Boasting About the Future
“Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.”- Proverbs 27:1
Knowing that the Jews in exile would have a hard time believing that God was willing and able to keep His promises of restoration and return them from Babylon, Isaiah the prophet wrote to the exilic community about the character and attributes of the Lord in comparison to those of the pagan idols. In describing what set Yahweh, the covenant Lord of Israel, apart from the gods of the other nations, Isaiah emphasized God’s knowledge of the future. He is the One who declares “the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done” (Isa. 46:10). Such knowledge is confirmed by the very era in which Isaiah wrote, for he lived hundreds of years before the postexilic community, and his foreseeing what they would need to hear demonstrates for us the Creator’s full awareness of future events. Because He knows exhaustively the days yet to come, He could give the prophet the very message that the future generation of Israel would need to hear.
Understanding that God knows what is yet to come is at the same time confidence-inducing and humbling. On the one hand, we are confident that the Lord can handle anything that comes our way, for nothing that occurs can ever surprise Him. At the same time, God’s knowledge of the future should humble us. It should remind us that we do not know enough to declare with certainty what the outcome of our plans will be. We dare not boast about future success, for we do not know whether we will find it.
Proverbs 27:1 makes this essential point as it exhorts us not to boast about tomorrow. This exhortation goes against many of the actions and attitudes of human beings. Political campaigns are waged based on promises of what the future will turn out to be if a particular candidate gets elected. Doomsday scenarios related to pollution, the ascendancy of foreign powers, or other troubles are presented as unavoidable realities. Even in the Christian church, where people should know better, there is a tendency to think that we know more than we do about what lies ahead. End-time scenarios that prescribe a particular order of last-days events fill books, websites, and so forth.
As believers, we are to temper our confidence that we know what lies ahead, remembering that only God knows the future. It is good and right to plan for the days ahead, but if our plans succeed, it is not because of our wisdom or because we were certain that they would. Our plans succeed only if that success is ordained by our heavenly Father.
Many times, we make plans for the future and experience an inordinate degree of sadness when they do not turn out. Disappointment when things do not turn out our way may not be completely avoidable in this life, but understanding that only God knows the future and holds it in His hands can help us put things in proper perspective when things do not work out as we had hoped. We are not to put our hope in the future but in the One who holds the future in His hands.
Passages for Further Study
1 Corinthians 4:19