´¯`•. December 09, 2016

This Week : Chapter 14 – Tongues & Prophecy

I apologize in advance if I get snarky a little on this one.  Prophecy is a topic near n’ dear to my heart, and I’ve been given SUCH a hard time with this one, I get a little defensive from before ‘Go’.  Will try to curb that.  Somewhat.

Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy.  vs 1

Last chapter, we talked about ‘charity’… some Bibles call it ‘love’, but it’s really neither.  It’s actually the closeness to Yehovah that could be construed as a relationship, but is more of a journey than a status, because there’s no end to the learning and growth.  It’s DEEP… we don’t have a word for the concept in English.  This happens a lot, and because people try to simplify things, they throw out the depth and richness and end up with something that doesn’t even resemble the Truth of the matter.  We are to follow along, soaking up and keeping company with the Father.

Because He’s not physically here with us, and we can’t audibly hear Him or visibly see Him, He gives us the ‘gifts’ to help us until we *are* with Him.  Paul says we need to desire the gifts – but of them?  Prophesy is the one we need to desire the most.  I never did, before… until He gave me the gift, later of His own accord.  And can I tell you straight-up that nobody wants or likes prophecy?  They don’t.  You tell a pastor that you tested highest in prophecy in the Spiritual Gifts test?  And you might as well have just painted a big flashing red pentagram in the middle of your head.  Take my WORD for it, that’s how reviled and despised prophets are, today.  People can’t STAND them.  They don’t want. to hear.  ANYTHING.  They will actually hurry in the opposite direction, when they see you.  Pastors.  I kid you not.

But we’ll get to prophecy, soon enough.  First we get to compare the gift of prophecy to the gift of tongues:

For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries.  But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort.  He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church.  I would that ye all spake with tongues but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying.  vs. 2-5

Tongues are for God (and for unbelievers, but that isn’t revealed until a little later, bear with me/Paul), prophecy is for man.  Tongues are a mystery, and not understood, but prophecy edifies, exhorts, and comforts.  Tongues might affirm the person who finds themselves speaking in them, but prophecy affirms the whole church.  Paul says tongues have their place, but prophecy is far more important, because it helps believers… and while we’re here, we need all the help we can get!

Now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine?  vs 6

ENORMOUS thing revealed, here.  Do you see it?  I’ve talked about ‘More Four’ so many times, you have to be rolling your eyes, by now, and I won’t go into it, again… but there’s ‘More Four’ in this verse.  There are four things that edify the body of Christ:  Revelation, Knowledge, Prophecy, and Doctrine.  Doctrine is written, physical teaching.  Knowledge is intellectual teaching.  Revelation is spiritual teaching.  And Prophecy is relational teaching.  See?  They fit all four categories of Mark 12:30/Luke 2:52!  Isn’t that amazing?!?!?  Paul keeps coming back to ‘More Four’, over and over and OVER in the letters he writes.

(Showing this to you?  This is prophecy, by the way.  Prophecy is not what most people think.)

Now for a HUGE section.  Sorry about the… erm, big-ness:

And even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped?  For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?  So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air.  There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification.  Therefore if I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be unto him that speaketh a barbarian, and he that speaketh shall be a barbarian unto me.

Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church.  Wherefore let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret.  For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful.  What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also.  Else when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest?  For thou verily givest thanks well, but the other is not edified.

I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all:  Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue.  Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men.  In the law it is written, With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people; and yet for all that will they not hear me, saith the Lord.  vs 7-21

Ooookay!  This is all about how important it is to understand the teachings given.   Because if you can’t tell what the music is, it’s just noise.  If you don’t know what a person is saying, it’s just gobbledy-gook.  It’s useless.  ‘Unfruitful’, Paul says.  There’s no POINT to noise.  Trust me, I have four sound-effect making sons.  It’s just noise.

Catch this:  Paul says he speaks in tongues ‘more than ye all’.  This is because Paul is an apostle who is traveling into different areas where there are different languages and dialects.  The Lord gives him the languages he needs to be UNDERSTOOD by the people who speak a language that Paul doesn’t.  That’s the point of tongues.  Remember at Pentecost?  Jews from all over the globe came to Jerusalem, and out walk the twelve disciples, speaking truths in tongues no crude, uneducated Hebrew should be able to speak.  That’s the point of tongues.

Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: but prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe. vs 22

If there’s one verse that sums up this chapter?  THIS is it.  Tongues are to edify unbelievers, but prophecy is for those who are seeking to draw closer to God.

If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad?  But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all:  And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth.  How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying.  vs 23-26

I’ve heard the modern version of tongues, once.  I was in college, and a girlfriend took me to service at her Assembly of God church.  In the middle of everything chaotic, she rolls her eyes back, tilts her head, and starts clucking like a chicken.  It’s a stuttery sound, and has no differential syllables.  It’s… weird-ass, man!  Holy wOw, what the heck?!?!  I was not impressed.  I thought she was a little cuckoo in the head, frankly.  And I was kind of irritated, because she wasn’t doing anything beneficial to anyone.  And my fairly devout upbringing screamed that she didn’t have an interpreter, and that it was just WRONG… because of this:

If any man speak in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret.  But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God.  vs. 27-28

In other words, one at a time… ‘by course’.  NO. Chaos.  It’s not scriptural.  More, if there’s no interpreter?  Don’t do it!  The Bible says that girl was doing exactly what she should not have been doing.  She could’ve been channeling a demon, for all I knew, and cursing the Lord in a church!  Who knew?!  I have a rooster – believe you me, chickens can be evil.  (<< Joke.  Mostly.)  I’ve also gone to services where a youth pastor taught that if you don’t speak in tongues when you accepted the Lord, you’re not really ‘saved’.  NOT. TRUE.  And definitely not scriptural.  (Me being saucy, I told him I’d believe it when he showed me where it says I have to speak in tongues to be saved in the Bible.)  Lies!  Because people like show, they like *dazzle*… more than Truth.  Paul. Says. NO.

Here’s how it’s to work for prophets:

Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge.  If any thing be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace.  For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted.  And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.  vs. 29-32

Apparently, the gifts of prophecy and discernment go hand-in-hand.  I know that I’ve a ‘threesome’ at the top of my spiritual gifts test: I scored off the charts for prophecy, discernment, and teaching.  (Teaching came in slightly under prophecy and discernment.)  Anyhow, Paul says that when something is presented by a prophet, let another judge what they have to say with their discernment.  I used to love to discern from the other prophets I knew… until they sold out.  (Prophets cannot ask for money for their prophecies… it leads to death, illness, and serious consequences.  FYI.)

The message here is that a) prophecy must be validated – either by proving with scripture or proving by the discernment of another prophet, and b) prophecy must be done in a clear, understandable manner, so that ALL benefit from it.

Sadly, this is nearly non-existent in the modern church.  In my experience, the church has taught that prophets are ‘false’ and ‘dangerous’ and ‘controversial’… mostly because a) pastors don’t really like/understand prophecy, and b) pastors don’t like someone who ranks higher on the totem pole than ‘pastor’.  They feel threatened, and know that prophets have no misgivings about calling them on unTruth – and the God complex that pastors have will not tolerate that.  And since prophets are the only ones given the authority to do so, the pastor must therefore consider the prophet a threat and/or enemy.

Prophets are considered ‘crazy’, or ‘volatile’ or ‘trouble’.  Elder’s meetings are called to discuss what should be done with THAT person.  THAT person is ostracized, because they’ve got ‘delusions’ about their gift.  They could tear apart the very heart of… well, the slop that now passes for church.  (Okay, so maybe there’s a valid reason the rats scurry in the light.)  Moving on.

For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.  vs 33

This verse is a bookend.  The last verse (vs 40) is the other bookend, sandwiching the section in between.  Or so I was always told.  And since I have trouble with this section, I kind of always went with that, because otherwise, there’s problems, here.  Let’s see why:

Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law.  And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.  vs. 34-35

This.  Is a problem.  First, women not being allowed to speak in the church – or so it seems to say.  But also the ‘also saith the Law’.  The Law is Torah… so it seems that Paul is saying Torah commands women not to speak in church.  I went looking for that.  It’s not there.  There are NO verses in Torah about women keeping silent in church.  I checked the Jewish sites (four of them), just in case my chain reference was faulty and I was missing something.  There are NO verses given at any of the sites, they’re all teachings from Talmud (< not the Bible).  I looked at the Complete Jewish Bible, hoping for a footnote reference to this ‘also said the law’.  There was none.

In fact, here’s what most Jewish sites say about women’s place in spirituality:

The equality of men and women begins at the highest possible level: G-d. In Judaism, unlike traditional Christianity, G-d has never been viewed as exclusively male or masculine. Judaism has always maintained that G-d has both masculine and feminine qualities.  …We refer to G-d using masculine terms simply for convenience’s sake, because Hebrew has no neutral gender; G-d is no more male than a table is.  Both man and woman were created in the image of G-d. According to most Jewish scholars, “man” was created in Gen. 1:27 with dual gender, and was later separated into male and female.

According to traditional Judaism, women are endowed with a greater degree of “binah” (intuition, understanding, intelligence) than men. The rabbis inferred this from the fact that woman was “built” (Gen. 2:22) rather than “formed” (Gen. 2:7), and the Hebrew root of “build” has the same consonants as the word “binah.” It has been said that the matriarchs (Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah) were superior to the patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) in prophecy. Women did not participate in the idolatry regarding the Golden Calf.  Some traditional sources suggest that women are closer to G-d’s ideal than men.

Women have held positions of respect in Judaism since biblical times. Miriam is considered one of the liberators of the Children of Israel, along with her brothers Moses and Aaron. One of the Judges (Deborah) was a woman. Seven of the 55 prophets of the Bible were women.

The Ten Commandments require respect for both mother and father. Note that the father comes first in Ex. 20:12, but the mother comes first in Lev. 19:3, and many traditional sources point out that this reversal is intended to show that both parents are equally entitled to honor and reverence.

And that’s just the Old Testament take on things.  Let’s not forget Anna the prophetess who was working in the temple when Messiah was brought for His dedication.  Or Priscilla, or Tryphena and Tryphosa, and the seven prophetess daughters of Philip in Acts.  ALL of these women were teaching and preaching and prophesying, most of them in the church, some in the temple!  So are women to be silent in the church, as in not participating, and cowed under the men?  That’s NOT what scripture teaches, anywhere.

So what does ‘keep silent’ refer to?  I have no idea.  Some have suggested it’s a reference to gossip or distraction or something.  Frankly, I don’t know.  But take a look at the next few verses:

What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only?  If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord.  But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant. vs. 38

Is it me, or is Paul kind of snarky, here?  He says, “God’s Word is right there – it didn’t come just to you, it’s for everyone to reference.  Use it to ‘test’ and acknowledge what I’m writing are the commandments of the Lord.  If you don’t and want to be an idiot, have at that, too!”  Do you see that sarcasm?  And it’s RIGHT on the heels of what he said that didn’t match up with Scripture.  So I’m looking at this, and wondering if he didn’t play ‘Two truths and a lie’, here.  Tongues are not to be used without an interpreter.  Prophecy is to be used for illuminating revelation and truth, tested against doctoring.  Women are not to speak in churches.  Now check it against scripture, and tell me if the things I write are the commands of the Lord.  Or you can be an idiot and just accept everything I say as law without checking it again Truth.

Whoa, that would put a whole new spin on things, wouldn’t it?  I don’t know.  But that’s what it looks like to me, from this vantage point.  Because nothing in verses 34-35 hold water against Old Testament teaching, New Testament teaching, or Paul’s own fellow bondspeople in Christ.

And then this!

Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues.  vs. 39

We’re back to tongues and prophecy… with no mention of women at all.  So what does THAT mean?  Why would that odd, out-of-place section on women be thrown in there like that?  It makes NO sense… unless Paul was testing their ability to hold everything up against scripture and test what’s Truth!

Let all things be done decently and in order.  vs 40

The end of our bookmark.  And this study.  I don’t completely understand all of it, but it’s not like I won’t ever cross this one, again…  maybe it’ll be clearer when He wants it to be clearer.

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