By Bassem Melki
You might have read this title and wondered if there is really something called “divinating”. Keep reading!
Every New Year’s Eve it is common for Lebanese TV stations to feature programs involving certain individuals with the “gift” of foreseeing the future. They excite viewers with predictions about what will happen regarding Lebanon, the Middle East, and the world. This New Year’s Eve I thought I’d listen in to hear what they had to say for 2022. I was surprised with some of the detailed predictions that were shared, such as:
I thought of copying the funny ones only. Actually, there are some pretty detailed ones as well. (You are probably already going to the website to check them out.) This may be a silly holiday tradition in Lebanon, but it actually reveals a serious tendency I see around me.
Many people in Lebanon are superstitious, but I believe it is human nature for people to seek information about what will happen. People want to know who to marry, how their stocks will do, and any pieces of foreknowledge before making major decisions. Some believe in horoscopes and the stars, others in dreams, in the flipped cup of coffee, palm reading, or clairvoyance. I once mentioned in a sermon that I had studied palm reading in my early years but then discovered its danger and that the Bible considers it the sin of divination. After the service as I was greeting people when a lady asked me to read her palm! I guess I didn’t do a good job of getting the message across in the sermon ☹
I didn’t come away laughing after listening to what the New Year’s Eve TV program had to say about Lebanon in 2022. I felt cheated of my future and my country’s future. Lebanon is set to have a parliamentary election in May, and this is a rare opportunity for people to actually impact the leadership of the country. But the foreteller said that the elections will not bring change, and I went crazy, especially when I know many have been working hard to bring awareness to the nation for better and healthier elections. This guy then shows up to predict a negative outcome. It might prove to be right. However, I felt robbed of the chance to make a difference, and probably many others did as well who were listening. In this case, even if the prophecy has no value or meaning, such foreknowledge becomes self-fulfilling prophecy when most already believe it.
Divination can set an individual and a whole community off course from what they could accomplish otherwise. Whether the predictions are positive or negative, they deviate us from exploring alternatives, experiencing identity, jumping into unknowns and discovering new insights. They work to hinder journeys of learning and mostly discourage us from trusting God in all things, and asking Him for His insight, will, and wisdom. “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5). James continues to urge us not to be double minded.
I am not even sure how this knowledge or discernment of the future came about for this “gifted” person. Is it through communication with a spirit or deity, or by using inductive manipulation of natural or human phenomena, or from taking intuitive forms of inner revelation? Or could this all be a paid stunt by certain political influencers? Whatever the intention or motivation, to me this is a form of mass manipulation. The Lord said to Jeremiah, “The prophets are prophesying falsehood in My name. I have neither sent them nor commanded them, nor spoken to them; they are prophesying to you a false vision, divination, futility, and the deception of their own minds” (Jer 14:14).
As Christians we do not go to the stars for answers, we go to the God who created the stars. We need no intermediary person, but we have an intercessory Messiah who is at the right hand of God. Jesus is our Amen- the fulfiller of promises (Rev 3:14). “All the promises of God find their Yes in Him. That is why it is through Him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory” (2 Corinthians 1:20). No wonder Scripture equates divination to rebellion (1 Sam 15:23). Rebellion is seeking other sources of knowledge and truth for our reliance rather than God and His word. What bothers me is that sometimes Christians themselves use visions and the word of God to manipulate certain situations into what they believe or desire.
I could not stay silent about what I heard on New Year’s Eve so I did three things: I wrote an email to the TV station explaining how this program was against their own values since this TV station encouraged the community taking initiatives of change; I wrote this blog; and I thought about how I can take action today to help impact the future of Lebanon for the better.
First, I know and trust that God is good and His will towards us is best for us as individuals and communities. “’For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for prosperity (peace) and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. I will let Myself be found by you’” (Jeremiah 29:11-14).
It is more transforming, impactful, and effective long-term if we take the time to understand ourselves, our weaknesses, and strengths, and then see how God can shape us through the Holy Spirit to live out our identity and purpose. This is much more exciting than knowing the future. Actually, I don’t want to know what this year holds for me (as far as events go). I am very sure of what God holds for me and I want to explore this journey with Him and allow God to write my story. And I know He is a good writer; I just hope I can be a good follower.
Finally, I know that what I reap is what I sow. Paul says that “for the one who sows to his own flesh will reap destruction from the flesh, but the one who sows to the Spirit will reap eternal life from the Spirit. Let’s not become discouraged in doing good, for in due time we will reap, if we do not become weary” (Gal 6:8-9). I want to be part of His Kingdom and be on that path for the future in which I am sure of the outcome. I want to love more, forgive more, make peace more, rock the boat more, bless more, give more, pray more, kneel at the feet of Christ more, encourage more, liberate more, and heal more. Won’t you join me, if you already haven’t, for this year?
Bassem Melki is Dean of Faculty and Leader of Peacemaking Initiatives at ABTS.