Summary: The future is filled with possibilities both good and evil. There may be some very unpleasant things ahead for you that you can avoid as Jesus taught in Mt 24:20,21. We will examine a very clear example of overcoming the evil decree found in the book of Esther.
Overcoming The Evil Decree
I want to begin by explaining what I mean by an evil decree. An evil decree is something painful and hurtful that may or may not happen unless you take action to stop it. Shortly I will show exactly that from the biblical book of Esther. But as a little background understanding I want you tell you about something observant Jews call Teshuva, which translates to repentance.
Judaism was given 7 major feasts by God, that can be divided into roughly two groups: those that begin the harvest year and those that end the harvest year. Teshuva has to do with the 2 last feasts in the harvest cycle. The first is called Rosh Hoshanna, and the second is Yom Kippur. Rosh Hoshanna is also called the feast of trumpets, and Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement, and these 2 feasts are 10 days apart. Here is where it gets interesting...
Rosh Hoshanna is the beginning of the Jewish civil year, and it is believed that on that date certain things are determined to happen in your life in the year ahead. Who will live? Who will die? Who will die by fire, or famine, or water, or earthquake or plague. They seem to take notice of all the more difficult ways in which a person can die. Other things are determined also, your health, your finances, and in general they sum up all the bad things that could happen with the phrase, "the evil decree." So their belief is that at the beginning of year people have been assessed by God and according to the way they have lived God writes down what is going to happen to them.
As Christians we don't view life through that kind of filter. We believe our lives are designed and predestined to bring glory to God. That being true I still think there is something to the Jewish belief that certain things nice or painful may happen in the year ahead, and that we can do something about it to change it. While the Jews believe things are written down on Rosh Hoshanna they are not finalized by God til 10 days later on Yom Kippur, that 10 day period is called the, "days of awe," and Jews believe the evil decree can be averted by prayer, repentance and good works. Teshuva is the idea that an evil decree that is written against you can be removed in part by repentance. God gives them 10 days to change and avert the evil decree.
So what is written in the book of your life for the year ahead? Your children's life? Our nations life? Can we change what is written? Is the future so set in stone nothing can impact it? The answer seems fairly obvious that changes can be made otherwise the whole concept of prayer is foolishness. If prayer can't change things then it is stupid to pray. But the bible is consistent in the idea that prayer does change things. Let me point out a quick observation and then we will look at a situation where Jesus told the church to pray to change and impact a future event, and then we will look at the reversing of an evil decree as shown in the book of Ruth.
Observation: God knows the future and what He knows will not change. Yet God presents the future to us as one that is not set in stone but can be impacted by our actions, beliefs, prayers.
This observation is not the focus of my message, just an underlying truth. So rather than lay it out line by line and precept by precept let me show you just two verses that demonstrates that God knows the future but presents it as one with several possibilities:
John 6:64 But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him.
John 8:24 "I said therefore to you, that you shall die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you shall die in your sins."
This could get deep so we will leave it for a bible study.
Let's now look at a portion of scripture where Jesus very plainly says the future is not settled, and we could change it with prayer.
Mt 24:20 "But pray that your flight may not be in the winter, or on a Sabbath;
Mt 24:21 for then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever shall.