The Bible’s View of Forecasting
Today, we have become accustomed to think of forecasting as simply a reasoned projection … perhaps an extrapolation of past events and nothing more. However, it is potentially much more than that.
The word “forecast” (châshab in Hebrew) means “to think, plan, esteem, calculate, invent, make a judgment, imagine, count, […] to plan, devise, […] to invent, […] to be reckoned, […] to be imputed” (Source: Brown–Driver–Briggs).
As such, we learn that the Bible’s definition of forecasting takes into account the spirit of its intent: To think … to devise … to plan … to contemplate of … involving cunning and purpose. Forecasting can really not be done without a broader complicity of purpose. The intent of hearts therefore reflects upon our forecasts.
As such, it is not surprising that nowhere does the Bible encourage forecasting. Planning yes, but not forecasting the future based upon our own intents and interests.
Interestingly, in the entire Bible (here, using the KJV) the word “forecast” is found only twice. In both instances, it involves the final reign of the Antichrist. (See Daniel 11:24, “he shall forecast his devices,” and verse 25).
Expressly, the Hebrews were instructed not to “divine” or to consult techniques to gain insights into the future. We outline here a few such references:
“The nations you will dispossess listen to those who practice sorcery or divination. But as for you, the LORD your God has not permitted you to do so” (Deuteronomy 18:14).
“Let no one be found among you who sacrifices their son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft” (Deuteronomy 18:10).
Why did God discourage forecasting? Why is the future so frustratingly impenetrable to the human? Why, as part of the Creation, was mankind confined to live inside linear time and the present?
The Bible provides the answers. Firstly, God has chosen to distinguish Himself to the world through His ability to see the future. He knows the beginning from the end. This is significant, because it is a unique capability. No one else possesses this power … not spirit-beings, angels nor humans.
The Bible cites this ability as a proof of our God. He says: “[…] declare to us the things to come, tell us what the future holds, so we may know that you are gods. Do something, whether good or bad, so that we will be dismayed and filled with fear” (Isaiah 41:22-23).
Mankind having chosen rebelliousness, God gives societies over to its charlatan forecasters. For example, “All the counsel you have received has only worn you out! Let your astrologers come forward, those stargazers who make predictions month by month, let them save you from what is coming upon you” (Isaiah 47:13).
A second reason that mankind is unable to reliably predict its future is that, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? (Jeremiah 17:9). The biases of the flesh are deceitful.
By contrast, the prophecies inspired through the Spirit are reliable and truth. “We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts” (2 Peter 1:19).
Forecasting Falsehoods and Lies
A sad fact is that false predictions are generally very popular. A consequence of this is that many people do not even care whether a prediction is biased or useless. They gauge their acceptance of a prophecy by its pleasantness.
A major theme in the Old Testament concerns the many false prophecies of self-elected prophets, who claimed that they had “a message from the Lord” (Jeremiah 23:38). This was a major problem. “The idols speak deceitfully, diviners see visions that lie; they tell dreams that are false, they give comfort in vain” (Zechariah 10:2). There are many similar admonitions in the Bible.
Such forecasters (or prophets) were forecasting things that people instinctively favored. Why is it that that false prophets tended to be very popular? Why did the people fall for “[…] the prophets and diviners among you [who encouraged them with deceitful dreams]” (Jeremiah 29:8)?
They were practicing “neuroreligion.” Prophecies of peace and prosperity were very popular. They liked to hear “smooth things” (Isaiah 30:10) and preferred to be ignorant of anything they perceived to be negative or the truth.
They would “say to the seers, see not; and to the prophets, prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits” (Isaiah 30:10 KJV). Micah mocked this biased penchant of the people. “If a liar and deceiver comes and says, ‘I will prophesy for you plenty of wine and beer,’ that would be just the prophet for this people!” (Micah 2:11). No doubt, an offer of free beer and wine would today fill a church.
In New Testament times, false teachers had also mastered this art of neuroreligion. “By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people” (Romans 16:18).
In the same way, the Church today is being decimated by false teachers and forecasters. “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear” (2 Timothy 4:3). This is modern fortune telling … the application of “neuroreligion.” It is religion and faith that is designed to appeal to the natural human … their hardwired biases and pleasures.
Thoughts to Ponder
What are we to make of the predictions of our world’s seers, forecasters and futuristic schemers? “[…] They do not know the thoughts of the LORD; they do not understand his plan” (Micah 4:12). And, as the Bible outlines, forecasting also is an act of “planning,” “sorcery,” or “devising.”
Firstly, God Himself is opposed to mankind’s self-determination and arrogance. “This is what the LORD says—your Redeemer, who formed you in the womb: I am the LORD, the Maker of all things, who stretches out the heavens, who spreads out the earth by myself, who foils the signs of false prophets and makes fools of diviners, who overthrows the learning of the wise and turns it into nonsense” (Isaiah 44:24-25). We can know that as long as God lives, a rebellious world will be doomed to false, self-deceiving forecasts and plans of men.
In the meantime, the business of forecasting remains big business. The fact that these predictions are largely wrong and useless does not seem to matter. Catering to the itching ears of its clients remains extremely lucrative, most certainly so in financial industries. Just as in the Old Testament times: “Her leaders judge for a bribe, her priests teach for a price, and her prophets tell fortunes for money. Yet they look for the Lord’s support and say, ‘Is not the Lord among us? No disaster will come upon us’” (Micah 3:11).
Much of North American Christianity has fallen for a similar blindness. Micah describes today’s state of affairs exactly … specifically so in North America and other nations of Christian heritage. They all are heavily materialistic and accept as beneficial the business of “positive” deceptions. They are biased to believe in an optimism that is based upon natural (pagan) human behavior. At the same time they somehow believe that “God is on our side.”
We live by faith; not mankind’s forecasts. We have one great forecast that we can rely upon; and is the only one that we need: “For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. For we live by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:4-7).