Creator. Governments are created by the people in order to secure the rights we already have. Governments do not bestow rights upon anyone. Their sole duty is to recognize and protect them.

Now in order to have these rights granted to us by a Creator — follow me closely here — there has to be a Creator. One of the first steps in robbing us of our heritage of political liberty was spreading the insidious and morbid joke of Darwinism. Little bits of protoplasmic froth on the ocean of evolutionary development don’t have any rights to speak of.

Now when government becomes destructive of the central point, the telos of protecting our property, certain things follow from their destructiveness.

“That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it.”

That’s a tall order, and a big responsibility. In subsequent installments, I am going to be making some very practical suggestions. But the first thing — and it is a very necessary first step — is to get our minds around what has happened to us. How is our current government funded? As Hillary Clinton once famously put it, it takes a pillage.

Book of the Month/September 2014

Chlidren Living GodIn this wonderful book, Children of the Living God, Sinclair Ferguson carefully discusses the new birth, the glory of adoption, and the ramifications of living together in God’s family.

Regeneration “means to come to share in the risen life and power of Jesus Christ, and to enter into vital fellowship with him” (p. 18).  This is the work of God, and no one else can do it. When He does it, He displays the nature of His power — which is infinite. “It is no easier for God to give you a new birth than it is for him to give it to the worst man who ever lived” (v.  21).

“There are, then, two dimensions to our sonship. The first is re-creation (or regeneration); the second is adoption, God’s acceptance of us into his family” (p. 26).

Adoption “is not a change in nature, but a change in status” (p. 36). We are men before God does this, and we are men after. But before God brings us into His family, we are members of another kind of family, with a usurping alien father. The devil is our father, using all the gifts and faculties that God gave our race to hasten the day of our damnation. When someone is truly converted (which is not the same thing as joining the church), he is adopted by a new Father, and his status changes completely. His old faculties are still operational, but they are pointed in a different direction entirely, devoted to a new love.

When we are brought into God’s family, we are being changed into human beings. So with that being the case, what were we before then? The answer is that we were “wreckage of human” — and headed toward the abyss, the outer darkness, where our status would finally become “ultimate wreckage of human.”

Surveying the Text: Numbers

Introduction:

The dates for Numbers encompass the entire 40 years in the wilderness, following the Exodus in 1440 B.C.—and it extends throughout that 40 year period. The name of the book comes from the fact that it contains the results of two censuses.

To the modern reader, the book can seem like something of a jumble. There are narrative sections, there are random laws, there are census lists, there is the prophetic word given by the pagan prophet Balaam, and though he was a true prophet, he was not a true man. But there is a structure to the whole thing.

The Text:

“And the people spake against God, and against Moses, Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? for there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul loatheth this light bread. And the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died. Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord, and against thee; pray unto the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people. And the Lord said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived” (Num. 21:5–9).

Summary of the Text:

The two census lists are given prior to two invasions, one abortive and one more effectual. The results of the censuses are roughly the same—around 600,000 fighting men. The people traveled first from Egypt to Sinai, and from Sinai to Kadesh. To invade Canaan from the south would be more natural, and Kadesh was that place. But the people gave way to fear in response to the negative report of the ten spies, and then when they attempted to invade, they were ignominiously defeated. But by the end of the book, they are poised to invade Canaan from the east, across the Jordan, from the plains of Moab. The first travel narrative is found in 9:15-14:45 and the second is found in 20:1-22.

Leadership:

One theme of this book has to do with leadership, and challenges to that leadership that arose. You would think that someone who had wrecked Egypt, divided the Red Sea, and drowned Pharaoh, would have a secure spot as a leader. But not so with Moses (16-17). Selfish ambition always blindly takes what the grace of God has given as a starting point.

While Korah’s rebellion was a big deal, there were also challenges to the leadership of Moses that were a little closer to home. Numbers 12 tells us that Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of a “Cushite woman” he had married. This is a bit obscure, but Josephus tells us the back story, and it might even be true. When Moses was still a prince of Egypt, he once besieged a city in Ethiopia named Saba. The queen of that city fell in love with Moses from the city wall, and offered to surrender the city if he married her, which he did. If that were the case, and this woman belatedly showed up in the Israelite camp in the wilderness one day, one can easily imagine how it would disrupt the organizational flow chart, and not to Miriam’s liking.

To Live and Die as Christians

We gather at this Table weekly. As we do, we should remember that there are three elements to what we do. The first is invocation. We acknowledge God’s presence here with us, and indeed, we invite it. We call upon Him. Second, we rejoice before Him with thanksgiving. This is a Table of thanksgiving and gratitude. And third, there is an element of binding ourselves with an oath.

We are renewing covenant with God here, but not because our covenant with Him was set to expire, like a lease. Rather, we renew our vows before Him, acknowledging to Him, with solemn and deep joy, our intention to live and die as Christians. This is a deep oath, solemn and glad, and so we return to it weekly.

This is not because the oath is weak, and needs shoring up weekly. Rather, it is because we are weak, and we need to be reminded. This is our life. This is our song. This is our connection to all our brothers and sisters throughout the world, and throughout history, who have loved the name of Jesus. This is the body of Jesus, and this is the blood of Jesus. This is our creed, an edible creed. This is our oath, and in gladness we drink all of it.

The Furniture of God

When God has His people undertake a building, it is not so that He might have an empty box dedicated to Him. Under the older covenant, even the holiest place of all contained furniture—the ark of the covenant with two great cherubim overarching the mercy seat. And the placement of that furniture meant a great deal—in that Holy of Holies, the law of God was kept inside the ark, but under the mercy seat. And so that is how we treasure our commitment to the law—under the mercy.

In the new covenant, the house of God contains three great items of furniture, and all three of them are gathering points for the people of God. The building itself is where the church, the ecclesia, the called out ones, gather or assemble. We are an assembly, but we are an assembly that has gathered in accordance with Scripture. We as God’s people are the church, but the furniture represents the reason for the church.