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What was the Worst Prediction of All Time?

In the June, 2015, edition of The Atlantic, results were posted from a question posed to the readers of the magazine. The question: “What was the worst prediction of all time?” Continue reading . . .

In the June, 2015, edition of The Atlantic, results were posted from a question posed to the readers of the magazine. The question: “What was the worst prediction of all time?”

The top five answers, as determined by The Atlantic, were:

(5) Darryl Zanuck, co-founder of 20th Century Fox, is quoted in 1946 as saying: “Television won’t be able to hold on to any market it captures after the first six months. People will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night.”

I’ll return to (4) in a moment.

(3) The third worst prediction of all time is attributed to President Woodrow Wilson who purportedly referred to World War I as the “war to end all wars.”

(2) It was British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain who, in 1938, said this upon his return from a meeting with Adolph Hitler where he endorsed the Munich Agreement: “Peace for our time.”

(1) The worst prediction of all time, at least in the opinion of The Atlantic, comes from former Vice-President Dick Chaney. On March 16, 2003, he said this about the U.S. invasion of Iraq: “My belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators” and “I think it’ll go relatively quickly . . . weeks rather than months.”

I’m not prepared to debate the relative merits of these examples. But what intrigued me was the “prediction” that came in fourth. (4) It was Jesus, who said in Matthew 5:5, “The meek shall inherit the earth.”

Needless to say, neither the editors of The Atlantic nor its readers nor the man who submitted this answer have any idea what Jesus is saying. But before we consider when this prediction will be fulfilled, and be fulfilled it will, it might help to think about what he means by the word “meek”.

Bobby Knight, former boisterous basketball coach at Indiana University, once said: “The meek may well inherit the earth, but they rarely get rebounds!” This comment reveals the common misconception of meekness: that it entails indolence, laziness, weakness of heart, a sort of mental and emotional flabbiness, perhaps a fear of expressing oneself forcefully, lack of aggression, a tendency to compromise when the truth is at stake. Others would identify meekness with a docile, dependent personality. None of this is true.

Although meekness is not weakness, it does entail a certain tenderness and sensitivity, a capacity to deal gently and compassionately with others.

One of the more essential elements in meekness is the willingness to allow others to say about us in public the same things we readily acknowledge before God in private.

The meek person is also a person who is not easily provoked: “Those who seek my life lay snares for me; and those who seek to injure me have threatened destruction, and they devise treachery all day long. But I, like a deaf man, do not hear; and I am like a dumb man who does not open his mouth” (Ps. 38:12-13). Simply put, the meek man or woman is deaf to unjustified criticism and feels no need to resort to self-defense.

Meekness is also the antithesis of hastiness, malice, and revenge. The meek man or woman lives in accordance with the abilities God has given them, neither as if they had more nor less. To be meek means that we neither press ourselves into situations we are not equipped to handle (for fear that if we don’t people will lose respect for us), nor shying away from those we can.

In a word, meekness is being like Jesus: “I am gentle and humble in heart” (Matt. 11:29; Phil. 2:5-11).

The key to meekness or humility is a healthy acknowledgement of and submission to the sovereign grace of God. In 1 Corinthians 4:7, Paul writes: “For who regards you as superior? And what do you have that you did not receive? But if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?” Thus, meekness should always be in direct proportion to one’s grasp of grace. Pride is the fruit of the lie that what I have I didn’t receive. Meekness or humility is the fruit of the truth that everything is of God (see also John 3:22-30, esp. vv. 27 and 30).

But what are we to make of the promise or the prediction that the meek shall “inherit the earth”? This is a clear allusion to Psalm 37:9, 11, 29. There we read:

“For the evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land” (v. 9).

“But the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace” (v. 11).

“The righteous shall inherit the land and dwell upon it forever” (v. 29).

When Jesus takes up this promise and applies it to his followers the “land” has expanded to include the entire “earth”. We see this yet again in Romans 4:13 where Abraham and his seed (all believers in Jesus) are to be heirs of the “world”. Paul again says something similar in 1 Corinthians 3:21-23 where he says that “all things” belong to the Corinthian believers (and to us), even “the world” (v. 22).

And we must always keep in mind what the author of Hebrews tells us, namely, that Abraham and the patriarchs never viewed the “land” of Canaan as their final home or as the consummate fulfillment of the promise God had made. Rather, they were “looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God” (Heb. 11:10). They were undoubtedly seeking a “homeland” (v. 14), but one that transcends this present fallen and sin-laden land. Indeed, “they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one” (v. 16).

If only the editors and readers of The Atlantic had known that the followers of Jesus happily declare that “here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is come” (Heb. 13:14).

The fault does not lie exclusively with The Atlantic. Many have likewise failed to understand that Jesus wasn’t referring to what will come to pass on this present earth but to what will obtain in the New Earth, in consequence of his Second Coming, as the “meek” take up their eternal habitation in the New and Heavenly Jerusalem. The prediction of Jesus has not failed. It will most assuredly come to pass, as the four living creatures and twenty-four elders who surround the throne of the Lamb declare: “And they shall reign on the earth” (Rev. 5:10).

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