“For we know in part and we prophesy in part . . .” (1 Corinthians 13:9)
Little did Joseph know that when he had the dream about his sheaf standing upright and the others gathering around and bowing to his sheaf, years later his brothers would come to Egypt when he was governor over the land and they would bow themselves before him with their face to the ground. (Genesis 37:7; 42:6) How could he have known? His brothers understood the implication, “Are you indeed to reign over us? Or are you indeed to rule over us?” Little did they know what it would look like.
So it is with prophecy. Even though it can be incredibly accurate, and at times incredibly detailed, more often than not, prophecy does not give us the complete picture. It is more like the story of the blind men touching different parts of the elephant. When they describe what it is depending on the part they are touching – tusk, trunk, or leg – they have very different opinions on what it is. We may see or hear accurately what God is communicating, but maybe we are only getting a trunk. This is difficult for prophetic people because we are so convinced about what see or hear.
Maturity means that we recognize that we know only in part. I remember one time that I had a dream. This dream placed me at a church where I took a position to serve. At the same time this dream communicated to me that I was supposed to be ordained at that church. What I didn’t realize is that the two events, though happening simultaneously in the same dream, were going to take place a year apart and that they would be very different in nature. The church were I was serving would become the church that would ordain me and send me off to the mission field. When I look back on the dream and the events that transpired, it makes perfect sense to me. It didn’t happen at the same time. I didn’t understand how they fit together. God in his wisdom hid that from me for the time being.
Sometimes being prophetic means that we have to hold things loosely, even if the voice of God or the vision we had was so clear! That is challenging, especially if we have a track record in our relationship with God. Sometimes the very thing that we are so convinced is going to happen in the way that we are clear about does not turn out that way at all. This is especially difficult when the very opposite thing happens or happens for a season. Moses went to Pharaoh with a message: “Let my people go.” (Exodus 5:1) God had promised to deliver the people. Pharaoh responded by making the work harder for the Israelites. Now they had to make more bricks and get the straw for the bricks themselves. Moses thought that when they, Aaron and he, performed the signs that God had told them to do, Pharaoh would let the people go. It took a long time before Pharaoh was ready to let the people go. Moses did not know it would look like that.
By Ralph Veenstra