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11. The exiles who returned

11-1 Ezekiel’s Temple: Based Upon Solomon’s Temple || 11-2 The Nature Of Prophecy || 11-2-1 Conditional Prophecy || 11-2-2 Human Response || 11-2-3 Tyre in Ezekiel 26 || 11-2-4 Delayed Prophecies || 11-2-5 Prophecies With Changed Fulfillment || 11-2-6 The Nature Of Prophecy || 11-3 Command More Than Prediction || 11-4 The Contemporary Relevance Of Ezekiel's Temple || 11-5 The Restoration: Potential Kingdom Of God || 11-6 The Potential And The Reality || 11-6-1 The Weakness Of Judah Under Nehemiah || 11-6-2 Isaiah's Prophecies Of Restoration || 11-6-3 Jeremiah's Restoration Prophecies || 11-6-4 Ezekiel's Restoration Prophecies || 11-6-5 The Cherubim And The Restoration || 11-6-6 Zechariah's Restoration Prophecies || 11-6-7 The Restoration Psalms || 11.7 “The prince" in Ezekiel || 11-7-1 " The prince" : Potential Messiah || 11-7-2 Zerubabbel- Potential Messiah? || 11.8 The Potential For The Surrounding World || 11-8-1 Haggai 2 || 11-8-2 Meshech And Tubal || 11-8-3 Joel Chapter 3 || 11-9 Different Sequences Of Prophetic Fulfillment || 11-10 Zechariah And Malachi: More Chances || 11-11 The Returned Exiles

11-2-4 Delayed Prophecies

Prophecies that are delayed / rescheduled in their fulfilment

Some prophecies were delayed / rescheduled in their fulfilment. Others have their intended fulfilment changed into another form. Is. 40:2 speaks of how Jerusalem’s “punishment is accepted” (RVmg.), referring to how Lev. 26:43 had said that the land would lie desolate until her punishment was fulfilled. This passage could have come true when Judah returned from captivity. But it didn’t. It is applied to the preaching of John the Baptist in the 1st century; but again, Judah would not hear. And so once again the land lay desolate again, until now the time has arrived for the final Elijah prophet. God is seeking to fulfil His word, but He will not force the hand and hearts of men and women. Therefore prophecies are delayed in their fulfilment, as mankind is given yet more opportunities. The briefest attention to context will show that Isaiah 40 follows straight on from the account of Zion’s salvation from the Assyrian in Hezekiah’s time. The command to cry unto Jerusalem that her warfare is finished (Is. 40:2) is clearly following on from the historical account of Jerusalem’s salvation from Sennacherib’s invasion which we have just read in Is. 37-39. The voice in the wilderness [potentially Isaiah?] preached that all flesh was grass, referring back to how the nations around Jerusalem had been “as the grass of the field” during Sennacherib’s invasion (Is. 37:27 cp. 40:6). The voice crying in the wilderness to prepare Messiah’s way therefore was intended to occur after the defeat of Sennacherib. But Hezekiah messed up, and his people turned to materialism and idols. And thus the prophecy was rescheduled to fulfillment in John the Baptist; but again, Israel would not hearken. If Israel would have received it, John would have been the Elijah prophet; but overall they didn’t, and so the whole prophecy is again rescheduled to be fulfilled in the Elijah prophet of our last days. Micah 5 speaks of Messiah being born and being smitten upon the cheek at the same time as Jerusalem is besieged and Judah has been invaded by the Assyrians. Whatever minor fulfilment this may have had in Hezekiah, it was pathetically incomplete- he wasn’t born in Bethlehem, and he wasn’t smitten upon the cheek with a rod. I read all this as meaning that Messiah could have been born and then suffered in such circumstances- but it didn’t happen. The prophecy was fulfilled in essence, although in a different context and in a different way, in the Lord Jesus. Likewise Is. 9:6 speaks as if the birth of Messiah would be at a time of deliverance from Israel’s invaders; yet Is. 9:13 RV implies this would only happen if they were obedient: “Yet the people hath not turned / repented”.  

The Lord Jesus / bridegroom “tarries”, the same Greek word translated ‘delay’ in “my Lord delayeth his coming”. The Lord does delay His coming- the man’s mistake was in acting inappropriately because of this. God’s judgments likewise “waited”, or delayed, in Noah’s time (1 Pet. 3:20)- presumably for the 120 year period of Gen. 6:3. In a similar way, the judgment on Nineveh preached by Jonah also delayed- it came in the end, but their repentance meant that it delayed at that time. 

In the first century, all things were ready for the Supper- supper time had come. But the start of the supper has been delayed 2000 years by Israel’s rejection of the invitation to participate (Lk. 14:17).  

There are some types of prophecy which one surely has to accept as only being capable of fulfilment given certain freewill behaviour by God’s people. Take Jer. 12:14-17: “Thus saith the Lord against all mine evil neighbours [e.g. Babylon], that touch the inheritance which I have caused my people Israel to inherit: Behold I will pluck them up from off their land, and will pluck up the house of Judah from among them [which He did at the restoration]. And it shall come to pass, that after I have plucked them up, I will return and have compassion on them: and I will bring them again, every man to his heritage, and every man to his land [the lists in Ezra and Nehemiah shew how the Jews from each part of the land were enabled to return to their original cities]. And it shall come to pass, if they will diligently learn the ways of my people, to swear by my Name…then shall they be built up in the midst of my people”. But the Jews mixed with the people of the land, they didn’t teach them the Name, and so the prophecy didn’t come true- they weren’t built up in the midst of Israel as intended. Prophecies like Is. 19:18,24 were thereby disabled from fulfilment at that time- “In that day there shall be five cities in the land of Egypt that…swear to the Lord…in that day shall Israel be the third with Egypt and with Assyria”. Is. 2:2-4, Zech. 8:21-23 etc. speak of how Gentile nations would desire to learn the ways of God and come up to a temple in Zion for this purpose. Could it not be that these passages are to be read in the context of Jer. 12:14-17- that all this was only possible if at the time of the restoration the nations had learnt God’s ways from the Jews? In this case these passages are not to be taken as ‘proof’ that there has to be a future temple built in Zion.    

Yet there are other types of prophecy which are not fulfilled because in wrath, God remembers mercy. The statement that Adam and Eve would surely die in the day they ate the fruit is surely an evident example. For, they didn’t. Or consider 1 Kings 11:13: “I will give one tribe to thy son”. But Solomon’s son was given two and a half- Benjamin and half of Manasseh, in addition to Judah, David’s tribe.  

In the context of the returning exiles, Daniel was aware that the 70 years of desolation had to be fulfilled, and yet he asks God not to defer the promised restoration (Dan. 9:2 cp. 19), as if he understood that the predicted revival of Israel could still be delayed by God on account of their unpreparedness, even though it was prophesied. Daniel understood from Jeremiah’s prophecies that Jerusalem’s fortunes would be revived after the 70 year period was ended. Yet he goes on to ask God to immediately forgive His people, as if Daniel even dared hope that the period might be shortened. Daniel lived into the reign of Cyrus (Dan. 6:28), and so he would have witnessed “the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem” (Dan. 9:25; Ezra 1:1). But it seems to me that whilst the prophecy of the 70 years came true in one sense, the Jews didn’t respond as they should, and so the time of Zion’s true freedom in the Messianic Kingdom was delayed. Daniel had been petitioning the Father to not delay beyond the 70 year period in doing this. But in another sense, the prophecy was re-interpreted; Daniel was now told that there was to be a “seventy weeks of years” (Dan. 9:24 RSV) period involved in order to gain ultimate forgiveness for Israel as Daniel had just been praying for. The 70 years had become “seventy weeks of years”. The command to rebuild Jerusalem was given in the first year of Cyrus (Ezra 1:1); but Daniel must have watched in vain for any sign that Zion’s glad morning had really come. And so it is recorded that in the third year of Cyrus Daniel was given a vision that confirmed to him that “the thing was true, but the time appointed was long [Heb. ‘extended’; the word is also translated “greater”, “more”]: and he understood the thing” (Dan. 10:1). What was “the thing” that was true, which Daniel sought to understand? Surely it was the vision of the 70 years that he had sought to “understand” in Dan. 9:2. The Hebrew “dabar”, translated “thing”, is usually translated “word”. He was comforted that the word of prophecy would come true; it was “noted in the scripture of truth” (Dan. 10;21). It was just that it had been extended in its fulfilment; “for yet the vision is for many days” (Dan. 10:14). And this was how he came to “understand the thing / word”. The essential and ultimate fulfilment of the 70 years prophecy would only be after a long time, involving 70 “weeks of years”. Thus Daniel came to “understand” the vision (Dan. 10:1); hence he was so shocked, depressed and disappointed that the fulfilment would not be in his days. But he is set up as a representative of those of us in the very last days who shall likewise “understand” (s.w. Dan. 12:10) the very same prophecies which Daniel studied. Daniel is described as both understanding, and also not understanding (Dan. 10:1; 12:8). Surely the idea is that he understood the principle of deferment and the outline meaning of the prophecy; but he didn’t understand the details. And so perhaps it is with us who will, or do, likewise “understand” as Daniel did.