Monday, February 8, 2016

Making Genuine Predictions ............. Parables 390

October 5, 1990

An eighteenth Century author, Horace Walpole, quipped: “The wisest prophets make sure of the event first.” What Walpole didn’t define is exactly how a prophet can be certain his predictions will come true.

Some would be easy. I can predict the sunrise tomorrow and the sunset tonight. I can also predict winter and spring, even the change of coloring in the trees and very often whether or not it will rain.

Other predictions are not as easy. Picking future winners of football and hockey games or horse races is difficult. So is predicting where the wheel will stop or what numbers will come up when dice are rolled or cards shuffled. In fact, the difficulty is sufficient that a whole industry is built around the gamble.

Long range predictions are not any easier. Sometimes we look at trends and can safely say we are in for a recession or hard times or wars, but the specifics are yet to be seen and predicting them makes fools out of Jean Dixon and her ilk.

However, there were some seers who enjoyed outstanding success rates. These were the Old Testament prophets, men like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea and Ezekiel. Their remarkable predictions came true with a 100% success rate, leaving only two possible explanations of how they could be so sure of the future. The book of Daniel gives one example.

Daniel was a young Jew deported to Babylon along with many others from Israel around 586 B.C. There he claimed to have visions about a leader who would come against the Hebrew people and “abolish the daily sacrifice” and “set up the abomination that causes desolation.” This prophecy is described in such detail that few doubt it refers to Antiochus IV Epiphanes, a Roman ruler who abolished the sacrificial system and desecrated the Jewish temple in Jerusalem.

The problem is that Antiochus lived about 160 B.C. and Daniel about 605 - 535 B.C. If Daniel wrote it, as the book says (and as Jesus later affirms), how did he know of things that would happen several hundred years later?

Some say Daniel did not write this book at all. It had to be written after the predicted events actually occurred. In that way, the “prophet made sure of his events first” just as Walpole said he should.

The other explanation is what the Bible claims about itself: “All Scripture is God-breathed.... For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”

The picture is God breathing His Word into men, like the wind blows into a sail, moving them in such a way that they wrote (in their own style) what He wanted them to write. The fact of God’s knowledge of all things, including the future, explains how Daniel could describe an event he had never seen. Because these men were dedicated to God in a faith-relationship, they understood that what He revealed to them was true. They may not have understood the implications of the Revelation (Daniel even asked, “My lord, what shall be the end of these things?”) but they did trust the One who revealed them. God had proven Himself faithful to them in the past; surely He would tell them truth right now, even truth about the future.

If we disregard God and dismiss any possibility of the supernatural, there is really no other way for a prophet to “make sure of his events first.”

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