For the week of October 7, 2006 / 15 Tishri 5767
Torah: Vayikra / Leviticus 22:26 - 23:24
& Bemidbar / Numbers 29:12-16
Haftarah: Zechariah 14:1-21
Facing the Future
Then the survivors from all the nations that have attacked Jerusalem will go up year after year to worship the King, the LORD Almighty, and to celebrate the Feast of Sukkot (English: Tabernacles). (Zechariah 14:16)
I was having an interesting conversation with two men the other day. They both worked for companies that were part of the high-tech upsurge of several years ago. Both men were looking forward to the possibility of being able to retire very wealthy at a relatively early age. Then the high-tech bubble burst and, with that, their dreams.
These two men both felt that the real issue for most people regarding financial security is a sense of being able to control their future. While I think that most of us can see that no amount of money can ensure such a thing, we would still feel a lot better about the days to come if we had a million dollars in the bank.
The future - whether it be the immediate future: such as will I still have a job tomorrow? or the distant future: such as how long will I get to live? - is perhaps the single greatest cause of anxiety for most people. Having a sense of control of the future somehow alleviates that anxiety. Financial success is only one of the means by which we try to take control of our future. Others do it through power. They think that political position or military might will provide them with what they need to protect themselves and provide prosperity for them in the days ahead. Others do it though gaining knowledge. They think that understanding how life really works will enable them to not be caught off guard by changing trends. The popularity of horoscopes and fortune tellers of all kinds reveal the desire so many have to know the future. They think that knowing the future will give them a sense of security.
Some use the Bible in this way. Both the Hebrew Scriptures and New Covenant writings refer to future events. There is no lack of material available by those who would give us their interpretations of these predictive passages. But I wonder how many of us have taken the time to ask the question: why are those passages there? Listening to some people discuss biblical prophecy sounds similar to me to what the two men I referred to were saying as they discussed their financial experiences.
I get the impression that for some people being able to recite their biblical understanding of how the world will end, provides them with a sense of control. I don't know what those people will do when their interpretations don't come to pass, but I guess they will have to deal with that if and when it happens.
Back to my question: why does the Bible include predictive portions? To adequately answer this important question, we would have to look at the context of each passage to see if we could ascertain God's motive in revealing a future event. But might I say that there is no sense whatsoever that he ever intended to give us a sense of control. Far from it. Biblical prophesy declares that only God is in control of the future.
Is this not the lesson of the Festival of Sukkot, which begins this year on Friday evening, October 6? This was the time when the people of Israel were to live in temporary shelters for a week to remember how God took care of us during our wilderness wanderings for forty years after leaving Egypt. The prophet Zechariah predicted that one day all nations of the world will observe this festival.
God through Zechariah was saying that no matter what the nations might do to the people of Israel, they will eventually acknowledge God as the only true Protector and Provider. Therefore God's people were not to fear what might happen to them, but rather they should keep trusting in God, who will work everything out in the end.
This is just one example of the consistent message contained in biblical predictive prophesy. As we face the future, our only assurance of security is in trusting God.
Perhaps this is too simplistic for some people, but learning to trust God today, to do his will amidst the many challenges we face, is not easy. The forces of evil relentlessly attempt to get us to think that we will not be able to make it. They want us to believe that failure is our only option. Buckling under these pressures, it is tempting to turn to something that will give us a sense of false security, rather than trusting in he who holds the future in his hands.
Anything but God himself, including many of our interpretations of biblical prophecy, is just like the high-tech bubble that burst in the faces of so many who put their trust in it. We cannot control the future, but we can be secure in the one who does.
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