August 2, 2014

Bible prophecy: past, present, future

To understand current events in the world, a newscast won’t be as enlightening as the book of Genesis! Whether shaken or fruitful, the beginning of each family tree follows a foreseeable trajectory from ancient times into today. So, instead of fretting about what’s happening or asking, “Where will it all end?” we might look at where it all began. At least, that’s what I wanted to do when I requested review copies of these two books:

The Word of the Lord: Seeing Jesus in the Prophets by Nancy Guthrie, published and given to me for review by Crossway

The Holy Land Key: Unlocking End-Times Prophecy Through the Lives Of God’s People in Israel by Ray Bentley with Genevieve Gillespie, published by Waterbrook Press and sent to me by Blogging For Books

Hopefully, you recall I’ve mentioned Nancy Guthrie’s 10-week Bible study before and highly recommend her series of “Seeing Jesus in the Old Testament,” especially the study of Psalms and other wisdom books and, now, this book on the words of the Lord through the prophets.

As p. 19 explains, “The prophets did not communicate their own ideas or agenda. They were called by God to be spokesmen for God.// And, amazingly, though the books by the prophets were God’s message to his people in their day, they are no less God’s message for you and me today.” The author goes on to discuss “The Problems with the Prophets We Must Overcome,” for example, “First, we’re unfamiliar with the history and geography.”

Maps and a Bible atlas will help, but “another obstacle we have to overcome to study the Prophetic Books” is that they’re not placed in chronological order. Although this study does not have space to discuss all sixteen of those books, it covers nine in the order in which they occurred.

As the series title of “Seeing Jesus in the Old Testament” suggests, the author focuses on the foreshadowing of Christ with a list on pages 30-31 that gives us a helpful overview:

• In Jonah we’ll see by contrast the compassion of Jesus, who ran toward those under judgment rather than away from them.

• In Hosea we’ll see Jesus as our faithful bridegroom, who paid the price of his own blood to redeem us, his unfaithful bride, from our slavery to sin.

• In Micah we’ll see the humble justice and mercy of Jesus as the one whose life and death answers Micah’s difficult question: ‘What does the LORD require?’ (6:8.)

• In Isaiah we’ll see Jesus as the divine King seated on the throne Isaiah saw in the year King Uzziah died, as the suffering servant who will be punished in place of his people, and as the coming conqueror who will put an end to evil.

• In Habakkuk we’ll see that Jesus is the one by whom sinful, faithless people are credited the righteousness needed to live by faith.

• In Jeremiah we’ll see Jesus finally fulfilling God’s promise of a new covenant that will implant in us a heart that wants to obey.

• In Daniel we’ll see Jesus as the glorious Son of Man who has received from the Ancient of Days a kingdom that will never oppress and never pass away.

• In Ezekiel we’ll see the promised presence of Jesus with us, never to leave us, in a new city called ‘The LORD is There’ (48:35).

• And, finally, in Malachi…we’ll see Jesus, who makes it possible for us to say with confidence, ‘I will be able to stand when he appears – not because I am clean or good or worthy in myself, but because the Word of the Lord who came has come to me and made me his own.’

When Christ comes again, “The Lamb of God will have taken away the sin of the world. The Son of David will be seated on David’s throne. The Wisdom of God will have overcome the foolishness of the world. The Word of the Lord who came will come again. This time,” however, “instead of coming to die for us, he will come to live with us.”

Until then, The Holy Land Key gives us a way of “unlocking end-times prophecy through the lives of God’s people in Israel.” How would the author know this? As the back jacket blurb tells us, “For decades, author and pastor Ray Bentley has partnered with God’s people in Israel, including Judea and Samaria, the area known as the West Bank. There, he witnesses the fulfillment of prophecy firsthand.”

Far beyond giving us his personal experience, Pastor Bentley calls us from page 1 to “look at certain passages of Scripture from a Hebrew perspective.” And, from the start, he makes his intentions clear: “We also will study what God has written in the heavens and what the Bible says about these heavenly revelations. We will look at the testimony of history, we will study the Jewish calendar and the biblical feasts, and we will even find startling insights based on research done by NASA on blood moons.”

The author also reminds us that “One of the clearest and most enduring signs is God’s unbroken relationship with the Jewish people." And so, “When we look at Israel, we see God’s intentions for the world.” Whether “Jewish or Gentile, Christian or otherwise,” Pastor Bentley acknowledges modern-day Israelis as “answering the call of God on their lives.”

In Part 2, “How Prophecy Is Being Revealed Today,” Rev. Bentley shows how “Ruth personifies the Gentiles” then goes on to discuss what he’s been “Learning from the Descendants of Ishmael.” As this compelling book goes back and forth in time, interweaving biblical prophecies, historical events, and modern stories, the theme generally clarifies and occasionally muddles but continues to grip and challenge us as readers and peoples of God.

On the last page, for example, the author clearly states: “We have an opportunity to replace centuries of replacement theology, persecution, neglect, and ignorance – and to do this with love and gratitude…. The gospel was born in Jerusalem. Now it is time to bring it home.”

Admittedly, I do not fully understand all this book presents, but I know it’s an important and timely “read” I recommend. More importantly – and timely too, I recommend we pray the Lord’s Prayer/ Our Father with a fuller conscientiousness of Jesus' words: “Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done.” And as Psalm 122:6 continues to ask of the people of God: “Pray for peace in Jerusalem.”

© 2014, Mary Harwell Sayler, reviewer, is a traditionally published author of 26 books in all genres, including two poetry books: the Bible-basedOutside Eden and the environmentally-oriented Living in the Nature Poem.

The Holy Land Key: Unlocking End-Times Prophecy Through the Lives Of God’s People in Israel, paperback

The Word of the Lord: Seeing Jesus in the Prophets, paperback, single copy

The Word of the Lord: Seeing Jesus in the Prophets, paperback, 10 copies at a nice discount as of this writing

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