October 2, 2014

Prediction or Prophecy?

Over and above the fallible, self-interested predictions of man stands the authoritative, prophetic Word of God. This is the Christian’s only standard.

Prediction or Prophecy


God’s word must and will prevail in every age, but do we only know this with hindsight and thus without faith? There are many in God’s church who confuse insight with hindsight, and there seem to be many Christians with the ‘gift’ of hindsight who love to share it. But hindsight is a form of insight after the event! It isn’t so difficult after things are done to offer reasons why a person or group should have done this or that or even to suggest why something may have happened the way it did, or a culture chosen the route it has. The challenge we face as Christians is applying wisdom before the event or during the trial – a much rarer gift. We need wisdom in facing the vicissitudes of life, our trials and difficulties, to trust that God is working out things for our joy and His glory.


Now there are intelligent and observant commentators and intellectuals who, having thought about history and its patterns, have made certain predictions, and from time to time, these predictions have been borne out to some degree or another – perhaps economic, political or social changes have been predicted that turn out to be more of less accurate. However, the calling of God’s people, like men of Issachar who are to know the times, is not merely to be concerned with making predictions so that we can get in front of some personal problem, an economic curve or avoid some political bump in the road as men repeat the sins and mistakes of previous generations (in that sense prediction is not that hard either). Rather our calling, in light of God’s Word in history, is not so much to predict changes as it is to change predictions by faith and obedience to God’s Word.


We must recognise that there is a world of difference between prophecy and prediction. Predictions are men’s fallible efforts to get a handle on tomorrow in terms of what are for man inherently unpredictable events and changes. To do this they generally depersonalise history and seek to account for events without the hand and providence of the all-sovereign Lord. Unregenerate man will always be making his predictions in the hope of knowing and then predestinating history and thereby, he thinks, finding some source of security without God.


Prophecy on the other hand is the sure and certain Word of God that must come to past, whatever the circumstances of your life and whatever the world around you looks like – irrespective of all the punditry and predictions of man. Prophecy comes from the absolute determination of the triune God, in terms of His unbreakable promises, in the covenantal structure of His workings in history. His word is unalterable and unchanging. God is not a man that He should lie – it is impossible. For the God who made and governs all things in terms of His purpose can only speak an infallible word. This is our security, this is our glory.


Now our task as believers, within the overall context of this word of prophecy in Scripture, is that we have to act in the present as an expression of faith about tomorrow, with our limited knowledge of the past and present. We cannot know some of the factors that may set some of our efforts aside because neither you nor I are God. Hindsight enables us to observe and correct certain errors of judgment to help us make better decisions for today, but it is not ‘wisdom’ in the truest sense, because only a fool does not learn from the past. Hindsight has value only as it leads us to godly foresight and better planning for tomorrow.


Now the reality is that we cannot have any sound hindsight or foresight without faith, and this is where God’s word of prophecy plays such a critical role. St. Paul tells us, “We know that for those who love God, all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28). If we are Christians, this is true for us. The sovereign Lord is overruling in all things to bring good even out of our failures and sins and mistakes, because we are His people. As such we can act with the foresight that we are never alone, God is with us, and His glorious purposes shall prevail. This means that we can survey all events and circumstances in the knowledge that “in all these things, we are more than conquerors through him that loved us” (Rom. 8:37).


If we want true foresight and useful hindsight today, we must view everything in terms of God’s sure word of prophecy and then we will find that our assessments and analysis of tomorrow are simply practical explications of God’s covenant Word. God’s prophetic Word makes a mockery of man’s humanistic predictions and by it we change predictions in obedience to that Word. For us to see anything apart from the Word of God, to look without the eyes of faith is not wisdom (however wise it may sound), it is blindness. To see God’s hand in past, present and future and to trust His word is true wisdom.

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