A Statement of Prophecy That Was Not Intended To Be a Prophecy
by Steve Sterling 12/02/2011 / Prophecy
When I used to attend Bible classes at my former local church, I always enjoyed listening to this particular Bible instructor. He is one of the persons that stimulated my interest in Bible prophecy and helped me to appreciate the word the way I do today. I will always remember his definition of prophecy and history which he routinely repeats during his prophecy lectures. The definition goes like this: prophecy is history foretold, and history is prophecy unfold.
Whenever I think of a definition of prophecy, this statement always pops up in my mind. However, while this definition statement is valid, it is not always true of certain prophecies. The way in which inspired writers treat certain statements sometimes can be puzzling to the average prophecy student. In other words, when you see what some Bible writers, under inspiration, considers prophetic, in your finite imagination, you would want to ask, how could they arrive at such a conclusion?
One of the most glaring examples of this is found in the book of Matthew. When it was brought to Herod's attention that a King was born, he expressed his desire to see the baby and to worship Him. But as we all know, this was just to disguise his evil intentions toward Jesus. After Joseph and Mary was divinely warned of Herod's enmity toward the child, they took baby Jesus and fled to Egypt. In describing the event, Matthew gave this account:
Ánd when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him. When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt: And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son." Matt. 2:13-15
What prophecy did Jesus fulfill? I did a search of the scriptures to find out which one of the prophets gave such a prophecy but I did not find it. It was then that I discovered that Matthew was not really referring to a prophetic proclamation but a statement of fact! You can do the search for yourself; you will see that no prophet made any such prediction. But the fact that it was not referring to a statement of prediction is quite significant.
The only place that I can identify where a prophet actually made a similar remark is in the book of Hosea. Here is what he declared: "When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt." Hos. 11:1. Obviously, this remark was not referring to Jesus but to Israel. It is a fact that God took Israel out of Egyptian bondage. However, this particular verse did not originate with the prophet Hosea. It has its origin in Exodus where the whole story of Israel's departure from Egypt was told.
In sending Moses to carry out the task of leading the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt, the Lord commanded him saying,
"And thou shalt say unto Pharaoh, Thus saith the Lord, Israel is my son, even my firstborn. And I say unto thee, Let my son go, that he may serve me: and if thou refuse to let him go, behold, I will slay thy son, even thy firstborn." Exod. 4:22, 23
Since the book of Matthew was given by inspiration of God, the application of Hosea 11:1 is clearly directed by the Holy Spirit to show the divine intent when God spoke these words through this Old Testament prophet. Sometimes as prophecy students we tend to make assumptions based on our finite thinking without divine guidance.
Very often we go into a bunch of hermeneutics and exegeses and a whole lot of theological complexities in order to justify our arguments when all we need to do is to simply accept the inspired instructions exactly as they are stated in the scriptures. This is not the only case where texts that applies to another dispensation are extracted from their contexts and applied to a different situation. This should not give us the license to arbitrarily apply texts out of their contexts, but when an inspired Bible writer does it we must accept it as divine interpretation.
If we were to follow our own notions of how Bible prophecy is to be interpreted we would never arrive at the conclusion that this declaration through the prophet Hosea doubles as a prophecy of Jesus' return from the land of Egypt. While we may not be able to make theological sense of this application in the book of Matthew, we cannot deny that Jesus is the Son of God and that He was, in fact, called out of Egypt.
When I made this discovery it further reinforces my position that the only means of ensuring accuracy in the interpretation of prophecy is not to interpret them at all; all we need to do is to accept God's interpretation and make them our own.