How Scripture is a Prophetic Interpretation of Reality and tells us what’s REALLY going on

When looking to Scripture it is clear that many historical events are being recounted. And while parts of the Scripture recount that history in the “strict” and modern sense of history,  yet,  many different genres are also used: poem, drama, moral tale, epic saga, wisdom saying, parable, apocalyptic, gospel, and so forth.

But all the Scripture amounts to a kind of sacred history where God, through his prophets, and apostles, his sages and scribes, gives us a prophetic interpretation of reality. As if to say, “What ever you think is going on, this is what is REALLY going on.”

In Scripture, God the Holy Spirit, does not just tell us what happens, but interprets its meaning. Events are not simply locked in ancient history but speak to us today. These are not just stories about what they (the people of old) did, they are stories about what us and what WE do, and what it means. I am Peter, Moses, Elijah, Mary, the Woman at the Well, and so forth. We are the ancient Israelites and their story is our story.

As such, Scripture prophetically interprets reality for us. It explains what is really going on, as God sees it, and as God gives it to his sacred authors to set forth. For us who believe that God the Holy Spirit is the Supplier of this perspective, it makes Scripture an invaluable source as a prophetic interpretation of reality.

With this brief (and perhaps inadequate) background in mind, it may be of some value to look at a passage from the Book of Judges that we are reading in the Office of Readings. And as we look at we ought to ask, “How is this a prophetic interpretation of reality? What does it have to say to us of the reality in which we are currently living? How does a passage like this explain to us what is really happening in our times?

The passage is at the beginning of the Book of Judges (2:6-3:4) and serves as a bridge text between the Book of Joshua, and the time of the Judges which followed. Lets read it and see how it prophetically interprets reality for our times. (My Comments are in red):

When Joshua dismissed the people, each Israelite went to take possession of his own hereditary land. The people served the Lord during the entire lifetime of Joshua, and of those elders who outlived Joshua and who had seen all the great work which the Lord had done for Israel.

Joshua, son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, was a hundred and ten years old when he died; and they buried him within the borders of his heritage at Timnath-heres in the mountain region of Ephraim north of Mount Gaash.

It was Joshua who had warned the people to put away strange gods from among them and wholly serve the Lord God and carefully keep his precepts. If not disaster would befall them.

And here is the first interpretative key to reality for us in this passage: that we were made to know God, to serve Him and love Him. And in so doing, and seeking to base our life on his instructive and saving precepts, we will see long life, and as many blessings as this exile can provide. But if we do not follow that for which were made, burdens will multiply, blessings diminish and disaster will follow.

But once the rest of that generation were gathered to their fathers, and a later generation arose that did not know the Lord, or what he had done for Israel,  the Israelites offended the Lord by serving the Baals. Abandoning the Lord, the God of their fathers, who had led them out of the land of Egypt, they followed the other gods of the various nations around them, and by their worship of these gods provoked the Lord.

Note the beginnings of the problem: a generation arose that did not “know the Lord.” In the Scripture, “know” almost never means a merely intellectual knowing, but, rather, an experiential knowing. Thus, troubles begin when the next generation turns away from the primary reason for which they were made: “to know the Lord.” That is, to be deeply rooted in the experience of God in their lives; to keep an open door in their hearts for God; to seek His face, as their hearts admonish (1 Chron 16:11; Psalm 105:4) and to strive to know his ways.

This is our glory and our calling. And trouble begins when we turn from this to other and lesser “gods.”For  ancient Israel, the lesser gods were the “Baals.” For us, the lesser gods are the things, people and thoughts of this world.

Some turn from God to idolize money, or things, or popular “idols” in the latest celebs or gurus. Some idolize the latest “movements” of the world. Some idolize “scientism,” the error that subordinates everything to the judgment of the merely physical sciences. Others embrace materialism, the error that says only physical matter is real. Yet others embrace pseudo-Christian heresies and syncretist versions of faith. Still others cling to agnosticism and atheism in a sinful way, never seeking to overcome their doubts or difficulties.

In all these ways there is a turn from what, and Who we were truly made for: God, and his truth. Many today will turn to anything and anyone but the one true God, and they dispense with the One of whom their heart says “Seek the face of the Lord.”

Note the second problem, they did recall “what God had done for Israel.” For God had delivered them, fed them, given his law, led them, and set them in a good land.

Yet so easily and quickly we forget the blessings that God has given. One day the Lord asked the disciples, “Do you realize what I have done for you?” (Jn 13:12) So easily we forget that we have been delivered from the futile ways our fathers handed on to us (cf 1 Peter 1:18),  and forget that we have been given lives filled with hope at the glory that lies ahead. So easily we walk from the God who has given us every good thing, and who even makes the difficult things work ultimately for our good (Rom 8:28).

Yet, forgetful, and thus ungrateful, we grow sour, demanding and grasping. Lacking gratitude we become fearful, we hoard, we buy things we cannot afford, we become greedy, and are afraid to help the poor. Being more rooted in the world, we become enslaved to it, and give it our loyalty. We turn from God and even become hostile to his reminder that we were not made for the world.

And herein lies the second interpretive key to reality for us: that Gratitude, the disciplining of our minds to count our blessings and daily recall the enormous and immense blessings of God, is essential to our well-being and freedom. Forgetting to root our praises and gratitude in God we become enslaved to the world and mistake its passing blessings, as the true meaning of our lives.

And the cruel “Baal” of this world feeds us just enough to keep us alive, but still hungry and increasingly enslaved; so enslaved that we are literally willing to sacrifice our children, our families and our very lives on the altar of this cruel “Baal.”

Among the central ways that God will save us from the cruel enslaving world is gratitude. It is no accident that the central act of Catholic worship is called the “Eucharist” (the great Thanksgiving).

Because they had thus abandoned him and served Baal and the Ashtaroth, the anger of the Lord flared up against Israel, and he delivered them over to plunderers who despoiled them. He allowed them to fall into the power of their enemies round about whom they were no longer able to withstand. Whatever they undertook, the Lord turned into disaster for them, as in his warning he had sworn he would do, till they were in great distress.

Even when the Lord raised up judges to deliver them from the power of their despoilers, they did not listen to their judges, but abandoned themselves to the worship of other gods. They were quick to stray from the way their fathers had taken, and did not follow their example of obedience to the commandments of the Lord. Whenever the Lord raised up judges for them, he would be with the judge and save them from the power of their enemies as long as the judge lived; it was thus the Lord took pity on their distressful cries of affliction under their oppressors. But when the judge died, they would relapse and do worse than their fathers, following other gods in service and worship, relinquishing none of their evil practices or stubborn conduct

And here we encounter and often misunderstood concept in Scripture: the wrath of God. Fundamentally the “wrath of God” is His passion to set things right. It does not mean God has anger like we have anger, that he is a moody God who looses his temper from time to time. Since God is love, we must understand his anger in this light. We must also understand his punishments in this manner.

The Book of Hebrews reminds us that God disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son (Hebrews 12:6). It further states that God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness (Heb 12:10), and that this discipline produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. (Heb 12:11).

God’s wrath, His anger, is his passion to set things right for us and for others. And thus we see in this passage that God used various means to draw his people back on the right path. the sending of warnings, judges (charismatic, prophet-like and military leaders), and finally delivering them for a time into the hands of their enemies.

And here we see the heart of sacred history, the keynote of the prophetic interpretation of reality: that unfaithfulness, ingratitude, and stubbornness are disastrous and at the heart of most of our suffering. It is our failure to heed God’s warnings, to hear his prophets, and to return to knowledge of Him and His ways, that is the deepest source of our problems.

Put more positively, our only true hope is to collectively return to God, to know Him, Love Him, and Serve Him. Our only real solution is to turn from our “Baals” and seek mercy and grace from the One True God. Our only hope, and it remains a standing promise, is God’s tender mercy, his abiding grace and his saving Love.

As an interpretive key to reality, this passage tells us why we are in the mess we’re in. Why are our worldwide economies devastated? Is it not because we have yielded to greed, and spent money for years on things we cannot afford? Is it not become we have become enslaved to our desires and that, even when we know we cannot go like this, we still do it? And are we not slaves because we have worshiped the creature rather than the creator who is blessed forever (Rom 1:25)? Is it not because we seek our joy and meaning in passing things rather than God? And have we not heard the warnings of the gospel against amassing wealth and of not seeking first the Kingdom of God?

And now God, after many warnings, has handed us over to our own stubbornness. And what are the “nations” that now trample despoil and plunder us? Is it not the crushing burden of our own debt, and the disgraceful and embarrassing bill we leave our children?

If you want to name a nation call it China, but in the end, China is not the problem, we are. We just can’t stop our addictive spending, our demands for more and more benefits, and our demands that “someone else” pay for it all. We can’t stop it would seem, unless God allows it all to crash.

The judgment of God is on us as never regarding our collective greed, our insatiable appetite for more. I offer this (humbly) as a prophetic interpretation of reality, not in the same sense that Scripture can, but in the sense of applying what Scripture says of God’s ways when we stubbornly refuse to repent. What is clearly scriptural is that our problem is our sin.

The same could be said of the grave sexual confusion of our times and the increasing dissolution of our families. After decades of reckless sexual misbehavior through fornication, adultery, homosexual activity and pornography, our families are in disarray and a host of social problems beset us; problems that are so deep, it is hard to image anything but a total collapse can return us to our senses. Problem after problem mounts: AIDS, Sexually transmitted diseases, teenage pregnancy, single mothers, divorce, abortion, broken homes, broken hearts and children raised in messy and confused situations. There are also declining birthrates and the social dynamite that implies.

And what are the nations that will surely despoil and plunder us. At one level it is the Muslims are are set to simply replace the Europeans whose birthrate implies they have decided to abort and contracept themselves right out of existence. In effect God’s judgement is on the sterile West: If you do not love life, there are others who do and they will replace you and populate your cities and, (as we have seen in increasing ways), oppress you.

God then concludes his prophetic interpretation of reality in this way:

In his anger toward Israel the Lord said, “Inasmuch as this nation has violated my covenant which I enjoined on their fathers, and has disobeyed me, I for my part will not clear away for them any more of the nations which Joshua left when he died.” Through these nations the Israelites were to be made to prove whether or not they would keep to the way of the Lord and continue in it as their fathers had done; therefore the Lord allowed them to remain instead of expelling them immediately, or delivering them into the power of Israel.

In other words: “This is a Test.” Will we choose to follow God and see an end to many of the disasters that have befallen our culture, or will we persist in our stubborn disobedience and see things worsen? The decision is ours.

Now again, this is a prophetic interpretation of reality. In other words, the passage, and others like it tell us what is really going on. We, in the West like to analyze our problems in worldly ways. Hence some say our problem is a lack of resources, or the wrong political party in power, or the International Monetary Commission, or some fictional Trilateral commission, or the wrong credit to cash ratio, or not enough AIDS medicine, or contraceptives in the “third world” or, or, or….

But God says our problem is a sinful stubbornness, our mistaken and sinful priorities, our idols, our greed, our lust and our refusal to repent. This is a prophetic interpretation of reality and we may go on ignoring it,  and this sinful and unbelieving world may even ridicule such an interpretation. But we ignore it to our peril and ultimate demise as a nation and culture.The enemy is within and the blame is ours.

Pay attention, this is a prophetic interpretation of reality. Are we listening?

Here’s a little call to conversion I put together last year:

10 Replies to “How Scripture is a Prophetic Interpretation of Reality and tells us what’s REALLY going on”

  1. God told Moses that, if the people should want a king, the king should not stock-pile horses (deut. 17:16). King Solomon ignored this injunction. Besides, the temple and his palace, he also constructed his stable. Horses and chariots were the high-tech weaponry of former days. Disaster befell the generation following Solomon. In the 1950’s, the USA and the former USSR started stock-piling nuclear weapons. I think this was the seed for the woes that unto us and yet to come.

    1. Yes, there is much to ponder in the life of Solomon. I wrote a post a while back and ran afoul of some readers, mainly Eastern and Orthodox Christians who seem to have him as a saint on their calendar. But according to me he really fell mightily, the biblical authors (Sirach et al) seem to agree. He multiplied gold (high taxes) multiplied horses (military) and multiplied wives (1000!). A complete strike out when it came to what God commanded.

  2. Jesus said, “And in the morning, It will be foul weather today: for the sky is red and overcast. O you hypocrites, you can discern the appearance of the sky; but can you not discern the signs of the times?” (Mt 16:3)

    Msgr. Pope, thank you (again) for your prophetic message. You discern the “signs of the times” for us.

    So what does one do NOW? First, Turn to the Lord, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to thy steadfast love; according to thy abundant mercy blot out my offenses.” (Psalm 51: 1) Go on to pray the entire Psalm — again and again.

    Yes, each of us is but a drop in the ocean but, as Mother Teresa said, if that drop were missing the ocean would be less.

    So each of us needs to repent and go to the Lord and listen for His voice. Remember, “a broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise. (Ps 51: 17) and again “whoever comes to me I will never drive away” (Jn 6: 37)

    If we repent and seek the Lord’s ways, He will come to us and dwell with us: “Jesus answered and said to him, ‘If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him'”. (Jn 14:23) From His dwelling place within the heart, He will then speak to the heart of each drop and that drop will then speak to the hearts of other drops words to awaken them, prophetic words of warning, repentance, Faith, Hope, Love….

    Thank you, again, Msgr. Pope. Couragio!

  3. Matthew 24
    37 But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.
    38 For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark,
    39 And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.

    Matthew 15
    8 This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.

    Genesis 6
    5 And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
    8 But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.

    Matthew 24
    12 And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.
    13 But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.

    Luke 21
    19 In your patience possess ye your souls.

    1 John 5:4
    For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.

    Revelation 12:11
    And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.

    2 Timothy 2
    15 Carefully study to present thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.

  4. King Solomon is, in fact, a saint in the Eastern Churches – including those in full communion with Rome. He is a prophet that was raised to Heaven by Christ when he freed all the righteous who died before the Incarnation.

  5. Wow! there’s not much to do or say after reading this article except, fall on your knees and repent.

  6. Alright Monsignor. I hear the warnings and would like to turn from my evil ways. To be exact, I feel like a biblical character who has just been warned by God’s prophet and is now asking, “This is terrible! Lord, what must we do?”.

    Thus the question: What are the specific choices available to me to make at this point? I am a single Sunday churchgoer who participates in his parish activities and goes to confession on an average of at once a month due to weak will.

    I do have an idea of what I am to do but its always good to hear from your elders and betters.

    1. Nick, first you should read Monsignor’s blog again and underline the specifics of what one needs to do. Secondly, you start doing them and stop doing the sinful things you claim you are being warned to stop. You’ve got to change your evil ways by replacing them with proper behavior. You have to actually practice this stuff based on faith that the Catholic teachings lead one to a life in Christ. Life is a passion play. What part are you going to play?

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