As the calendar year winds down and Advent ushers in a new church year, our thoughts focus on the future. The Scriptures clearly tell us what awaits those who trust in Jesus and those who don’t.
When it comes to the future, one writer describes what he calls “the Balaam syndrome.”
You can read about the sorcerer, Balaam, in the Old Testament book of Numbers (chapters 22-25). Hired by Balak, king of Moab, to curse Israel on its march to Canaan, Balaam was overruled by the Holy Spirit and compelled instead to pronounce blessings about the future of Israel.
Still, he himself failed to heed these messages about Israel’s future. He worked against Israel, not only in his failed attempt to curse them, but by seducing them to sexual immorality. He plotted against the very people whose triumph he foretold. He was finally put to death due to his failure to take seriously the future God had revealed to him (Numbers 31:7-8).
Who has not fantasized about knowing the future? Movies and TV series have been produced which portray characters who are clued in on bad stuff that is going to happen in the future and what they do with that knowledge.
We imagine that we would avert many tragedies if we only knew the future! How many lives could have been saved, we imagine, if we knew what was coming on that fateful day in September of 2001? What might presidents and generals do if they knew the enemy’s next move? What steps would parents take if they knew ahead of time what blunders their kids would stumble into?
The Scriptures tell us that Isaac and Rebekah, as well as their two sons, Jacob and Esau, were told in advance that “the older will serve the younger.” They were told that this was God’s plan. Despite that insight into the future and the will of God, they still tried to do an end-run around God. The Balaam syndrome!
Sinful human nature does not rise to the occasion even when given advance warning. King Saul was told that God had given the kingdom to another. But he still spent the rest of his life hunting down David. The Balaam syndrome! Peter had fair warning that he would deny Christ. He did it anyway. The Balaam syndrome. Many a child has to say: “My parents told me this would happen. I should have listened!” The Balaam syndrome.
God has let us in on the future – about false prophets, about the love of most growing cold, about the increase of wickedness, about the second advent of His Son in glory, about heaven and hell. What will we do with this knowledge of what is surely coming? Exploit God’s grace? Live in sin to probe the outer limits of God’s patience? Or…or…spend our lives for Him who has loved us with an everlasting love, who died, rose and IS coming again? Either way, we won’t be able to say we weren’t told!