A guest post by James Kushiner of Touchstone Magazine
“So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth:
it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish
that which I please, and it shall prosper
in the thing whereto I sent it.”
The future is the only thing in man’s field of vision that appears enticingly within his power to shape. So the present is dominated by plans for and promises about “the future.”
This is all grist for the rhetoric that will dominate media in another election year in the U.S. (where it officially began this past Monday) as well as in other countries. Candidates talk about what they will do in the future to change things for the better. The only problem is they can rarely deliver on their promises.
This does not stop the promises and predictions. Some of the predictions are also of what will happen if one’s political opponent is elected instead. Sometimes a candidate really believes he will be able to stop crime and lower taxes. At other times, a candidate will just say what he thinks he needs to say to get elected, and then, once in power, do what he wants, not keeping to his previous script.
In other words, “Put not your trust in princes, in the sons of men in whom there is no salvation.” Even the best, honest, and wisest candidate cannot control the future. And any president or prime minister may find himself (and his country) in circumstances not previously envisioned or prepared for (e.g., George W. Bush on 9/11 or Benjamin Netanyahu on Oct. 7). We cannot announce the future—unless we are a prophet.
Our grasp of the future is illusory, unless we base it on the Word of God. By that I mean recognizing not only that God alone has the final say, but that he has also shown himself to be clear about what will happen in the future, unlike the sons of men and unlike their adversary, the devil, who lies about the future to deceive us.
The adversary told Eve “you will surely not die” if the forbidden fruit was eaten, and “you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” A proposal was made with an assurance. Well, Man does, sort of, know good and evil in that he experiences them, but surely does not know what to make of evil or how to explain it to our satisfaction.
God, on the other hand, from Genesis on, clearly announced to man what he will do and what the consequences will be for man for the deeds man does. To Adam and Eve, he declared, “In the day the you eat of [the tree of knowledge] you shall surely die.”
Prior to the Fall, God needed to make no promise to mankind; only directives: “Be fruitful and multiply…I have given you every green plan for food.” It was all “very good.”
But after the disobedience, God began weaving a lifeline for man, who had severed himself from God like an astronaut drifting off into deep and deadly space. God began to speak of what he would do in the future; he made promises, in the form of covenants. “I will put enmity between you and the woman…her offspring…shall bruise your head.”
He made promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; promised a scepter to Judah; promised deliverance from Egypt to Moses, and a ruler of the line of David to redeem and save us. In all cases, God is able to call the shot, make it happen, and retrieve mankind from the jaws of death.
We have a choice: to place full confidence in God or mammon; in the Lord or the rulers of the earth. God has announced that the end of men’s delusions will come and none of their schemes will abide, while the kingdom of this world will become the kingdom of Christ.
Modern man denigrates all this as “pie-in-the-sky” religion. Perhaps he has it backwards: politics is pie-in-the-sky optimism. God delivers. He has not hidden his purposes. He warned Israel that they would suffer in the Land if they did not keep the commandments. That they would be exiled. The Lord said not one stone of the Temple would remain on another and all would be swept away. He said, and we confess, that he will come again with glory to judge the living and the dead, that his kingdom shall have no end. That is our anchor.
Who are you going to believe? Trust? Jesus said he would build his church. He did that. It struggles when it is faithless and sins (as warned), and shines when faithful to the Word and commandments of God. No other ruler can claim such an influence on the world, and Christ is not done yet. He is coming to clean house and make a final end to the devil and his works.
That’s the only right side of history to be on.
James Kushiner is Director of Publications for Touchstone Magazine — A Journal of Mere Christianity.
This article was first published in First Things’ e-mail newsletter for subscribers, on Jan. 20, 2024.
Copyright C 2024 by James Kushiner and Fellowship of St. James. Used by permission.