Knowing the future
Jeremiah 25: Once the seventy years is up, I’ll punish the king of Babylon.
It’s pretty clear to me that the prophets like Jeremiah are mostly involved in proclaiming God’s message to their contemporaries. However, once in a while they do what we often associate with the ministry of the prophets: telling the future. This prophecy doesn’t contain hidden terms and double meanings. Instead, it’s a clear statement about the future. God is angry, Jeremiah says, and the new king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, is going to be used to bring judgment on the people of Israel. That judgment will last for seventy years. After that Babylon itself will be judged. In this message Jeremiah’s naming names and setting dates. Some people say this is an example of God seeing the future, but I think it’s better understood as God telling what he’s going to do in the future. After all, if the Almighty says he’s going to do something I can take it to the bank. I think there’s much about the future that hasn’t been foretold because God hasn’t set a specific agenda for it. Mainly, he wants me to trust him and believe that no matter what happens he’ll see me through. I also think that the big themes are already decided; some very specifically and some in more general terms. For instance I believe that Jesus is coming back, the dead will be raised, Judgment day is sure, and everyone will spend forever somewhere as a result of that Judgment. I don’t need to sweat the details any more than Jeremiah has to detail every single event leading up to the judgment of Babylon, over seventy years in the future. He’s given an outline of the future and that’s what he tells. I also have an outline of the future, though it’s not as specific as was Jeremiah’s. My responsibility is to prepare for that future, and to live through the unknown details of every day with an eye toward the known “big day.”
Take Away: We don’t know all the details of the future but we do know about the big stuff – and it’s the big stuff that we’d better get ready for.
He nailed it
1Kings 22: As surely as God lives, what God says, I’ll say.
I’m drawn to little known people in the Bible who only make one appearance but who make a good showing in their one shot on the stage of history. The prophet Micaiah is one such man. King Ahab of Israel and King Jehoshaphat of Judah are discussing the possibility of joining forces in a campaign against Aram. Jehoshaphat wants to hear from God on this issue and Ahab, anticipating that, has a crew of hired prophets standing by. They tell the two kings that they’ll be wildly successful if they go to war against Aram. However, Jehoshaphat’s unconvinced. His question reflects both his spirituality and his lack of confidence in the hired prophets of Ahab. He asks for a real prophet of God. It’s here that we meet Micaiah, unknown to us, but apparently well known to Ahab. The King of Israel says that there’s one guy who can speak for God, but he hates him because he never says anything good about him! Upon Jehoshaphat’s insistence Micaiah is called. As he comes, he’s warned that anything negative he might say, as some lawman might put it, “will be used against him in a court of law.” Micaiah starts off with pure sarcasm: “sure, go for it, you’ll win a great victory.” It’s so obvious that he’s making fun of the hired prophets that Ahab presses him for the truth. Micaiah gives it to him, right between the eyes! All of his hired prophets are liars and God’s going to use this war to be rid of Ahab once and for all. Our glimpse of Micaiah ends with his being drug out of the presence of the kings while shouting, “If you ever get back in one piece, I’m no prophet of God.” Then he adds that when everything happens just as he said he wants everyone to remember this event. Some people play big roles in the history of God’s work in this world and I thank the Lord for them. Others have just a bit part, but I can’t help but be impressed when they come through with flying colors. Today, I tip my hat to Micaiah, the prophet of God.
Take Away: As a “bit player” I too want to be ready when my moment comes.
Not all free meals are free
1Kings 13: An angel came to me with a message from God…but the man was lying.
Jeroboam, in an effort to secure his hold on Israel, has diverted the people away from God by creating shrines and alternative holy days. This is a serious sin with real consequences. God sends a prophet to declare his judgment. The man is faithful to the task, accomplishes his mission, and is on his way home when a fellow catches up to him, inviting him to stay and eat. The reply is that he can’t do that. God gave him specific orders about this: “don’t eat a crumb and don’t drink a drop.” The reply is that the prospective host has received a word from the Lord too. He’s been told that it’s okay for the prophet to come to his house for some hospitality. The Bible says that “the man was lying.” Hard to imagine isn’t it? How could anyone say, “The Lord told me” when they just want to get their own way? Well, come to think of it, it isn’t hard to imagine at all! People do it all the time. Sometimes they’re religious fanatics who are perverting God’s Word. Sometimes they’re well-meaning people who simply have a hard time telling the difference between what they want and what God says. In this case a good man, a prophet of God listens. As a result, he loses his life. On one side of this issue, I want to be careful I don’t attach “God says” to what “I want.” It’s okay for me to have opinions and desires, but I need to be honest with others and myself and not use God’s name “in vain” by saying “God told me” when I’m just saying what I want. On the other side of the issue, I need to get used to hearing God’s Voice in my life. Once I learn to listen to what he’s saying others who say, “God told me to tell you…” won’t easily sidetrack me.
Take Away: Saying “God said…” when it’s really “I want” is, in a sense, taking the name of the Lord in vain.