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First Reading: Isaiah Chapter 29 and 30
1 Ho Ariel, Ariel, the city where David encamped! add ye year to year; let the feasts come round:
2 then will I distress Ariel, and there shall be mourning and lamentation; and she shall be unto me as Ariel.
3 And I will encamp against thee round about, and will lay siege against thee with posted troops, and I will raise siege works against thee.
4 And thou shalt be brought down, and shalt speak out of the ground, and thy speech shall be low out of the dust; and thy voice shall be as of one that hath a familiar spirit, out of the ground, and thy speech shall whisper out of the dust.
5 But the multitude of thy foes shall be like small dust, and the multitude of the terrible ones as chaff that passeth away: yea, it shall be in an instant suddenly.
6 She shall be visited of Jehovah of hosts with thunder, and with earthquake, and great noise, with whirlwind and tempest, and the flame of a devouring fire.
7 And the multitude of all the nations that fight against Ariel, even all that fight against her and her stronghold, and that distress her, shall be as a dream, a vision of the night.
8 And it shall be as when a hungry man dreameth, and, behold, he eateth; but he awaketh, and his soul is empty: or as when a thirsty man dreameth, and, behold, he drinketh; but he awaketh, and, behold, he is faint, and his soul hath appetite: so shall the multitude of all the nations be, that fight against mount Zion.
9 Tarry ye and wonder; take your pleasure and be blind: they are drunken, but not with wine; they stagger, but not with strong drink.
10 For Jehovah hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep, and hath closed your eyes, the prophets; and your heads, the seers, hath he covered.
11 And all vision is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one that is learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee; and he saith, I cannot, for it is sealed:
12 and the book is delivered to him that is not learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee; and he saith, I am not learned.
13 And the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw nigh `unto me', and with their mouth and with their lips to honor me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment of men which hath been taught `them';
14 therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this people, even a marvellous work and a wonder; and the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid.
15 Woe unto them that hide deep their counsel from Jehovah, and whose works are in the dark, and that say, Who seeth us? and who knoweth us?
16 Ye turn things upside down! Shall the potter be esteemed as clay; that the thing made should say of him that made it, He made me not; or the thing formed say of him that formed it, He hath no understanding?
17 Is it not yet a very little while, and Lebanon shall be turned into a fruitful field, and the fruitful field shall be esteemed as a forest?
18 And in that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity and out of darkness.
19 The meek also shall increase their joy in Jehovah, and the poor among men shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.
20 For the terrible one is brought to nought, and the scoffer ceaseth, and all they that watch for iniquity are cut off;
21 that make a man an offender in `his' cause, and lay a snare for him that reproveth in the gate, and turn aside the just with a thing of nought.
22 Therefore thus saith Jehovah, who redeemed Abraham, concerning the house of Jacob: Jacob shall not now be ashamed, neither shall his face now wax pale.
23 But when he seeth his children, the work of my hands, in the midst of him, they shall sanctify my name; yea, they shall sanctify the Holy One of Jacob, and shall stand in awe of the God of Israel.
24 They also that err in spirit shall come to understanding, and they that murmur shall receive instruction.
1 Woe to the rebellious children, saith Jehovah, that take counsel, but not of me; and that make a league, but not of my Spirit, that they may add sin to sin,
2 that set out to go down into Egypt, and have not asked at my mouth; to strengthen themselves in the strength of Pharaoh, and to take refuge in the shadow of Egypt!
3 Therefore shall the strength of Pharaoh be your shame, and the refuge in the shadow of Egypt your confusion.
4 For their princes are at Zoan, and their ambassadors are come to Hanes.
5 They shall all be ashamed because of a people that cannot profit them, that are not a help nor profit, but a shame, and also a reproach.
6 The burden of the beasts of the South. Through the land of trouble and anguish, from whence come the lioness and the lion, the viper and fiery flying serpent, they carry their riches upon the shoulders of young asses, and their treasures upon the humps of camels, to a people that shall not profit `them'.
7 For Egypt helpeth in vain, and to no purpose: therefore have I called her Rahab that sitteth still.
8 Now go, write it before them on a tablet, and inscribe it in a book, that it may be for the time to come for ever and ever.
9 For it is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of Jehovah;
10 that say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits,
11 get you out of the way, turn aside out of the path, cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us.
12 Wherefore thus saith the Holy One of Israel, Because ye despise this word, and trust in oppression and perverseness, and rely thereon;
13 therefore this iniquity shall be to you as a breach ready to fall, swelling out in a high wall, whose breaking cometh suddenly in an instant.
14 And he shall break it as a potter's vessel is broken, breaking it in pieces without sparing; so that there shall not be found among the pieces thereof a sherd wherewith to take fire from the hearth, or to dip up water out of the cistern.
15 For thus said the Lord Jehovah, the Holy One of Israel, In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength. And ye would not:
16 but ye said, No, for we will flee upon horses; therefore shall ye flee: and, We will ride upon the swift; therefore shall they that pursue you be swift.
17 One thousand `shall flee' at the threat of one; at the threat of five shall ye flee: till ye be left as a beacon upon the top of a mountain, and as an ensign on a hill.
18 And therefore will Jehovah wait, that he may be gracious unto you; and therefore will he be exalted, that he may have mercy upon you: for Jehovah is a God of justice; blessed are all they that wait for him.
19 For the people shall dwell in Zion at Jerusalem; thou shalt weep no more; he will surely be gracious unto thee at the voice of thy cry; when he shall hear, he will answer thee.
20 And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet shall not thy teachers be hidden anymore, but thine eyes shall see thy teachers;
21 and thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it; when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left.
22 And ye shall defile the overlaying of thy graven images of silver, and the plating of thy molten images of gold: thou shalt cast them away as an unclean thing; thou shalt say unto it, Get thee hence.
23 And he will give the rain for thy seed, wherewith thou shalt sow the ground; and bread of the increase of the ground, and it shall be fat and plenteous. In that day shall thy cattle feed in large pastures;
24 the oxen likewise and the young asses that till the ground shall eat savory provender, which hath been winnowed with the shovel and with the fork.
25 And there shall be upon every lofty mountain, and upon every high hill, brooks `and' streams of waters, in the day of the great slaughter, when the towers fall.
26 Moreover the light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun shall be sevenfold, as the light of seven days, in the day that Jehovah bindeth up the hurt of his people, and healeth the stroke of their wound.
27 Behold, the name of Jehovah cometh from far, burning with his anger, and in thick rising smoke: his lips are full of indignation, and his tongue is as a devouring fire;
28 and his breath is as an overflowing stream, that reacheth even unto the neck, to sift the nations with the sieve of destruction: and a bridle that causeth to err `shall be' in the jaws of the peoples.
29 Ye shall have a song as in the night when a holy feast is kept; and gladness of heart, as when one goeth with a pipe to come unto the mountain of Jehovah, to the Rock of Israel.
30 And Jehovah will cause his glorious voice to be heard, and will show the lighting down of his arm, with the indignation of `his' anger, and the flame of a devouring fire, with a blast, and tempest, and hailstones.
31 For through the voice of Jehovah shall the Assyrian be dismayed; with his rod will he smite `him'.
32 And every stroke of the appointed staff, which Jehovah shall lay upon him, shall be with `the sound of' tabrets and harps; and in battles with the brandishing `of his arm' will he fight with them.
33 For a Topheth is prepared of old; yea, for the king it is made ready; he hath made it deep and large; the pile thereof is fire and much wood; the breath of Jehovah, like a stream of brimstone, doth kindle it.
Second Reading: Philippians Chapter 3
1 Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not irksome, but for you it is safe.
2 Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the concision:
3 for we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God, and glory in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh:
4 though I myself might have confidence even in the flesh: if any other man thinketh to have confidence in the flesh, I yet more:
5 circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee;
6 as touching zeal, persecuting the church; as touching the righteousness which is in the law, found blameless.
7 Howbeit what things were gain to me, these have I counted loss for Christ.
8 Yea verily, and I count all things to be loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but refuse, that I may gain Christ,
9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of mine own, `even' that which is of the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith:
10 that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, becoming conformed unto his death;
11 if by any means I may attain unto the resurrection from the dead.
12 Not that I have already obtained, or am already made perfect: but I press on, if so be that I may lay hold on that for which also I was laid hold on by Christ Jesus.
13 Brethren, I could not myself yet to have laid hold: but one thing `I do', forgetting the things which are behind, and stretching forward to the things which are before,
14 I press on toward the goal unto the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
15 Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, be thus minded: and if in anything ye are otherwise minded, this also shall God reveal unto you:
16 only, whereunto we have attained, by that same `rule' let us walk.
17 Brethren, be ye imitators together of me, and mark them that so walk even as ye have us for an ensample.
18 For many walk, of whom I told you often, and now tell you even weeping, `that they are' the enemies of the cross of Christ:
19 whose end is perdition, whose god is the belly, and `whose' glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.
20 For our citizenship is in heaven; whence also we wait for a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:
21 who shall fashion anew the body of our humiliation, `that it may be' conformed to the body of his glory, according to the working whereby he is able even to subject all things unto himself.
THE ROLE OF PROPHECY
Part 4 of 6
Some prophecy in the Bible is recorded with symbols instead of literal or common language. One principle of understanding prophecy is to assume that it is literal unless that is not possible. For example: Revelations 12 described a women clothed with the sun and with moon under her feet and a crown of 12 stars on her head. We know that this is not literally possible so it must be symbolic. It is important also that consistency is used when symbology is found. Parts should not be interpreted as literal while others as symbolic.
Another clue that symbols are being used is found in Daniel 2. The King of Babylon had a dream and Daniel interpreted it for him and for us. The dream consisted of an image with a head of gold, chest & arms of silver, belly & thighs of bronze, and legs of iron. Verse 36 starts the interpretation:
"This was the dream, and now we will interpret it to the king. You, O king, are the king of kings. The God of heaven has given you dominion and power and might and glory; in your hands he has placed mankind and the beasts of the field and the birds of the air. Wherever they live, he has made you ruler over them all. You are that head of gold.
The prophecy goes on to identify several subsequent kingdoms and now by looking at history we know what those kingdoms were. The book of Daniel has several other prophecies that use symbols.
The book of Revelations is also full of symbols. We're given some hint of that in these verses from chapter 4:
After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, "Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this." At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian. A rainbow, resembling an emerald, encircled the throne.
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