Thursday, November 15, 2012

Accurate Predictions (Isaiah 43:12-15)

In 612 BC, the Babylonians replaced the despised Assyrians as the imperial power in Mesopotamia. They experienced their greatest power under Nebuchadnezzar 2nd who ruled from 605 to 562 BC.

Under his rule, the population of Babylon swelled to 1 million people. He ordered the construction of an imposing ziggurat to celebrate the power of Jupiter. He had a palace built to glorify himself, as Son of Jupiter, which contained gardens impressive enough to be called a wonder of the world.

All the while he kept astrologers busy reading the stars to predict the future. By doing so, he, and the rulers who followed him, believed they could maintain their control forever.

Actually, we may take the ability to make accurate predictions as one criterion of truth. If there is a close correspondence between words spoken and subsequent events, then we may affirm those words as true.

The prophet Isaiah had these words to say about Babylon’s rulers and their astrological advisors:

            Stand fast in your enchantments and your many sorceries,
                        with which you have labored from your youth;
            perhaps you may be able to succeed,
                        perhaps you may inspire terror.
            You are wearied with your many consultations;
                        let those who study the heavens
            stand up and save you,
                        those who gaze at the stars,
            and at each new moon predict
                        what shall befall you.

            See, they are like stubble,
                        the fire consumes them;
            they cannot deliver themselves
                        from the power of the flame.
            No coal for warming oneself is this,
                        no fire to sit before!
            Such to you are those with whom you have labored,
                        who have trafficked with you from your youth;
            they all wander about in their own paths;
                        there is no one to save you (47:12-15, New Revised Standard Version [NRSV]).

Isaiah’s words were true. The words of the astrologers weren’t. Cyrus of Persia led an army which swept away Babylonian power just as Isaiah had foretold.

There is a cautionary tale in this for us. We might have the impression today that our pollsters, prognosticators, and experts, using the latest computers and statistical models, predict the future far more accurately than astrologers ever did. Sadly, this isn’t the case. Major events continue to surprise them and us. Even weather forecasts for the next 24 hours remain remarkably inaccurate.

Let us take this as an encouragement to listen anew to the one true god who assures us even today: From this time forward I make you hear new things, hidden things that you have not known. They are created now, not long ago; before today you have never heard of them...(Isaiah 48:6b-7a, NRSV).

Copyright © 2012 by Steven Farsaci.
All rights reserved. Fair use encouraged.