In Dale Ralph Davis’ book on 2 Kings, (The Power and the Fury), he mentions something we all learned in literature class. He talks about foreshadowing – a pattern found many places in scripture. Davis’ prime example is that when King Jehoash breaks down the walls of Jerusalem and plunders the wealth of the temple and palace, this is foreshadowing what is to come in 2 Kings 24 with the more famous King Nebuchadnezzar. Now while this foreshadowing is a worthy example, I am drawn to Genesis where we first see this kind literary foreshadowing.
We all know the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, but what about the foreshadowing of such judgment. Doesn’t God warn before he destroys? In Genesis 14, we have the first war. It is correctly referred to as “the war of the kings.” Five kings rebel against what appears to be the king of Elam, who had three other kings at his side. So these 9 kings war against each other, but it is no contest. The king of Elam and his allies put down the rebellion. Among these rebels is none other than the king of Sodom and the king of Gomorrah. As part of the spoil, the goods and the people were taken from Sodom and Gomorrah, including Lot and his family. The back half of this story may be more familiar to you because it is when Abram rescues Lot and the people with him.
What is so fascinating about this story is that it is a mere 4 chapters from the total destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 18. When we find this foreshadowing pattern we often see an event that is similar to what comes later. The kicker is what happens in the future is almost always much worse. There is no doubt the war of the kings is but a shadow of what was coming with the fiery divine judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah.
The next question you are probably asking is, what does this have to do with me? It is fair to even ask if there is any application whatsoever. If God uses foreshadowing in the Old Testament, does he not use it today? I want to turn momentarily back to Dale Ralph Davis because he answers this question vividly.
“we have had in recent years a rash of school and work shootings – a student or a worker goes into their respective school or workplace and begins mowing down their colleagues. . . We have had, off and on, a rash of scandals in the highest levels of our government. We have been attacked by terrorist, dramatically at home, more routinely overseas. Are these God’s foreshadowings to awaken a nation that has no knowledge of God, that by its courts and legislation has guaranteed a culture of death for thirty years, that revels in rampant immorality, and cuddles and caters to those who glory in their sexual perversions? Is God shouting at us and we are not hearing?”
While Davis uses the Socratic method, it is painfully clear what he is saying! And if what we have been seeing in our land over the past 30 years is a foreshadowing or warning of things to come, then where does that leave us? To be sure this can cause fearfulness, but what of honesty. What about asking these important questions? Are we honest enough to say that God is actually sovereign and we are not in control? Are we brave enough to say that we are heading to a shadowy future? Well, let me be clear. I do think we are on the brink of destruction; however, we are very close to painful chastisement. It is possible we are about to see things we have never seen before. Judah and Israel did survive exile, but it was quite painful. Daniel, who was a prophet at just such a time, writes about something extraordinary that is likely foreign to our arrogant, Americanistic view. “And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever” (Daniel 2:44). We should never confuse the kingdom of God with the kingdom of America. As we as a nation move further and further away from God’s design, we find ourselves in the same place as earlier gentile nations. We have become like Babylon, Persia, the Greeks and Romans, simply put, a nation that will be broken in pieces by the kingdom of God.