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Devotionals

Strip Mining the Bible - Joseph Prince Edition

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828ministries.com H3'ed 1/17/15
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I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent among you. - Joel 2: 25 (ESV)

He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. - Psalm 23: 3 (ESV)

For I will restore health to you, and your wounds I will heal, declares the Lord, because they have called you an outcast: 'It is Zion, for whom no one cares!' - Jeremiah 30: 17 (ESV)

When we think of conventional mining the images of coal mines spring to life in our minds eye. Underground tunnels boring their way through the earth, carving out tunnels from which we can go and excavate the desired target, be it coal or some other natural resource. As man advanced however, he discovered work arounds. Cheats if you will. Ways to get to the desired target in a lazy enough manner to not actually go through the work required to tunnel through miles of rock. One such work around is called strip mining. This practice is when you remove a large strip of what is known as the overburden. This is the overlying soil and rock that stands in the way of the target. So instead of boring and drilling, they simply strip mine out the stuff that is in the way. This only works if the target is relatively shallow to begin with. If it already resides close to the surface. While this may sound reasonable, it remains a cheap and lazy alternative that has been widely criticized for the negative impact it has on the overall environment of the earth.

What a grand word picture for the point we are looking at today. Beloved, the Bible is the Word of Almighty God for us today. It transcends all time and culture. Generations and civilizations. When this world finally passes away, only the Word will remain. It is one of the primary ways God speaks to us. It contains the words of eternal life. It is the vehicle to bring the grace of God to a fallen humanity. It just needs to be preached. What does that mean preacher? It means that we should always approach the Word of God looking to see what God has to say. What is He trying to say? What is He trying to teach us through His eyes and through the work of His Son, Jesus Christ. To accomplish this I have seen solid Biblical preachers simply exposit the Bible verse by verse each week to their flocks. This method protects the sheep from the will of the Pastor as opposed to hearing the will of God. While many other capable pastors will skip around the Bible they still stay true to what the text is trying to say and what God is trying to say through it. They always return to Calvary one way or the other because they understand the entire Bible is one big story about Jesus. It is not about us.

Then you have the new breed of pastors in modern Christianity. For them it is not necessarily approaching the Bible to hear what sayeth the Lord. Instead, they approach the Bible with a specific target in mind. Like a miner might approach the earth targeting coal; the purpose driven, relevance seeking, mega church desiring, vision casting CEO/pastor tends to approach the Bible targeting what they have already decided they want to talk about. Rick Warren teaches young pastors to decide on the topics for sermon series and then research to support that topic. These targets however are usually as shallow as the targets desired through strip mining. It is a smiley-faced gospel dipped in confectionary sugar then wrapped in cotton candy. The problem for these wannabe preachers is that they cannot simply mine the shallowness of their preconceived biases without strip mining out the overburden first. The biblical overburden they seek to strip mine out is the precious context the verses they abuse are found in. It is the context that reveals what God is actually trying to say so by strip mining it away, they are left only with the verse/target they were seeking and they are free to use it as they see fit. Not to tell us what sayeth the Lord but instead what sayeth the preacher. Let us take a look at a master bible strip miner in progress; Joseph Prince.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u_msT0B9wHs

This link is from a sermon Prince preached just a couple weeks ago as he laid out his prophetic vision for 2015. His teaching starts as it always does, with a claim of direct revelation from God. Apparently, God has Joseph on His speed dial from up in heaven and calls him every week to tell him what to preach about. Mind you, we can always say that we felt God impress upon us certain things in prayer or during our devotional time. That is not what Prince claims. He claims God "said to me" this week"and that is quite different and quite dangerous. Nonetheless, the premise for this sermon is that God apparently told Prince to tell everyone who is listening to him that 2015 will be the year of His restoration and because we belong to Him, we get the same restoration benefits apparently. In order to prop up this sermon and make it seem biblical, Prince turns to strip mine the Bible. His target? Anything with the word "restore" because that is the premise he has laid out. Now he merely needs to find verses that use the word "restore", strip mine out the overburden of context and voila! He will just then apply them to our lives as if that is what God is saying to us through them. The problem of course is without the overburden of context, it is not what God is saying at all. It is merely what the imagination of Joseph Prince is saying. During the 10 minute sermon snippet, he covered three verses, which are our key verses today and of course they all contain the word "restore."

I will restoreto you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent among you. - Joel 2: 25 (ESV)

Talk about strip mining a verse violently out of context! Prince uses this verse to declare that 2015 is the year that God will restore years to us all! Those years that we spent apart from Him? He will restore them! Hallelujah, pass the offering plate! Is that what God is really saying however? What about that pesky overburden Prince so casually discarded? The Book of Joel is a prophetic book. It is first and foremost as foreshadowing of the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ. Even the verse Prince quotes here reveals the wrath of God! It is God who sent the swarm of locusts down upon Judah for her continual sins. It is not merely a choice of "years spent apart from Him." It is about a willful disobedience to what is right and wrong in the eyes of God! Without repentance the judgment will be harsh beloved. God will not be mocked but according the theology of Joseph Prince, God is never angry with us. He has preached entire sermons trying to convince people that God is literally never upset with us anymore. Well, he has a rather thorny problem then if he wants to use Joel 2:25 correctly because the entire overburden deals with sin and repentance - two things he never preaches about. No problem, just strip mine out the one verse and ignore the entire Book of Joel as context. It was somewhere around 800 years before Jesus Christ even walked the earth that the Prophet Joel was writing this verse down. That is over 2800 years ago that Joel was trying to outline the glorious promises of salvation from the Lord if Judah would just repent. He was painting a prophetic picture for all of us of what could happen if we repent as well. To Joseph Prince? That is just overburden. It is in the way of the far more shallow point he is trying to make. That this verse actually means that God will restore years to you in 2015 as part of his prophecy package. Sad.

He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. - Psalm 23: 3 (ESV)

Prince does not seem to spend much time here but says that God will restore our soul, which means our mind and emotions. So if we find ourselves depressed or negative all the time, Prince said that God will restore us out of this in 2015. Yet the excavated overburden here is massive. Psalm 23 is no minor missive in the Word of God! It is probably the most widely known Scripture after John 3:16. It is not meant as a promise of restoration beloved. It is a reminder of the sufficiency of God. Even the immediate context of the quoted verse betrays the strip mining Prince is trying to accomplish. Yes God restores our soul but what immediately follows this statement? Being led in the path's of righteousness for His namesake. Not for a spiritual antidepressant. Not so I stop thinking negatively. It is for His namesake! I do not want us to miss the overall point though. What was the Psalmist and God trying to say when David wrote this Psalm? Was God looking thousands of years into the future so Joseph Prince could discover what centuries of theologians before him could not? That Psalm 23:3 was really a secret prophetic message about the year 2015 and how God was going to restore the emotions of anyone listening to a Joseph Prince broadcast? This is not how we are supposed to approach the Bible beloved. There is so much rich theology in Psalm 23. Pictures of God setting a table for us to feast at in the presence of our own enemies! Spending eternity with God in His house! Not ever wanting because we are shepherded by the Great Shepherd! Oh to turn this in to some dime-store prophecy of vague temporal emotions. Sad.

For I will restore health to you, and your wounds I will heal, declares the Lord, because they have called you an outcast: 'It is Zion, for whom no one cares!' - Jeremiah 30: 17 (ESV)

The Prophet Jeremiah oversaw a tumultuous time in the lives of God's people. He saw the fall of the Ten Northern tribes by Assyria. He tried to prophesy repentance to Judah before they fell as well; captured by the Babylonian Empire. In chapter 30, Jeremiah is prophesying the comfort of God's eventual deliverance to the remnant taken into captivity in Babylon. I say this because it is important to distinguish biblically what are meant to be prescriptive texts and descriptive texts. A descriptive text meaning it is describing something that actually occurred and a prescriptive text being a timeless truth we ought to try and apply to our lives. Here are obvious examples:

And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself. - Matthew 27: 5 (ESV)

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