… down at Cair Paravel there are four thrones and it’s a saying in Narnia time out of mind that when two Sons of Adam and two Daughters of Eve sit on those four thrones, then it will be the end not only of the White Witch’s reign but of her life.
Prophecy. As a word, prophecy has tied up within it a multitude of emotions, experiences, and connotations. In many respects, we in the modern world view prophecy as a form of sorcery and witchcraft – and not in the good way.
However, prophecy is an essential part of who we are as followers of the God of Israel. Since time immemorial (or as Lewis would put it, “time out of mind”), prophecies have been a key way that God communicates with God’s people. From Noah, Abraham and Sarah, Joseph, and on through the great prophets of old – prophecy is one of the main languages we read in scripture.
On some level, I think most of us post-modern followers of Christ are fine with prophecy… in the ancient times. It’s great that God made predictions and promises and then fulfilled them. Perhaps it wasn’t so fun for those people who got exiled and all that, but prophets died off ages ago. Right?
Having gone to a Divinity School that had the nickname “school of the prophets” – I think I need to suggest that no, prophets have not died off (even though many were killed before their time). What is more, prophecy still has an essential impact on who we are and on the world today.
One of the most famous prophecies about Jesus comes from the prophet Isaiah. In chapter 53, the prophet is describing the ways that Israel will be the suffering servant for the world. After Jesus had lived and died and rose, being the ultimate child of and representative of Israel that he was, many took a further look at what this prophecy said. Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we accounted him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed.
It is an incredibly powerful passage of scripture, and without a doubt, one of my top three favorites. Why? Though it is remarkable the ways that prophets could speak the truth of what would come and we could then find it verified, that is not it. On the contrary, it is that the very essence of God’s self-giving love has been the crimson thread throughout all of Israel’s history and beyond.
That is the power of prophecy – not in getting predictions correctly, but in speaking deep truth to a world in desperate need of what God has to offer. It is not hellfire and damnation, but hope and a future because of how far God will go for love.
There are still prophets today. We know that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was one such prophet. He was just one of the most famous. What my school taught me is that God has called us all to prophesy: we are to speak God’s love into the world. At times with our words and always with our actions.
Sometimes that means that we will have to use “tough love” to talk about and do something about the many challenges we have created for ourselves in fulfilling the law of Christ. There are far too many ways we have established prejudice, hatred, and greed into the very systems of our day-to-day lives.
Other times, we need to speak the kind of love that moves mountains, crosses oceans, and reaches beyond every boundary to welcome and accept and empower all of God’s children. Both forms of love are necessary, along with thousands more.
At the heart of all we do, however, should live the prophecies of old, that show us who God is and who we are to be. Isaiah 53 teaches us how far God will go for us. Countless other passages teach us how far we should go for God.
One such passage, from Romans 8:19, speaks of our role: for the creation waits with eager longing for the children of God. Not just all people, but all the world waits for us to fully commit to our calling. The hope for all the world is tied up in us because not only does God love us, but God created us to be beacons of that same love everywhere we may be.
Lucy, Susan, Edmond, and Peter may have had a very specific prophecy about them that taught them of their great purpose in Narnia, the world of their faith. Though our ancient rhymes and prophecies are far less specific, they are no less daunting. The task ahead of us is not an easy one, for God wants each and every one of us to take part. We must learn from the ancient prophecies, take courage from promises fulfilled, and then continue to speak the truth of God’s love into the world.
The impact of the prophecy comes not from the prophet, no matter how wonderful a creation we may be. The impact will come because of the truth, that deep power (magic, to use Lewis’ term) behind the words and actions – the encompassing depths of God’s love.